Even after proclaiming my preferred pronouns, few people had come on board. Or rather, I’d made little effort to change the status quo. People had no way of knowing that my pronouns weren’t what they used to be, unless I would explicitly tell them. And “explicitly telling others” is not my strong suit.
For over a year I’ve been trying to find a way to come out, to shout from the rooftops that I’m trans – my gender is not what you think it is. But every time I saw a slight opening, the chance slipped by me. “Perhaps I’m not ready” I assured myself. Indeed, I believe things happen when you’re ready; conversely, if you aren’t making them happen yet, you’re not really ready. At least that’s how it works for me.
I wanted to come out, and at the same time avoid telling people directly. What a conundrum! My solution was to come out in a very public yet subtle, way.
I was in the process of redoing my personal online portfolio – given my profession of web person extraordinaire, this is essentailly your resumé. So I made a few key decisions: to display my new name prominently, to showcase my spunky personality, and to clarify, among other things, my gender. So in a quirky “super secret FAQ section” (which is not so secret, it’s just at the very end) I explicitly laid out that I live authentically as gender neutral, that I prefer the use of masculine pronouns, that I am an aspiring transgender activist who wishes to remain semi-anonymous, and that I’d gladly answer any further non-intrusive questions about this in person.
Once complete, I posted my new portfolio for my friends (and the world) to see.
For someone who has been extremely private about their entire transition for nearly two years, this was a big step. The nerves piled up as to what types of undoable consequences this would bring upon all facets of my life.
Long Distance Friends
There are a few close friends who I interact with primarily online. Once I posted the link, a couple of them commented or sent me a message about my new portfolio. Since I keep smart friends, it was no surprise they all pointed out some typos. What was curious is that they all chose to call out the same particular section – specifically, the one where I mention I’m trans – although they were treating it as just any other sentence with a grammar faux-paus.
Much like my own style, they were indirectly trying to let me know the message had been received, and all was well. I even shared the blog with one of them!
One of my (now-ex) co-workers was ecstatic to finally uncover the truth behind my “secret double life,” as I usually refer to my mysterious trips and absences. Labelling the FAQs as “secret” further enabled her to feel like a proud insider who was finally “in on it,” forgoing the fact that this is now public information and that I hadn’t quite revealed everything.
The timing of my public coming out was ideal in that I was preparing to leave my job for another one. When she took on the task of sending my goodbye email to the entire company, she informed me she was going to draft it without pronouns. Upon realizing this was a much more difficult task than had been foreseen (but boy did she try!) she stated, matter of factly, that she’d simply refer to me as “he,” and the matter was settled. She even prepared to ward off any possible consternation from other coworkers.
I didn’t want to bother coming out at this job because it would be a major hassle, and I was leaving soon anyway. But in the end, I not only came out to the whole company, I didn’t even have to do anything myself.
One of our closest friends here is a husband and wife couple who share our love for computer nerdery and people watching. He had already caught on to my discomfort with the gender binary, but is way too polite to ever ask about anything remotely private. He awkardly chugged along, avoiding pronouns as he went and generally trying his best to be respectful without really knowing what he should be doing.
He and I met up that Friday to catch up. He kept looking towards me expectantly, waiting for me to make the announcement official. Sure, I had just published this publicly, but I still wasn’t prepared to bring it up at dinner. Finally, he broke down and said “It’s killing me. Will you just tell me already what name and pronoun I should call you by?” All he wanted was to know the right way to refer to me. With my ever-signature move of saying nothing with a lot of words, my unconscious found a way to sneakily reply without actually answering his question. Sometimes I’m such a terrible friend. He was forced to ask the question again, this time phrasing it as a yes-or-no question, to which I meekily responded “yes.”
Later next week his wife kept trying to schedule lunch or dinner. It was unusual for her to be so insistent, but I just assumed it was because we hadn’t seen each other in a while. Which is why when she brought up my coming out at dinner I was slightly taken aback, especially since usually she’s the oblivious one (clearly I’m not far behind). As she was trying to wrap her head around the notion that now I’m suddenly trans even though nothing has really changed (she really was pretty oblivious to it) we ordered sushi and talked about this and that and the other.
One thing that has stood out is that, very early on in the conversation, everybody asks the same question: “and what does your significant other think?” What do you mean what does she think? It’s not like this suddenly came out of nowhere and she had no idea! I honestly don’t know what to respond, so I stare blankly back, until they realize that what they’re asking is completely ridiculous.
My good friend eventually answered herself: “Well, I guess if my husband told me he wanted to be a girl, I wouldn’t care either.”
22 thoughts on “Coming Out”
To come out and yet “remain semi-anonymous” must be a tricky thing to do.
It gets increasingly difficult as my “identities” intersect – people I meet at trans conferences become my friends, my friends know I’m trans, etc etc…
‘One thing that has stood out is that, very early on in the conversation, everybody asks the same question: “and what does your significant other think?” ‘
But, but, but – *why*? Why do they ask this? Do they think anyone would pick a partner who *disapproved*? And then remain with that disapproving partner all through the major stresses of transitioning and coming out and yadda yadda and WHY DO THEY THINK THIS QUESTION IS WORTH ASKING? AND *WHY DO THEY THINK IT’S ANY OF THEIR BUSINESS ANYWAY?* Surely it’s between you and your partner? Do these people not have ‘appropriate question’ boundaries?
(I’m not actually expecting an answer to these questions, because I know that ultimately the answer is ‘BECAUSE PEOPLE ARE STUPID.’ But WHY ARE PEOPLE SO STUPID?)
It sounds like your coming out is going well, and that you’re managing to do it in a way suited to your personal style of communication. Congratulations. 🙂
The reason why it makes no sense in my case is that my partner and I have together almost 6 years, and I’ve been “transitioning” for over 2 years. It’s not like it’s news to her that I’m suddenly trans…
I suppose you could have…not mentioned it…somehow?(!?) She could be very, very unobservant?
(I’m sticking to my theory that people are just stupid. What do they think you’re going to say? ‘Oh, she hella disapproves of my gender’? Or what? Who are these mythical people who DISAPPROVE OF THEIR PARTNERS’ GENDERS who would MAKE THIS QUESTION NECESSARY?)
(I should probably stop with the outraged capital letters and go to bed now. G’night. :p)
My partner once said to me, “Even if you needed to transition I’d never leave you.” Our divorce became final in February of this year.
I’m sorry. I was running a bit low on sleep last night, and I wasn’t thinking. It was not my intention to minimise anyone’s experience.
If you don’t mind me asking (and feel free to just ignore me if you do) would you have found/do you find the question ‘and what does your significant other think’ to be appropriate at a moment of coming out?
Usually, yes it could be a good question.
In my case it’s not, because my friends have known both of us for a long time and they know this is a non-issue in our partnership. Most of them realize this is a dumb question after they ask it. And the fact that the bulk of my transition happened in private years ago, it is only now that I’m making it public, makes it doubly ironic they should ask.
When I came out as trans, I was a little over 41 years old and had been married for 22 years (yeah, I got married at 19). It was one of the first questions my parents and younger brother had. To me, it does seem to be a reasonable question. Was my coming out a surprise to my then-wife? No. I’d made a comment to her years earlier about being very young and thinking, “Oh well I was born a boy I’ll just have to be a boy.” At first, when I started exploring transition at age 39, she was on-board and supportive. Eventually, it became too much for her.
We’re still friends.
As maddox’s significant other, yes, the “what do I think” question seems a little bit ridiculous. I mean reasons why it doesn’t matter: we are still together, we are still happy, and I am still head over heals for my partner. And I bet that once people think of that they realize how silly this question is.
Then why do people keep asking it? My guess is, they have absolutely no idea what to ask (not realizing that they don’t need to ask any questions, just accept) and thus the inquisitive human mind wonders to the first topic they feel isn’t rude to ask about – someone who isn’t directly transitioning (I mean, it is obvious that asking about hormones, surgeries, etc is too rude). And because yes, not all couples stay together after their partner comes out.
This makes me feel better to know the question of “What do you think?” is almost standard, as I just learned from my husband that unbeknownst to me, he was asked this question by several of our friends fairly recently. I get that it’s a curiosity thing, but I couldn’t help but feel a little more exposed about my transition than I already had been.
I do think it makes sense for people to inquire after a partner, especially if they are good friends. Even though it’s my gender that’s under discussion when coming out to people, my transition certainly impacts her a lot, and I’m glad if our friends are genuinely inquiring after her and wanting to be supportive of her (and also glad she can honestly report she’s not just OK but quite happy about our current state). It also sounds like you’ve been pretty private about a lot of this, so even though it may not be news to you or your partner, it is news to them, and they understandably may not have a sense of how long this has been on the table in the context of your relationship. All that said, we do both bristle when such a question comes with an assumption is that my partner’s reaction is likely negative.
I do think these public pieces can be hard. It’s one thing when it’s in the context of your own relationship and private life, and definitely feels different when interacting with the world at large. Sounds like you are doing great, and I kind of love your whole understated approach.
Everyone asks me what my husband thinks about our three year old wearing dresses.
I bet they expect him to be disapproving, with you being the one who “lets” him. ahhh stereotypes!
i come out to strangers all the time and they ALWAYS ask about my partner. they assume i MUST have a partner (they never bother asking whether or not i’m single), that he MUST be a guy, and that he MUST be straight. and they ask me what he thinks about my transition. it’s weird. it’s like they want to hear about how the cis-het guy left the gross little trans* person the second they came out.
that was my parents’ first question, too, but they were my bewildered/scared parents, so that’s different.
anyway, kudos on coming out! that’s just wicked-lovely. ❤ take care!
Just catching up with pronouns…. last we talked I think you indicated you preferred “they” to “he” to “she. Is that still the case? 🙂 Would you prefer I use “they” or shall I switch to “he”? (Not that I talk about you that often, but I do refer people to your blog for understanding neutrois/asexual stuff)
Well, “they” is preferred, but I found it is difficult in practice for both myself and others. So for simplicity I use he and that has been ok so far.
Question: How would I tell my friends I want to called by a different name? I like my new name and my birth name, and I want them both to be used. I’m like 100% sure they’d be down, cuz a few of my other friends are trans. I just don’t know how to tell them. Help?