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Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Coming Out?

Many trans people view being trans as a medical condition or a birth defect, which they had fixed. Why would run around telling people that you used to have an embarrassing medical problem? Most of these folks are stealth. Their trans history is nobody's business.

Other trans people, especially genderqueers, see their trans status as a big part of their sense of self. These folks are usually out. This is a new phenomenon. Not long ago, trans people were instructed to change their name, move out of town and lie about their past. Genderqueers did not have access to transition in that era.

Fortunately, thanks to the work of trans activists and also feminism, normativity is much less emphasized and I don't need to go into hiding. I've got the moving far, far away part covered, but composing is a high-profile occupation. If you have to be stealth, it's incompatible. I'm not willing to walk away from the years I spent learning my craft and "paying my dues" as they say. So from a practical standpoint, I've got to be out. From an emotional standpoint, I do terribly at being stealth anything. Secrets eat at me. So I'm out. Which means coming out.

Thus far, I've mostly been telling people who knew me before. That's stressful enough. My strategy has been to try to tell the biggest gossips that I know, preferably via email, and hope they spread it around everywhere. They fill in all my other friends, and then I am spared awkward conversations. There's undoubtedly extra commentary that goes with the news, but that would happen anyway. I imagine that in many cases, it's a sarcastic, "big surprise!"

But I also meet new people. And I'm at kind of a loss on how to proceed. Do I want to be out? Probably. I mean, I've been in transition for less than 6 months. I don't want to lie about the previous 31 years of my life. And it's kind of a big deal. On the other hand, it's a lot to lay on somebody the first time I meet them. I had gotten in the habit of subtly slipping my girlfriend into conversations to let people know that I'm queer, but that doesn't work at all anymore. Also, people who knew me before are still tripping over pronouns and I can't grow any more than the most very pathetic moustache. I'm passing, but not overwhelmingly, if you know what I mean.

Passing is great, by the way. But not without it's own issues. I keep worrying that somebody is going to read me. The last time I was out with a crowd of strangers, I was gripped by a sudden fear that somebody would suddenly stand, point, and shout "fraud!" But this is Britain. People are so very polite. Maybe they had already worked it out and were just humoring me and I wasn't passing at all? How could it be that my interactions with men were so totally unchanged if I was actually passing?

I've always gotten on well with men older than myself. I find it easy to establish a rapport. When I started to transition, I worried that I would lose this. But then I started talking to a bloke who seemed to be 5 or 10 years older than myself and it was the same as always. Exactly the same. How could this be? What was going on? Had he somehow read me? Was he gay and flirting with me? Had I always been acting like and treated like a guy? Was I acting like a girl and him responding to that without consciously following? I was completely unnerved.

Another bloke I was talking to kept bringing up balls. He didn't know why he kept talking about them. His unconscious mind was nudging him. I guess I could have taken the opportunities to mention that (like Harry Partch) I don't have any. But I was already unnerved. Also, is that something I really want to disclose the first time I meet somebody? I have no idea - probably not in those terms. A straight friend suggested that I "just be a guy" and not tell anybody. But then, that's 31 years of my life. That's this blog. That's the last piece I posted to my podcast. That's a whole lot of hiding.

I gave the ball bloke my card. He didn't write. Maybe he lost my card. Maybe I should take it all down: the blog, the podcast, everything. Just be a guy. People who google me can know and people who don't won't. Is that what I want?

Some people tell me that I'm brave. I don't follow their logic at all. I'm just trying to survive the best I can. If that's brave, so is getting out of bed in the morning. Maybe we're all brave. Maybe we're all passing. We pretend to be the person we wish we were and come to create and inhabit that reality. So what is coming out, in that case? I used to be kind of an asshole? I used to be a software engineer? I used to be a girl?

1 comment:

jenny said...

a lot of people told me i was brave for having owen, alone...i wondered the same thing. brave? it was just what i had to do.

brave or not, you rock :)