Friday, 22 January 2010

The whole coming out thing

I said I'd be selecting friends to come out to as part of my action plan, so I'd better start thinking which of the poor fools who'll admit to knowing me to select as my victim.

That's enough joking. I'm serious, and apprehensive. Not that they'll disown me and denounce me as an aberration from Hell, because I'm pretty sure my friends aren't that kind of people and I have the advantage of being able to pick who I talk to about it. No, this is for real. It's not in the privacy of my own home and it's not in front of other TG people who'll understand, it's out in the real world and in front of someone to whom it'll be one hell of a shock. After all, it's not as though I'm someone who's always looked a bit femme, nor someone who's spent a year or two getting progressively more femme in front of them, I present as the same full-on huge bloke they've always known.

Of course, my appearance is my advantage. If I misjudge the person and they turn aggressive, I'm a hell of a lot less easy to get all transphobic at than the stereotypical vulnerable slight-of-stature femme guy of the public imagination. Bullies don't tend to pick on big blokes.

So who do I start with? I don't know why, but I can't imagine anyone but a woman. It's not that I don't have male friends who'd be nice about it, it's just that I'd find it a hell of a lot more embarrassing saying "I'm transgendered" to someone I've helped build a gearbox with than I would to someone I've done the feeding comfort chocolate to when she's split up with her no-good boyfriend.

Off the top of my head I can think of five women I'd feel comfortable coming out to. They've all known me at least ten years, some of them much longer. They're all more successful, cleverer and a lot nicer to look at than I am.

Two of them are university friends of mine, married and settled with growing children. I know I can pour out my heart to them and they'll cheer me up with hot tea, but the trouble is I know both of their husbands very well too. Would you say "I'm transgendered" to the wife of someone you've helped build a gearbox with?

A couple of former work colleagues of mine however are better prospects. From different employers, they don't know each other but I count them both as among my most cherished friends. Unfortunately they both now live at opposite ends of the country. Americans may laugh at our puny little land mass, but trust me, somewhere that's a couple hours drive on the prairies would be several times that on our clogged roads.

My favourite candidate is someone I could easily pop over and see taking time out from another trip in the none-too-distant future. I know her because of a shared interest in a club as a student, but while I was a geeky tech kid she was a right-on politico who ran for every trendy cause under the sun and was student womens officer amongst so many other politically correct positions. That's not to say she's a nutty feminist in the Millie Tant from VIZ mould, she may well have worn metaphorical dungarees at times in her youth but knowing her well for years I have complete confidence that she wouldn't hit some kind of feminist ideological meltdown when faced with a transgendered person. She's far too nice and clever for that.

Shame I've not seen her in five years. "Hello, how's life been treating you, how are the kids, by the way I'm transgendered". It would be better without the impediment of slight unfamiliarity. If I'd had half a brain, I should have come out to her twenty years ago. (incidentally, on a tangent the Lesbian & Gay office in my student union as was became L,G and Bi about a year after I graduated and a quick web check shows me it's now L,G,B and T. How times change!)

I need someone I've known for years to confide in. Am I being hopelessly naive in thinking this'll work?


  1. I came out to all my friends 17 years ago. Nobody gave me a hard time about it. Everyone was very understanding and supportive.

    But. None of those people are my friends today. That doesn't mean they're enemies, it just means that I no longer see them anymore. In fact, I would say none of those friendships lasted more than a couple years down the road from my coming out and starting down the road.

    The friends I have today (and I have a lot of friends) are people I met and who decided they liked me AFTER I was already out, and being who I always knew I was.

    I guess what I am trying to say is that as you move along on the path, you may find you no longer have as much in common with the people you call your friends, today.

    That's natural, trans or not. As we grow we often out-grow the people from our earlier years.

    So, don't sweat it.

  2. I wanted to post a comment when I read this on the train last night, but the phone wouldn't play ball...

    I came out to a number of people over the course of the last couple of months - a friend, my wife, my parents, her parents and her sister and my brother in law; in that order.

    What I wanted to say is please do not underestimate the stress you may feel before telling these people. That was a mistake I made and it cost me a couple of panic attacks when telling my wife and my parents.

    I must admit that I have yet to get a negative reaction to it (except my parents in law who are naturally concerned about their daughter - but have said nothing negative about the issue itself).

    And it has helped tremendously. I do not know what the future holds, where my path leads, or if I'll still be married this time next year - all of which are worrying - but the weight of holding this since my earliest memories has been lessened a lot.

    Good luck,

  3. That's a tough decision you have. Most important may be which of them is least likely to tell others. Perhaps you will be out to all in due time, but you want to set the pace yourself, especially in the beginning.

    I would eliminate the women who are married to close male friends. They're likely to confide in their husbands, then who knows who they talk to.

    Does it have to be a face to face thing for you to feel comfortable? The far away folks are really the safest ones.

    Good luck with your decision, Jen!

  4. Part of me just wants to say "screw it", turn up at the next party someone holds in full-on maximum-presence girl mode and watch their jaws hit the floor. I do maximum presence very well and I have just the outfit in mind. But I value my relationship with my wife too much for that.

    I hadn't thought about doing it over the phone. Maybe that would work. The married-to-bloke-friends ones are already eliminated TBH.

    Fortunately I don't have to tell my wife and I'm not going to tell my parents any time soon. Reducing the stress is why I'm trying to pick my candidates very carefully.

    Losing friends? Like anyone there are always people you lose touch with. But these are all 10 to 20 year friends so I think they're for good. If any of 'em can't take it then I guess I'll have found their true colours and good riddance.

  5. Best of luck Jenny! Coming out to old friends is terrifying - and with most things like this, the first time will be the most awkward. I hope your fears come to nothing and that you end up feeling far closer to them than you were before.

  6. Thanks! I think my main candidates will be fine with it. Maybe I'll end up wondering what all the fuss was about afterwards.