Not so long ago, someone asked about ideas or help around coming out. It’s been a long time since I’ve had to do it, but it’s something that comes up in the Chameleons email and other places too. So, here are a few thoughts on the subject.
Aims: Do you know what you want to get out of coming out? If you are coming out to a partner, how long have you kept this from them? Is all of this new to you too? Try to be realistic and think of what you’d both be happy with: after all, there are two of you in this relationship. If it’s not to a partner, what does the other person get out of it? In either case, where does that person go for support? Are we off-loading on to them or sharing with them? Is there a difference?
Language: be wary of terms that might be misunderstood. Terms that the community know – MTF, AFAB, gender queer, bi-gender, trans, etc – will someone not in our circle know them? Does it matter if you don’t have a label and even if you did, would it make sense to someone else? If a trans friend said to me Oh, I’m MTF, would I assume they were male and are becoming female, or does ‘male to female’ in their story mean they prefer to be Janice and not John some days?
Respect: Listen and respect your partner’s point of view. Yes, this may sting and be frustrating, but people need time to accept things. Ask yourself how long did it take you to accept your trans* nature? Try not to react negatively to anything, but hold your tongue, listen, and consider what’s being asked. If the situation was reversed, how might you react to someone sharing something like this with you?
Questions: Often when people are talking, we’re not actively listening, but waiting for a chance to dive in with what we think. This ping-pong of stuff can work for some situations, but not always. What about parking your own point of view for a moment and asking some open questions:
- When you say you need some time for this, what might that look like?
- I understand this is very new and scary. Is there anything I can do to help?
- If we agree that it’s okay for blah to happen, how do we make that work?
- If we agree that blah isn’t working for us, what can we do instead?
Medium: not everything needs to be face to face. Sure, you get body language, eye contact, and tone, but some people find writing a letter easier. Equally, some people prefer a letter to read than feeling they are being talked at. I guess it’s down to knowing your audience. There’s no right way to do it, but there are some less than useful choices (like a confession in the restaurant).
A Time & a Place: When you’re thinking about talking about T* stuff, be aware of where you and the time: 11pm on a school night may not be best 🙂 Give your partner a place to retreat to if you can. Please don’t come out with stuff in a restaurant or other public place where they can’t react and be themselves. Everyone is different: there might be tears, heated words, or a need to retreat.
Balance: be prepared to compromise and also know how to explain your wishes. There’s a safe space between giving in, being selfish, and knowing how to put your oxygen mask on. That might take some working out. Much as absolutes aren’t great, there are sometimes you both may need to give a little ground on. If that’s no to shaving arms or legs, but it’s okay if you dress when your partner’s out, can that work for you both? A situation where one partner is doing all the conceding, well, that’s a lot of ground given up: how might that feel?
It’s not all about T stuff: remember there’s more to the relationship than seeking permission and so don’t go in there thinking it’s about winning or losing. If you can try not to bang on about nothing else but gender stuff. Remember your partner in all of this and don’t forget there’s two of you in this.
The Fog: know your escape routes and beware the Pink Fog. If you can’t dress up, are there things you can do to turn the volume down a bit? Paint your toes, play a video game as a female character, bake/cook, paint, go cycling, take a long walk, etc. Anything to help keep you from being drawn into the Pink Fog and losing yourself in there. Maybe you get Friday Nights to be Fabulous: if so, great for you, but don’t let it take over if you can. Remember to enjoy what you have, try not to go nuts with the freedom you’ve got.
The Long View: Things change as people change. What was a big no-no years ago, might be okay now. It’s not so much keep nagging (who actually likes to be nagged?), as keeping positive and asking when the time is right. I guess I’m saying don’t give up hope. Things won’t be perfect overnight, but as the weeks and the months pass, things will get easier for both of you.
So, that’s my list and if you’ve got some wisdom to share, you know where the comments box is. 🙂