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National coming out day

  • Posted on October 12, 2013 at 8:36 am

I realised a little too late that October 11 was National Coming Out Day. Not that I would have done anything different. I sort of assume in the main that I am obvious, and have no qualms explaining gender dysphoria to anyone. I feel somewhat immune to the issues by now. I know I am different, and I know that it makes a difference to other people. It is a stumbling block to forming relationships, like a cellar door that remains closed and scary for others. I could say ‘Hey, there’s a light on down there! It’s cosy and furnished, it’s alright!’, but for some a cellar door is preferable.

So the idea of coming out is a tricky one. Partly, coming out makes a difference to you too. It’s the point of no more hiding and being free to express yourself, and that changes you. There’s no going back in other than among a completely new group of people. There are people I never came out to, simply because they never knew me before, and simply accept me as I am. After the first coming out, you begin wondering why you have to keep on doing it. It’s an explanation of course, but why? Coming out is itself an acknowledgement that parts of society don’t want you, or don’t want to really include you.

Coming out is also a big day for each individual friend, colleague, family member. I don’t remember any particular coming out to my daughter, for my wife it was an extended thing over years, accelerating to a point of no return. For others it was more a realisation that things would never be quite the same, but that it was OK. On a number of occasions it was group thing. But for each, my coming out was a decision point for them. How were they going to deal with the new knowledge and awareness? How was living with, loving, or knowing a transsexual woman going to affect their lives, and did they want to have to deal with that wholeheartedly, at arms length, or not at all?

Coming Out is a statement that who you are matters more than being loved or accepted for not being who you are. It is a transaction in which both sides evaluate acceptance of reality and the ability to cope with it.

Isn’t that sad? That as a society we make evaluations on the acceptability of reality? That October 11 2013 has been a day of people rejecting others for being authentic, and a day of realisation that self-authenticity has a price. It has also been a day of great reliefs, where people have found unexpected acceptance and even greater openness in others.

Last night I had a lovely conversation after dance with someone who hasn’t been well. We both live in our dance, we both write poetry, we are both musical. We met, in a way you don’t meet people in other settings. We shared, we hugged and kissed. It’s what people do in these wonderful new spaces I am finding. Did she know about my gender past? I have no idea, because either way it clearly didn’t matter.


Behind so much of the issues of coming out or being out, is fear. Insecurity. How will gender difference in myself or another affect me? Will it change me, stretch or challenge me? Can I cope if it does? Why? The further I travel the more ridiculous it seems that gender matters that much.

This branch of coming out is not about sexuality, which is another bundle of preconceptions and fears. Sexuality is more simply whether you would ever want to have sex with the other, and 99.9 per cent of the time, that is irrelevant. No, there is something about gender that is not about what you do in private. There is an unspoken fear that you are upsetting some social apple-cart by being different, or that you are deliberately undermining the meaning of life, even! And that does make it difficult to understand how an intimate relationship might be found, developed and survived. Fear hangs on.

I was walking and talking with a friend this week. Had my experience been a Pandora’s box? If so, my fanged creatures were winged and had long departed, leaving some rather good things free to emerge unsuppressed. I suggested we all have Pandora’s boxes of varying sizes, and acknowledged that I had spent the whole of my marriage in fear of being discovered, found out, for I knew not what. It really is lovely knowing that all that fear has completely gone away. Life really does feel very different. Fear and love are strange companions. I lost both; no more fighting between the two.

In a dance workshop this week, we explored breathing. This involved feeling each other’s breath, increasing perception, releasing. It was physical, and I felt accepting hands, another’s awareness of my body, a closeness, that I have not felt for years. It was a very profound thing for me, though not strange in these places, and something I have increasing comfort with. It’s great therapy for fear as well.

I think the antidote to fear, and indeed to coming out, is trust. Not throw-yourself-off-a-cliff-someone-will-catch you kind of trust, but where you know another accepts you for being who you are, not what they would like you to be. There are always some people like that, and whatever their decision on your coming out day or days, you know it matters more to them that you are true to yourself than that you play to their tune.