I was 19 years old the first time I came out; I had been secretly dressing up for almost 8 years, and even though it was never discussed out loud yet, my parents, especially my mother, obviously knew for almost as long. I was terrified; deep down I knew they would accept me no matter what I told them, no matter who I was; but regardless, it can be terrifying to utter those words to somebody you have known and loved for so long. I wrote letters that I gave individually to mom, dad, and finally my older brother. With each delivery and resulting conversation, I expected things to get easier, but the anxiety only increased.
As I expected, everybody was incredibly accepting, and promised to love and support me no matter what happened, what changes I made, or who I was and wanted to be. I felt great, but over time, I fought against my identity issues, continued to question myself, and eventually, dismissed the idea that I was actually transgender. It was 2002, and while there seemed to be plenty of resources on the Internet, many of them did not provide a lot of information, and none of them seemed to include anything about areas outside of the binary.
Everywhere I searched to learn about who I was, all I could find was accounts of trans-women who despised their male aspects, who felt uncomfortable with their sexual experiences, and could not even bring themselves to… self-service. Then there was me, while I had never been with a woman as of yet, I certainly did not have any struggles when going solo. Based on what I was reading, this pretty much assured me that there could be no way that I was actually transgender.
> "SO HERE I WAS, JUST A FEW SHORT MONTHS AFTER COMING OUT TO THE THREE PEOPLE CLOSEST TO ME, TELLING THEM THAT I THOUGHT I COULD BE A WOMAN, AND NOW I WAS BACKTRACKING.'
So here I was, just a few short months after coming out to the three people closest to me, telling them that I thought I could be a woman, and now I was backtracking. I decided it was easiest to just not talk about it unless it was brought up by somebody else. Over the next couple of years, I slowly moved away from my periodic crossdressing and ended up purging my female wardrobe.
I've already shared about the buildup to my second "awakening," so I'll save the long tale of confusion and self-hatred. When it came time to open up to my family again, it was even scarier than the first time. One would think that having such a conversation a second time would be easier than the first, but 15 years later, the sequel to my coming out felt like an even bigger deal. I believe this was primarily due to two factors, the first being the fear of being judged, not for being trans, but for perceived indecisiveness of my identity; and the second, much grander matter, that this time, I was a happily married person. Sadly, there is still a standard misconception that ties gender and sexuality together, meaning that many people would automatically assume that my "identity crisis" would simultaneously bring upon the end of my marriage. While there was a short time where that end did seem possible, it was not, as some wrongly assumed, due to my wanting to run off and be with a man.
It was the day after Valentine's day when I sat down in the kitchen with my mother, similar to our conversation 15 years prior, I had started the conversation with an email, detailing my struggle, explaining the events that led me to backpedal on my previous coming out, and coming around to the present day. Once again, she could not have been more supportive; she assured me that she would love me no matter who I chose to be (and who I chose to be with), and once I addressed her concerns about the potential divorce, we ended our chat with that huge hug that can only be shared between a mother and child.
The next steps were even more nerve-wracking; I had no doubts regarding the acceptance from my father, however, we weren't quite as close as I was with my mother. I explained to mom that my plan over the next day was to work on coming out to my wife, Kat, and then figure out the conversation with dad over the next few weeks. The length of time wasn’t so much a negative towards him, but meant more as a cushion period to allow Kat to adjust to the information and figure out how it would affect our marriage.
> "I HEADED UPSTAIRS TO SAY A QUICK HELLO TO MY PARENTS; AND INTO A CONVERSATION I HAD NOT EXPECTED TO HAVE."
As previously detailed, I came out to Kat the next day and she did not take it very well at first; she spent most of the first few days after our conversation curled up in bed crying. On the following day, I left for work; Kat could barely look me in the eyes. It was heartbreaking, and I was terrified that my marriage might have entered a territory that there was no returning from. Later that day, I returned home and after a failed attempt at talking to her, I headed upstairs to say a quick hello to my parents; and into a conversation I had not expected to have.
My mother was taking a nap when I went to say hello, but my father was sitting in the kitchen watching TV and snacking on some chips; he stared at the TV with a look that expressed a mixture of anger and hurt. I cautiously entered the room, not knowing if I was about to have an argument with him over something, possibly over the lack of cleanliness in Kat’s and my area downstairs, or more likely because I had not given them money to cover our "rent" in about 3 months.
When dad looked at me and spoke, his voice had an expression, not of fury, but love. "I know I'm not the easiest person to talk to," he started, "but, I like to think of myself as being a pretty liberal-minded and accepting person." I sat down, of course knowing where this conversation was heading. "I want you to know," he continued, "that you can talk to me about anything, and no matter what happens in your life, I will love and accept you without a single hesitation." The conversation was brief, but he made sure I understood that even though we weren’t as close as we would both like, he would always be there for me.
It turned out, that Kat's emotional state was not as quiet as either of us would have liked it to be. Dad overheard her from upstairs and after a while, asked my mother if she had any idea of what was going on. Mom, not sure how to respond, and not wanting to make something up, told him what was going on. Mom felt guilty for outing me ahead of my planned schedule, but I didn’t mind. When in doubt, the truth is always better than a lie; and I doubt my father would have believed it if she feigned ignorance.
I count myself pretty lucky. It saddens me whenever I read about an LGBT individual who is ostracized by their family; thrown out of their home, with only the clothes on their back. According to a 2017 article from the Washington Post, there is an estimated 1.6 million homeless youth in the United States, 40% of which are LGBT. That means that there are roughly 640,000 young openly LGBT people without a safe place to live in the US alone. I find this number horribly depressing, and like many members of my LGBT family, I wish there was something I could do for all of my unknown brothers and sisters throughout the world. But I simultaneously feel guilty for how supportive my friends and family have been.