Shunned by Society and Finding a Community
By U. A. Nigro
She wanted to sit down face to face with family and a list of lifelong friends. Then afterwards she would come out on social media. All of which I agreed with, however it sounds much simpler than it actually was. Trying to synchronize our schedule with everyone else’s schedule was tricky to say the least. I had decided that I would come out on my social media simultaneously as my wife, to not only show my love and support for her, but to also avoid the “are you staying together?” question. So my post included not only how proud I was of her, but also how much happier she was as a human and how that has made our relationship even better. I did of course get a few of those “so what are you going to do now?” questions, but not as many as I could have gotten.
“WE HAD JUST ABOUT STOPPED SEEING EVERYONE WE KNEW, AVOIDED GET-TOGETHERS, FAMILY FUNCTIONS AND HOLIDAYS OUTSIDE OF THE HOUSE.”
A majority of the emails, text messages, and comments that I received were positive and supportive. I was not only relieved, but also grateful that people took the time out of their lives to send me some loving support. The time span between the day that my wife came out to me and the day we both came out on social media was quiet lengthy. So the beginning of her transition was a very private affair that only a very few outsiders knew about. We had just about stopped seeing everyone we knew, avoided get-togethers, family functions and holidays outside of the house. I felt as if someone stuffed me into a closet and put a gag on me. It was awful. So after everyone in the world knew what our family was going through and that we weren’t just avoiding people for no reason, I was ready to live again.
So there I was for the first time walking into work or a party or a family gathering or bumping into someone at the supermarket who is on my social media but I haven’t seen. Hi, as you already know, I am that straight woman whose spouse just came out as transgender and turned her into a lesbian, so what’s new with you? The word strange just doesn’t do those feelings much justice. I felt like a part of me was broken and everyone could see it, and everyone wanted to blame my wife. Then I noticed being left out of things and started to hear whispers after I left a room. Were they talking about me? It certainty felt like they were, and just like that I felt like the weirdo in the room. To my face everyone was more than excited for me. They said things like, “hey that’s great news,” and “good for you both, glad you are happy,” then walked away saying “that poor girl.”
“SO I WENT OUT INTO THE WORLD LOOKING FOR PEOPLE LIKE US.”
I was starting to feel as though I violated some kind of unspoken heterosexual rule. The only thing left to do with me was to shun me. Send me out into the world with only my wife by my side to figure things out on our own. I must confess it was quite lonely. So I went out into the world looking for people like us. It wasn’t easy and I am still working on it, but it is well worth it. I was lucky to have found a support group on a social media website for partners of transgender people only. I can go there any time of day or night and scream about dysphoria and not have to explain what it is. Or, happily share the success of our first outing in a dress and not get strange looks and or questions. I can discuss surgeries, hormones, therapist and bigots. I have laughed, cried and shared intimately with these people, yet we have never met in person.
So as we navigate through this detour in our lives, let us all remember how important community is. Having a safe and understanding place to hang our hat is crucial to getting through to the other side. Unconditional support for the everyday craziness and the days of surgeries, coming out to family, moving to a new state or employment issues. Do not let your community or town shun you and your family. I am well aware that this is not easy, but go out there and find people like us. The reward is greater than the work. A big thank you to the people on my online support group for being there every minute of everyday. I couldn’t have gotten through a lot of those insane days without you. Wishing you peace always.