October 11, 2013

National Coming Out Day 2013

"Coming Out" is a tricky and complicated concept. 

As a transwoman, I had one big honking "coming out" - as every single person in my world got the news that I was changing my name and my gender, back in 2002. Family, friends, relations, acquaintances, clients, peers, government entities, creditors, the woman at the coffeeshop, you name it. Not even the smallest corner of a closet. I doubt any GLB person has that sort of requirement to "come out".

That was over ten years ago. And in the ensuing years, it's been tempting, and easy, to slide back into the closet.

Part of that is privilege - I've been able (by dint of genetics, ability to access and afford medical transition, and my choices regarding presentation and behavior) to move on with my life. My attitude has been that "trans" is more of a condition than an identity - one that I was fortunate enough to be able to address, and well, let's move on. So, as a cancer survivor might choose not to advertise that except in select cases, or a scoliosis survivor might choose to forget the painful back brace or the embarrassing shoes of her youth, my transition has faded into the past.

I've also got an uneasy relationship with my trans history, and with the trans community. Back in 2006, I heard Nuala O'Faolain speak of "...setting ones condition in amber..." and I had no desire or need to continue to live in the pathology of gender dysphoria by continuing to tell that story, to live in that pain. It's been my experience that folks will forget that you are trans if you do not keep reminding them, and I felt (and still do, to some extent) that a continued insistence on a trans identity (and even more so, the use of the term and concept of "cisgender", which I generally avoid) creates a wall of difference or a barrier between oneself and the rest of the world. There's a trans homeland or community which serves many folks, both as a transitional space as well as a permanent community for those unable to move through the world comfortably, but my world is much broader than that. And I find a lot of the focus on victimization and suicide of the trans activist community to be not my experience, and more than a little self defeating if not outright self-fulfilling. So yeah, I'm trans. But you won't find me at Day of Remembrance or testifying.

And it's not like I've been all stealthy - most of my close friends know my history, I'm not shy about sharing it when appropriate or when asked, and a lot of the "must efface every single scrap of evidence that I was ever a different gender" energy of the trans community (including birth certificates) drives me bonkers. If I ever need my birth certificate for anything (and I rarely do) I pull out my male one and tell the story. Whatever. Deal. 

And then there is orientation. It's all highly theoretical, since I rarely date and even more rarely mate, but the closet thing I have to an orientation is bi.

Part of that is external - my general "type" is women along the butch / masculine spectrum, and occasionally those women choose to transition, and I love them none the less when they do. So to honor their male gender identity, I have to broaden my orientation a bit.

And although I've not dated non-trans men, I've come to see gender as a pretty fungible and fluid concept - and I suspect there might be a guy out there who could get under my skin intellectually, emotionally, physically, etc. But the reality is that queer men and trans admirers generally want a partner with male anatomy (me no gots, sorry), straight men generally have a pretty strong streak of homophobia that precludes dating a transwoman (regardless of anatomy) - so the odds of me showing up to the prom with a dude are pretty thin.

Let's face it, the odds of me showing up to the prom with a date of any gender or orientation are pretty slim. I've spent the past decade being pretty quiet about my orientation and history, and I've also spent a lot of those years unattached and flying solo.

Perhaps "coming out" is a bit of a Hail Mary pass because being kind of invisible has not really served me in terms of finding friends, lovers, partners, community. It is, however, equally likely given my present state (I happen to be in the midst of a cloud of misanthropy and isolation) that "coming out" is just one more way of pushing folks away, of "othering" myself, and of crawling deeper into my cave.

Like I said, coming out - it's complicated. 

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