Visibility

I hate Trans Day of Visibility.

Ironic? Probably.

For someone who is not visible, TDOV isn’t a day to be recognized and celebrated, but it’s a reminder of the walls that confine those of us who aren’t or can’t be visible. Every year, I have all of my trans friends post on social media their before and after photos, the ultimate Transformation Tuesday, along with a spiel about how they are thankful to be out and to live their lives authentically. Now, I don’t dislike any of my friends for posting about this. Being able to be visible is huge, and visibility it such a crucial piece for our community. Unfortunately, TDOV is about celebrating those who are already out and not supporting those of us who are still deeply in the closet.

I’m talking not about everyone, and everyone’s experience. I am focusing on a subgroup of the population who is aware that TDOV is even a thing. I am talking about the people who know what trans is, who identify as such, and who are not out of the closet in some capacity. Take me, for example. I am out at work and within my immediate relationships. I am not out to everyone on my facebook feed nor my family. So on TDOV, I don’t have a way to celebrate that I am out in certain spheres of my life. I guess I have this blog- but it feels like nothing in comparison to the positive feedback that my friends get who post on facebook. I don’t get to share my story with my family or friends. Shit, half of my friends don’t even know about my queer double life.

What’s an enby to do?

That’s a silly question because unless an enby wants to do something, there isn’t anything they have to do. Gender diverse individuals have to do enough, more than they should, when I comes to being out and visible. Instead, let’s look at what allies, both gender diverse and non, can do to be supportive.

 

Share your pronouns in group spaces. It’s a small thing and will probably feel weird, in all honesty. However, doing that opens the door for others to share their pronouns and lets the gender diverse person who is sharing space with you to know that you are an ally. Providing space for queer people is hard as an ally; there is a balance between lifting people up and standing over them that can be hard to find. Sharing your pronouns allows you to hold space for others to make the decision to speak up for themselves and become more visible in a way that does not add pressure on others or create an unsafe environment.

Focus on the narrative, not the before and after. Stories have power, pictures have expectations. Not to say that a picture isn’t powerful, but showing before and after is problematic because it sets up an expectation that physical transformation = trans, and that the bigger your transformation the better. That isn’t what it’s about people, so let’s stop perpetuating that. (I also find it problematic because it sets a bar for other trans people to compare themselves to and when they don’t have the stunning 360 degree transformation that they see on social media, then what… but that’s for another day) So tell your story; share your success and your struggles.

Find other ways to be visible. What does it mean to be visible? That looks different for everyone, and not everyone wants to be visible. If you do. think about what you want to do in terms of visibility, for yourself or the community, and do that. I’m sure google has a lot of great ideas; I’m also sure that you have something that google hasn’t come up yet. Do what feels right to you, not just what everyone else is doing.

 

Let your trans friends know you see them. Even though they may be out to you, if they aren’t out to everyone, TDOV can be a challenge. Sending a text to let someone know you see them is a huge validation, especially on a day where they are invisible. You know that trans friend who isn’t posting on TDOV- they’re probably still in the closet (or maybe not, I don’t know everything, though it sounds good).

 

Remember, visibility is daily. I don’t have the luxury of one day a year explaining and celebrating my gender. I don’t “pass” as nonbinary and people never assume that I am anything other than female. I have to remind people of my gender and pronouns daily, even multiple times a day. To do that, I have to be the kind of visible that brings fourth vulnerability and possible rejection. It is exhausting. Generally the only time I am celebrating my gender is with sarcasm laden texts to my girlfriend: Got misgendered, AGAIN 🎉. Offer support to friends who are nonbinary or somewhere in between where they are and where they want to be with their gender and transition. Provide safe space for gender expression and for others to be visible when they need it.

 

Each year I care less and less about being visible on facebook, especially as I am able to produce work that feels valuable for the community. It has been a struggle, TDOV, ever since I started questioning and exploring my gender. I am constantly in a place where I feel like the oddball queer kid, invisible and misunderstood. That’s why writing something like today, though it feels like a Buzzfeed article, is something I find value in. I can tell you that had any of my trans or ally friends reached out to me on TDOV and said that they saw me- that would have allowed me to go through the day with less angst, hurt, and shame. Instead of the day being a reminder that I wasn’t out, and may never be out enough to be as visible as my friends, the day could have been one where I was supported. Imagine feeling all of these things ant not even being able to talk about it with anyone. It isn’t like I could post on facebook adjacent to all my friends that TDOV sucks because I feel invisible. I also don’t want a pity party. I just want to be seen, especially on a day where everyone else gets to be seen.

I know I’m not the only one who wants that.

Sexual Preference & The Norms I don’t Live Up To

About three or four years ago my sexual preferences started to shift. As I delved more into exploring my own gender, it opened the doors to having a more critical conversation with myself about what I might like in a sexual partner.  I knew I was attracted to femmes (and boobs), and I hoped to one day find a partner who was taller than me. Other than that, I didn’t really have a type that I could identify.

Before I made the move to California, I had two encounters with my friend’s husband. My friend knew I was struggling with being sexually unfulfilled and uncertain, so like any good friend does, she offered up her husband for some casual sex (they’re in an open relationship and all parties had knowledge and consent prior). I didn’t have much of an attachment to her husband, we were acquaintances and Pokemon Go friends so there wasn’t much I could lose if the encounter went bad.

Those two experiences with him were the first time that I was able to really explore a penis. Yea, I had fooled around with guys before but this particular partner allowed me to have the freedom and space to look at it, touch it, attempt to pleasure it, all without expectations that the sex would be mind blowing. 

Turns out he was great in bed. He thoroughly enjoyed himself, even though my performance was sub par at best. The sex went on for what felt like a blissful eternity… that was never going to end. Fun fact about me, I have a really, really difficult time hitting climax. I come close but can’t quite get over the hump. Even given his best efforts, I never came. The experience, despite that, was the most positive sexual experience that I had. 

After moving to California and my penis experience, I really felt that my perfect partner would be a trans woman, someone who embraced the mental image of femininity that I had in my mind coupled with my new ability to access a penis with less fear was a winning combination. I never talked about my sexual preferences though. Dating while trans is hard and poses risks, and I was afraid that by being open about my preferences, I was contributing to fetishization of trans women. How could I explain that a penis was more comfortable for me to interact with than a vagina? Vaginas are hard, but as a self identified lesbian there are expectations what come with that label, expectations I didn’t have the confidence to meet. I didn’t think I could explain that in a way that made any sense to anyone. So I kept my mouth closed and continued to swipe left or right on dating apps.

Fast forward to a year ago when I met my now girlfriend. I never had intentions to date her, I was desperate for contact with other gender diverse individuals and she seemed pretty cool. It turned into a relationship and the sex has been satisfying. I’m not sure how much of it has to do with her sexual personality versus her genitalia, but sex works for us. 

Even though the sex works, I still don’t climax. There’s generally an emotional moment for me after sex when we try to get me there. Last night it hit me hard, but my girlfriend is supportive. She asked questions and tried to help me problem-solve how to get past the hump. She offered to watch porn with me. That got me nervous, because as a single individual, I would often watch porn involving trans women as a way to get off. The fake boobs so prevalent in porn are an obvious turn off, but the essence of who I wanted to be with was there enough for me. Typically it was just a minute or two before I’d be ready to go and take care of myself away from the video. I never liked that I watched porn, knowing that it’s not always done in a safe or ethical manner, so somewhere I felt relief that it only took a minute for me to be able to stop watching and focus on myself. 

So the girlfriend and I searched the Internet, which was tense with discomfort for me. But if it would help I was willing to try. She turned on a video and I felt dirty and ashamed. We were both uncomfortable, but watching porn with her hit the nerve that I never talked about- my fear that I’d be fetishizing trans women, my girlfriend. Guilt filled tears flowed down my face but I couldn’t explain to her why- I was sure I didn’t need to. I was sure she wouldn’t want to be with me after that, now that she knew the secret part of myself I never shared. 

We both slept and in the morning I was so grateful that she snuggled up against me. Maybe she didn’t hate me? How often do you snuggle the one you loathe? My insecurity and shame were still present though, and in a moment of sheer vulnerability I told her why. Turns out she never even thought of the possibility that I’d fetishize her. Thinking about it, given her relationship history I’m not sure that she’d even have much context for that to be a thing on her mind. It was a relief to have her validate my struggle and shame as real, while assuring me that our relationship was strong. One of the many reasons I love her. 

So many moments of struggle in my life could have been alleviated if there were more open conversations about gender and sexuality. I didn’t know anyone who had a relationship with a trans woman post transition and pre bottom surgery. I didn’t have anyone I could share and relate to the same way that others do. Shit, even finding someone who could relate as a gay femme would have been awesome- but at least I had a community of people who were accepting of my preference there, despite the lack of contact I had with lesbians. 

As I grew into my gender and delved deeper into gender exploration, the way I identified my sexuality changed too. I still say I’m a lesbian but I also identify as bisexual. I don’t want to claim the label pansexual because I don’t think dating a straight cisgender man would ever work. The lack of intersections between my life and his would make that a challenge. However, I’d date someone with a penis, a vagina, or something in between. I’ll date someone with “masculine” and “feminine” traits. If gender norms weren’t a thing I’m sure I’d identify differently- but it’s not the norm for men to have vaginas or women to have penises, though I think it should be. So my bisexuality comes from my ability to have sex with different genitalia. But explaining all that is hard. So I just say I’m a lesbian. 

The next generation of young people are definitely embracing pansexuality and the ability to love with less limits. I’d hope that there would be more conversations about gender and sexuality in a way that normalizes preferences outside of the norm. My younger self could have used that. And maybe me writing about this, about my shame and fear, is my gift to my younger self. It’s the blog post I wanted to find to tell me that I wasn’t bad or dirty for who I was attracted to. It’s what I needed to hear, and maybe it’s what someone else needs to hear too.  If that’s the case, read this:

Hey you,

You’re normal. Maybe more than that, you’re special. You are attracted to someone who is maybe different or someone that your friends and family would be surprised by. That’s okay. Embrace it. Because there’s someone out there who needs your love and acceptance. There’s someone who wondered if there would be anyone who will love them. And there is. That’s beautiful. It’s okay if you feel shame; society doesn’t make it easy to accept differences of any kind. But don’t let that shame hold you back from being you and loving who you love. You are special. And you’ll find that right someone who sees just how special you are. 

Va-jay-jay

I remember being a teenager and realizing my vagina wasn’t normal. As an adult, I know there isn’t a way to look “normal” but my teenage self desperately wanted to. I was often uncomfortable in some of my clothes. My vulva was more… present, than others.

Following me into adulthood is the idea that my vulva is so different looking than others. And not only that, but my different looking vulva is much uglier than others too.
This probably comes from seeing porn (though as someone who knows a thing or two about sex workers, porn that may be easily accessible is largely filtered to meet made up, “ideal” standards) and not seeing many vaginas in person. My sample size to help me understand my vulva was small and skewed.

l’ve never wanted a penis. I remember wanting nothing to be there for a while before I really grew into myself and my sexuality. As an adult, sex was scary. What if it is actually as ugly as I think it is. What if my partner is disgusted by it and the night is ruined? What If my vulva prevents people from wanting to be with me? Luckily my vulva and I found a long term partner who doesn’t mind how it looks. I still have unrest about it; an ebbing and flowing of not paying attention to it and not being able to ignore it. I find myself going back to my adolescence when I was thinking about a labiaplasty. Being a teenager, the thought didn’t evolve into much. Being an adult with a partner who wants bottom surgery, on the other hand, makes surgical options feel like they are more accessible. So, I turned to my trusty friend google for information.

It did not take me long to find before and after pictures. Without expectations, I clicked the link. Image after image before my eyes and I could feel myself sink into a pool of sadness. All of the before vulvas looked like mine, and all of the afters looked like the “ideal” vulva that I had seen growing up. I was crushed by the proof that my vulva was undesirable, and also saddened that so many people felt the need to change their vulva. One before picture even looked like a heart when the lips were spread apart. I found myself wishing for a “before” vulva that was heart shaped, while being so upset that such a unique vulva was surgically modified.

My google search ended there. I’m not sure how to love my vulva more, but the thought of surgery to change the appearance feels untrue and inauthentic. I wonder if my partner were to take a picture of my vulva and a more “pretty” one to their doctor when they get bottom surgery, which the doctor would recommend. I wonder If they wanted a vulva like mine, if a doctor would convince them otherwise. Based on what I saw, no one is getting surgery to have a vulva more like mine.

So I am sitting in this middle place, unhappy with what I’ve got, but not content with my options. It is a struggle that I deal with as a nonbinary person in general. Perhaps that will always be my struggle,’ the push and pull between who I am and who I am “supposed” to be, what I want and what I can actually get.

 

In the middle of privilege

I hate my girlfriend’s privilege.

She’s got the finances to go to school full time and work on a doctoral degree, while not having to work, and maintaining two households; one in which she supports a spouse and three kids and one where bills are split 50-50, until summer comes and she’s paying for the whole electric bill because she likes it freezing. I digress.

She has privilege. Her privilege allows her to pursue her dreams and act on her goals while I am stuck in a job that, though it pays the bills, provides zero emotional satisfaction. It’s my “career”. Ya know, the thing that you go to college to find what you love so you can do that for the rest of your life. Well I want a college do over. 

Yes- I am lucky to have a salary and benefits, long term job. I have privilege in countless ways, and I am aware of my privilege. Though proximity to someone who has more privilege than I do is eye widening to say the least. I never knew it was possible to only have to work one day a week, and work as an unpaid intern, while still having not just bills paid, but excess in the bank.  Seeing someone who feels largely fulfilled in their work is a thing I so deeply desire. What sucks is the fulfilled person is sleeping next to me at night. 

I have the luxury, perhaps, of working from home. My day is spent 8:30-4 practically glued to my laptop working nonstop ay my job. I know for certain that people in my position have hours in the week where they are not attending to work because they work from home, but I don’t. My integrity is too high and my distractions too low. So the thought of being home with my girlfriend while I am glued to my computer and she can go to the gym, Disneyland, play video games, work on her blog, catch up on reading, take a walk outside, sleep… the thought drives me insane with envy. 

What would I do with my time if I didn’t have to work at my current job? I would invest more time into blogging. I would work on graphic resources to help educate people on trans everything. I would create content and perhaps curriculum to help schools and work places be more inclusive. I would market myself as a trainer in sex/gender diversity. I would advocate for youth. I would start a youth support group. I would sleep in and admittedly spend more time at the beach or by the pool, within reason. I would work toward building a career that I wanted and got emotional fulfillment from. 

But I can’t. I don’t have the financial resources to up and leave my job. I am aware of how much my job takes from my day, not just in time, but in energy too. I feel a need to make the most out of my day and use my time wisely. Somehow reading a book in the apartment where I have spent all day working isn’t as appealing as running errands, spending time with my girlfriend, dancing, or just zoning out. Writing takes a connectedness that is harder to achieve after a full day of work. I know if I had more down time in my week to conceptualize and plan, my social media graphic project would be off the ground already. 

But I can’t and it’s not. 

Proximity to privilege creates angst. And my proximity is close as fuck.

Documented

I often wonder what kind of value I bring to the lives of people around me. I wonder if I have value to others who are outside of my immediate social circle.  Sometimes I just feel like blip, but isn’t that what we are, in the grand scheme of things. I am one person in how many people that exist in California, the US, North America, the world. There are more people who I will never meet than could be quantified. So, knowing that, I ask, do any of my contributions matter?

I want to make larger scale impacts. I want to be able to reach people outside of my admittedly very small social circle. Yet, I don’t know how. Even with a job in education, I feel too bogged down by the politics to be making a difference for anyone. 

I was recently approached with a project that could possibly help me to make a difference on a larger scale- er, my girlfriend was approached and I tagged along. Long story shots, as individuals and as a couple, my girlfriend and I have a compelling story to tell, according to the producer and filmmaker we met. So they want to do a documentary about us. 

I can think of a million reasons for me to not participate in a documentary- I’m white, I’m middle class but upper class adjacent thanks to my girlfriend, I’m white, I am read as cisgender and am conventionally attractive, and I’m white. Though the ways in which I am marginalized could be interesting, I feel that I lack the intersectionality that would  make my story much different from the norm. 

What makes me hold on to the idea of being in a documentary is this- I look straight. I look cisgender. And though that shouldn’t be a thing, “looking” a certain way, it means something to most people because of how we like to categorize and compartmentalize individuals. One of my biggest complaints about seeing other queer people, as they are portrayed, in visual media, is that there isn’t anyone who I have seen that I feel represents me. I can’t watch at any tv shows or movies and see a non-binary, AFAB, femme on screen.  I particularly struggle with this femme invisibility and how that disconnects me from the queer community. I question the validity of my identity as a result of my presentation and how my story deviates from the mainstream norm we see.  Everyone is different and the path that we take to get where we are going is unique but to own an identity and not see anyone similar is nothing short of a mind fuck on my most insecure days. 

So there isn’t anyone for me to see who can validate the existence of my identity outside of myself, but maybe I can be that for someone else. Part of what needs to happen in society is that we need to throw away the ideas we have of how people should look, and I feel my gender expression can help break past those barriers. Im not who I say I am simply because I look like something  or someone else else.

Now there is one other factor that makes me more inclined to say yes to this documentary. Earlier this year I made a blog post where I described my word for the year, a ritual that I have never participated in prior. The word that really hit me for 2019 was authentic. Not I don’t know that I believe in signs or a higher power, but this could be the universe giving me exactly what I need to be a more authentic version of myself. It provides a higher level of motivation to come out and decompartmentalize my life in addition t the opportunity to really allow myself to embrace who I am. With self embrace comes, hopefully, a level of comfort within my identity that I have not been able to yet achieve, and hopefully, that will allow me to continue to be out and visible. 

I haven’t signed the life rights agreement, and honestly, there is a part of me that is absolutely terrified. Terrified of what may come out, the final product, judgment from other people in the LGBT community or feminists who realize I am not intersectional enough or my story doesn’t matter.  

Maybe, similar to this blog, if I can reach just a few people it could be worth it…

My Gender is a Spectator Sport

My gender is a spectator sport

Watching people call me ma’am, she, her… assuming they know who I am but not connecting the dots when I telll them: THEY

Those are not my pronouns.

Okay Ma’am 

 

My gender is a spectator sport

So you mean, you aren’t going to cut your hair short and wear men’s clothes?

But you look like a girl.

 

My gender is a spectator sport

I could change my gender marker…

but most states don’t recognize anything other than M and F.

Male OR Female

 

My gender is a spectator sport

Though I can’t even watch it on tv because it doesn’t follow the mainstream, binary arc of transition.

This is what *should* happen when you’re trans.

Are you even trans if you don’t have dysphoria.

 

My gender is a spectator sport

As I watch myself bleed every month for no good reason.

Having doctors tell me they can’t operate because I may want kids some day, as if they can tell the future.

Knowing my only escape is a dose of hormones that I don’t want anyway.

 

My gender is a spectator sport

Amateur queer, not ready to be taken seriously by the professionals.

 

My gender is a spectator sport

Watching from the sidelines as friends inject them selves with gender affirming hormones.

Seeing the happiness that comes from top surgery, knowing that feeling is out of reach.

Wondering: Whats wrong with me? I should want that, but I don’t… but I do.

 

My gender is a spectator sport

There are no rules I can follow.

No strategies.

No one wins or loses.

I watch.

Invisible in my gender.

On the sidelines as everyone else queers it up.

I want to participate but I cant, because we aren’t playing the same game.

Everyone is playing baseball while Im trying to play cricket.

Do you even know what cricket is?

My Shirt Says So

I saw a shirt last night that almost brought me to tears. 

Late night Instagram scrolling had be hooked on this one persons account- androgynous, cute singer with a hairstyle I’d never be brave enough to rock. I was both jealous and smitten. My girlfriend said we looked alike, but no matter how close our facial features, this person was the androgynous version of myself I’d love to be perceived as. 

So we followed a random hashtag from one of her captions and looked deeper into the insta depths. Then I found it. THE shirt. The shirt I never knew I needed, and suddenly, I had to find it. It was a simple baseball style shirt that had four lines of text reading: I AM NOT A GIRL

I needed this shirt. It didn’t matter that the person wearing this shirt was more masculine presenting. We both could be not girls. Because I know deep down that I am not a girl, despite society wanting to label my otherwise. So I scoured the site it was tagged from… nothing. Then I took to google. Low and behold, it was there! Not only was it there but it was there in volume! Shirts that all read queer friendly and empowering messages. I had to restrain myself from getting a shirt that said “they them”, another peer of my identity that is invisible from the public eye. 

Seeing that shirt gave me a visceral emotional reaction that I don’t think can be adequately put into words. As my girlfriend and I were browsing the site I tried to hold onto the feeling, the impact the shirt had when I saw it. More often than not lately I wonder if my gender is valid. Am I “queer enough” or am I just pretending somehow? I don’t have many external things about myself that validate my gender, such as my appearance, but damnit, I could wear that shirt. The reaction I had upon seeing the shirt was one that was so strong, I can’t deny that I am in fact, not a woman. Somewhere within that is my validation. I am not a woman. My gender is valid. 

(My shirt says so)

Forever Femme.

As a trans person, there are certain expectations that people place on me that I am expected to fulfill. Making legal and medical steps to change things about myself definitely tops the list. Without those steps, people often forget about my gender identity. Getting people to consistently use my pronouns is a task and a half, and I really feel that if I looked differently or made changes in my life, people would remember that I am not who they perceive me to be. 

I feel boxed in my expectations of what I “should” be doing as a trans person to get validation of my gender. At the same time, I feel boxed in by my lack of desire to legally or medically transition. I don’t have the desire to make any medical changed to my body at this time. Even though I am one hundred percent okay with that, I find myself frustrated with the thought that my lack of transition locks me into forever being a “female”.

This makes me circle back to thoughts about not being trans enough (a stupid idea that is only brought on by the unnecessary categorization of people). How valid is my identity if there is nothing I want to do that validates my identity? How valid is my identify if other people can’t see pieces of my identity? We live in a world where gender presentation equals gender identity and that’s not the case.  I shouldn’t need external anything to validate who I say I am, and yet, I can’t seem to get very far without that. If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck then its a duck, right? Except that I look like a “woman”, dress like a “woman”, have a vocal pitch that sounds like other women… and yet- I’m not. 

The norms for gender that have been established, and that most of us buy into, are the things that constrict me into a place of identity suppression and submission. The norms are in place to force conformity and its working! I’m not different enough to be excused from the norms so instead I am trapped by them. Safe from humiliation and ridicule of being different but internally tortured by the system that claims to be protecting me. 

How many other people are suffering as I am? I may never know. Finding the conforming nonconformists is like finding hay in a hay stack- we all may look the same, just a bunch of femmes trying to live our best life, when really our diversity is buried, hidden from others because they refuse to look past who we should be and see who we are. 

Doctor, Doctor

I struggle with going to the doctor. I don’t generally get sick, let alone sick enough that would require medical care. My most frequent reason for visiting a doctor has been to deal with my period. Honestly, its been a nightmare (both getting periods and going to the doctor to seek help). In all of the experiences I have had and with every appointment I have gone to, my concerns have been noted as normal and my requests for hysterectomy has been vehemently denied. 

My desire for uterine relief comes from two places, one of biology and one of gender. A uterus generally means bleeding, and for me, the bleeding has been intense. As I have gotten older, the bleeding has become more predictable and manageable, but the other symptoms that come from changing hormone levels make my life miserable. I spend two weeks out of the month dealing with insane emotional mood swings, bloating that makes me want to rip my skin off, and general unhappiness. Then my period comes. By the third day I am back to feeling fine, except I will have developed a strong dislike for the organs which are bleeding. I become annoyed with my need to use tampons and hope that by abstaining I can trick my body into being done bleeding. That never works and I end up more frustrated with my continued blood flow. Then it ends. I get a week or so of normalcy until it all starts over. It is a vicious fucking cycle. 

From a gender perspective, I genuinely feel like my body is not supposed to have a period. It is that simple. Though that adds another layer of anger and disgust when I get my period, and towards the whole monthly cycle. At this point, going through each phase of the cycle causes me to hyper focus on everything that is going on with my body that I cannot control. To sum it up: this shit needs to stop. 

The last time I went to a doctor she told me point blank that no doctor would ever give me a hysterectomy. I left the office crying. That was over two years ago and out of mounting frustration, I have made another doctor’s appointment. Im conflicted. Even talking about going to a doctor causes me to swell with anger. Every roadblock I hit with using the online system to schedule the appointment was met with frustration and distress, causing me to shut down and stop trying entirely. 

Finally, I solidified an appointment.

The Comfortable Closet

I am currently a queer living in the closet. Maybe that is a surprise for some of you, maybe not. Either way it is true. Not only am I living in the closet, I am pretty comfortable here. 

There is a shift when we enter adulthood. I am still feeling the shift even in my late twenties. Moving out, living on my own, moving out of state, and moving in with a significant other have all solidified my ideas of me as an adult. I think being a queer adult has a tremendous amount of privilege. I am able to make my own decisions regarding my personal life and my medical necessities without having to worry about the approval or support from my family. It is liberating. I think that liberation, however, had trapped me in the closet.

Where I live, people at work use my gender neutral pronouns and my chosen name. My close friends do the same, though gender neutral pronouns may be a stretch for some of them, or a stretch for me given the amount of support it takes to get someone to use them. So how am I in the closet? Well, I have a whole family of people in different states who have no idea about my gender identity. They still use she/her pronouns and call my by my legal name. I have never brought up the subject of my gender to them, and have gone so far as to have my girlfriend use my legal name for me when I am going to be spending time with them. I also have a circle of friends who have no idea that I use a different name and pronouns.

It is a lot of work maintaining this double life. Having to remember who knows what has been a challenge, though code switching from my preferred* name and my legal name hasn’t been as hard as one would think (*I hate the term preferred in regards to names and pronouns. Preferred makes them sound optional, which they aren’t). So why is my closet so comfortable? It is the distance. Not having to see my friends or family on any sort of regular basis makes it tremendously easy to maintain the separation between my cis and trans lives.  My ender literally is not an issue for the majority of my days. In that respect, it is easy!

Challenge comes when I talk to or specifically spend time with those who don’t know the full story about my gender identity. Maintaining the separation is difficult and I often find myself increasingly wondering if it would all just be easier to be honest. So much so, that on a few occasions recently I had to hold myself back from just coming clean about the information I have been withholding.And yet, something always stops me. 

My closet protects me from rejection and hurt. It protects me from reactions of my friends and family; reactions that I am anticipating will be complicated and unfavorable. I don’t know what it will be like to come out to my family but so far I have survived in my closet, and I am anticipating that any discomfort from living in my closet will feel much better than the discomfort of rejection. Fear of the unknown often outweighs pain that is experienced… until one day it doesn’t. I don’t think I have reached that threshold yet; though I am coming dangerously close. 

I decided in 2019 that I wanted to be more authentic. That word came from my internal struggles regarding my closetedness. I want to live a life that is authentic and honest, to others and myself. Part of me is trying to find the lines that define my identity, which is difficult given that my identity lies quite literally outside of the box. I hope that if I can find something solid to rest on then coming out becomes easy. But life isn’t easy, ad neither are identities. Mine is complex, and as frustrating as that it, there is a beauty within learning about myself and seeing ways in which I am not the person that most people expect me to be.  I don’t know that having a word guide my year will make any difference in the experiences or choices that await me. If anything, I want to use the word authentic to help guide me in an overall direction, knowing that I don’t have to go anywhere if it doesn’t feel right. Hopefully that word will be a source of grounding when life gets crazy and I am struggling to find my way. 

Maybe that word will get me out of my closet. Maybe.