Tagged: coming out

I’m Bisexual

Why don’t you ever talk about being bi on your blog? Alma asked me, half asleep in bed on a recent morning. It’s a good question.

I’ve come out four times. The first time I came out, at age 13, I came out as bisexual. Two years later, at 15, I came out as gay (my word at the time–never could get comfortable with the word lesbian). At 19, I came out as butch; at 21, I came out as a trans man. Well, I’m going for number 5, and I’m finding myself circling all the way back around again. I am bisexual.

This is something I’ve concluded recently. Part of what’s made this a tricky learning process for me is that I have extremely lopsided attractions. To get really specific here, I’d say I am bisexual and heteroromantic: I experience sexual attraction to both men and women, but romantic feelings only towards women.

My attraction to women feels fully developed, vibrant, definitive. I know, very clearly, whether I am attracted to a woman or not; and if I’m attracted to her today, I will probably be attracted to her tomorrow. I get crushes on women. I am madly in love with a woman.

My attraction to men feels vague, fleeting, more potential than realization. Feelings of attraction come and go, and I can be uncertain whether I’m attracted to a particular guy. If I’m attracted to a man this morning, I might feel differently this afternoon. When I feel a more stable attraction to a man, rather than feeling romantic-love-type feelings, it’s more like feelings of friendship and comradery with a slight sexual twist. Even if I were single, I don’t think I’d want to date or be in a relationship with a guy.

My attractions towards men remind me a little bit of what I’ve read about how some gray-asexual folks experience sexual attraction in general. I want to give a shout out to the ace community for doing so much groundwork in exploring and coming up with terminology for different types of attraction. I am allosexual, and I wouldn’t have the language to describe what I’m feeling without the asexual community. Asexual people of the internet, you are awesome!

I have felt these attractions, in this imbalanced pattern, since the onset of puberty. But they made no sense until after transition. I experimented with guys a little bit as a young teenager, but the experiences felt all wrong, because I was in a female role. As I realized that I had romantic feelings for girls but not boys, I figured I must be exclusively attracted to women. As I began exploring my gender, I concluded that my feelings towards men were a result of identifying with them–which is definitely part of it. The feelings are a longing to express sexuality with other men, as a man.

So there you have it. I feel it’s important for me to share this here because there is a lot of misunderstanding about what it means to be bi. Until recently, I never considered identifying as bi because to me the term suggested strong, close-to-equal attraction to men and women. But I now see this is untrue, and in fact many bisexuals experience lopsided attraction. I was partly inspired to claim the label of bisexual by that essay by Charles M. Blow on his sexual development and imbalanced interest in men and women [content note for child sexual abuse].

I don’t like the prefix “bi”–there are more than two genders, and I definitely experience attraction towards genderqueer people. But of course, homosexual and heterosexual, gay and straight have the exact same problem–they are all based on a gender binary. I feel like bisexual gets unfairly blamed, when really this is an issue with our whole concept of sexual orientation, and I see that as an example of biphobia. So despite these flaws, I’m using bisexual because it’s widely recognized and because I can no longer claim that the definition does not accommodate me.

“Bisexual” seems to have this strange problem where a huge proportion of people who could be described as bi reject the term. This seems to be a special case; I don’t see large numbers of people who could be described as straight or gay rejecting those words. I respect each person’s self-definition–your sexual orientation is whatever you say it is–but I think the larger pattern here is biphobia, plain and simple. I want to do my tiny part to help change that.

Alma and I have been sharing a process of discovery as we both continue to grow into our queer identities. We’ve carved out a “monogamish” arrangement (to use Dan Savage’s excellent term) to allow me to explore this side of my sexuality. Specifically, I’m curious about fooling around with another trans guy. This is meaningful to me both as an expression of my attraction to men, and as part of my ongoing process of learning to love my trans body and envision myself as a sexually embodied human being.

At this point, this isn’t something I feel any need to actively pursue. It may or may not ever happen. But it always feels good to get a little more honest.

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The Future Of Coming Out

Will LGBT people always need to come out? This question reverberated in my mind as I reflected on the steady pace of progress on LGBT issues in the US in recent years. Like so many issues that affect our community, I see a big difference between LGB on the one hand and T on the other.

Alma and I were recently discussing the amazing shift in public opinion on same-sex marriage we’ve seen just in the last decade. We made friends through youth activism, a lot of it centered around marriage equality. Every legislative session, we swarmed the state capitol, asking our representatives to vote “No” on proposed DOMAs and “Yes” on domestic partnership bills. We thought we would see marriage equality in our lifetimes–but we didn’t think it would arrive so soon, or so decisively.

This year, marriage equality came to our state. I shed a few tears watching the first same-sex marriages performed in my county, a ceremony in English, Spanish and Hebrew. What will it be like for kids who grow up in a marriage equality world?

The gap between my generation and my parents’ is massive. When they were growing up, coming out young meant one’s early twenties. In contrast, many people my age (mid-twenties) came out in high school or even middle school. Realizing you’re gay at 25 seems surprisingly late to me. No disrespect meant to those who come out later in life; it’s just a cultural norm. The point is that in some spheres, “early” and “late” have completely shifted in just a couple of decades.

This means that “coming out” for young LGB folks can have a completely different meaning from earlier times. For example, my mom, who is in her fifties, sensed she was a lesbian from a young age. But she had no words and no role models. She married my dad, and ended up coming out in her late thirties. For her, “coming out” meant letting go of a false self she’d presented to the world for many years. Of course, many in her generation came out at a younger age and never entered a different-sex marriage, such as my step-mom. Still, the phrase “coming out of the closet” surely suggest a sojourn in a narrow place of hiding, shame, and restriction.

But what is coming out for the person who is able to say “I’m gay” (or whatever) at age 14? Many of these people will move smoothly from childhood to adolescence to adulthood without ever presenting a false straight self. They will have their first kiss, first date, and first marriage with a person they are actually attracted to.

So I wonder whether in the next generation, “coming out” will have the same resonance for LGB people. More and more individuals may have the chance to simply “come in” to their selves, without no detainment in the closet.

But what about trans people? Acceptance and awareness of our lives are on the rise, too. The Time piece on Laverne Cox seems to suggest a new level of mainstream affirmation. Yet it seems certain that for the foreseeable future, trans people will always have to come out.

Ascribing sexual orientation to a child is different than ascribing gender. I think more parents will be willing to wait and see who their child loves. But how many will be willing to wait and see who their child is?

I am not advocating gender-neutral childhoods. Many of us wish we’d had the chance to grow up as a boy or girl–why deny that to others? The fact is that for the vast majority, sex assignment works.

So there may be no getting around it. In cultures that have a deep and wise appreciation of gender variance, trans kids may be sensed by the community, and may not need to come out. But in this country, I believe we will always need to announce ourselves. We will do it younger and younger, til many come out as children and young teens. We will do it to greater and greater acceptance, til rejection by one’s family becomes rare. But I do not think there will come a day when being trans doesn’t come as a surprise. Maybe someday they’ll have a test to diagnose us, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. They’ll probably try to exterminate us if they do.

Because the shackles of assigned gender will always confine us, we will always know the narrow place of the closet, even if we only know it for a few youthful years. Because no one is going to find our genders for us, we will always walk a crooked path, a path that forever remains less traveled. We are rare birds. Twenty-five years from now, trans kids may be less different–but we will always be different.

That’s my guess, anyway. What do you think? Feel free to speculate about identities I did not address.

Why Pass?

Theeegreatdane laments that so many trans guys are hyper-focused on “passing”:

It really saddens me that many of these young trans* guys only care about “passing.” They post a multitude of photos of themselves asking other guys if the world will read them as being a cis-male. To me, only caring about “passing” degrades a lot of what it means to be a trans* person. But I also recognize that this is my personal experience being a queer trans* person who doesn’t identify as being a man. […]

All of this is fine except when it’s not. It’s not okay when these guys get depressed and angry (and sometimes worse) that someone in the group does not think that they “pass.” It’s not okay that a majority of the FTM community wants to live stealthily and not make their identity as being a transgender person known to the world. I understand the stigma, ostracization and rejection associated with being transgender. Only a few states in the US have anti-transgender discrimination laws that protect transgender people’s rights and jobs. Wanting to be seen as cis is defensive and protective for these guys, so in this respect it is not their state of mind, but the institution (and this it universal, not just in the US) that needs changing.

I appreciate theeegreatdane’s take on this. Discrimination and second-class-citizen status are huge parts of the motivation to “pass,” and it is very sad when trans people feel like shit because they don’t look a certain way. I share their hope that someday, “passing” will be unnecessary.

I’d like to add a few observations from my vantage point as someone who keeps my trans status relatively private. Just for the record, I am not trying to refute any of what theeegreatdane says; I just want to add another perspective.

The problem isn’t just that we may be fired or worse for being out as trans. It’s also that our ability to inhabit a male role is conditional on passing (being read as cis men). There is simply no space in our communities to be read as men and as trans at the same time. The gender binary works under a logic of opposites–categories are mutually exclusive. The extent to which we are viewed as male is the extent to which we are not viewed as female or a third gender. The reverse is true for trans women; being viewed as female depends directly on not being viewed as male. In the logic of the binary, “not female” and “male” are near synonyms, as are “female” and “not male.”

This is why I usually put scare-quotes around the word “pass.” Like many trans folks, I feel the term implies some kind of duplicity or deceit–passing for something you’re not. We’re not doing that; we’re living openly in our true genders. It not our fault that others demand we conceal our trans histories or forfeit our gender identities.

I also think “passing” implies more action on our parts than it actually entails. Yes, most trans guys deliberately cultivate a male appearance and worry about how they look and whether others can see they are male. Can you imagine how freaked out most cis men would be if they thought being read as female were a serious possibility?

However, as a stealth-ish guy myself, one thing we don’t typically do is go around actively trying to convince people we are cis. “Hi guys, I’m Josh, and just fyi, I was totally not raised as a girl”? Not so much, except perhaps for the safety reasons theeegreatdane notes. What we are doing is trying to convince others we are male. “Hi guys, I’m Josh.” It’s everybody else who figures that if we appear male, we have XY chromosomes, were declared a boy at birth, etc. The flipside is that therefor, in order to be viewed as male, we must look like we have XY chromosomes, etc. (Not that you can actually tell by looking, of course.) If you accept that trans men are indeed men, their is no “passing” going on here, just the wish to be gendered correctly–a wish we share with most of our species. Guys who are early in transition tend to be highly anxious about this, while those of us who’ve lived as men for years tend to mellow out about it.

I’d like to note that I don’t stop being a vocal advocate just because I don’t share my trans status at work, with all my friends, etc. I continue to call bullshit when I smell bullshit, and I bring up trans issues as often as I can. For example, during a recent workplace training on diversity, I asked my 150+ coworkers and supervisors to be aware of transgender issues, since the training made no mention of us. Coming out as trans would have been one powerful way to do that, but I didn’t want to–it just didn’t feel right. Speaking out from my position as a straight dude (presumed to be cis) is another powerful way to do it. People responded very well to my comments, and a few made a point to thank me for bringing trans issues up. I think my comments on transphobia, homphobia and sexism are especially effective in reaching other men. Too often, only women and visibly queer folks speak up. This story is just to illustrate that “passing,” including an intense desire to be viewed as any other guy, need not be at odds with trans pride and advocacy.

I hope for a world where where we can be trans and men or women at the same time, no contradictions. I do think trans folks coming out and sharing our histories is a key part of this. That lets people get to know us, and people who know us don’t hate us. However, we can’t embrace a part of our identities that isn’t there. For some of us, myself included, being trans feels above all like an unjust political circumstance. It is a core part of who I am–but it’s not a core part of my gender identity or expression.

When Someone Tells You Not To Transition

Someone is going to try to talk you out of transition. They will probably be someone very close to you, who claims to love you. More than likely, they will not be the only one.

They may be your partner or parent, a relative or close friend. Whoever they are, they will surely come.

This person is going to tell you that you are not really trans. They may tell you that trasngender people are delusional and/or imaginary, or they may compare you to a “really trans” Other, You’re not one of those people. They will marshal whatever demons they can to frighten and paralyze you.

I make no guess as to content of the hearts and minds of these naysayers. Maybe they’re deeply sincere, maybe they’re full of shit. It doesn’t actually matter. What matters is that you are ready for them. This is a question of when, not if.

They can come in any form, and they can use any line of reasoning against your transition. Perhaps they will call on your politics, your commitments, your religion. They may insult you, or they may claim to defend you from insults. They may scream, cry, or whisper. They know you, and they will twist what you love against you. They may even come to you as yourself.

This person has no idea what they are talking about. They have never been you. They are probably moderately to profoundly ignorant about transgender issues. They do not know what is best for you. Do not listen to them.

A useful analogy is the attempt to talk a person out of being gay, lesbian or bisexual. It would never work, and it would be completely contrary to the wellbeing of that person. Many LGB people face this. Sadly, many who would never do this to a LGB person will try to do it to you. In my case, for example, out-and-proud lesbian and bisexual women were the fiercest opponents of my transition.

There are some signs by which you can know them. The surer you get about transition, the more dead-set they are against it. They claim to know what is best for you, to know you better than you know yourself. They argue with you, throwing your own memories in your face. Things you’ve said and done, your likes and dislikes, your personal qualities, all become proof and fodder, indications you cannot be trans. They deny that your experiences even exist. They dismiss and demonize other transgender people. The things they say are extremely painful. Your stomach twists and then turns over. There is a dissonant murmur in your bones when they speak. Yet your own mind turns against you. You seriously suspect that they are right.

They may even convince you, for awhile. But hours, weeks, or years later, the truth will come back, over and over. Do not argue with them. This is their game. You cannot win. But you can transition.

Note that this is a different beast from someone merely sharing their reactions to your transition. I am not talking about when someone expresses fear, confusion, shame, guilt, anger or grief–or pride, happiness, love or relief. I am talking about when someone denies your gender identity, questions your judgement, downplays your dysphoria, remarks that many people dislike their body, slanders trans people as a group, imposes a religious or political purity test, scours your life for evidence that you really are your assigned gender, wields whatever leverage they have to try to control you, mocks you, rejects you, implores you, ignores you. They may claim to be just sharing their feelings, of course. It can be subtle or overt, dressed as a sheep or plainly a wolf.

Nothing they say means that you are not trans. On the contrary, that you find yourself here, that someone is telling you these things, is a strong indication that you are trans. If they have to say you’re not, you probably are; if you weren’t, they would never mention it.

Don’t me wrong–it is entirely possible to be confused about your gender and/or trans status. Transition may or may not be right for you. I have no way of knowing. That’s the whole point: only you can know.

If you are trans, then transition–in whatever form that takes for you–is an irreplaceable part of your self-actualization. How can you know? Do not listen to the voices. Do not listen to the voices of the naysayers or the advocates of any variety. Do not listen to the voices in your head, those that berate you or those that long for better futures. Do not listen to my voice.

Listen to the voice that is not a voice. Obey that impulse alone.

On Unsupportive Partners

I’ve been seeing a lot of posts lately on partners’ problems with transition. It’s hard to read about cisgender people who are possessive of their trans partners’ bodies, who politicize the choice to transition, who pressure their partners to stay in the closet.

Before I go any further, let me say that I mean no disrespect to these cis folks, their trans partners or to these relationships. Some of these couples have been together longer than I’ve been alive. I don’t know the first thing about that kind of love. I hope to someday. If you’re struggling with transition in your relationship, please share your thoughts–including if you think I’m full of shit!

Being trans is really goddamn hard. It bothers me when those closest to a person–parents, spouses, lifelong friends–make transition any harder than it already is. Our loved ones should support us.

It’s a blight on the face of justice that some people try to talk us out of transition in the name of feminism. Gender essentialism is not feminism. The idea that no one should transition, that trans people don’t actually exist, is plain old gender essentialism. What happened to “My body, my choice”?

Trans people are not traitors. Transition is not a political choice, except insofar as the choice to live is political. It is downright radical for trans people to assert our right to exist, to live fully and authentically, in a hostile world.

We should all do a better job of recognizing where we end and our partners begin. I think we can all agree that it would be sexist and unacceptable for me to, say, feel entitled to sex from my female partner, or to try to control how she dresses, who she talks to, or how she spends her time. So too is it cissexist and unacceptable for partners to feel entitled to our body parts, medical choices, wardrobes, and the words we use for ourselves. It’s an overreach, it’s controlling, and it’s disrespectful.

I’m not saying it’s wrong for people to feel overwhelmed, afraid, confused, sad and/or pissed off when a partner shares their wish to transition. What I am saying is that partners should own their feelings and respect others’ bodies and choices. It’s not okay to try to control your partner because you feel scared or lost. I feel like if you really love and respect your partner, you will want the best for them–even if that takes them away from you.

My views are colored by my own experience with an unsupportive girlfriend. She was my high school sweetheart. We were together about three years, living together for two of them. She liked my masculinity as long as it was labeled “butch,” but she was extremely dismissive of my desire to transition. She staged what I can only call temper tantrums about how my face would look different, how I’d never pass as a man, how she didn’t want me to have surgery, how I was robbing her of her “queer” identity card. She used my new name and pronouns grudgingly and behind my back told people to “humor” me by going along with it. I was undertaking the most difficult, important task in my life thus far–and she made it 100% about her.

We broke up when I found out she was cheating on me. I cried for one day and then was overcome by a wonderful feeling of euphoria and freedom. I made the appointment to start hormones that very week. I never knew getting cheated on could be so awesome!

I’m now with a woman who gets me and respects me. I think everybody deserves that.

Partners of trans people–please don’t make your partner’s journey about you.

Beyond The Closet

A person is hiding, or in denial about, a key part of herself. Person accepts true self. Person shares identity with the world. Person lives happily ever after.

This is the “coming out” story and we all know how it goes. The closet is a state of shame, while coming out of the closet is a state of pride. Coming out is synonymous with living a healthy and authentic life.

For trans people, coming out is more complicated. It has two very different meanings for us, particularly transsexual folks.

We first come out when we share our true genders with the world. Because our genders contradict our assigned sex, we are by definition trans when we say “I am a man” or “I am a woman.” This is the coming out that declares our transition. It’s pretty close to the coming out narrative.

Later, after transition, “coming out” can mean something different entirely: sharing not your gender identity, but your transgender history. “Coming out” means revealing a part of yourself that was hidden. Before transition, the trans aspect of my identity was apparent–I was visibly gender variant–but the man part wasn’t. Today, the reverse is true: people can tell I’m a guy, but they can’t see my gender variant history. So I come out when I tell people I’m trans. This second coming out is a reversal that completely rewrites my relationship to disclosure.

Far from being a radical act of authenticity, coming out after transition can actually limit one’s ability to be seen. People may think of me very differently when they learn I am trans. They may lose the ability to see me as a regular person. They may no longer see my gender as legitimate. They may start to think of me as a something other than a “real” or “normal” man. Something about me is suddenly queer (pun intended). They may begin scrutinizing my face, body, speech and manner, searching for signs that I am “really” female. I may be conscripted as someone’s own personal Trans 101 instructor, facing an onslaught of nerve-wracking queries about my identity, all other trans people’s identities, my medical history, my genitals, my reproductive capacity, my sexual practices, and so on. And that’s only on the benign end of the spectrum.

I am forced to choose between two imperfect impressions. If I don’t disclose my trans status, others are willing to see me as their version of a man. They misunderstand my life experience, because that image does not include being trans. If I do disclose, they are willing to see me instead as their version of trans. Again, they misunderstand me, because this image does not include being an ordinary man.

None of my options is ideal, and not through any fault of my own. Others are simply unwilling to see my whole self: really a man, really transsexual. So I make choices. I reveal some aspects, hide others. These choices shift from one situation to another.

Is it a stance of pride to expose myself to the prying questions of every ignorant person I meet? No. Is it a stance of shame to make careful choices about my privacy, discussing personal topics only with those I trust? Hell no.

Coming out was a first step toward a whole, authentic life. I no longer live in a closet. But when I come out a second time, I risk stepping into another closet, this one fashioned from others’ ignorance. The painful thing is that this carries a palpable step backward in terms of being seen for my true self. People who understood my gender reasonably well suddenly fall apart in dizzy confusion.

First, coming out was my ticket to living as a man. Turns out the ticket is roundtrip–punch it again and you’re back where you started. Back to the netherworld between sexes. Back to the badlands where few dare tread.

Flanked by closets, I make my life right here. Out of the closet, into the corridor. It’s not exactly roomy, but at least I have somewhere to go.

Why Transition?

Of course, we transition because we are transgender and/or transsexual. We have a subconscious sex or gender expression that contradicts the sex/gender we were assigned. By transitioning–which can take a great variety of forms, social, medical, and otherwise–we bring our bodies and social roles into alignment with ourselves, alleviating the pain of gender dysphoria. But that doesn’t completely explain it, does it?

Not transitioning is certainly an option. We could simply live with dysphoria and spend our lives laboring under the burden of its heavy, aching fog. We could find ways to dull or reduce the agony, perhaps with medication, therapy, lifestyle changes, and private expressions of the inner self.

A lot of people go this route–some for better, some for worse. In certain cases, transition is so dangerous that this option is clearly preferable. For some, transition isn’t a possibility at all. In other situations, dysphoria may be mild enough that it simply isn’t worth the risks and costs associated with transition. These include very real possibilities of violence, loss of relationships, medical complications, financial burdens, sterility, discrimination, marginalization, and more. There are good ways and bad ways for a trans person to choose not to transition; it certainly isn’t for everybody.

Denial is another alternative. Countless–indeed, uncountable–people take this path.

It is terrifying to realize that you are transgender. It comes with a certain disbelief at first. Me? one thinks. But I’m so normal! Of course, trans people are normal. But nobody tells you that.

Oh my God. I am one of those people I’ve heard about.

I don’t blame anyone who isn’t able to face these realities. It is a lonely road, and though maps exist, most of us feel lost regardless. This is true of most people, actually. Accepting that you’re trans just forces you to acknowledge it. When you can’t or won’t acknowledge it, drugs and alcohol are often used to kill these thoughts. Sometimes they kill the thinker, too.

Suicide is another alternative, one that most of us probably at least consider. This is the tragedy, the one that breaks my heart. It is a horrible loss for the person, who may have had the chance to feel better, to experience something worthwhile in life. It is, of course, a devastation for all those who knew and loved them. And it’s a loss for the whole world, which will never know what this special person might have had to offer. I think we were made this way for a reason, and I doubt it is for our own sake.

Why transition? Ultimately, at the very bottom, to fully experience life–our life, the only one we were given. To walk the strange and incredible path before us. To make the journey, take the risk, ask the question, encounter the mystery.To be exactly who we are.

We transition because life is short.

On Coming Out To My Grandmother

My grandmother died about five months ago. I’m still reeling. She was a big part of my life–she lived with us when I was growing up and was one of my main caretakers. She gave me many gifts and burdens: our Sephardic heritage, her experience of the Holocaust, her lifelong struggle with mental illness.

Today, though, I want to talk about another gift she gave me: her acceptance.

I was scared to tell her about my transition. I’m not sure why. She was a hardcore leftist, and I never heard her say a bad word about trans people. But she an old woman, a towering authority. I guess I was scared to tell pretty much everyone.

I think my mother was the one who finally told her. I have no idea what happened in that conversation, but she never said anything negative to me about being trans. This makes my trans status one of very few topics she did not complain about.

She told me my name was old fashioned. “It is not a modern name,” she said, a little perplexed. “It sounds like an old Sephardi man who keeps the keys to the synagogue.” I took this as a compliment.

She did mess up my name and pronouns from time to time. Then again, she did that to everyone. She had two strokes and forgot more languages than I will ever learn. And she didn’t make more mistakes than anyone else did.

Later, whenever she wanted to bring up my being trans, she would say, “What is this group, how do you say, the one that has no civil rights?” This would lead into a short lecture about the discrimination transgender people face–a set-up to try to convince me to go to law school.

She saw being trans like she saw everything: a reason I should become a doctor or a lawyer. She was not just any Jewish grandmother. She was a true master of the form.

Rest in peace, grandmother.

Thoughts On Being Outed

I am in my first semester of grad school, and I have struggled with how open I want to be about my trans status. On the one hand, being trans informs my perspective and is part of the reason I chose this field (mental health). Transgender issues come up from time to time in class, so there are opportunities to mention that I am trans and share my thoughts. On the other hand, I don’t want being trans to define me in the eyes of my classmates, especially because I am in a small program where I will take many courses with the same people.

I want to help educate my peers about transgender people–as future counselors, it is crucial that they are well-informed–but I don’t want to feel like I have to at any given moment. My program (and the profession) are heavily female, so I also have a some anxiety about being seen as “not really a man” if I disclose in a room that’s 75% female–like it will rub off on me or something.

The choice was sort of made for me a few weeks ago when someone outed me in class. The person responded to a comment I made with a question about how being transgender affected my experience.

I mentioned my trans status in front of this classmate and a few others during the admissions process, but had not brought it up in class. The classmate in question is supportive, but is not versed in the issues and etiquette. I suspect that almost everything this individual knows about transgender people, they know from one brief conversation with me. Apparently, they did not realize that it is not appropriate to mention that someone is trans* in front of a large group, when they have never mentioned it.

I was flat-out shocked after hearing the comment; it took me a few seconds to respond. My heart was racing, and I was not able to pay attention for the next 15 or 20 minutes of class.

On reflection, though, it was a not a bad experience. No one in the room so much as batted an eye, and everyone seemed genuinely curious, attentive, and respectful. I am not sure if someone, ahem, had previously discuss my trans status with other students, or if the group is really just as considerate and unflappable as befits future mental health professionals. Although what my classmate did was shitty and inappropriate–not to mention dangerous in many situations–it’s a relief to have gotten it over with. It’s nice to know how people will react. No one has treated me any differently. I haven’t mentioned it again, though.

Has anything like this ever happened to you? How do you navigate identity and openness in the different spheres of your life?