It’s October 11th, National Coming Out Day. Last year I made a lengthy coming out post on Facebook, telling my story to everyone (including professional friendships). This year I gathered a few friends and made this video discussing what it means to come out, what our experiences were, and why it’s so important to BE out.
Read my Facebook post from last year:
It’s National Coming Out Day, and looking through a variety of posts and tweets from individuals, organizations, and companies I’m reminded yet again that everyone thinks, and expects, the T to be silent. It’s an atmosphere of LGB support and encouragement. Which is both great, and a little fucked up for a national LGBT day.
Today isn’t just celebrating and encouraging the coming out of ones sexuality. Gender identity is a whole kettle of fish unlike any other, and to everyone who is being true to their gender identity, on any level, I celebrate you today. Coming out to yourself in this hateful and oppressive society is often more difficult and emotional then coming out to family and friends. More difficult, but usually way less disastrous. If you’re part of the LGB and not the T, today I challenge you to raise your awareness and be supportive of the entire LGBT community. #rememberstonewall and how the fight for your rights came to be, through the blood, sweat, tears, and lives of transgender people who sacrificed their needs for your cause, (the Stonewall Riots that sparked the LGB rights movement were started by trans women and drag queens, not cisgender gay men, so sit your asses back down).
Why does National Coming Out Day matter? Because today, everyone who IS in the closet can be a little bit encouraged that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Even if they can’t see it yet. Because today, they aren’t alone. Today is the day we can all talk about coming out and our experience with it.
Before I came out, or even knew who I was, I just thought the whole of life was miserable and sucked a lot because that was the only thing I experienced for so many years. I was different then everyone but couldn’t figure out why or how. I’m not just gay-ish, (not straight), I’m also transgender, (when I was birthed the doctor said “it’s a girl”). I was raised to believe that who I am isn’t real and doesn’t exist, and that “people like that” are just straight, cisgender people who are perverse and being tempted by the Devil. That’s literally what my family believes to this day. When my mother told me “you’re just depressed” she wasn’t completely wrong, I was really depressed. But it was directly related to the overwhelming pressure to be straight and cisgender, aka: not myself. Yes it’s really hard not having my family in my life, but it’s so much easier, (for me), then trying to live the lie they want me to. Sorry, not sorry. I refuse to sacrifice my mental health and happiness for you, and shame on you for having a belief system that asks you to put fantastical bullshit before you child.
When I was in the closet, it was a really dark place. Dark and lonely, filled with so much self-hate, doubt, and well-placed mistrust. The worst part is that it was all I knew. That was my experience of life, this darkness. I didn’t know I was in the closet. I didn’t know I was gay and transgender. Those words didn’t exist, I was raised to believe that all humans are straight and cisgender, that’s just how everyone is, so it wasn’t even fathomable that I was different in this way. I believed my parents and religion. That was the most dangerous lie they could have possibly told me. I didn’t know why I was so miserable, why I hated the idea of being someone’s wife. I just figured that I didn’t want to get married. Why I hated the idea of having children, why I was attracted to some of my guy friends growing up but hated being seen as a girlfriend, and with some guy friends I didn’t understand why they treated me like a girl, when clearly I was just another one of the guys. All my confusion was grounded in the ignorance force fed to me by family, religion, and society. Had I followed what I felt and ignored what I was told my life would have made so much more sense at the time. It’s why I hated what I saw in the mirror, why I couldn’t comprehend how people thought I was pretty. Why the 30 minute bus ride to and from school each day were my only times of peace, I could listen to music and not have to experience any social experiences. Why I slept 12-14 hours a day my first year in college.
Coming out was the thing that ended up saving my life. It’s really sad that in order to save your life you sometimes have to let go of everyone and everything you’ve known. I lost my family, I was homeless, I lost the education I had dreamed of, I lost all the people, (thanks to my religious childhood it really was everyone), I had known the first 20 years of my life except for 5 or 6 people I met at college. In order for me to live I had to lose all those things because some people prefer to not open their minds to experiences they haven’t directly experienced. If you’ve had a bad coming out then you understand. No one should ever have to choose between their life and their family.
Today, I don’t have my family in my life, but I have me in my life, and that’s someone I didn’t have before. And, I have a family that I’ve built of people across the country who have made all the difference in the world in my life, I wouldn’t be alive if they hadn’t have been the amazing people they are. In being supportive of LGBT people and rights you might not change the entire world, but you will change someone’s entire world. Today I can experience happiness, and each year that goes by I get to become more of myself, more of who I am, and I experience more inner peace then I ever thought I would. The is one experience where, when you’re in the closet looking out, the grass is SO much greener on the other side of the fence. Maybe not right off the bat, but there was no way to get to that greener grass, for me, without coming out.
I’m going to leave you with two very important numbers. 41, and 40.
41% of transgender people attempt suicide at least once in their lives. The rate for the entire US is at 4.6%. To be even more specific, 75% of transgender people with unsupportive family have suffered from depression, and 57% with unsupportive family have attempted suicide. Leading causes for these grossly disproportionate numbers? Family rejection and violence. Not “being transgender”, but being treated as not-a-human. This doesn’t even bring into account the statistics on being murdered for being transgender.
40% of homeless youth identify as LGBT. It’s estimated that 10% of the US population identifies as LGBT. Why such disproportionate numbers? Family rejection and violence. Again.
So, long story short, today is National Coming Out Day, and coming out can be a very dangerous and difficult thing for a person to do. While it can save lives in regards to inner turmoil and mental health, it can destroy lives at the same time. Have some respect for everyone brave enough to come out, especially if they’re coming out as transgender or are living with non-supportive family. Don’t force someone you love to choose between the people in their life or themselves. You will either condemn them to a life of misery and depression, or they will cut you out in order to first survive, then they will grow, flourish, and become a strong, amazing person who’s life you aren’t included in. Learn from others’ mistakes, my family’s mistakes, and educate yourself and support the LGBT people you’re lucky enough to know. Because we’re someone’s children, and most importantly, we’re just as real as you are.
If you’re staring at those closet doors that you can’t ever imagine being open, don’t be afraid to reach out and talk to someone safe. You don’t have to go through this alone. There are thousands of us out here, and when you’re ready to join us we can’t wait to welcome you into our rainbow colored family.