National Coming Out Day

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.

Anger

I imagine your life hasn’t changed much. Your Facebook profile picture hasn’t changed in the last 7 years, if that’s a marker of anything. I remember your logic, your reason behind displacing me, moving all my stuff out, and changing your locks. I lied to you about my sexuality. I remember your eyes begging for my sympathy as you try to get me to understand. Your voice echos in my head even now, had I told the truth you might have not kicked me out. Had I been upfront with you, such a conservative and religious woman, about my feelings you could have, have what? Taken me to higher ups in the religion to be prayed over? Taken me to an anti-lgbtq therapist? Had lots of long talks with me over hot tea in your living room about how it’s a sin and God wouldn’t approve and other bullshit? Fuck no. I was not broken, I wasn’t “sinning”, I was being honest for once and you’re a piece of shit for having thrown me out.

I’m so angry at you, maybe even more than I am at my own parents. How am I to forgive you and move past your betrayal? I’m terrified to hear your voice. I want to forget you exist. I can’t even say your name. It has been 7 years since I was last able to trust someone. It’s so fucked up that in all that time I still haven’t been able to undo the damage done in the mere seconds it took my mother to inform me of your actions.

But no. I really don’t imagine your life has changed much. I imagine you still go to Hawaii every 8 years or so. I imagine you still live in the same place, work at the same job and shitty boss, have the same friends, see the same therapist (I hope she was pissed when you told her what you did to me, if you even had the courage to), take the same amount of cash out of the ATM each two weeks for spending money. That’s how I picture your life, completely unaltered by the storm that devestated mine.

And why haven’t I confronted you? I’m being an idiot and trying to spare you pain. I know you’d be devestated if I could portray how your actions effected me. So I sit with all this pain, anger, and hatred burning in my chest when I just want to yell “FUCK YOU” at the top of my lungs. At least I’m recgonizing the anger now, and allowing it to exist. That’s progress. I’ll have to revisit my feelings about you in another 7 years, you bitch.

Humor During Pressure for Social Change

Another armchair sociologist post. Boring.

Let’s talk about all the memes lightening the intensity of the Great Bathroom Debate. Not the ones mocking or stating a strong stance, but the ones like this. Memes clearly not meant to be offensive, but just funny. Memes that being people together from both sides. Bipartisan memes. K, stopping now.

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When you’re part of the minority fighting for social change, in this case, when you’re transgender, these memes are frustrating because while they aren’t outright offensive they are still belittling a very serious situation.

When this meme popped up on my Facebook feed, a hipster friend was tagged in it, it got me thinking about how humans cope with stress and difficult situations. Specifically in this situation we have those highly aware of the bathroom issues that are fighting hard against them, and those who really aren’t involved as it’s just not a part of their lives. They don’t want to see anyone hurt but also aren’t standing up to defend anyone. The second group is still being bombarded by the fight, and these memes are a result of their needing a way to cope. With no ill-will, no bad or offensive intentions humor is used to difuse the tension.

I guess what I’m trying to say is I’ve done this myself with other social issues that impacted me less, but I never knew what the experience on this side of it would be. Nothing horrible, no pain, but just frustration. Unexpected frustration.

*Insight ended*

Caught the Travel Bug

More like antsy pants. I have psychological ants in my psychological pants. The last few weeks I’ve had this desperate craving to get away. Maybe it’s being trapped in San Antonio by the May wedding craze (I’ve shot at least one wedding a week since the beginning of April, no weekends off), and still having an 8 to 5 during the week, maybe it’s having been to my sister’s wedding and around sooooooo many family members and old “friends” that I haven’t seen in over 5 years, and that only knew me before my transition, and wanting to run from that. Maybe it’s the serious lack of rest and relaxation I’ve had between building my wedding photography business while working a full time job.

All I know is I currently have, in my head, planned trips to Alaska, LA, and Amsterdam without the foggiest idea if or when I’ll ever be able to go. LA seems the most likely as I have a few models out there to shoot, close friends to see, and it’s the cheapest of the 3 destinations.

I’m also doing my usual “my photography is horrible shit” routine, this time throwing in “my website is shit, my social media presence s shit, I’m so bad at all this stuff” which are clearly healthy thoughts. Feeling all uninspired, and a slacker for not having more work done faster, like I’m failing miserably, the usual. Grrr.

Time for a mental vacation with a new video game or something, not sure. Maybe I need to find some patience and quit pushing myself so hard to be financially and business-like ready to quit my job. When people say it’s a lot of work to start a business, they aren’t kidding. I’m constantly exhausted.

In the good news department, I’m getting more inquiries for weddings from the internets, which means my obsessive Search Engine Optimization work is finally starting to pay off. And, I’m finding more and more examples of wedding photographers who run their businesses similar to how I really want to run mine, so that is motivating.

I should really change the title of this post to something along the lines of “The State of Myself at this Uneventfully Specific Moment in Time” but I’m happy to have wasted everyone’s time who wanted to read something travel related and actually interesting.

Stream of Thought

How do you function when you’re caught between a constant state of not giving a fuck, and a constant state of yearning to fit in? How do I glorify and learn to love my differences? I’m finally seeing the difference and that whole I don’t care what others think about me personally is seperate from my experience of wanting to be a “regular” part of society, which isn’t going away by not caring what others think. That only protects me from the outside, not the inside.

How do I learn to love from within, now that I’ve finally shut the door on the external hate? How do I begin to heal, to see myself differently? How do I change the subconcious voices in my head that fill me with that feeling of not being [insert anything here] enough. How do I accept being human, my limitations, and learn to live within them? How do I see my strengths, and see myself as desirable and a valuable part of people’s lives? How can I see myself the way I see others, or how can I see others seeing me the way I see them?

I thought I had travelled inward and done everything possible to sort this all out, apparently not. I feel like I’m stumbling around a foreign room in absolute darkness unable to get a basic image of the topography, much less find the light switch, if one even exists.

And what am I rushing for? Rushing to have my business to replace my full time job, rushing to feel better in my head, heart and body, rushing towards and through experiences, towards what? Rushing to gain equality and to understand this world and the people in it. Rushing towards the end of my life, whenever that may be. When does the rushing end, when have a made it, and when do I sit back and take it all in?

Those are my best moments, when I get away from life and go hiking, and when I force myself to stop and do nothing except to be. To simply exist. I attempt to clear my head of all I have going on, usually an not successful, but it’s a break. On a daily basis I’m not choosing to do this. I keep myself so busy to distract myself from life, and then get frustrated when I haven’t progressed further in the journey towards loving myself.

I’m Tired of Being Transgender

It never ends. I knew that. I know I will never be cisgender. But why do I have to be transgender? What’s really interesting about this experience is that my two options are to be transgender or to not exist. Being not-transitioned is not a choice for me. Living like that would result in my not existing. That door is long shut, locking away several demons that don’t belong in anyone’s life.

So, I have no choice but to live as I am, a transgender man. A type of person so many people will never come close to understanding. For them, it’s just a surface level difference. It’s not a big deal. They still experience me more or less the same way they experience everyone else. For me, being transgender in how it relates to our friendship/relationship is a difference and separation that goes down to the core of my existence. It’s been the biggest internal, external, personal, social, and physical struggle of my world. Who I am is shaped around being transgender and everything I’ve gone through. The only good friendships I’ve had are with people who understand that they will never be able to completely comprehend my experience, and they respect the differences in our experience of my being transgender.

I wish I could sit here and say that I’ve made it through the struggle and have accepted myself, love myself, and am able to put the past behind me and move on, but I don’t know if that will ever happen. I’ve been on hormones for a few years now. In general, life is a lot easier but I still don’t go through a single day without experiencing desire to not be transgender. To not have to be so separated from everyone. To just be normal. And I know, logically, there is nothing wrong with me. Biologically I’m just as normal as everyone else, but socially I’m not. And I know that what I’ve been through gives me more understanding, compassion and love for others, but this doesn’t change what I feel every day. The pain, the sorrow, the desperation, the exhaustion, the loneliness, the anger, the difference and non-acceptance in this world. It has greatly lessened over the years, but its still there. Every day.

How do you learn to love yourself when everyone else hates the basic concept of your existence? When they can’t see how god-damn hard just living and keeping going is because they can’t come closer to understanding what you’re experiencing. When their experience of my being transgender can be put into a check box for preferred pronouns they will never be able to fatham the depth of my life experience with gender, sex and with aspects of myself not related to gender or sex.

So, no. I don’t expect you to understand what it’s like in my shoes. But I do expect you to understand why you will never be able to understand, and to quit putting the responsibility of your understanding on me. No matter how I explain it, no matter what I say you will never be able to understand the depths to which I’ve soul searched, the suffering I go through on a daily basis.

I’m emotionally exhausted.