Similar to Drew’s Coming Out, I had to do so quite a few times, as I think a lot of transgender people end up doing.
I knew I liked women in some capacity or another since I was about 13, the first time I “came out” was forcibly so at school. A teammate on my basketball team stole my phone and saw some texts between me and a girl that I liked, she told the rest of the team we had made out, that slowly leaked into the rest of the school (or at least the circles I ran in) and I was officially out. I had kissed one girl, we weren’t even dating each other, I hadn’t ever even come out to myself, yet suddenly I was the resident lesbian at school. This doesn’t come with any of the glory that an edgy MTV show might lead you to think it would — I was ostracized by a lot of my teammates, and I was (what I now realize) emotionally and physically manipulated and abused by my coach at the time. I would be “punished” for sitting next to the girl I liked on the bus, I would be run after practice if her and I were caught together in the locker room (even just talking), I had so many derogatory comments made to me by adult figures about the “deviant lifestyle of dykes” that I was literally scared to death that I wasn’t actually a lesbian, because I wasn’t deviant, I had just kissed one girl, this was all a mistake. (I’d like to note here that I went to a HUGE public school, so these authority figures couldn’t even use religion as a weapon or excuse for this behavior). I never said anything, I recoiled into myself, I didn’t publicly come out until several years later.
The first time I came out of my own accord was at age 18 — I was a freshman in college and had been dating my then-girlfriend for about a year. I drove home to see my mom to tell her in person, I felt like the fact that I was out from under my parents’ roof made it a safer time to finally tell them the truth, coupled with the fact that my mom had legitimately asked me at least once a year since I was 14 if I was gay I thought it wouldn’t be an issue.
Turns out, my mom didn’t take it all that well, she cried, I cried (a lot out of shame and in response to some of her commentary implying that I was somehow not living up to their expectations, that this was a disappointment to them). She ended our conversation asking me if Courtney was also a lesbian, I told her that wasn’t my story to tell (Courtney would then call my mom about a week later and do her coming out over the phone which I didn’t even know was an OPTION! Talk about way less daunting). It would take my mom some time to get over her initial “shock” regarding my sexuality, there would be many arguments, shitty drunk comments, and the occasional hopeful “maybe you’ll find the right man some day” thrown my way at gatherings. To this day I don’t really know if she told my dad or what his response was because she told me she’d handle my coming out for me to him. I think a part of coming out that we often overlook is the way that some people treat it as something we are allowed to do only on their terms. There are people in my life that didn’t know for the longest time, at the request of my parents or whoever else, to keep their comfort in mind, despite realizing that asking a human being to censor themselves can be very damaging when they’re in those formative young adult years. Regardless, after that initial conversation it wasn’t long before everyone knew that I was gay — the Justin Bieber haircut helped in that arena a bit too.
About a year after coming out my mom went with me to the hair dresser when I decided to cut my hair off into the aforementioned Bieber swoop. She was very supportive of me trying a new look (though she loved my long hair, she is a rebel at heart and a huge part of where I got my “I do whatever the heck I want” attitude), and never really gave me much pushback when I started presenting more masculinely. I don’t remember ever really having to come out to people in college — I looked the way I looked and I played rugby, stereotypes are harmful but in my case they were spot on, everyone knew I was a lesbian and I was proud of it.
Until I wasn’t….really.
I was always proud of being queer, of liking women, of presenting outside the binary. But what started to become a realization for me was that I would find myself clinging more to identities like: butch, dyke, stud, androgynous, boi, etc. This was around the time I discovered transition videos on YouTube, only about a year after my formal coming out as a lesbian (can we come up with something like a cotillion or a Quinceañera but for gays when they come out? We deserve fancy parties, it’s the least society could do for us, really), and I had a huge aha moment. These people that I didn’t know on my laptop screen at 3am were talking about dysphoria (a word I’d never heard but finally gave me a name for feeling of unease I’d always had but couldn’t quite place), I discovered chest binders and immediately ordered one, I consumed as much transition related content as I could because I finally felt known.
My girlfriend at the time asked me one night what was going on with me, she’d known I’d been up late watching and reading things online, she had noticed the binder I started to wear, my desire to try some prosthetics out in the bedroom, the way I would perk up at getting called “sir” by strangers in public. We had been out drinking, I stared at her and then broke down crying. I told her I was more confused than I’d ever been, I didn’t know how or why or what it meant but I knew that I wasn’t actually supposed to be Chloe, that there was someone more authentic waiting to be revealed within me (none of this was said quite so eloquently after what I assume was a lot of fireball, seeing as I was 19 and, you know, college). She told me we would work through it, it would all be okay.
Our relationship became very rocky surrounding my struggle with gender and identity, some days I was her boyfriend, she was so excited for me to try packing, to look into top surgery options with me… other days she was resistant, she had lost her Catholic parents over me, she wanted to marry a woman not a man, she couldn’t be my person through this journey. This back and forth with her forced me basically back into the closet as a trans person before I was all the way out. More like I had finally found the light switch and was no longer in the dark, had been psyching myself up to burst out and tell my friends and family, to find some community, and her constant wavering inadvertently shut the door in my face.
The only real saving grace I had at this time was the internet, and in particular tumblr. I had a secondary tumblr account where I was Christopher, these people only knew me as him, and I gained confidence in that this was the way I wanted to be seen. These dark months/years were full of self-reflection and learning, aided by other young trans guys in the same shoes as me or guys much further along who were like a beacon of hope. I don’t know if this stage online counts as another coming out, but it helped give me the confidence to be honest with myself, even if just quietly as a little voice in the back of my head reminding me I wasn’t alone.
I was 21 when I first told my mom I was trans. I had made myself a promise that if anyone (even my mom) asked me about my gender I wouldn’t lie to them. We were in Vegas celebrating me and Courtney’s 21st birthday and I won’t say this was the best time to have this talk (given that we had been drinking and gambling all day), but my mom made some comment about our sexuality and said “well as long as nobody wants to be a boy.” Thinking back it was a pretty off-color comment for her, she wasn’t aware of trans people, and she’s not intolerant, I think she was just joking as I would occasionally get misgendered in front of her and it was clear I presented in a very grey area to many people. I didn’t even have time to reply to her before my face gave me away (also a mother always knows) and she quickly pulled me into the hotel bathroom. I told her this wasn’t the time or place to have a discussion like this but that I would like her to know that I might see transitioning as a very real possibility for me in the future as it was something I had been researching and struggling with for the last 2 years or so. We didn’t talk about this hotel incident again for over a year, it was like it never really happened.
To say I dragged my feet throughout my coming out process would be an understatement, I was so scared of having no support, I was also afraid because I have an identical twin and we had always agreed on everything and were similar to our cores, right down to our sexual preferences — so to stray from that had me questioning myself continuously. How could I feel this way if my twin sister didn’t? (I actually never asked her at the time if she had any doubts about her assigned gender, or how she outright identified, but come to find out she very much didn’t have the same struggles I did on this front).
After college I moved to New York City, where I knew I’d have tons of opportunities as a designer but also knew I’d have plenty of accesses to LGBTQ resources and be far enough from home that maybe I could finally get up the courage to push myself toward my transition goals. I wrote my parents a letter over the Christmas Holidays letting them know I was planning to transition, and that I hoped they’d support me. My mom never formally replied to my letter, she actually never really discussed it in depth with me. She ended up telling me that she was unable to support my choices and we became very distant over the following months — I think I probably would have experienced a much more lasting amount of damage to hers and my relationship had Courtney not stood up for me and basically said we were a package deal and she needed to get on board and support me no matter what (Courtney has and always will be the real MVP when it comes to calling people on their bullshit whether they’re disrespecting me, misgendering me, being unsupportive, or outright being hateful). My mom basically made a deal with me that if I went to therapy she would support my move toward starting a physical transition — I was 21 at the time and didn’t need her permission but more-so wanted her blessing, so I agreed. I spent the next few months in therapy discussing many aspects of my life, though the only times we ever really touched on my transition (as my mind was very made up by now) was to try to navigate how to accommodate the feelings of others (such as my mom) throughout the process.
I decided after all of this and a month before starting hormones that it was time to inform everyone else in my life that I was trans — and what better way to do this than a blanket facebook post. I don’t know how many friends I lost that day, what comments went on behind the scenes, but I got a ton of support on the post which was incredibly encouraging. I had a supportive girlfriend at the time who never blinked twice at the idea of me transitioning, and my friends around me were all on board for whatever made me happiest. This was crucial for me to finally allow myself to get over the hurdle of starting my physical transition — I felt like I had a safety net (which not everyone needs, but for me gave me the strength to finally just fucking do the damn thing).
It’s been several years since those Coming Outs, Comings out? Those times I came out. Nailed it. But I find that I still come out on a pretty regular basis — to any potential partner, to a stranger at the pool inquiring about my scars, online in forums or on social media, or any other random scenario where it comes up that I am, in fact, transgender. I don’t know if the coming out process will ever truly end, but it has gotten less theatrical, less daunting, and now, usually, it’s my own doing for my own purposes, rather than out of necessity or obligation.
I am very grateful that my family did come around, that I had the support of some amazing friends and siblings and partners along the way, and that I was able to pursue my physical transition when I was ready. I am grateful to the trans people who shared their journeys before me, giving me hope as a young pre-transition trans kid up late watching YouTube videos hoping I would one day be in their shoes. Lastly I am grateful to each and every one of you who has followed along on this journey with me so far.
Happy Pride, I wouldn’t be here without y’all.