As the bus pulled into Philadelphia, I started to feel anxious. I hadn’t really thought about my expectations of the Philadelphia Trans Health Conference, and at that moment, the thought of what I would be walking to was overwhelming. I’ve never had the opportunity to spend time with more than 10 trans* people at a time. I couldn’t even conceptualize what it would be like to spend a few days with over 50 let alone thousands. So I panicked. The bus slowed, I gathered my suitcase and messenger bag, and set out for my hotel with shaky, sweaty hands.
Let him who would move the world first move himself”
One terrifying day in March of 2009, I kicked open my closet door and staggered out gasping for breath. It was overwhelming. I had uttered the words “I’m a transman” to the seminary I was planning to attend. The next day I made two phone calls. One to my brother in our hometown and one to my friend J who lived across campus. They were two very different calls. I asked my brother how he felt about having a little brother to which he said, “Yeah ok.” That was about the best I could expect. I knew he would be great about it. He’s always had my back. The call with J went something like “OHMYGOSHI’MFREAKINGOUT! CAN WE MEET UP RIGHT NOW??” J was a little puzzled, but agreed to meet me later in the day.
I remember the two of us lying on a grassy hill. I turned to them (used as a gender-neutral pronoun; still one person) and asked if it gets easier. They thought for a second, head cocked to the side with one raised eyebrow. Finally, they settled on a one word response: “Sometimes.” I didn’t know what that meant, and I don’t remember how they proceeded to explain. I was spinning and a little nauseas from my day of new birth. I needed to take a nap.
I came out as trans the same year that I decided to start down my path to ministry. I conflate these two things. As I grew deeper into my faith, I realized that I had to confront the deep, dark thing that kept me from connecting with people and with God. It was the thing that made me feel depressed enough to want to try to take my life over and over. It was what tormented me through school, up until I found myself amidst a group of people who played with gender like it was something they performed. I felt God pushing me to tread those waters, always with a hand on my shoulder. So I did. I started to play and found my Self under a sea of flannel and fake facial hair. The day I asked my friends to change how they address me was the day I can honestly say that I felt the presence of God, all terror, wonder, awe, and love.
Today in 2013, I understand the answer that my friend gave me upon that hill. The main trans* narrative wants people to think that all of our problems are solved the day the we emerge from our closets. This may be true for some people, but it wasn’t true for me. This large step gave me the courage to confront the other things in myself that made me so depressed. From this door, I could see the host of other doors that remained unopened. With new found confidence in both God and myself, I started exploring. Today, I can say that I don’t constantly want to tear off my skin. That’s not to say that I don’t have bad days. I have days where I want to throw things at people for the all the racist and transphobic things they say. Most days, though, I feel ready to take the world head on. I wouldn’t trade that for anything.
I have made the decision to be out. A lot of guys do not, which is okay. I choose to be out because I know that my transness isn’t visible otherwise, though it marks my existence on this earth. For me, it’s important to lift up all of the lenses with which I view the world to say that I exist despite my struggles. I exist even though there is so much telling me to my face that I don’t. I exist, and that is subversive, if I tell my story.
Here are some pieces of it.
Happy National Coming Out Day.