This picture speaks to my gender identity on a very deep level.
National Coming Out Day was last month and I didn’t post anything about it on my personal social media. Which, in this generation, is like the biggest form of disrespect. It’s like not writing “Happy Birthday!” on someone’s wall, or RSVP’ing “no” to a Facebook invite instead of “maybe” (which we all know means “no,” but is trying to be nice about it).
But I wasn’t trying to be disrespectful. Coming out is a huge deal and having a whole day devoted to it is amazing. I applaud anyone who’s brave enough to come out on National Coming Out Day—or anytime, really. But that’s actually part of the reason I didn’t feel like acknowledging National Coming Out Day—I’m not one of those people.
It’s not that I’m not out and proud. In fact, part of the reason coming out feels silly is because I’m so visibly queer and trans, coming out seems redundant and unnecessary. The first time I came out—to my best friend at the time, in middle school—I had this whole speech planned, there was a big, dramatic buildup and, right as I was about to say the words, my friend interrupted to ask, “Are you gay?”
And that was that.
The thing is, I wasn’t coming out because I felt like my identity wasn’t being validated (or, at the very least, noticed—in my case, unfortunately, mostly by bullies). My coming out has always been motivated by a desire to live my life a certain way—openly, honestly and—most importantly—fabulously. I came out to my friend simply because I wanted to talk to her about boys. Shortly after that, I came out to my grandma, because I wanted to start wearing makeup and girls’ clothes without having to sneak them into the house.
So far, no one has really been shocked by my coming out. In denial, yes, but not surprised. (Even though my grandma was convinced I was going through a “phase,” she suspected as much very early on.) My coming out was never dramatic—but it always represented a dramatic shift in how I’d live my life.
Which is why I felt so weird about coming out this year. For the first time, it felt like there was no dramatic change taking place. Ironically, though, I felt that way because I’m considering making a pretty dramatic change. But I felt disillusioned—and dysphoric—because that change feels so far off.
When I came out in the past, the changes were instant—as soon as I came out to my friend, she asked me if I had crushes on any guys; when I came out to my grandma, I already had a closet full of skirts and heels. Coming out was so liberating because it meant I could start living my life the way I wanted. All it took was saying the words—but these days, the words aren’t enough.
Recently, I’ve started exploring my gender identity. I’ve always fallen under the transgender umbrella, but I’m starting to figure out exactly where I fall. But I’m still going by my same name and pronouns, and if people ask, I say I prefer a gender-neutral ‘they’—but I’m not adamant about it. But it’s not because that’s what I’m honestly most comfortable with. It’s not because, as I’ve previously said, I feel equal parts male and female, or somewhere in the middle. It’s because I’m still in this gray area where I’m figuring out exactly how I want to express my gender identity.
And how do you come out when you’re still figuring yourself out?
Even if I said, “I’m trans. This is my name and these are my pronouns,” it wouldn’t change anything about how I look or how the world sees me. I think being trans is unique in that way. Rather than coming out leading to a dramatic change, I feel like dramatic changes have to come before I can come out. Like, I have to have decided I want to transition and have everything in place before people will respect my gender identity. But I know it’s not that simple.
The bittersweet truth is I may not always be able to express my gender identity the way I want to; even when I do, it might not always be perceived the way I want it to be. (I’ve literally been in a full face of make-up and gotten called sir.) And in my head, I feel like that’s the way it will always be, unless (until?) I make some major changes.
But in reality—and this is the sweet part—there are people who will recognize and validate your gender identity no matter what you look like. And as validating as it can be to outwardly express your gender identity, sometimes it means even more when that identity is recognized when it’s not easily seen from the outside.
As I write this, I’m reminded of several beautiful moments of clarity I’ve experienced on this path of self-discovery. I think of how, even in moments where I felt hopelessly mannish and disgusting, when someone called me by my correct pronouns and name, it didn’t matter that I had gross stubble or hadn’t shaved my arms. I didn’t have to make a dramatic change—any change, really—to be seen as I want to be seen, as I am.
But the thing is, I can’t have amazing, validating moments like that if I don’t tell people who I am. That’s one of the reasons—for me, at least—why coming out is so important. Not to mention, there’s a weird sort of power you gain by just being honest with where you’re at on your journey, instead of labeling yourself with something that doesn’t feel quite right.
So even though it’s a few weeks late, and it might be kind of untraditional, let this post serve as me coming out as trying-to-figure-out-how-I-want-to-exist-in-the-world-but-I’m-pretty-sure-I’m-not-a-man.
That’s a thing, right?
Whatever. Maybe it’s not a thing. But that’s where I’m at.
Also known as Transgender Homecoming Queen Steven Sanchez, xxevex is the founder and editor-in-chief of LGBTeen. You can find them blogging about topics they're super-passionate about, like feminism, LGBT activism, gender identity and pop culture. But mostly pop culture.