Coming out, and out, and out again

Transgender felt like a negative label. I drafted and redrafted before posting the Facebook status and changing my name. Everybody knew. It was a huge relief.

Share
Related Topics

It is an under-recognised fact of life for gender and sexual minorities that “coming out” is not a finite event. For most there is a clear – perhaps vertiginously clear – beginning; the first person you tell. There is a middle; the second, third, fourteenth person, your classmates or colleagues. Then… well, then it just repeats, and will until diversity is assumed rather than accommodated by society.

I first came out as transgender to my university flatmates. Then to my mum and step-dad, shortly followed by my sister and brother. I wrote my dad a letter and some others emails. But how to tell acquaintances, distant relatives? At times, coming out felt like a full-time community service.

I fully support the inclusion of the T in LGBT because we are all, to some extent, battling the same oppression. We are united yet distinct. I would argue, for instance, that coming out as transgender is more complicated than coming out as lesbian, gay or bisexual.

For a few years before starting hormones, I felt like the lone inhabitant of a gender twilight zone. I arrived there after realising that I needed to live as male. Interacting with people for longer than a minute meant having to come out. Otherwise, they assumed I was female, or perhaps fifteen years old.

In 2012, I dropped a coming out carpet-bomb via Facebook. I drafted and redrafted, before posting the “status update” and changing my name. Boom: everybody knew. I could focus on adapting to my new public identity. It was a huge relief.

Soon after that I embarked on hormonal transition and began to change physically. Coming out changed too. People now read me as the correct gender but when meeting someone new I find myself back in a closet. Granted it is a roomier closet, fitted with an array of male privileges, but a closet is a closet nonetheless. Now, I come out to be known for who I truly am, with a complicated history and biology.

I know I am not obliged to come out but I see it as a responsibility. There is a political as well as a personal aspect. The more we come out the stronger we make our communities and the campaign for equality. All of which, brings me to my central point. I need to come out to you, the reader, again.

I began writing a blog for The Independent under the pen-name Ben Smith. It was before I had come out to several close relatives and this was the reason I gave for adopting an alias.

I realise now that, in actual fact, I did not want to write under my own name because I was ashamed. Being transgender felt like a negative label, accurate yet awkward. I had yet to claim it for myself.

The past few months of transition have nurtured my self-confidence. My shame is a shadow of its former self, despite a healthy supply of fuel from mainstream society. I have learned to develop counter-tactics. I have trans* and queer family. I have allies. Their very existence negates shame and engenders pride.

I thought adopting an alias would allow me to write about transition. I now realise the alias itself part of the process. Letting go of it is a milestone.

Such way-makers are vital in the life-long process of coming out, to the world and to yourself. They provide perspective. They define progress.

I did not anticipate this point but I trusted myself enough to keep moving forward. I always wrote honestly, even as Ben, and will stick to the same path under my own name. I look forward to more progress, facing future battles in good company and enjoying being me.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Implementation Consultant (VB,C#, SQL, Java, Eclipse, integ

£40000 - £50000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: SQL Impl...

SQL Technical Implementation Consultant (Java, BA, Oracle, VBA)

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: SQL Technical ...

Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, Fidessa, Equities)

£85000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, ...

Lead C# Developer (.Net, nHibernate, MVC, SQL) Surrey

£55000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Lead C# Develo...

Day In a Page

 

i Editor's Letter: Still all to play for at our live iDebate

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering