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

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The economy expanded by 0.8 per cent in the second quarter of 2014  

British economy: Government hails the latest GDP figures, but there is still room for skepticism over this 'glorious recovery'

Ben Chu
Comedy queen: Miranda Hart has said that she is excited about working on the new film  

There is no such thing as a middle-class laugh

David Lister
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform