In November 2016, on election night, I was at work but nobody there was working. It started easy enough, we all voted, had some semblance of cautious optimism but all of that was thrown out the window when the numbers started rolling in. Up to this point and for an entire year I had crippling anxiety about this election. Just two years prior I discovered I was trans and while a lot of people around me said “it’ll never happen” I kept on thinking and at times saying out loud “are ya sure?” I grew up in an area populated with Trump’s people. Rural, working class whites afraid of the world they’re currently living in and grasping at anything because while the cities pretty much recovered from 2008, the country sure as hell didn’t. Fortunately I moved out of there in 2005 and have lived exclusively in cities since (first Chicago, then and currently in Philadelphia) but I’ll always have one foot in that world because of the people I grew up with. Needless to say the plausibility of a Trump victory was very much on my mind, my terrified, anxiety stricken, very closeted, trans mind. When he won I went upstairs to my wife, completely beside myself, and just said with so little hope in my voice “…He won…”. I then downed the rest of my 6 pack of Narragansett and went to sleep. The next day I came out to my best friend because fuck it, if I have to live in this then I’m doing it on my own terms. Since then I’ve had a pretty solid and positive response all around and I’ve been officially transitioning since January. So why am I airing this all out on a very public forum? Just like that first push from the election results it’s not even 100 days into his presidency and they’re doubling down on keeping people like me from living a normal life so I’m doubling down too. Consider this the official “outing.”
So now what? Honestly? Not a whole hell of a lot. It’s just a thing that’s happening that honestly doesn’t affect many people. That said, here’s a couple guidelines that are universal to anyone who has a friend or loved one or honestly even just a total stranger who’s come out. [Note: no assumptions are being made here, all cases are different. These are just the things that I’ve run into and have seen other people write about.]
Rule 1: Don’t make a big deal out of it.
For anyone, coming out as trans is a huge deal. There’s a lot of stress involved and sometimes you just feel like it’s about to burst out of your chest like you’re John Hurt (RIPD) in Alien. So if someone comes out to you don’t add to it and make it into a huge deal. Congratulate them, say you’re happy for them, but other than that nothing else needs to be exchanged about it. Like I said, this is a huge life changing event for the person coming out as trans for everyone else it’s just a matter of using different names and pronouns or even just the same name different pronouns. Every case is different, don’t assume anything and make sure you ask them how they want to be referred as.
Rule 2: Seriously, don’t make a big deal out of it.
If someone comes out to you and you keep on showing them how accepting you are of them by constantly saying and reminding them how accepting you are of them, you’re an anus. This goes double if at any point you use the wrong name or pronoun and you break down and chew the scenery and keep on saying how “so accepting you are of them” and how “they just need to have patience with you but you’re trying so so hard.” Yeah, anus, this makes you an anus. Don’t make this thing about you cause it’s really not. Do you want to show how supportive you are? Calmly correct yourself and carry on with the conversation like nothing happened. You don’t need to keep a tally and you don’t need to keep score. Just work on it. While we’re on the topic of awkward conversations…
Rule 3: Don’t ask about anything involving how the person is physically transitioning be it surgery, hormones, or anything else.
I’ve gotten this a couple times. The short answer is “it’s really not your business” the long answer is “it’s really really really not any of your business”. Transitioning is a seriously personal thing, if the person transitioning feels trusting enough of you, they’ll mention it, otherwise, it doesn’t concern you. Most importantly, please please please don’t ask about anything involving genitals, SRS, whatever. Do you want to have a conversation about what’s in your trousers? Go for it, that’s your thing, leave me out of it. Again, I’m making some generalizations here, some people may welcome the questions, but if they feel like talking about it, they will. Don’t take it upon yourself to quench your thirst for curiosity when it involves a very personal aspect of someone’s life.
Rule 4: Once someone has come out to you don’t automatically assume you can just go ahead and tell anyone else about it.
This goes for sexual orientation too. If someone is still closeted to the general public and has just come out to you, don’t assume that that information is now yours to do what you want with. In those first months (or years, or decades, it greatly varies), coming out is a scary as fuck thing, SCARY AS FUCK! This is coming from someone who’s been very fortunate to live where she lives, work where she works, and know who she knows. Sooooo many other trans folks, men and women, are not nearly as lucky. If someone came out to you, even in the most optimal of conditions, they did it because they trust you, don’t break that trust for anything. If you do you’re not just an anus, you’re one that’s been prolapsed and is oozing whatever void juices 45 and his cabinet run on. Don’t do it, it’s not your information to share. If you want to share it, ask permission, never assume anything.
Those are the big ones. I can’t add anymore as I’m writing this from strictly my own personal experiences. The main rule is don’t be a jerk, don’t make things about yourself, be respectful, and don’t ask gross questions you wouldn’t want to be asked yourself.
So now that the basics are down, what can you do to help? For one thing, be proactive. For instance, New Jersey is the only state in the entire Northeast that still requires confirmation of surgery to change gender markers on birth certificates making things super awkward especially for anyone not seeking surgery. If you live in Jersey call your representatives. If you live anywhere educate yourself on your state’s current laws regarding LGBT civil rights. Donate money to Planned Parenthood because in many areas they’re the only ones who will provide trans people undergoing HRT with the hormones they need. Look up any groups in your area and help out where you can. In Philadelphia, the Mazzoni Center is a medical practice dedicated to LGBT health and they’ve helped me and so many others in the area. Be inclusive at protests, fight for each other and everyone around you because when one group is being oppressed and marginalized everyone is being oppressed and marginalized. There’s plenty of reputable sources available online provided you know how to search for them so do research. Honestly guys, we need as much help and love as we can get because currently things aren’t looking too good.
While I used this as a catalyst of my coming out and transition, so many other people keep going deeper into their closets or worse. According to this paper from UCLA attempted suicide rate among adults who identify as trans was 41% as of 2014! Forty-one percent! By comparison the national suicide rate for this country is 4.6%. Looking at numbers we had in 2014, 319 million people live in this country. According to a study in 2016, 0.6% of US adults identify as trans so that means statistically there are 1,914,000 trans adults in this country at this time (Philadelphia’s population is 1.5 mil) so of those 1.9 million people 784,740 have attempted suicide (the population of Pittsburgh is 304,391). This isn’t even including trans teens and I’m currently not going into detail about the sheer amount of harassment and threats of murder trans people, and especially trans women of color, deal with every day (that’s a future post, stay tuned).
So there you have it, one lone trans girl’s attempt of coming out and raising awareness. The world’s getting better little by little, but the current gas bags in power want to throw us to the side. We’ve gone so far and there’s no way we should start to slip back. Call your representatives, protest your hearts out, and get to know us better. Keep checking back here as well for updates on my own shit along with my POV of things happening, I may throw in a couple food recipes or neat electronics projects in there from time to time. To those who already are, stay awesome, to those who aren’t I’ll help where I can if you’ll let me. That’s all I got for now, see you all soon.