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"How did you come out to yourself as transgender?"

by Liam Lowery

I first heard about The L Word at an indoor track meet my freshman year of high school.

A group of cool lesbian teens, sitting on piles of blankets and passing around a box of Cheez-Its, sat across the way from my lowly duffle bag and pile of books. I knew they were lesbians because they all had cool haircuts and two of them were totally making out.

They were led by Ashe, she was soft-butch teen royalty–lanky and tan, with boys underwear hanging out of her skinny jeans. Who wears jeans at a track meet? I thought, but it totally didn’t matter. She was so cool, cool in the way that only a teen lesbian with a Justin Bieber haircut can be cool. I sat near her encampment the entire meet–alone, as I usually was at school events–and after 20 times hearing them say “The L Word,” I figured out it was a television program, not a secret code. I was so enthralled in their conversation that  I missed running the 55 meter dash.

My parents didn’t get Showtime, and I wasn’t going to ask them to get it so I could watch a show that was so clearly for lesbians that it was called “The L Word.” So I opted for plan b. While pictures popped up on social media of Ashe and her friends having watch parties (complete with, from what I saw, wine that was given to them by Ashe’s mom, they were so cool), I searched various Eastern European torrent sites on the shared family desktop between the hours of 3am and 6am, in the foggy area between Sunday night and Monday morning.

It usually took around an hour of searching, following dead links until eventually hitting live ones before the familiar message about the torrent violating Showtime’s copyright would start popping up. At some point, I’d find the show and watch with the volume turned really low, listening hard for footsteps coming down the stairs, erasing the browser history when the episode finished. I’d creep up to bed as the sun began to ascend, pondering what I’d just witnessed.

This show, I determined, was a canon every kind of lesbian there is. I wanted very badly to be Shane–lady lothario who dared to leave Carmen, the sexy dj, at the altar. I would have also accepted Dana–tragic, beautiful, closeted, zany Dana–the Subaru sponsored tennis-star. Or even Alice–who was the perfect blend of “out,” and “out-there.” God, they were so good.

This was The L Word: Were the plotline perfect, or even well-developed? Not a chance. Were the characters all on a pretty narrow race and socioeconomic spectrum? Absolutely. Did the show leave much to be desired? For sure.

But–despite these flaws–the characters knew who they were, and that was much more than I could say for myself. For cool girls like Ashe or Shane, it seemed like the biggest part of being gay was being a lady who crushed on ladies. Which I did, sure, but I was most concerned with sneaking off to Goodwill to try on men’s clothes or joining chat rooms with names like “If I were a boy” (and no, they weren’t on Beyonce fan sites).

There’s lots of different ways to be a lesbian, I thought, crossing my fingers that The L Word would show me mine.

And soon, it did. Not one season later, we met Moira.

Moira was like me–awkward, uncomfortable all the time. Moira’s clothes were baggy. She didn’t have any friends of her own, and she never quite fit in with the L Word crew. Even Shane, the otherwise butchest character on the show, made fun of the way Moira dressed and didn’t want to be compared to her.

Then, one episode, Moira started going by the name Max. Max explained that he’d always felt like a guy, inside. Then Max started wrapping ace bandages around his chest, while my heart sped up inside my own. Finally, I thought, someone who totally understood what I was going through.

Then it hit me. Oh no. Max was the first trans person I ever met, and he was terrible. He was a reedy-voiced crybaby, prone to fits of rage, obsessed with passing as a cisgender man, perpetually unhappy, and disliked by all.

I’m cursed, I thought, If I am like Max, there is no hope for me. I immediately searched online for an L Word character quiz and sped through the questions. My result? “You are: Moira/Max. You’re not comfortable with your body right now, but you’ll become the person you’re meant to be.”

I tried again. Same result. “You are definitely trans,” the screen shouted, “deal with it.” I refreshed the page, feeling sweat break out across my forehead. “You are still trans,” the screen announced, “Which kind of explains everything, right?”

I closed the browser and sat back in the chair, exhaling through gritted teeth. I looked out the kitchen window, and the first hints of sunrise were stirring on the horizon. There’s at least eight different ways to be a lesbian, way more if you count everyone who hooked up with Shane, I thought, there’s got to be more than one way to be trans. The sky was turning purple now, the stars fading from diamonds to pinpricks of light. No one can decide but me. A streak of pinkish red began to push its way up into the lavender sky.

So, I’m trans. I nodded to myself, heat swelling in my chest and sudden moisture in my eyes. This is going to be good. 

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"is coming out really worth it?"

- Question submitted by Anonymous

Dannielle Says:

Yea. It is.

For a long time I felt like it was completely dependent upon you and your feels and if you wanted to fake it forever, go for it. But I think I take that back. I’ve had a few experiences with people who I believe are unhappy with themselves in ways they don’t understand because they are not out. The fear of being hated, the shame, the guilt they’re bringing on themselves in so many ways is just unparalleled. Not only are they feeling awful because they’re hiding a part of who they are, but they feel like shit for hiding that part of them. It isn’t like they’re hiding and feeling great about it. And the amount of time they spend arguing with themselves about why it’s a good idea to keep it locked up. The stress, the anxiety, talking yourself into not being who you are, it’s so unhealthy and damaging.

I don’t think it’s easy. I would never say coming out is easy or that it’ll be fun and cool and everyone will support you. Hell, we can’t even get our own government to support us, so I’d be REMISS to say it would be all sunshine and butterflies. I think the fear is totally warranted. But I’ll tell you the fuck what, the scariest part is everything leading up to coming out. The act of coming out just happens and it’s weird maybe, but it isn’t nearly as terrifying as when you are hiding a part of who you are, feeling unloved, unwanted, lonely, and like no one understands.

I’m here to tell you that being out, being honest with you are, being able to be proud of yourself, standing up for the things you believe in, feeling confident and comfortable in your own skin. That shit can and will change your life for the better. You will feel empowered in ways you never imagined, and you will realize, on your own, that coming out was and forever will be totally worth it.

Kristin Says:

I am going to agree with Dannielle’s sentiments here with one caveat: you always, always have to weigh the surrounding factors if and when you decide to come out.

If you are dependent upon your family for housing or food or anything of that nature and think that they will kick you out of your home, or if you know that your place of employment is one that will fire you because of your sexuality or gender identity, then you have to take some serious time and thought with your decisions, the timing of those decisions, and your long-term plan.

Coming out is important, but being safe must always come first.

So, what I say is this: ultimately, being out in an environment where you feel comfortable being who you are completely is the goal. We all know that the more of us who are able to be open about our identities, the more visible we all become, and the more we are able to shape and change the planet for the better. It is also important to remember what Dannielle has said: not only does being out help bring much-needed change, but on a personal level it allows you to begin to feel at home in your own skin.

Coming out is taking ownership of yourself.
Coming out is saying, whether in a whisper or a shout: I exist.

Tomorrow is National Coming Out Day, and to all of you who are using that day as a tool to communicate your true selves, our hearts are with you!

Be safe.
Be patient.
Be you.

<3

***

Hi! Our advice is always free for all to read & watch. Help us keep this gay ship chuggin’ by donating as little as $1/month over here on Patreon. xo

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"I thiiiiiiink I’m gay and I came out and I’m fine with it, but how do I figure out for absolutely sure if I’m definitely gay??"

- Question submitted by Anonymous

Dannielle Says:

You have crushes. You go on dates. You kiss people. You talk to your friends about cuties. You experience life. Some years pass and you have some long term relationships that mean a lot to you. You fall in love. You fall in love again. You realize that you loved someone so hard and with so much of you that you will love them for the rest of your life. You realize it’s a different kind of love now and you allow yourself to fall in love with someone else.

You understand yourself a tiny bit more with each step. You recognize that you’re attracted to a ton of different people for a ton of different reasons and a lot of those attractions aren’t necessarily the kind that make you want to be with that person. You live years and years of life going through all of this over and over. Then one day you realize that you figured it out. You figured out that whatever you want to call yourself is right. Because this is how you feel in this moment and that’s what makes you feel comfortable, and if that changes… that just means you figured it out again.

Kristin Says:

I have never figured out for absolutely sure that I’m gay.

It’s like… I identify as a cisgender woman and I have dated other cis women for the past bajillion years and I like to kiss mouths that often belong to those ladies, and I think boobs are swell, and I am now married to a lady…

So by most people’s standards I suppose I am a total gay-mo.

The things about it is, though, that there has never been a moment in my life when I was like, OH I GOT IT! I FIGURED IT OUT! I AM GAY! I still think I am just a human being who falls in love with other human beings and who tends to connect with a particular gender (WHATEVER THAT MEANS) over others, but who has always been open to the many possibilities that life presents.

Maybe that means that this whole time I’ve been pansexual or some other word that I don’t even think existed in the late 90s when I was seeking a word… but back then, and even now, I have just identified as a human. Call me a lesbian, call me gay, call me whatever helps you make sense of me… but at the end of the day I am “out” as Kristin, who is married to Jenny, who understands what it’s like to come out as something other than heterosexual, who runs an organization for LGBTQ humans, and who takes too many pictures of her cat.

Dannielle is right. You just do you. Follow your desires and wants and needs in this moment. Call yourself whatever makes you comfortable. Be open to possibilities. Remember that words are great for a general understanding, but that most people understand that who we actually are is too complex to be summed up in a few letters.

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"I had a friend tell me that I was lying to everyone by not coming out. First of all, wtf? (But what if she’s right?)"

- Question submitted by Anonymous

Dannielle Says:

OH. HELL. NO.

PLEASE, LEMME TALK TO THIS “FRIEND” OF YOURS.

You guys… Since when is it lying to NOT talk about who you like to fuck? I’m sorry I’m being vulgar, but that’s how it makes me feel. Anytime someone is talking about a friend, or an acquaintance, or a random celebrity and they say “They need to just come out, already! They’re lying to everyone and making our community look bad, plus everyone knows” it makes my blood BOIL.

No one. NO. ONE. Let me repeat. NO ONE has ANY RIGHT to know with whom you are having sex, falling in love, or otherwise engaged. Not only do they not have a right to know, they have to right to FORCE YOU to talk about it. It is your life, you should live it as you please. You’re not lying, you’re keeping your private matters private and that’s completely okay. Honestly, if I didn’t own everyoneisgay.com, I would not tell everyone I meet that I’m gay. It’s not important to who I am as a human being. Being gay is exactly the same as being straight, in my opinion. We all just fall in love how and when we fall in love, end scene. I’M OVER IT *DROPS MIC*

Kristin Says:

Yeaahhhhhh, nope.

You are not lying to people if you decide that, at this point or at any point, you want to keep your sexuality to yourself. That is a decision that only you can make, and IF you decide that you DON’T want to tell someone or anyone, that does not make you a liar.

Also, a note to the people who push others to “come out” for the betterment of the world: PUT THAT THING DOWN FLIP IT AND REVERSE IT via Missy Elliot.

Here’s what I mean. You don’t make LGBTQ people feel shitty for not wanting to be out. Why? Because they have their own experience, and they will navigate their lives on their own. You DO work, every day, as much as you can, to fighting for equality and encouraging kindness. If those of us who are “out” and those of us who aren’t “out” or aren’t LGBTQ put that work at the forefront of our minds, it will continue to build an environment where more people will feel more comfortable being themselves in all aspects of their lives.

You are not lying.
You have your own experience with your identity.
You do things when you are ready.

I would explain this to your friend, and further explain that, you need friends in your life to help you talk about your feelings and your experiences… not to judge you for the decisions you make.

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"Im twenty seven and finally realizing im gay i want to start dating women but i worry at my age will that make me undesirable being that i have no experience with a women. what are your thoughts?"

- Question submitted by Anonymous

Dannielle Says:

I think you’re totally wrong. omg. I just sounded so mean, but I was trying to sound comforting… SORRY ABOUT ME.

People of ALL AGES are discovering right now that they maybe wanna do it with people of the same gender. It just happens how it happens and for the most part, we all totally get that.

I think it’s possible you will run into some people who will scoff at the fact that you’ve slept with men, or who will be like ‘is this your first time?’ and roll their eyes… but do you ACTUALLY want to be with those assholes?

Like anything in life, there will be people who get it, or who don’t care, or who actually think it’s interesting/intriguing/fun/cute/whatever AND there will be people who are not into it at all. When you meet those people, remember it is not because there is something wrong with you. You’re perfect and you’re doing all the right things and you are not UNDESIRABLE. You’re simply not meant to have a THING with that human.

Good thing we are all different humans.

Kristin Says:

Having no experience with a woman does not make anyone undesirable.

I know that I am putting a big blanket statement over something that is, perhaps, opinion-based… but I just cannot understand why your lack of experience with ladies would make you undesirable in a physical capacity. Getting with anyone is an experience specific to that particular person, and so even though maybe you will be a little more nervous and ask a few more questions… we all ask questions and are a little nervous when we are making out with a different human for the first time.

You should feel comfortable (at least as comfortable as possible) being open about your questions and your newness to it all. The more you know that those things are not turn-offs, the easier it will be for you to be honest and, in turn, the easier it will be for you and your makeout partner to go with the flow (which SPOILER ALERT makes for a f*cking fantastic makeout/doin’ it session).

You may stumble upon a few people who are a little nervous because they think ‘oh shit but what if this person decides they actually don’t like ladies after we start dating and i have feelings,’ and that will be something you have to negotiate on a person-by-person basis. My personal feelings on that matter are that, as people, we want what we want when we want it. I don’t think a ‘newness’ to being gay takes any of your gayness away from you, and I think you have every reason to be trusted just as much as the next gay.

In sum… This is super exciting! You are realizing who you are and what makes you, you, and you are about to go after all the things that make you happy. You are going to find a lot of people who are just as excited for you, and who also want to mash mouths with you and touch your boobs and stuff. IT’S GONNA BE GREAT.

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