I don’t remember the moment that led to my coming out. I also don’t remember the reason why I bought the first album by the Presidents of the United States of America on vinyl for $60, so it’s safe to say my memory is not always my strongest ally. What I do remember is this feeling like I was sitting at the bottom of a very deep well and wasn’t sure what to do to get myself back to the top. Coming out felt like standing up and just saying ‘at this point, it can’t hurt’.
To start, a bit about me. I’m around 35 (again, let’s not trust some aspects of my memory), I’m 6’2” and hover around 205 lbs. Up until November 7th, 2017 I had a beard that was going grey to remind myself and anyone that might ask me for identification that I remember a time when VCRs were expensive. The beard itself also served a purpose aside from acting as a piece of ‘I’m old enough to be in here’ visual identification. I was also deep in the closet with my gender identity. My beard was my trophy for achieving maximum masculinity. To see me, you would never expect that the person you were looking at is not presenting themselves properly. I wore my masculinity as a costume. I was a crossdresser, in that every day I woke up and put on the garb of my assigned at birth gender, even though I knew it was a lie. But it worked all the same. No one asked any questions of me about who I was inside. I was closed off to the world around me and doing a pretty good job of putting on the locks and losing the keys on the doors that I wasn’t prepared to open, the places holding my emotions and my questions and answers. If you can imagine being a lie as soon as you put your underwear on, you can imagine being emotionally spent by about lunch time, and pretty ready for it all to be over shortly after dinner. But if you combine denial in with the culture of toxic masculinity that says that as a 6’2” 205 lb. “male”, you’re expected to fit into a certain mold, you’ll understand why I couldn’t let my guard down even around myself. You can’t let the jailer know that you know the secrets of the prison. You can only sit and wait and see if a crack starts to appear in the wall.
The years of 2016 and 2017 were interesting for a multiple of reasons. I’ve lived in the same small town my entire adult life, and that had reached a head shortly after 2016 had begun. One can only swim in a small pond for so long. At this point, I thought my issues with myself were the big three: Career, Community and Camaraderie. I needed out of the town I was in, I needed to be around new faces, new scenes. I wanted a pizza place that never closed down the street from my house. I moved to Toronto, a city I think gets a bad rap overall, and worked for someone else for a change (did I mention I’m self-employed? I am. Well, was. In addition to a spotty memory I’m also seemingly an unreliable narrator). I packed all my belongings in my truck, left some things with my parents, and my cat and I drove across the country, desperate to leave the darkness and the locked doors behind. Funny how those manage to pack themselves along when you’re not looking. My journey of self-discovery taught me many things, but never really solved a lot of the problems I was having, and so like any good and healthy individual that has a penchant for self-harm, I drove back home again 6 months later. Funny how none of that fixes anything. I moved back in with my parents for another 6 months. I slept on a twin bed, which for a 6’2” 205 lb. individual was an interesting form of down home, bespoke torture. Funny how I continued to not be able to put a name on the darkness that both followed and eluded me.
Another bit about me. I’ve known I was Trans since I was 6 years old. Remember how I said I have a terrible memory? I have a few vivid ones from childhood. My sister was a Girl Guide™, while I was a young child of an indeterminate age, and hadn’t yet graduated to any sort of gendered group that teaches the basics of knot-tying and cookie selling to ensure we all grow up to be very adept capitalists/doomsday preppers. I remember being fascinated with her Girl Guide™ outfit. I’m not sure if it’s changed over the years, but at the time it was a bit of a drab brown number, complete with skirt, shirt, and sash (with which to put your Sasquatch hunting badge or whatever it was that was popular amongst Guides at the time). I would wear her outfit every chance I got. It’s important to note that this wasn’t a sexual thing, and when I would wear women’s clothes as an adult, it continued to not be. To me, it felt like something I was SUPPOSED to be wearing, and I was just waiting to be given my own. My own never came, but I kept waiting for that day all the same. My mother was also a horseback rider and had a number of complete horse rider outfits lying around. I delighted in her knee-high leather riding boots and would clomp around the orange and beige interior of our British Colombian home and feel right as rain. When you’re a child, everything you do is cute, and whimsical. No one ever asks ‘maybe this means something’. It’s more ‘maybe your kid is a faggot!’. Again, I’m 35. In the 1980’s it was considered funny to call people faggots, and the idea your child would be one was, for reasons unbeknownst to me, whimsical. I played with barbies, I wore that Girl Guide™ outfit, I wore those leather knee-high boots. And luckily my parents never worried about me. To them, kids will be kids. Boys are a curious lot, after all. Which is both a very correct statement and a massive understatement. I knew that I was growing up to be on the other side of the field from where I wanted to be. But I had no map on how to get to where I felt I belonged.
Eventually we all grow up. I got taller, became a teenager (which, as well all know is a period of life we’re glad to have no memory of) and knew that society was bred to accept me as the gender a doctor had written on a form when I was born. The penis I still have was a dead giveaway. I stopped questioning my gender identity because I had a bigger issue at hand: I was a fucking loser (or so I was told). I was way into comic books, music, reading quietly, being alone and not speaking. I literally grew up afraid to talk to people. I was navigating a society that at any moment was ready to ask me questions. Questions like, why are you so tall and yet slim? Why can’t you grow hair on your chest or your face like a real man? Have you had sex yet? Why are you such a faggot? I wasn’t prepared to talk about any of this, or to even answer some of them to myself. So, I shut down. I got through most of grade school by not talking to a soul. I did my work, I walked home, and I watched whatever the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation had for me. I was afraid of people, of society. I was afraid of the questions they had for me, and the answers I had for myself.
Fast forward to being in my 20s. By this time, I had gained some social skills. I had my first real girlfriend when I was 17. She was a friend of someone I worked with at the grocery store that I worked at. Fun side fact; I was the first ‘male’ cashier trained at that store, a position that led to me being made fun of at every turn for being such a femme. I mean, what’s more feminine that swiping cases of Clearly Canadian across an infrared scanner and knowing off the top of your head the numerical code for bananas (7011)? At any rate, this girl and I dated for a spell of time. She was my first sexual experience. We had sex for the first time while watching The Empire Strikes Back on my 13” TV/VCR combo I had in my bedroom. While Luke was discovering his true parentage, I was discovering that sex is a lot more complicated than I had imagined, but luckily it was over before it all got too tricky. She refused to talk to me about it afterwards, which would become typical of the sex we would have for the next 4 years or so. We split up on a dark evening in Alberta where we both had moved after high school. I remember telling her that I was going to become a woman. She told me that I shouldn’t lie to people to avoid hurting their feelings, and that it’s impossible to just become a woman. That’s just what faggots say when they’re afraid to be honest. She was fun.
After that, I discovered the concept of ‘shemale’ pornography (a gross term that I use only to provide context to how I found this type of material. Seriously, don’t call Trans Women shemales. It’s a terrible and offensive word.) I was transfixed (see what I did there?) by these gorgeous women, their curvy feminine bodies looking every bit as appealing as every cis gendered woman I had ever known mixed with a penis that made mine look…. well, still like a penis, but perhaps slightly less magnificent. I wanted to know how they had become like that. Did they just get a metric shit ton of surgery? Had they been dipped in a vat of chemicals and pulled back out the perfect amalgam of sexes? Is this just something people could do? I couldn’t get enough. To this day, I have never watched straight pornography. I only watch queer, or “shemale” (ugh, that word). I would put myself in their shoes, or high heels as they were. Shemale on Lady was an oft-searched term in the various feeds I would go to a private browser window to look at. I was in my late 20s, and seriously questioning who I was, how I got here, and what I could do about it. But I was also ashamed and was led to believe that the way I wanted to be was considered wrong, or sick. Society wasn’t nearly as nice to Trans folks as it is now. And it’s not even that nice to us now, it’s just a better form of hating and misunderstanding than it used to be. I managed to grow my cover/beard for the first time when I was 26, and I never looked back. Here was the disguise I would wear to avoid anyone asking me further questions. I pushed myself to be the manliest version of myself I could put together. Masculinity was job 1 And I succeeded. I asked a friend recently if he ever suspected me of being who I really am, and he admitted he never once questioned me. I had managed to slip into the sea of white bearded dudes that society doesn’t look twice at.
Smash cut (or star wipe, if you nasty) to being a 35-year-old me. Almost 20 years of working manual labor had destroyed my back and hips. I was living in constant, chronic pain. Getting out of bed became a thing I started to question the legitimacy of more and more. The darkness had caught up with me, and I was having a hard time keeping the doors locked and the walls up. Maybe I was deliberately letting it all fall. I started telling myself I was a woman, to see if it would take. I had a nervous tic (?) of playing with my ‘breasts’ when I would masturbate. I would feel shame upon release. Like I was betraying the world around me by letting my guard down and being who I am. I put my disguise on more aggressively, while at the same time letting my true colors fly. I’d wear more sheer men’s shirts with floral prints. I’d wear skinnier jeans. I’d get frustrated that it was never enough. I’d tell myself in the dark parts of my brain at night that I was Trans, and that I could never tell anyone. That society as a whole would reject me. My family would disown me. I wondered when my parents were going to die, because then I could maybe consider it.
And then it all broke down. In the waning hours of 2017, I caught myself thinking something I hadn’t been honest with myself about before. I was considering killing myself. I would think about it once a day, just like I would think about finally watching all of Cheers at some point. It seemed like the way out. I even knew how I would do it (gunshot to the head, I’m a fan of the classics) The solution to my problems. This is a dangerous line of thinking. I went to my therapist and told her ‘so hey, I think about killing myself once a day’. She agreed this was an unwise lifestyle choice, so we explored that. I talked about hating my body. Hating how it felt to wake up every day, that I could feel each molecule of myself as I move through the world. That I felt like a garbage bag with a bunch of parts inside it that resembled a human being. She told me I knew what my issue was, but that I needed to land at a point where I was able to admit it to myself and to everyone around me.
I don’t precisely remember the step by step process that led to my coming out for the last time. All I can reliably say is that on November 7th of 2017, I told someone that I had gender dysphoria, and that I was a Woman and didn’t know what to do, but that I couldn’t be a liar anymore. This was, truth be told, the third time I had told someone in my life this bit of information. Luckily, this time the person I told asked me something I will never forget: “Okay, what do you want to do first?”. From there I told my close friends. I told my family. I told my co-workers. I changed my name on my twitter and Instagram feeds. I bought clothes that made me feel like wearing that Girl Guide™ outfit did so many years ago. Comfortable. At home.
From there, a sense of boldness and a sense of honest excitement led to my telling more people. I spoke to one of my closest friends, who also happened to be a business partner of sorts, about it. We spoke for an hour and a half, and I can categorically say it’s the first time I’ve ever cried on the phone with him. I texted friends to see if they had time to chat about “something”, and then played a game with myself to see if they would ask that they noticed something different. Yes, my beard was gone, but more than anything I was exposing what the beard had been hiding for 10 years. Some guessed, one told me “no you’re not” in response to “hey guys, I’m Trans”. No one pushed back against me, so I soldiered on. I told my mom, who promised to inform my father on my behalf. I talked to my sister for a spell of time, who then had to call me back to inform me my mom might not be super knowledgeable about what I was embarking on. ‘it’s not like he’s going to be dressing up in women’s clothes and changing his name’ my mom said, nailing it on the head in the process. But she came around, and so did the community around me. I described my new day to day to my mom like this: every morning when I wake up, I now take the time to open up all my blinds and let the light in to my apartment. Before, I’m not sure I ever noticed they were always closed.
I still struggle. Daily. Trans people are like vampires, mirrors can prove to be very problematic. I have a hard time looking at myself sometimes, but I’m making my way there. I’ve told my doctor I want to start the drug cocktail that will help to align my brain and my body. I exercise and take more care in what I eat. More importantly the last time I thought about killing myself was November 7th, 2017. I write this months in the future from that date with a clearer outlook on the world in front of me and trying to find the right kind of leather knee-high boots for a 6’2” 205 lb. Woman. And I still get up every morning to let the light in.