Thursday, April 16, 2015

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Coming Out

[This is a "reprint"; originally written by Jennifer Reitz. I'm reposting it here, because it is relevant to my life. The original is here: Coming Out]

Coming Out.

In which is explained some of the reasons anyone would want - or need - to come out of the closet.


    "Why do you have to tell anyone about whether or not you are gay" is a question put to many homosexuals "Can't you just keep your mouth shut - nobody would even be able to tell you were queer! Why rub our noses in what you do in bed?"

    My mother once asked me "Why can't you just be Gay? then nobody would have to even know!"

    Why would anyone ever need to come out, to reveal that they were Queer, whether being Gay, or even Gender Queer, such as the transsexual? Why not stay in the closet, and avoid any difficulty? Why tell? Why not just keep silent?

    Let me explain why.

    The true, heartfelt value of Coming Out is not a lot of things that many people seem to think it is. At the deepest level, Coming Out is not about being part of a community of other queers, it is not about political change or theory, it is not about rubbing anyone's nose in metaphoric do-do.

    Coming Out is a matter of personal validation.

    Our culture still puts a lot of energy into hatred and damnation of difference in general, and being queer in particular. From grade school on, the constant use of terms like 'fag' and 'lesbo' and 'sex change' as curses and disparagement inflicts and instills a deep set shame in almost everyone. This subtle and pervasive bigotry is quickly escalated to actual violence or discrimination that occurs on a daily basis that can affect almost every aspect of life.

    Within such a toxic environment of both overt and covert condemnation, the queer individual is constantly under psychological and emotional attack.

    This attack easily - and early in life - becomes internalized to varying degrees. Not only is the queer individual buffeted by storms of hatred outside, but soon becomes infected with hatred from the inside. Self worth becomes replaced with varying degrees of shame and even self loathing. Inevitably this leads to suffering, and even self destruction.

    A vicious circle is created, one that derives from cultural pressure, and is sustained by internal judgment. The queer person hides to avoid pain and shame. The pain and shame become internalized as the cultural messages that cause it become part of the individual. Constant hiding implies the need to hide, and that need is based on the fear of rejection and harm. The individual, alone against society, finds it difficult to entirely reject the basis of the hatred of so many, and a resulting self condemnation abets the impulse to hide. In turn, the act of hiding reinforces the internalized self condemnation, and so it goes, round and round.

    To Come Out, is to stop hiding, and to break that vicious circle of self loathing.

    We live in a culture focused on family and friends, on human interaction. The basis of most everyday communication is about our lives and our relationships. The closeted individual must either lie about their lives, or must fall silent and otherwise avoid basic human communication.

    Over time, this causes multiple levels of suffering. To feel unable to express the joy of a happy day with a loved one, or to tell a funny story about one's life, or to share wisdom gained, is to be made mute. Such self censorship destroys the soul, and leads to withdrawal and depression.

    When a person dares to Come Out, it is not about broadcasting the wonders of being gay, or of being transgendered, it is simply making a stand against the constant minimization and obliteration of their existence. To be Out is to claim the basic human feelings of dignity, self worth and the freedom to speak, to share, to be. The ability to communicate about one's own life in an honest and real manner, devoid of lies or subterfuge, without fear of discovery or embarrassment, just like any other person, is the deepest reason to Come Out.

    The reason this site exists is because your author decided she was sick of forever being mute. The pain of having to fall silent, to hide, to change a subject to avoid accidental discovery, the constant terror that anyone should find out my awful secret, became too much to bear. I was living like a phantom, hiding invisibly in the shadows and margins of society.

    Basic to that behavior, is the concept that my 'secret' was in fact 'awful'. Why? Why should it be so awful to be a transsexual? Why should it be so embarrassing, so shameful?

    It is true that much of our society has a serious problem with the condition. There are those who feel fatal levels of hatred toward transsexuality, who care nothing about understanding it, or the suffering of its victims. There are narrow souls that refuse to accept the validity of the plight of the transsexual, or who would just as soon see all transsexuals dead.

    There are some potential nasty consequences for the public transsexual, just as there is for the public queer of any stripe.

    But perhaps even more so for the transgendered, because the issue of gender is so important to people. Gender is part of self definition, and intrinsic to the constancy of the world view of many people. Certain that the sun will come up tomorrow, many people also hold sex and gender to be equally absolute. The transsexual calls into question the absoluteness of a fundamental part of reality itself. For those with a weak grasp of reality, this becomes deeply disturbing. The world is not lacking for those with such a weak grasp.

    Even so, even with the possible dangers, there comes a point where hiding, where cowering to avoid the expected disdain of nameless 'others' becomes unendurable. To achieve a solid self worth it sometimes becomes necessary to be open about that self, to simply refuse to be silenced any longer. In order to feel good about my self, I needed to claim the same freedom that most humans take for granted, the freedom to simply exist, as myself, openly.

    Coming Out serves to break the circle of torment and self condemnation. It destroys the act of hiding behind lies, and with it the implication that such behavior is preferable to honesty. It is the supreme act of a person who refuses to be damned, and who stands up as an individual with the basic natural right to exist.

    Coming Out is freedom from enslavement and oppression. It is not easy. It can have consequences. But it sometimes must be done, to stop internalized self loathing, to achieve self acceptance.

    It is not always safe or prudent to Come Out in all circumstances. It is not always wise to be completely open. Sometimes the only rational thing to do is to be invisible, especially for the much maligned transsexual. No one should ever be forced to be Out, just as no one should be forced to hide. But sometimes, sometimes, just to know peace and contentment of self, it becomes useful and important to be Out.

    The bottom line of Coming Out is to be alive in the world.

My Story.

[This post is directed at a person in the comment section of an article related to Indiana's Religious freedom bill. It's the first time I've really gotten everything down, but I felt it was important for me to do, for him. I wanted him to understand me. It started out as a short post in response, but grew from there. It became way too much for a comment thread, so here it is. Here's my story.  ]

I've been reacting with the same aggression you've been using toward me, and it's wrong. Instead of reacting, I need to be responding with love, as Christ would.  Let me tell you my story.

I knew at a very young age I should have been born with a female body. I could never put that into words, that concept at the time was not known to me. I was raised in a strict Christian environment, and having these thoughts were sinful, and the worst kind of wrong. At least that is what I heard in church. I internalized this sentiment, and it grew into a fierce hatred, most directed at myself. I prayed to God to make this go away. I prayed for that a lot. I couldn't be a girl, that was impossible, or so I thought. That hatred quickly over took me, and when I was ten I tried to kill myself for the first time, because I thought maybe I needed to do it myself, since God was not taking this away, or letting me die, I needed to do it on my own.  So I tried to hang myself in my closet, but when I woke up later, the belt I used was hanging around my neck, and I was laying half in and half out of a box in my closet. I stayed there for most of my life, in that closet. Alone.

In my teens, I turned to booze and drugs. A lot of each. Nikki Six, a guitarist for Motley Crue overdosed a few times. At the height of my drug use, had he have known me,  he would have told me to slow down and save some for him. It was that bad, but it kept me numb, which in turn kept me alive.

In my mid twenties, I think I was 24 or so I was at the end of my rope, again. I was tired of being strung out all the time, tired of trying so hard to "act like a man" and failing terribly, tired of dating other women trying to prove to myself that I could do it, essentially using them to try to "be a guy." They usually ended because I wouldn't have sex, the very idea of using that thing made me sick. So I was standing on an over pass one day, I was going to jump, the cars on the freeway below were going pretty fast, I figured it would be over pretty quick. I was finishing a cigarette when this uber preppy looking guy in this crappy red Nova pulled up. I mention these, because he looked so out of place in that car, it was kind of funny, like an 80 year old guy in a Corvette. His name is Bill. He's a great guy, I still consider him one of my best friends, even though we haven't spoken in years. We lost touch a long time ago, and I really have no idea how to find him. Anyway, he and his wife were driving on the freeway. He didn't even see me, but God knew I was there, and told Bill I was getting ready to jump, so Bill, and his wife Jayne (with that spelling, I'm telling you those two did not belong in that car haha) got off the freeway, and came to talk to me. I couldn't tell them why exactly I was going to jump, so I blamed it on the drugs, which was true, but not the whole truth. I wasn't ready to even admit it to myself. I knew that God wasn't going to let me kill myself, no matter what I tried to do, so that was my last attempt, I think. There were so many attempts really, it's hard to keep them straight chronologically, and the drugs kind of affected my memory, so that's kind of shot. I stayed with them for about a year or so, and got off drugs for awhile, but the pressure I was under was too much, so I relapsed.

I stayed drugged until I was 35 or 36, when I moved close to my Mom, she had uterine cancer, and I wanted to be close to her. God helped her beat it, she's doing really well now, we talk on the phone occasionally, but it's strained.When I was 38 I was tired of everything, life, trying to live up to everyone's expectations of me, and I begged God to take this from me or let me die. I knew that coming out would cause me to lose my family, which had been everything to me for as long as I could remember, I come from an incredibly tight knit family, we got together several times a year, we'd come from all over the country and gather at a state park, or Grandpa's house. I loved those reunions, and huge holiday dinners. Poker, football, food and beer, you know. I never got into drinking much, I hate hangovers, but most of my family members are drinkers. Socially, not drunks, you know. I didn't think I'd survive losing them. But something had to give.

I emailed a close friend, and came out to her, sort of to say good bye, I really wanted to die. I apologized for not being honest about who I really am inside, and for causing her pain. We were married about maybe 15 or 16 years before that. I may have been 24 or 25. It lasted a year. She's really the only person I've genuinely loved and trusted. Her name is Michelle. She wrote back about a week later, and told me that I was moving in with her and her family (Her husband, and boys), and she was going to help me come out and get through this. If I didn't come out, and live authentically, I didn't want to live at all. So I moved here, and got into therapy, and slowly started to come out.

I begged God for him to tell me his plan for me, and he's opened doors that I could never open on my own. Forgiving my Dad being one of those things. He was incredibly abusive when I was young. He used to beat me with a 2x4. I carried intense anger for him through most of my life, and one night I was on my bed smoking out my window (cigarettes...tobacco, not pot), and I just started sobbing, uncontrollably. I had no idea why. I honestly felt like my heart was breaking. I was in a panic because I had no idea where it was all coming from, I realized later after I calmed down that it was 40 years of pain leaving me. It was just gone. I know that God took it from me, it's the only rational explanation.

The hate and anger I carried with me through my life was gone, in that moment. God said I didn't need that anymore. So he took it from me. 

I came out to my Mom a few months later, she told the rest of the family, and they all agreed that they didn't want me home over holidays, they didn't want to see me. As much as that hurt, God led me through it. That footsteps poem comes to mind. He really did carry me through it, literally. My friends also surrounded me and walked beside me too. Through that process, I slowly began to accept and respect myself, which turned into love. About maybe a year ago was the first time in my life I genuinely loved myself. Which in turn enabled me to love God more deeply, which of course deepened our relationship. He's guided me every step in the coming out and transitioning process. I know he is with me. When we talk, I feel him physically. I finally have the relationship with him, and Christ that I have always wanted. Growing up in the church, I had seen so many great people of faith, and I wanted what they had. I begged God for that, but until I was ready to be honest with myself, and live accordingly, my entire life would be a lie, and God can't move in a person's life, if they can't even be honest with themselves.

So that's where I am today, very much a woman, and very much a sold out Jesus Freak, and loving each new day that he gives me. The pain of living in a male body isn't lessened, but I know God is moving me toward healing, and I can be patient, and know that my healing will be complete on his schedule, and he's handling it, it's all more than I can handle on my own, so I just let him take care of that. I saw my Mom last year, for the first time in three years. She came to see me. My family still doesn't want to see me, and I know it was hard on Mom to see me, but she did it anyway. So I know God is healing that too. But that's probably going to take awhile. It's ok though. I can wait. If I can at least talk to Mom on the phone every couple weeks or so, I can live with that.

BIG FAT GEEK UPDATE. 6/29/2016

Two weeks ago, I went to church for the first time in lots of years. It was what I've needed for so long, MY PASTOR GETS IT!!! (mostly haha...more than enough). There are so many other people there who treat me normally. I'm in a women's study group, and they are so amazing. I still can't believe it's finally happening. This is what I've needed to move forward with not just my walk with Christ, but my whole life.