It's National Coming Out Day, and the pressure is on. Arguably, the pressure is always on. As gay, queer, pan, ace, aro, trans, [...] people, we are expected to "come out" to others. This expectation lingers over us everyday, whether we aren't out at all or are meeting someone new. But today, it's this reminder of that ever-looming pressure that we owe it to others (and to ourselves) to come out as non cisgender, non heterosexual, non heteromantic, non allosexual... Coming out is exhausting. Disclosing is dangerous and exhausting. While there are many people in the LGBTQIA+ community who can come out whenever, wherever, to whomever, others of us do not have that privilege.
We do not have the privilege of being recognized as our true selves. We do not have the privilege of "passing". We do not have the privilege of having our family call us by our wonderful chosen names and using the pronouns that fit us best.
Days like today can feel empowering, but they can also be painful reminders that as comfortable as we may be with ourselves, we may not be as comfortable around others. And others may not be comfortable around us.
And that is okay.
It is okay to be out to our close friends and not to strangers. It's okay to be out at school and not at home.
It's okay to not be out at all.
And it is quite alright to not know what or who to be out as.
Just about 21 years ago, I came out of my mother's womb and I like to think of that as my coming out story.
Truth is, I always knew I was different and no one told me otherwise. I just didn't know how.
What made me so different?
I always wanted to be a tomboy when I was younger and felt like I failed miserably. I enjoyed both feminine and masculine clothes and toys, but was never seen as anything but a girl.
Whatever that means.
Starting in middle school, I really began to explore my masculinity. And in high school, my asexuality and androgyny. The following are what I like to call my trans and queer "receipts":
- My best (b*y)friend and I auditioned for the jr. Thespian Festival with "If You Were Gay" from Avenue Q; even though we knew we wouldn't get in because of my "gender-bending".
- I bought a soul patch from a gum ball machine and would wear it to school every so often, regardless of what outfit I was donning. Word somehow got around of my awesome false facial hair, and my aunt took my soul patch and threw it away. This happened multiple times, as I would always fetch it out of the trash -in its container- and wear it anyway.
- My best friend and I had a falling out right before eighth grade started, and the worst rumor sh* could come up with to spread about me was that I was bisexual. I barely knew what bisexual meant. I hadn't even explored non-hetero landscapes and I had this label prescribed to me. What upset me most was that if I was bi, I would've liked to have known that for myself and then shared it with people. I was also very confused as to how this was an insult. I stared at girls for hours on end trying to feel something but it never happened for me. (I hated the word straight.)
- I got the brightest idea to invent an "alter-ego" for myself. His name was "Chuck" and he was my twin brother. I swooped my bangs to the other side of my face, wore giant sunglasses, a black hoodie, and the usual androgynous emo/scene kid garb. I lowered my voice and flirted with all my g*rlfriends, kicked it back with the guys...Chuck RULED. I even made him a Facebook account, which my aunt made my close. Chuck received friend requests from all the cool kids in school and I was honestly very jealous at how his masculinity seemed to swoon the masses.
- When I had crushes, I had them for a loooong time. I didn't find myself attracted to that many people, but when someone intrigued me, I grew attached. I never knew whether to call these attractions "crushes" or not, but I wasn't sure how much I liked these people. I didn't even know them. But one thing they all had in common was their androgyny. The balance of their masculinity yet soft features...I was into it. But they were all cishet white br*s and I had myself fooled, believing I was this hetero. (We laugh now)
- I felt very off for months senior year of high school and I really couldn't tell what was wrong. After dishing the details of three very vivid dreams of mine to my friends, they helped me to interpret the dreams as needed to embrace my masculinity more. I ran with that and felt a thousand percent better. I slouched more. I sat with my legs spread open, and rolled my eyes when teachers told me to "sit like a lady". I played as many masculine and male roles as I could, loving every second of it. I also regularly chose male figures and characters for spirit week. This was fun, funny, and felt so natural. It came with ease and there was such a relief that came with embracing this masculinity.
- I started watching a lot of LGBTQIA+ YouTube. Tyler Oakley, Troye Sivan, Hannah Hart, The Gay Women Channel, Ashley Mardell, [...]. I was hooked. I also started watching The L Word (again, we laugh). I genuinely thought I was the straight girl that was just enthralled by queerness and craved a gay best friend. But then I started to take selfies and caption them "baby d*ke looks", sooooo....
When I got to college, I continued my intake of queer media and entertainment. I watched the growth of the arthoecollective and learned about the spectrum and plethora of gender, sexual, and romantic identities.
I was overwhelmed.
After my huge racial and ethnic epiphany, I began rapidly searching what was up with me.
I worked on The Vagina Monologues, and it was the most difficult thing I'd ever done. I heard all these people talk about how they knew they were girls and women and I couldn't say that for myself. They spoke about how awesome sex was, but I seldom thought about sex. I just wanted someone to kiss, cuddle, and gaze at the stars with. I didn't want these gendered restraints.
What even is gender??
On the down low, I messed around with customizing my gender on Facebook, and changed my pronouns to: they, them, their. I painted this self portrait for class about the masculinity and boy I felt I was on the inside:
I painted this scene of racially ambiguous and androgynous people:
When friends and professors asked me what pronouns I preferred, I just shrugged. I was only starting to claim nonbinary identity labels and there was just so much more territory to explore.
I was pretty genderqueer in presentation the last week of school and then I went into this femme, art heaux look for the next eight months.
And before I knew it, I was masc af. I presented pretty masculine and androgynous. I started experiencing mega gender dysphoria and dissociating in class (YIKES).
So all the labels I had started to settle on and figure out, came out of me like word vomit. I cried when I disclosed to professors because I wasn't ready to share this part of my identity, but I felt so unsafe I had to.
I couldn't be misgendered anymore.
I came out to my close friends and asked people to address me by my chosen name at the time, and to use gender neutral language and pronouns. It wasn't easy, but it lifted so much weight off of my back.
But when I got home, bound chest, shaved head, glittered face and all, I had to stay quiet. I had to shrug my shoulders when my grandma told me I looked like a boy. I had to move on when the two aunts I tried to confide in invalidated me and told me to "stop reading" so much and stop focusing on my "'gender identity'" and that "God doesn't make mistakes". Even though one of those aunts introduced me to Tegan and Sara, h*r favorite artist is Ani DiFranco, and has the entire box set of The L Word on DVD, I had to suck it up and get over it. It wasn't worth my energy, my time, my safety: to be myself, to come out to these people, to make my home a safe space.
While I had queer friends and identified as all kinds of homo, I had pent up internal homophobia. I talked a lot about how all the lesbians and queer womxn at my school looked the same. I told myself wow girls seem great but I don't think I could handle a strong independent women, women are out of my league. (This was probably the gayest thing I could have ever thought as an excuse).
And after a summer of bingeing movies and shows with Rae Angelo Tutera, Ellen Page, Bex Taylor-Klaus, and Rhea Butcher (sorry Cameron Esposito), I realized that I could definitely be into womxn and also non womxn. And my attraction towards subtle masculinity and androgyny LIVES. But my family only knows the me that pined over Zac Efron -and white boys who all looked the same- for years, and I'm still that cishet to them.
So here I am in this limbo: expressing as much of myself as I can, but being misgendered everyday by people who know and don't know. By having people remember which name to address me as, but to use the wrong pronouns in the same breath. Forgetting what my birth name is until I log into my school accounts or until my family contacts me and deadnames me, calling me their niece daughter granddaughter. All of the invalidation right on cue, as if they rehearsed my derailment.
I'm as out as I'll ever be. And I try to notify people of my pronouns if they're more than strangers. But it's exhausting. I wear my queerness on my sleeves -or just my shoulders if it's hot. But it is not my job to educate others. To help people unlearn the gender binary and allosexuality, and (cis)heteronormativity.
I am a: quoisexual, demisexual, pansexual, androsexual, skoliosexual, quoiromantic, demiromantic, homoromantic, trans-masculine, nonbinary, agender, queer, femme glitter boi.
But all that concerns you should be: they/them/their(s)
Cameron (Cam, if I like you)
The world is full of closets that we are forced into.
And me, I'm here and I'm queer.
Enjoy this song by Rubblebucket!