Experiencing a Parallel Transition From Inside the Closet
I never expected to be back in the closet.
From the time I came out to my friends and family as gay at age 21, I was determined to live as openly, visibly, honestly and unapologetically as possible. For 10 years I did just that. I never worried about other people’s reactions to my sexuality. I never omitted information or edited my narrative in fear of judgment. I never hid who I was dating. In short, I adopted a very Gen-Y attitude of “This is who I am, and if you don’t like it, that’s your problem.”
Now, however, I’m back in the closet and keeping the reality of my relationship from the people in my life because my partner is a transgender woman who is not out yet. I’ve gone back into hiding and dusted off my dormant skill at playing the pronoun game, and I have to lie to everyone I know on a consistent basis.
It’s a curious space to occupy. While my inclination is to adopt the same attitude I had when I came out by brusquely explaining the situation to everyone we know in very matter-of-fact terms and letting the proverbial chips land where they may, I am also fiercely driven to protect my partner’s privacy and honor her process. It’s conflicting to me, though, that this drive prevents me from being my authentic, honest self.
Every time I answer the question “What’s new?” with “Oh, you know, same old same-old” and lie by omission, I feel simultaneously that I’m doing the right thing to protect my partner and that I’m doing myself a disservice by fracturing my life like I promised I never would.
Being the partner of a transitioning person involves a transition all your own. Let me be clear that my partner’s transition is a tremendously substantial one; I certainly don’t minimize that. Often, though, people in my position feel that focusing on our own transitions throughout this process is somehow selfish or unfair to our partners, whose transitions are far greater and more significant. We reduce ourselves to passengers and bystanders whose sole job it is to be pillars of support. While I am the first to say that giving support to your partner is wholly critical throughout this process, I would argue that neither transition is greater or more significant. They are different. They are incomparable. They are parallel.
There is very little conversation I’ve found about how we support ourselves through this process, in addition to supporting our partners. There’s even less focus on how our transitioning partners support us. To my partner and me, it’s critical that we both acknowledge our experiences and support each other so we can properly identify each of our own needs and ensure that our parallel transitions are as successful and healthy as possible.
A friend I’ve made online since I began documenting my experience said to me, “I think there’s a lot of shame involved for the partners of transitioning people, not just that they feel shamed by the transition itself, but they feel shamed by their reaction to their own reaction.” He’s right. We are very quick to inhabit a vortex of shame and privilege that continuously and unceasingly turns itself inside out.
I urge you as partners, families, and friends of trans* people to experience these reactions without shame. Don’t unnecessarily emotionally dump on your transitioning loved one in an effort to make yourself feel better at their expense, but truly inventory your own needs throughout the transition. It takes a considerable amount of introspection to accomplish this in a way that doesn’t interfere with the emotional health of your loved one, but it is a necessary process in order to ensure your own emotional health throughout your own unique transition.
Sometimes this inventory leads to significant compromise. For me, I’m accepting a life of lying by omission and pronoun adjustment, effectively recloseting myself for my partner’s well-being. It’s a temporary stop, though. Eventually she’ll come out.
And then I’ll learn how to come out of the closet all over again as someone in a heterosexual relationship.
11:41 pm • 11 March 2014 • 8 notes • View comments
Queer books out in March 2014. Know any others?
[Image description: ten book covers, including Prarie Ostrich by Tamai Kobayashi, Mysterious Acts by My People by Valerie Wetlaufer, Hold Tight Gently: Michael Callen, Essex Hemphill, and the Battlefield of AIDS by Martin Duberman, Underserved Women of Color: Claiming a Seat at the Table edited by Sonja M. Brown Givens and Keisha Edwards Tassie, Eating Fire: My Life as a Lesbian Avenger by Kelly Cogswell, Jacob’s New Dress by Sarah Hoffman, Ian Hoffman and Chris Case, This Way to the Sugar by Hieu M. Nguyen, Part the Hawser Limn the Sea by Dan Lopez, Pregnant Butch: Nine Long Months Spent in Drag by A.K. Summers, and The Sowing by Steven Dos Santos.]
4:34 pm • 11 March 2014 • 215 notes • View comments
“I think the thing that is getting a little tiresome, the gay community, they have so bullied the American people, and they’ve so intimidated politicians. The politicians fear them, so that they think they get to dictate the agenda everywhere.”
Rep. Michele Bachmann, in all her glory. (via the Huffington Post)
Raise your hand if you have ever felt personally victimized by Michele Bachmann.
2:53 pm • 11 March 2014 • 1,076 notes • View comments
Tracy Chapman and Alice Walker were in a relationship when they both lived in Brooklyn in the mid 1990s.
Walker discussed the relationship with an interviewer in The Guardian in 2006:
""Why was it kept so quiet at the time? "It was quiet to you maybe but that’s because you didn’t live in our area," she answers with a throaty laugh. She has written about the relationship in her journals, which she plans to publish one day.
So why did they decide against using their relationship to make a big social impact like other celebrity lesbian couples, such as Ellen DeGeneres and Anne Heche, have in the past? The idea seems to amuse her. “I would never do that. My life is not to be somebody else’s impact - you know what I mean? And it was delicious and lovely and wonderful and I totally enjoyed it and I was completely in love with her but it was not anybody’s business but ours.”“
2:52 pm • 11 March 2014 • 5,335 notes • View comments
“He’s not the first gay guy in the NFL. He’s the first one to come out, let’s get that straight. Every team I’ve played on, there was someone… we always knew. But he was cool. That was our boy. We had to look out for him. Every team I’ve played on - five different teams - there was someone gay in the locker room.”
— Retired football star Deion Sanders, who played in the NFL for the Atlanta Falcons, the San Francisco 49ers, the Dallas Cowboys, the Washington Redskins and the Baltimore Ravens. He is, of course, talking about Michael Sam. This is so important. (via Gay Star News)
(Source: gaywrites, via leadencirclesdissolve)
2:52 pm • 11 March 2014 • 14,129 notes • View comments
the-life-journey-of-jkelly asked: I am a youth pastor, but relax I am not here to beat you over the head with the Bible. While I believe that homosexuality is a sin, so is being homophobic. I am just wanting to understand. You see I had a niece who committed suicide. I really did try to support her the best I could. I loved her but could not accept that life style at that time. I really do want to understand without being condemning. I want forgiveness from God if I did not respond to my beloved niece in the right way. Help Me!
First of all, I am very sorry for your loss. Know that suicide is complicated, and it is common for loved ones to blame themselves. Here is some information from the American Suicide Prevention Network that may be able to help you deal with your grief.
Second, I applaud you for not wanting to be homophobic. You may want to attend a local PFLAG meeting, which is for family and friends of the LGBT community who want to understand. As just pulled from their website, “Learning that a loved one is LGBT can be a challenge if you feel it is at odds with your faith tradition. However, being LGBT does not impact a person’s ability to be moral and spiritual any more than being straight does.”
If you want to accept members of the LGBT community as whole people, focus on them as individuals, and make it clear that you want to be accepting. Leading with “homosexuality is a sin” is going to put people on the defensive. As this graphic cheekily shows, and you likely know, the bible condemns a lot more than homosexuality.
Good luck on your progress and report back! Do any followers have additional thoughts? Reblog or send a message.
9:31 am • 11 March 2014 • 42 notes • View comments
At at the age of sixteen, Krystal was pushed out of her home by a family who rejected her sexual orientation. Krystal moved around a lot after that. First it was Kansas City, then Los Angeles, then Phoenix then Las Vegas, then back to Kansas City, and then finally New York City. It was there, on Christopher Street, that Krystal finally found the kind of family that would support her for who she was and not who people hoped her to be.
More info about Krystal and other kids of the New York Homeless LGBTQ community can be found here.
9:12 am • 11 March 2014 • 22 notes • View comments