Coming out….

Who was it that first said, “Coming out is a lifelong experience”?

Whoever it was, couldn’t have been more perceptive. As long as being LGBQ or T—or, for that matter, feminist, leftist, socialist, biracial, atheist, Muslim, Jewish, or any number of other “suspect alternatives”—carries with it a measure of intrigue, titillation or stigma, coming out will be a necessary process. As long as a majority of the population operates on the erroneous assumption that human beings and behaviour fall into two-and-only-two categories, “normal” or “deviant,” people outside the mainstream will be compelled to dispel their fellows’ mistaken notions that they fall into the “normal” category.

And unless you’re a mega-celebrity, no matter how many times you do it—nor how publicly—there’s always a next time. A new friend, a fresh group of co-workers, or friends of friends and family. It’s a never-ending process.

I’ve come out at various times in my life as lesbian, bi, FtM, Jewish, and a mom. The hardest time, I think, was when I transitioned at Bayer Biotech in Berkeley, CA, in 1994. Several thousand fellow employees watched my physical transformation as I started testosterone and began a very public process of changing from working as a woman—a “strange, mannish type of woman who favoured masculine attire,”—to working as just one of the guys.

Then there was what felt like a huge step of deciding to appear in Loren Cameron’s groundbreaking book, “Body Alchemy,” two years later. Taking part in Loren’s project is one of the things I’m most proud of in my whole life. His images speak without words: decades from now, when LGBT rhetoric may have been faded into obscurity, people will still be able to look at Loren’s photos and know that not everyone at the turn of the second millennium ascribed to the notion of “two and only two genders.”

I also agreed to an interview with the San Diego Gay & Lesbian Times in the late 90’s, that featured my photo on the cover. Then there was my brief-lived column in 2005 here in Dublin for the Village magazine, which I wrote from the perspective of an FtM, Bush-loathing, peacenik American expat with Irish citizenship thanks to my cultchie grandparents.

There were less public disclosures, too. Many of them. The one that stands out is the time I stammered and stuttered for what felt like minutes, trying to find the right words to tell my to-be-future-girlfriend about being trans, only to have her interrupt and say, “Oh, I think I know what you’re trying to say, and I already know!” I fell in love with her on the spot.

Each disclosure has been accompanied by a tightness in my gut and an emotional breathlessness that’s composed of fear, excitement, defensiveness, and relief. Fear that someone I’ve come to rely on—or even care about—will start to treat me differently, specifically, as “less than.” Excitement, at the prospect of the unknown, like a swimmer poised at the edge of a diving board above dark, unknown waters. And defensiveness, a bracing of myself for the worst possible outcome: rejection, discomfort, or even anger, and hostility.

The fact that relief is also a part of coming out may surprise some people. Those who have never hidden an essential aspect of themselves from others might not understand the insidious and terrible cost of being closeted. The benefit is obvious: I don’t have to deal with the open antagonism or discomfort of transphobic or homophobic co-workers. The costs, though, are not so visible. The way being closeted eats away at my self-confidence, as I wonder what people would think if they really knew. The way it erects a wall between me and others, undermining the possibility for friendships. I can’t let my guard down and just be myself. I have to watch everything I say every single minute. When the CEO here found out I had a daughter, he and another male co-worker pestered me the whole night long at a Xmas party, for details, under the direct gaze of about 10 colleagues. How old was she? How old was I? Was I married to her mother? You don’t want to say, why not?. Are you ashamed? No? You seem ashamed. Why are you ashamed?

They would not let it go, their questions becoming increasingly intrusive and aggressive the drunker they became. A part of me wishes I’d just come out and said, “I am her mother!” But I wasn’t ready to deal with the potential aftermath.

I always have to watch how much I drink at company gatherings—never a bad idea, I know, but absolutely essential when you’re closeted, a lightweight who gets buzzed on half a beer, and in the company of Irish drinkers, whose staggering capacity for drink surpasses that of any and every other nationality I’ve ever known.

My overall point is, the costs of coming out are generally well understood by even those with no personal experience, whereas the costs of being closeted are often not acknowledged, even by people who are living a closeted existence.

Anyway, I mentioned yesterday that I’d given my first quote as a spokesperson for TENI (Transgender Equality Network Ireland) to Ireland’s largest daily newspaper. I was both excited and worried, as my workplace subscribes to the paper and I figured I was essentially coming out to everyone here. Oh, and probably to all my Irish relatives, too, who with the exception of one tiny vowel, share my surname.

Well, I needn’t have worried: the paper didn’t actually quote me or use my name. They simply stated, “The Transgender Equality Network of Ireland welcomes the change.” Fair enough, that was the beginning of what I said, they just dropped the rest.

So, I’ve received a temporary reprieve. Temporary, because I believe it’s only a matter of time before a widely-read newspaper does quote me by name, or I appear on radio or TV on behalf of TENI. Transsexuality is becoming a high profile issue here.

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40 Comments

Filed under 08_brynn

40 responses to “Coming out….

  1. Allie

    Thanks for the post – I know what you mean about the costs of not-coming out. I was in Peace Corps for 3 years in Weest Africa & had to be closeted for basic safety reasons. It eats away inside. I have dear, dear west african friends who don’t know this essential part of me – and can’t.

  2. PortlyDyke

    I think one of the toughest things for me in my coming out process has been the knowledge that when I come out, so does my family.

    With two teenage sons at the time, my decision to appear in the paper gave rise to loooong family discussions about the implications for everyone.

  3. bluestockingsrs

    This is a great piece, Brynn.

    For me, life is constant process of coming out because people assume that I am straight when they meet me (unless I am with my gf, who is butch). So everyday, I come out over and over because it is a mystery to most folks that I am a dyke, because “I don’t look like one” (whatever the fuck that means).

    Me beloved is moving to CA from MI and it will be the first time in her life that she will get to live out everyday. It is going to be a grand adventure for her, I am glad I get to go along for the ride.

  4. First, two caveats: 1) I’m a straight, white male – so the closest I come to personal discrimination is being fat and ugly [and I by no means equate or even approximate my personal feelings of being discriminated against for those traits to the real and pervasive discrimination against women,minorities, LGBQT, etc.], and 2) I don’t know the ‘tenor’ of your workplace. So, forgive me if the following suggestion is ‘beyond the pale’, but:
    Might it not be more positively viewed by your co-workers if you came out directly to them and not through the ‘inevitable’ quotation or appearance? Your reference to the Xmas party notes that the CEO (and others) wondered what you were “ashamed” of. Wouldn’t them finding out ‘second hand’ increase their belief that you have something for which to be ashamed?
    I realize that coming out takes extreme courage and I applaud your examples (both past and present) of such, and send whatever positive energy I can in support of you – whatever events may transpire.

  5. Arkades

    The costs, though, are not so visible. The way being closeted eats away at my self-confidence, as I wonder what people would think if they really knew. The way it erects a wall between me and others, undermining the possibility for friendships.

    This is so important. I remember how terrible I used to feel back in the days when I was closeted, how many friendships that might-have-been were stifled or never really took hold because I wasn’t being myself. Lack of authenticity is a poison, and people often have a sense of when someone isn’t being ‘real’.

    But, as you correctly point out, it’s not an over-and-done process… it’s an ongoing thing, a test to which one is repeatedly subjected. Dare you live in truth, today? With this group of people? With that group? With those strangers over there? Which battles are worth fighting? When must one stand up on principle, and when is one better off ‘blending’, assuming one can ‘pass’ if one wishes to do so?

    I find the answers change day-to-day, often depending on how much emotional energy I have to invest. But it’s worthwhile to be reminded that there are benefits and costs, either way.

  6. Brynn, I loved reading this. You’re right, coming out is a process that never stops. Sometimes it’s painful, but sometimes you get your grandfather hugging you and saying “I don’t understand what you’re doing, but you need to keep doing it. I’ve never seen you happier.”

    Thank you.

  7. Brynn — first off, great article, very heartfelt. I’ve been privileged to watch as a friend of mine has gone through the process of coming out as a gay man this past year, and I’ll be sending him this link a bit later today.

    One thing I’d like to add, though, from my perspective as a hetero Jew, is that I don’t feel any fear or defensiveness about “coming out” as a Jew. Never have. Perhaps this is a result of having been lucky enough to have grown up in New York City, where Jewishness is so common as to be unremarkable.

  8. PortlyDyke

    Moira — that brought tears to my eyes!

    Phydeaux — I did find that coming out directly was more effective, but this took me a long time, and the right job setting to accomplish it. When I came out at my gov job as a social worker, I was told, point-blank, that it was “not appropriate” and “unprofessional” — that my “personal information” didn’t belong at work, even with my co-workers (who guessed I was a dyke anyway). My picture of me, my partner, and my sons did not belong on my desk. My story about the fun I had at gay pride did not belong in the break room.

    I was not fired, but I didn’t stay at that job for long after this, and from that point on, I actually came out in all my job interviews right at the start and said: “I’m a lesbian. If me being out about that will be a problem, please do not hire me.”

    But it took 15 years for me to go from completely closeted at work to completely out at work. And it did limit the job opportunities that I would consider. And I did wait until my financial situation was stable enough that changing jobs was not going to put my family in jeopardy.

    It is a process. I came out to my family of origin in 1980. While I have a better-than-average acceptance in my family, it’s still rarely talked about directly, unless I bring it up.

    My uncle once wrote to me in a letter: “As you may know, your life is a carefully closed chapter in the family book.” I felt sad and validated at the same moment. So, even though my family “has the news”, I’m still coming out to them every time we visit.

  9. PortlyDyke

    Oh — and one more thing — I think that coming out as an FTM Tranny is exponentially more challenging. So, Brynn, I think of my stories as pale in comparison to the guts you are displaying.

    TS issues challenge most folks at infinitely more complex levels than simple sexual orientation issues, IME — because it is likely to evoke questions about their own gender identity that they have never even brought to consciousness.

    Brynn — Rah! Rah! Sis-Boom-Bah! (Should that be Bro-Boom-Bah?)

  10. PortlyDyke, thank you!

    I think things are getting better. I work for a fairly conservative company — it’s involved in the food animal industry, and cattle folk are very conservative people — and I’m out as a lesbian. Not noisy, but there’s a picture of my wife (who’s black, making us an interracial dyke couple) on the desk, I talk about relationships just like I’m an actual human being. No one bats an eye. (I did get a talking-to about not wearing a bra being unprofessional, but, eh.)

    I’m also TS, and it is a bit more complicated coming out as that. It’s a whole lot scarier for me — my heart’s beating faster as I’m typing this and there’s part of me that wants to hit that Backspace key and make it all go away. Damn stupid anxieties. Anyway, complicated. Yes and no. Definitely complicated at the beginning because gender is a very low-level category in the way we think of people, and it’s difficult (though not impossible) to change a person’s gender category once it’s been assigned.

    When you come out to a person as TS while you’re transitioning, you’re asking them to make that change. You’re awkward, new to and unpracticed at the new gender role. Usually (though not always) there’s a new name to remember. My brother is a very sweet man, and he loves me, and he wants me to be happy whatever that means. But he’s also got a couple decades of memories of me as his brother, and sometimes he misses him. He’s also a little hung up on the whole “You want to cut it off!?!” thing, which makes me giggle to think about it. Most of my family has been enthusiastically accepting, though my aunt cut me off from her children (my godchildren!) entirely out of fear I’d contaminate them. She has issues that don’t have anything to do with me, but I caught a whole lot of shrapnel from them and it still hurts.

    I’m involved (less so lately due to health problems) with the Leather community in Dallas, and I’ve been fairly open about being TS there. The most common reaction I get is “You’re what? Get the fuck outta here.” When my hair’s shorter, I get asked which way I’m going, and that’s fun in its own way. At work, I’m not out as TS, at all, to anyone. It wouldn’t make anyone’s life better, and could well make mine worse.

    Purely due to financial constraints, I haven’t had any surgeries. I want to, but it’s expensive to get turned inside-out. Partly I’d like to be able to go to the gym and not be terrified of being seen naked, but mostly I really want to do something for that little person I was way back when trying to figure out how to pull this thing off so I’d be right. Maybe in a post-patriarchal, post-racist world where there’s only one gender and that’s human I wouldn’t feel the need to have my plumbing revised, but that’s not the world I have to actually live in.

    There’ve been people who say I’m brave for coming out and jumping through the Opproved Transsexual Hoops, but I never felt brave. It was either this or die, and I’ve got the scars to prove it. I’m glad now I didn’t pick death then. I’d have missed a lot.

    Back to what I was trying to say at the beginning: maybe coming out as TS is more complicated than coming out as a dyke. I’ve had the “Wouldn’t it be easier to just be gay?” question, and my very personal favorite, “You’re getting a sex change to become a homosexual?” It was my grandmother, so she got the polite answer, “No. I’m ‘getting a sex change’ because that’s who I am. I’m a lesbian because that’s who I’m attracted to.” But complicated doesn’t matter. Every time you come out it’s at least a little bit scary, it’s always a leap of faith, and it’s always that much less weight to have to carry around. That closet gets heavy!

    So there’s me, that’s my big-ass coming out to y’all here at Shakesville comment. If you read it all, I appreciate your time.

  11. Wow, so many good comments and great points!

    Portly Dyke, the family thing: Yes!! The reason I’m as out as I am and that I give talks to classes and various organizations about being transsexual is that I want to change the world not only for us, but FOR OUR KIDS!!! When I transitioned back in 1994, my daughter was 16. We were living in Albany, CA, which is like a small town in mentality. All of her friends knew what was happening. Even though she moved out from my house and in with her dad across the Bay (that broke my heart) she continued to attend Albany High School, and everyone knew because they would see me around town. While I don’t think anyone every gave her a hard time, just having such an alternative family (her dad btw is gay-yep, I unconsciously picked a gay man!!) in a culture that prizes conformity was terribly hard for a teenager. (And bravo to you the way you come out in job interviews!!! I honestly think I’d never find a job if I did that, though. Even a lot of LGB organizations, where the “T” is just for show, won’t hire trannies.)

    bluestockingsrs: Congratulations on your sweetie moving to CA!! I’m so happy for you both.

    Phydeaux, I think it would be more respectful and in some ways more positive to come out individually. But my experience has been that many people, especially mainstream, “normal” people are terribly embarrassed by the revelation. Like PD said, matters involving sex and gender, like large earrings and nose-rings, “are not appropriate to the workplace.” One past boss who I made a point of meeting with and telling him I was trans because I was speaking on campus where we both worked and didn’t want the news to filter back secondhand to him, totally freaked out when I told him. He literally looked like he wanted to be anywhere BUT where he was at the moment and went so far as to tell me that it was really none of his business. He never treated me the same afterwards, either. There was always an awkwardness.

    rslux, I can remember only a couple of times where I “came out” as Jewish into a problematic situation and both times I did it deliberately to cut short a conversation that was clearly moving in an anti-Semitic direction. It’s sobering how much thoughtless, quotidian anti-Semitism there still is out there.

  12. Moira, sweetie, thank you for sharing with us! You are so brave and so awesome and that’s the truth!! Take it from another tranny.

    And I agree strongly with what you said so eloquently, about gender, about surgery, about family and coworkers, about your safety (which is paramount–I never come out if I feel at all unsafe) and about coming out as trans vs coming out as lesbian. The lesbian-gay thing, while hard, benefits from increasing media exposure. Musicians, actors, athletes and other celebs are coming out–not in droves, maybe, but in a steady stream–and many mainstream TV shows now have LGB plotlines. That really helps. Trannies, on the other hand, are still openly ridiculed and joked about on primetime TV.

    I’m sorry that not all your family and community have been understanding and accepting. Welcome to Shakesville, we are so psyched that you’ve joined us!!!

  13. PortlyDyke

    Moira and Brynn —

    Yes, I have found there is a whole world of bizarro prejudice in the gay rights movement around trans folk.

    When I was working on GLBT issues back in the 80s, the trannies were fine — UNTIL there was an official PAC formed. Then, all of a sudden, “we” needed to “assimilate” — and offload the TS population — it was incredibly icky — I left the group over it.

    It boggled my mind, really, that my fellow activists didn’t get that it was imperative that we stand together for one another’s rights.

    I love hearing these stories — I think it’s a great service for others to hear them as well.

  14. Melissa McEwan

    So there’s me, that’s my big-ass coming out to y’all here at Shakesville comment.

    Cool. 😀

    Beautiful post, as always, Brynn.

    I just wanted to say that I feel really privileged to have the opportunity to read all this stuff, and really grateful you all share these intimate experiences in a public forum so that others can be enriched by them.

    And that’s pretty much it, because I’m only an honorary dyke and so I have nothing to add. Just thanks.

  15. Thank you thank you thank you. I’m very glad I’ve found my way here.

  16. bluestockingsrs

    Aww, Melissa I know you and I are too young to properly remember Queer Nation (we’re here, we’re queer, get used to it), but as far as I am concerned everyone can identify as queer -’cause let’s face it more of us are “deviant” than not, which makes us all “queer”.

  17. Melissa McEwan

    [Okay, see…now PortlyDyke went and left a comment while I was writing mine, so now I do have something else to say, lol.]

    It boggled my mind, really, that my fellow activists didn’t get that it was imperative that we stand together for one another’s rights.

    I am so with you on this; I get incredibly frustrated when feminists take issue with being inclusive of MTFs or FTMs. We’re all under the same goddamn boot, and all they can think to do is rearrange the gravel into different treads.

    I’ve no patience for it at all. Just get over here and help us lift the fucking boot!

  18. Melissa McEwan

    as far as I am concerned everyone can identify as queer

    About a million years ago at the old Blogger blog, I wrote a post about how anyone who has recreational sex is now queer, lol. It isn’t being straight that makes any damn difference to Dobson et. al.; it’s being straight and making babies.

    The LGBTQ rights movement and the reproductive rights movement are so inextricably linked in this country at this point, that deliberately childless straight couples are the most natural LGBTQ allies in the world.

    As Mr. Shakes noted one time after some news story about an assault on gay/repro rights, “I joost nooticed that we’re, like, tootally gay.”

    “Yes, honey. We are.”

  19. bluestockingsrs

    E-zackly.

  20. Queer as a three-dollar bill. 😉

  21. actualifanonlesbian

    Re: ‘we’re all queer’. Well, yes & no.
    We are all certainly in the same boat insofar as anyone who thinks the right wing isn’t coming for anyone who so much as desires to (never mind actually does) have something other than piv sex in pre-approved missionary position, with two and only two people, who identify as of one of two genders (one each), and who are licensed by the state to have said pre-approved sexual relations (marriage license) is a person deluding themselves gravely.
    But I take it that everyone here would also agree that we are NOT all in the same boat in the sense that merely identifying as “queer” does not subject a heterosexual licensed by the state married woman to the kinds of threats, dangers, daily harrassment & petty irritations I face, any more than my identifying as “queer” (which I actually wouldn’t–but another story that) would subject me to the kinds of threats, dangers, daily harrassment & petty irritations that TS face.
    It’s important, imho, to try and keep two things simultaneously in mind, which might be put this way: we’re all in the same boat, but the bigotry that puts us in that boat together is variegated enough to make it necessary for us all to realize that steering the boat will involve negotiating some necessarily uneasy alliances at times. When we forget that, the boat goes nowhere helpful.

  22. Melissa McEwan

    I take it that everyone here would also agree that we are NOT all in the same boat in the sense that merely identifying as “queer” does not subject a heterosexual licensed by the state married woman to the kinds of threats, dangers, daily harrassment & petty irritations I face

    Of course. Hence my note that people like me are “the most natural LGBTQ allies in the world.” And I apologize if my noting what we share in common suggested somehow that I find our differences irrelevant.

  23. bluestockingsrs

    Do you really think these are uneasy alliances?

    It is in recognizing the intersections of experience that form these alliances. Or in choosing to abdicate one’s privilege as much as possible in a white supremacist world.

  24. actualifanonlesbian

    Melissa,
    I certainly didn’t take you to be suggesting that you find our differences irrelevant–rather, I wanted simply to register my own uneasiness with the ‘we’re all queer’ rhetoric, precisely becuase it elides or glosses over the differences that we both agree make ‘our boat’ one that is constituted by (sometimes uneasy) alliances.

  25. bluestockingsrs

    I guess the rest of my thought is that there are people in my experience that live out as queer or abdicate heterosexual privilege, everyday. In this way, they are putting themselves out there subject to the same harassment I face each day –only they do it to be in solidarity with me, who cannot choose to avoid the discrimination.

    It is like the white people who sat in with African-Americans at lunch counters, they received the same abuse in that moment with African-Americans, this is abdicating privilege. This is choosing to give up something that was never earned in the first place, to point out the injustice of privileging one set of characteristics over another. To do justice, we must choose to give up what we have that causes injustice to another (as much as we possibly can as it is a long list of privilege many of us enjoy).

    I appreciate these allies, because they “get it” and stand with me and risk the same abuse that is hurled at me as a lesbian.

  26. PortlyDyke

    Hmmm. This is interesting for me (the “we’re all queer rhetoric”).

    I actually think it could be very powerful, if straight folks took it on seriously in an “I’m Spartacus” kind of way.

    Back in the bad old days, when my closest girlfriend (straight) was having a rough moment with my activism (and my anger about homophobia), I asked her and her husband to spend one week living their life completely “in the closet” — IOW — they couldn’t show affection in public, sign a check on a joint account, had to pretend that they were “just roommates”, etc..

    It was a powerful experience for all of us. She was shocked at how hard it was, and I was delighted that she took the challenge and was willing to view life through my window.

    The longer I go on in life, the more I believe that oppression is oppression is oppression, and transphobia, homophobia, racism, sexism, xenophobia, and on and on and on are all so intimately tied that we had better by god make alliances at every possible turn.

    So, if someone is willing to say, publicly, “I’m queer”, and willing to take the heat of that, I welcome them to do so. And, even though I could say: “Well, that’s fine until they decide that it’s too rough — then they can just go back to being a straight person — which I can’t do,” — in truth — I have done it. I was in the closet for many years.

    This doesn’t apply in terms of race, AFAIC, because most people of color don’t have the convenient out of changing their skin-tone on a situational basis.

    So, for me, this whole conversation brings up for me — who is really my “ally”? Who is truly “queer”?

    Personally, I would rather consider Melissa-straight-girl, who I have personally seen confront homophobic commentors with a fearsome Kali-esque fury, as my ally, than the bland lesbian who encouraged me to dump the trannies from our movement in 1988.

  27. bluestockingsrs

    Personally, I would rather consider Melissa-straight-girl, who I have personally seen confront homophobic commentors with a fearsome Kali-esque fury, as my ally, than the bland lesbian who encouraged me to dump the trannies from our movement in 1988.

    Agreed.

    There are many people in my life who I know would not have my back in a fight -straight and gay – I only call ally those people who aren’t afraid to stand with me as an ally. The rest is lip service, it is how one behaves when the chips are down, IMO.

  28. PortlyDyke

    The rest is lip service, it is how one behaves when the chips are down, IMO.

    And likewise, bluestockings — Agreed.

  29. actualifanonlesbian

    Yes, I really think these are uneasy alliances. Two very simple examples: If I/we want to secure equal access to the rights & responsibilities that come with the legal institution of marriage, then sheer number requirements are going to require me to deal with e.g. the sexist guys (and a few, very few, sexist gals) over at the Log Cabin Republicans, mealy-mouthed heterosexual Democrats who at least sometimes avow the right principles but have very little approaching a backbone, etc. And, on the other hand, then there are times when choices need to be made and the different interests of overlapping groups come into the foreground and threaten splits. E.g. elections. Suppose the choice (& it’s not too difficult to imagine–in fact, in local elections some of us regularly face just this kind of choice) were, roughly, Andrew Sullivan (full marriage equality, anti-choice) vs Hilary Clinton (mostly pro-choice, but not pro-marriage equality). We can discuss which would be the lesser of two evils, but it would be I think foolish to pretend in such circumstances that such discussions are not informed by the fact that different things are going to make more of a difference in the differing lives of the people captured under the big tent of ‘we’re all queer’.
    As for privilege– the bitch about social privilege is that it’s just not that easy to opt out of it. Can’t be done. There are bits and pieces people can do to opt out of such privilege, as with het friends of mine who have refused to have their marriage licensed by the state until folks like me can have ours licensed by the state. And I do deeply appreciate that–it’s far more than a symbolic or rhetorical gesture. On the other hand, those het friends are not in anywhere near the position that I and my not-recoginized-by-the-state spouse are: e.g. the fact of heterosexism is such that my het friend is infinitely less likely to be denied the right to see and obtain medical information about her not-recognized by the state spouse, should he be in hospital, than I am to be denied the ability to see & obtain medical info about mine. That’s how it is. My friend can’t change that by force of will, and I take it as respectul when she acknowledges this, and would take it as hubris and ignorance if she thought she could somehow simply opt out of all such privileges.

  30. bluestockingsrs

    To do justice, we must choose to give up what we have that causes injustice to another (as much as we possibly can as it is a long list of privilege many of us enjoy).

    I am quoting myself here, because I tried to address that not all privilege can be abdicated, obviously. I am white every day of my life and my life is easier as a result. But I am 1)aware of my privilege and try to be as anti-racist as possible and 2)encourage other white people to recognize their privilege and become anti-racist.

    As background about me, I am a lawyer, who apprenticed to a GLBT family lawyer. I am as a result acutely aware of the limitations of protections for our families, even here in sunny California.

    As for alliances, I was referring to individual relationships I have with others, rather than alliances with political parties as I find both parties feckin’ useless as far as civil rights for GLBT folks go. Maybe the Democrats slightly less useless.

    It appears we were talking about two separate kinds of alliances.

  31. actualifanonlesbian

    Yes, I do think we’re talking about two different kinds of alliances. I too wouldn’t be friends with someone whom I didn’t believe would have my back in a pinch, in every sense (and I theirs). I still think I’d raise my eyebrow a bit if a het friend of mine proclaimed, say over dinner, “We’re all queer”. I wouldn’t know what he/she was exactly trying to convey, and would be uncomfortable with the way in which that language glosses over the complexities about which I’ve been speaking. But then, I’m old, and my friends are rather unlikely to use the word “queer” that way anyway.

  32. PortlyDyke

    actualifanonlesbian — I really do understand your points. I believe that the reality of day-to-day experience from inside any oppressed class cannot be fully encompassed or known by anyone who is outside that class.

    Therefore, I know that I cannot — simply cannot — truly understand the experience of, say, a transsexual person, for example.

    I would not call myself a “tranny”, or say “we’re all trannies” for this reason. If a tranny dubbed me an honorary tranny, I’d be delighted and honored (no hint intended).

    However, I believe that the thread/concept that you call the “we’re all queer rhetoric” (which was actually expressed as “as far as I am concerned everyone can identify as queer -’cause let’s face it more of us are “deviant” than not, which makes us all “queer”) was brought by a self-avowed queer, who expressed it as their own opinion (am I assuming too much, bluestockings, by naming you as a “self-avowed queer”?)

    I stopped being active in the GLBT activism community that I was involved with because of its non-inclusiveness.

    Separatist dykes told me that I couldn’t play in their arenas because my sons were male, while the local gay pride rally asked me not to sing a song because it was too explicitly lesbian-sexual. My girlfriend was nearly pummeled in a dyke-bar because she was wearing make-up, and this was a “betrayal”, somehow. I am old enough to have witnessed the birth of Queer Nation, and they left the same organizations that I did, when these organizations adopted policies that were exclusionary. These are true stories.

    Human rights activism, to me, is about connecting the dots, and understanding who has really committed to the full-meal deal that everyone — everyone! — must have the same basic human rights.

    Those are my allies — and they are queer by definition in our current culture, AFAIC.

  33. Kate217

    I just wanted to say that I feel really privileged to have the opportunity to read all this stuff, and really grateful you all share these intimate experiences in a public forum so that others can be enriched by them.

    Trust Liss to say exactly what I’m thinking, only much more eloquently.

    The only TS who I know that I know (I’m well aware that I may know others) was outed to me my a mutual acquaintance who knew him pre-op. Yes, I am a little awkward around him but only because I don’t know whether he wants people to know and I haven’t said anything about it. I’m assuming that knowing we have several mutual contacts who knew him before, he assumes that I know, but I’m not certain of that. Quite frankly, I feel that it actuall is “none of my business,” but not in that uncomfortable “OMG, I really don’t want to have to deal with that knowledge” way. My only opinion about his transformation is a great sadness that he had to live so many years in a body that didn’t fit him and sincere joy that technology and financial status allowed him to change that.

    Quite frankly, regardless of gender identification, I think he’s terrific. He’s intelligent, interesting, personable and funny. As none of those things is affected by his plumbing, I really don’t see why it should make a damn bit of difference to anyone. If his wife doesn’t mind, why should anyone else?

    The only other “outing” that I’ve experienced was in college. A dear friend of mine took me out to lunch and seemed really depressed and preoccupied. When he finally told me that he was gay, my response of “so?” totally floored him. We weren’t sleeping together so I didn’t see that it affected me at all. Poor guy, I didn’t find out until much later that I was the first person he’d told who hadn’t rejected him because of it – thus the depression and preoccupation, he thought he’d never see me again. (His own family carted him back to the old country to try to straighten him out. Idiots.)

    I still don’t get why people feel the need to control other people. I.just.dont.get.it.

  34. actualifanonlesbian

    PD– I appreciate all that. I suppose it’s a matter, partly, of “your mileage may differ” (as the kids these days say). My experience w/ Queer Nation and other such organizations in those days was the flip side of your experience w/ LBGT groups, in this sense– for all the proclaimed “inclusiveness” , mysteriously (not), the activities of these groups were somehow nearly always aligned with the interests of white upper middle class gay *men*, and attempts to suggest that true ‘inclusiveness’ might just involve actually spending time and money on other things–matters that have disparately high impact on, e.g., people who do not generally have sex with men, &/or people who have breasts, as well those matters which have disparately high impact on the lives of white gay men, were met with complaints or just ignored.
    Which just goes to show you–none of this is easy.

  35. PortlyDyke

    OK — this is just for the amusement of the trannies who are reading.

    Back in my “activist” days, I worked with a truly inclusive coalition that included a trans organization. Their prez and vice-prez attended the weekly coalition meetings, and in those young and tender days, I just kept thinking “Isn’t it nice that the tranny org has such a nice young republican straight boy working as their vice-prez? That’s so cool — I wonder if he has a sibling who is trans.”

    Duh. That nice young straight boy was FTM and I totally missed it. When I finally figured it out, I was just floored with the process of integrating the awareness of my own assumptions — this was a major consciousness re-set for me.

    Keep coming out. It works!

  36. PortlyDyke, I like you. 😀

  37. PortlyDyke

    Mutual, I’m sure.

  38. I know I’m coming late to the posting party (been interning then working since 8 this AM) but I just had to comment on this one. Thank-you Brynn and thank-you everyone for the stories that you freely share! In his mid-60’s my dad is finally beginning to come to terms with being trans (I don’t think he’s entirely out even to himself, and definitely not to anyone else, even though both my brother and I have known since we were kids). He hasn’t talked about it much with either of us, and I don’t know if he knows yet what/how much he will do as far as transitioning, but witnessing his struggle to accept this part of himself he has done everything to destroy for six decades has done more to heal the horrible, crappy relationship he and I have had than years of therapy has ever done . Reading such beautiful and courageous insights here humbles me all over again and inspires me to keep working for a better world. Yeah, a bit corny, I know. But true nonetheless. So…thanks, and peace.

  39. Brynn

    but witnessing his struggle to accept this part of himself he has done everything to destroy for six decades has done more to heal the horrible, crappy relationship he and I have had than years of therapy has ever done .

    Ok, adventuregrrl, you’ve reduced me to tears first thing on a rainy Dublin Saturday morning…Wow.

    Bless your father, and you and your brother. It’s never too late. Just keep loving and supporting and helping one another.

    And thank you, Melissa–whose because I’m only an honorary dyke and so I have nothing to add couldn’t be further from the truth! You have not only created and nourished this incredible website–under terrible personal assault from reactionary forces, I might add–but you continually provide valuable, enlightening insight into every issue of interest or concern to LGBTQ folk on an ongoing basis.

    I couldn’t agree more with Portly Dyke (and I like you, too, btw!): Personally, I would rather consider Melissa-straight-girl, who I have personally seen confront homophobic commentors with a fearsome Kali-esque fury, as my ally, than the bland lesbian who encouraged me to dump the trannies from our movement in 1988. Only I’d substitute a line of various lesbian-gay identified folks who have thrown me overboard throughout the years.

    Thank you, Portly Dyke, actualifanonlesbian, bluestockingsrs, Kate217, Moira and all the others who have contributed to make this an incredible thread. I’m mulling over a lot of what has been said, and may post something further on the topic in the future.

  40. Pingback: Daily Round-Up at Shakesville

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