My coming out letter, draft #1

My draft coming out letter is below and I’m looking for feedback on length, tone, spelling, or whatever you think about it. I’m expecting to circulate this to my personal and professional networks and at work.

If you find something useful in the below and would like to borrow it, please feel free! If you post it online, I’d appreciate a credit and a link back to my blog.

So what do you think?


I’d like to share my endeavor of happiness with you.

Happiness is subjective, yet most measures of happiness are directly correlated to social connectedness. We humans are social creatures, and social isolation can lead to negative mental states and shave years off of our lives. Coupling social connections with positive intents moves happiness towards contentment.

While my family and friends generate great happiness in my life and I’ve achieved several measures of career success that have brought me happiness over the years, I have often reverted to a mean of low happiness due to a self-imposed social isolation. For decades now, I have consistently pulled back from personal connections with other people due to fear.

The fear was instilled at a young age from soft and hard rains of chides, taunts, shaming, ridicule, and bullying. Opening up and being myself received so much negative attention from my family and the world at large that I came to fear almost any attention at all. Growing up, there were no social models to look to for guidance. Worse, the people I discovered I had a passing affinity with were publicly ridiculed as freaks and regularly dehumanized.

Given that landscape, it was safer to compartmentalize and hide away certain thoughts and feelings I had and withdraw from anything more than superficial relationships so that I wouldn’t inadvertently expose myself.

The loneliness from this public hermitage stalked me from childhood and followed me into adulthood. It has taken my lifetime so far to place, confront, accept, and build a plan to address it.

The plan is my endeavor of happiness.

My goal is to be happier by ending my self-imposed social isolation. The social isolation came from hiding something intrinsic about myself and being guarded for fear of disclosure. Ergo, the path to my happiness starts with letting down my guard and being open about who I am.

So here goes. (I’ve tried to bury the lede as far as I can, which is a great signal of how hard this is for me to talk about publicly, but I can’t dither any longer.)

I’m transgender[1], will begin living my life as a woman instead of a man before the year is out[2], I will be changing my name to Heather, and I wish to be addressed by or referred to with that name and female pronouns (she/her/hers).

In a better world, I wouldn’t have to write something like this. I could just change my name and start living my life more authentically and everyone would go, “Oh!” before returning to doing what they were doing. Alas, the gender transition journey is still somewhat novel and some explanation and ground rules are necessary for my and your comfort.

For some of you, this may be a complete surprise. For others, the has penny just dropped. The rest of you are probably, “Took you long enough to come out! Who won the betting pool?”

Having selectively disclosed myself over the past eighteen years[3] to a variety of people and being familiar with hundreds of other trans people’s journeys, you have also likely just sorted yourself into one or more of five camps:

  1. “Good for you!”
  2. “Yeah, okay. Whatever floats your boat.”
  3. “Would you like to go out on a date?” <wink wink, nudge nudge>
  4. “You’re delusional and a freak.”
  5. “It’s against God’s will, and your everlasting soul is damned.”

Camps 1 and 2, we’re good. I know that we might have some awkward or embarrassing moments together in the future and that it will be no big deal. We’ll laugh about those moments later.

Camp 3, please read footnote 1 extremely closely. Besides, I’m married, and do you often proposition people this way?[4]

Camps 4 and 5. Sigh. I’ve learned that no amount of sincere conversation or scholarly research will likely budge you from your beliefs and your covert and overt disgust/hate/repulsion of my lived experience.

Just so we’re clear, I know that I and others like me stir feelings in you that make you so uncomfortable, that I will for the rest of my life be constantly vigilant in looking out for people like you and your verbal and physical attacks. I know this because your transphobia is why 41% of transgender people attempt suicide, and that 61% have experienced physical assault and 64% sexual assault by your hands.[5]

I see you.

You are at best bullies, as evidenced by your attacks on us and cheering on and mocking our suicides and deaths, and at worst sexual offenders and murderers. You are known by the company you keep. Just remember that it’s your choice.

Speaking of choice, being transgender isn’t one. Evidence continues to accumulate that points to brain/body mismatches due to irregular prenatal hormone washes that determine sex.[6]

Okay. This has been a lot of take in. Thanks for sticking with me this far!

You may have further questions; I may have answers.

You may have questions like: “Are you sure this is going to make you happy?” They’ll have answers like: “I’m really expecting and hoping it will, but nothing in life is guaranteed, is it?”

Questions akin to: “Have you had/will you have ‘the surgery’?”[7] will have answers like me blinking at you as I work on a tactful reply to a tactless question. Unless we’re close or I volunteer it, asking about surgical procedures planned or completed is right up there with somebody you don’t know asking you if you’ve had prostate surgery or a hysterectomy. It’s rude.

On a lighter note, if you’d like to talk just to talk or if you’re genuinely interested in learning more about this whole trans thing, let’s have coffee or lunch.[8]

That would make me happy. 🙂

Heather


[1] A long digression on terminology:

For myself, I am comfortable with either trans or transgender.

The word transgender is a late 20th century invention, as is the term transsexual. The word cloud around the trans- prefix when referring to gender-variant people still hasn’t solidified, and the past twenty years in particular have seen rapid changes in terminology.

Many are starting to use “trans*” or just “trans” to reflect the totality of the word cloud. In usage with gender descriptors, trans is also used as an adjective (never a noun); e.g. – trans woman, not transwoman.

In the past decade, those in the transgender community and many in the medical community have come to use cisgender to identify people who are not transgender. The prefix cis- means “on the side of” and is considered the opposite of trans- “across, beyond”. If you hear this term, it is neither trans people’s slang nor pejorative.

One example in terminology changes over the years is the use of “tranny” or “trannie”. Used commonly and considered neutral few decades ago, it is now seen as a slur. I happen to personally agree with that as I’m in the camp that feels that word is often associated with violence against trans people.

One term that you will find that almost every trans-feminine person detests is she-male. Besides it being vulgar, it is exclusively used in the porn industry, and referring to someone as one reinforces the sexualization trope of the transgender experience and reduces an often difficult personal journey to a sexual fetish.

As far as I’m concerned, those two words are dehumanizing and if you use either of them outside of the context of examining structural hate, it indicates your willingness to other me and people like me, and you are in the same camp of people use that use the word nigger or faggot; in other words, prejudiced.

The politics of language around gender are fraught and encode all sorts of social meaning, power, and injustice.

[2] Likely late June, 2015.

[3] This is not exactly a decision that I’ve jumped to. In fact, I almost transitioned in 2000, but the demands of running a startup were all-consuming and I was terrified I wouldn’t be able to raise any more money for it, and the social climate for being transgender was much, much different then. I’ve spent the past fifteen years thinking and studying, and the past two preparing.

[4] If you’re serious about dating a trans woman, which many people are uncomfortable doing openly so good on you, I can suggest some places to look. If you’re looking for an “experience”, move along.

[5] See http://endtransdiscrimination.org/PDFs/NTDS_Exec_Summary.pdf. The bitter irony is that you hate us so much, you want to sexually assault us. You confused, bro?

[6] See http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0083947 and http://cercor.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2014/09/12/cercor.bhu194.full for (relatively) approachable papers.

[7] Besides being rude, it reduces a complex, nuanced, lived social experience down to an “innie” or an “outie” discussion and reinforces stereotypes that this is all about genitalia and sex. Furthermore, there are many different surgical options for trans people. Furthermore, many trans people either can’t afford or do not want (for various reasons) any surgical interventions.

[8] I, of course, reserve the right to decide what questions are fair game and which are out of bounds.

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About cistotrans

A Seattle-area trans woman seeking a happy spot to stay at along the path of transition.
This entry was posted in coming out, transition and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to My coming out letter, draft #1

  1. Nour S says:

    Hey Heather, coming out is really a major step, best of luck to you girl .. I have three comments if i may to the draft ..

    1. You had quite lengthy and very vague yet emotional start for your letter, and then BANG .. and it may be misinterpreted by some as justification, or just “oh you had such a bad childhood, that’s why you want to transition?” Personally i’d explain the transgender concept, why it’s so hard to live with everyday, and how you tried so hard to live with it ..
    2. you gave camps 4 and 5 more than they’re worth, a simple “that would be your own opinion, keep it to yourself” would do, this letter is supposed to be to the ones who truly accept you, and glimpse of light for those who want to know more .. but the last two camps, well, they’re simply not worth it
    3. Speaking of allies, you should elaborate more on how to be a good ally to you, a small line for using the correct pronounes is not enough, what about referring back to your history? What about them introducing you to others? What about greetings (hand shakes vs. Hugs vs. Kissing)? You need to elaborate what’s okay, what’s acceptable, and what’s not so you don’t be surprised by situations some people may not be able to act properly and the answer would be “you didn’t tell me” .. you know what i mean??

    Also prepare yourself to questions of type, what about your wife? Questions about sexual oriantation, like “are you bi? Or lesbian? Or what?”

    Please bear in mind this is only me thinking out loud .. i really wish you all the luck and love in the world ..
    Love,
    Nour

    Like

    • cistotrans says:

      Thank you, Nour! This is some great feedback. On the camps 4 and 5, I’m expecting that this will also be used at work, and there are a few people I want to get out in front of and rally some fence-sitters to my side. I hear what you’re saying about not putting too much energy there.

      I do need to find a way to re-structure to pull the trans stuff up and shorten it. It’s overlong at 1,500+ words!

      Hugs,
      Heather

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: My coming out letter, draft #2 | Becoming Me

  3. Pingback: Coming out letter, draft #3 | Becoming Me

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