My coming out letter, draft #2

Here’s the second draft of my coming out letter that incorporates feedback from some folks on here and Twitter, and that I’ve talked to in person. I’ve reduced it by almost 600 words and backed off the combative tone, hopefully making it more approachable to a wider audience.

Thank you to everyone who provided feedback on the first version!


Hi everyone,

I have been endeavoring to become a happier, more content person[1] the past few years and I’d like to share that endeavor with you now.

My family, friends, and accomplishments have and continue to generate great happiness for me. At the same time, I’ve struggled with persistent feelings of discontent since childhood that have injected background notes of anguish into the symphony of my life.

It has taken my lifetime so far to identify, confront, accept, and build and effect a plan to address these feelings and move beyond them. One step on my path to further happiness is letting my guard down and no longer hiding an intrinsic part of myself.

I’m transgender.[2] I will begin living my life openly as a woman before the year is out[3], change my name to Heather, and be referred to by the female pronouns of she, her, and hers.

To be honest, I find having to write a coming out letter simultaneously embarrassing and irksome.

I wish I could just change my name, go about my business as myself, and everyone would go, “Oh! How about that,” before returning to what they were doing. But coming out as trans still seems necessary to remind some that I am a human being worthy of respect, not someone to be teased, harassed, hated, or killed.

That may sound like hyperbole, but persistent transphobia is why 41% of transgender people attempt suicide (compared to 1.6% of the general population), and 61% have experienced physical and 64% sexual assault.[4]

I’m fully aware that I and others like me stir feelings in some that engage their flight or fight reflex, transmuting it into anger, bullying, physical or sexual violence, or murder. Then there are those that discount, cheerlead, or mock our troubles, suicides, and murders.

I know they’re out there and I’ll be keeping my eyes open for them. I choose to pursue happiness in spite of the danger they present.

Speaking of choice, being transgender isn’t one, nor is it a mental illness. Evidence continues to accumulate and point to atypical prenatal hormone washes that drive sexual differentiation creating a brain/body mismatch.[5]

Okay. This may have been a lot to take in. Thanks for sticking with me this far!

You may have questions—I may have answers.

Questions akin to, “Have you had/will you have ‘the surgery’?”[6] will have answers like me blinking at you as I work on a tactful reply to a tactless question. Unless we’re close, asking about surgical procedures planned or completed is right up there with somebody you don’t know well asking if you’ve had prostate surgery or a hysterectomy.

Other questions I may be more open to answering. I do reserve the right to decide what questions are fair game and which are out-of-bounds.

If you’d like to talk just to talk or if you’re interested in learning more about this whole trans thing, let’s have coffee, lunch, or catch up on the phone if we haven’t spoken in a while.

That would make me happy. 🙂

Warm regards,
Heather


[1] 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.

[2] A long digression on terminology:

The politics of gender language are fraught and encode all sorts of social meaning, power, and injustice. I’ll skip most of that here and hit the highlights.

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.

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

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 you are revealing yourself to be a prejudiced bigot.

[3] Likely summer 2015. This is not a decision 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 trans was much, much different then. I’ve spent the intervening years thinking and studying, and the past two preparing.

[4] See http://endtransdiscrimination.org/PDFs/NTDS_Exec_Summary.pdf.

[5] 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.

[6] 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, which it most definitely is not. Furthermore, there are many different surgical options for trans people.

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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.

One Response to My coming out letter, draft #2

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

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