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Out of the closet

I recently came out as trans to all 528 Facebook friends of mine. Not trans as in "woman trapped in a man's body" but as in non-binary/genderqueer (don't identify with the male gender I was assigned at birth)... which I only recently realized was a type of trans. (I included some photos of myself which I would normally not have put on Facebook due to them being too explicitly femme).

It went really really well... 168 likes (so far, still kind of rolling in after 3 days), 57 positive encouraging accepting comments, 0 negative comments (possibly only because I threatened to delete them if they appeared) and miraculously, I don't think anyone removed me as a friend. (Just for comparison, I think I got around 120 likes when my spouse and I announced that we got married, which was second only to this.) So yay!

This feels like a huge relief, and a big taste of freedom that I haven't had before. I'm so used to keeping this inside and trying to hide. I still haven't spoken with my parents directly about the fact that I'm out (and going to be much more out, in terms of public appearance) now. They know I'm genderqueer, assuming they understood everything I told them 2 years ago, but this may still be somewhat shocking to them that I'm really going to live an openly non-binary lifestyle now. Hopefully that goes smoothly, I imagine it could be more mixed than how things went with my Facebook friends. At the least, they may grill me with a lot of questions I feel awkward about answering... but I know that I should, so they can understand more.

What do I mean by "out as non-binary"? This may not seem like as big of a deal as it is, but it's a pretty big life change for me. I guess the mildest version of "out" could just mean letting people know a secret about me (how I identify internally) that most people in my life never knew before. But what I'm doing is much more radical than that.

Being forced to live within the construct of male gender has caused me to do a lot of inauthentic things in my life, caused me to hide and constrained me in big ways that I will no longer be constrained by.

The most obvious is clothing. I really have never liked male clothing at all. I hate wearing it. There is some clothing that's super girly that I also don't like, but overall I much prefer wearing women's clothing to men's. All of the clothes I've bought within the past year are either explicitly feminine or androgynous. I recently filled a bag for donation with male clothes I want to get rid of. This doesn't mean I see myself as a woman necessarily (although at this point I do think of myself as a bit more on the feminine side than the masculine side if it were a 1-dimensional spectrum, which it's not).

Clothing may seem like it's just external, but it affects a lot of other things too. Consciously or unconsciously, I behave pretty differently when I'm wearing male clothing versus female clothing. I move differently, I speak differently. It's subtle, but pretty noticeable if you're paying attention. Most of it is not even intentional on my part--I think we just all automatically imitate a different role depending on how we're dressed and how other people treat us. And other people treat me differently too when I'm dressed differently, which is another huge thing I'm looking forward to. Most of all, I feel a lot more relaxed when I'm in female clothing. Well, as long as I am not in a situation where I'm worried someone might be judging me or want to attack me (like walking past strangers late at night in a sketchy neighborhood). When I'm among friends, I just feel way more comfortable in femme-leaning mode. Especially when I'm near cis-men, who otherwise might be trying to "hey bro" me which always makes me feel extremely uncomfortable.

Another really big thing is my name. I have a very male sounding name, one which I've hated since I was a little kid--always did. It's kind of amazing I didn't realize until my 30's that I was genderqueer, because I remember exactly why I didn't like it when I was little--it was because it seemed to masculine for me. I thought that as a kid, and I even fantasized at some point about changing it when I grew up. But by the time I had finished high school I had gotten so used to it and accepted the more practical reality that... that was my name, and people don't just go around changing their names because they want one they like better. That sounded insane and totally impractical. But now at 40, I have so many friends who have transitioned, some from male to female, some from female to male, and others from one or the other to non-binary, nearly all of them changing their name in the process... that it seems much more practical and a thing that lots of people do if they're not comfortable with the gender of their name. At least where I live, in the SF bay area, it's become pretty socially acceptable, whereas I don't think it was back in the 1980's. I never heard anyone talk about that stuff as a kid, honestly.

Up until now I've often worn female clothing to specific events, and the number of queer-friendly events I attend where that seems appropriate has increased a lot in frequency over the past couple years. But I've always worn male clothing to things like a doctor's office appointment, to go shopping for groceries, get the oil changed in the car, etc. It will be a huge step for me to start doing things like that wearing female clothing, although this part will go somewhat gradually as I throw away more male clothing and continue to buy more female. I've already started dressing femme to go to parties at friends' houses, even when I expect everyone else at the party to be cis. And that has gone great--I went to 2 this weekend, and felt 100% comfortable. I answered questions for people and started giving people my new name (which has actually been my name on livejournal since I signed up here in Jan 2003: Domino, and discussing and practicing pronouns with them, etc. (It goes back further though, I chose Domino Plural when I was 17 while I was in the BBS scene as a handle. Also used it as a playa name one year at Burning Man.)

However, I did go to a dermatologist appointment and chickened out when it came to filling out the form. For "sex" they had M, F, and T for the choices... and I so wanted to circle T, but for some reason I didn't feel like having a whole long conversation about gender with the doctor... I was paying for his valuable time to give me advice on my excema, and just didn't need that as a distraction for either he or I. Hopefully when I get more used to be out everywhere else, I will be out in this way as well(*), just need a little more time I guess. And I'll have thought more about what the quickest way is to explain myself and my identity without it leading to further questions.

Another thing I plan to do as soon as possible is laser hair removal for certain parts of my body. My chest barely grows any hair, so I just shave it off immediately as soon as it starts to grow. I sometimes do that with my legs as well, but I'm less diligent of that and usually they end up being hairy again in short order... it gets tiring. My arms I'm almost always too lazy to shave. But I'm going to look into permanently killing the hair in all 3 areas, if possible. Haven't really explored what the available options are yet.

Not planning on taking any hormones, at least not in the near future. I seem to have naturally high enough estrogen levels that my physical body is already pretty noticeably androgynous (for example, I have A-B cup breasts), skinny arms, and a few curves in the right places. If for some reason I still end up feeling awkward even after all the other lifestyle things I'm changing, hormones are not completely off the table, but I'd have to think about it a lot more and talk more with a psychologist about whether that would be a good idea for me. I think my voice (very deep) is the thing I'm most uncomfortable with that hormones might be useful for... or maybe growing less hair in general. But there might be other options there. I don't have much problem with my body shape... most of my dysphoria is related to my height, which I doubt there is anything I can do about.

So that's the plan... pretty exciting stuff. I have this great feeling right now that the hardest part of life is now over for me, and that things will get a lot easier from here. I know, that's probably very naive, but I've been enjoying thinking that and feeling that this whole weekend... whether it's true or not.

(*) Update: Today I went clothing shopping, then got blood work done at a lab, and then grocery shopping by myself... all wearing a skirt and blouse. Nobody asked any questions. Maybe this is not going to take me a long time to get used to after all.

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