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Lately I’ve been feeling like I’m stuck on a window ledge with a fire burning in the room behind, and smoke clouding the view below. I can’t go back, and I can’t stay where I am. I can’t tell if it’s safe to jump, or where I will land.
But I must jump.
The weekend just gone, I took a 400 mile round trip to see my parents, and came out. It was -fittingly – on leap day (29th February) that I decided to make my first leap into the unknown.
Their reaction was much more loving and supportive than I expected, particularly when I think back to how they handled my last coming out attempt at 19. Mum and Dad were conservative Christians, but now liberal Christians. They’ve grown a lot in understanding over the last decades, in particular seeing how the rigid faith they (and others) raised me in has hurt friend after friend, and family after family. So much suffering. So much self-hatred. So much wasted life.
Anyway it was good to talk and have some loving ears listening. But they are now really worried too: about me, about my children (especially my son), about how my ex will react, about whether my ex in-laws will stir up trouble again. All the things I’ve been worrying about too. All that billowing smoke which made my leap day journey a leap of faith, and the landing a still unknown.
I’ve also booked to see a therapist next week. And an LGBT contact at work tomorrow. I’ve prepared some folders and videos to try – somehow – to help my children understand.
It is all starting to look very real. It is terrifying.
One real sadness from the weekend. I still have two surviving grandparents, in their nineties. My grandmother is losing her memory. My grandfather is nearly blind, nearly deaf and very frail. He is as reactionary and bigoted as ever. I dressed as myself on Sunday morning, but my mum and dad had already told them I was going to be up for the weekend, so I learned they wanted to see me.
Except they didn’t want to see the real me. They wanted to see the fake me, the self who’s been hiding me and smothering me. My mum and dad insisted I stripped off and re-clothed as my fake self, to present as their grandson one more time. It is indescribable how painful that felt. I could go 400 miles to come out, but not a further 400 yards. My parents used my male name all day. I’d asked them not to. I think maybe they couldn’t or had forgotten.
On the drive home, my head almost exploded. I stopped at a Starbucks for coffee, and almost reflexively gave my male name to write on the cup and then hated myself again. Inside I was screaming “I am Sophie. I am Sophie. Please call me Sophie”. Then the server looked a bit surprised. With my hair out, my silk scarf, and my female jeans, I probably looked more like Sophie, and he would have happily said “Madam” instead.
This is what coming out feels like. As I fall through the choking smoke, I am – at last – also starting to breathe.
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