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What I am about to discuss is how I came out and my thought process behind what I did. It is important to note that I do not recommend what I did. The reason for this is the coming out is a very personal experience. It needs to be “right” for each person, and that doesn’t mean that what one person did will suit another person and their particular circumstances. Also, bear in mind that more than likely, the process is never done as people come into, and exit, our lives all of the time. Each time we need to consider how much, or how little, we will reveal of ourselves to them.
At the beginning of 2015, I started attending a CD/TG group once a month in Rochester, NY (90 miles from my home). It was held at a gay bar and the group basically took over the “back room”. At the time, I considered myself a crossdresser. It was essentially a social group. Out of the usual 12 to 14 people that showed up, most were crossdressers with may be 3 who considered themselves to be transgender and were actively gearing up for transitioning. They were pretty varied in terms of backgrounds and occupations. I felt reasonably comfortable and only missed 1 or 2 gatherings until I retired and relocated to California at the beginning of February 2016.
By springtime, I was invited to attended a twice a monthly gathering in Geneva, NY (55 miles from my home). It was more support group than social group, but we did venture out to restaurants on occasion. The structure of the group was similar; mostly crossdressers and a few beginning to transition. As I became more comfortable being myself, eventually it became more apparent that I was more transgender than crossdresser.
In parallel to his, I was a member of our employee affinity group at Corning called SPECTRA. By the time that I retired I had been a member of the group for 12 years, although 6 of that was spent working out of the country.
For the previous several years, the group planned an entertainment event in the Fall that was free to the public. In prior years we brought in Suzanne Westenhoefer (2x), Marga Gomez, Alec Mapa and the Calamari Sisters (a regional comedy duo, think Gallagher meets Emeril). In 2015 I was part of the event planning committee and we made a deal with Ian Harvie, who was our first transgender performer. The Saturday after the contract was finalized, I was siting in my kitchen and surfing the Internet with my iPad. Out of the blue, the thought hit me that I should volunteer to be the Mistress of Ceremonies as DeeAnn.
At our next general meeting, I told the group:
”I want to volunteer to be the MC for the event. I identify as transgender and I want to do it as my alter ego, DeeAnn.”
There was silence across the 10-12 people present. It seemed like an eternity, but was probably only a few seconds. The response was:
”Yes, Do That!”
”That Will Be REALLY Good!”
Afterwards, what I realized was that I had never discussed orientation and identity with any of the members, so this was my first coming out. Bear in mind that the group was made up of LGBT folks and allies, so no one had ever asked.
We had about a month to go until the event and I started to think about what I was going to wear. I also started to think about who I was going to talk to and what I was going to tell them. Note that my wife wasn’t part of the equation as she knows everything about me and what I do.
First, I talked to my kids. They lived in Atlanta and Chicago, so it was 2 separate phone calls. Many years ago, it occurred to me that I need to be as straightforward as possible when I need to talk about a significant topic. At the time, my daughter was 40 and my son was 34. Once again, similar to what I said to the SPECTRA group, my message was clear and simple. After a few moments to process and a question or two, it was all good and I talked about the upcoming event. At the end of both conversations I was happy with how they went.
Next I talked to the guy who was my department manager at the time. Same message, but no questions. In retrospect, I think once he realized that this was just informational and that I wasn’t asking for anything, it was OK.
Over the next period of time I talked to 7 or 8 close friends. In each case the message was the same. There were 3 guys that I’ve known for close to 20 years and are my contemporaries. One asked if I had photos, which I certainly did! The response was positive.
That left my ex-wife, my father and my brother.
I decided against discussing this with my ex-wife. I could see any number of ways the conversation could go and I just didn’t want to invest the energy. We divorced in 2003, so I also didn’t see the necessity.
My brother also lives in Ohio. He tends to get excitable about things, so I feel that we need to be physically together and not over the phone. He’s coming here next month and we’re going to the IndyCar weekend at Laguna Seca. It will be just the two of us so I’m planning to have the conversation then.
So far, I have not had the conversation with my father. About a month before I did the MC gig, he turned 90. At that time, I was 67. I’m pretty sure that the news would not go over well. But, what occurred to me was that if things go sideways, neither one of us might not have enough time to straighten things out. Now, had this been 10 years or so before 2015, I would not have had the same concern. This is how the conscious thought that I talk about comes into play. My father is WW2 Navy and I understand how he views the world. I could just blurt out my reality, but there is a very high probability that it would not go well and neither will it end well. Such are our collective personalities.
The only others might be my mother and my stepmother, but my mother passed away 40+ years ago and my stepmother found out via an inadvertent Facebook photo. We have talked, but I don’t know if she tolerates the situation or just chooses not to get into it.
In all cases, what is important to me is for people to hear what I’m saying and to understand that I am telling my reality as I see it. I work to manage the conversation so that it doesn’t go off the rails. I answer any questions that come up as straightforwardly as I can. It is important to me to be as honest as I can and for people to hear the words from me. I don’t want them running off and spouting half-truths or stuff tainted by their prejudices of repeating hearsay. I’m a firm believer in this statement:
“In the absence of information, people tend to make up their own.”.
That is the last thing that I want to happen.
There is a quote from Rachel Maddow that continues to have meaning for me:
”The single best thing about coming out of the closet is that nobody can insult you by telling you what you’ve just told them.”.
Anyway, the point is that whatever you decide to do, do it from a good place of conscious thought and that it suits you and your circumstances. That is why I say solve the equation for yourself.
As Rick Nelson said in “Garden Party”:
“You see, ya can’t please everyone, so ya got to please yourself.”
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