Welcome Pan, a friend and new writer for the site! Today’s article is about coming out, and the stress surrounding it. Feel free to comment, or email Casey! Thank you!
Coming out. It’s kind of a rite of passage in the LGBT+ community that involves disclosing a part of one’s identity be it sexual orientation or gender identity, perhaps even both. The whole thing results from cis-heteronormativity; we are all expected to be cisgender and heterosexual until we say otherwise. It probably works for many people, but for those of us who it doesn’t, we probably wish we weren’t expected to be anything but ourselves.So what does it mean to come out as nonbinary? Well, in the most basic definition, coming out as nonbinary would mean telling someone about identifying as nonbinary. However, coming out is generally more complicated than that. First, there are reactions to worry about. Will who I am telling be accepting, or will they hate me? This can be especially scary if this person has significant influence over your life, like a parent for instance. While there are a range of reactions, there are sort of three main categories: good, apathetic, and negative. A good reaction would be acceptance, an apathetic reaction would be when someone basically ignores it and continues as normal, while a bad reaction could result in violence be it physical, verbal, or otherwise. It is completely normal to fear a bad reaction, but what if you are fairly confidant the reaction won’t be bad but are still afraid to come out?
Well, secondly we have to wonder, will I be understood? While nonbinary identities are not new to the twenty-first century, they are severely underrepresented. Not many people will know what it means. Even with some explanation, it can be hard to understand without feeling it yourself. Understanding is independent of the kind of reaction you get. Someone can be loving and supporting and still not understand. While the support is much appreciated, one can still end up feeling alone after coming out if they feel they aren’t understood.
There also seems to be this expectation that when coming out as trans* or nonbinary one should have a transition plan all set in place and a name and pronouns all picked out. This is something I struggle with. I know what medical steps I want to take in my nonbinary transition, but I am unsure if I want to change my name or request different pronouns. I wonder, why even come out if all I am going to say is, “I’m trans,” and then offer nothing more. What expectations do I have of the people I tell? Coming out is built up to be this big thing, but all I want is for my family to know, I don’t want it to be a big deal. It can be hard for me to accept that coming out is about sharing something personal about me and that people who care about me shouldn’t need anything more than that. It is okay not to have it all figured out and still come out.
Coming out as nonbinary has a unique side as well. Socially, there is really only male and female. When we see someone on the street our brains attempt to categorize them as “male” or “female” despite what they might actually be. Passing as nonbinary isn’t much of a thing. We will almost always be messengered one way or another, and we either have to accept this will happen or constantly come out to every person we meet. Honestly, coming out that much sounds exhausting.
So, what is my experience with coming out as nonbinary, specifically agender? Well my friends were all accepting, even if not understanding it. One of my friends knew almost absolutely nothing about the difference between gender, sex, and sexual orientation. Now she is minoring in gender studies. Another of my friends was confused at first and didn’t understand why I would transition. This was short lived, however. I am very lucky to have such amazing and supportive friends.
Coming out to doctors and therapists has been scary for me, but only had positive results. It can be intense to come out to your doctor, but generally they will want to help you.
As for coming out to my family, I have only told my parents and sibling. I got somewhat mixed reactions. My dad was accepting, but it took him a little while. He didn’t have a negative reaction, rather he just seemed overwhelmed by everything. After a couple weeks of collecting himself, he was very supportive and was suggesting names for me and asking me about all kinds of transition related things. It stressed me out for a little while, because I kept trying to communicate that I am not a boy, and that message took some time to get through. I think he more or less gets it now. My mom reacted well at first, but then she seemed to go into denial about it for a while. I have known for a long time I want top surgery and while talking about it she would be very quiet and just say, “I see.” She is accepting overall but definitely doesn’t understand it. My sibling is completely fine, no bad reaction there. Maybe slight confusion at first, but it was easily cleared up.
My extended family is who I am afraid to tell. I know they won’t understand. I have considered just telling them I am a trans man, because they would at least understand that a little more. But then, how can I tell them that and not give them a male name to use? If I come out as nonbinary, will they ignore it and continue on as usual? Often, as a nonbinary person, I don’t feel trans enough. This can complicate coming out, because one might feel the need to “play up” their “trans-ness” in order to be accepted.
So I guess if your planning on coming out as nonbinary just consider a few things:
1. Am I safe? What will I do if there is a bad reaction?
2. How will I tell people? Should I write a letter? Should I tell them in person? Do I want to come out to everyone or a few people?
3. What are the expectations I have for others? Do I want to go by another name or pronouns, or do I just want to be accepted? What advice can I give on being a good ally?
4. Do I want to explain what my identity means, or just explain that I am questioning? What do I want others to understand about me?
Just remember, you get to choose when to come out, and if you don’t want to that is okay too. But if you do want to, then also know that even if you feel insignificant the people who really love will won’t find something you feel is important about you to be insignificant.