Later this week, and all through this weekend, I’ll be visiting my dad. This is going to be the first time he’s seen me since I started hormone therapy almost a year ago (I saw him last about 2 months before starting). And in all honesty, I’m nervous about this trip, not knowing what to expect from him, not knowing how he’ll react. Sure, I came out when I was 16, 12 years ago, but there’s a world of difference between saying “I’m trans” and it finally being visible as I change from his son into his daughter, in his eyes.
This is not some random, unfounded worry, nor is it specific to me with just my dad. As trans people, we don’t just have one “coming out” with our friends and family. We do it in stages. First, we actually come out. Then they have to deal with us wearing clothing appropriate to our identified gender. Then we go through hormonal changes. Changes in voice, facial hair, smell… all of these are things that they must adapt to as well. In a way, even coming out as gay has stages of coming out (unless your closet is made of glass). First, the telling them, then comes the later sudden change of them seeing you with a same sex partner.
The difference is that gender non-conformity is a much bigger issue in society, or rather it’s less visible on a larger scale (but more visible on an individual scale), and people tend to freak out about it. If I tell people I’m gay, they’ll respond with something like “well, yeah, we kinda guessed that, when do we get to meet your boyfriend?” If I tell them that I’m asexual, they’ll be confused by what that means and ask questions, but accept it (generally, some will say things like “it’s just a phase” or “you just need to find the right person”). But if I tell them I’m a woman, even with as androgynous as I look now (on the slightly more feminine side), their response will be something along the lines of “wait, what? Are you sure you’re not just gay?”
So having repeated reminders of it, what appear to be major changes to others, is like coming out all over again. Before, my being trans for my dad was something far off in a possible future (it took him about 5-6 years to accept that it’s not a phase), but now it’s something real, here and now. He’ll be forced to deal with it much faster and sooner than he may be ready for. The way he reacts may be vastly different than it has been in the past. He may suddenly become more supportive, finally seeing me happy. He may suddenly freak out and decide to have nothing to do with me ever again until I’m ready to go back to being his son (which I never will). The fact is, we never know which way someone will go or how they react when we come out to them, or when we go through any of the major changes in our lives. Matt addressed this issue a year ago with a reader whose sister had been the most supportive until hormones and then began showing concerns over the process. It happens.
Also, many of us end up losing friends and family members because of our transitions. When regrets come up later on down the road, it’s rarely regrets over transition itself, but regrets over the loss of friends, family, jobs, etc. we are forced to deal with because of the reactions of others.
So, I have no idea what to expect, or how he’ll react. I’m hoping for the best, but preparing for less than that just in case. How about you? Have you had any unexpected reactions when coming out or making major changes? Worries that ended up being nothing?