What if I had come out as a child?

I just woke up from a nightmare about coming out as trans as a child. In my dream I was going to a private Christian school and having to fight for basic human decency among classmates and school administrators who didn’t believe me. Who didn’t believe that trans people were real.

But as scary as that dream was, it is probably nothing compared to what would have happened if I had come out as trans in my actual childhood.

Let me be clear. My parents have grown a lot in the intervening years since I left home and they genuinely seem to be trying to understanding my experience right now. But I shudder to think what would have happened if I had come out as trans or even queer as a child while they were still in the grasp of the cult. I am fairly confident that I would have been sent to life-threatening conversion therapy that would have made my depression a lot worse and possibly led to suicide.

It was bad enough growing up as a child, confused and afraid because I didn’t know why I was different. Knowing that I had a girl’s brain but not knowing what that meant. Feeling like I was alone in my experience because I didn’t know that transgender people even existed until college.

But it would have been so much worse if I had voiced those feelings as a child and not been believed. If I had been placed into “therapy” to “cure” me from this sin. If I had been told on a daily basis that my lived experience wasn’t real and spiritually beaten over the head because I felt that way.

My heart goes out to all the kids who are still in that situation. Who live among parents, educators, and peers who don’t believe them. Who have to hide who they are because of the explicitly transphobic messages they hear on a daily basis.

When we say “protect trans kids,” we say that because even in a day and age where awareness of transgender people is at an all time high, trans kids have a one in three chance of attempting suicide.

We live in a country where hard won trans rights that we fought for decades to achieve are being taken away from us on a daily basis. Just this week, the protections that we gained in the Affordable Care Act were stripped away. And that wears on trans people mentally and kills us daily through denials of care and service. That permeates our culture and compounds with racism to make trans women of color the most marginalized and murdered group in America. Already this year, 14 trans people have been brutally murdered; the majority of them women of color.

As a white trans adult, my nightmare was largely just that. My life is rarely at risk of anything other than my own depression and suicidal thoughts. But I am one of the lucky ones. I have a supportive spouse and partners, I have a large community of trans people and advocates who stand with me, and I have a low risk of murder because of the color of my skin and where I live.

So when you fight for Black Lives, when you fight for queer lives, when you fight for trans youth, please make sure that your fight is intersectional and intentionally includes the lives of those who bear the burden of all of our collective societal sins. Fight for Black Trans Lives because they matter. And until we stop these murders, we can’t truly mean that Black Lives Matter.

Giving up Control

Today I realized an important component in my coming out journey that I haven’t talked about a lot here – giving up control.

Growing up I was very much a control freak. I liked to be the most knowledgeable person in the room. I was obsessively clean about my own space to the point that my mom could come into my room and move one object and I would know the moment I walked in. I abused my authority as the oldest child to control my siblings unfortunately. I also had my entire life planned out, both long term and short term.

I know where that behavior came from. It was a way to reclaim a sense of my own control in a life that was controlled by others and was also pretty chaotic. My parents were very controlling of us in many ways with lots of rules and that was made worse by being in a fundamentalist cult that taught that as a moral imperative. They were also low-key hoarders and our house was always messy even if that was often hidden behind closed doors.

My first attempt to stop being controlling as an adult went horribly wrong. I tried to give up control by giving it to my ex-spouse who abused that authority and emotionally abused me. But in that relationship I learned pretty quickly that the only way to survive was to give up the idea that I could control anything in my life.

The only sure thing in life is that there will always be unexpected things that you can’t plan for. And oftentimes those can be good things if you are open to them. Like a casual dating partner turning into a wonderfully supportive spouse once you get the courage to leave your abuser.

But that mindset about giving up control was also key to being able to come out as trans. Especially as a trans woman, it can be a shock to go from a position where you are subtly and sometimes overtly given societal power to a situation where you are suddenly one of the most marginalized and powerless. And if I hadn’t primed myself to be powerless, it would have been pretty freaky.

I think a lot of us are finding ourselves feeling powerless right now during this pandemic. Everything is chaotic and out of control and very few people (in the US) have planned for something like this. And that vulnerability and constant vigilance can bring out a lot of trauma responses from people who have been abused.

Being treated as a man when you know deep down that you aren’t is absolutely a form of trauma. Especially in a culture where toxic masculinity runs rampant. And that abuse becomes more clear when you come out and aren’t supported, whether by the people close to you or by society at large.

So if you are finding yourself in some very dark emotional places right now, please have patience with yourself. We can’t control this but that’s ok. It is only in giving up control that we can find peace and acceptance of the world around us. That is a journey that I am still on but telling myself that on a regular basis definitely helps so I hope it helps you too.