When we think about my own coming out to family and friends, it filled with anxiety, fear and indecision. What will they think of me? Will they still be in my life or will they turn away from me when they know who I am? What kind of hurt and pain will I be causing?
As a peer-facilitator in a support group for men who identify as gay or bi and who have been married or involved with women, I have heard men describe all kinds of responses to their coming out.
The best response is where the wife says, I am so sorry for what you have had to go through. The worst response is where the wife, filled with anger and shame says, I do not want to be married to a gay man and want a divorce. Get out!
When religion is involved, men who have raised families in ultra conservative religions often have the worst time of it. A good friend of mine was not invited to his daughters wedding, and in fact was told explicitly not to show up. The daughter and her fiancé were part of an ultra-conservative Christian group. My friend was deeply hurt and saddened by the turn of events.
My own coming out to my son was painful for my wife, but for me, was a wonderful and special moment in my coming out process. Whatever crying my son did, he did with his mother. With me he was supportive and loving.
Recently, a friend had told me of his plans to come out to his son who is almost sixteen. It was filled with anxiety, worry, and rehearsal for what he would say. To his surprise, when he did come out to his son, the son also had some coming out to do of his own. The son, who had been worried of his fathers own Christian conservative background, was happy to learn of his fathers secret and then shared a secret of his own. He was pansexual and wanted to have gender reassignment surgery when he was eighteen. Wow!
While I have read a number of books by and about transgender men and women and can imagine what a person could feel to themselves, I can not say I know what it is like to walk in their shoes.
I became interested in transgender stories after reading, Becoming a Visible Man, by Jamison Green. In Green’s telling of his story, I began to better understand my own self and my hiding of my sexual orientation for years. Green’s descriptions of feeling like he was someone else inside deeply resonated with me.
I worry about the son of my friend. While my friend, the father, feels strongly that he needs to be the gay man that he feels himself to be, he is not quite ready to let his fifteen year old son have the same leeway. While most parents have a lot to learn when a child comes out as transgender, it is hard for my friend to to see his son’s journey as akin to his own journey.
No matter when and how we come out it triggers learning, attitude adjustments, and changes in the people around us. We have had lots of time before coming out to think about who we are. The people we tell are put on the spot to embrace who we are or not. Not everyone is equipped to make that kind of emotional adjustment.