Come Out, Come Out Wherever You Are: Counseling the Closeted

The cry of the childhood game of Hide 'n Seek could well be the motto of modern transgendria. You need to be OUT in order to further the community and being in the closet means you are fearful and ashamed. Only by being public and loud and proud can we throw off societal shackles and loose the chains of oppression. So don't let others do your part, sisters, join the crusade. The closet's for hangin' clothes not for hidin' souls! Say AMEN, sister!
Well, ummm, maybe. I agree that if TGs of all varieties simply hid everything about their identities we would remain forever downtrodden. But that's just obvious on the face of it. What the aforementioned--and fairly common--attitude neglects is the very personal and subjective nature of "coming out." The difficulty factor isn't the same for everyone due to differing circumstances and the fact that the need to be "out" differs depending on individual goals, hopes and dreams.
Now if you seek to be full time, well, you don't have a choice. You'll have to come out pretty much to everyone sooner or later. But what about the ambigendered (my term for us part-timers)? Are we really only in the closet because of fear, shame and sloth? I admit they are factors, but they aren't the full story.
Location makes a big difference. Living in a rural area limits one's options and increases challenges. For example, coming out in a small town increases the chances that the news will spread uncontrollably to virtually everyone. And obviously, any objective person would admit that some geographic areas are simply more tolerant than others.
And coming out doesn't just involve the TG's fears, particularly if they haves wives and/or children. If the wife has concerns (and face it, most do) about her husband crossdressing in public, then the TG has to decide whose issues get neglected and to what degree. There isn't a quick fix answer to this, but it certainly isn't helpful to simply suggest that coming out is nothing more than a matter of overcoming one's own fears. A married TG who wants to go out usually would prefer to come back in (at home), too, without too much damage to his family.
I'm trying not to be too critical with this as I think it is important for those who are out to encourage those who aren't. I agree that being out is a valuable experience both individually and communally, but the encouragement of this act of passage needs to be constructively presented. Any counseling will be most positively received if it includes assistance on helping the individual address marital and family issues, too. Indeed encouraging individuals to rush the process seems destructive and likely only to encourage the stereotypical view of us (i.e. that we are self-centered and obsessive).
Instead of sermons on getting over it and getting out, wouldn't it be a greater contribution to burnishing our public image if we all offered advice on how to leave the closet with consideration, grace and dignity?


Re:Come Out, Come Wherever You Are: Counseling the Closeted by Stephanie Yates

Dear Steph,

As always, you impress me greatly with your writing style and intrigue me with the ideas you present. You also seem to have a knack for dreaming up new and improved terminologies... "innie/outie", "ambi-gendered", now "transgendria"! Nice one hon! I enjoy the evolution of your perspectives, as you yourself recently crossed the line between self-proclaimed "innie" to newly liberated "outie". Congrats again on taking that small yet momentus step! As you are pondering your own motivations for being "in or out", you offer wonderful food for thought to others sharing the same journey.

My own thoughts are that being "in or out" is a personal choice, not necessarily based on shame or fear. Some people do not feel compelled to share their personal life with the outside world, which believe it or not, I can relate to. Could it be said that I am "closeted" because I don't make it openly known in my daily life that I am bisexual? Does this mean I am hiding something from the world? Whose right is it to know about me? I feel at liberty to make the choice who should be privy to my personal business. I feel crossdressers and transgendered people who are "part-time" deserve the same basic right to privacy that I take for myself. I see no shame in being selective about telling people of personal business, therefore I do not ascribe to the notion that being "out" should be the goal of everyone.

There are many logical and practical reasons for being "in the closet" about intimate matters, and for some people this aspect of themselves is not worth wreaking havok on their daily life in order to come "out". Being out in public as your femme self is not a manditory aspect of being feminine. You may not want or need the interaction with others, or recognition from the public eye. I know that it is beneficial and necessary for some transwomen to be visible in the public eye, to further social progress and liberate humanity from gender chains. Fortunately there are an increasing number of transwomen who are coming out, a trend which will only increase over time as society becomes more accepting.

Yet, I do not believe that being "out" is the only way to help the community. Many people are making tremendous waves online from the comforts of their closets. The heart of the gender revolution will be an intellectual, emotional, spiritual change in society... all of which can be equally shared no matter what type of body or closet is inhabited. We don't even have to walk out our front doors in order to be visible to the world via the internet. Let us not forget it is the closeted people who spend much of their efforts online, who are paving the information highway for society to recognize and respect those transgender sisters who are out and visible. Having innies and outies in the community is symbiotic for the whole, like yin and yang. So I say everyone should just contribute to the best of their ability, in whatever ways makes sense for them. As we pool our energies, in cyberspace, in spirit, the power of this movement is increased exponentially.

Thanks again for introducing this great topic Stephanie!

Much love,
Alysyn said…
Steph, what a wonderfully drawn out ponderance. Would it not be safe to say that there is still much shame placed upon the innie from outside influences, such as family, church, or friends, that keep them safely "put away"? Sadly, this country tends to still betray a very victorian attitude where the male/female divide is concerned, and too often the male is relegated to merely a masculine outpouring with little room to express their feminine without criticism. This would also lend itself to fear, I presume.

I remember the days of being male and attempting to allow myself to express that innately feminine perspective. Being way to sensitive to subtlety, I was aware of the side glances, the whispers, the uncertain facial expressions, the embarrassment...and that from my family! It was enough to make me want to stuff myself into a cardboard box and have myself shipped to Greenland, ala Bugs Bunny.

In time one realizes that there is no safety in a closet which locks from the outside. Eventually someone comes and opens it...and usually when you are least prepared.

Dear Stephanie;
I find your posting interesting. I think there are a lot of reasons why TG people don’t come out of the closet also and I thank you for saying that it is something that someone should not rush into. I hope that this does not discredit anything I am saying but I am a minister and have had a closeted TG background. For me it was more of an internal civil war and masculinity won. I would like to apologize to you as a minister for the way a lot of TG people have felt in churches. I know a lot of things have been said or implied.
Is it possible that there are TG people, who like myself, their gender identity is in a state of flux and that is why they would remain in the closet. In regards to family situations there seems to be a lot of pain no matter what and I do believe that God cares about all of our pain
Stephanie Yates said…
Danny, your comments are touching and I would only add that I believe God understands our transgendered natures better than do we. And I have faith that He is not nearly as concerned as are we mortals about our clothing and mannerisms so much as He is about the content of our hearts and the motivations of our actions. If we are acting in love and compassion towards our fellow humans, I suspect the Almighty cares not whether we do so wearing boxers or panties.
And, Danny I am heartened to know that a man of the cloth is willing to make such an apology. Though I would add that, from my perspective, it isn't necessary. I place my trust in God who alone is mightier than us all. God's followers, well we're all on the same level and we're all equally flawed.
Thank you for commenting, Danny.
savageIII said…
i've tried to come out in my teens,but got caught up with the wrong crowd of perves while a runaway,and did get raped twice ..then later went to prison for charges dealing with pills and was with a man 3 years while there and i never felt so free and sexy and wanted and it so filled me with all kinds of different passions for the many joys in life,i used to escape my pain then went to cutting self cause couldn't stop wanting to be female,and being attracted to men..then my christain family told me to clean my closet and that i was going to i'm 35 and scared to come out about how i feel...and afraid of going to hell..My bisexual girlfriend is happy but depressed cause she knows somethings the matter,but i want to tell her i want to be transexual but i love her and am in love with her..But i love men too..HELP...

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