… at happiness, there is really only one option…
We’ve come so far. At least we like to think so on most days.
But then, members of the LGBT community are questioned on how they feel about society and about living openly as who they are. The answers are nothing short of stunning (and terrifying). Out of 1’000 people in the UK who were questioned lately, 74% said they feel a need to hide their gender identity or sexual orientation. They are afraid of how they will be perceived, how they will be treated…
My father is seventy-five now. He’s been gay all his life, yet like so many others he was always afraid to live his identity openly. He married, adopted a child – me – and tried to fit in as best as he could. Ten years into his marriage he began sneaking off into the bushes with other married men who were also secretly attracted to the same sex. To this day he hasn’t openly come out to anyone but me.
I am transgender. And I have chosen a different path. It took me until the age of twenty-one to fully understand why I felt so homeless in my own body and why despair followed me like an ever-present, looming cloud. When I realized that I am (and always was) a boy, a man, trapped in the wrong body, I knew I needed to take action.
As I describe in my book Paralian-Not Just Transgender, “Pondering the best course, I understood it all came down to two simple choices: I could stay within the uncomfortable familiarity of what I had and resign myself to being unhappy in the wrong body for the rest of my life, or I could risk everything I had and everything I knew. Maybe in the process of doing so, I would at least be able to solve one problem in a life that had consisted of a complex web of daily problems.”
I began seeing doctors, asked for advice, talked with other trans people. I was scared out of my wits, but never once doubted that taking bold action was the only possible way to survive. It was clear being trans wasn’t like catching the flu, and if I just waited long enough it would pass. This was here to stay, and so was I.
“It didn’t matter how gruesome a picture the gender specialists painted. I accepted the risks and consequences. No matter how scared I was, there was only one possible way to go, and that was forward.
Apart from preparing myself for the physical complications, I also braced myself to face losing all my friends and acquaintances. There was no way of knowing how they would react. I feared they would all start screaming, arms windmilling wildly, and run out of the room, never to be seen again.”
They didn’t. That’s the thing about coming out. It never ends. You’ll have to do it over and over again. And you’ll never have any guarantees on how people will react. But so many will surprise you with immediate acceptance, kindness, and compassion.
“In the months following my decision to come out, my faith in humanity was restored many times over. Almost all reactions to my revelations were entirely, and sometimes surprisingly, positive. Many of my friends and acquaintances simply smiled a knowing smile when I told them, and confessed they had always taken me for either a hardcore butch or a transgender person. My behavior seemed to have given me away for years. People had known who I was, long before I myself had re-awakened to my identity.”
Keeping secrets is hard work. Even more so if it means that you have to live against your very nature. Above all we need to be kind to ourselves and cherish this one life we’ve been given. And yes, people will know. Those closest to us will feel who we really are. We owe it to them and to ourselves to be genuine and not hide from each other.
We’re bound to always make bad experiences. It may feel safe if we don’t reveal our “otherness” but, if we don’t dare to step up and say “Hello world, this is me!”, then a great many good experiences will be lost forever.
Just the other day, a fourteen-year-old student interviewed me. She had to write a paper on “being different”. One of her questions was “So what does being different mean to you?”
I had to ponder that for a moment and then I smiled and said, “To me there is no “different”, no “other”. The human species is incredibly diverse. We come in all shapes, colors, and sizes as well as a myriad of different social backgrounds, ideologies, mentalities, and personalities. As much as we’d like to pack everything in nicely labeled boxes, no two people are alike. We are all different. We are all “other”. And that’s the way it should be. Diversity is a gift, a privilege, not a threat.”
So go out there. Give yourself a chance. You most definitely deserve it.