I came out to my mother when I was sixteen, but I don’t advise following my model. She had caught me sneaking back in after a night of smoking and making out with my girlfriend at the time. When she asked if I was telling her any other lies, I broke down bawling, and the words just spilled out. “Mom, I think I’m bisexual.” She was more baffled by that than the rest, but in her own way. She didn’t hate me for it or think I was wrong, she worried it meant I wouldn’t be happy with any one partner. It’s a mother’s prerogative to want the best for her child.
I came out to her again when I was eighteen. After experimenting with partners of both genders and realizing I existed somewhere outside the standard gender binary, I got caught in another lie, and broke down, same as before. “Mom, I’m flunking all my classes, and I’m pansexual and gender fluid.” As before, she was troubled, but she did her research. She’d never heard either term before, but she didn’t cry about them. She listened and she learned. She did chastise me for my grades though.
For a while after that, I drifted. I confined myself to my room as contemplated what it was that was making me so sad all the time. I worked two jobs, both of which were soul-crushing, and had very little social life outside of those. I was in a pretty horrible rut, and no mistake. So the next time I came out, it was important.
The day that I came to my father and told him I was a woman, I had just gotten approval to start hormone replacement therapy. He balked at the idea. When I asked to speak to him, he had expected me to reveal that I was gay. He was braced for the fact. He even told me he would love me no matter who I brought home before I managed to get out the truth of the matter. But being a woman was something else entirely. He told me I wouldn’t make a very pretty woman, and that maybe I just wasn’t trying hard enough to be masculine for it to feel right. My step-mother told me I wouldn’t be allowed to see my step-niece anymore.
It was refreshing when my mother’s response to same reveal was to nod and ask “Okay, so what’s the first step?”
I moved away for a year, living with a dear friend, who was also trans. He was supportive, and the adopted friend group I found there was as well. They called me Piper and used female pronouns, even when I didn’t feel it or look it, and somehow, I stumbled through my transition, unemployed and depressed, but slowly progressing. When I moved home again, I was prepared to rejoin the work force.
I was fortunate enough to find a job at a local bookstore, where no one batted an eye at my gender. The customers didn’t always get it, but over time, I came to realize, it wasn’t my fault they couldn’t understand. At first, I would beat myself up, assuming I hadn’t done enough to portray who I was, but that became less and less realistic. When someone called me sir even while I was wearing a dress, it hit me: ignorance and bigotry are their problem, not mine.
I’ve settled into a comfortable place since then. When I happen on old pictures, it baffles me how much things have changed. Friends who’ve never known me as anything other than a woman find it hard to believe I lived as anything but, and friends who knew me before forget that anything changed. Even on my off days, I know that I’m a woman, and anyone around me who can’t see that is blind or rude, and they don’t deserve my time. My father and step-mother eventually came around, and even though my step-niece lives out of town, whenever she visits, I get a big hug.
It’s trite and cliché, but the only way to get through a transition is to slog through the worst of it, head held high. You’ll get there. I can’t say when, or whether “there” is where you had in mind, but you’ll definitely get there. Be strong.