It’s midnight. I’m at my friend’s house, there’s three of us there. I hurt. Generally, I’m good at hiding it. This time, I can’t. They look at me. ‘What’s wrong?’ I try to shrug it off. They don’t believe me, won’t let the subject go. I’m stressed – I don’t want to talk about it. I don’t have the words. They tell their stories, their deepest fears and darkest memories. I hug them, let them cry on my shoulder. Hope they’ve forgotten about me – they haven’t. Finally, I struggle through the explanation. Faltering, unclear. It’s the first time I’ve said it, and I have to explain all the words I use. I’m agender – I’m pansexual – I’m scared. They give me a hug. ‘It’s fine, you’re still our friend.’ I feel… better.
* * *
Most of my friends are here. We’re just starting to get drunk; they’re all still in their finery from their night out, and I’m slopping around dressed casually because I didn’t go. The subject comes up – maybe there was a dare, maybe someone said something. I figure, they’re my friends, it was fine last time, it’s fine now. I tell them. Non-reaction. A couple of shrugs.
When I change my name, half of them have forgotten. I have to do it individually. Explain every word. I’m scared. Every time I do it, I think someone will say something… someone does. Comments on my body. More people do. Every time it happens, it sticks in my head. But I tell them, because they have to know.
* * *
Now it’s summer, and my mother’s got an article that mentions homosexuality. I vaguely comment on it. She questions the comment, and I think, what the hell. She’s my mother. I’ve always got on really well with her. She’s tolerant. So I tell her I’m pansexual.
Total non-comprehension. She doesn’t get it. Some of it sounds mildly biphobic and heterocentrist, some just plain non-comprehending. The bookshelf falls down and I try to extricate myself from the conversation. I’m getting more and more stressed. She doesn’t believe there’s any outside to the gender binary – she doesn’t get the gender binary. What’s not to get? I tell her, there is an outside.
I’m outside it.
Then it gets intense. She still doesn’t get it. I tell her, ‘I just wanted you to know.’ I hear her mutter, ‘I don’t think I wanted to know.’ She doesn’t seem to get anything about being non-cis – fleetingly I think, I’m glad I’m not coming out as trans (by that I mean wanting to transition to the ‘other’ side of the binary). Keeps coming back to the failings of the English language – so what are you to me? I can’t just say, ‘offspring,’ that’s stupid. Says I oughtn’t to tell my father, and I don’t know why. She doesn’t see why I can’t just be a non-normative member of my assigned sex/gender.
I end up crying. I want the conversation to end, so much. I start minimising it. Saying that it doesn’t matter, it’s not a big deal. I’m saying it because I just want out now. Tell her it doesn’t change anything, when I wish it could. Then I leave. I’m still crying. I go down the beach. I text my friend – can you call me?
She rings, and I’m sobbing down the phone to her. She was one of that first two I told, and she’s surprised – she thought my mother was the type to understand.
I go home. There’s an elephant in the room, the unspoken ghost of words left unvoiced and words that should never have been voiced.
The elephant’s still there.
* * *
This post is for National Coming Out Day. They’re my three main coming out stories – I have others, like when I came out as an intersections feminist in front of a large group, when I explain my gender in the simplest words possible for vague acquaintances. Coming out isn’t a one-time thing. You say it once, and then you have to say it again and again. You have to remind people. You have to correct their ignorance. You have to tell new people. The last time I came out was today. The time before was Saturday. It happens at least once a week.
That is, if you choose to come out. Coming out is not necessary. For anyone who feels they could suffer – mentally, physically, emotionally, opportunistically – coming out shouldn’t be regarded as imperative. Safety is more important. I happen to be the kind of person who wants to be out, who wants to be visible, and I’m lucky in that my circle of friends, family and acquaintances are mainly very nice people. People who have, on the whole, made an effort. Some haven’t, but nobody’s actually rejected me or seemed to change their views of me, and no-one’s attacked me. I’ve had comments, often less than complimentary, but I can deal with that. I rarely if ever have to deal with physical violence. I fear it, sometimes, but I refuse to be so afraid I deny myself.