By Riley Wood
I was fully prepared to write this story as what practically constitutes a coming-out letter about me and my transgender identity. I was going to say, yes, I am a woman and yes, please stop calling me sir. I was going to write about my struggle this summer acquiring estrogen, about trying to cultivate my wardrobe, and ultimately preparing for the big jump of going full-time girlmode this September.
But the thing is… as I started to write that article, I realized I couldn’t. Not that I couldn’t say that, but that I actually couldn’t go to school 100 per cent of the time as a girl. I just wasn’t ready to commit to that leap, either in writing or too myself, even though I thought that’s what I wanted.
Going full-time was a huge change I spent the last few months anticipating. But this Labour Day weekend the feeling like I needed to drastically redefine myself for my senior year left me in tears, mad at my appearance and my wardrobe, but especially at the pressure I placed on myself.
Because the problem isn’t that I’m uncomfortable in my female identity, or clothes, or that I secretly want to detransition. The problem is that when you try to jump fully into an idealized notion of who you’re supposed to be, you’re guaranteed to be uncomfortable. It feels wrong because it’s forced.
People generally don’t completely change who they are all at once, and the idea that you should do so in the week leading up to school or the four months before is preposterous. People change incrementally, by experimenting with smaller individual things and experiences until they become comfortable with them. By breaking up who you want to be into small chunks, you can better bridge the distance between you and your idealized self. Little steps like painting your nails or a new pair of glasses, listening to new playlists on Spotify or reading a new author can help you feel like you’re making progress. Until you’re ready to add something totally new, you shouldn’t feel any pressure to rush or force things, or do something bold like completely adopt a new wardrobe and lifestyle (unless you’re really bold and that works for you!).
Oh, and if you’re coming out for the first time you should know that you don’t need to come out to everybody. Even just telling a few close friends, or other members of the community, or really doing whatever makes you comfortable is still an amazing step towards feeling safe and confident in your LGBT+ identity. You shouldn’t need to feel like you have to scream it from the rooftop or Facebook for your coming out to be legitimate.
As for the public perception of your identity, the truth of the matter is most people really don’t care. You can be whoever you want to be, or wear whatever you want. People might stare or misgender you, but they’re assholes. Most people are too focused on their own life and how people are perceiving them to even take stock of those around them. It took me too long last semester to realize that no one notices my coming to school in a dress two days a week but in men’s clothing three days a week.
So this new year, I’m doing what I’m comfortable with. On the first day I brought both guy and girl clothes to the school to switch in case I did not feel comfortable. I’m going to get my ears pierced soon (in the stereotypically feminine locations), but I feel relieved that I can make that appointment whenever I’m ready. And, I wrote this article. I played with the idea of writing it under a pseudonym, but ultimately, I felt safe to attach my own name to this piece. So, I guess it is a coming out letter of sorts.
It took me four years of university to really get it, but realizing who you are and finding a way to express that to the world at large isn’t a race, it’s a journey. A tough journey, but one I’m happy to be on.
The important thing is that you keep on moving in the right direction.