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Turns out coming out a second time isn’t any easier, in a binary world such as this

By: Anonymous/Trans Headlines

I came out as non-binary about three years ago while working in surgery at a trauma center. I was standing in an elevator with one of my closest co-workers when I told her. Her response was beautiful: “You are my KING!” I rode the high this gave me for the next few months until I told some other friends. Some understood instantly, others – not so much. For instance, most times when I’ve come out I’m met with anxiety-provoking silence. I haven’t yet been able to find the words to ask if it is due to a genuine lack of understanding or disapproval. At least no one had been unkind to my face. 

Now, it is 3 years later and I’m half-out at my new job, and aside from my sister, not out to family. I realize that things could be much worse. My spouse is transgender, so he really understands exactly what I’m going through. He bought me a binder, uses my “they/them” pronouns, told his coworkers, and even completely omits my pronouns when we are around family so I can come out when I am ready. When will that be? I don’t know.


“Theirs” hand towels; Photo: Anonymous

I already came out as gay and helped my spouse with his transition. I’m not sure how much more “coming out” my heart and brain can take. So, for now, I just stare at the wall when I’m in the shower, dissociating and dreaming of what life would be like with top surgery and hormones. 

We live in a pretty rural part of Maine, and I work in the Special Ed department at an elementary school. Both of those things have made it difficult to be totally out at work. Not because people are unkind–it is actually quite the opposite! I can tell that the staff I work with try to not use any prefix for me around the kids. So instead of Ms. Anonymous, they just call me Anonymous. I think it’s pretty sweet, but they still use female pronouns because there hasn’t been a thorough conversation about how to use neutral pronouns in front of the kids. And how do you explain neutral pronouns to elementary kids with special needs? I can’t even figure out how to explain it to my coworkers because I get so stressed out and embarrassed at the moment.

It’s always been easier to explain my spouse’s gender identity to others because it’s within the binary. When I tell people I’m non-binary, a common reaction is, “why can’t you just pick one?” I actually was aggressively asked this question at a transgender wellness conference last summer. I don’t even remember what I said to this person, but I had to walk out of the building and take a moment alone to collect myself. This confrontation shook me and made me wonder if this dream of transitioning into a non-binary space was feasible. The more I think about that moment the more secure I feel about being non-binary. If I sit and try to “pick one” I just can’t because both “male” and “female” feel wrong. I feel like a clown when I try to pass as either one. 

I filled the following months after the conference listening to music by non-binary artists and watching shows with non-binary characters. The more non-binary people I found doing great things in the world, the more validated I felt. The most solidifying experience I had was at a Mal Blum concert last fall. I stood next to the stage and felt like I was seen for the first time in my life. That was a wonderful and terrifying feeling because now it has also felt more urgent that I come out to my family so I can live as my authentic self.

With that being said, my confidence as a non-binary person (and a human in general) has increased substantially in the past handful of months. I cut my hair against the wishes of my family and I finally stopped shaving my legs to please people who I don’t even know when I’m wearing shorts. This is an amazing feeling, but now I am more even gutted when I am playing the traditional female role with my family. 

It’s been nine months since that conference and I have had enough space to think about it with a clear head. And the answer is yes. It is feasible, and it is worth it because it is my identity. I recently said to my spouse “I’m tired of hating myself.” So this year, 2020, might be the year that I come out to my family. It’s almost ideal because I’d have to do it from afar thanks to COVID-19. But it also might not be the year, and that is okay. Transitions take time, and I am still taking small steps toward being comfortable in my own skin.