At 25 I came out to my parents and siblings as bisexual, at 27 I came out as transgender – why did it take so long?
This is something I feel compelled to explain following the Bill 24 debate because it felt personal. The debate centered on a students’ right to privacy when attending a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) and whether the school should be allowed to disclose that info to a parent without the child’s consent. I won’t rehash the bill debate here, I already wrote about it.
Addressing one of the questions that came up: why would a kid hide their sexuality/gender identity/attendance at a GSA from the parent? And if the relationship is solid why would the child not tell the parent how they felt?
The only answer I can give is my own.
I was in high school from 2003 to 2007, I grew up in southwestern Ontario, it was not long ago but it feels like a lifetime ago in terms of the LGBTQ2 rights movement. In my high school, gay was not discussed, transgender wasn’t a word. Despite that one of my gym teachers was lesbian and a friend came out as gay in the ninth grade, unfortunately, that friend was then promptly whisked off to a Mennonite school by his religious parents….
My point is gay wasn’t exactly ‘ok’ but it wasn’t ‘not ok’ either.
I knew I felt fucking weird as a teen, I knew it was about my gender and I knew it was about my sexual orientation but I had no idea how to strike up that conversation with myself let alone my parents. While our relationship ebbed and flowed through my teen years I certainly never had a feeling that they would actively harm a child for being gay, quite the opposite. My parents supported marriage equality in 2005, they had gay friends, by all early-2000’s liberal standards they were allies. Their reaction wasn’t the only thing I had to consider though, coming out to your parents means opening a new door, one maybe no one thought anyone would open.
You don’t just come out to your parents, you come out to your whole family through them. Along with all the complicated things associated with that.
Since coming out, two uncles and a grandmother have unfriended me on facebook (weirdly modern way to cut communications with me but I do live 4000km away…) Growing up, some elements of my family made it clear to me as a child that I would be disowned by them if I was gay or worse, trans.
I was told by an uncle that, “an anus is an exit, not an entrance.” I was ten. Who the fuck says that to a child?
In my later teen years, a different uncle and a grandfather gave me ‘sage’ advice on how to discern ‘ladyboys from actual women.’ They were trying to help me.
Those are the iceberg tips – I’m won’t rehash every shitty moment here.
As a result, I waited until I was far away. Far enough away from all of my family that if I told them who I was and they decided to disown me, I would be too far away to feel the hurt. That’s impossible, it turns out. Reactions of some extended family have stung deeper than I expected, however, the reactions of others, my parents, my siblings, my maternal grandmother, and an aunt have, in particular, been better than I hoped.
That being said I do not believe I or they were capable of being at this point in 2005 or having this conversation. There are complex reasons for that and one of them is I was not able to talk to other bi or trans kids. I did not have the type of peer support that allowed me the chance to vocalize my existence to myself let alone my family.
Now there are GSAs, now there is Reddit, now there is Twitter, and more substantially Tumblr but despite all of that access to peers and info these conversations are hard to have. GSAs provide a vital place, where teens can be teens in an after-school club without fear of retribution. I literally tear up thinking about what life would have been like if my high school had a so-called safe space.
Most of the queer kids from my high school came out after they moved away. Why do you think that happened that way?
There is no point in dwelling on what could have been. This is why protections for the existence of GSAs (Bill 10) and for the privacy of students that attend them (Bill 24) is so crucial.
Maybe if I had access to a resource like that in high school I could have told my parents who I was at 15 instead of 27.