By Adrienne Wagenaar
It’s been three years, almost to the day, since I came out to my parents as a trans woman.
I was 19, and barely moved out of their house. I was living with my sister and had just started college (and testosterone blockers). It was a strange time for me, but the major constant was the dread of telling them.
I had tried coming out to them at least twice before this. Neither of those attempts had gone very well, with me slipping back into the closet shortly after. This time was different, though. I had started taking blockers in secret before I left for school; I had started my transition without them knowing. It felt easier to ask for forgiveness than beg for permission.
I went back home for a weekend, with the express purpose of telling them. I even let my mother know that I had something important to talk about the week before, but that it had to be said in person.
I was so scared. I prayed a lot during this time, more so than I think I ever have before. It became an almost constant conversation. I just wanted things to be okay. I didn’t really know what they would do, or how they would react, so my brain played with my fears and came up with some truly horrible results. I felt like I was going to die.
The conversation happened on a Saturday, in the afternoon. Four of us were there: My mother, my father, my therapist (via Zoom), and me.
The hard part wasn’t saying it, saying things is easy. It was the feelings that came after it had been said. My dad sitting silently, staring off into the middle distance. My mother asking me questions I didn’t really know the answers to while crying. In the end, though, it was okay. I wasn’t kicked out; I didn’t get disowned.
There was a period of pain, as there always is when something that seems very immutable or constant changes, but it was okay. During this time, I think that having a sense of faith to stand by and keep myself above water was incredibly important.
Any time that I feel like I can’t go on, or that the way I feel is some sort of cosmic punishment, I remind myself of a quote: “As my friend Julian puts it, only half winkingly: ‘God blessed me by making me transsexual for the same reason God made wheat but not bread and fruit but not wine, so that humanity might share in the act of creation.’” (Daniel Mallory Ortberg, Something That May Shock and Discredit You).
In that way I’m lucky, just as every other trans person is lucky. We get to determine who we are through such a unique and wholly new experience. The thing to remember about this process is that, as with anything, pain is just as common as joy.
It has taken my parents time to adjust to who I am, and I think that they’ll always hold on to who I was (or who they thought I was). It’s hard to think about that, but at the end of the day I know who I am, despite what others keep in their minds.
I feel very lucky when I think about my coming out compared to others. There was no violence, just a sense of hurting and loss. It’s still healing, and it will never be the same, but it is getting better.
Since that day, three years ago, I’ve had a decent number of people come out to me. I’m usually the first person that they’ve spoken to about it. I think about my own experience with coming out whenever this happens, and I do my best to be kind and compassionate towards them, as that’s what I needed then. It can be one of the most vulnerable points in someone's life, and having someone close who understands is important.
I attended a counter-protest in Toronto last month, in response to the public outcry against queer education in schools. Despite the worrying necessity of the event, I saw so many young queer people full of energy and life. As we all stood together, showing that our existence is not something to be considered shameful or evil, I wondered what their coming-out stories were like. Had they been like mine? Worse? Better? Maybe they were still building up that courage, or perhaps there wasn’t a need to say anything at all. Maybe it was just accepted that they are who they are.
I hope that, as more people become knowledgeable and understanding of queer identities, the act of coming out garners less stress. I hope that for everyone who comes after me, it can be something joyous; a celebration of someone’s truth. I think we’re on the right path.
Adrienne Wagenaar (she/her) is a member of Proud Anglicans of Huron.