I decided to write this post a week or so ago, because I was noticing a trend in regards to how people began to speak to me differently after coming out. Sometimes, three or four people will say *the exact same thing* to you in regards to a subject, and that to me usually feels like a coincidence. But when it turns into eight, nine, ten people all saying, nearly word-for-word, the same thing, I feel like I may have stumbled upon something that’s more cultural than I might have otherwise thought.
The overwhelming response to my coming out as trans can be boiled down to one phrase: “I’m so happy for you; I really, really don’t want to make any mistakes.”
I imagine it’s a similar thing as to what happens when someone tells you something terrible happened in their lives, like the death of a grandparent. You just aren’t quite sure what to say, and you want to be reassuring and consoling, but you also don’t want to step on any feelings and say the wrong thing, so you just say, “I’m so sorry, I have no idea what to say, I’m so sorry.”
At least, that’s what I do. There’s usually a period of forethought, maybe 10 to 15 minutes, where I’m just running through the entire list of possible responses, and eventually I just go, “fuck it, there’s nothing I can say that will make this any better, so I’ll just acknowledge the pain and move on.”
Obviously, my circumstances are quite a bit different. My grandparent didn’t die: I did. Or at least, the version of me that you knew. “Justin Xavier” died (and to that I say, good riddance! He was just a collection of other people’s fears & insecurities and I never much enjoyed being him in the first place). This is not, however, a sorrowful or mournful death. It is a rebirth, and I finally feel capable of being who I want and accomplishing what I want to in my life.
And that brings me back to the purpose of this particular blog post. I know you don’t know what to say. I know you’re scared of treading on my feelings and making me feel unsafe or unseen. But I just want to say, to everyone: it is absolutely okay that you make mistakes.
I’m making them, too! I referred to myself as “he/him” and “a regular white guy” for 30 years. I introduced myself by a male name. I had jokes made about my male-ness. I wrote entire novels about myself as a male. And sometimes, when I’m not paying attention, or when I’m focused on something else, I slip up.
I’ve referred to myself as “Luna’s Dad” a good half dozen times since coming out, and it’s not because I feel fatherly or because I think I’m actually a man, it’s just because it’s a habit. When you do something for 30 years and then decide to do it differently moving forward, there’s always a transitional period where you have to catch yourself and correct your own errors.
And I’ve been thinking of myself as a woman for a good 6 months.
I fully understand that this is new for you. I am so, so grateful to the people who have adapted quickly and are referring to me as Chloe and using she/her pronouns. But I also have no hard feelings when my friends (especially people I’ve known for years!) accidentally refer to me by the name they always knew me as.
I’m never going to be offended if I know you’re trying. I’m never going to be offended if you make an honest mistake. I’m not the “trans police,” out here trying to make sure everyone else is perfectly adhering to the “trans rules,” and honestly, I’m pretty new to this world so I’m sure I’m making mistakes that I don’t even understand yet.
Now, all this being said… Please don’t use this article as an excuse to give up trying. Don’t be the person who goes, “oh, cool, she gave me permission to make mistakes, I don’t even have to put in effort anymore.” If it becomes an ongoing issue, it’s going to start feeling less like an honest mistake and more like a complete lack of empathy, and that isn’t going to sit well with me for long. ALSO… don’t use this as an excuse to mistreat or misgender other trans people. I don’t speak for all trans people, I speak for myself. I know there are trans men and women out there who may not agree with me on this point.
If you call me Chloe, you get the added benefit of putting a smile on my face and endearing yourself to me to an even greater degree than you already are 🙂
I’m the same person you remember… I’m just a whole lot happier now. I finally feel the freedom to live my life for myself, instead of trying to live up to everyone’s expectations of who they felt I was “supposed” to be.
Thanks for reading. Thanks for supporting. Thank you to everyone who poured love into my world when I came out.