For those of you who don’t know, today (14th July) is International Non-Binary Day, it also marks 2 years since I came out as non-binary on social media. I think it’s fair to say that since then I’ve been pretty open about being trans. I already produced a video for today in collaboration with Non-Binary Leeds, talking about passing and trans hypervisibility. But for this blog I wanted to share something more personal. Lets talk about coming out.
I first came out to my parents as bisexual almost 7 years ago. I knew I wouldn’t be chucked out of the house, but I was still scared. The result was not the immediate acceptance and support I hoped for; the acceptance was hesitant and my relationship with them grew strained. A little over 2 years ago I came out to my parents again, this time as non-binary. And again things got a little strained. I should be clear that I recognise that many queer people are far less lucky than me, I’m not writing this to seek pity. Often coming out is (ironically) treated in binary terms, you come out and either you are supported or you face bigotry.
But that’s not where the story ends. Hannah Gadsby talks about how the stories we tell can shape our memories, and in turn our memories shape the way we view the world. So lets tell this story right. I came out and it wasn’t perfect. I came out and my parents found it hard. I came out and I was still loved. All of these things are true.
What comes next matters too, because in the moment I came out my parents were unprepared, they didn’t understand or know the affirmation I needed to hear from them. Because they are human and therefore imperfect. But they are also able to change. And guided by their love for me they have changed. Over the years they’ve become more accepting of my queerness and better educated about it. And they aren’t perfect, sometimes they still get my pronouns wrong or use my old name, there’s still more for them to learn and unlearn about my transness. Simple stories are compelling, but they limit what we see. I want to make space for complexity, because my parents cannot be reduced to a single moment of surprise, I accept their imperfect acceptance of my queerness and trust that the love they hold for me will guide them to a better understanding.
Coming out stories are important, but the immediate response isn’t the only thing that matters. Let’s make space for complex, imperfect, human stories. And where there is love and a willingness to learn, let’s make space for us to grow.
P.S. I’ve talked a lot about making space to improve understanding and accept imperfection. This was right for me because my family were (and still are) willing to learn and grow. Their love for me wins out over any doubts or hesitancy they might hold. If that’s not the case for anyone reading this, then it is not your duty to compromise who you are. Giving space only works if they’re prepared to learn. And if they aren’t then sometimes it is best to break contact.