February 3, 2012

In which I am still coming out, forever

Coming out never ends. Not exactly news; the only surprise is that I haven't written a blog post about it yet. But, well, it's a new semester and that means a new batch of professors and classmates to explain myself to. And I realised today that I haven't bothered to Explain Myself to any of them. In fact, it's been a long time since I've properly come out to anybody.

Now, to a certain extent, I don't need to come out because the bureaucracy loves to out me. On the official class roster given to all of my professors, for example, my name is "Lavinia Bandersnatch (Lawrence)"* -- an arrangement borne of a deep failure to understand the meaning of a preferred name. But when one of my instructors called me Lavinia, I just told him that he'd gotten my name wrong. He cheerfully crossed out the Lavinia and circled the Lawrence and hasn't made a mistake yet. And I cheerfully did not volunteer any explanation whatsoever.

But most of the time, I'm not even doing the reduced coming-out of telling someone my name has changed. Most of the time I'm just introducing myself as Lawrence and carrying on with my life. A lot of people probably just I'm a girl named Lawrence and carry on with their lives. But if you get to know me, you'll... get to know me. It's a tautology but it's what happens. I talk about being the only guy in a Jane Austen class, or being in a fraternity, or whatever, and people figure it out. (Or maybe they know me from the blog, or noticed the disappearing-reappearing tits, or ohmigod maybe they think my moustache is growing in!) It doesn't matter; I end up with acquaintances who know I'm a transman without ever having to have The Conversation with them.

I'm growing to really like this way of being out, because I feel like I'm starting to really enjoy my transition as something focused on myself. The 'trans 101' version of my life story is not the same as my actual life. My actual life is a lot of things; it is my moustache and my thesis; Sherlock and approximately seven chest hairs; walks in the gardens and Shakespeare and having a lot of blood drawn; my life is on my own terms. And I love it.

But there's still that part of me that's almost annoyed that coming out is different for me again, and yet still always there. I started the post with this because I think it might be the most relatable aspect of my life right now; I've had a lot of different 'strategies' for coming out, and I've gone through phases of aggressive announcements and phases of quiet hints, and the only unchanging element was the fact that there are always more people to tell. Or to not tell. The decisions of who, how, and when-- they never stop coming back.

When I first came to Duke, I thought I had perfected the process of coming out. The first time I met somebody, I didn't mention anything queer. If I saw them again, I'd look for chances to make some kind of gay joke at my own expense, or to reference my ex-girlfriend; I would drop exactly two of these hints to determine if I was going to tell them. (It was soothing to Have A System; if anything went wrong, it wasn't my fault.) If I decided to tell them, I'd drop a third hint, and then say, "Oh, did you know that I'm a lesbian? Ha, ha! Turns out I am a lesbian!" -- and then usually they would ask questions and we would have The Conversation and I would be another one-sixtrillionth closer to informing the entire planet that I was Definitely A Lesbian.

Then I started kissing boys and binding and it all got very confusing for a time, and I had to change everything. And then I had to change it all again, and again. And probably, six months from now, I'll write a completely different blog post about how I thought I had finally gotten used to coming out, and finally finished telling everyone who needed to know -- and it'll all change again. And I don't know if folks who aren't queer feel the same way about their own identities, in different respects, or if this one is Just For Us. But at this point, it feels like it's just how things go.

*Ok, that's a lie, it didn't really say Lavinia Bandersnatch, it had my legal girl name on it. But I don't give that out any more so you get a fake name. It's even more aggressively, pretentiously British than my real name, so of course I adore it. I should never reproduce, I'd name my children terrible things.


  1. If don't love you before this post, I definitely love you now. I found the end very easy to relate to. "...I was definitely a lesbian. Then I started kissing boys and binding." For me at least, I'm learning that coming out is always a process. Not just because there's always more people, but because life's always changing. My understanding of myself is always changing. Perhaps sexuality and gender is a place where people are constantly growing. I'm beginning to feel like coming out for me isn't an end point, but a mighty journey that gets deeper and more complex each day - also more enriching. I was bi then I was gay. Then I decided to fuck a guy. Then shit became quite queer and I began to think about the lovely penis I bought myself that sits in my (physical) closet and how in my fantasy world I'm a man in a poly relationship with a man partner and a female partner. Oh queerness how I love thee.

  2. We've got a lot in common, you and I: same number of chest hairs.

  3. Eric - Seven's a lucky number.

    Anon - I think that's something a lot of feel, the sense that these things are never fixed in place but always changing. I keep meaning to write a post about that, actually, and how I've gravitated towards the identifiers 'queer' and 'trans' (rather than 'transman' or even just 'man') largely because they can stretch and continue to fit even as my own understanding of myself evolves. In comparison to 'queer', 'lesbian' is such a restrictive word; I resisted identifying that way for a long time, until I'd been with a woman for more than a year and everyone just started referring to me as a lesbian no matter what I did. I know it describes a lot of people well, but since I'm not even a woman I always found it really uncomfortable!

  4. "My actual life is a lot of things; it is my moustache and my thesis; Sherlock and approximately seven chest hairs; walks in the gardens and Shakespeare and having a lot of blood drawn; my life is on my own terms. And I love it."