Wednesday, October 15, 2014

It's been almost Ten Years

This is me now. Ten years ago I could not foresee this image or what would lead to it. Let me deconstruct it for you:

I'm posing in a romantic location I'd been visiting since I was seven. The photo is being taken by my boyfriend who loves me very much. This was our first proper holiday together. I'm wearing hotpants and a cami with confidence. I've got my legs on show. My hair looks lovely. I'm wearing next to no makeup. I feel pretty. More important I feel confident and happy....How on earth did I get there?.....

.......with great difficulty!

As an educator I'm always trying to teach students the importance of planning before you act. For years I've been endeavouring to show why it is best to think clearly and research before completing that assignment. 'How are you going to approach the task?'. 'How will you make your meaning clear, back up what you say and justify your position?....' It is ironic that while I was dishing up this advice (over many years) I failed to communicate to others who I was. I felt unable to plan the moment when I would reveal who I actually was or felt I was inside.

Almost ten years ago, on my birthday, I came out to my best friend. It was a momentous decision, one that completely changed my life. It was a decision that had been so long coming. When you have hurt inside for so many years you get used to the pain, it's your constant companion: You learn to endure and suffer in silence because you think that is all you deserve. How do you research and plan to emerge from all that? From the dawn of the World Wide Web I read blogs, consulted Trans awareness sites and the few support networks. While I waited, in fear for the moment when someone would discover I was Trans I read wistfully about the journeys of others, their path to Transition and beyond. Like Sam watching Frodo and the Elves sail away to the West, it seemed like transition would never happen for me. I would always be left behind.

Coming out to my friend was the first step. It happened in a rush with NO preparation save for years of fear and indecision. Maybe coming out is so personal that it can never be properly planned for. In the final event, not all the planning in the world could help. It was just something that had to be said and like an explosion, or a plate glass window smashing, there was a moment of absolute quiet afterwards. It was one filled with all manner of thoughts, fear of rejection, condemnation and losing it all. I needn't have worried: She was in fact incredibly accepting. It turned out that she had suspected as much for years. It was one of the greatest moments of relief in my whole life.

My friend had the privilege(?) of listening to a history of all that had gone before; the sorrows and hurts from years of being bullied, upset, depressed and forced to keep silent. I had the privelege of a bottle of wine, chocolate and (fortunately) a box of tissues. Telling the story of how you hid and ran away from your problems means you end up reliving them in your head. You end up a tear stained and sorry mess but at least you have told someone.

Since that day I've had to come out over and over again. Many of those times were a good deal more difficult. Some ended with a total parting of the ways. There is no ONE definitive coming out. Even so, for me, each disclosure to a new person got easier and I never found any as traumatic as the first. You find ways of answering the inevitable questions and in telling your story more coherently. By the time seven years had elapsed I was out proud and happy to talk to anyone about who I am.

I'm a songwriter and it seemed fitting then at that point, to put it all down and condense. Here are the lyrics from my iPad:

Okay, 'Daring to be a completely new person?' I'm not sure. Let's face it. I am who I've always been; a girl. However the person people thought I was is no longer me. Indeed it never was. I simply tried to fulfil other's expectations. Maybe coming out is so hard because it involves shattering illusions. Illusions are just that; constructs that have no real substance. Life is too short to live hidden behind one.

This has been a really personal account of my coming out. It was prompted by the occasion of International Coming Out Day. I'm aware that others experiences might be very different to mine. I'd love to hear them.


Jane xx

Note: A demo recording of the song above is here on my Reverbnation page:

also on Soundcloud: