“So, am I invited to your sister’s wedding?”
“Um, yea. I will give you the wedding invitation.”
This conversation had been pointless, really, because we had both known she wouldn’t be coming. It would have been too out of place for her, but most importantly no one knew about us. It wasn’t the right time to put ourselves at risk. Too many factors involved, too many people…too much heteronormativity. The occasion was my sister’s union with her partner. Little did I know it was also going to be the site of a painful end of a relationship – mine.
The wedding celebrations had just ended and close friends and family had stuck around to unwind. Apart from the emotional exhaustion, we were also physically very tired. As we were relaxing and recounting the eventful moments, I received a call from an unknown number. Not thinking too much, wondering who it could be, I picked up the phone and heard a familiar voice that sounded low and scared. It was my partner, Z.
We had met online like many other queer folk do, started off as friends and eventually moved to something more intimate. It felt risky not only because I had never done anything like this before, but also because it was in secret. It was the first queer relationship where I felt and experienced things I never thought I would. Movies, television, and of course the Internet were my only gateway to “queerness”. So you can imagine the distorted image I had of same sex love and relationships (at that time I identified as cis-female, lesbian). To connect with another queer person and share intimate space with them was a first and meeting Z’s aunt and her partner was even more mind-altering.
The last time I saw Z, we went on a hiking trip with her aunt and partner and stayed with them. Witnessing a complete queer household. Wow. What was that even like? It was new, but felt like home where we all shared a similar identity and had some sense of belonging. Z was selectively out to some family members and friends, but I was still in the closet. I had yet to “come in” to my truest identity, as trans. (More about that, later)
“Someone hacked my phone and has our texts and voice recordings. We can’t do this anymore. I had to get a new phone and download Signal. Let’s talk there.”
I rushed out of the house to get some air, to try to understand what was happening, to try not to succumb to the overwhelming emotions I was feeling. The mention of breaking up was what pierced my heart the most, not the fact that there was someone out there cyber stalking and bullying us. There wasn’t anything “inappropriate” in our communication, but our messages and conversations were quite intimate and personal. If these were to get out, it would create a whole mess of things, not to mention a breach of our privacy.
As I was leaving the house, my sister came after me to see if everything was okay. It wasn’t. My heart was beating fast and tears were pouring out in confusion, uncertainty, and fear. My insides sank, wondering why and how my relationship was ending so abruptly. I admitted to my sister that I was seeing someone – a woman and that someone was harassing her and threatening to expose our private communication. I had had no intention of coming out to my sister this way, driven by pressure instead of purpose.
Regardless, she took this news as calmly as not many would, probably shocked at finding out so many different things at once. I was glad that it didn’t blow back on me for coming out; it was a relief to have someone close to me as an ally. It was a major risk I had taken to come out to a family member, not knowing how she would react and if things would change. Fortunately, she has been understanding and a huge source of support in my life (which I know many family members might not have been in a similar situation) and so this risk turned out to be a necessary risk.
I had risked so much already, not just by loving another woman, but by acting on my desires. By allowing myself to feel intimacy and connection with another queer person. Despite feeling guilt and shame, this risk had become increasingly vital to take.
This risk that the Queer and Trans community face of people “finding out” is not one that every one of us can take. We are bound by the dangers of cis-heteropatriarchy, the violence and constant policing of our bodies by the system. Had it not been for the access I had to the Queer World: the education that I received to be even able to reach out to others in the community (I am grateful to Dr. Ambedkar’s teachings and the opportunities that my mother’s education provided me), the language to use to identify what I was going through, and the compassion I had to give myself over and over again (thanks to mental health professionals), I would still feel trapped and disconnected like I once did when I hadn’t yet come in to my identity. I believe it was always there, I just had to attain that awareness, knowledge, and empathy – none of which would have been possible without the support systems I had access to.
As I was putting myself out there and learning how to navigate the Queer World, the burden of “getting caught” as if I were doing something wrong, felt less. The same implications applied as before, but this time around I had the right resources and people with me. Letting go of cis privilege did not feel like a privilege as much as it felt like something imposed on me by society. Out to almost all the people in my life who were close to me and being more comfortable in the body I was in, the longing to be with someone fully as I was and identified as (non binary, trans) became strong. I wondered if I would still be accepted and loved after I transitioned. It’s one thing accepting yourself as you are. It’s another when someone else accepts you as you are.
I remember the first time I went on a date after socially transitioning from female to a non-binary and trans identity. Like any first date, there was a thrill and a rush of emotions that came with meeting a new person, but it was risky. For a lack of better words: I looked different, embracing my “masculine” side at while keeping my “femme” tendencies, I felt different too. I carried myself differently now that I had fully come into my identity. While gender roles did not change much I was no longer hiding my more “masculine” traits from the world. I had to take that risk to challenge the binaries that were tying me down.
Gradually, I increasingly aligned myself with my gender identity and expression and to my surprise, I felt the most connected I had ever felt. People around me sensed this too, and perhaps the relationships I would now have moving forward would feel more authentic.
This disbelief that I think many queer and trans folk have, especially people with social anxiety, puts us at risk of isolating ourselves from the rest of the world. The self-doubt and mistrust of self and others can be dangerous, emotionally.
The coming out process or the process of coming in to our identity is not a one-time occurrence, but a constant, recurring process we have to continually engage in, in order to live fulfilling and honest lives. The risks we take in order to be comfortable or to “be at one” with our sexuality and actively resist destructive norms are ongoing and necessary. The risks we take to question, acknowledge, and ultimately transform into our identities help us not only to have a better sense of self, but also empower us to fight for a safe and fulfilling life. Taking these risks, therefore, becomes imperative for our survival.
Cover Image: Pixabay