*trigger warning for people with issues relating to being bullied, gender dysphoria, coming out and sexuality*
By Jess Brown
This is the story of my coming out(s) and if you’re in the closet, try not to let any unintentionally caused fear this may stir up stay with you. It’ll be different and hopefully positive when and if you decide to come out.
I remember being nervously perched on the edge of my seat like a bird in an open cage waiting for the cat to leap in and gobble me all up. I’m bad at metaphors but hopefully you get the gist of the feeling I had when I was coming out the first time. I’ll explain the second time a little bit later on in this post. I felt like I was on a roller coaster at the bit where you sit just before a massive drop. Anticipation, nerves firing up, stomach churning, tongue twisted uncertainty ahead. Coming out isn’t just one event either. Sure some people are throwing parties for it now, but that’s not my style. For most of us it’s saying the same words over and over to different family members, friends, colleagues. That doesn’t even cover people you’re going to meet and have to tell in the future. It’s scary not knowing who is going to accept you. It’s a big weight to carry for sure and everyone’s coming out is different. My first time, it turned out, was expected. The main reactions to me being bi were either “I thought you were already” or “called it”. I was lucky to receive support from my family and friends even if I did, and still get, some confusion over it. “I just can’t imagine you doing stuff with a guy” is a common thing and I’m over here like “well mum and dad I don’t really want you to imagine that, so please stop”.
To be fair by that point I had come to terms with what I was. It was something I’d known since I was 11 but had suppressed due to fear of being bullied at school. I was already getting bullied and didn’t want to have that pressure on me increased. I felt safer at 21 and more comfortable being me. I had been out of school a while and had managed to somehow find a group of friends who loved me for the oddball that I am. When I finally let it out to them and my family it was such a weight off of my shoulders. I breathed a bit easier. With fresh eyes I could go out into the world and explore that side of me more.
There was still something off though. Something I was ignoring… Biting at the back of my brain. I’d not been fully honest with myself or them. Over the course of 2016 and early 2017 I realised with the help of some friends that I had issues with my gender and had had them for a while. After some discussions with doctors I was diagnosed with gender dysphoria. I hated my body and felt so trapped inside it, I wanted to be female more than anything which lead me through some tough times and some very difficult conversations with friends and family. Especially when I changed my name to Jess. Coming out as trans was way harder for me than coming out as bi was. For the most part I was accepted but I got a lot of denials from people and a lot of vigorous questioning too. I got told a lot that it was all in my head and it wasn’t real. True it was happening in my head but it wasn’t delusion. It was a truth to me. It hurts still that some people haven’t been able to accept that it’s who I am. Especially when it doesn’t affect them massively. Calling me Jess is the only thing I’ve ever asked. Not that it’s a bad thing to ask for pronouns to be changed but I’ve never asked that of anyone. Just Jess, and some people still deny me that.
The point is, it was very hard and some of my family still don’t acknowledge it or accept it. I deal with that by ignoring them or arguing a lot. It’s kind of a stab in the heart when anyone calls me by my boring birth name but they don’t know any better. I’ve tried educating them on empathy but it just doesn’t really go in. I know the majority accept me for who I am, and my friends are all really understanding about it even if they struggle with my chosen name. My situation’s a little easier now thanks to the support I’ve had. I’ve learnt to accept it and don’t really see myself as a boy or a girl, I’m more in between and not needing of a label now. It’s not that my body still doesn’t feel right, it’s more that I have to live with this whilst I wait to get seen by a psychiatrist (the waiting list is long) so I have come to a medium about it. Gotta cope somehow. I’m Jess and that’s what matters.
So, they’re the two times I’ve had to come out. One went fairly well and one was mixed and is still developing. Extremely slowly. I hope if you’re reading this that you have/have had a positive experience coming out and if you’re worried or scared about it these links might be useful to you. Remember to try and stay safe and more importantly stay true to you.
Advice and Support or LGBT+ at Sheffield Hallam University
Contact details for Sheffield Hallam Students Union LGBT+ Students Rep Kirstie Rutter