The courage of com­ing out

Si­mon Wil­liamson lives with his fed­er­ally-rec­og­nized spouse in the wild yon­der of New­ton County. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @si­mon­willo.

GA Voice - - Outspoken - By Si­mon Wil­liamson

We all had to be brave. Cait­lyn Jen­ner has given the coun­try yet another op­por­tu­nity to de­clare who is not a hero in re­la­tion to the mil­i­tary, and the coun­try has re­sponded in the best way it knows how, fu­ri­ously, across any Face­book page within typ­ing dis­tance.

Nonethe­less, since Jen­ner got un­der the skin of an­gry folks by dar­ing to be called coura­geous by other peo­ple, this per­pet­ual whin­ing has shown the greater public may be on the side of LGBT+ folks when it comes to mar­riage (and the ridicu­lous le­gal ef­fects at­tached to it) but woe­fully ig­no­rant of the pain and dan­ger of liv­ing a life in se­cret, which is ul­ti­mately some­thing all of us who fit within our ab­bre­vi­a­tion have un­der­gone.

Even in fam­i­lies where our in­con­gru­ency with the ba­sic gen­der bi­nary has been per­fectly ac­cept­able, there was risk in our de­ci­sions to come out. Be­cause, like a top bot­tom­ing for the first time, once out there is no go­ing back in. No one knows for sure that Par­ent A and/or Par­ent B will be fully sup­port­ive, and any­one who has ever at­tended a school with pubescent or older peers will be able to re­lay the hor­ror of be­ing un­typ­i­cal. Hor­ror. Worse than not be­ing able to show off your brand new 9-months-of-taste-free-food abs be­cause you stupidly got a sun­burn.

Be­ing forced to hide one’s self from the world is a cruel and un­usual pun­ish­ment, and is only re­lat­able if you have had to go through it. There is the very real dan­ger of any­one find­ing out and hat­ing you, or abus­ing you, and in far too many cases, killing you. And there is the per­pet­ual guard­ed­ness you have to carry around, which, in my case, wore me to the emo­tional bone.

I have another story about an emo­tional bone, but I was drunk and he was so pretty. And we had just seen “The Fault In Our Stars.”

Back to the topic at hand: just be­cause Cait­lyn Jen­ner might be a Hol­ly­wood celebrity, cash­ing in on her fame, doesn’t mean she was spared the pain and para­noia so many of us have en­dured. I was all teary and emo­tional for months be­fore I came out at age 19. I don’t even want to think about what it must be like hid­ing your­self into your 60s. It is also out­ra­geously im­por- tant for trans peo­ple ev­ery­where to know there are trans peo­ple ev­ery­where.

Over the last few years we have had Laverne Cox, Chaz Bono and Janet Mock light up our screens, and show the world that trans peo­ple ex­ist, and now we can add Jen­ner to that pow­er­ful list.

As a young gay man, I de­cided to come out be­cause the win­ner of a Bri­tish singing com­pe­ti­tion did. Don’t ever doubt the value and sin­cer­ity of a po­tent sym­bol to peo­ple who are strug­gling to deal with what they are hid­ing. Chan­nel 2’s com­ment sec­tion might be whin­ing about con­not­ing Jen­ner and courage, but any­one in our fam­ily will be able to tell you it was never easy. It might be noth­ing like fight­ing in the mil­i­tary. But it was fuck­ing ter­ri­fy­ing.

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