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Is it okay that I'm not out as trans?

Updated: Mar 13

Q: When I was 12 years old I came out as bisexual and everything went fine. My parents aren't the most progressive people in the world but they truly want me to be happy and I am lucky for that. The thing is, I'm not bi, I'm gay. I think I always knew that I only liked men and it's become increasingly clear to me that this is the case, all girls schools have way more queer people then the church wants you to think about. So yeah, I think I always knew. I figured out I was trans when I was 13 and everything clicked, I realized the only reason I never thought I could date a man was because I also needed to be a man for it to sound appealing. So here I am, 15 years old and out to my parents as a bisexual cis woman when in reality I am a gay trans man. I thought it was fine, like I mentioned, I go to an all girls school but it's not nearly as bad as you would think. I've got a good group of queer friends that keep me safe from the more distasteful figures. Plus they use my prefered pronouns so an overall score. I'm not sure why I am still out a bi to my parents. It's not true. I think that I need them to know I'm queer, even if it's not in the way I really am. My cousin recently came out as gay, he's cis, smart, overall a great person and I'm really really jealous. Spiteful even. It's not fair to him, I'm sure it wasn't easy for him to come out, it never is, but I feel so small. It hurts to not share who you truly are. It's physically painful. Recently I got my hands on a copy of XY Magazine, it's a 90s magazine for gay men, and I feel so jealous of them for it being so easy. They'll never have to worry about this. Again it's spiteful, and I am working to be better about it. I'm not sure what questions I really have. I guess I just need some reassurance that it gets better. I can't come out, not yet, but I feel so alone because I want to hide the transness in me. I want to keep it locked away, not because I hate it, but because it is the only thing I am really sure of. Is it okay to want to hide it? To revel in it separately? Can I even call myself trans if I'm still not ready to make it known? Is it okay that I feel safe in the hurt that is the closet? My chest aches from hiding but it feels comfortable.

S: So I think the main answer to this is actually quite simple: There is no wrong way to be trans. Any type or degree of being out, any presentation, any self-description (and who, if anyone, else uses it for you), whatever. Whether you're out to everyone or some people or nobody at all has literally no bearing on your gender. You are not any less trans because you aren't out everywhere, regardless of what your reasons for that are. Someone can keep their gender to themself for their entire life and it wouldn't make that gender less true.

I do want to address your situation specifically, so I'll center that discussion on the questions you ask at the end.

  • "Is it okay to want to hide it?" Yes. It would be perfectly fine to feel that for any reason. I can't tell if your reasons have to do with safety or personal preference or both or neither, but it doesn't change this answer; you don't owe it to the world or your family or anyone to come out if you don't feel like doing so. And if your personal safety is in question, as is the case for a lot of trans and gender diverse teens and others who are reliant on family, it's even more important to prioritize that.

  • "To revel in it separately?" I honestly hadn't thought about this aspect of gender before, but it makes a lot of sense. There's certainly nothing wrong with keeping yourself safe on an emotional level, which this sounds like it could be. One type of gender euphoria can, I think, be just the knowledge of your own gender, and it's perfectly okay--and actually rather wonderful--to enjoy that on your own terms without wanting to share it.

  • "Can I even call myself trans if I'm still not ready to make it known?" Absolutely. I'll refer you back to the first paragraph of this answer.

  • "Is it okay that I feel safe in the hurt that is the closet?" Also yes. You've described this in an extremely compelling way; because we live in a world where there can be all kinds of risks to being openly trans, it's completely reasonable to have a mixture of potentially conflicting feelings around the idea of coming out. Everyone has a different set of pros and cons (actually many different sets as these tend to vary wildly depending on the context you're considering, as you've found with the different environments of friends and family). Choosing to come out in any given situation depends on how those balance. It sounds like for you, the pros of not being out to your family currently outweigh the cons of staying closeted. Perhaps that will change in future, or not--there isn't a wrong decision on your end, and it may always feel like a mix.

The one thing that I'll caution you about, which I think you're already aware of, is making assumptions about other people's experiences (especially ones you don't know personally and who lived/are living through different time periods or social environments). I do understand that it's tempting to compare yourself to what seems like an easier situation, but even if it's an accurate comparison (which you really can't know from something like a magazine designed to celebrate an identity--please, please find additional sources before deciding that it was easy to be a gay man in the 90s, or now!), it's a pretty harmful direction for your frustrations. Your situation is the fault of a transphobic society and individuals, not of people who are also oppressed in different ways. Something that I've found to be really valuable is reading up on queer history; it helps to learn about the long and rich background of trans and gender diverse people as well as other queer identities, and it also can guide you away from the repeated patterns of different queer groups getting turned against one another instead of working in solidarity. This history is often incredibly tragic, but that's important to know about too.

So to address what I think is your overall question: It does get better! You're in what can be a particularly frustrating situation right now because your dependence on your family is probably a huge factor in how, when, and if you decide to come out, but that element of your life will change drastically in not very long. Meanwhile, look for ways to minimize and divert your frustrations--perhaps that simply means giving yourself permission to feel however you feel while knowing that it doesn't in any way negate your gender, or maybe it means self-educating or finding additional connections. Know that whatever you decide, you're not any less trans because of it.

K: Agreed with everything said above, so I'll try not to be too repetitive. You don't have to be out for your transness to be valid and real, what other people know or don't know about your gender has no bearing on your gender. You're a trans man, and other people thinking you're a cis woman doesn't change that. You're in the best position to know what is safe for you in regards to coming out or not. There's always the possibility things could go badly when you come out as trans while living with and being financially dependent upon family, so wanting to keep this to yourself is a perfectly reasonable and understandable way to feel. Prioritizing your safety and well-being is the most important thing, and once you're more financially independent, your thoughts on coming out may change. Your thoughts may even change before that, but you're in the best position to know when the right time to come out is. I do want to reiterate the point S made about not assuming how easy others have it, and learning more about queer history. Certainly being trans comes with a lot more systemic oppression than being gay (and you're both trans and gay), but that doesn't mean it's ever been easy to be gay for cis people. I was a kid in the 90s so I have no personal experience being out then, but going off of what it was like to be a queer teen for my friends and I in a small town in the Midwest in the 2000s, it can't have been easy. It's fine to acknowledge being trans adds layers of oppression, but it's not great to erase or minimize what other people go through.

I also want to agree that it does get better. As I said, being independent makes being out or coming out safer in some ways, and as you have more control over where you live and who you interact with, you can surround yourself with other trans and gender diverse people. I came out as an adult and it's only been about 6 years, but I already feel a lot more settled in who I am, I have more support and more trans and gender diverse people in my life, and things that felt scary or unobtainable feel easier to me now. I hope this helps, but please follow up if you have further questions or if we didn't quite address things!

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