This was a surprisingly difficult thing to do. Not because I didn't want to, but because there were significant obstacles in the way. Those of you who know me (and followers of this blog) will already know how much my ex-wife loathes cross-dressing, and how manipulative and obstructive she can be.
Without going through all the exhausting and tedious details (and there are many!) I managed to navigate the worst of her obstacles and finally do the Big Reveal.
Having been very careful in making this move has allowed several things to happen. It has allowed me to contemplate seriously, and for the first time, what my life might look like if I didn't have to hide who I am. For many years, I had to deal with a wife who told me how disgusting, how shameful, how unacceptable it is to enjoy wearing feminine clothing. This was very corrosive to my self-esteem.
During this time, hiding and pretending felt normal. It felt safe. It felt like a boat I didn't want to rock, because I was still very fearful of further negative consequences, and I didn't think I had the strength to weather them.
But the idea of no longer having to hide was beginning to take hold. Looking ahead, I could see light for the very first time--a light which I didn't dare to dream would ever shine on me. When my ex-wife's protests began to mount, the thought of moving backward was intolerable.
The Big Reveal
I've always found it amusingly ironic that a common metaphor for facing up to something difficult is to "put your big girl panties on". This was definitely one of those moments!
The star of the show was the eldest boy, in his late teens. He accepted it immediately and completely, and was so mature. He was the one I was most worried about, as he’s grown up believing his dad was an ordinary guy (albeit a geeky, scholarly one), and I wasn’t sure how he would take the news.
The one I expected would be no trouble was the eldest girl, in her middle teens. She’s very “woke”, very pro rainbow people, and has often made statements in support of minority causes. Although she also wasn’t expecting this announcement, I thought she was the one “primed” to be accepting. Instead she was quite upset, and took herself off to her mother’s place immediately.
The younger two have been fine, especially the one who is already a bit rainbow.
What I told them all is: this isn’t a secret any more. I didn’t want to pull them into the closet with me, but instead to open the door a lot wider. What that means (for me) is no more hiding. While I’m not going to wave Vivienne in people’s faces, nor am I going to be hiding away and hoping I don’t meet anyone who might recognise me.
I’m still processing all this. My daughter’s reaction hit me especially hard. Instead of feeling relief, or satisfaction, or triumph, I felt deflated and disheartened for a couple of weeks. It made me wonder whether I had done the right thing at all: did I push it too hard? Should I have waited longer?
I’m gradually feeling slightly better, and early indications are that she is coming around a bit more. But I still feel it’s too soon to be celebrating.
The person who has made all this possible has been my amazing partner, Missy, who has unfailingly supported me, gently coaxed me away from my tendency to catastrophise everything, and used wisdom and gentleness to help me reframe my feelings more positively. I still wonder how I’ve ended up being so fortunate.
Out, and Proud?
The word Pride is often used by rainbow people. We have Pride parades in many cities every year. They have gone from being protest marches against oppression to being (in the main) colourful parades suitable for the whole family, which is a wonderful thing. The struggle isn’t over, of course, and in some countries things seem to be actually going backwards.
|It's nice to finally meet you!|
But the notion of Pride is a powerful one. It’s retaliation against the sense of shame and exclusion that many of us have felt. (I know that what I’ve experienced is a drop in the bucket compared to what others have experienced!). The concept of Pride is for rainbow people to be able to say: here I am; I am a worthy person; and I am proud of who I am.
As of today, I’m not feeling proud of myself--yet. Perhaps this moment will come. And, as one person after another learns about Vivienne and responds with warmth and acceptance and curiosity, rather than revulsion or scorn, my self-image is gradually changing. And my wardrobe is improving and my makeup is looking better and I’m feeling more comfortable and natural when I go out. The overall trend is upward.
When I started talking to my trans friends and acquaintances and Facebook groups about coming out, several of them clearly saw it in very different terms from me. They saw it as a thing to celebrate. Have a party, they said (a gender-reveal party!). Make it a special day! Enjoy it!
This had never once occurred to me. Until recently, coming out has been something I dreaded, and was not looking forward to it at all. (Missy spoke of “ripping the plaster off”). Having a party to celebrate? It’s definitely something I’m thinking about, and it might make a turning point.
So what is the future going to look like? That light in the distance is beginning to look a whole lot closer. And the face that I'm going to show to the world is going to look like this one a whole lot more often.
Wow! That's amazing news and I'm so happy for you. I hope that in time, your daughter will come to terms with the situation.ReplyDelete
Thank you so much Lynne! She seems to be coming round gradually.Delete
That's good to hear and, in fairness to her, it must have been quite a surprise.Delete
PS: I think that photo of you is fab.
Wish you all the best for the future. I am sure your daughter will come round in due course. The mid-teens is a difficult time even if you don't have anything new to them to add in to the mix.ReplyDelete
Incidentally, I do like the picture. Your smile worthy of the Cheshire cat itself really makes it a good one.
Penny from Edinburgh.
Thanks Penny. I know that being a teenager is hard enough without discovering that your dad has some very unexpected wardrobe choices!Delete
Thank you for your compliments about my picture. I think you'll find all my pictures are smily; I'm always happy when I'm dressed.
I wish I'd had a chance to meet you when I lived in Edinburgh!
I always get excited when I see you’ve written a new post and this one is the best ever! So pleased for you.ReplyDelete
Thank you very much! It's definitely a watershed for me.Delete
I tried to insert a friendly "hugs" emoji, but it was not allowed.ReplyDelete
So here's a link to one instead...
Thank you so much! I have your book here, completely unopened. I keep meaning to set aside the time for a good browse!Delete
This is so wonderful for you. Teens often begrudge any kind of change…but it in time it will ease. My 18 year (who I always believed sat somewhere on the rainbow) has just told me they’re questioning their gender. It still came as a shock, even though I suspected something. We all have to live as our true authentic selves. I’m so happy for you. What wonderful times you have ahead 🌈💕.ReplyDelete
Thank you very much! There have been (as always) a few bumps in the road. But things are definitely getting easier, and they are far better than I ever thought they would be.Delete
I don't know how to get to my google account. I have a trans friend that change from man to woman. She is really good with make up. It was a process to be sure. I originally got to know her as a man and unfortunately I have a hard time calling her she I get so bad at myself when I say he not have her family excepted her the other half does not speak to her so it sounds to me like you're doing pretty good good luckDelete
This sounds wonderfully brave and a great step forward. I hope that your daughter has come round by now. (I found your blog via Quora.)ReplyDelete
Thank you so much Fairyhedgehog for dropping by. I am always hopeful that people will like my Quora content so much that they check out this blog--but I have to say, I think the number who do is very small! Welcome anyway, and do please comment on anything. I respond (as you see!) to all comments, even on very old articles.Delete
Congratulations I am not there yet but I have just come out to myself.ReplyDelete
Every journey begins with a single step!Delete
Coming out is always much more of a process than an action, one way and another it is something that we have to do all our lives, I tend to think of it as just having difficult conversations. My daughter too found it difficult to accept me when I first came out, I suspect that this is because as fathers it is us who model masculinity to our daughters ~ they can then be confused about us as a father, as a man, and about how they feel about us.ReplyDelete
My daughter is now very happy with our relationship and us happy to tell her friends "my dad is a woman!"
Thanks for your comment Paula. I'm still working through this with my daughter. I'm just trying to include Vivienne as part of my life without trying to make it a big deal, and without forcing the issue with her. I'm just trying to let her see that Vivienne is here, and staying, whether she likes it or not!Delete