I’ve been writing a lot about coming out , and my latest get together with a couple of my trans friends provides more insight.
We will call them girl-A & girl-B, and we had a nice little gathering recently. We don’t get to see girl-B much, so it’s always a treat when she's there. After much catching up our topic of talk always turns to all things trans.
Girl-B opined that she had had little, if any, ‘girl time’. A relative had moved in with her and that made the transformation all but impossible. I have known girl-B for quite a while and I know that she really finds the thought of being discovered unpleasant.
I can remember an occasion that we were attending an event and I was giving her a ride. She had me come down the alley and park in her garage. As I drove was away from her house she ducked down a bit until we were well clear of her neighborhood.
This is not unusual behavior. Most trans people, women in particular, raised more than a couple of decades ago have been through this. The thought of anyone seeing you struck absolute fear in your heart. I know, I was there once.
Girl-B is quite comfortable around other LGBT people and is actually quite lively, often the center of attention. So it’s not a matter of her being shy.
Girl-A and I often ride together to events. I drive to the front of her house and she walks out to my car. We often go to public places together, museums, movies restaurants, she is extremely comfortable in public.
Originally from another town, except for wife & kids, all her family and friends are in her home town. She is going home for an extended visit this summer and is quite scared of their reaction to her appearance. She is adamant that they can never know anything about her being trans, so she is afraid they will notice that her eyebrows are thinner, that her beard does not grow (laser treatments), that her hair is very long.
Girl-A is perfectly comfortable with strangers, It’s a different town and except for her trans friends, almost no one knows her. She worries only about her family and friends back home, and states she would rather die, than cause any of them the discomfort of knowing she is trans.
Girl-B is afraid of her family and friends knowing, but is also afraid strangers. She feels that everyone will judge her poorly. The exception is her trans friends.
I know that I went through these stages myself. Originally I wanted no one to know, but I slowly added family, then friends, then strangers.
I wish I could say these are stages that we all pass through naturally, but this is not the case. I know many transgender women and I can see that everyone seems to find a stage they can live with and stick with it, or if they do move on to another stage, it’s a slow process. At least they all made it past the very first and hardest stage, leaving the house.
A cursory read on any of the many internet forums will show you that the majority of the people on these sites will never leave their house. They will never get over that stage of fear that would let them meet in person, others like themselves..
So what can we do? I think that just like cis people, trans people need to get to know other trans people. And this is happening. Media exposure goes a long way toward the transgender stuck a home. But public exposure is what it will really take. Once they see others in common places the fear will lose some of it power.
So how about my friend girl-A? She is certainly comfortable in public. Her only hope, is for her family and friends to be exposed to enough transgender people to think of trans as acceptable, then they will have to express it to her. Fear will prevent her from ever being the instigator in that talk.