National Coming Out Day is upon us once again, and once again I find myself in a position to come out. This summer marked my 25th outiversary as gay. In 1997 I was sure of who I was and was ready to tell the world. At that time, I knew myself to be a butch lesbian, even if I shrank from the word “lesbian” because of its femme connotations, or so went my misogynist butch mindset at the time. I actually preferred the moniker “dyke”, though several of my lesbian sisters informed me that that was a reductionist way of referring to myself. And to be fair, I didn’t know that much about butch lesbians, and had honestly not really lived as one, not really. After years of reading LGBT+ history, I now know that when I first started using the term, I hadn’t really earned it, not really. My life had not been full of strive. I had not fought for my right to exist. I just liked dressing in “men’s” clothing and dating other women who did the same. Or so my limited understanding of myself at the time went.
I didn’t mean to bury the lead like this, so here goes: I’m a trans man. When I first started experimenting with using Samuel, instead of the name my parents gave me, in 2019, I wasn’t at all sure how far my gender exploration would take me. However, at the time, I honestly thought that I would, eventually, legally change my name and go by they/them pronouns and that would be that. I protested that I knew I wasn’t a man, so male pronouns and male terms (such as the idea of my nieces calling me “uncle”) didn’t apply. I accepted they/them as my personal savior because it’s what was available to me as a way to stop using female pronouns, which had always felt wrong. I was going to use the name for a year, as is recommended, before changing my name legally in 2020. However, things didn’t exactly go according to plan.
By the time 2020 came around the world was in chaos, trying to cope with a pandemic that we should have been prepared for, but weren’t. In the turmoil, I temporarily lost my job, scrambled for another one, and, unsuccessful, lost my apartment. This upheaval forced me to move in with a friend while I got back on my feet and to put any further plans for changing my name on hold. While I was waiting for my fortunes to change, I started thinking about top surgery. I argued with myself that I was still nonbinary, that just because I wanted to get rid of my chest that didn’t change my identity as I then knew it to be. A perfectly legitimate argument. So, I began the process of finding a surgeon and jumping through all the hoops necessary to get this surgery. The surgery was performed in March of this year. At the time of surgery, I STILL hadn’t gotten my name legally changed, but all my doctors, as well as those in my life, were calling me Sam.
I think the slow progression of my true self making itself known to me began after my surgery. During the recovery process I discovered I actually liked being shirtless, something I didn’t expect. Shortly after I graduated from my plastic surgeon’s care (six weeks after surgery), I took a trip to Oklahoma to see my chosen family. (This incident was discussed at length in a previous blog.) By the end of this trip, I was ready to talk to my doctor about starting testosterone. I also, finally, filled out the paperwork to change my name. That name change was granted on July 13th. When I went to the DMV to get my new ID made, I had a decision to make: which gender marker do I go with? Illinois voted the X gender marker legal several years ago, but due to contracts the state has with the company that makes the IDs, it wouldn’t be an available option until 2024. I knew that once I started taking T that if I chose F on my ID that soon enough my visible gender would not match my ID, and I feared the repercussions of that. Choosing to declare M on my ID was one of the easiest decisions I’ve had to make thus far. However, as the months have passed, I’ve grown into this letter.
I’ve come to realize what I’ve been suppressing from myself this whole time: I AM a male. I have always denied this to myself, pshawing it away, doth protesting too much. There are so many things I could list here that would point to my true self, that I have only recently been able to admit to myself, but that would get tedious and seem like I’m justifying, and I have no need to do that. Suffice it to say, having surgery and taking T have allowed me to finally be who I’ve always been and admit it to myself. Every new discovery I have about my body on T, about how I experience the world now, has been euphoric. And I’ve become one of those people that strokes the hairs on their chin, making it look like I’m in deep thought, when in reality I’m just thinking, “This feels cool.” I also will run my hand over my chest and my newly growing chest hair, marveling at the new growth and not hating it as much as I thought I would. There are definitely things to get used to about this new body as it develops, not the least of which is how the world reacts to it and how affirming it is to be referred to by male pronouns, for my gender to be taken as a given and not something to puzzle over and guess at. While my world isn’t perfect, there are often many states of bliss.
So, on this National Coming Out Day, I find myself coming out again, twenty-five years after the first time, as male. My pronouns are he/him, my name is Sam or Samuel, and my sexuality is always evolving. Happy National Coming Out Day everyone.