Coming out of the closet

From the moment I first heard that one of my kids was LGBT, the pieces of the puzzle of my life started coming together. That is to say, things that never quite made sense and those deep secrets I had buried so far down inside of me all of a sudden snapped together like a jigsaw puzzle exploding in reverse.

Now that isn’t to say I had all of the answers at that moment. At that moment I didn’t have any of the answers, I don’t know if I even had a question. But I knew this LGBT stuff in some way related to me.

As soon as I could, I shared that with my wife. That conversation was a bit tense at times, and it was very emotional. But it ended with our both realizing that as we figured out what all of this meant for our kids, we needed to figure out what it meant for me.

All of that happened right before our big move from Seattle to Utah in early 2018. So we had to put it on hold for a bit. As soon as we got the family here and settled we started looking into how this was going to change our lives.

Another change we were dealing with shortly after moving was a new shul, and it wasn’t Orthodox. One issue with moving to Utah was that there are no Orthodox shuls. But there is a Conservative/Reform shul. We started attending, but this took some adjusting.

One of those adjustments was accepting a more egalitarian and open-minded perspective on life. It was quite clear that they had no problem with LGBT, so our research on Conservative/Reform theology related to trans was fairly quick.

We didn’t really have to study the Orthodox view, as we had already learned their perspective while we were studying similar topics for our kids. While there are a handful of Orthodox rabbis who are open to the LGBT world, the vast majority of them only want to consider the status quo. I have been very perplexed by this since they staunchly follow modern science on nearly every other medical topic. I have yet to hear an answer to this inconsistency.

But we still had a long way to go with trans itself. When we started studying, all we knew was that it looked like I was somewhere on the trans spectrum. But where? Just saying you are trans doesn’t say that much. As some of you may know is a whole category. Merely saying you are trans only tells people that you do not identify as the gender you were assigned at birth. At that moment that was about all I knew.

At first, our focus was mostly on our kids. We wanted to know what they were going through and we wanted to understand the big picture. But when we would come across something that seemed like it might say something about me, we considered it.

Along the way, we looked at some of the variations within the trans spectrum. I would ponder does this concept within the trans umbrella apply to me, does it seem to fit who I am. But this wasn’t so easy for a couple of reasons.

First off trans is one of the newer letters in the acronym. That is to say, even though history shows trans people going back for centuries, from a scientific perspective trans research is fairly new. I don’t know of any serious work questioning the validity of trans. Transgender, one that identifies as a gender other than what they were assigned at birth has been an established fact for quite some time. But there are aspects of the trans spectrum, non-binary, genderfluid, etc. that are not as well understood right now. A number of current research projects are trying to better understand these people. This is complicated by the fact that much of the terminology is still in flux. Different researchers use the same word to mean different conditions.

The other thing that made this rather difficult was that since I had hidden from who I am for decades, I had a lot of me to uncover before I knew what the pieces of my puzzle looked like. My wife and I would stay up at night discussing my past and what it might mean.

One thing that I think held us both back a bit was that we didn’t want this to be big. I think we were both looking for a solution that we could keep to ourselves. We definitely wanted to solve the riddle of my past, but we wanted it to stay there, or at least not be public.

This went on for months with us privately exploring various options as we learned about the rainbow in general. We would hit upon a given trans topic and explore that for weeks, trying to make it answer all of the questions that kept growing.

I think all this time we knew what the obvious answer was, but we didn’t want that. We wanted a simple answer that wouldn’t impact our lives. But as we slowly eliminated the other options, the obvious one was all that was left.

This culminated in a near crisis. The reality of who I am was becoming more and more undeniable. But it wasn’t the answer we wanted at that time. At that time, we realized I needed to seek professional help. We had gone as far as our own research and understanding could take us.

We had learned enough to know that not every therapist can deal with this. Trans is a complex topic, so you need someone with experience in the field. We started looking at the various therapists in the area. We found one who had many years of experience working with trans, so I made an appointment with her.

My first visit was monumental, to say the least. I spilled my guts. Things about my past that I had only recently told my wife. Even then as I was talking, I think I knew what the answer was, but I needed to hear it from her. That meeting ended with her confirming that I was transgender, identifying as the gender opposite the sex I was assigned at birth. Hearing that was both a great relief and also quite frightening. What now?

Fortunately, by this time my wife was committed to doing whatever it took to make things work. This wasn’t the direction we wanted. It wasn’t the easy direction, but it was clearly the direction I needed to take. We had by this time ruled out all other options.

The next few days were extremely difficult. Knowing doesn’t equal accepting, so I still had this dichotomy going on inside of me. It wasn’t that I didn’t like who I am, the female within. In fact, I realized that I always wanted to let that part of me out. It was just that doing so didn’t fit into my current life too well.

During this time my wife and I had a lot of difficult conversations. We considered how to deal with this newfound reality of who I am. Could I only present female at select times and places? Could I just present more neutral? Was there any way to minimize the impact?

The obvious thing to consider was the massive impact this would have on my life if I transitioned publicly. But I think the opposite consideration was the turning point for both of us. What would the impact be on my life, on our life, if I didn’t transition? The genie was out of the bottle and there was no putting her back, one way or another we had to deal with this.

I could go through the rest of my life pretending, or I could be real. Up to this point, I wasn’t pretending I didn’t know who I was. I was doing my best to fit in. I often failed, but I never knew why, so I just accepted it as my lot in life. But now I knew. I knew why my childhood was so miserable. I knew why even as an adult I often found various social situations awkward. I knew who I really was. Eventually, I knew I didn’t want to put the genie back in the bottle even if I could.

I wanted to be me, the real me. We both knew it would not be easy. But it was quite clear this was the only viable path. At this point our research was no longer for our kids, it was for me, for us. My awesome wife had concluded a while back that none of this changed us. All of the things that made us perfect for each other were still very much there. For sure there would be some adjustments, but life, at least our life, is full of adjustment. Yes, this is a big one, but so are the rewards.

I have been out publicly since November of 2019. It has been the most wonderful and difficult thing I have ever done. One of the greatest wonders is finding out who I am. One of the more terrifying and beautiful things is looking at someone face to face as I explain all of this. But that is getting easier with practice. I have come out so many times I have lost count.

One very important thing I have learned in the past few years is that life is a journey. It isn’t yesterday or tomorrow. It is the journey you are on right now. It is that journey you are on right now that will prepare you for tomorrow.