The Closet Myth

Content Warning for Rape and Murder of Trans People.

I think the biggest misconception of all is that queer people are in the closet because we are too scared to be out and went looking for a place to hide. That’s not how we got there. The closet was being built around us before we even experienced sexual attraction: with bricks of hetero- and cisnormativity and bi-erasure, held together by the mortar of prejudice and stereotype, and reinforced with severe homo-, bi- and transphobia.  For the sake of this post, like most of mine, I mean queer as in the queer community. There’s also asexual and aromantic phobia and policing and gatekeeping once you come out of the closet.

If you take a look at my identity and the LGBTQIA acronym, I hit like 4 identities.  I’m biromantic, transgender, intersex, and demi sexual, meaning I’m halfway sexual halfway asexual.  Basically, I’m as queer as a three dollar bill. Yet, most people just associate me with being trans.

I’ve been out of the closet since 2011, and I came out as trans in February of 2012.  Yet, I didn’t know I was intersex until last May when my hormone doctor casually mentioned it.  Even now that’s not something that a lot of people know about me.  I’ve never even had the conversation with my parents about it.

When I told my mother I was trans, she was not the ally she is now.  She told me that if she could re-train my brain, she would tell it that I’m a woman.  When I came out as bi in high school, my Dad heard I like boys and girls as I like boys.  When you’re in the middle of a spectrum, you get flack from both sides.

I’ve had tons of people that are gay and lesbian tell me that they first came out as bi to their parents to “ease the blow.” I’ve been told to pick a sexual attraction. I’ve been told that I can’t identify as bi if I won’t sleep with everyone. From the queer community that is supposed to embrace me, and the cisgender heterosexual community.

What this did was force me to stay in the closet. When I dated my last boyfriend, and we were both trans men, people either saw us as very butch lesbians, or gay men. They did not see us as bisexuals, because bisexuals do not exist.

I don’t remember a lot of my childhood. I blocked a lot of stuff out because I needed to survive.  I needed to survive because I knew, even at a young age, that I was different, that different was scary, that I wasn’t safe. I remember the feeling of lace on my legs as I sat in my grandmother’s church, wearing dresses. I’d go back over a decade later dressed traditionally masculine, and my grandparents are wonderful people.  But I was in first grade and I felt that the dresses I was being forced to wear every week were burning my skin.  But I couldn’t say, Grandma, I don’t want to wear dresses. I just knew that it was something I had to do. I remember in fifth grade when I had a crush on a girl and I was in a book club with a really good friend, who was a boy, and we were all saying people we had crushes on and I had to make up a boys name because I knew in fifth grade that it wasn’t okay for me to like girls, too.  Plus, I think forcing elementary school kids to have crushes and talk about them in a book club is a little bizarre.

I remember a few years later when people told me that I would want to have sex some day. And so far, I’m still not too wild about it.  But the point is, I was always aware of it. I remember middle school and I dressed in boy clothes a majority of the time.  I remember when my friend and I were going to the mall to watch a movie and my Mom made me wear a dress and put makeup on me and told me not to take it off. I remember my ex best friends Mom seeing me as she picked me up and I was close to tears, so she took me to Target and bought me some boy clothes, which included boxers, which we kept at her sons house.

I didn’t go to the closet to hide because I was scared of living authentically. When I was sixteen, I watched Boys Don’t Cry in the basement with the lights off and the sound off in the middle of the night because all I knew about it was that there was a boy like me who had female body parts.  I watched in horror as Brandon Teena was violently raped then murdered.  I told myself that I would only live as a boy if I had no other options.

Then once I came out, I got flack from the community that was supposed to embrace me, especially now that I’m not as masculine as people would like me to be. Closets don’t just happen over night. My Mom, as much as I love her, as much as she has done for me in the last two years, did not just start with a comment that I needed to go to gender therapy to accept I’m a woman, instead of moving forward in my transition.  Closets are a prison that society creates by telling people that who they are is unacceptable.

Holiday Update

I haven’t written in a few months.  School got crazy busy. I had 3 portfolios due of my writing as well as giving readings of my poetry and a creative non fiction piece I did of my mother and I driving across America last March, and those struggles that came due to my being trans.  The readings went well and I outted myself to literally all of my classmates, but it was good. Everyone was pretty amazing about it.  My university, thankfully, is pretty good about gender stuff.

I went to a conference the first week of November in White Bear Lake that was for queer college students in Minnesota, and I learned about being a better advocate and activist, without being burnt out, and without letting my work as a student suffer.  I turned 24 on the 14th of November, and I celebrated by working a shift at Starbucks, which I started a month before.  I work at the Mall Of America.  They are a wonderful company.  They asked about my pronouns and it was the first job I’ve had since I legally changed my name, so my background check took twice as long, and I had to verify myself, but they’ve been great.  They also cover my transition, so I’m hoping to have my top surgery this summer.

After I worked my shift, I had a few friends at my apartment that I share with my sister.  She also had a few mutual friends over and we watched Chicago.  It was a great time.  My sister is pretty good about my name and pronouns and got me a sweater from the men’s department, which was kind of a big deal.  She also made me a cake and it had the name Blake on it.  I’ve celebrated three birthdays as Blake.  The first one was with my parents and a few friends in North Carolina.  I was horribly misgendered and I remember the card my parents got me had a girl going shopping and basically called me a drama queen, so I returned the favor with a scream about my identity.  I’ve learned now not to take this approach.  Last year, my Mom made me a cake and it had moustaches all over it.  It also had the name Blake.  That year, it was my Dad to throw a fit.

I’ve also decided to stay in the writing track and get my degree in writing and English and then continue on after I graduate with getting my teaching license, especially because I don’t know where I will be living yet.

I went home to Colorado for Thanksgiving.  It was a 36 hour flight.  I did not talk to most of my relatives.  My sister and I had to come back to work, but I was glad it was a short trip.  My grandpa used to be a very sweet man that would hug me and ask me about my life.  When my Grandma died almost 4 years ago, he started changing and now he’s mean and he’s drunk.  He wouldn’t even hug me. He kept looking at me like he didn’t recognise me.  At Thanksgiving, we had extended family there that hadn’t seen me since I was six months old.  My parents were introducing my older sister to them and then one of the relatives turned to me, in boy clothes and a beard, and asked me, which daughter are you? I didn’t know what to say.  I’ve started feeling like this isn’t really my family. I’m just here to see my cousin and I’ve been in therapy for the last 4 years dealing with gender, and I’ve learned that walking away from the gender discussion is sometimes better because I’ve gotten tired of having these discussions and my extended family has known about this for over three years, so at this point it’s on them.  My Mom says, oh, this is Blake.  He’s our son. And my relative says, oh, I thought you had three girls. My Mom says, nope, two girls, one boy.  So I didn’t have to say anything! I gave her a very big hug that night when we got back to our hotel.

At Thanksgiving dinner, my cousin, the person I’m closest to, was marking cups for drinking, and she asked me what name I should put.  I told her to put Blake. After dinner, we went to a movie with her niece, and I was trying to use the restroom. I didn’t know what to do because I definitely can’t use the women’s room. So my older sister was trying to distract the family so I could sneak into the men’s room. As I was walking out though, everyone was walking out.

I told my Mom as soon as we got back to my aunt’s house that I wanted to leave because my cousin had told me multiple times that she didn’t want her daughter knowing. My Mom took me into my grandpa’s room and just said this was absolutely ridiculous, everyone already knows, they just don’t want to deal with it.

I got on a plane at six AM and was so glad to be back in Minneapolis.  A week later, my parents called me and asked where we wanted to do Christmas. Not wanting to deal with extended relatives, and the hassle, I said we should go to North Carolina, because we’re in the process of moving, and I wanted to see the house again. I also have tons of friends there and I could see them if things became too much.

So I was home for ten days. It was an adventure. I spent a lot of time knitting and reading for my January class, which I started on Monday. And we played card games.  And my Dad and I didn’t really talk, but when my family gets around my Dad they revert back to calling me Trish. I calmly said, the name on my licence says Blake.  Or if my Mom accidentally used she/her pronouns, I just said, oh, it’s he. I even said if they want to use gender neutral pronouns, I’m completely fine with them.  When things got to be too much, I saw a friend.  The day after Christmas, my family went to see a movie, and I desperately needed alone time, so I saw Annie while they saw the Hobbit, and it was a great movie, and I’m glad I saw it. I definitely spent more time with family this year than I have before, but I’ve also found my limit on dealing with things and I need to be in environments where I can leave and go be Blake without a problem.

In North Carolina, I could do that. I don’t really know anyone in Denver.  But the leader of the trans group at school used to live in Denver, and he is getting me resources for when my parents move there. I might be going home for spring break, but I’m not sure. I know there is a family reunion at my parent’s house in June, so I’ll probably be going to that, but I’m also having to go to Las Vegas to be in one of my best friend’s wedding. So June is very busy.

But I’ve also told my Mom that if I can drive to family functions, that is the best, because I will have access to a car, and I can leave if things get really bad.  I’ve told my Mom that I’ve gotten to the point several times where I didn’t want to go home for break because I don’t like having pronoun discussions, or name discussions, or having family fights about it, but I didn’t feel like that this year. I want to keep coming to family events, I just like doing it on my terms.