Opinion — 20 October 2017

Jennifer Snook

@sirjid

It’s still chilly on the Monday evening when I go out for a walk with my mother. Me going for a walk is unusual, especially at the same time as her, and she must be surprised, though she doesn’t say so. I spend most of the walk in silence, trying to work myself up to tell her something I’ve been denying and hiding for years now.

She cried. She tried not to, and I pretended not to notice for both our sakes.

Later, she told me that it felt like her son had died and she had been neglecting her daughter for years. I couldn’t say she was wrong.

My dad was both easier and harder. I told him with little fanfare, standing awkwardly across the family room from him.

“Why?” he asked.

“I just am,” I told him.

He hasn’t mentioned it since. I don’t think he liked that answer.

I’ve told some in person, some over the phone, some in email, and one in a moonlit parking lot after a late class. She thought I was going to ask her out.

Some people shrug and move on. Some pledge their support. Some pretend it never happened. I’m not really sure which of those I prefer.

But I will always be telling people. I will likely be telling people the rest of my life.

I don’t come out the same way I used to. Most people who knew me before—at least, most who I plan to tell—already know. Now, I only have to come out to new people.

Nowadays, I introduce myself as Jennifer. I don’t explicitly state that I’m trans unless they ask.

There’s a confused look, a pause, and they always repeat the name. Just to make sure, as though I might have made a mistake. Sometimes, they ask if I’m trans then and there. Sometimes, they do later, sometimes as much as weeks or months later. Some never ask, and never use female pronouns, even when they use the right name.

It’s rare that someone never questions it and simply treats meeting me the same way they meet anyone else.

I could probably work to mitigate it: wearing feminine clothes, makeup, constantly working to control my voice. At the very least, it might reduce the number of double takes I get when I say my name.

I could also make it obvious. “My name’s Jennifer, female pronouns please.” That always sounds stilted to me, but it’s necessary for some, especially nonbinary people.

But regardless of what I do, even if I pass perfectly, and I have had surgeries and removed hair and taken hormones for years, I will still be trans. It will still be something that I will tell people. Not everyone, certainly, but new friends, perhaps new colleagues.

And then, I will be back to where I began. Back to the long walk I took with my mother three years ago, struggling to confess about an integral part of myself to someone who really doesn’t want to know.

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Rachel Hanna

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