I only think it is important to come out if an individual feels that it would be meaningful and beneficial to do so (it is also of course possible to come out to some people and not to others). No one should feel obligated to come out and in some cases it may be risky for safety or emotional well-being to do so.
In my case it is relatively easy for people to find out how I identify within a few minutes of encountering my primary online spaces or even taking a look at my bookshelf but, still, there are people I am around regularly that don’t know. The subject just doesn’t come up and I don’t bring it up either because I don’t view it as particularly relavant to my relationship with these particular people, or because I am already aware of some of their negative views on gender-variant and sexually-variant people and choose to not enter into an aggravating discussion with them and possible resulting alienation.
Only come out if you want to and to who you want to, if you do - not coming out doesn’t make you any less of of who you are as a genderqueer person.
First, check out the coming out tag and coming out masterpost if you haven’t already. There are many resources and other people’s coming out stories available there. I find that some of the most important things to have explained to my parents when I came out to them was: 1) the difference (and relationship) between gender and sex, 2) identifying as non-binary or genderqueer and similar genders (or lack thereof) is a cross-cultural phenomenon (that is, you can find people who don’t strictly identify as men and women the world over - it is not new), 3) what changes I planned to make or not to make with my body and presentation. Showing people who are more receptive to the information websites and books about gender can also be helpful (there are some good ones in the coming out masterpost I’d previously linked to).
I would really recommend checking out the Gender Now coloring book (review here: http://genderqueerid.com/post/11937960005/gender-now-coloring-book-by-maya-christina). It is important to use clear language and to point out that others also identify as you do.
I’ve been getting lots of questions on Genderqueer Identities in regards to coming out lately. I continue to welcome questions, but I would also like to make a masterpost of resources I tend to recommend to people - this is a work in progress. Please note, you should not feel obligated to come out. Furthermore, you may want to come out to some people, but not to others - this is a very personal process.
You may find pros as well as cons in the resources below - take what you find will be useful to you and leave the rest behind. Be aware that coming out can be followed by unpredictable responses, both positive and negative, from friends, family or partners. Since there are fewer resources at present about coming out as genderqueer or non-binary, many resources will pertain to transgender people who identify as men or women - many of these suggestions can potentially be adapted to one’s own identity and situation. I have also included guides to potentially show people one has come out to to aid in understanding - as with the guides on coming out, use your own discretion, as a variety of suggestions and viewpoints are represented.
If you know of further resources concerning coming out as trans*, genderqueer, and/or non-binary or want to share your own personal coming out story, please let me know!
How-Tos on Coming Out:
Human Rights Commission: Transgender (scroll down the page to Coming Out to Family as Transgender, Coming Out in the Workplace as Transgender, and/or Marriage and Coming Out as Transgender)
MCC Transgender Ministries - Coming Out as a Transgender Person: A Workbook (religion-oriented)
Forums Where You Can Ask Questions About Coming Out:
Personal Stories and Advice on Coming Out and Other Resources:
youwillfly: Dating a Genderqueer (focused on coming out to a partner)
FAQs and Guides for People You Have Come Out To:
Feeling Wrong in Your Own Body: Understanding What it Means to Be Transgender by Jaime Seba (a good general guide - title may be problematic; this includes some discussion of genderqueer identity)
Gender Now Coloring Book: A Learning Adventure for Children and Adults by Maya Christina Gonzales
When confronted with those who believe in a binary of sex or gender, sometimes turning to science, sexology and the like can be more powerful than turning to social theory or queer theory. For example, Joan Roughgarden’s Evolution’s Rainbow contains examples of many animals whose sexuality and gender goes beyond the binary of heterosexual or homosexual, man or woman, and how this manifests in humans as well, looking at cultures all over the world where there are roles and identities other than man or woman. There are aspects of this book, as any dealing with these complex and highly-charged topics, that are problematic but the gist of it is this - non-binary gender and sexuality in general is not uncommon. I find that when explaining my identity, speaking of it as non-binary is helpful (even if genderqueer or androgyne is more specific to my situation) to begin with. The anthropological, sociological, and biological (when heterosexist bias is put aside) evidence accounting for the existence of gender and sexuality beyond this dichotomy is absolutely overwhelming. In spite of the evidence, it can be hard for people to grasp…sometimes people might not want it to be that way. I have found it important to convey that there isn’t anything wrong identities associated with the binary - it is lack of allowance for identities other than these to be fully articulated.
One’s non-binary gender identity or non-monosexual sexuality is not an attack on anyone’s binary gender or monosexuality - you are just trying to find a way for yourself and it is about your comfort. People who are able to learn about this important piece about you are that much closer to you - you want to be able to share this for your own comfort, not to be attacked or made to feel like your identity isn’t real. These are some things to think about…You may want to have a look at the GQID resources page as well.
I hope this was helpful to you!
Good question! In my experience, I spaced it out because I was concerned that people who I told might be overwhelmed by new identity information - for me, I came out in terms of gender and sex identity first, then the sexuality came a bit later (but not too long). If these identities are all really interconnected for you, it may make more sense to bring them up together, but if you feel like it would be safer or more comfortable to test the waters with just one, that could work for you.
Wow, there have been a lot of coming-out questions on GQID lately! Aside from searching some previous coming out posts here, there are a few that have to do with family specifically (such as this one and this one). I would also like to take this opportunity to call for submissions from folks who have come out as non-binary and/or genderqueer to their family (share positive stories, or what worked and what didn’t) to tell their stories if they’d like: submit here! There’s still not a lot of information out there about coming out as non-binary and genderqueer and I only have my personal and mostly positive experience to go from, so it would be great to be able to check out further stories if anyone would like to share.
It is not always safe for everyone to come out to their family, or certain other people in their life - although there is much pressure to come out and it often feels like a relief to do so to people who are important in your life, it sounds like right now might not be a good time for you to come out. There are still people to whom I have not come out because the potential consequences worry me - I may come out to them in time if I am able to gauge their reaction to other queer and trans* issues or whether or not it would be worse for me to come out or not to come out in the long run, but this is a very situational thing. I wish I could give you better advice - please do look through other posts on here about coming out if you haven’t already.
When I first came out to my parents, I eased into using the word genderqueer - I mostly focused on describing how I felt about myself without using any trans*-related terminology at first. I think it is important to be sure (in my case) that who I am talking to understands a bit about what gender means and non-normative and non-binary possibilities before I go any further. So, after I explained a bit about how I felt about gender and my body, I went into identifying as genderqueer - I think by prepping them a bit with explaining how I felt personally helped them to be prepared and to understand better the information that would follow. So, preparing them by describing what you’re feeling is what I would recommend.
You may want to see GQID’s other posts on coming out as well.
I’m not sure if I’d recommended this article to you previously, but, if not, you may want to look at my “It’s Just a Phase” piece here - this may help you prepare if this does end up happening: http://genderqueerid.com/post/7108492233/its-just-a-phase-so-what-if-it-is-and-so-what-if
Sometimes it is good to have someone else you can talk to about these things, although not all therapists are understanding of non-binary and genderqueer identity. Therapy also costs money, so if this is a potential issue, you may want to see if there are any queer and/or trans* support groups in your area. You may want to weigh the possible outcomes…it is important to give yourself time to figure things out about yourself and how you would react to different possible outcomes from your parents, while at the same time, having someone to talk to about these things can be very helpful to have.
I wasn’t sure from the wording of your message whether you were thinking of seeing a therapist on your own or if you wanted to begin by asking your parents if you could see a gender therapist. I would personally recommend, if you are going to discuss gender with your parents, to just begin with how you identify before going further and gauging where to go from there depending on how the conversation around this turns. I wish you luck!
Please, don’t worry about ranting - the ask box is open! It is okay to vent here if you want to. Is this the first time you have brought this up to your mother? If it is a new concept for her, it may be difficult for her to grasp at first or she may not realize how much these means to you initially. I don’t think you were a coward for not correcting her - it can take a lot of energy and thought to have conversations around gender. You may want to check this coming out post and the TransWhat? ally-geared resource as well.
Many people don’t know much about trans* topics and also conflate gender and sex. For example, your friend may have been confused because he sees you as female and, consequently, as a girl (equating the two). An important first step here could be in distinguishing gender and sex (gender tends to be used for social and individual aspects of identity, sex is the body and the term is used for both assigned sex and self-conception of sex), and that someone’s gender or sex identity may not match what others see - these aspects of identity are about how you feel about yourself. Transwhat? is a good beginner-ally site you may get some ideas about how to explain these things if you feel you want to talk to your friend further about this. Sometimes, if such a concept is very new to someone, it might take awhile for it to sink in or there may be other questions that pop up - the most important thing is, if you do pursue this topic further with him, how you self-identify or how you would like to explore your identity.
That sounds really frustrating! Since what your dad has said, even though jokingly, has been something that has made you feel happy about yourself, have you thought about talking to him more about your thoughts around your identity? You may want to read this recent question about coming out to parents, although a different situation, it may help you. Since your mom doesn’t know what you are thinking through about trans* identity and many people have particular ideas about what boyishness or girlishness means (or should mean), she may not realize how much she is hurting you with her comments.
If you feel like it is okay to open up to your dad about some of your thoughts, maybe he could talk to your mom about this? If you don’t feel like it is safe to come out just yet or you want to wait until you’ve explored your identity a bit more, you may want to tell her that what she is saying is bothering you because you feel like she is overlooking who you are as a person if you haven’t already - this way, you don’t have to bring up trans* identity just yet if you don’t want to.
If you think your dad would be accepting, I recommend possibly referring to the news story that he had been talking about previously as a flash point to relate to your coming out, to make sure there’s that connection of an understanding of trans*, and genderqueer, identity there. Having your dad talk to your mom afterwards is definitely a possibility if you think that would help - I would recommend trying to take things slowly and maybe keep it between you and your dad at first if you are really concerned about how your mom may react.
If something doesn’t go as planned, it can be overwhelming energy-wise to come out to multiple people at once (even if in a family setting) as well. You might want to try talking to her about a current trans* issue as well to see what her opinions or preconceived notions might be around gender identity so you can be better prepared for what her reaction could be.
It can sometimes be hard for people who are close to you to understand that you aren’t becoming “someone else” - you’re still you, it is just that you have found a better way to describe your gender.
To relate my personal situation, I came out to my mom first and then my dad. My mom reacted with something similar to the “baby girl” remark once but seemed to get it after the initial conversation around it. I didn’t use the word genderqueer at the time and wanted to be understood as clearly as possible, using phrases that applied to my identity (“I’m uncomfortable thinking of myself as a man OR a woman”, and in the case of my sexuality “I identify with gay males rather than straight females in terms of how I am attracted to guys”). Trying to simplify seemed to help - I introduced new information slowly as time went on, since I understand that if something seems “new” (even though it had been brewing for quite some time), it can be overwhelming to parents who might be afraid of losing the person who they have known, even though you are becoming more comfortable with your self-description and identity in reality.
I hope this helps,
I would recommend starting with small steps (such as bringing up the haircut before binding, or perhaps even before coming-out in terms of gender) and testing your parents’ reactions by talking about trans* issues sympathetically (maybe share some recent trans* news story or talk about a current issue involving trans* people that you know about). I tend to recommend doing this because, for me, talking to people about these things and seeing if they react positively or negatively to them has been a pretty good gauge of whether I should come out to them or not. If the reaction is more positive then negative, shift over to talking more about your own identity and questioning, if and when you feel okay with doing this.
Before moving on to this stage, you may want to look at some sources about gender identity that are geared towards non-trans* folks and allies to prepare yourself, or to quote or show to your parents, such as Gender Spectrum: Understanding Gender and Trans What?: A Guide Toward Allyship. The former is probably one of the best beginner’s explanations of gender I have seen, so I would highly recommend that. Visual depictions or poster-style guides may be a helpful aid as well - even though these tend to be more problematic than text, due to striving for over-simplicity, they can communicate ideas more clearly as well, such as the Genderbread Person.
You might want to see my piece “It’s just a phase.” So what if it is? And, so what if it’s not?” - it’s totally okay to be questioning gender! When people tend to think of a time period of questioning gender / uncertainty around it they can be disparaging, but I think one of the best ways to frame it is that one is trying new things out to find what feels the most comfortable.
One of the most common reactions I’ve read about from parents is that they think their child is becoming “someone else” - I think it makes more sense to frame transition and exploration of gender as finding yourself and ways that make sense to you to describe yourself, present yourself, and so on. It’s all about achieving comfort and peace.
My parents were accepting about my identity and when I brought up binding, I made a point to note that not binding (at times) makes me feel incredibly distressed, so binding is a positive thing since it makes me feel happier about myself. They weren’t too fussed about me binding, luckily, but I think the explanation helped so they would understand better. Having awareness of being trans* is an aspect of myself through which I can find the avenues that allow me to see my physical and mental spaces in positive ways that I didn’t have access to before.
It might not be a quick process - if one’s parents are used to thinking of you one way, now things will seem to have changed for them and it may take them awhile to take everything in and understand. If there is mutual patience and a willingness to exchange and accept information, the atmosphere is more conducive to coming out. Remember too that coming out isn’t always safe - think of the potential benefits and risks (i.e. what will happen and how will I feel if they don’t accept my identity?); if the latter appears more intense, you may want to wait it out awhile.
If you try some of these suggestions and don’t feel comfortable coming out to your parents at that time, you may want to come out to a trusted friend, seek out a support group, or join trans* forums and communities online instead in the meantime. It is so important to find acceptance and spaces where your identity will be validated and where you can share and explore these things about yourself peacefully. Even though the “coming-out narrative” is a popular one that one encounters in trans* and queer spaces, remember to only come out when you feel it is right for you.
I hope this helps you - good luck!