We often talk about how coming out is not a one time thing: in different contexts through our lives, we have to make decisions about coming out. We also often talk about how these decisions are based on psychological or physical safety. Like many trans folks that have “passing privilege”, even though I’m out quite publicly – anyone who finds out because of google and thinks they can blackmail me is shit outta luck! – I’ve had to make enough of these contextual decisions that I’ve lost count.
However, there are reasons other than safety that come up for me sometimes and these are what I want to talk about today.
This evening, in a conversation that had absolutely nothing to do with anything trans, a group of us were discussing childbirth. A cisgender man was talking about how as men – with a nod in my direction – “we” can’t ever understand what women who give birth go through. He has no idea that I’m a mother who gave birth to a child. Why would he? I’ve never “come out” to him. I haven’t actively hidden it – it just never came up and, like with a whole other things about me, I don’t tend to bring up my transness until it’s relevant to a conversation or context. It’s part of my efforts at rendering transness as “just another thing”, so banal that it doesn’t need to come up.
But in a moment like this, or in a moment like the one where a group of women I was with were sharing their birthing stories, I have to make speedy decisions.
There is a part of me that feels that my experience of childbirth is just as valid and deserves to be heard. That “hiding” it, even indirectly through omission, is to dishonour my birthing of a very important person in my life.
There is also a part of me that knows damn well that me speaking up about my birthing experience will result in a possiblr number of things: laughs, because people will assume I’m joking; disbelief; or curiosity. Either way, the conversation will change and become about me and my transness. The original point of the conversation would be lost. The women sharing their stories or the cis men acknowledging that there are experiences they don’t understand would stop and ask me a million questions about being trans (unless some of them are assholes who would start insulting and harassing me – quite rare in my own experience but I know it can happen).
In an ideal world, where the existence of trans people and the diversity of trans experiences were widely acknowledged as “just another thing”, the conversation would simply move on. Alas, we’re not in that ideal world. And as much as I believe in working to achieve that world, I’m not sure I want to do it at the expense of losing chances at different dialogues that I haven’t had enough of.
Dilemmas, dilemmas, dilemmas.