Mila Madison discusses transgender visibility and National Coming Out day in “The Weekly Rant”.

Wednesday, October 11th is National Coming Out Day. Since 1988, it has traditionally been a time when so many members of the LGBTQ+ community first make the decision to be truly visible. Here we are 29 years later. You would think that the world would have evolved to the point where someone coming out wouldn’t be such a dangerous proposition, but in light of recent events and our current political climate, everything has come into question for LGBTQ+ people who are thinking of being visible. It is even more dangerous for a person who is transgender.

After years of progress, our community is now faced with transgender military bans. We have the Attorney General of the United States Jeff Sessions issuing guidance removing transgender protections from the Civil Rights Act. We live in a polarized political climate where transgender people are being used as a way to divide our country and drive people to the polls. We have become a society filled with anger and contempt for each other. The news and social media are filled with hateful arguments as people draw lines and take sides. Even our own community seems to be at each other’s throats these days. It is truly depressing to witness. With each passing day, it seems as though it is getting harder to simply exist. Now, as Coming Out Day approaches, it makes you wonder, is it safe to come out?

“It certainly feels like the dark ages, and we are only in the first year.”

If you are someone who supports a family, do you run the risk of losing your job when a company may now be within its legal rights to fire you for being transgender? It is hard enough having to wonder which family members or friends may turn their backs on you. Is it okay to go into a store when the clerk has a right to discriminate against you because of their religion? That is what you have with Mississippi’s Religious Liberty Accommodations Act, which is now law. It is as though the clock on civil rights has been turned back about 50 years. It certainly feels like the dark ages, and we are only in the first year.

It is hard to rationalize the fact that you have a group of people who are hell-bent on erasing our community. You get slanted news stories designed to confuse those who do not understand us and frighten them. These new laws are intended to scare us back into the closets. They want you to be afraid to come out. They want to confuse the public. Fear is a big motivator, and the anger we see is the result of those fears. Though this is the reality we are dealing with, we still have the power to change these perceptions, and that can only happen if we come out. We can’t sit around waiting for someone to rescue us. We must rescue ourselves and do everything we can to change the perceptions within our immediate circles. We need to be the living and breathing contradictions to all the misinformation and the misconceptions that are going around.

Mila Madison discusses transgender visibility and National Coming Out day in “The Weekly Rant”.

But back to the main question, is it safe to come out? I am not sure if it ever really was. The real question should be do we need to, and to that I say yes we absolutely do. It is a dangerous thing to say when we are all walking around with a big target on our backs, I am aware of that, but how does society change if we won’t allow ourselves to exist?

“You will roll the dice with everyone you know, and you find out who they really are as you tell them who you really are.”

I can only tell you if you are thinking of coming out to anyone, always make sure that you do so in an environment where you are free from the possibility physical harm. You will roll the dice with everyone you know, and you find out who they really are as you tell them who you really are. There will be losses. There will be those who understand you and there will certainly be those who don’t but are willing to understand. You will have those who will never understand, and some who will pretend it just didn’t happen. What is going on in the world around us just makes it more difficult.

The important thing is that we are visible. The world will never change if we don’t come out. The only thing that can overcome all the misinformation and the hateful rhetoric is the actual experience of knowing us. No law or slanted news article can change a person’s understanding of you more than the experience of them actually knowing you. Only then will people want the laws to change. Only then will they dismiss the hateful rhetoric. It may not be safe to come out. It is not safe to be transgender regardless. This is a risk we simply all take by being who we are. All I do know is that nothing will ever change if we continue to hide. At some point, we have to stand up and be visible. It is more important now than ever before.

Stay safe and keep fighting for all of us!

Love and peace,

Mila Madison

  • Emma Sweet

    I think a point can be made that coming out isn’t binary, all or nothing. For example, I started coming out to selected friends, family and professionals one year ago. I kept a list on my phone, marveling as the number slwoly grew from single digits into the teens. I told them, mostly in person, that I am transgender and had been since my earliest memories. All were more or less supportive.

    About six months ago I couldn’t wait any longer and wrote a long-ish email to about 50 colleagues and friends. I then forwarded it to others as I thought about them. Most answered very positively, a few didn’t answer, and no on disparaged me. My number had grown to about 100.

    Then, very tentatively, I started dressing and going out in public. What fear and anxiety! Buying clothes on Amazon, afraid even to return those that didn’t fit for fear that the UPS guy would discover my secret. I started by attending all professional meetings (therapist, doctor, stylist, etc.) fully as Emma.

    Thankfully I had a supportive network of friends. One took me to Nordstrom Rack and Sephora for shopping. We left loaded down with bags like the women in Sex and the City. Another suggested I go to a woman’s consignment shop; they were wonderful.

    Yesterday I went to pick up some sheet metal to fix a door, presenting as a woman. Talk about a bastion of testosterone. No one batted an eye. I also went out for coffee with a male friend whom I had told I’m trans but had never seen me dressed.

    Today I’m starting to dress all or most of the time, authentically as myself, a woman, Emma. I take the public transportation downtown, go grocery shopping, the bank, you name it. I agree completely that we need to be visible so that our sisters and brothers behind us will witness our progress while the cisgender population learns that we’re just out and about, living our lives in peace and harmony with everyone.

  • Erica Kensho

    Virtually all of my opinions concerning transition and being transgender have become less extreme and more mellow as time has gone on. I was never very big on “coming out” in the manner many people do today, because I look at being trans as a medical condition, and part of my personal, PRIVATE medical history. There are only a few people who NEED to know you are transgender. Your spouse/partner (obviously.) Your doctor. Your insurance company. Your lawyer. Your immediate family, and those in your extended family who you talk to. If you stay at your job, obviously your boss or H.R. will need to know, and consequently, your co-workers. If you go to school, the administrators may need to know.

    But as far as society goes, nobody *needs* to know. Nor should you feel obligated to inform the world just because it benefits “the cause.” There are PLENTY of visible trans people these days marching, protesting, and making a case for trans rights. One person more or less isn’t going to make much difference, if any.

    I believe it’s a personal choice, entirely up to the individual, as to whether they live openly, or stealth, or a combination of the two. I think most people who are fortunate enough to pass eventually realize there is some merit in “woodworking” yourself into society once the hoopla has worn off. It doesn’t benefit me in any way to announce to new people I meet that I was born different from how I look today. In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s safer for me to NOT tell people, and keep it on the down-low.

    If you do transition openly, and tell all your friends, family, co-workers, business colleagues, etc, there will be a lot of initial turmoil, and as the first few years click by, you’ll learn who your real friends are (were), as well as how people truly feel. Some people will act supportive initially, but can’t keep up the act for years. Others who initially rejected you, may change and grow over time, and end up becoming supportive. But mostly people will just forget about it, and get on with life. In time, they’ll forget about the person you were, almost as if they passed away, and they’ll just know you as you – your authentic self. And there may be some who will always see you as your old self, but out of respect or compassion, they’ll acknowledge your new identity, and they may never say anything. I KNOW I have people like this in my life. And there may even be some who think poorly of you, who think you’re mentally ill, or disgusting, or a “sinner”, but they refrain from saying anything because they’re cowards, or they need your relationship in their life for some reason, or they don’t want to be seen as bigots or unsupportive by others.

    I’ve experienced all these scenarios, and a dozen other ones. What I’ve learned after having transitioned almost eight years ago is that everything you feel passionately about at the beginning, you’ll realize is not nearly as important as you thought it was. At least that has been my experience.