On this National Coming Out Day, I thought about why people come out as trans. Nancy Nangeroni (a longtime transgender advocate from Massachusetts) had this to say about coming out as trans in a Bay Windows article:

I’ve never experienced anything weird from a politician; of course I’ve been talking mostly with “friendlies.” More than anything else, [if transgender people come out to their lawmakers] that is what will pass [House Bill 1722, the transgender civil rights bill]. No amount of lobbying by a few leaders is going to pass this bill. Just like when President Clinton spoke at the HRC Dinner and said it’s [gay people] coming out and meeting people that’s important; it’s the same thing with the transgender community. We have to — each and every one of us, or as many as possible — need to get out. There’s so little risk in talking with a politician. No politician’s going to turn around and out somebody or do something terrible and so it’s probably the safest coming out you can do to talk to your local representative. I think so. I’ve never heard anything negative happening to anybody for their lobbying effort and I’ve been lobbying since, I think, 1995.

There’s a real difference between coming out as gay, lesbian, or bisexual, and coming out as  transgender and/or transsexual. When LGB folk come out, it’s generally a lifetime thing; it’s an outward look at the gender(s) of people that gay, lesbian, and bisexual people who are attracted to. With trans people, it’s an inward look at gender, and then how gender is expressed externally; the goal of many transsexuals isn’t to live as trans, but instead to live seamlessly at one’s target sex. That that means for many trans people coming out is a transient thing. The publicly trans subcommunity of the LGBT community is the only community its people graduate from to live as how they see themselves as they really identify — as a member of their target sex.

Autumn Sandeen[C]oming out and meeting people that’s important; it’s the same thing with the transgender community. We have to — each and every one of us, or as many as possible — need to get out.…Herein is the main reason I’ve decided to stay out as an out trans person; an out transsexual. Although at this point I could likely “pass” near seamlessly as a natal member of my target sex, I choose not to. It puts me in the position of being perceived as in the netherworld between sexes and genders, as opposed to being completely acknowledged as a member of my target sex.

Before me came out trans people who fought for the civil rights of my subcommunity; to legislatively make life easier and better for those who came after them.  Feeling that debt to those who came before me, I feel I need to repay that debt to the next generations of transgender people — especially youth. So to me then, being out as trans is in large part about the necessary visibility trans people need to secure civil rights and protections for my current and future peers.

And, I believe my being out as trans sends a message about the LGB and T community that many of us in the LGBT community don’t always see or experience; it’s a message about trans people functioning as full members of the broadly diverse LGBT community. My out peers and I work to be integral parts of our broad and wonderful community.

Autumn Sandeen

Autumn Sandeen