Most often, these questions take one of the following forms:
"How is that possible? I don't understand. You came out as something you'd never heard of, that didn't exist yet? Isn't that just refusing to be put into any box and saying you're an individual?"
or, mostly from people who've read the book --
"Well, in your book, it's like you know who you are, but you're still going around unsure, and you keep figuring it out whenever something new happens, but it takes, like, forever before you believe it. What made it finally click?"
So let me tell you about this really vivid image that came to me when I was right on the verge of coming out.
CW: Dark imagery with self-harm activities
I was on a bus, and it was circling through neighborhoods, different parts of town, you know, to let people off where they belong.
For a long time, different types of straight people were getting off, all excited and chattering away with each other. Sometimes couples holding hands, sometimes in clusters. On this block would be athletic guys and cheerleaders, let's say. Then at the next stop it would be educated-sounding people with briefcases, flirting the way people do in offices. There were different ethnic parts of town, where the cultural differences in dress and behavior were different from the previous stops. I don't mean people were being delivered to ethnic barrios and ghettos but rather that they were getting off to join in cultural expressions that called to them, and where they would be accepted. Then it's like there were different sexual attitudes or viewpoints, like a stop where everyone was dressed in leather and carrying paddles and whips, then one where everyone was holding Bibles and dressed in Sunday suits, and one where the people were accusing each other of cheating and were all angry and yanking on someone's hand or trying to hit each other, but still getting off together.
Then we seemed to come to the gay section of town. Nice dressed guys with an earring and a bandanna sticking out of a pocket, saying clever things as they got off at one stop, then the next stop had muscular guys in skimpy clothes, and at the next stop several guys in drag vamping and sashaying, then some couples holding hands and being sweet to each other.
Then lesbians for a few stops, a cluster of cute perky women with pool sticks high-fiving each other and laughing at some kind of in-jokes, then some menacingly tough gals slouching their way to the door, a handful of academic women in serious conversation...
All this time I'm happy for all these other people as they get off, because they're at home and going to events and situations that make them happy, and we all get to have that, right? and life is good, diversity is good, you know?
And the bus starts letting off trans people, in my head somehow I know that's who they are, people who have transitioned or are in the middle of transitioning, going out... not into trans neighborhoods, but transphoric ones, where they'll be accepted and meet nice new partners and friends and associates.
By the time the bus has finished making those stops, some with louder partying people and some with quieter, more serious folks, the bus doesn't have many people left on it, and I'm getting uneasy and wishing we'd hurry up and get to my stop, the place where people like me get off.
Because, before, there were bright lights, streetlights and storefronts and traffic lights and lit up businesses and people's houses and all, but now it's mostly dark out there. The bus stops and some people shuffle to the front, talking to themselves and gesturing with abrupt jerky motions. We go around the corner and there's barbed wire and broken glass everywhere, it's some kind of industrial part of town, like old warehouses, big buildings with no windows. At the next stop someone all hunched over and bent goes down the aisle, rubbing at their crotch with one hand, masturbating in public, and holding an open bottle of vodka in the other. I watch out the bus window to see someone else getting off the bus who suddenly takes out a handgun and shoots themself in the head as the bus pulls away.
Clearly, this is all wrong, I must have missed my stop, I have to start over.
So it's like instant replay. I look longingly at some of the nice hetero groups as they get off, but no, even though I'm a male person and my attraction is to female people, I'm not like them. I grew up being one of the girls. One of the churchy girls makes eye contact and smiles kind of regretfully. I watch some of the femme gay guys and how they seem comfortable and confident. Being femme, being sissy, means I've been targeted by homophobia along with them, but I don't belong there either. I'd really like to follow the lesbian pool player with the jaunty denim jacket and the little leather cap, but she shakes her head.
I watch the trans people at the next few stops, seeing them descend the stairs. I wish I could follow them. They've been riding the bus for a long time and they're celebrating. But this isn't a neighborhood I can live in either.
Yes, I know how I am, but I don't know what it makes me. I could put it in words. Watch. I don't even have to say anything out loud, it's as if people can hear what I'm thinking, and I can hear them the same way. Simplifies things. "Wait", I 'say' to the last group of well-dressed trans women. "I was always one of the girls too. Never wanted to be like the boys. I just want a girlfriend, but I don't want to be a boy".
"Well you look like a boy. We could give you some tips if you want."
"But I'm not female, I'm a male girl"
The trans woman glances at her friends and they slowly shake their heads. "Nobody in these parts is gonna get that". They get off together.
I could put it into words, but there's nobody to say "Oh, yeah, I get it, that makes sense to me", let alone "Yeah, welcome home, you're one of us".
There's almost nobody left on the bus once again, and the ones who are, they don't look so good, and there's no lights outside, and I don't like this... what's going to happen to me?
It wasn't easy to believe I should get off the damn bus in the middle of nowhere, in the dark. With no community. It wasn't easy to stop going back and rehashing all the identities that didn't fit, the stops where I didn't belong, in hopes that I'd somehow missed something, somewhere.
But eventually I had to.
That's what it was like.
Do you want a broader sense of what it was like?
My book, GenderQueer: A Story From a Different Closet, has been published by Sunstone Press. It is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble in paperback and ebook, and as ebook only from Apple, Kobo, and directly from Sunstone Press themselves.
My second book, That Guy in Our Women's Studies Class, is also being published by Sunstone Press. It's a sequel to GenderQueer. It's expected to be released in early 2022. Stay tuned for further details.
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