How I Decided it was Time to Come Out to the World


How I Decided it was Time to Come Out to the World

By
Kristine V. Read

December 24, 2023

Texas AG Threatens Seattle Hospital with Jail unless it Provides Trans Patient Data

South Carolina Bill Would Make Schools say “It is False” to Use Trans People’s Pronouns

Eric angrily read these headlines to his wife Emma, “My cousin Alice shared both of these articles and wrote, ‘Good for them!’ Several of our family have liked or commented on it in agreement.”

Eric was sitting next to his wife, Emma, in their living room. He wore a mini lightweight Ponte skater skirt with built in shorts, and a cashmere pullover sweater. Emma was much more casually dressed in some black leggings and a white tank top, with her favorite cardigan.

Eric was transgender; they had been married almost thirty years. At that time, the idea of coming out, and for them to get married as two women, was just too risky. Emma had known about Eric, and while it took time, they had worked out the rules of how their marriage would work before they wed.

Their son, Max, was grown and married with a family of his own. He had known about Eric since his mid-teens, but up until very recently, that was the totality of the people that knew Eric’s secret.

Emma replied, “They only know what they are hearing in the news. And there aren’t enough people out there setting the record straight.”
Eric took a deep breath and replied, “I just want to go up to the roof tops and shout out to the world, and especially our families, YOU KNOW AND LOVE SOMEONE THAT IS TRANSGENDER!”

---

February 2022

Emma said, “Eric, we need to get going. I’m sorry but you are going to have to get changed.”

Since he had begun working from home, he had spent most of his time as Donna. Eric sighed; it was becoming harder and harder to slip back into male mode when they had to leave the house. In the bedroom, he took off his bra and breast forms, and put them away.

---

Eric posted a couple of stories in support of transgender kids and their families on Facebook, and he was reading the positive comments posted by a friend who he had recently reconnected with after many years.

He thought about how to respond, and decided to send her a private message “Hey, Jeanette --- thanks for the nice comments on those posts. Fair warning, I’ve become a pretty vocal advocate over the past couple of years.”

A little while later he received a response, “There is no need to apologize for advocating for those who need all the support and love they can get!”

He typed his reply, “Oh, I don’t mean to sound like I’m apologizing … but some people don’t like to hear it on FB.”

He waited as he watched the blinking dots indicating that she was responding. Shortly, it came through, “For the record, Jennifer goes by River now, and uses they/them pronouns. So I’m part of the choir now.”

Eric read that and paused as he thought, “How do I respond to that?”

After a moment, he wrote back, “Oh! That’s fascinating… I did not know that. But will make note of it. How did you guys take this news?”

“We were fine with it. We stumble now and then, but they are our child.”

Eric and Jeanette continued to chat for a while before they had to say goodbye. He went and found Emma. “Hey, I just had a very interesting chat with Jeanette. Jennifer is now River and uses they/them pronouns.”

Emma replied, “Really, did you tell her about your being Donna?”

Eric said, “I would never do that without talking to you first, and I would want to do it face to face anyway. But I admit, I really thought about it. We have been very careful about keeping this as an internal family thing, and for good reason. I don’t ever want to put you or Max and his family at risk. If it got out publicly, it could cost us our jobs, our friends, and our family. At the same time, I think that our experience could help them as they try to support River. That would be much easier to do if I was not hiding who I am.”

Emma thought for a moment before responding, “Jeanette was the one person we felt that we could tell when Max was little, if he found out and needed to talk to someone besides ourselves. That was long before River realized this about themselves. I think the risk is very low at this point. I will support whatever you decide.”

They talked some more about it and ultimately decided that it was important to be as supportive as possible to their friends. Eric continued to text with Jeanette, and suggested that they should get together, to which she wholeheartedly agreed. They found a date a few weeks later to get together for dinner.

---

Jeanette said, “Emma, that was delicious. Thank you for dinner.” They all helped clear the table.

The dishwasher was loaded quickly, the leftovers put away, and Emma said, “I think we should wait a bit before we think about coffee and dessert,” which everyone quickly agreed to.

Eric said, “Let’s head into the living room, there is something we would like to talk to you about.”

As they walked into the living room, Eric took a moment to collect himself, then turning toward Jeanette, began, “Jeanette, I know that you know that I am pretty passionate about transgender issues.”

Jeanette nodded her head in agreement, while her husband Leo looked on with interest.

“I also told you that it was because people that I know and love are trans?” He paused for her to acknowledge that, and to gather up some courage. “Well… the first person that I ever knew that was trans was myself.”

Jeanette took his hand, walked over to the loveseat, and as she sat down, patted the seat next to her, and said, “come sit with me.”

Leo and Emma sat on the sofa across from them.

Eric said, “This was hard for me, but Emma and I talked about it, and we really felt that the best way we could be supportive of you both, and of River, was to be open with you about myself. You are really the first people we have shared this with, other than Max and his wife.”

The next couple of hours, Eric talked to them about his own journey, and how he had come to accept the part of him that he named Donna. He gave them permission to share his secret with River, as he wanted them to know they had a full ally with him.

The next day he messaged Jeanette, “Thank you so much for last night. Give River our love when you speak with them.”

It was not long before he received her response, “Thank you for having us over! I just did and told them about Donna. They are eager to talk to you!”

He typed his reply, “Thanks! It’s nice to finally be able to be open with you. I wish it was not necessary to be so careful, but I will always take the family’s security as top priority. I can only say, based on your ready affirmation last night, which was more than I could have dreamed of, it was all worthwhile.”

He watched the dots indicating that she was responding, and soon her response came thru, “The first words out of River’s mouth was ‘Good for them!’ and ‘What pronouns do they use?’”

He laughed and typed, “LOL - He and she; where and when appropriate. :)”

Over the next couple of months, Eric and Jeanette started communicating via messenger almost daily, usually while they were both making dinner. He and River had a very good video chat one night while he was dressed as Donna. The next day they scheduled with Jeanette to have a three-way video chat. Eric gave Jeannete the opportunity to decide how he should present himself for that call.

Her response to that was, “I will need to meet Donna at some point – the most important thing is your comfort.”

---

As they continued their private message conversations, sometimes now as video chats, Eric began to think that it would be very helpful if they could have a “girl’s night,” with Jeanette, Emma, and himself as Donna. He asked Emma what she thought about it.

She gave it some thought and said “A girl’s night with Jeanette sounds good to me. Do you think Leo would be put out?”

“I don’t know, but it won’t hurt me to ask her.”

The next time Eric chatted with Jeanette they talked about getting together, and he asked if Leo was having any concerns about their spending a lot of time chatting together. She told him that he was fine with it; he was glad that we were connecting. He brought up the idea of having her over for a “girl’s night.” They checked their calendars and set up a date for a few weeks later.

---

Their “Girl’s Night” was a complete success. Eric later thought back to it and basked in an evening of good food, and friendship. The thing that meant the most to him was that he had spent an entire evening as Donna and it was just accepted. It was not treated as a big deal. Jeanette had complimented him on his outfit, when she first got there, she used the right pronouns, and called him Donna.

They talked about movies, and fashion, and cooking, and so many things, and Eric was able to relax and say things that he would never have said to Jeanette as Eric.

Throughout the evening, he basked in the glow, and he felt something break inside of him. He would later describe it as the very sudden realization of just how much he, as Donna, had needed a girlfriend. It was in that moment that Eric realized that his closet door had just been cracked open, and he did not believe he could ever close it again.

Yes, Emma was always there for him, and she was his best friend, but she was also his wife, and lover, and there was so much more involved in their relationship. What he found in Jeanette was different, and it was mind expanding.

---

Eric found himself thinking about his life in his quiet moments, often lying in bed, while Emma lay sleeping next to him. He had made promises to Emma when they were young, and he had always intended to keep them. At the time, he had no intention or expectation that he would ever need to consider transitioning. For most of their lives, living with this secret was sufficient, if he had time to let “Donna” out. Now that he was in his early fifties, he was starting to look at his own mortality. He would never break his promise to Emma; he knew himself incapable of doing that. But he also knew that there were some aspects of his dysphoria that were getting stronger, and he had to find a way to deal with that.

One night at dinner, Emma was teasing Eric about his new girlfriend.

He replied, “Strictly lower-case g, my love. But it is nice to have someone to talk to and be able to let my hair down with so to speak.”

Emma smiled and replied, “You know I know that, but I have to tease. It was in our marriage contract.”

He smiled and said, “I know, it was in the small print. Seriously though, not to change the subject… much… I have something I need to talk to you about.”

Emma noting the change in the tone, said “I’m listening.”

He took a moment and said, “I’ve been struggling a lot lately with where I fit into the transgender spectrum. Getting together with Jeanette the other night was eye opening. I’m fifty-three years old, and there are times that I feel that life is getting away from me. I don’t want to be sixty and looking back with regrets. I have no idea where this will lead, but I really think I need to find a therapist to talk to about all of this. I love you.”

Emma took his hand and said, “I think that’s probably a very good idea. We will figure it out; we always have. I love you, too.”

Eric found a therapist that specialized in gender concerns. Early on they talked a lot about his journey to this point. He told her he was there to get help figuring out where he fit, and how to cope with these feelings. They talked about his life with Emma. He talked about his fear of looking back with regrets, and about the fears of putting his family at risk, both financially, and in more direct ways.

At first, he went to see her as Eric, but she eventually convinced him to come as Donna. He would change in the restroom, before going into her office.

Then he took a step further and drove to her office as Donna. He had to sneak out of his house to avoid being seen by the neighbors. The whole forty-five-minute trip to her office, he was terrified of being pulled over. Yet, he made it.

Emma came with him one time in part to see what his sessions were all about, and to give her a chance to voice her concerns. He offered to give her some privacy, but she said she did not need it.

His talks with River, who considered themselves non-binary or gender queer, had him thinking that he might be gender-fluid. He had lived his life as a son, a brother, a husband, and a father, and he took a great deal of pride in his accomplishments in those roles. Yet, at the same time, he felt a strong pull towards being Donna as well.

December 31, 2023 - New Years Eve

It was a week later, and Eric and Emma were back in their living room, waiting for the NY City ball to drop. During the week, Eric had thought about the changes he had gone through in the past two years, since reconnecting with Jeanette. The anger and concern that Eric had felt about all the legislative efforts to ban transgender healthcare for minors, and now starting to go after adults, had not dissipated. If anything, it was stronger.

“Emma, I keep coming back to this. I know that I would have to be insane to come out now, with all the legislative attacks going on, and yet it is killing me to keep silent, while others are in harms way. I still don’t know where my own situation is going to lead, but I feel like I need to do something, anything more to help fight this.”

He continued on with, “I also know that what I do does not only affect me, but it also affects you.”

Emma thought for a moment and said, “You have been seeing a therapist for almost two years, and that has been covered by insurance. You have been very vocal on Facebook about these issues for even longer than that. You have been chatting with Jeanette, for at least a year, if not more.”

Eric said, “Yes, true.”

Emma pressed on with her point, “If things really go south legally, if the federal government were to decide they wanted to find all transgender people and their allies, could you really avoid detection?”

Eric thought about that, “No. I’ve taken the precautions to keep us from being found out by ordinary people, but no, if the government really wanted to identify me, they could.”

Emma asked, “So really how much more of a risk is it for us to start to slowly come out to our family?”

That brought Eric up short, and he had to think about it, before saying, “Well some of them are likely to reject us, but I think my parents, and my brother would be shocked by it, but I can’t see them rejecting us. I know a lot of people have lost everyone, but I just can’t see it. The only real reason we have kept it from them all these years was to keep them from worrying.”

With that thought they both agreed that the risk, in their case, with Max grown and on his own, that the risks were outweighed by Eric’s need to fight for transgender rights, hard, in the upcoming election year. Something that would be stronger coming from him if they were out.

Right before the ball started to drop, Eric made his resolution, “I will begin to come out, I will continue on my journey to figure out exactly who I am, and I will join the fight for our existence with everything I can give it.”

And as the ball hit the bottom, and the clock struck midnight, he kissed Emma, “I love you.”

She kissed him back, “I love you too, Donna.”

The Beginning.

Authors Note:
This story is a very different type of story from me. I was inspired by Dorothy’s initial contest entry, which was autobiographical.

Most of my writing has had some aspect of my life or experience injected in small ways. This story is my story with the serial numbers filed off. I’ve condensed and changed the time frame to current dates. I’ve changed the names and left out some details that while very important to the people involved were not relevant to tell this story. Many of these conversations are ones that I did have with my wife and my best friend.

I was driven to publicly come out for three reasons. The first reason, it was getting very difficult for me to keep Kristine relegated to a private matter between my wife and myself. Second was a real desire to be in a better position to educate friends and family. Third was the political writing on the wall in 2017; I wanted to get into the fight.

This story was written to give a glimpse into that process; it was a story I needed to tell.

Thanks,
Kristy

Copyright © 2024. All Rights Reserved!



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