Every year since 2006, I have told my coming out story and how my life was affected, embraced and made visible as a young black gay man. There were no tears, no bullying and no hazing from my friends, but there were some questions and denial when it came to my family. They seemed to wait it out and wanted to see if it was a phase. As a teen I was very vocal about my presence and the statue of who and what I am. Mostly everyone thought it was temporary and congratulated me and …….. changed the subject. I struggled to find my place in the world and society. I felt as though I still wasn’t living my true identity. I was fifteen at the time, didn’t really know much of anything, and soon graduated high school. I went off to college and was still very proud to be a black gay man. I was validated by some with my identities because many people wanted the GBF (gay black friend). But I wasn’t always up on gay culture or black lingo. I shyed away from the gay scene and I was highly, if not offensively, feminine. Little did I know I had much more coming out to do. Today, for the first time, I wanted to share my other coming out story.
My first encounter with another identity other than the two I knew growing up happened in 2011. I met a transgender woman who was performing the art of drag. I admired her from afar for hours. I didn’t know her personally but she was a goddess and she moved so effortlessly that I was drawn to her immediately. Normally I am not shy when wanting to say hi but in this case, that wasn’t going to happen. So I watched. And watched. I only knew she was trans because it was said on the mic. I never heard the words trans or transgender before. I went home to my dorm and I looked up everything I could find on the word “transgender” and I got an overwhelmingly robust list of things. Some excited me and others that made me close my laptop and worry. Of the good things, I was satisfied by what I learned, what I read, and now knew. But I did not know what to do with this information, and didn’t have anyone in my life that I felt safe enough to talk about everything with, so I got quiet and didn’t say anything. I just kept up with what I could on the matter and hoped that maybe, just maybe, someday I’d feel able to express it.
While at college, a visit from my parents seemed like as good a time as any to actually bring up the topic, as I did my research and the definition seemed to fit me right. I wondered what they thought of the subject so I asked if they thought I could be a woman. Everyone stopped what they were doing and focused on me. All of their eyes were locked on me but no one said a thing. My father got up from the table and left. My mother scooted in and softly said, “why?” Around this time I felt so closed off from life that I was ready to end it but I simply replied that I haven’t been feeling like myself lately...I haven’t been feeling alive and I am such a girl... how could I not be one? She said, “that may be who you are, but when your father comes back let’s not talk about this”. I said fine. We quietly finished dinner, and they went back to their hotel. They didn’t contact me or see me for the rest of their time in town.
2012 came around and I was still living this very highly feminine “male” lifestyle, and that still seemed to be okay with people. I wasn’t dating much or going out often. The people I was around seemed to be alright with me. No one really had anything to say. But around spring time I was introduced to drag once again and I took a step in and never left.
In 2014 I started seeing a counselor because being in drag on stage started to feel more like who I really was. I wanted to start representing who I was on stage on a day to day basis. By this time my parents had passed on, so there wasn’t much judgement to come my way. I was doing drag for two years and it was a blast but it was hard because when I got home and took off the wig, I wiped off the makeup and I put everything in a closet, I felt empty, lost, and wasn’t whole. I discussed this time and time and time again until I started dating a man who reinforced the narrative that I should pretend to be a man, because he loved that facade that I portrayed. He was trans and I loved and admired him but started to resent him all in the same breathe. As I was approaching the courage to want to step up to the plate and be myself, he was holding me back due to his identity crisis as a gay male. But after 3 failed attempts I finally made my way out of the relationship. Starting January 2016 I was in full rotation of breathing and living as myself. And finally on January 9, 2017 I got my first dose of HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy).
I got the chance to come out of hiding twice, breathe again, and get a chance to actually live, instead of living in a miserable unfulfilled, dark space. But family has been a constant thread of disappointment thru my transition. I still feel incomplete, empty and above all alone. Of course I told my living family about the changes I was making to be happy and there was a 50/50 crack. Some were for and others against. Now that we are in 2019, everyone has ceased most communication and it’s just Tygra living here in Minnesota alone. Yes, I know I am supposed to lean on my community but that is a double edged sword of its own. I am happy that I came out, completely and I love everything about my life, however sometimes I do wish that things were different. I miss having family and family support in my life.
I’ve had to get real and serious about that question and learn that hiding does nothing but invite two “friends” to the table. Those two are darkness and misery who will swoon you into depression and tell you how to take your life. It’s a struggle to be yourself and live your life to the fullest. Family should be part of it and sometimes friends and chosen family make up for it but you and your heart being filled is most important. There will be disappointments. Yes, I feel alone sometimes, I get in my head, and I wish it all happened differently. But I’m proof that going through the struggle is worth it for no one else but yourself. You are the representation for someone that doesn’t know they need it. Happy National Coming Out Week to my readers. Remember your story can only start with you and never ends.