Explaining the Unexplainable

There are two enormous reasons why I don't come out to more people in my life.
The first is that coming out is very, very exhausting.  The conversation is long, there are a lot of questions, and I find myself trying to explain the unexplainable. I don't mind the questions, however.  Questions are usually asked in an effort to understand someone else. But again, this is a conversation that is usually dominated by trying to explain something that really can't be put into words.  Why do I do this? Why am I who I am?  
Dresses, panties, stilettos are simply more interesting than slacks, boxers, and loafers, sure, but why do I want to wear them? I don't know. It's not a conscious decision. It's similar to trying to explain why I like Mexican cuisine more than I like Japanese food. The best I can come up with is that there is a side of me that wants to, that needs to be, beautiful. Speaking in broad generalities, the desire, the need to be beautiful, to look beautiful, is something more women understand and can relate to than cisgender men. Why on earth would I spend $80 on a makeover when I could buy a fishing pole instead? Why would I want to take a day trying on little black dresses at the mall when I could be watching football? Why am I getting frustrated when I simply can't get a false eyelash to apply properly?   
Sexuality almost always comes into the conversation. Who I am attracted to does not change based on whether I am wearing pink panties or boxer shorts.  I'm kidding.  I don't wear boxer shorts. This is an expected question, although I am sure most of us are tired of it. Displaying any sort of feminine characteristics is commonly associated with being gay so it's understandable (although exhausting) that we are asked if we like men.  hether we identify as a t-girl, crossdresser, gender non-confirming, or non-binary, we are often grouped into drag, which is usually done by gay men. Not that there's anything wrong that, but there's a world of difference between me shopping at the mall en femme and someone performing on a stage wearing a three foot tall wig and eight inch platform heels.  
The second is that the relationship between myself and the person I come out to is forever changed. This is one of the big revelations that happen only a few times in a relationship.  Besides my wife, siblings, and my mom, I have come out to very few others.  I am careful as to whom I come out to as this is still something I want to keep from most of the world. The people I want to prevent from knowing would either not try to understand or even sever the relationship forever. I have little regard for those who would choose to cut me out of their life because of my gender identity, but...well, family is family, I suppose.  
When you come out to someone, you are trusting them to react in a kind and understanding way. You are also trusting to keep this secret as well. This is a lot to ask as the person you come out to will likely be overwhelmed, confused, or scared by this revelation.  They may need to talk about it with someone else. They need to process it. They need to sort it out. But they can't. Who else would understand? We know that this is something that is hard for us to understand and to put into words.  It's even harder for someone else to explain who, or why, we are to another person.
Given these two reasons, it's understandable why we don't come out to more people.  No matter how well we know someone, there's really no way to predict how they will react, especially when it comes to our significant others.  When I come out to others, it has usually been for a reason. I came out to a roommate once because I was pretty sure there would be a moment where she glimpsed a bra strap under my shirt or lacy edging of my panties under my jeans. When I came out to my sisters I had hoped for a chance to, well, be their sister sometimes. But when we come out to our significant others, we can't do this based on what we hope the result will be. We have to come out because they simply need to know all sides of us. They deserve to know the real you, the complete you, so they can choose for themselves if you are who they want to be in a relationship with.
And if they don't? That doesn't make them a bad person. This is a lot to ask of someone.
It's hard to have a conversation about anything, especially this, when you have no idea how it will go.  
There are a few things you need to know before you have this talk, though.  

Who are you? How do identify?  
However you identify, it's important to be able to clearly and confidently explain however you see yourself.  I understand and can relate to how someone can evolve how they see themselves over time.  When I came out to my wife, I saw myself as a crossdresser.  It was all panties and lingerie.  Fast forward thirteen years, and, well, look at me.  Today I am transgender, but I suppose bi-gender might be a more fitting label, if you will.  As I evolved, I continued to talk with my wife about my (ugh) journey.  She was along for these steps, too, though.  She helped me chose my first wig and taught me how to apply blush, after all.
What is your sexual preference?  
I know, I know.  But you will likely be asked this. Sure, most of us will say there is no connection between what we wear to bed and who we want to go to bed with, but there are many of us who are open to interacting with men in a different way en femme than they would when they present as male. This interaction can be anything from flirting to... well, let's call it intimacy.  For some of us, sexuality can be flexible and it can change depending on which gender we present as. Coming out to your partner will likely raise concerns that others may not bring up. Our significant others may understandably be afraid that we may not be a confident about our sexuality as we think we are. If you are not straight, regardless of your gender identity, you need to be upfront with your partner.  
What's next?
This question takes a lot of soul-searching.  Be prepared for questions about what you want. Do you want to transition? Do you feel you were assigned the wrong gender at birth? Do you want hormones? I think the initial reaction to these inquiries is that no, this is really just about dressing up, or about clothes, but... is it? I used to think this was all about lingerie but it's clearly not.  Yes, I evolved in a way, like most of us will but did I want then what I have now? I was confident about who I was when I came out to my then-girlfriend, but coming out to someone else today would be a different story. It's common for someone to feel or want different things as time passes, that certainly was the case for me, but if you are truly confused or unsure about who you are or what you want, it would be a good idea to talk to a gender therapist or attend a PFLAG support group.
This conversation will rarely go the way you expect and you can never truly be prepared for it, but if you can clearly and confidently articulate these points you will be as ready as you can be.
Love, Hannah


  • Annette

    Thank you Hannah for such a thoughtful and, for me, timely article. I will certainly reread and reflect on it a number of times during the journey ahead.

  • Jessica

    Thank you Hannah for such an informative article. The one thing all humans should have is a choice. I identify as a gay crossdresser who mainly dresses because I like the way I look and feel in femme mode. I accidentally came out to my 18 yr. old daughter. Kind of a funny story, but I won't bore you with it. But the main thing that came out was she asked me if I was happy and I said I was. Then she said " Dad, you raised me to do whatever makes you happy". Now I have been proud of her her whole life, but her saying that brought a tear to my eye. I think I raised a good one.

  • Michelle

    Your story is so familiar it’s scary. I’m going through the same issues about coming out and agree that it’s not always necessary. The transition is a wonderful journey, our community is the best I’ve ever known.

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