10 WAYS TO COME OUT OF THE CLOSET
‘Coming out is hard to do…’ as Neil Sedaka might have sung. The idea of other people, especially one’s nearest and dearest, knowing what we get up to is for some trannies a vision from hell.
We imagine horror, betrayal, ridicule, disgust… I know one TV who has spent over thirty years in a stable and loving marriage with grown up children, and all without breathing a word to his wife.
‘If I had known in my youth what I know now,’ he told me, ‘I would probably have saved up for the operation. But in those days it was unheard of, so I followed the conventional route. Now, how could I possibly tell my wife, after keeping it a secret for so long? What would I say? “Oh, by the way darling, I thought I ought to let you know that I’ve always wanted to be a woman and I spend my weekends away dressed in high heels” ? No, the scene is hardly to be imagined.’
But many of us do manage to break the news without too much trauma. Are there any tips to pass on? Here is my personal repertoire of possible routes out of the closet, but first a health warning: some are more successful than others!
Tell it straight, tell it early
I must have been about 19 when I told my fiancee (now my wife), after we were going steady but before we were engaged. I can’t claim to have had the nerve to say it face to face – this was in a letter. Perhaps the best method from some points of view, as I was able to pick my words carefully; she had time to think it through, take soundings from her best friend, look it up in the encyclopaedia, whatever.
It wasn’t for several years that she actually saw me in a skirt, but knowing about it in advance took some of the shock out of it. And more importantly, it avoided the hurt of an unadmitted secret. On the other hand, perhaps she was so astonished to get any sort of letter at all from me in those student days, she was prepared to overlook what I put in it!
‘There’s something you need to know…’
This was a technique that I used with my two assistants at work – Geoff and Janet. I was in a politically sensitive job, and decided that if the news ever did come out, it was better to have my colleagues prepared and on my side.
We were all three radical and broad-minded, of similar ages and good friends, but not emotionally close. Geoff’s response was: “Oh, is that it? I thought for a moment you were going to say you were having an affair.”
Janet’s reply was to ask me if I wanted any clothes out of her mail order catalogue, and would I help her buy undies for her gay friend as a Christmas present, as I’d have a better eye for his style than she would.
‘Oh, that old thing…’
This method is one I keep in reserve for more casual acquaintances, where the topic comes up in conversation and admitting to being a TV is no big deal. It depends on the casual throwaway and goes along the lines of :
“‘Tootsie’? Oh, yes, I really enjoyed it, but you know that it’s nothing but showbiz. I didn’t think it portrays at all what being a transvestite is like. The only film that really gets us right is ‘Just like a Woman’. What me? Oh yes, been one for years. Anyway, I’m a real fan of Dustin Hoffman, but I do think he was far more convincing in ‘Rain Man’….”
‘You’re not going to believe this…’
Not so much a frequent tactic, more a matter of making a virtue out of a necessity. For instance, there we were on holiday, all dressed up and somewhere to go – it was carnival weekend and we were on our way to watch the parade. Suddenly we realised that Carole had returned home early with the key to the cottage where we were staying. The only duplicate was with the landlady.
The only way to get it – drive to her house. The only snag – I was in a sweater and skirt. Well, I thought, as I knocked on the door, it is carnival time…
“Bonjour Madame” said her husband, not recognising me silhouetted against the sunlight. I wish now that I’d introduced myself as my own twin sister, to see how long it took him to cotton on, but being an honest soul I said “Come off it Henry” in my deepest baritone. Squeals of delight from him and Anna: “Quick, get the camera!”
Afterwards, she told me that the giveaway was that I’d dressed too carefully for it to be just a carnival costume.
Crisis of passion
A tactic that can only work with good friends. There I was with Maria, discussing business organisation. She was about to leave for a meeting with a client, and was as usual dressed in her professional woman’s outfit, an extremely snazzy blue skirt suit with a crisp white blouse. Her make up and hair were impeccable.
I heaved a deep sigh and said: “I envy you in that suit”. She looked blank. “no really, you look just terrific. I’d love to go out dressed the way you are now”.
Surprised she was, no doubt, but certainly more flattered than offended.
Pardon my bloomers
This scenario sounds like something straight out of trannie fiction, but it actually happened to me. I had a rush job on, which I couldn’t manage on my home computer. Christine, a colleague, offered to let me work on her machine, but it would mean spending several days in her cottage while she was away at the office. So along I went, and along went a change of clothes in my briefcase.
The trouble came (haven’t you guessed) when she arrived home an hour earlier than expected and found me in a blouse and skirt, scurrying for the bathroom. Red faces and profuse apologies followed…
Now this could have been a disaster, but in fact the upshot was the note she left me the following morning: “Please do not feel bad at all, you did not do anything wrong. I’m glad you felt comfortable in my house! In addition it is none of my business and will stay between us (in case you are worried about that). PS if you want something different, why don’t you help yourself in my closet upstairs? Shoes are about all over the place”.
God bless ladies like Christine. My friend Dominique insists I did it on purpose……
It’s all an act
Carnival time again, and this year there were so many of us that I refused to cook Sunday lunch for 20, and instead ordered a ready-prepared meal from the delicatessen counter at the local supermarket. It was Saturday morning when I went to pick it up, and I was dressed in my discreetest skirt length and smartest heels.
The shop assistant, poor fellow, was out of his depth as he helped me steer the two trolley-loads to the checkout. “This gentleman will be bringing the serving dishes back.” he explained to the cashier.
“Lady!” I corrected him, “When I ordered the meal on Tuesday I was a gentleman, but for the carnival weekend I’m a lady!”
“Sorry Sir” he stammered…. ah well, you can’t win them all!
Don’t look now…
In case this list makes it seem that every time I tumble out of the closet I fall on my feet, here’s positive proof that you can’t win them all. While that same shop assistant had been fetching the goodies from the kitchen, I’d been cruising the shelves for wine and fruit tarts. Five yards away I spot Lynne – a friend, but not somebody I particularly wanted to come out to, at least not in a supermarket on a Saturday morning. Had she seen me? Head she read me? She gave no indication of either, so I played it cool and turned away.
It must have been six months later that Lynne, after falling out with me over an entirely different matter, spilled the beans – not to me but to my in-laws! Fortunately, they were already in the know, but the blood runs cold to think of what might have been had they not already known. Alternatively, the blood runs hot to think of Lynne’s cheek!
Have you read the latest?
A major life-change is perhaps a good moment to make a clean breast of things. A case in point was when my in-laws decided to move in next door. There were several reasons why we decided that they ought to be told – after a year or two of openness, I didn’t fancy returning to the days when I had to creep around in hiding. And then there was the risk of them finding out from a gossipy neighbour – perhaps I had had a kind of premonition about the ‘Lynne incident’. How to break the news? I tackled Stella first. “You know, when you’re away in the summer, we’ll be letting out the cottage. Well – you should be aware, some of the people who rent it are a bit out of the ordinary. That is to say… it’s not so much them as me.. erm…. Look, there’s an article in this magazine that explains it”. Then I handed over the article about myself, complete with photo.
Up went her eyebrows, but she’s a game type and took it in her stride. No woman who goes ballooning for her 60th birthday is going to be fazed by a minor detail like seeing her son-in-law in tights.
Nevertheless, I couldn’t face up to telling my father-in-law, so I asked Stella if she’d do it for me. She must have told him straight away, there was a slight coolness in his manner when he came round for a drink that evening. After all, this was a guy who’s been known to mutter darkly about ‘bloody poofters’, but as a Freemason he knows a thing or two about wearing funny clothes! He’s never actually seen me dressed, but the two of them did buy me a broach the following Christmas.
So my score so far is about 8 and a half out of 10 – not a bad rating. So what lessons have I learnt?
Firstly, most people (even if they discover the truth by accident) do not conform to the ‘Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells’ stereotype. People’s responses have ranged from indifference to mild amusement to open-hearted acceptance, but very rarely hostility. The one person who has teased me about it did so so gently that I didn’t even notice – until my wife explained later what he’d meant by asking me if I went to Roedean.
Secondly, for the most part the people I have come out to have fallen into two categories: those whom I trusted in the first place, or else those whose opinion is fairly irrelevant (such as the man on the delicatessen counter). There’s no point in making yourself a hostage to fortune by giving yourself away to anyone you know you can’t really trust.
Next, almost all the people I’ve come out to have been women. This is probably not an accident, for several reasons. I feel more at home in women’s company than in men’s, and I find them less threatening. It may possibly be that they find me less threatening too – perhaps many men who are confronted by an emerging TV will think that he’s making a homosexual advance at them, whereas women are less anxious if they imagine I’m gay? Either way, I’ve found women more positive, men more indifferent.
And remember, once you’ve come out, this doesn’t solve all problems. It certainly doesn’t provide an excuse for flaunting at every given moment. Confide and be yourself by all means, but never impose.