My One Year Anniversary of Coming Out
Sunday, September 18, 2016
Jennifer Angelina Petro
I look at my initial coming out letter and feel so sad. It was such a naïve letter. Of course, I didn’t know any better.
Part of the sadness comes, of course, from the incredible fallout my pronouncement caused. Over this past year I have had things said to me by relatives, friends, parents of my students, and strangers that would make your skin crawl–inhuman, violent, vicious, hateful, self-centered, and humiliating things. People crawled out of the woodwork to write me mean, toxix letters—people who haven’t spoken with me in literally decades suddenly found it their place to tell me what a fuck-up I was. Over the course of this year, I lost friends, family, and regardless of how it was framed as my fulfilling a four-year agreement at my school—I lost a job, my home, and a marriage.
One of the reasons I stressed so much in my original letter and in subsequent letters that being transgender isn’t a choice is because so many people think I have brought all of this loss onto myself by making a sick, twisted, selfish, perverted life-style choice—a choice that wrecked everything. And no matter what I say or how many times I say it, there will still be those who think I am choosing to be this way. There will be people who will never speak to me again for the “choice” they think I am making.
Part of the sadness also comes from seeing how happy I was. I have never been so happy before or since when I realized I am transgender. It was a joy that transcended all other joys. And, in my naiveté, I thought the world would be happy with me. My innocence was reborn even though I know people who believe that isn’t possible, and with that innocence came a youthful foolishness; for my thought that people would rejoice with me couldn’t have been more wrong.
A year later I am in a darker place than the one I mention at the beginning of my coming out letter. It is a place of not seeing any future, any possibilities, any hope; and, as a result, there are days when I feel I cannot, nor do I want to, go on. As of this writing I am not sure of anything, and make no promises about anything to anyone anymore. That all sounds pretty dire, and that’s because it is. There is another side to this year though that I also want to share.
When I came out there was also tremendous, unexpected support from people I knew and from people I didn’t know. Mandy published her own letter that day and as a result I had more people friend me that week than perhaps ever in my Facebook history—and the vast majority of those people were from Bryn Athyn. So while I have lost dear friends, relatives, and family, I have also gained a whole community of people who love and accept me for me, and for that I will be forever grateful.
I also met the best doctor I have ever had. He is the kindest, most attentive, loving doctor I have ever had, and likely will ever have. Four months after coming out, on January 11, 2016 he started me on HRT and I will be forever grateful for that too. No, the meds doesn’t make me a woman. I have always been a woman. The medicine simply helps me live comfortably in my own skin. It does not affirm who I am, nor will surgery, what it does is treat an incurable condition and, again, help me live with some semblance of peace and comfort while in a body that does not fit the inner truth of who I am.
I credit my continued existence to my present therapist, who I have another Facebook note and blog post about.
I have had moments this past year where the joy and ecstasy returned and, no matter what was going on around me, I felt like singing. My last year teaching was a great example of joy—no, not with the parents—no, as I have already written about in other places—the majority of them flipped their wigs and said some of the meaning things anyone ever said. It was the children and I. We had the best year ever. I cannot think of another group of people I would ever want to be around as I came out and began transitioning. Despite some of the limited, transphobic thinking of their parents, these kids were enlightened beings—they ARE enlightened beings. Sure they had questions (which I wasn’t allowed to answer), and a few concerns—mostly things like: Was I OK? Of course, as this chain of events drew us even closer together the only other thing that mattered most to them was that I stay their teacher. They wanted me to stay more than ever, and this is completely to their credit. The time I got to spend with them that last school year together will always be treasured, cherished, and an honor.
My own children too continue to love and support me. They call me “Other Mom,” or “Mom Number Two,” or simply, “Mom.” They faced our first Father’s Day with grace and made me cards for our first Mother’s Day together. They are amazing people, growing so fast, and not really ever blinking once at my transition and all of the odd things it entails. And even though Mandy and I have divorced, we are still on the best of terms, and she continues to be one of my biggest allies.
As you know too, I am not shy about talking about surgeries and my body like I thought I was going to be. I am going tomorrow for my first consult with a surgeon and this makes me so happy I could cry happy tears of gratitude (in fact I do cry tears of gratitude—often about this). I want surgery more than anything else in the world. And isn’t that funny? I have no frame of reference for desiring such an operation, but there it is—the deepest want—longing—desire, and I dearly hope it is possible physically and financially. And yes, this makes many people uncomfortable—especially some men who cannot fathom anyone giving up male privilege to do such a drastic (in their twisted minds) thing. But I am all in, and I cannot wait for the next phase of my transition to begin (I will be receiving more letters from friends, family, and strangers about this paragraph, and while yes, I just made it your business by sharing this personal information it does not give you the right to be mean, send sexually insecure, shadow-based hate mail, letters, phone calls, messages—you may keep your bizarre and lust fueled—bigoted-“religious” ideas to yourself. What I am doing to my body should be of no concern of yours. So, to all of you already writing me hateful letters, I send a big, hearty-fuck-you in advance).
Many of you have been such dear supports and friends this past year. I am constantly making calls for prayers, and you always answer them. No matter how depressing and dark my posts become you love and support and encourage me. Many of you have even donated money to my cause, and it is with all my heart I thank you.
So, here I am. One year in. One year CONSCIOUSLY in. I have been transgender my whole life just not consciously. If I make it out of this next year then I believe I will be kicking some serious ass in terms of my poetry, music, and activism. I want the fight back—the joy, the bliss, the sweet sense of completeness and wholeness that was here a year ago—the sense of purpose and rightness. I want to love myself and my body, my voice, my age, and my life. I want to believe the poems that come to me. I want to help change the world. I want to get remarried. I want to get all of my poems and songs out there published.
If I can step back and look at my life objectively, I see how much I have survived—many forms of abuse, hatred, and loss, and yet, here I am, alive and well, not kicking—more sort of rolling up into a ball and weeping with terror—but I am here. I survived my life not knowing who I was. I survived experiences meant to “make a man out of me.” I survived traumas of many kinds, and I am still here, for that I can be proud.
So, Happy Anniversary to me. Here’s to a smoother year.
All my love and gratitude,
You are always welcome to donate what you can and want. I am still unemployed and soon, as mentioned above, I will be starting a crowd-funding campaign for my surgeries. Get in on the ground floor now for that and ear-mark your donations and I will not use them to buy food. 🙂 Thank you. All my love, Jennifer