Posted June 29th, 2015: The last few weeks have been a major step forward in my coming out as Agender. Up until recently I had been much more public online then I had in my personal life. I already had social anxiety and anxiety/panic attack disorder to deal with and adding in fears of being made fun of, misgendered and perhaps some form of violence made for high anxiety! I should have realized that my fears were greatly exaggerated.
The first people to accept me completely were my “surrogate sister” Anji and her nephew Chad. Anji has been a friend for the last decade and a half and a special friend since 2011 when I moved into Santa Fe from rural community around 50 miles Southeast of Santa Fe. I gave up my car and so relied on Anji when I wasn’t using public transportation. She has helped me with various tasks that I am unable to do, or have great difficulty doing, because of my disability. Last Summer her nephew Chad moved in with her and I gained a “surrogate nephew.” They were the first people I talked about questioning my gender identity with.
I made a number of changes which I call social transition. I got my ears pierced, first tried coloring my beard purple, then shaving it off, started wearing kilts then started wearing skirts, tried wearing some makeup, (I need help with this!) and identified myself as Agender. The whole process I chronicled first here and, later here.
One day, several weeks ago, Anji dropped by with Chad and his friend. I was a little worried about how Chad’s friend would react as I was wearing a black skirt and looking a bit femme. This was the first of several examples where I needn’t have worried. All the guests were kind and polite. I was so moved that I texted the following to Anji that evening:
I want to tell you how much your friendship and your role as a surrogate younger sister has been to me. The same goes for Chad as a surrogate nephew/friend. I feel validated by your kindness and treating my social gender transition with respect and just matter-of-fact acceptance. Chad’s friend seems like a very polite and considerate person it was nice meeting him as well. I will never take our friendship for granted. Thanks for everything!
I was honored to be invited to Chad’s graduation a week or so later. He had a great school year and was a stand out actor with Santa Fe High School’s Drama Club. It just felt nice to be part of a family this past year as I joined Anji and Chad off and on for an activity or to just hang out. Chad and I enjoyed talking about movies and classic rock while Anji was mother, sister and friend all rolled into one. Throughout this process validation was very important to me. Like many LGBTQIA people from a conservative religious upbringing, I have had to build a family over the years. My biological family was not hostile but neither have they embraced ir celebrated my sexual orientation and gender identity. It’s hard when religious beliefs make it difficult to find common ground. Yes, as long as we avoided areas of disagreement we tolerated each other but I want more then to be tolerated and for that I had to build a family.
A few weeks ago my ex-partner/husband Greg lost his father to cancer. Greg’s dad Fred was very special to me as I wrote in this tribute to him when I learned he’d passed away. I had just begun to reconnect with Greg’s family. My time with Greg was special to me. I don’t enter into relationships easily and my seven years with Greg remain my only significant relationship. I was always part of Greg’s family and even his extended family. Unfortunately when Greg and I split up I lost touch to some degree. For my first 10 years in Santa Fe Greg and I remained good friends, Greg lived in Santa Fe during that time so staying in touch was relatively easy. Then Greg moved to Tucson, Arizona and got married to his current husband while back east (that was before marriage equality came to Arizona).
In the last couple years Greg and I began to communicate more. When my father died, Greg’s dad, Fred, sent me a wonderful letter. That rekindled my relationship with Fred and brought back fond memories of the time we spent together years ago. Fred illness was very difficult as cancer often is, I knew it was also hard on Greg but just how hard I only recently learned. While all that was happening I was coming out as Agender. I think that when I shared my gender identity with Greg it put a couple trouble spots in our relationship into a new light. It was also amusing in some ways. When I first got together with Greg it was assumed he was the more effeminate of the two of us. Turns out we were both actually playing a role for each other. When I first met Greg as a friend I was clean shaven and had been also shaving unwanted hair on my shoulders and wearing a little bit of male up. When we got together as a couple a year and a few months later Greg began dropping hints that he liked me hairy. He saw my college graduation photo with me in full beard, that was the end of my being clean shaven.
Over time, particularly during the last two years of our relationship, Greg began to grow a moustache and goatee. I didn’t particularly like the look as I actually was attracted to smoith, more androgynous guys. Why I didn’t tell him and put gentle pressure on him to shave the way he had done the reverse with me, I don’t know. I know it did effect how attracted I was to home physically. After we split up he became more and more masculine, discovering that’s how he felt about expressing his gender. Meanwhile, although I kept the beard, I tried to send out the message that I was not into being, or being seen as hyper masculine. I noticed when my hair was short people assumed I was not only a bear but a leather bear. I grew my hair out and tried to make it clear I was not THAT kind of bear!
Well, you know the rest of how that led to me first questioning gender roles, then later my gender identity. I think Greg finally figured out who I really was (after all he had to wait until I figured it out). After that we began to strengthen our friendship again. Awhile back he and his partner were in Santa Fe and we all went out to eat, discovering in the process that we really liked each other as friends
A tad over a week ago Greg called me to say he was driving up to Santa Fe and wanted to get together. He was really heartbroken over the loss of his father and was trying to find some healing for his grief here. That backfired a bit the first night he was in town and was seen at the emergency room for what turned out were physiological as well as psychological symptoms of grief. I learned this the next day as we were traveling to lunch with his friend and her daughter.
We had a lovely meal at a local Japanese restaurant. Meanwhile the initial trepidation I had about going out in public in a skirt slowly evaporated. I’d been out in kilts before and in skirts for private get-togethers but this was my first time out and about amongst the general public dressed as my authentic self. He had a friend who is a caregiver to someone with multiple forms of xancer. His friend is also into alternative healing along with regular medicine. So we went for a drive out to Sanctuario de Chimayo which is renowned for it’s allegedly miracle dirt inside a room in the church. I walked around and no one batted an eye despite the jeans skirt and Agender shirt. Greg snapped a photo of me in front of the Sanctuario. The shadows slightly discolored my face but it is a pretty decent photo otherwise.
Later Greg and I exchanged messages and he was very sweet. He mentioned how important our time together was and said he’d talked with his husband and his mother. He said they wanted me to still consider myself one of the family. That means a lot to me and gives me added confidence, along with my experience being out and about, to be the real me!
Yesterday, Saturday, I went downtown to Santa Fe LGBTQ Pride with Anji and her ex and friend Rose. I connected up with The Transgender Resource Center of New Mexico and The Santa Fe Transgender Support Group, I helped staff the booth and a lovely time connecting with old friends and many new ones. I was festively dressed in rainbow knee high socks, one of my jeans skirts, a new Agender shirt, fingerless, elbow length rainbow colored gloves and my favorite wide brimmed hat decorated with a faux rainbow pastel flowers lei. I joined my friends for part of the parade (I can’t walk the whole thing) and had a lovely time. It reminded me of my first Pride after I came out the first time. This was the new and improved Jerry 2.0! I was out in the company of members of my extended trans family and it was fabulous!
This morning I awoke to find myself in a photo in the Santa Fe New Mexican as part of their LGBTQ Pride coverage. Even more special was that I was with my Trans family in the photo!
So that’s a little about this last month or so in my life. It’s been on heck of a time. Truly my emergence as my authentic self, out in Santa Fe and Northern New Mexico. I don’t know what the future will bring but whatever it is I am facing it surrounded by my family of choice. I am incredibly blessed! I hope all of you find joy and happiness this Summer (for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere). We are family!
And for our inner children and future generations, this version: