First, I want to preface this open letter by thanking all of my allies; LBGT*, cis, and hetero alike. I receive hate on a daily basis. Knowing there are people who have my back helps.
Second, I want to preface this open letter by stating that in this letter, I am speaking on my own behalf. I am not speaking for all LGBT* persons. We each have our own unique experiences, and thus, have our own unique issues, even if some of them may overlap. My experiences are my own, and they are just as valid as others who have different experiences, even those experiences that may be contrary to my own. But, if you feel my experiences are also your own experiences, please feel free to share my letter.
On National Coming Out Day:
I understand that your intentions may be very well and good. You have a LGBT* friend and you just want them to be out and proud and happy. You see that they are out with their friends, but they have yet to come out to their family. You may very well not understand why. The short answer is that coming out to their family may be more harmful than beneficial. I am a firm believer that, in many cases, it is more important to have the support of peers than it is to have the support of family. While the support of family is nice, it isn’t always guaranteed.
For some LGBT* folks, having a National Coming Out Day gives them the extra confidence to be open with their families. For others, it has a detrimental effect, putting unnecessary pressure to come out, with added messages of not being “gay enough” or “proud enough” or “queer enough” or “trans enough” unless they do it this way.
We have enough pressure as it is. Any day is a good day to come out. If having a National Coming Out Day is what someone needs to feel confident in their personal decision to come out, then great! If it doesn’t, that’s okay, too. In the end, it’s a personal decision that should be supported, no matter when or if it happens.
On Same-Sex Marriage vs Same-Gender Marriage
You may be curious as to why I’m choosing today, of all days, to address this issue. It is something that I see quite frequently, in a various corners of the world, both online and off. So, if you feel or think that I’m pointing my finger at you, please try not to. Because today is National Coming Out Day, I’m seeing the following with great frequency today, as people are speaking more freely about LGBT* issues. So, that is why I’m choosing today instead of the other times during the week that I run across the following.
I’m really not sure why people do it. Maybe they think it’s the politically correct thing to do. I really don’t know. To be honest, I’m probably just too afraid to ask, “Why are you referring to same-sex marriage as ‘same-gender marriage?’” “Same-gender marriage” is a term I see people who are in favour of same-sex marriage use, multiple times throughout the week.
There is a lot of discussion, even within the trans* community about when it is valid to use the terms “sex” vs “gender,” whether or not they are different, in regards to personal preferences, and so much more. It is so extremely confusing, to say the least. While I will respect the right of a trans* individual to insist they are referred to as “male” or “female” (sex marker), instead of only “masculine” or “feminine”/”man” or “woman” (gender terms), even if they haven’t gone through some sort of sex-reassignment therapies, there are times where I think it is completely inappropriate. Same-sex marriage debates and discussions are one of those times.
Before you get angry with me, trans* and cis people alike, please let me explain.
For me, the reasoning is pretty simple. I’m a gay trans man. If you are unsure what that means, it means I was born into a female body, I’m sexually attracted to men only, but my gender identity is man/masculine. I’ve transitioned as much as I’m able. I’ve legally changed my name to a masculine name. I present the best I can as masculine. I am open about being transgender. That is as far as I’ll ever be able to go in my transition because of certain medical issues. As a result, unless B.C. changes their laws to something similar to Ontario’s law where you don’t need to undergo hormone therapy or sex-reassignment surgery in order to change your sex marker on your birth certificate, my sex marker on all of my government issued ID will read: Sex/Sexe: F.
That means, I will never have to fight for the right to marry a man, because, regardless of where I go, from a legal marriage standpoint, they recognize me as female only, not a man. I have a same-gender marriage. I didn’t have to fight for that right. Because of biology, I was born with that right. I know plenty of other couple where one person is trans*, they have a same-gender marriage, but because of the sex marker on their birth certificate, marrying the person whom they love was not something they had to fight for.
People who don’t know me, who are looking my marriage, will see a marriage between a man and a woman. It is because of this, that when it comes to equal marriage laws, it is very important to not swap the terms “sex” and “gender.”
If B.C. ever changes their laws regarding sex markers and I can easily switch it to male, I’m lucky that I’ll never have to fight for my right to marry, because I’m Canadian. If I moved to the United States, or many other countries around the world, then I would have to fight because at that point, it would be a same-sex marriage.
I don’t know. Maybe I’m extra-sensitive to this particular issue in the whole “sex” vs “gender” debate.
The first reason, and in my mind the biggest, is that I never had to fight for my right to marry a man I love. As a trans person, there are many other things I have to fight for. Who I love isn’t one of them. And I can’t pretend that I am because I feel that I’m taking away from the LGB people around the world who really are fighting to marry the person they love, all because they share the same genitals.
The second reason is that when the proverbial you use the term “same-gender marriage,” right or wrong, I feel as if you are not recognizing my same-gender marriage. My fight to see me and my partner as two men in a relationship/marriage is different than that of two men who were born biologically male. In some ways, I have it much easier than two men who were born male. In other areas, not so much.
So, while I understand you are trying to be supportive and inclusive, I ask that you recognize that when I see you say “same-gender marriages” I can’t help but to think you don’t understand my struggles versus those who are LGB. And by versus, I don’t mean it in the “it’s us against them” sort of way, but rather, “In this situation, and for this trans person, it isn’t the same thing,” sort of way.
Confusing, I know.
I hope we can still be allies. Your support is appreciated. I just felt the need to state how you can better support me and some others like me.