I am gay enough in my mannerisms and my attitude that I don't very often have to come out to people as a gay man. My classmates know in my graduate courses, my students know in the courses I teach, and my colleagues know in my activism work. The issue is that I only kinda think of myself as gay. My sexual identity hangs out somewhere between gay and bisexual so I tend toward labeling myself as queer. I mostly find myself attracted to gay men - but part of that is that gay men are pretty available. A few years ago I fell in love with a very cute, smart and talented trans gay boy. There is a certain amount of soul searching a gay boy has to do to understand themselves as a gay boy without having contact with a penis on a regular basis. So queer fits pretty comfortably even now that I am not totally committed to a transboy or anyone else my attractions are pretty permantly changed. And that is okay with me. Hell most days I celebrate it. I have developed a serious commitment to trans activism that controls my life when I am not in school. All of this is a prelude to last thursday that has been on my mind all pride weekend.
I am a masters student at Purdue University in Curriculum Studies. I just completed the class session component of a summer maymester qualitative research methods class (EDCI 615: Qualitative Research Methods). We had to write and present a proposal for a research project that uses qualitative research methods. I decided to try something new and do a biography of one of my friends. Who has been partnered with a transman for over five years and dated transmen prior to her current partner. So much of the literature around transfolks ignore the experiences and understandings their partners bring to the conversation and the community. So I wanted to focus on her experiences and her identity instead of her partners. When I presented my proposal as an interpretive biography it was well received.
However, instead of focusing on my research design and any methodological issues the questions all dealt with trans 101 type information and especially how someone could end up in a relationship with a trans person. They couldn't wrap their heads around how a straight or gay person could want that because it doesn't fit in any category they understand. I sat there and fielded their questions like a researcher not like a soffa or transally. I usually immediately situate myself in relation to the trans community as an insider but choose not to. I really think it was nothing deeper than exhaustion. There is a limit to how many times you can explain who you are to people. This helped me understand why some trans men choose to not come out all the time. It really is an ongoing process. How funny that as out as I am about being gay I still have to articulate my identity to people in very basic terms.
Upon reflection I wish I would have said something. Its safe and easy for me. Its also the least I can do to repay such a wonderful community for allowing me to be a part of it. But, I learned a lesson - its not always easy being out.