I tell my friend B that I’m gay in the parking lot outside the library. We can’t go inside because of the pandemic, but he doesn’t have wi-fi at home so we split our time between the 24-hour diner near me and in his car at the library parking lot. He catches up on his YouTube subscriptions on his phone and I stare into space weighing which words to use and what order to put them in.
I wait until his video ends and then tell him, “I think it would be easier for me to be gay.”
He doesn’t look up as he scrolls through for his next video. “Oh yeah?”
He finds one he likes and clicks on it, but presses pause before it begins. “What do you mean easier?”
I don’t know why I settled on that syntax. It’s like when you’re trying to say two things at once but they come out jumbled. Instead of “I wish you all the best” or “I wish you well,” what comes out is “I wish you all the well.”
What had I jumbled here? “I think I’m gay” and “It would be easier for me to…” Easier for me to what? Tell him first than someone else? That part is certainly true.
I’d need to workshop my coming-out before I told anyone else.
“I mean to say,” I begin, but he interrupts with, “Good for you,” because he gets it anyway. Or because he’s straight, and he’s never had to — or needed to — think about whether or not he isn’t.
I told B that I wasn’t cis before I told him I was gay. He was taking me home from work almost a year earlier, in the Before Times. In my mind, I was doing my best work balancing I value your time and I need to tell you something, as in I planned to thank him for the ride after doubling our driving time leading him on various detours.
Around the time he should have been dropping me off, I told him, “So yeah, I’m not a woman.”
We were coasting down a hill, probably ten miles over the speed limit, the frantic relief of the drop after the roller coaster takes you up, up, up to the top of the track before letting its newfound momentum take over.
Instead of exhaling, the worst behind me, I added, “I don’t think I am, anyway.”
B stops all the way at stop signs, like I do. I could almost hear the brakes screeching, if only figuratively, after seconds of my words hanging between us. We didn’t pull ahead right away.
Instead, he turned to me and went, “Cool.” He nodded as he said it, making brief eye contact, then returned his gaze to the road and drove forward again.
It would be easier for me to…
Maybe “easier” isn’t the word. The people whose hurts linger the most are just like B, after all. They’re cis, straight, white, men; they’re me with the colors inverted.
People like B don’t ask questions about pronouns or how to refer to me in mixed company because they don’t ask anything. If something doesn’t apply to you and you never take the time to teach yourself about it, it’s very easy not to care. It hurts, before I jump in and remind myself it doesn’t have to.
It’s a manageable hurt because it doesn’t make me question who I am. The act of cis, straight people nodding and driving ahead, or pressing play on their video, it sucks in the moment; but all in all, it’s fine.
It would be easier for me to be hard on myself.
I love having fellow trans friends and queer friends. We don’t have to speak it to know we’re all in something together. They’re welcoming and validating and nice and I try to reciprocate it except when it comes to myself. I invalidate my transness and my queerness all the time. I am absolutely, one hundred percent sure I am trans and queer, but every time I come across some aspect of the trans, queer experience that I’ve never heard, I feel left out. When other trans people can clearly and comfortably articulate their thoughts on gender, I wonder if I’ll ever get to the point where I even know myself well enough to be able to speak about more than me.
That’s when I wonder if it would be easier for me to just not care, like B. Like, I will embody anyone’s favorite meme about not being perceived if it means the part of myself that finds it easier to choose shame and isolation over broadening my own knowledge can thrive.
Or maybe it would be easier to stop letting people like B in at all. Maybe I should have walked home, used my own wi-fi, let myself be vulnerable to people who would intimately understand instead of people whose only validation stems from ignorance.
It would be easier for me to cast away my own shame than reassign it to others who cannot appreciate the burden.