Coming out for people who identify as transgender can be a very different experience compared to coming out for LGB people. Like LGB people, trans* people must come out to friends and family, but we also often end up coming out in situations that other people take for granted (see this Buzzfeed article for a few examples). This has become all too apparent for me due to a few recent events: I just accepted a job offer last week and filled out the forms for a background check. In doing so, I had to provide my previous legal name thus outing myself to anyone who handles my paperwork. As the resident of a state where gender identity and expression are still free game for discrimination, I was legitimately worried that this would affect their conditional job offer.
Another example occurred earlier this week when I went to buy a car. This was an exciting event because it was my first car, but it was also a little embarrassing when I had to unexpectedly come out to the car salesman running my credit check. Unfortunately, their computer system brought up my previous name when my identifying information was entered. I didn’t expect to have to come out or to explain why that name was associated with my information while buying a car. I am not ashamed of who I am, but I am upset that I do not always have control over when and where I am outed.
This brings me to today, National Coming Out Day. It seems fitting that I come out yet again to the government by visiting the BMV to have the F on my driver’s license changed to an M. To do so in Ohio, I just need a form signed by a therapist or physician. I’ve been holding onto this paperwork for a few months and now seems as good a time as any to take care of this. Coming out is a continuous process and I am nowhere near done. Every time I update one document, another pops up. There’s my license, my school, social security, car insurance, health insurance, birth certificate, and the list goes on (not to mention the fact that I changed my name and gender marker at different times so the list is doubled). For me, coming out has felt a little out of my control, but by tackling these challenges head on, and coming out in my own way, I take back some of the power—power that should have been mine in the first place.