At the closet door

by Stephen Stevie Cole 5 months ago in lgbtq

Finding your way in or out.

At the closet door

I've come to stand at your closet door and talk with you. Whether you remain inside or outside the closet is entirely your decision; either way, I hope this helps.

The first part of the journey we face when we discover our gender, sexuality, romantic orientation or non-binary nature, is coming out.

The first person, the most important person, you come out to, is: Yourself. You need to be in a place in life where you love yourself, and trust yourself; if you're not, then you need to ask yourself why, and wonder how much better you might feel if you said something honestly to yourself in the mirror the way I did when I looked in the mirror and was finally able to say...

I'm genderfluid.

As an performer, I'm immersed in the world of theatre on a daily basis, and I was led to that moment of decision and awareness, my hand on the closet door, by a suitably thespian route. I was starring in a production of Twelfth Night, the cross dressing Shakespeare comedy; and, at the same time but in a different place, also appearing in a production of Rent, the rock musical set in the HIV/AIDS epidemic in 1980's New York. Something about the characters and themes - how much you get into them, and they get into you, as an inevitable part of being in shows like those - just blew my mind, warmed my heart, lifted my soul, and made years of stress leave my body. So if exploring those kinds of themes would bring you to a place where you love yourself, and trust yourself, then please do it; please be that kind to yourself, and please be that clever about yourself; because you could, literally, save yourself. Frustration could become freedom; confusion may become clarity; if you just say that truth, to yourself, about yourself.

Next, came coming out to my wife. She was fantastic. She wasn't surprised at all; because even when I was living fully as a man, unconscious of my true nature, I was never the most stereotypically male, macho, masculine man. I was always quite the theatrical - flair and flamboyance, once you got to know me, coupled by introversion and introspection if I hadn't yet come to know you, love you or trust you. So she wasn't surprised. She accepted.

Then, I made a mistake: which was to go flying, fully and freely, to clothes and cosmetics that I felt allowed my feminine side, my inner female nature, to truly flourish. What would have been better was to take my time - adapting, adjusting, accepting, together. To have someone like that by your side is so priceless, so precious, and is best never taken for granted. She's by my side, she's always been, always will be; I'm so impressed with her; and she's of course now my fashion guru, wardrobe designer, and does an amazing job of telling me what looks best and what makes me look my best as a lady.

I came out, next to the production company I work with - a third one, involved in neither Twelfth Night nor Rent - who've always been, always will be, allies, and a safe space. If you have someone you can go to as an ally, somewhere you can go which is a safe space, do it. Go there. Be part of that. Show them how much you love them; let yourself be loved by them. Show them how much you trust them; let yourself be trusted by them, as someone they want to be an ally to and someone they want to be a safe space for. That's just as priceless, precious, meaningful and magical as all the things I've said so far.

Coming out to my family, by contrast, was, in a word... odd. I chose my moment poorly. My family mostly are conservative Christians - very warm, welcoming, open, to most people, in most places, most of the time; I'll give them that. But my opinions, although they accept I have them, aren't something they agree with or approve of, as I'm almost always coming from a different place, spiritually and socially . Still, I felt that they were strangely unconcerned. I'd been distant in communication, as well as distant emotionally, from them - more than I needed to, for longer than I needed to, for different reasons - so I was unaware that physical health, mental health, marital and financial problems were happening to others in the family; my coming out came on top of all that happening at the same time. And they were, understandably in hindsight, kind of desensitized to "big family news" moments, by that point. They've always been very loving, always will be; how they'll react when they see me being more freely me in my she-self, we'll have to wait and see; I suspect they'll embrace me even though it'll completely confuse them, because that's just what they're like. There's a lot about me that confuses them, but they've always embraced me anyway. Sometimes because of my uniqueness (as I like to call it, others might call it something else!); sometimes in spite of it. But, to them, family is family - even when one of the family is a queer socialist heathen.

I came out fully, publicly, through social media, on International Women's Day. I see so many people around me not being loved, accepted, respected, celebrated, welcomed, recognised, trusted, as women, the way they desire to be - the way they deserve to be - by people who are very exclusive and exclusionary towards trans, queer, non binary, and/or gay people; and I just wanted to celebrate my womanhood alongside them and their womanhood. I got my wife who, among being talented at other things, is a talented photographer, to take my recently-out-as-genderfluid "her-self"'s first photo, and out it wenr on social media with love and respect to all of us who count ourselves women. I did a similar thing on Mother's Day; for anyone who wanted to be loved and trusted as a woman, but is not; anyone who wanted to be loved and trusted as a mother, but is not; I wanted to send a Happy Mother's Day (I'm not a mother, but I was still trying to make the point). If other people don't agree with you, approve of you, or understand you, don't let that stop you from expecting them to treat you in a loving human way; and if they don't, then be around people who do celebrate you as a woman, if that's what you know yourself to be; your womanhood, if that's what you know yourself to possess - in short, you, as whoever it is you truly are.

There was a delay, thanks to the blessed COVID, in one more kind of "coming out" I wanted to do: I wanted to make it into a "bit" for a touring stand up comedy routine I was planning. Can't do that now; and even if I could, the accompanying topical news jokes wouldn't be quite as funny anymore. They might appear in some form in a future blog entry, if I feel like inflicting them on you.

In the meantime, remember, two out of the three following statements are true, and one is false:

You are valid, and you are valued.

Whether the closet door opens or closes is entirely your decision.

I promise not to tell any terrible jokes if we ever meet in person.

Stephen Stevie Cole
Stephen Stevie Cole
Read next: 'Chocolate Kisses'
Stephen Stevie Cole

Singer, storyteller, stand up comic, Tarot card reader, music teacher, writer, genderfluid, socialist, philosopher, magician.

Still white, unfortunately.

See all posts by Stephen Stevie Cole