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Steps to Coming Out


BSB Executive Senior Member
Oct 28, 2008
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Chapter One: The Accidental Coming-Out Part 1

by The Plaid Adder

In Section 1, we were assuming that the outcoming was voluntary, which it usually is. However, there are occasionally situations in which you stumble across evidence of someone's orientation, and painful awkwardness results. Should I tell the person I know? Should I just forget I saw anything? Should I go home and spend some time in the fetal position trying to forget the vision of my supervisor in fishnets and peacock satin?

Well, the response varies depending on the situation. For instance:


Walking In
This, obviously, is more likely to happen with someone you know fairly well, since you probably won't walk in on an outcomer unless you're living in the same place or known him/her well enough to walk into his/her bedroom without knocking. Unless, of course, your outcomer is one of these people who sees sex as a subsitute for whitewater rafting or running with the bulls, and likes to get busy in elevators, office cubicles and telephone booths. In any case, follow this simple decision-making process:

Did the person in question see me?
If no: Stifle your cry of alarm and make your way quietly to the exit. Keep the knowledge to yourself and wait for your outcomer to come out to you in the usual way.
If yes: Apologize profusely, but BRIEFLY, and leave the scene as fast as possible. Later, catch up with the outcomer when s/he is alone and explain to him/her that you're very sorry to have intruded, and his/her secret is safe with you. If the outcomer wishes to pursue the topic, follow the appropriate rules from Section 1. After that, never refer to this particular incident again.
The same rules apply, with less force, to situations that approximate this but are less extreme, such as discovering your outcomer kissing another guy goodbye at the bus, or holding hands with another woman as they frolic through the park. However, in this case you must make a further decision:

Would this qualify as a Public Display of Affection, or did I just happen to get into the elevator at the wrong moment?
If #1: Your outcomer is probably experienced and will not mind as long as you don't stare, point, or yell, "Hey, Cleatis, come take a look at this!" Wave cheerily and walk on by.
If #2: Say hello, but don't prolong the interaction if the outcomer is uncomfortable. Your objective is to let the person know that it's OK and you've seen this kind of thing before, which makes it less likely that you are about to run back to the lobby and yell "HEY, EVERYBODY, GUESS WHAT?"
Which segues into:

Rules for Public Meeting
Since you have gay and lesbian friends, you will probably be running into them in grocery stores, on streetcorners, etc., and will naturally want to stop and say hello. In most cases, this will not necessitate the kind of convoluted etiquette procedures that used to govern public meeting (for instance, you don't have to worry about whether once you've raised your top hat to salute the lady you can then replace it on your head or must hold it in one hand whilst speaking, or remember that a gentleman should *never* expect a lady to stand on the sidewalk and talk to him, but always turn to accompany her on her way, if that is he knows her well enough to do so, having already been introduced by a mutual married friend...). However, there are some wrinkles even in this comparatively simple interaction.

You see, you must remember that most gays and lesbians have been harassed in public at some point in their lives, and this makes them a little jumpy. Others, especially novice outcomers, may be nervous about being identified as gay in a public setting, which may happen obliquely through your conversation if you are not careful. For instance, if you spot Janey and Ellen in the Country & Western section, and you know that one or both is closeted, you probably shouldn't stand there and ask them what they did for Valentine's Day.

Aside from this sort of discretion, what you most need to worry about is not startling them by unwittingly replicating the behavior of someone who has spotted a gay person on the street and is heckling him. It has probably never crossed your mind that this might happen, since your intention is not to harass, but to greet, your friends. However, your friends will not realize, until they actually recognize you, that you are friend and not foe, so if you wish to spare them that initial adrenaline rush that comes from the Fight Or Flight Homophobe Response our bodies all learn eventually, be careful when doing the following things:

1. Hailing pedestrians from a passing car.
Especially if your friends are holding hands or doing something else that makes them particularly identifiable, if they see a shadowy form yelling something at them from the window of a moving vehicle they'll assume it's harassment, especially if it's something vague like "Hey, you!" If you want to talk to your friends or offer them a ride, the thing to do is salute your friends by name. This will convey immediately the information that you know them, like them, and are not some stranger with nothing better to do with his time than hurl epithets at strangers. For the same reason, it's better if you don't honk at them, pull up alongside so that you appear to be tailing them, or flash your headlights and rev the engine real loud.
2. Hailing from a distance.
Again, unless you clearly identify yourself as someone who knows them by name, when they hear a loud interpellation shouted at them by someone too far away to recognize they will be afeared.
3. Hailing someone in a dark alley.
See above. Remember the rule: if they can't tell who you are, they don't know you're not going to hurt them. Unless you want to write your name on the front of your jacket with reflective tape, remember when shouting a friendly greeting at your friends in the dark, use their names, and if they still look at you with suspicion, identify yourself verbally.
Again, this is not the hugest deal in the world, and if you forget, the upset and palm-sweating you inadvertently cause your friends will probably only last for a few seconds. Still, the truly advanced intaker will want to brush up on these and other finer points in order to make the corner where he is just that little bit brighter.


Via The Media
If you're surfing the evening news and you happen to see your co-worker wearing a "Silence=Death" T-shirt and lobbing fake blood at Jesse Helms, you now know more about him than you did before. Again, use the following decision-making process:

Is this person a novice outcomer, or an experienced one?
Remember that just because someone attends a gay pride parade, that doesn't mean they're experienced. Often novices will attend such events as part of the initial stages of self-recognition, under the (frequently mistaken) apprehension that there is anonymity in numbers. It will be easier to make the determination based on what you know about the person from other interactions than on the clip KEYE shows with the 6:30 weather report.

If experienced: When you've got a moment, say, "Hey, I saw you on the news last night--nice aim!" Thereafter follow the rules for the Casual Coming-Out.
If novice: How well do you know this person?
If well: You will need to make the call, but it may be helpful to your outcomer if you try to encourage him/her to come out to you on his/her own. We'll be dealing with strategies for this later on.
If not at all well: It's probably best to keep your mouth shut. Unless, of course, someone has already posted a still photo of the event on the department coffeemaker. At which point you should simply make it clear that you think it's refreshing to see a little political activism in what's becoming an increasingly apathetic country.
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Chapter One: The Accidental Coming-Out Part 2

Fancy Meeting You Here
If you should happen, for whatever reason, to be in a gay or lesbian bar, or attending the Miss Gay Utah pageant, or standing in line at a screening of Bob and Doug Do Paris, and run into someone you had previously assumed was straight, one of two things will happen: 1) your outcomer will, if still a novice or still closeted, be acutely embarrassed and/or attempt to hide behind his date's Carmen Miranda hat or 2) assume that you too are on the team and start asking your opinion on lubricants.

If #1: Beyond a big friendly, "Hey, how are you? Is it crowded in there? Whoa, I better go on ahead and get seated then, see you back at the gym," don't continue to engage the person in conversation, especially if they look like they want to run away.

If #2: Let your outcomer know that while sympathetic, you are not able to speak from a position of authority on these sorts of things. Coming out as straight is a delicate operation, because if handled clumsily it looks very much like homophobia. Nevertheless, it is dishonest to allow someone who clearly assumes you are gay or lesbian to go on thinking so if you are not, and if your outcomer discovers later that you did this s/he will be annoyed. Here are some hints:

"Say! Nice to see you! I, of course am STRAIGHT, but I do take an interest in bizarre goings-on like this..."
Less Unfortunate:
"How ya doin'? Isn't this great? You know, my husband is a huge K.D. Lang fan, it's a shame he couldn't be here."
"I have something to tell you...uh...I'm...well, I'm...you know...[drop to a whisper] heterosexual."
The camp approach will show your outcomer that you are telling him/her this not because you're afraid that otherwise s/he will jump your bones, but because you know what's what and you don't wanna be a wannabe. However, DON'T do this if you can't pull it off. If you know your comic delivery is about as arch as Cindy Crawford's, it's much better if you simply say, "Well, you know, as a heterosexual I can't really speak to that, but..."

However, if the bar you're in should be raided by the police, or a few skinheads should take issue with your acquaintance's approach to dress, or any other homophobe should be in evidence and cast his/her attention upon your little group, the rules change. It is now polite to refrain from identifying yourself as someone who really ought not to be abused and beaten up, and instead join your acquaintance in taunting and otherwise harassing the moron at hand. The neighborly thing to do in this situation is to stand by your friends, rather than flash the white flag of normalcy and run like the wind.


I Was Just Straightening Up Your Room And...
If you are a parent, and have discovered a copy of Gay Boys in Bondage in little Timmy's bathroom, or have rifled through your daughter's journal and eventually found the part where she describes her year-long infatuation with Courtney Love, or were just digging through the trash in your child's wastebasket one day and happened across as used dental dam, you are in a tricky position. You have knowledge that your really oughtn't to have, the fruit of an investigation that you really oughtn't to have made. Ask yourself:

Am I ready to support my child if s/he comes out to me?
If yes: Go ahead and sit your child down and tell him/her that you are wondering if s/he is worried that s/he might be gay, and that if so, you want him/her to know s/he can talk to you about it and you will support him/her. If your child then comes out to you, follow the rules outlined in Chapter 3. If s/he says, "Mommmmm! EWWWWWWWW!!! How could you THINK that?" you know that either your child is not ready to deal with this conversation, or your child's older sibling is using his/her room as a secret storage facility.
If no: Put the soiled prophylactic back in the wastebasket and say nothing. You have intruded on your child's privacy, and if you force him/her to come out to a hostile audience under these conditions it will almost certainly do very bad things to your relationship. You are not ready to have this conversation and neither is your child. :thumbup1:
Chapter Two: The Crush-Induced Coming Out, Part 1

It happens. Not with the frequency you'd expect from the media, but on occasion. So it is possible that at some point in your life, you may participate in an outcoming where the words "I'm gay" are followed closely by the words "and I think I'm in love with you." (It is also possible, though less likely, that your outcomer will opt for nonverbal communication, and simply attempt a quick peck behind the fruit salad at your college mixer.) We should stress again, however, that this is NOT the normal sequence. Most gay people are not fools, and prefer to invest their emotional and sexual interest in persons who might one day have a prayer of returning it. However, the heart is not only a lonely hunter, it can also be a real moron, and just as you wasted many of your teenage years hoping in vain that somehow Madonna would visit your town, meet you, and realize that Sean Penn was no good for her, it will occasionally happen that a gay or lesbian person wakes up one morning and says to him/herself, "I'm in love with a breeder. Well, FUCK."

We use the word "love" advisedly here, because if it is just a question of momentary lust, matters usually do not progress to the stage where you the object will become aware of the problem. We're sure you're attractive, but you can't be so beautiful that someone would forswear the company of other like-minded people and pine after you just because s/he wants your body. Gay men and lesbians are some of the most beautiful people in the world, and whatever you have to offer on a purely physical or aesthetic level can probably be found amongst the members of the team. No, if this happens to you, it will probably be a case of real old-fashioned unrequited love, and for this reason, you must be very careful how you handle this if you do not want to hear, when you are standing expectantly at the pearly gates, that you'll be doing 300 years in purgatory on a charge of "having torn out a friend's heart and put it through a paper shredder."

The Cardinal Rule of the Crush Coming Out is:


(Yeah, come and get me, Douglas Adams.) You may be a bit taken aback, but odds are your outcomer is much more scared of you than you are of him/her at this point. S/he is afraid that you will handle this much the same way Fergus handled Dil's "surprise" in The Crying Game. Because your outcomer is in an exceptionally vulnerable position, it is important that, if you really do care about him/her, you refrain from wigging out and instead realize that you are not required to reciprocate. All you need do is let him/her know that you must regretfully decline his/her very attractive offer.

We recommend that you handle this the way you would handle a similar situation involving a heterosexual. Explain as gently as you can that you like him/her very much, but not that way, and that you are sorry you cannot reciprocate. Although the temptation will be strong, it is polite to avoid using your heterosexuality as an excuse to avoid discussing your actual feelings. For instance, don't say, "Well, you know, if you were only a different gender I might think about it, but as it is, well..." This will only provoke a wail of anguish on the part of your outcomer, for whom that translates as "I'm in love with you too, but unfortunately my deeply-ingrained homophobia makes the idea of a same-sex relationship so revolting to my inmost soul that if I acted on it I would have to kill myself, so there you are." This is what your mother would call "leading someone on" and whatever else she may have been wrong about, she was right when she told you it was not a nice thing to do. Instead, tell the person the truth: that you are simply not attracted to him/her, have no plans to be, and although you value your friendship with your outcomer, you know it isn't and ain't never gonna be love.

Don't pretend to things you don't feel, but don't hide what you do. If you really do value his/her friendship, say that. In that case, it is also good practice to follow the close-friend rules outlined in Chapter 1, up to and including the closing hug. (Again--only if you have hugged the person before. Otherwise, it would be a mistake.) "But wait," you say. "You just told me not to lead the person on." Yes, that's true, but unless your hug is of a peculiarly intimate nature, your outcomer will take it for what it is--an expression of friendship and support. And in this situation, it becomes even more important that you make such a gesture, since your outcomer will be even more worried about rejection followed by avoidance, failure to return phone calls, and general shunning. A closing hug is not necessarily leading someone on. This is leading someone on:

Routinely touching your outcomer or playing with his/her clothing or hair while talking to him/her
Attending parties or movies with your outcomer and joking to other people about him/her being your "date"
Constantly complaining to your outcomer about your current or former attachments and how irritating and shallow members of the opposite sex tend to be: Going shopping with your outcomer and asking her opinion on the various items you try on at Victoria's Secret, Joining your outcomer's rugby team, Moving in with your outcomer, Getting totally wasted, making out with your outcomer, and then pretending it never happened.

We should make it clear that we are talking about what happens after you know. If you're already living with your outcomer, for instance, continuing to live with him/her is not leading him/her on; it is merely a way of saying that you're still friends and you don't look at your outcomer as a predator on the make from whose clutches you must flee. If, however, you spontaneously shack up with your outcomer after this announcement it will look an awful lot like wanting to get to know him better, and as they say, if you're not prepared to go to Minneapolis, don't get on the train.

If, after having processed your outcomer's announcement, you find yourself doing any of the above with any regularity, either desist at once, or confront the possibility that you may not be as straight as you think you are. But do not do anything to tantalize your outcomer with the possibility that you may really be feeling an attraction for him/her that simply needs time to work its way up from the depths of your repressed unconscious into the clear light of day. You may think that once your outcomer knows you're straight s/he will naturally give up hope and stop looking for signs of a change of heart, but remember that your outcomer was heterosexual once too, and knows from experience that this can change. If you flirt with him/her, s/he will continue to hold out hope for your eventual conversion. This may cause him/her years of frustration and celibacy as s/he waits faithfully but impatiently for the lightbulb to go on in your dark soul. If you know that you don't have the power for that particular wattage, it's your responsibility to make that as clear as possible so as not to hold out false hope.

Also, as with any unrequited crush, it is important while the crush lasts to avoid doing things that will cause your outcomer's viscera to twist into a tight, tympanic knot and his/her blood pressure to rise beyond acceptable parameters. In other words, if you fall in love with someone else, don't do it in your outcomer's face. You don't want to lie, of course, and it would be absurd to meet in secret as if this were some sort of sordid adulterous fling, but while your outcomer is still paddling his/her little canoe up Heartbreak River it will probably hurt him/her to be confronted constantly with evidence that you are happy with someone else. Hopefully, once s/he has diverted his/her little craft into the Happy Harbor of Content, you can go back to spilling your guts to him/her with abandon, but for the duration, there are some simple don'ts you can follow that will spare your outcomer pain and mortification:

Don't constantly tell your outcomer how utterly wonderful your new dreamboat is. Find someone else to gush to if you must. While you are saying, "And for Valentines' Day he sent me a dozen long-stemmed red roses and took me out to the Four Seasons," your poor friend is thinking, "ROT IN HELL, YOU PATRIARCHAL BASTARD!!!"
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Chapter Two: The Crush-Induced Coming Out, Part 2

Don't invite your outcomer along with the two of you when you go out. This misdirected attempt to show him/her that s/he is still included in your social life will only result in his silently weeping into his popcorn as you snuggle up next to your honeybunch during the opening credits. If you want to spend time with your outcomer and your new love interest, invite other single people along so they can all be bitter together.
When you're having problems with your new flame, don't turn to your outcomer for support. S/he will not only get his/her hopes up, but curse him/herself for being stupid enough to do so. In addition, s/he will burn with indignation at the injustice of a world that should cast such a pearl as yourself before the kind of swine that your new partner obviously is, and become frustrated with your inability to realize that, since men are indeed pigs as you so rightly say, what you really want is a nice woman. This will lead, over the long term, to chronic indigestion and perhaps a perforated ulcer.
If you decide to marry your sweetheart while the crush is still in progress, it's probably not a good idea to ask your outcomer to be in the wedding.
All of this would probably be good advice even for a straight unrequited crush, but with a gay person it takes on special significance. Your outcomer is liable to be jealous, not just because you are dating someone else, but because this other person is lucky enough to be able to meet your parents, marry you, and raise children with you without incurring anyone's wrath. Your sweetheart is thus enjoying two boons that your outcomer knows s/he will never taste the joys of, and forcing your outcomer to witness this against his/her will is the kind of torture for which people ought to be sanctioned by the UN.

Once the crush is over, your friendship will probably return to its normal state, and many years down the road you will all have a good laugh over this. For the duration, all you can do is to try to be sensitive to your outcomer's feelings and respect them as well as you can. If s/he wants to talk about them, listen; if not, leave the subject alone. Now, obviously if you discover that your friend is the sort of obsessive, unreasonable, potential stalker type who refuses to take no for an answer, all bets are off--etiquette is a two way street, and just as you don't say "I do beg your pardon" before you knee the nuts of someone who has just grabbed your ass, you don't need to worry about hurting someone's feelings if they clearly have no respect for yours. But chances are your friend will appreciate your attempts to spare his/her feelings when possible, and after this is all over will have a whole new level of respect for you.
Chapter Three: Cousin Doris Is A Dyke
What To Do When You Woop

The more you learn about gay and lesbian culture from this fine volume and elsewhere, the more likely it becomes that you will be able to recognize someone as queer even if s/he has not come out to you yet. Knowing yourself to be a sensitive, supportive individual, you may wonder if you should try to use this information for good instead of evil, and let your prospective outcomer know that you Know. In some cases, this can be a good idea, but it must be handled delicately.

First Rule: Never out someone to him/herself.
You may not think this is possible, but it is. Many persons walk about daily giving off more queer vibes than an entire roomful of RuPaul clones, and yet continue to identify as heterosexual. This is because the human capacity for denial and rationalization is unmatched by any other mental phenomenon in the known universe. Ask Spock if you don't believe me. Your pal Bill may have just spent half an hour talking about how beautiful Jaye Davidson is and how he watched Stargate on slow motion, he may have pierced ears, tattoos, graceful and fluttering hand gestures and a fondness for hot dogs that you are sure has to be Freudian, he may just have ended his third brief and unhappy marriage, but if you sit Bill down and say, "Three strikes and you're out, Bill, I think you need to start looking for love in quite different places," he will be shocked, appalled, horrified, and more than a little angry. If Bill were ready or able to confront this possibility, it would have happened by now, and your well-meaning intervention will only alienate him and perhaps drive him further into the depths of repression. You must wait for Bill to get his own clue. And when he does come out to you, don't forget to feign surprise.

Second Rule: Don't make an announcement: create an opportunity.
Don't sit your prospective outcomer down and say, "I just want you to know I know you're gay and I think it's A-OK." Aside from the fact that you will risk breaking the first rule by saying this to someone who doesn't, herself, know she's gay, which will cause all kinds of out-freakings, you will also be forcing someone to talk about something s/he may not be ready to discuss at all, or ready to discuss with you.

However, you can pave the way for an outcoming by bringing up a related topic and making it clear where you stand on the issue. For instance, on any given day in this country any number of phobic politicians will be making public nuisances of themselves over some gay rights issue. Lambasting this sort of idiocy is always timely, and can be used to segue into a general discussion of gay issues during which you flash your tolerant credentials. This will identify you as someone who would be receptive to an outcoming. Other ways you can do this include:

Waxing rhapsodic over the exqusite taste evident in the flower arrangements at the last lesbian wedding you went to.
"It's nice that Friends is doing a positive depiction of a long-term lesbian couple, but why do they both have to be so femmy?"
Incorporating gay couples you know into discussions about parenting.
Passing around pictures of you dressed up as Judy Garland at the last Pride Parade.

Third Rule: Be selective about who you try this with.
Pick someone who knows you well enough to trust you with this information, or s/he may suspect you of being some kind of government agent sent to collect the names and addresses of deviants in preparation for that great internment in Arizona that we all know is part of the Republican Party's secret platform. Also, do not try this out with people whose position in life requires them to remain closeted, as it will only make them more uncomfortable and paranoid.

Possible targets:
Extended family members
College roommates
Bridge club partners
Inadvisable targets:
Members of the clergy
Boy Scout troop leaders
Football players

Fourth Rule: Take no for an answer.
If your outcomer responds to "We were so happy when little Susie finally brought home a girlfiend, we were worried she might not find love until she got out of high school" with "Y'know, I really like these shrimp kabobs Aunt Elsie brought," drop the subject. It is your outcomer's prerogative to take the opening, and if s/he does not go for the bait, respect his/her wish to remain silent. If you push it, your outcomer will become irritable, and perhaps use you to demonstrate one or two alternative uses for the shrimp kabobs.

Fifth Rule: Keep your woop to yourself.
You may think that Cousin Doris is a dyke, but that doesn't mean Aunt Louise needs to hear about this. Don't plant this suspicion in the minds of people who will use your well-meaning ponderance for evil purposes. Especially don't mention your wooping to your prospective outcomer's parents, close friends, employers, significant others, or drill sergeants. You do not want to be the unwitting instigator of a campaign of harassment and persecution. Let your outcomer enjoy the warmth and security of the closet for as long as is necessary. :thumbup1:
Chapter Four: Baby Look At Me Now, Part 1
Taking A Transsexual In

Before we continue, a word about taxonomy. We realize that the inclusion of a section on transsexual comings-out in a manual called "A Guide To Gay Etiquette" will probably contribute to the prevalent confusion over the relationship between transsexuality and sexual orientation. We want to make it clear, therefore, that transsexualism is not simply a variant form of homosexuality. Indeed, the whole question of sexual orientation becomes rather complicated when it involves someone whose present gender is different from his/her birth gender. But as far as the assumption that transsexualism is essentially a response to recognizing one's own homosexual desires--a way of turning oneself, say, from a gay man into a straight woman--no, this is not how it works. Transsexualism has more to do with one's own identity--how one sees oneself--than with one's romantic objects.

While we're at it, we may as well explain that transsexualism is not the same as transvestism, nor is it the same as drag. Transvestites share an interest in donning the sort of gay apparel that is conventionally worn by members of the opposite sex. That's it and that's all. Drag is a particular form of transvestism, in which the drageur creates the illusion of femininity, or masculinity, using costume, cosmetics, and various corsets, prosthetics and other artificial devices. It is often done as part of a performance and often has a self-conscious, parodic or exaggerated element to it. Although drag artists often get into character while in drag, they do not necessarily see themselves as transgendered in their day to day lives. A transsexual is someone who believes that s/he is a man, or a woman, despite the fact that s/he was born with the opposite set of genitals, and has taken steps--primarily surgery and hormone therapy--to bring his/her biology in line with his/her gender identity.

This all seems mighty abstract, but it will help if you use this handy Pop Culture Field Guide:

Transvestite: Dr. Frank 'n' Furter, The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Drag queen: Any of the main characters in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert or its cheap American knockoff, To Wong Foo.
Transsexual: Octavia Xtravaganza, Paris is Burning.
Now, these films, excellent though they are, will not actually do much in the way of educating you about what it's like to be a transsexual. This is why you should not assume, because you have seen The Crying Game, that you know more about being a transsexual than your outcomer does. This is unlikely, especially since, as we have said before, everything Hollywood has told you is a lie.

So, what is this chapter doing here? Well, what homosexuals, bisexuals and transsexuals do have in common is that we all, one way or another, mess with the heads of people who cling to traditional ideas about what it means to be a man or a woman. A man is not supposed to be attracted to other men, or a woman to other women, so homosexuals sort of knock these people for a loop. Nobody, but nobody, is supposed to be able to find people of two genders attractive, so bisexuals make these people go "Huh?" And, of course, gender is supposed to be something you're born with, linked to a set of physical characteristics that will never change (barring the sort of "changes" your gym teacher explained to you during that special assembly in eighth grade), so when someone decides that s/he thinks s/he can do a better job of determining his/her gender identity than his/her chromosomes did, well, from the Man's point of view, that's big trouble.

Our fond hope is that having learned, over the course of this volume, that some of these ideas about gender are--well, let me not say "bullshit"--shall we say, debatable, you will now be in a better position to understand the issues involved in transsexualism, and that similarly, having grappled with these issues, you will be able to use your newfound mental flexibility to get a better understanding of what's inolved in a gay, bi or lesbian outcoming. And along the way, perhaps we may destroy one or two really irritating, damaging stereotypes and subvert the Man. Everybody wins!

There are two ways in which you may end up dealing with a transsexual coming-out: either someone you once knew as a man will let you know that she is now a woman (or vice versa, bien entendu), or someone that you have met as a man will reveal to you at some point that he was born with indoor plumbing instead of an exterior drainpipe (O.V.V.). In addition, you may find yourself outing a transsexual to yourself, as you perceive that in addition to the gracious manners and elegant chic of the sophisticated '90s career woman, the woman you are chatting with in the cafeteria line is also sporting the bone structure of someone born under the sign of Mars. These different situations call for different techniques, but many of the underlying principles we have already developed will serve you in good stead for all of them, including:

Avoiding overly emphatic expressions of surprise
Making the outcoming as big a deal as your outcomer wants it to be, no more and no less
Being ready to accept even where you cannot fully understand, and,
Above all, we've said it before and we'll say this again: NEVER SECOND-GUESS AN OUTCOMER.
This rule is even more important in this context, because people are constantly trying to explain transsexualism as something other than what transsexuals say it is. Try to avoid saying, "Well, if you say so, but..."

...isn't this just a way of trying to make your homosexual desires seem "normal"?
There are easier ways to do this. Moving to San Francisco, for instance. Your outcomer has gone to a great deal of trouble in order to become what s/he now is. The appeal of heterosexuality alone is not sufficient to justify the time and expense involved.
...surely in today's modern society you could express your masculine (or feminine) traits without actually becoming a man (or a woman)?
Yes, in today's modern society this is increasingly possible, but transsexualism is not primarily about wanting to play with dolls even though your parents named you Frank. It's about never having seen yourself as a member of the gender into which an absentminded fate has thrust you--having an inner conviction that you just are a man, even though you were given female equipment due to some kind of cosmic administrative error. (O, as we said, V.V.) This is a serious identity issue, not just a matter of wanting to get in touch with one's feminine side or learn how to take apart a carburetor.
...doesn't this indicate that you are deeply unhappy with yourself and might not therapy be a better answer?
Well, beyond the obvious problem which is that this is a really insulting thing to say to anyone, transsexualism and self-loathing do not go hand-in-hand, "Silence of the Lambs" notwithstanding. (Let us remember: Buffalo Bill was not a transsexual. He was a psychopathic serial killer. One of these things is not like the other.) Besides, most transsexuals must go through extensive therapy before doctors will consent to perform sex-change surgery, so your outcomer has already done plenty of long, hard thinking about these issues in the company of competent professionals. Your outcomer is becoming female, or male, not because it will allow him/her to flee parts of him/herself that s/he is deeply afraid or ashamed of, but because it will allow him/her to express parts of him/herself that s/he considers valuable and which, because of how we all are about the gender thing, have been quashed, stifled or thwarted in his/her previous gender identity. Since the above-referenced film did for chrysalis imagery what George Bush did for points of light, we won't use the butterfly metaphor, but think of the change as a flowering rather than a pruning--not cutting something off, but developing into something else.
...you don't look like a woman!
Chapter Four: Baby Look At Me Now, Part 2
Taking A Transsexual In

Oooooh...don't go there. It makes no more sense to refuse to accept a transsexual's gender identity because it doesn't conform to Madison Avenue specifications than it would to reject someone who was born female's claim to that identity for the same reason. Which, actually, many ill-bred persons do with some regularity, but the whole point of your reading this is not to be that way. Just because your outcomer is not doing serious femme drag involving bouffant wigs, two-inch ruby-red nails, giant gazongas and more makeup than Deanna Troi at the junior prom, that does not mean she is somehow disqualified for not being convincing enough. If we use those standards, many lesbians, feminists, and other persons of independent mind and correspondingly idiosyncratic appearance would be disqualified too, including perhaps yourself, gentle reader, or us, and we can't be having any of that.
...why on earth would you want to be a man (or woman) if you could avoid it?
We understand that, broad-minded as you may be, you may secretly cherish the opinion that your gender is the best, and anything else just...wouldn't compare. It's all right. If the truth be known, even we, your humble servants, have admitted to feeling this just a teensy bit every now and then. After all, you've been a man (or woman) all your life, and have come to appreciate the unique opportunities and privileges that come with the territory and wouldn't part with them for the world. But this, you must remember, is why you are not a transsexual. Your outcomer is sufficiently open-minded to appreciate the benefits of joining the other team, and gutsy enough to actually do it. These are qualities we ought all to aspire to, even if we cannot entirely achieve them.
...so...lemme get this straight. You're born a woman, you're attracted to men...you become a man...but you're still attracted to men. Why can't you just...well...eliminate the middleman?
Well, I know that put like this it does seem like a lot of trouble to go to for no reason, but remember--you don't become a guy in order to get chicks, you do it because that's what you feel will let you be yourself. There is a difference between being a straight woman and being a gay man, just as there is one between being a straight man and being a lesbian, and wanting to be one is not the same as wanting to be the other. And, as the French say, vive la difference.
...how can you...I mean, first you were...but now you...and...MY BRAIN IS EXPLODING!!!
We understand this is a little hard to grasp for most people, even well-meaning ones, who have never gone through this kind of thing. But remember, you do not need to understand transsexualism in order to properly handle a transsexual outcoming. All you need to know is that once a person identifies as a he, or she, that's the story--that's who s/he is, and that's how you'll be relating to him/her from now on. Fret yourself not with the whys and wherefores if you find they are making your brain cells do the macarena. Just get used to calling Betty Bob (O.V.V.) and take things in stride.
OK, so you've processed the announcement with a sage and understanding nod of the head, and are now moving on to other quandaries, which will vary depending on the context. For instance:

Auld Acquaintance
If you knew the outcomer well when s/he was still living in his/her birth gender, this outcoming will involve some heavy-duty perceptual adjustment on your part. Your outcomer will expect this, and probably be willing to help you make that adjustment by answering your questions. Before grabbing a cordless mike and doing your impression of Oprah Winfrey, however, it is polite to ask your outcomer if s/he minds talking about this, and what kinds of questions s/he does or doesn't want to answer. And remember, when posing them, that your intention is to learn what will help you see your outcomer as s/he wants to be seen, rather than to gratify your own sensationalist curiosity, so unless you think knowing which restroom s/he uses will assist you in your project of reconceptualization, it's probably safer not to ask.

As with other outcomings, the offensiveness rating of a question changes depending on how well you know the outcomer. If you are close, s/he will be more willing to answer questions that are more personal, whereas if you only know this person through work or via a branch of the family with which you no longer have much contact due to that unfortunate grain alcohol incident at Uncle Eli's wedding, these questions are more likely to be considered intrusive. Again, a good rule of thumb is not to ask your outcomer a question you wouldn't want your outcomer to ask you.

Your outcomer will also probably realize that this may affect how you interact with him/her henceforth, and appreciate your being honest about this. Entering a new gender changes many things, and s/he will want to know how it will change things with you. It is important when you talk about this, however, to let him/her know that you still consider him/her a friend (sibling, child, whatever) and that you look forward to getting to know the new him/her as well as you knew the old one.

Then there are the purely logistical problems. For instance, when speaking of your past acquaintance, how do you refer to your outcomer? "Back in '42, when I first met John...I mean Jane...I mean...oh damn." We recommend you be guided by context. If you are talking to people who know your outcomer as Jane, there's no reason not to refer to her that way. If you are attending Jane's preschool play club reunion, you may find it necessary to explain that John has changed somewhat since the last time you all gathered around the claybuilding table. But as a general rule, use your outcomer's present identification and name whenever possible. Identity is a collaborative fiction--not just for transsexuals, but for everyone--and you can help your outcomer out by participating it to the fullest extent you can manage. So, not only should you refer to her as she to her face--this is merely common courtesy--but make an effort to do so in general, so that you get other people on board the clue bus.

New Friends
Learning that your new racquetball buddy Was Not Always Thus will also involve some adjustment, but of a different sort. If you are close to him/her, or getting close, then you will probably want to talk about this because it's an important part of his/her personal history and does of course affect his/her present identity. If you don't know your outcomer very well, and don't expect to, his/her previous identity will probably not be that relevant to your interaction, and so your job is to process the information and move on. In either case, as the intaker it is your responsibility not to let this knowledge prevent you from seeing your outcomer as a member of his/her present gender. Do not, for instance, get into the habit of thinking of him as being "really" a her (O.V.V.). S/he "really" is the gender s/he identifies as, and this is as true now as it was before you knew about his/her previous life in a different one.
Chapter Four: Baby Look At Me Now, Part 3
Taking A Transsexual In

"Wooping" is a word that our crack neological staff has come up with to describe what happens when you feel that you have determined that someone is queer before s/he has come out to you. (The term itself is onomotopoeic and derives from the concept of "gaydar.") We'll be discussing how to handle wooping in a gay or lesbian context in future chapters. It is possible, also, that at some point you may "woop" on a transsexual--i.e., it may occur to you that the lady you are conversing with is uncommonly tall and has, to put it frankly, some big ol' feet. Now, if you do think you've wooped on someone, it is a bad idea to try to test your theory by asking, "Say, are you by any chance a transsexual?" We know you're excited about your new knowledge of etiquette and eager to test it on a human subject, but these are issues not everyone feels like discussing with every shmoe on the subway. And there is always the chance that you are wrong, which would involve humiliation and perhaps serious bodily harm being visited upon you. Many persons who take the traditional approach to gender identity become cranky and irritable in the extreme if one suggests to them that theirs might be indeterminate.

Of course, a person of your native intelligence and good breeding probably knows better than to do that, but you will be tempted to look for corroborating evidence, which will lead you into dangerous waters if you are not careful. Do not stare at your outcomer in an attempt to discern trace evidence of his/her birth gender. Even if you think you are doing this surreptitiously, your outcomer will notice. You may feel you are simply pursuing a disinterested quest for knowledge, but remember, nobody likes feeling like a zoo exhibit. Make appropriate eye contact and leave it at that.

Under optimal conditions, your having wooped on this person should not alter your interactions with him/her; if he is presenting himself as male, it is none of your business whether he was born with a penis or came by it later on, and your job is to relate to him as you would to any guy you met in this context. But we do not live in a perfect world, and it may be that other, less fair-minded persons in the vicinity are also wooping on this person. If you sense that people are looking at your outcomer with animosity and thinking, "Is that a man...or a woman...or...what-all is that?" you can take this opportunity to demonstrate your newly acquired knowledge by modeling polite behavior for whatever gawking onlookers there may be. You can, for instance:

Refrain from gaping, blanching, stammering, or saying, "So what are you, then, I mean other than a sign of the coming apocalypse?"

Refer to your outcomer by the name s/he gives you and with the pronouns, titles, and other parts of speech appropriate to the gender s/he identifies as.

Neither make elaborate efforts to avoid using gender specific language, nor making elaborate and artificial efforts to use it, in reference to your outcomer.

Not pause, emphasize, or go up in pitch questioningly when mentioning your outcomer's gender. An example:

"Imogene, can you show Ms. Entwood where we keep the caulking guns?"
"Say, Clarence, this here...uh...lady?...wants to look at some of our fishing tackle."
You want in general to be friendly and helpful, but not oppressively so. If this person is a casual stranger with whom you happen to have come into contact momentarily, don't try to start up an in-depth conversation; if you do, your outcomer may misinterpret your intention and take you for a fundamentalist Christian whose ultimate design is to invite him/her to weekly Bible study meetings. The whole point of polite behavior is to put the outcomer at ease, and the bigger a fuss you make the more counterproductive your efforts become. But even in a brief interaction, you can unobtrusively demonstrate that you accept his/her gender identity as valid. By treating your outcomer with the proper courtesy and respect, you will probably shame any evil-minded folk around you into, if not polite behavior, at least wary silence.

I saw this coming out video from Ireland and almost pissed myself laughing. I think coming out should not be all that dificult. If it happened like this in real life I might just be tempted to stay in the closet.

Watch this laugh and enjoy.

ill be laughing for a week............ my god .......... roflmao