Embracing truth: reflections on coming out

June 19, 2024

Image by ImagineThatStudio from Pixabay

Benji Jakab Marton recounts his journey, coming out as a transgender man

Coming out remains mentally draining for many in the queer community. We envision a world where coming out isn’t necessary, a world breaking away from heteronormativity. Until then, sharing our coming out stories plays a role in letting LGBTQ+ people know that they are not alone with their struggles. Shared experiences can highlight that coming out can be joyous as we find ourselves and celebrate who we are.

However, what people often forget is that coming out is not a one-time event. It is a continuous process that may never end in a queer person’s life. For instance, coming out for me started when I was about 14, and I still find myself needing to explain my gender identity or sexual orientation.

The first time I came out was to my sister. It was more of a loud deliberation, to be frank. I’ve had conflicting feelings about my gender identity since the start of puberty. The only place where I could express these was tucked away from the world in my sister’s tiny bedroom. She was the one who I watched TV shows and films with, that inadvertently introduced me to concepts like feminism and queerness in a more progressive light.

Everything else I heard and picked up in school was overwhelmingly negative. As a child in Eastern Europe being gay was considered disgusting; being a feminist was ridiculous and God forbid anyone expressing gender non-conformity or the slightest indication of trans identity. So, it was only through American TV shows and my sister’s influence that I learnt a new perspective.

I can’t lie and say that coming out to my parents was a walk in the park. I had a difficult time articulating my thoughts.

To my surprise, my confession that I didn’t exactly feel like a girl wasn’t shocking to my sister at all. She smiled and said that she ‘figured’. That was all I needed at that moment; the quiet acknowledgement and support that my identity made sense to her and that she didn’t think of me any differently. I heard similar reactions from some of my best friends; they either laughed and said they already knew or hugged me and thanked me for sharing.

During the early years of my gender journey, I identified as non-binary as it was too scary to admit that my internal sense of self was indubitably male. It’s still hard to describe why or how I feel this way. While there is an element of gender dysphoria, the feeling of harmony within me, that I experience when I see myself as a man, is much less tangible. Perhaps this is why the concept of coming out to my parents was so gut-wrenchingly terrifying. Especially since they had no prior knowledge of LGBTQ+ identities as they were brought up in 1960s Hungary.

I procrastinated about coming out to my mum and dad until my 18th birthday. By that point I was quite sure I was a transgender man, and all my friends knew too. I decided to tell my mother during a therapy session so I could feel supported. I didn’t even say that I was completely sure in my trans identity, thinking my mother could be eased into the idea gradually. These decisions didn’t work out in my favour at all; my mother was shocked at the revelation of my identity and offended that I didn’t feel safe enough to talk to her on my own.

I can’t lie and say that coming out to my parents was a walk in the park. I had a difficult time articulating my thoughts, trying to prove that I was truly a boy, and that my identity wasn’t just an adolescent phase. While they were generally accepting of the gay people they knew, being trans was a foreign concept to them. They wanted me to remain their daughter and they were terrified of the sort of life they thought I would live as a transgender person, knowing the discrimination queer people face.

It took time for my parents to come to terms with the imperative need for my medical intervention

I tried my best to stay their daughter and to repress my trans identity for the sake of their mental wellbeing. I tried for months and months, but deep down I knew I couldn’t fake who I was to the people I loved the most. I had to come out to them, again and again, until they realised that I was firm in my identity.

Two years ago, I went through a tumultuous time, during which I told them that medical transition was imperative for my happiness. While it took both my parents some time to come to terms with this, they slowly but surely started accepting it. My mother accompanied me to my first appointment with my endocrinologist who prescribed me testosterone. My father came with me to change my name legally. Little by little, they started using my new name and even gifted me a toy car to represent that they finally acknowledged me as their son.

My experience with coming out as a trans man has had its ups and downs. Especially coming from a more conservative country, I had fewer resources to understand myself and help others understand me too. Being in the UK has been better, in terms of acceptance and support, adding a layer of freedom that allows me to embrace my identity more freely.

To those not yet out, you are not alone. Your feelings and identity are valid. You might be surprised how much people already see who you are and how you feel; many won’t be surprised, just happy for you. Take your journey at your own pace and seek supportive communities. Stay strong and true to yourself.

Check out Mosaic LGBT young person’s trust for meeting like-minded people or to receive support.

Benji is a Psychology student and support worker. He is originally from Budapest, Hungary. Benji's main interests are LGBTQ+ rights, social justice, art and poetry.

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