Coming Out: Why Language Barriers Suck

Hi guys. So, it’s Friday with Leo and today we’re talking about coming out.

I’m still actually in the process of constantly coming out, as a lot of you guys are. But I guess with me it’s different because I am obviously pre-T and not passing, so it is a bit more awkward.

The first people I came out to were my friends! I did that by creating a new Facebook account. I wasn’t really too worried about it because a lot of my friends are from my high school, which is kind of an artsy school. Everyone’s pretty accepting, so I wasn’t too nervous about it. I just made a status and said, “Hey, if I added you on this account, that means that I wanted to tell you something. It’s the fact that I want you guys to call me Leo now and refer to me in male pronouns.”

I also said that I was genderqueer. Here’s some advice if you do identify as genderqueer, but you do still feel really masculine and you want to be referred to as a man. From my experience and from what my psychologist also said to me was don’t add in “genderqueer” in your first coming out to people. Maybe you can add onto that later.

Because a lot of people don’t understand the concept of being genderqueer, a lot of them won’t take you as seriously and they won’t try as hard to refer to you as a man, or see you as one even if you feel like that.

In my status I didn’t really add in a lot of details about my own transition and how I was gonna go about it. I was just saying things like, “I’m open to questions and you can message me if you want to know more.”

Since then I haven’t really gotten a lot of problems with it, but people didn’t really take me seriously then. I had to make a second status saying, “Hey, could you guys please do this? It feels awkward.”

Because I wasn’t close to a lot of my friends, none of them really approached me about it. People who did were usually cis men and the first thing they’d always go to was, “Are you gonna have the surgery?” First I was really cool with that and had the patience to explain, but then after I got sick of that question, I would be like, “Dude, that is really inappropriate,” and stuff like that.

How I came out to my family. Because my parents don’t speak English and my Chinese is so broken, I couldn’t communicate. I couldn’t do it in a way that I had to talk to them because I didn’t know a lot of the terms and it just would not have gone well. So what I did was I wrote an email and it took me so long because I had to write an English draft and then I had to slowly type it into Chinese and use Google Translate.

Actually, if any guys are in the same situation and need a Chinese version I can forward this to you because it would help. I would’ve really wanted that resource. Email me if you want that.

It’s really important when coming out to your families to not do it in a way that sticks it in their faces and go, “Hey, I’m trans and there’s nothing you can do to change that and I’m gonna go on hormones,” blah blah blah, but to actually do it in a way that involves them, that makes them think that they’re part of the process of you deciding it so they don’t instantly feel defensive and be really scared.

My mom replied to me and said that she had no idea this was going on and she thought it was really brave that I said all this and they’re gonna try their hardest to understand the situation even though they have no idea about everything. That was probably the best reply I could get and I was over the moon about it. But after a few hours she sent another email saying that she was 100% against any medical procedure that I would want to go into and that I should be happy just having this revelation that I am a boy and just continue living my life having that knowledge.

A couple weeks after that we spoke for the first time in person and it was really bad. I couldn’t communicate anything I wanted to and she sounded really accusatory. Basically just anger and tears everywhere, and then we just stopped talking about it.

So after that we didn’t talk about this whole trans thing for a very long time and I was just trying to figure out a way that I could communicate to them properly and overcome this language barrier. Me and my psychologist came up with the idea of having a meeting with them and a psychiatrist and my psychologist and a translator on the phone.

And that meeting was earlier this year, so it’s pretty recent and it was also really bad. The translator was translating things at about 60% accuracy. Mom was just really angry the whole time. That meeting ended really badly and not much was actually communicated because there were so many people trying to talk the whole time and so little time, and added on to the waiting time for the translator, everything was just really hectic.

So I guess I’ll fast track to now where I’m in a situation where I just moved to a new city where everyone knows me as Leo, where nobody knew me as my birth name. All my friends right now are a bit confused. They try to not use any pronouns when referring to me because they don’t really know what’s going on, but they kind of know that I prefer male pronouns. It’s because I thought I wasn’t that close to them yet and I didn’t want that to be a big thing that they judged me on.

As for uni, I emailed all of my teachers about it and they all call me Leo. Since I go to an art school, I guess that’s also a plus because I think that a lot of them have dealt with trans* students before. Some teachers still print out new rolls and they’ll call me my birth name and I’ll just have an anxiety attack, but then they fix themselves after.

Those are my coming out experiences and that stuff. I just need to bring your attention to my t-shirt that I bought. It’s a fake boy London shirt and I basically bought it to kind of stick it into my parents’ face. Boy!

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Leo Blac is an Australia-based design student interested in visual story telling, street culture, and urban dancing. He makes videos regularly for the YouTube channel TransPOC. Check out his blog to keep up with his new projects and musings!