Many people think of transitioning as a single step, but Judy Virago believes defining yourself can be a long and winding path.
I started correcting things my father would say to me as soon as I could talk.
As an infant dad said to me
“You want some naanaa baby?”
and precociously I replied “Not naanaa daddy, Ba-nana”.
As a teenager, Dad found me secret booze stash,
“We need to talk”,he said, “I’ve found your bottle of vodka”
“It’s not vodka, Dad it’s gin, and I’ve almost run out”
And as an adult, Dad validated me.
“I’m very proud of you son” And as happy as I was to hear that, I had to answer
“ Actually Dad, I’m your daughter”
But my journey to coming out wasn’t nearly as linear as my verbal progression. I came out as bisexual at high school, then gay at university. I was on the brink of transitioning in my last yer at uni when I fell in love with a gay boy and postponed my transition to be with him. I didn’t end up coming out as trans till I was in my late 20s, and went through the first few years of my medical transition overseas. So you can imagine my father’s utter confusion when, upon returning to New Zealand after six years away, his newly minted daughter told him she was dating a woman. A gay son he could handle, a transgender daughter even made sense to him, but me coming out as a polyamorous pansexual was almost too much for my dear old dad. He wanted a more traditional life for me.
At this point in my life I’ve dated pretty broadly across the spectrum of gender, and I’ve learned a lot with each manifestation. When I broke up with my great gay love, I learned to acknowledge my needs after ignoring them for so long to fit into someone else’s sexuality. As a genderqueer creature on their first months of hormones, I dated a brilliant trans guy. He taught me a lot about healthy masculinity and healthy boundaries – two things I had never really had a handle on.
After a year on hormones I experienced the double-edged sword of passing as a straight cis woman while in my first relationship with a straight guy. I felt safe, but I felt small, and silenced. He told me not to shout or raise my voice in public, he was concerned my voice got deeper when I got louder. He never introduced me to his family, and eventually his own insecurities got the better of our relationship. It took a confident, sensual lesbian to teach me that my womanhood is not measured against the masculinity of my partner. Being with her was a trip, I had just gotten used to passing as a cisgender heterosexual woman and all of a sudden I was visibly queer again! Dating a lesbian made sense to me, I felt like I was dating someone from my own culture again. Someone who understood what coming out was like, but had processed it and moved on. Someone who didn’t feel like my trans-ness brought their sexuality into question.
I am now happily partnered (monogamously) with a kind, beautiful, hilarious man. He identifies as straight, and I’m the first transgender woman he has been with. In all my previous relationships, my partners had either already been out as some flavour of queer, or they’d been hideously repressed. The cis men who love trans women don’t get a coming-out narrative the way people born into the LGBTIQ+ community do. They don’t get a float in the parade. The silence, shame and stigma that surrounds trans-attraction drives many trans-attracted men to violently harm the trans women they lust after. So, this is the first relationship I’ve been in where I had a partner essentially come out as straight (but not narrow) by disclosing my trans status to his family. Me being trans wasn’t something I felt like I ever really needed to share with them. I was so used to being expected to keep it a secret (or being kept a secret myself), but it was important to him. And to be honest, it feels amazing to know that he loves me enough to be open about who we are, regardless of how other people respond.
So the question is, what should I come out to my dad as next?
Article | Judy Virago.
Photo | Angela McConnell.
Judy Virago is a an educator, consultant, showgirl, and chair of the OuterSpaces Trust Board.