Coming out can be difficult when you’re a QTPOC (Queer Trans Person of Colour). You have to consider race, culture, sexuality and gender. How will my family react to me being trans? How will I deal with society’s homophobia and racism? These are confronting questions, but it helps to take a step back, and consider what coming out is, and what it can be.
What is coming out?
In the simplest terms, coming out is sharing a part of your queer identity with someone. The typical coming out story is you tell everybody that you're queer, so you can live life as yourself and gain freedom. It’s either magical where everyone accepts you, or a complete disaster where you find yourself rejected. For a lot of QTPOC, this all-or-nothing approach is not realistic. We have to find our own ways of coming out that differ from the white queer narrative. How you coming out is personal to your situation. Let’s explore some paths you might want to follow.
Not coming out
You don’t have to come out. This isn’t a race against time, or a mission you must complete to save the world. Some QTPOC decide to never come out to their family and community. Why? Different people and spaces cater to our different needs. When you’re struggling with society’s racism, having the support of your family can be important. They can relate to your pain, and offer support from a place of understanding. Your family helps you connect to your culture and heritage. Knowing more about your people and your history allows you to feel proud of who you are and where you come from.
Not coming out also gives you the space to learn more about yourself. What questions do you have about your gender, sexuality, race and culture? Gender and sexual diversity have existed throughout human history across cultures around the world. There are identities that have been formed and respected separately from a western point of view. Does your culture have a gender diverse identity that you relate to? There are the Waria of Indonesia, the Sistergirls and Brotherboys of the Aboriginal community, and the Muxes of Mexico.
Taking the time to learn who you are, your values and what support you need is empowering. These are all useful things to know when you find yourself in a difficult position or struggling with the relationship you have with yourself.
Seeking out queer-friendly spaces
If you can’t come out at school or home, find queer groups, events or organisations related to your interest. Queer community groups will host social events where you can meet other queer people. Sporting clubs may hold regular games that you can participate in. Event organisers will take the necessary steps to ensure your safety, which you can always ask about. For example, you can ask for your photo not to be taken and shared on social media.
If travelling is an obstacle, explore the internet to find queer groups, forums, educators and social media personalities. With a new email, you can create accounts that are separate from your public ones. A different name and profile pic will help conceal your identity. Social media sites have privacy settings that you can adjust to protect yourself from any unwanted attention.
Having relationships with other queer people in safe spaces has many benefits. They can offer you advice when you’re unsure, become roles models, or give you the happiness you sometimes don’t get in other parts of your life. You’re not alone anymore.
Coming out to your parents
Before you come out, you need to see if it’s safe. Listen to the conversations your family have about queer people. If you think they might react badly to you coming out, it’s ok not to come out. Your well-being is important. You’re still queer even if you are the only person who knows.
If you decide you want to tell your parents, it helps to go in with a plan. Often coming out to parents is a one-on-one conversation, but this might not be right for you. Create an approach that will work for you and your parents. Let’s consider this general example:
David told his friends he’s trans but now wants to tell his parents. Both his parents migrated to Australia with English as another language. They keep in touch with their cultural roots, practices and beliefs.
How David’s parents will react, and what they understand is affected by culture and language. David’s parents grew up in a different time and place. There wasn’t access to high-speed internet where they could read online resources about queer culture. Their culture’s attitudes towards sexuality and gender may have been affected by colonial forces who outlawed homosexuality and gender diversity. The English term ‘queer’ might not even exist in their language or community. If David starts talking about being trans, his parents might be overwhelmed and react from a place of confusion.
So what can David do?
David can look at his family to better understand their experience, knowledge, and relationships. Have they met other queer people? What do they know about queer people? How does his family communicate with each other?
Let’s say David finds out the following information:
Mum and dad have only heard about trans people from the news
Dad prefers Mum and Vivian, the oldest sibling, to handle emotional topics
Mum and dad took English classes but grew up reading Mandarin
Knowing all this, David can figure out how he can best come out to his parents.
He decides that it’s best to come out to his mum, and let her tell his dad. To come out to his mum, he asks Vivian, his sister, for help. Together with Vivian, they plan the conversation they’re going to have with their mum. David will in the simplest way, tell his mum he is trans. To help bridge the language and cultural gap, Vivian will try to explain David’s word in Mandarin. To help their mum better understand, they give her with a trans resource written in Mandarin.
If David decides he doesn’t want to directly come out to his parents, he could subtly let them know. Wearing a trans flag pin, or having the pride flag sticker on his laptop, quietly introduces his queerness to his parents. They might silently acknowledge it, or ask questions, either way, it gives them time to learn and you the chance to show a different side of yourself.
Remember that you can ask the people, or find resources to help you. This isn’t something you have to do alone. Take your time and consider what is best for you.