Writing, Identity, & Queer Studies

In & Out, Either/Or, and Everything In Between

The Deep Complexities of Coming Out as Transgender

In Tomorrow Will Be Different: Love, Loss, and the Fight for Trans Equality, by Sarah McBride, Sarah explains what coming out as trans felt like to her. She says, “I was about to jump feetfirst into a world that I wasn’t sure I was prepared for” (McBride 2018, 4). The words in this sentence hold a lot of meaning to the truth of what coming out as trans entails. Saying “I was about to jump feetfirst” evokes sentiments of suicide. When someone is typically jumping off of something tall (as jumping into a world would appear to be), they typically don’t plan on continuing to live. This provides symbolism for how coming out as trans would be like living a completely new life, in a new world. Everything from how someone perceives you and treats you, to the opportunities that you have in the job market significantly change as a transwoman. In a study conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality, they found that one in four trans identifying people report being fired from their job on the basis of their gender identity (McBride 2018, 4). I could only imagine how scary it must be to lose all of the protections of stability that one experiences in their life. Sarah knew that she identified as a woman, but didn’t know how her life would be altered based off of how others perceive her. While Sarah’s life as a man ended, her life as a woman was just beginning. In this sense, “death” represents both renewal and loss. It represents renewal in Sarah’s connection to herself, and the alignment of her outside persona with her identity, and loss in that she is losing all of the privileges that she knew to have as a man. This statement allows the reader to see that coming out as trans is a deeply complex thing, that has much bigger life altering implications than just changing one’s personal pronoun.   

Additionally, the words “into a world I wasn’t sure I was prepared for” are significant to a reader’s understanding of Sarah’s experience. Specifically, the use of the personal pronoun “I” has a large effect on the reader’s understanding of being trans. Often times, society chooses to focus on the experience of others who are affected by someone’s transition, while truthfully the person who needs the most attention is the trans-person themself. In Sarah’s experience coming out, when she told her mom, her mom said, “I can’t handle this! I can’t handle this!”(McBride 2018, 26). The “I” in this statement, being her mother shows lack of acknowledgement for the experience of Sarah during this transition. When Sarah referenced her personal feeling of lack of preparedness for the life ahead of her, it allowed the reader to recognize that this transition is really about Sarah, and not the lives of the people in her life. From analyzing this quote, the reader can gain a deeper understanding that coming out as trans is something that alters every aspect of that person’s life. it is scary, new, vulnerable, and completely personal. Coming out is about the individual, and by thinking of how oneself, independent from the person coming out is affected, that person is completely disregarding the difficulties and challenges faced by that individual coming out.

 

McBride, Sarah. 2018. Tomorrow Will Be Different: Love, Loss, and the Fight for Trans Equality. New York: Crown Archetype.

2 Comments

  1. I agree that the transition should be more focused on Sarah rather than the people in her life. Particularly, your analysis of Sarah McBride’s use of “I” reminded me of Sedgwick. Reading your post I thought of the quote: “there are important senses in which ‘queer’ can signify only when attached to the first person” (Sedgwick 9). This is an instant where the use of queer is significant in the first person. However, in this case the use of “I” is not significant to make the queer description true, but is significant to make the feelings surrounding a transition known and true; and as you said, those feelings are fear and vulnerability.

  2. I really liked your analysis of the phrase “I was about to jump feetfirst into a world that I wasn’t sure I was prepared for.” I also noticed the connection to essentially ending one life to start living another. However, I interpreted the phrase to have optimistic meaning as well. Even though she wasn’t feeling entirely confident about being “prepared,” she was still taking the plunge and going into this new world and giving it her all.

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