A Trans Coming Out, and a Response

A friend came out as transgender last year. It took me a while, but I found my response...

A friend came out as transgender last year. It took me a while, but I found my response…

Hey! Sooooo… I apologize that this took so long for me to send to you. I saw your coming out post when you originally put it up, and it’s taken me a while to work through a lot of my thoughts and feelings. It’s still a work-in-progress for me, but I just wanted to share a bit with you.

When I saw the post, I was pretty surprised. It wasn’t something I had suspected or considered for you before. The trans experience is pretty outside my wheelhouse. I have acquaintances who are trans, but no close friends. You were the first person that I’d say I know fairly well who’s come out as trans. So this is a new personal experience for me.

Even as I’m writing this, I realize how me-centered my thought process is, rather than you-centered. This is your experience primarily, and mine only secondarily, and I’m sorry that I have to consciously think about how that’s the case, and focus on re-orienting my thought processes so that this is more about you, and less about me. I think that everyone who comes out has to do this funny little dance where people should be compassionate towards you in this difficult (even if freeing) statement, when, in reality, you have to be compassionate/understanding towards the people you come out to. Often, they’re the ones crying and apologizing and saying how they feel about the experience, rather than letting you do these things.

So I know it’s ironic that I’m here telling you how I feel. I suppose… initially, this was really hard news for me. It’s strange, because I tend to think that I should be empathetic and let people live their own lives, especially if those lives are lived distinctly from mine. But I had a hard time accepting this. It made me kind of angry, not necessarily at you, but at the situation. After some processing (and a discussion with my counselor), I realized that I was going through a sort of grieving process. I realized that I’d really seen you as a very significant father figure in my life, and I felt like I was losing that. I didn’t know what to do with this new person, with a new name (and no beard…). And in losing that person, I felt like I was losing a part of myself. And it made me feel very very sad.

But, of course, I know that you are still you. I know that those memories I have, and the things I learned from and through you are real, and important, and good. And even if there’s a new you, that old you was still you, too, and I’m grateful for that. We all change, and I want to give you the room and space to grow, even if I’m not really entitled to be someone to give you that. You don’t need that from me.

All that is to say… I just want to say that I’m grateful for you, for all the wonderful memories, and the things you’ve given me. I’ll always carry them and be grateful for them. And even if this transition is difficult for me, I want you to be free to make the decisions that make you happy. I don’t need to understand them for them to be good. I’m still working on integrating the transgender experience into my understanding of Catholicism, but real lives don’t always move at the pace of our understanding, and that’s ok, and good.

I think the name change may take some time for me, but I just want to say that I love you, and I hope that this is a freeing and happy experience for you, and that whoever and however you decide to be, I’ll always be grateful to have you as a part of my life.

You can find more of my (developing) thoughts on Catholicism and gender here.

Chris Damian is a writer, speaker, attorney, and business professional living in the Twin Cities. He received his B.A. in Philosophy from the University of Notre Dame and his J.D. and M.A. in Catholic Studies from the University of St. Thomas. He is the author of “I Desired You: Intellectual Journals on Faith and (Homo)sexuality” (volumes I and II). He is also the co-founder of YArespond, a group of Catholic young adults seeking informed and holistic responses to the clergy abuse crisis. In his free time, he enjoys hosting dinner parties and creative writing workshops. 

2 comments on “A Trans Coming Out, and a Response

  1. Nathan AM Smith

    Beautiful response. I am definitely in your boat here.


  2. Bethany Beeler

    Thank you for this, Chris, and for attesting to the impact I had and still have on you! (Also, anyone reading this should know that Chris FIRST asked person to post this as part of his blog, to which I said “yes!” because his words and thoughts and self are GEMS.)

    So, I am NOT coming down on you, Chris. I do want others who read this to know some etiquette so that other folks don’t initiate or receive a bad experience when it comes to how to refer to trans persons, pre- and post-transition, regardless of how you knew them or addressed them “back then.”

    1) Dead-naming and dead-gendering trans persons is a big issue. a trans person may have profiled/presented as, say, in my case, a male when you knew me, but I’ve always been female. So, folks, when referring to trans folk, get their permission first as to what is the best way to refer to them, past or present.

    2) If you don’t know their pronouns and the person(s) aren’t present to be asked their pronouns, default to “they/them/theirs” until they let you know otherwise.

    3) As Chris so lovingly and honestly notes here, your struggle with another person’s transition is just that—YOUR struggle. Don’t assume that, because YOU are struggling that you’re entitled to some explanation from that person (no matter how close you are to them—believe me, if they’re close to you, they will already know that you’re struggling. Why? THEY’VE been struggling with themselves FOR YEARS, IF NOT DECADES).

    4) You don’t have the prerogative to “think out loud” with a trans person about their personhood, presentation, identity, or anything else that you already take for granted for yourself as a private matter. Trans persons are NOT your opportunity or occasion to engage in philosophical, theological, or biological conjectures. If THEY bring it up and invite you to discuss, then by all means, engage to the degree they’ve invited it.

    5) You are not entitled to interrogate a trans person about themselves or about trans issues/right/whatevs, no matter how enlightened or “woke” you or your friends think you are. Do trans persons approach you and ask about what surgeries you’ve had or the size/functioning/disposition of your genitalia or breasts?

    6) WHAT YOU SHOULD DO when you meet a trans person or discover that someone you know and/or love is trans is to TAKE US AS WE ARE. By coming out and by presenting in public as non-binary, genderfluid, gender non-specific, trans man, trans woman, or any other self-identification, we are NOT ASKING YOUR PERMISSION TO BE SUCH, nor are we asking for your encouragement, support, or comment, however urgent you might feel it to say something. We are PEOPLE. Treat us as we are. It’s kinda like dating or making a new friend. Start out with small talk, discover common interests, and see where the night and your lives together go.

    Again, Chris, thank YOU for your honesty here and willingness to be vulnerable about your own wrestling match with my coming out. Bravissimo to you!


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