This is the first day of Trans Visibility for which I am completely out. I feel like it’s only necessary to bullet point my journey and present state, especially for those in the back who think we don’t need things like this.
-I was named Marissa when I was 18. My girlfriend’s last name was McCool at the time, and I liked the ring of it. Alexa is a reference to my deadname.
-I’ve always known I was different. I came out as transgender for the first time in 2014. It didn’t end up well.
-I went on hormones July 13th, 2016. I didn’t come out publicly until October, mostly out of fear of being visibly queer.
-It took me until January 23rd, 2017 to be officially out on all my web presences. The response has been about 98 percent positive, and I’m quite aware that I’m one of the lucky ones for that.
-I’ve suffered 3 sexual assaults in my life that I know of. I say “that I know of” because one could’ve been once, or it could’ve been every night for six weeks, or anything in between. Two were from cis girls. One was from a cis guy. These are for reference, not relevance.
-My podcast has completely changed because of my coming out on episode 70, as have my appearances on other podcasts, my activism, publishing books, and daily life. I regret nothing.
-Today, I got the trans-flag heart tattooed on my left wrist with the word “Visible” in the white bar. I will be visible for those who cannot, and for those who don’t think there are people who cannot.
-The current administration is doing all they can to roll back LGBT rights and public presence. Not all Trump supporters support this, but a lot are quick to tell me that nothing will really change. I beg to differ. Baby steps in one direction are still going in that direction.
-Many cis people like to tell me that I’m overreacting, complaining, whining, or that they support us but they’re not going to do anything like march in parades because it won’t change anyone’s mind. I like to remind them that gay marriage determined an election in 2004, and became national law in 2015. It wasn’t because gay people politely waited their turn in silence. We do not have the luxury of waiting to find out what they want to do.
Lastly, I’m going to share a letter sent to me today, because I don’t know if I could’ve received a more meaningful letter from a cis person on this day. Thank you, and I look forward to hugging you and everyone else at ReasonCon3. I will be there with a table, my new book False Start, my first book under my name The PC Lie, t-shirts, and 8x10s. Thank you, all of you, for being who you are. Unless you’re an asshole. Then don’t be who you are, today or any other.
I’m writing this letter to you because, well….140 characters just isn’t sufficient.
I recently had a Twitter exchange with you concerning the EPIC “fuck-you” to “Pastor Carl.” Following that, I found and downloaded several podcast episodes and decided to start with episode 82. I recognized Callie’s name from the ReasonCon ads and thought it would be interesting hear you interview her.
Before going too far, I’d like to explain myself a little. I hope my impetus for writing to you will become clear by the end.
I think it’s fair to say that my thoughts regarding gender and sexual expression have evolved in recent years. Considering my upbringing, one might go so far as to say that I’ve undergone a fundamental shift in perspective. I don’t believe that I’ve ever hated or been afraid of anyone, at least not that I’m aware of. (With respect to the words Homophobic or Transphobic, I’ve come to the conclusion that, far from being afraid of other people’s orientations, those to whom this designation may apply, are afraid of what the acceptance of people in these groups might reveal about them.)
My best friend—who I’ve known for 22 years since we were roommates in christian college—is gay and only recently came out to his parents and friends. He came to see me one day—about two years ago—and said, “We need to talk.” He looked nervous but resolute and suddenly just said, “So…uh…I’m gay.” I looked back into his eyes, smiled and said, “Yeah…I know.” At which point he collapsed into the
nearest chair and began breathing again. He looked up, met my eyes, and asked me how long I’d known. I said, “Well, probably about 12 years….when I found gay porn on our computer.” (He and I had rented a house and lived together while working at the same Christian school as middle school teachers)
He chuckled at the irony, then we laughed together for a minute or two. I walked to him, gave him a hug, told him I loved him, and we cried together. His tears of joy—perhaps relief is a better word—probably had something to do with the fact that he had deliberately avoided telling me until after he had told every other person in his life. He said that he wasn’t sure how I would react. Mine
were tears of relief mixed with an intense pain. Relief, because my friend had finally told me the secret I knew he was hiding. Pain, caused by the realization that the early years of our friendship—a time when I could safely be described as absurdly religious—cast a cloud over this conversation, to the point that he told his Fundamentalist, Evangelical, Baptist parents before telling me. (This friend is also one of only 4 people in my ambit who knows that I’m an atheist. After talking to my wife, he was the first person I told.)
I say all of that to illustrate, not my compassion for others, my love of all people, (insert other useless platitude here), but to show how utterly hopeless I was at communicating my actual feelings to my bestfriend. He didn’t know if I was “safe.”
Now that I’ve exposed one of my great fears (and one of my only regrets), I need to tell you why I’m writing this absurdly protracted letter to someone I’ve never met. I listened to episodes 82 and 83 of the Inciting Incident podcast. In ep. 83, Callie spoke about activism and doing what one can to get involved. I realized that, although my only real contact with anyone in the Trans community has been on Twitter, I have a moral obligation to, if nothing else, tell my daughter the truth. I can’t change an entire culture, but I can ensure that at least one child will grow up knowing the truth. Recently, my daughter and I were watching some show on Netflix. She said something about one of the characters and then made a categorical statement regarding relationships which needed to be corrected. (She’s at that age where confidence meets ignorance of reality) She said something like,
“He’s a boy, Daddy. Boys have girlfriends, not boyfriends.” (What I’m about to describe happened so quickly that I’m tempted to think that I had already, subconsciously, thought the entire thing through)
My initial impulse was to respond with an unemotional correction. My response was short, and deliberately so. In that moment, it wasn’t necessary to overwhelm her with all the various ways in which consenting adults couple themselves. I simply said, “Actually, there are a lot of boys who have boyfriends.” (Please understand that I’m still trying to examine my own motivation for this tactic of moral instruction. I wanted her to hear the truth without any of the emotion this topic tends to elicit, especially here in NC. I don’t know if it was the right way to do it. I want her to be able to take that idea and extrapolate from there. Again, I don’t know if I’m right or wrong here.)
I just told her the truth. I didn’t make any clarifying statements, moral judgements, nor did I encourage her to frame her perception of the issue in any way. I just told her the truth. I want to believe that the truth is enough. I don’t know if I’m doing this the correct way. I welcome any constructive criticism.
I found myself crying at work the other day. I had made the mistake of listening to episode 82 while at work. I started sniffling during Callie’s story about the dating website, her uplifting and encouraging interaction, followed by the crushing reality that clichés (Ignorant Redneck, etc.) exist for a reason. By the time she got to the “Nerd-Castle,” I was a mess. I can’t explain why I reacted this way, other than to say that the beauty and (if you’ll forgive the expression…I’ll try to explain what I mean by it) the utter “ordinariness” of it was so touching. For a moment, I glimpsed a world where the kind of romance Callie described is beautiful even if, or perhaps especially if, I don’t share the sexual orientation or gender identities with the people whose story I’m being told. I’m so new to this that I’m unsure if it’s appropriate, or even kind, to phrase it this way. I hope you’ll forgive—and correct if necessary—my ignorance on this point.
I kept listening, after sneaking some tissues in the bathroom. When Aiden finished his story—leaving you and Callie momentarily speechless—I was a total wreck. I knew I was going to listen to back episodes of your podcast, but I was blissfully unaware of what was coming next. The following morning I clicked on Episode 81 (I think) where you spoke about consent.
Describing my reaction to this is difficult. I was driving to work and had to pull my car over more than once. My vision through the rain soaked windshield was blurred by a torrent of tears. I sat there, crying with you, but not anywhere near you. It’s a strange mixture of emotional connection (on my end) and complete ignorance of the other person’s existence (your end).
It occurred to me that my impetus for attending ReasonCon (Which happens to be in my hometown…where I am a closeted atheist) had changed. Initially, I wanted to meet Aron Ra, Matt Dillahunty and Lawrence Krauss. Imagine my surprise when I realized that I was more excited about meeting you and Callie then about taking selfies with some of my favorite celebrity atheists!
At the close of the show you admitted your incomprehension as to why anyone would have spent their time listening. The fact that I feel the same way is precisely why I had to write to you. I got onto Twitter about a year and a half ago. I’m deliberately anonymous and have, until very recently, taken great pains to conceal this from my family. I don’t know any atheists in Hickory. In fact, I don’t know anyone from who will be in attendance at ReasonCon. My desperation for community led me to Twitter. Twitter has allowed me to “be myself” without anyone I know being affected. This cannot last. I know that, at some point, I will be “outed” (forgive my usage of the expression) and my entire family will know. I don’t fear this, with one exception. My mother. Telling her, at her age, would almost be a cruelty. At least that’s how I’m rationalizing my cowardice.
I’ve written too much.
I am afraid of telling my religious family members that I have “misplaced” my faith. It’s pathetic, I know. You had the courage to scream your name into the void and show your true face to the world. With that in mind—and with no small amount of admiration—I want to show you my face, and ask if you will be my friend.
-This is why I speak up. This is why I’m visible. This is why I’m an activist. Thank you. You know who you are.
I will have a merchandise table at ReasonCon3 with my books, as mentioned above. I always welcome hugs, so please don’t hesitate to do so. My terms of peace with Callie are that she is the greatest hugger, but I’m the greatest hug receiver.