Coming out (and out and out)

Lately I’ve been thinking about the process of coming out and identities/shifting, and how for so many of us it’s an ongoing/lifetime process. In part because we as individuals change, and/or in part because our environment changes, and/or in part because our identities can’t be read on the outside, and/or because some of us feel the most comfortable in those in-between spaces yet sometimes feel compelled to “pick a side” (so to speak/referencing here the dualism so prevalent in mainstream Western culture), because the struggle to have our identities validated (or even finding language to define ourselves and our experiences) simply becomes too much work. But then when we “pick that side,” we might eventually feel the weight of that boxed-in identity start to hurt, so we begin the process of coming out again… Or geez, to put it most simply, because things just change… 

I don’t just mean coming out as it relates to gender and sexuality, but coming out as, say, someone who’s dealing with depression or other mental/emotional realities. Or as someone who creates/exists in relationships that defy convention (and, oftentimes, language). Or as someone who prefers no relationships at all. Or as someone who grew up in a culture of conflict or abuse, or grew up in a religiously fundamental family.

The examples are, obviously endless, but I’ll share something that happened to me recently. When I was in Wisconsin, I had a lovely and in-depth conversation with someone about the focus of feminism(s) these days, and about identities and assumptions.  It was the first time I’d met her, so I knew nothing about her.  She asked, “If you had to make an assumption about my life, identity, or work, what’s one thing that comes to mind?” I responded as honestly as I could, and said that considering her appearance and the way she spoke, I would likely assume that she’s a professor or someone from the “professional class.” She then corrected my assumptions by telling me that she’d been homeless for the past three years, in and out of transitional homes, but largely living on the street. She’s never set foot on a college campus. But, she added, she often meets people who, like me, assume that her reality/identity are much different. 

Anyway, I want to share a podcast with y’all, which actually is focused on the more traditional conception of coming out (in a gender/sexuality context), but is a wonderful example of how, for so many people, coming out is a continuous and ever-changing process. 

It’s called The gayest podcast in Michigan and it’s produced by Trevor Hoppe, who I met back when I (and Bitch) was in the San Francisco Bay Area.  It’s a personal interview with Jackson Bowman, someone I’ve had the pleasure of knowing for a long time (through his transition from lesbian to butch to man to gay man). He’s a great story-teller, and he offers some valuable and candid insights on body image, sexuality, gay male culture, masculinity, and queer culture in general.

Warning: Parts of this interview are very sexually graphic, and might be triggering to people who’ve experienced sexual abuse.

Below is a five minute preview. If you like what you hear, head over here to hear the rest



In the interview several important books and authors were mentioned and I want to link to a few here: 

Leslie Feinberg and Stone Butch Blues

Body Alchemy: Photographs

Riki Anne Wilchins’ Read My Lips:  Sexual subversion and the end of gender

Jamison Greene


by Debbie Rasmussen
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