Be More Kind: My Coming Out Letter

The following is my coming out letter to my extended family and the remaining people in my life to whom I was not out. I am now out in all facets of my life, a place I never thought I would reach, even two months ago.

In my letter, I wanted to get across my humanity and really have people understand the impact that their words have on me and on other trans and LGBQ+ folks. I wanted to encourage them to be more kind. Judging from the responses I’ve received, I managed to do that.

Deepening new and old friendships with LGBTQ+ folks and allies brought me to a place where I knew I had enough support to do this. And thus far, the response has been overwhelmingly positive. So it may be cliche, but it does get better!

Dear friends and family,

Writing this letter is difficult. It’s hard to know what to say; it’s intimidating to be vulnerable. But I think it will be better for all of us having written this letter.

I just wanted to let you all know that I’m nonbinary transgender, explain a little bit what that means to me, and make a request.

So, step one—coming out as nonbinary—accomplished, we move on to step two—what that means to me.

It’s hard to articulate what nonbinary means. Officially, it’s about being a gender that isn’t a woman or a man. But it doesn’t really have a concrete definition or experience, just like being a woman or a man isn’t a concrete experience. I’m still the same person in many respects, just happier and freer.

Some notes and definitions:

  • Sex is based on biology, including internal and external sex characteristics, chromosomes, and hormones. People are generally divided into two groups (male and female), but some people are intersex, meaning that their sex characteristics don’t fit into one of those two groups.
  • Gender is how a person identifies/feels inside. It is socially created and can have expectations and roles put onto it, usually based on a person’s sex characteristics. Thus, people often incorrectly assume that a person’s sex will determine their gender. Some genders include female, male, and nonbinary.
  • Gender expression refers to people’s external articulations of gender, like clothing, haircuts, names, pronouns, and mannerisms. Society reads different things as “masculine” or “feminine,” but people’s gender expression doesn’t always match the stereotypes of their gender identity. Different societies code different things as “masculine” or “feminine,” so gender expression can vary with time and place.
  • Transgender refers to people who do not identify with the sex/gender they were assigned at birth.
  • Cisgender refers to people who do identify with the sex/gender they were assigned at birth. (You may recognize the cis- and trans- prefixes from chemistry, as referring to “the same side” and “another side” respectively.)

What nonbinary means to me:

It’s easier to explain what nonbinary is not. Being nonbinary for me isn’t about my interests. I still enjoy music, art, sewing, hiking, books, writing, and laughter… It’s not really about the clothes I wear or how I cut my hair. Coming out to myself freed me to do and wear some things I was scared to before, but people of all genders wear different clothes and hairstyles. It’s not like I think there is something wrong with being a woman or that women can’t be uncomfortable with gendered expectations. It’s not about stereotypical gender roles.

It’s more that when I tried to be a girl, and then a woman, I was uncomfortable. It felt inaccurate. Not because of my interests or clothing—girls and women have a multitude of interests and wear lots of different things—but just because. I knew for a long time I was uncomfortable when it came to gender, but I never articulated or even acknowledged that in my head, because it was too scary, and there were no other options as far as I knew. This created a lot of shame.

I know “because” is not a concrete answer, but once I finally read that it was possible to be something other than a woman, or a man, I couldn’t get it out of my head. I tried. I looked at my friends who were comfortable in womanhood and tried to be, but couldn’t. When I made nonbinary friends, I finally found people who articulated the same inexplicable discomfort, and the same freedom in being nonbinary.

Dealing with shame:

Being nonbinary feels accurate and takes away the gross feelings of shame. The only negative feelings left relate to society’s response. Many people don’t understand, because—like me when I was growing up—the only thing society knows is male and female. When I’m with people who get it, I feel so much more comfortable than before. Because ultimately, it’s not really a big deal. Identity is only a big deal when it’s repressed.

Most people don’t think constantly about their gender. Most people don’t feel particularly confined or defined by their gender, and neither do I, until I’m in a situation where it is a big deal, like when people call me a woman. Then it feels icky, like how you might feel if you were constantly called something you weren’t.

What you can do:

Which brings us to part three, my request. It would really help me feel more comfortable if people used the pronouns “they,” “them,” and “their(s)” to refer to me, rather than “she,” “her,” and “hers.” You might already do this for people whose pronouns you don’t know.

Some examples of they/them pronouns in everyday life:

  • You move to a new city and need a new doctor. Your friend says, “I love my doctor!” You might say, “What’s their name?”
  • Someone leaves a textbook behind in class and you don’t know whose it is. You might say, “Someone forgot their textbook. I hope they don’t need it tonight!”
  • Your friend says, “We got a new supervisor at work.” You might ask, “Are they a good supervisor?”
  • Your friend gives you cookies. You say, “Yum! These are really good!” Your friend says, “I can’t take credit. My friend gave them to me.” You ask, “Could you ask them for the recipe?”

I know the grammar can feel awkward—I also had to adjust. You may find it interesting to know that singular “they” has been used for centuries and that both the AP and Chicago style guides support its usage. If you want to read more about singular “they,” this blog post is rather fascinating.

My pronouns and language:

You can similarly use “they,” “them,” and “theirs” pronouns for me. I’m also using the name Beck, which feels more comfortable, and would appreciate it if you could use it when referring to me, not as a nickname, but as my name. So you could say:

  • “I talked to Beck the other day. They told me they’re nonbinary!”
  • Someone asks, “Do you know where Beck is? I can’t find them.” You say, “They’re in the living room.”
  • Someone asks, “Do you know whose sweater this is?” You say, “Talk to Beck, I think it might be theirs.”

I’d also appreciate if you could avoid using gender-specific language for me, or lumping me into groups based on gender. Some examples:

  • Instead of saying, “She’s my granddaughter,” you can say, “They’re my grandchild.”
  • Instead of saying, “She’s my niece,” you can say, “I’m their aunt/uncle.” (Still working on what to say if both parties are nonbinary. Then you basically get to make new words up, which seems fun!)
  • Instead of saying, “She’s my cousin,” you can say “They’re my cousin.” (Cousins get off easy!)
  • This also applies to words like “girl,” “woman,” and “ladies.” Replacements include “friend(s),” “folks,” “person,” and “human(s).”

Practice makes perfect:

I know my mental health improves when people use these words to refer to me, so I’d really appreciate if you could all do so. It takes some getting used to.  You might have to practice using unfamiliar pronouns and names in sentences—I know I did. Practicing aloud even when I’m not around can help with muscle memory, too. You might have to correct yourself or each other. It’s a learning curve. But who knows? You might someday meet a new friend or coworker who uses different pronouns than you expect, and I’ll have given you a head start on acing their pronouns!

Being misgendered (when people don’t use my name, pronouns, and other language) is emotionally exhausting and painful. It is much easier to spend time around people who make an effort to use the correct language when referring to me. I want to maintain and improve my relationships, and my feeling safe and comfortable around you will really help with that.

Further resources:

If you have questions, I’m including a link to a PDF document that’s been helpful for my parents. It’s rather long, but if you’d like to read it, feel free. You could also google questions, ask my family, or ask me. I ask that you be considerate about which questions you ask me.

I know for some of you, this concept could be difficult to reconcile with your religious beliefs. If you would like some resources on the intersection of Christianity and LGBTQ+ people, I’d recommend the following sources:

A note on sexual orientation:

I’m attracted to people of various genders, so just so it doesn’t come as a surprise if I ever date someone, my partner could be of any gender.

Love you all lots!

Beck Bauman

The songs that have been getting me through these last few days are The Village, by Wrabel (CW: transphobia and physical violence towards a trans person) and Be More Kind, by Frank Turner.

The Village is about a trans person facing unaccepting family, and emphasizes that the problem isn’t with the trans person, it is with society’s attitude. This song gave me confidence and reminded me of the power that I have. It also reminded me of the need for supportive community, and that I have that in many areas of my life.

There’s something wrong in the village
In the village, oh
They stare in the village
In the village, oh
There’s nothing wrong with you
It’s true, it’s true
There’s something wrong with the village
With the village
There’s something wrong with the village

Be More Kind gave me hope—a hope that has not been disappointed by the response I’ve gotten—that in hard times we need to be more kind to each other.

And when you’re out there floundering
Like a lighthouse I will shine
Be more kind, my friends, try to be more kind

Like a beacon reaching out
To you and yours from me and mine
Be more kind, my friends, try to be more kind

In a world that has decided
That it’s going to lose its mind
Be more kind, my friends, try to be more kind