Kai Bailey came out to her friends on Facebook as transgender last summer. In this first-hand account, she recalls the last moments before she hit "Share."
Sitting at the computer with my partner, Leigh, the mouse in my hand hovered dangerously close to the submit button as we critiqued the text I had been tweaking for nearly a week. Arranged below it was a series of 5 photos of me sorted into a rainbow. I spent hours the day before taking these "coming out" shots, repainting my nails, picking up some new makeup, and shaving my face twice, just to be sure. It was Saturday, June 2, 2012. Normally a quiet, emotionally guarded person, I was finally ready to share a secret: I’m transgender.
It had been just nine months since I had come to that realization, and I considered myself enormously fortunate that my partner, family, and the few close friends I came out to had responded with love. But even after months of therapy, self-exploration, clothes shopping and pieces of progress, I still hesitated, logged into Facebook and wondering if I really wanted to set these wheels in motion. I couldn’t think of any other time in my life where a single click would result in changing so many friends’ perspectives of me in such a drastic way. In that moment, I believed a twitch of my finger could end a hundred friendships in an instant.
I had reworked the post to highlight my unabashed exuberance, due in no small part to the influence of Laura Jane Grace, lead singer of Against Me!, who had come out as a trans woman in a Rolling Stone article a few months prior. Large color photos scattered the pages, revealing a happy, confident trans person just a few months into physical transition. Laura was affirming her femininity despite the world telling her she was male-bodied, saying, "I'm a transsexual, and this is what's happening." I wanted to share that spirit.
To me, coming out wasn’t just about informing people that I would likely look different the next time we saw each other. Growing up, I never saw trans people depicted as normal, so I wanted to show people I was more than a caricature or a plot twist like the stereotypes I had seen on TV. After 24 years of shirking from any self expression I considered to be too feminine, I wanted to share the joy I felt having finally realized my relationship with my own mind. I wanted to tell the world I am proud to be trans.
Leigh grabbed my hand, and together we clicked the mouse. With that startling quickness, my milestone was suddenly available on the screens of over a hundred friends. To ensure nobody missed the hint, I immediately updated my gender selection, profile picture and cover photo. The seconds that followed were adrenaline-soaked, and my eyes flicked to the notification bar to wait for some tiny binary token of acceptance from a friend.
It came. Cracking a smile I said aloud, “Steve likes that I’m trans. That’s lovely.” Then came another, and another and thirty-some more. Boys, girls, best friends, coworkers, even ex-girlfriends (my "retroactively bisexual" friends) clicked like as that token of support. Soon I had opened up lines of dialogue with friends I hadn’t spoken to in ages. I finally shared my happiness openly as I realized the people in my life are so much cooler than I regularly give them credit for. The day continued like any other, but “it” was finally over: I was out to everyone, and didn’t have to hide any more. Regretting only that I hadn’t realized my “transness” sooner, I became driven to shed light on my found community of ‘gender rebels.’
Then I met Jen Richards. A fellow Chicagoan and trans woman who created the We Happy Trans project, Jen's vision aligned with my new goal: to fight negative stereotypes by sharing positive stories about the many different trans experiences. I started working with the We Happy Trans team to develop a community that could represent who we really are—not the trans caricatures we see on TV and in the movies, but successful, creative, driven people who laugh and love and have amazing things to share. After coming out on Facebook, I wanted to share more of my story, so I found the confidence to record a video about my experience. As many of my friends and family live in other states, it was a perfect next step for the people in my life who weren’t around to witness my transition. We Happy Trans has been showcasing these stories and has since grown from 15 videos to more than 50, while our Facebook page has gathered a community of more than 600 people. As more and more people see these positive stories, the truth is finally coming out: trans people are just people too, and deserve to be happy.
It’s been 15 months since I first came out to my partner, and with each month that passes I feel notably more solid than I ever have before—more sure of myself and more confident in my expression. My relationship with Leigh has only grown stronger as we traverse all the smaller facets of our coming out, be it on Facebook, between each other, or out in the world. I’m proud to be part of the trans community and incredibly grateful for all the friends I’ve made over the past year. As I come out to more people each day, I’m finding that the most amazing people I know are the ones who’ve found the confidence to be themselves.
**Kai Bailey is a 25-year-old graphic and web designer who lives in Chicago. For more info about the We Happy Trans project, check them out on Facebook.