Simon Williamson, columnist with Georgia Voice

Simon Williamson: The courage of coming out

We all had to be brave.

Caitlyn Jenner has given the country yet another opportunity to declare who is not a hero in relation to the military, and the country has responded in the best way it knows how, furiously, across any Facebook page within typing distance.

Nonetheless, since Jenner got under the skin of angry folks by daring to be called courageous by other people, this perpetual whining has shown the greater public may be on the side of LGBT+ folks when it comes to marriage (and the ridiculous legal effects attached to it) but woefully ignorant of the pain and danger of living a life in secret, which is ultimately something all of us who fit within our abbreviation have undergone. 

Even in families where our incongruency with the basic gender binary has been perfectly acceptable, there was risk in our decisions to come out. Because, like a top bottoming for the first time, once out there is no going back in. No one knows for sure that Parent A and/or Parent B will be fully supportive, and anyone who has ever attended a school with pubescent or older peers will be able to relay the horror of being untypical. Horror. Worse than not being able to show off your brand new 9-months-of-taste-free-food abs because you stupidly got a sunburn.

Being forced to hide one’s self from the world is a cruel and unusual punishment, and is only relatable if you have had to go through it. There is the very real danger of anyone finding out and hating you, or abusing you, and in far too many cases, killing you. And there is the perpetual guardedness you have to carry around, which, in my case, wore me to the emotional bone. 

Just because Caitlyn Jenner might be a Hollywood celebrity, cashing in on her fame, doesn’t mean she was spared the pain and paranoia so many of us have endured. I was all teary and emotional for months before I came out at age 19. I don’t even want to think about what it must be like hiding yourself into your 60s. It is also outrageously important for trans people everywhere to know there are trans people everywhere. 

Over the last few years we have had Laverne Cox, Chaz Bono and Janet Mock light up our screens, and show the world that trans people exist, and now we can add Jenner to that powerful list. 

As a young gay man, I decided to come out because the winner of a British singing competition did. Don’t ever doubt the value and sincerity of a potent symbol to people who are struggling to deal with what they are hiding. Channel 2’s comment section might be whining about connoting Jenner and courage, but anyone in our family will be able to tell you it was never easy. It might be nothing like fighting in the military. But it was fucking terrifying.