By Kris Burton
At the recent Keystone Conference, it was my pleasure to take several of their wonderful workshops, including the one entitled “Telling Your Children and Family Members” moderated by Dr. Michelle Angello. More of a discussion than a “how to” workshop, I found it fascinating and yet at the same time brought about more questions than answers – questions that have been on my mind ever since.
When I first began to crossdress actively, I did not think this was a question I would have to address. After all, I am not a transgender person but rather what some may call a “recreational” crossdresser. My wife is aware of my proclivity. She is accepting, even participatory up to a point and it has done no harm to our relationship. Although I sometimes go out into the community en femme, I am retired and have no concerns about work colleagues finding out my “secret”.
Home free? Not quite. What about the kids?
In the workshop’s description, it is stated: “There are many factors to consider in coming out to your children or loved ones. First, do they need to know at all, if you are not publicly transitioning?” As it happens, my two “children” are 35 and 37 respectively – grown men with their own lives to lead and no longer live under this roof. I do not ask them about their private lives so they needn’t ask or be concerned about mine. It’s easy to say they fall comfortably into the category of those that do not need to know.
Perhaps too easy.
I’d like to consider myself out of the closet, but in reality perhaps my wife is in the closet with me. When it comes to my kids we’re both still sneaking around. If hear my wife say the code words “Hide the Rum” – a line from the “Pirates of the Caribbean” film – it alerts me that one or both of my boys is on the way over. I begin my checklist to be sure I have left no traces of my alter ego carelessly left out. I make sure all photos I may have taken are not on the computer desktop. I make sure all entries to my CD related social media are concealed, including early drafts of this article. My dresses, skirts and shoes are not left out but are hanging in the guest room closet looking to anyone that might snoop like items that belong to my wife. We even prepared an elaborate story about my visiting an old friend from Boston to cover the days I was at Keystone in case they asked – which they did.
Have I ever been caught? No, but it’s been close a couple of times. Last fall my younger son came over unannounced and caught me looking at a ladies wear catalog. Thinking on my feet I said I was looking for a Christmas gift for his mom. I showed him a few things, and he ended up purchasing a gift for her from the same catalog. My car broke down on the way back from Keystone and my wife and I needed to concoct another story about why I was in Harrisburg rather than Boston. All of this worked so far, but if they ever get a close look at the size 10 high heels in the closet, I’m busted.
There’s got to be a better way.
The workshop also asked: “What are your goals? What do you want them to feel and to understand about this part of you?” To be honest my primary goal is selfish – get out in front of this drama and not be put in the compromising position of being “caught”. I would like to end all sneaking about and be honest to ALL the people that matter in my life. I have come to understand that the deception is the hardest part for a marriage to endure. Could it be that a similar lie of omission might have a similar deleterious effect on relationships with one’s children, even a parent/adult child relationship? Would it jeopardize our perceived close relationship? Would they never look at Dad the same way again? Putting the shoe on the other foot, would I feel badly if I were to find that they had hid similar or personal information from me fearing I could not handle it or react negatively to such a revelation?
Or am I just overthinking this?
If I were to come out, what would I want them to understand? For starters, I would head off the usual first questions by offering that I am not gay nor desire transition. I would want them to know that this revelation in no way changes who I am or how I feel about them. I am exactly the same person they have always known, not a stranger that has been hiding in the guise of their father. I would want them to know that this activity enhances a part of myself that I choose to amplify from time to time, giving me both enjoyment and psychological benefit. I would want them to know that, in spite of the dispersions sometimes cast our way by some, I hurt absolutely no one.
I recognize that I am still very much in the contemplation stage of the coming out process. It’s important to mention that I have discussed these thoughts with my wife. Although she does not favor my acting on this she is leaving the decision – as well as its after effects – on me. I certainly understand. We can go on quite comfortably with the arrangement we currently have. To be honest though, I feel the time for disclosure is looming.
Watch this space.
Editorial comment: I am a truly blessed person and you all are very fortunate to read such amazing, open and honest posts by such wonderful people. As you all know, none of this is easy. But all of this is what we are, who we are. The only way we move to a place (which will happen well after they throw dirt on me) where this is a complete nonevent to anyone, is by sharing like this. Life, the world, our whole history is literally about one single thing: evolution. We evolve. We grow, we change, we accept, we understand, all done over time. Thank you Kris for such a beautifully written post.