Expressing Our Needs

COMING OUT for TRANSSEXUALS and TRANSVESTITES

Copyright 1990 - Joni Eveling Israel


When we think of communications, many thoughts may come to
mind. Conversing on the telephone, chatting through computer
modems, speaking to friends and family, or even our own gender
leaders educating a group of budding psychologists, all these are
different forms of communication. As individuals experiencing
various levels of gender issues and self awareness, we often find
ourselves becoming more in touch with our feelings and needs.
Equally important to discovering new levels of self, is sharing the
discoveries we have made, so that we may enrich our experiences and
fulfill our newly identified needs.

"Coming Out" can be a powerful experience, often serving as a
catalyst in revealing our special secret self, while at the same
time, improving our overall communication skills. Sharing our
gender and sexuality issues with people close to our hearts can be
intimidating. In our pre-established relationships--i.e., family,
partners and close friends, we often become comfortable in speaking
about daily needs and occurrences. Often, overlooking communication
as an important tool which cements our relationships together, at
times assuming that those individuals "know what our needs may be."
In revealing important issues, like coming-out, we deal with the
focus being directly aimed at us. We may draw on the fear of "I may
be rejected," or "I feel a lot of shame surrounding this issue."
Hence, we perceive "Coming-Out", like other communication
challenges, as risky business. In revealing deeply important
issues, such as coming out, one guideline, therapist Roger Peo
endorses is the fundamental question, "Will this improve my
relationship with this person." This is an excellent measure in
determining necessity versus risk.

Revealing our needs has always been a risky business. There
are, however, a number of tools we can use in minimizing risk, which
are illustrated in the following.

PREPARE FOR COMMUNICATING

Much like going to a business meeting, it can be helpful to
prepare a list of items you wish to discuss. Also, talking with a
knowledgeable friend or counselor can be helpful. Dan, our
imaginary gender person, is about to tell his wife, Karen, about his
gender issues. Dan first spoke with his therapist about his
feelings, then strategized a communications plan, and finally, he
defined a level of confidentiality to request from Karen.

MAKE AN APPOINTMENT

Make an appointment . . . was the first thing Dan did by asking
Karen whether she would feel comfortable talking personally over
dinner.

VALIDATING THE RELATIONSHIP

Validating the relationship . . . is an important door opener.
It reaffirms that the relationship and its positive strengths
exist. Dan stated, "Karen, I want you to know I've drawn a great
deal of happiness from our eight years of marriage. What I have to
share is very personal and I feel I can trust sharing it with you."
Dan also sought a confidentiality agreement at this time.

RELIEVE STRESS BY REVEALING

Just about now, our imaginary character is starting to sweat a
little . . . Like many great communicators, he found that by telling
Karen he was feeling a little nervous, he had put Karen in an
empathetic mood. Feeling comfortable, he now can move on.

SHARE THE FACTS

"Karen, I'm a crossdresser and even have thought of having a
sex change." There, Dan did it! He then continued to reveal the
facts he knew about himself, gender issues . . . all the time
respectfully answering Karen's questions. He also, referred
questions he didn't know to a future discussion.

AFFIRMING THE OTHER PERSON'S BELIEFS AND FEELINGS

Affirming the other person's beliefs and feelings . . . can be
our most empowering step. It is at this point, that we may not
"hear what we want." Dan followed this by listening while Karen
expressed reservations about his crossdressing around their
children. He told Karen he would talk to his therapist to see if
crossdressing around children was harmful.

SEALING THE COMMUNICATION

Sealing the communication . . . Like any good communication,
it's important to have a proper closing. Karen had stated, "I'm not
very happy about this, and there is a lot I don't understand,
although I am willing to learn more without passing judgement." In
closing Dan thanked Karen for being there for him, while restating,
that he valued his relationship with her, and then gave her a warm
hug.

Communicating individual needs, like gender and sexuality
issues, won't always be this easy. However, you have just reviewed
some powerful tools that you may include in your communications
repertoire. With practice, as you increase your communication
skills, you will find an increased sense of empowerment and
satisfaction. Do remember, after sharing something as stressful as
"coming-out", you may be well served by spending time alone,
positively reflecting on your personal success . . . and if you
wish, rewarding yourself in a special way.

Copyright 190 - Joni Eveling Israel
(415) 558-8058


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