Saturday, April 11, 2020

The Aftermath

By Hannah McKnight

If you are like me, you have been who you are for your entire life.  This side of you likely started at an early point in your life.  It evolved over time.  You became bolder, braver, more confident that that this side of you was, and will always be a part of you.  It is not a phase, it is not something you will outgrow.  If you're lucky, you have embraced this side of yourself and you wouldn't change this part of you even if you could.

If you are like me, you have kept this side of you to yourself.  I have never been ashamed about this side of who I am, but I have always realized that this is not something I understood, and I knew that it was unlikely that anyone else would understand either.  I was afraid of someone finding out, so I kept this private.  I was afraid of being made fun of, I was afraid of not being accepted.  I was afraid of the potential reaction.  I was afraid of how this revelation would alter a relationship, regardless of whether it was a relationship with a friend, family member, or a significant other. 

I was afraid of the aftermath.

But I knew this part of me was as much of a part of me as anything else that made me who I am.  I knew that if I was going to be in a relationship I would have to tell my partner.  Knowing that this was the right thing to do did not make it any easier to have the talk, but I had to do it.  I have had the talk with three significant others and was apprehensive about it each time.  Each time it went in a different direction and there was no question that it changed the dynamic between the two of us. 

Coming out to your significant other is not easy.  Regardless of how well you know someone, it's still impossible to predict their response.  We fear the worst when it comes to coming out as we have no idea what this revelation will mean in terms of not only our dressing, but also in regards to how this will impact our relationship with our significant other.  But what happens next after this revelation comes to light?  Unfortunately it does not always go the way we would like it to.  I hate to dwell on the negative, but it's important to be realistic and prepared.  It can be, well, soul crushing to come out to the person we love more than anyone in the world and be rejected for who we are. 

I do want to state that every relationship is different.  Every dynamic between two people is unique.  Coming out can affect two people in very unpredictable ways and this is not meant to be a definitive or final word on this matter.   

Will this end your relationship?  Possibly.  This is not something that is easy for someone else to understand or to accept.  The issue is not always the revelation, however.  Perhaps your partner feels that this is something you should have told them before you got married instead of ten years into a marriage.  Perhaps this news uncovers a lie, or a series of lies about this side of you.  Maybe it wasn't a business trip you went on but instead a weekend in a different city where you treated yourself to a makeover and shopping. 

The first girl I came out to simply... shut it down.  She thanked me for telling her but she asked me to, well, never do it again.  I promised I wouldn't, mostly out of relief that she didn't break up with me.  I also believed that I could stop.  Ha.  The day after we broke up I bought some new lingerie and shaved my legs.  It is not an uncommon outcome for our significant others to ask us to promise them that we will never dress again.  They want assurance that this side of us in the past.  They never, ever, want to talk about this again.  Ever.  They want to move on. 

This does not necessarily make them a bad person.  Please know this.  But if this part of you is an essential part of you, then you need to know how your partner views this aspect of you before you enter into a committed relationship... for both of your sake.   

Although this side of us is hard enough for us to understand, it's even harder for someone else to.  However, our partners may understand that this is a part of us that we can't, or don't want to, change.  It is not easy for our partners to see our pink panties in the laundry basket, a lacy bra strap peeking out under our shirt, a new dress hanging in our closet, or traces of mascara on our eyelashes.  Some of us have partners who acknowledge and have accepted that this is who we are... but they would prefer not to see any off this side of us.  A familiar dynamic is a somewhat informal 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' agreement.  They know about this side of us, but they don't want to see any of our clothes or know any details in regards to our dressing.

It is somewhat a compromise and couples will develop, whether it is intentional or not, a language of code words such as "I'm going out on Saturday night" or "Jennifer has plans that day" when both of you know that you are Jennifer.  Although this dynamic is not ideal for either person, one wishes they had more freedom and support, and the other preferring this side of their partner not existing, it is still somewhat a sign of support from their partner.  We know this side of us is exactly that - a side of us.  We know its not going away.  Our partners acknowledging, and being able to accommodate this aspect of us, however limiting, is a form of acceptance. 

Our hesitation to come out to our partners is sometimes fueled by us not knowing how they will react.  This reluctance can also be bolstered by fearing either of these outcomes.  We fall in love with our partners and we want to be with them.  Any revelation or change that could potentially end, or significantly change our relationship with them is frightening.  We have lived our entire lives with this side of us.  We have accepted and hopefully even embraced who we are.  We have made this part of us work within our daily, personal lives.  We are used to the limitations that exist when it comes to us wanting to be who we are, or dress how we want.  We want change, but we also fear it.  We worry that coming out is not worth these risks.  I understand this.  Believe me, I wrestle with coming out to other people in my life whenever I see them.  I want to, but I am afraid of how my relationship with them will change.  Sometimes it can go badly, but sometimes it can be the best decision you will ever make. 

Love, Hannah

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