Everything Is Subject to Change…

For National Coming Out Day, we are celebrating the stories of perpetual and continuous coming out — the ways our identities keep shifting and changing as we grow and get to know ourselves even better.

When I think of my “coming out” story, it’s not a specific moment. Instead it has been the continuous exploration and unpacking of my identity in this world, so many pivotal times in my life. To name a few of what would be many queer revelations: there was the time when I stumbled upon a feeling when witnessing Eliza Dushku for the first time in The New Guy; the moment when I first felt those butterflies in my stomach when my high-school girl crush wanted to hang out — AND just lay together AND talk about nothing but music and her favorite movie, City of God. Then there was my experiences with QSA (Queer Straight Alliance) in college as a sophomore, and for the first time coming across other queer people, and feeling accepted while not having to perform a disingenuous facade. My experiences over the course of the last 10-15 years have all led up to and been a part of this continuous delving into and discovery of myself.

I made YouTube videos of Shane & Carmen from The L Word. I idolized Shane, and the only trans man in the series, Max. I wanted to mirror their everyday existence. I wanted to emulate their cool. I wanted the attraction that seemed to be dripping off of them. I wanted the clothes they wore, I wanted my jeans to have a hole in the crotch like theirs did. Along with their aesthetic & appearance, I adopted their thought patterns, their behaviors, the script on how I thought masculine lesbians (I identified as a lesbian woman during this time) are supposed to interact with other people, and their capacity to be emotionally available.

There was another level to my coming out. Learning how to communicate my needs, express my emotions, and learning how to hold space for other people’s desires. I’m cultivating new ways of processing thoughts, and discovering ways that allow me to heal. I’m learning to let go of the heteronormative guides on my masculinity, relationship roles, notions that monogamy and possession are the only way to true love, and how I’m choosing to express myself with style.

That last point, style, has been the most instrumental in my evolution. What’s shifted for me in relation to clothing has a lot to do with my perception of self. Allowing myself to see compassion, tenderness, love, strength, texture, sharp lines, boldness etc. I think there was a time when I only showed one dimension of my whole self. Basically anything I saw in GQ magazine. Showing power, protection and mystery can be beautiful things, and we should all accentuate those things on a daily basis. But I highlighted it through the lens of heteronormativity, and to me it felt vapid. I felt that if you’re a masculine woman, you assume the role of dominant. You can’t be soft or weak. To show show weakness means you’ve failed as a masc lesbian. When I loved those beliefs, it had to be reflected in my clothing.

a photo of the author's head in peaked military cap, and bare Black shoulders. he stands in a darkened room with just a small shine of light playing off his cheekbones and jaw.

Every time I went to bat for my masculinity, I neglected my femininity. Seeing masculinity as everything that embodied cis men (gay or straight). Femme expression as a queer non-binary person internally, & externally wasn’t something that I could identify with. I already had the blueprint in my mind of who I was, and how I was supposed to behave. I did a lot of thinking, very little feeling. Suppression being front & center. I believed that the closer to heteronormativity I could get, the better my life would be. I divorced myself from all aspects of femme expression. It became a foreign place that only existed on the bodies of my partners. I was the “man” in the relationship. And not “man” as in the man I saw for myself, but predetermined by roles and actions of cis men. Subconsciously, the feminine aspects of myself were screaming to be heard and given space to exist just as much as my masculinity. When I acknowledged them both, I let all of me live.

Subconsciously, the feminine aspects of myself were screaming to be heard and given space to exist just as much as my masculinity. When I acknowledged them both, I let all of me live.

I’ve come to realize that I will forever be in a state of learning and unlearning. I was 23 when I really took the time to understand what it meant to identify as a trans person in my community. I knew that I had very little comprehension around gender neutral identities, or what it meant to take control over how you wanted to see yourself in terms of pronouns. I think I was living in a world were my sexual orientation and identity were overshadowed by the hetero world I was surrounded by. There weren’t many places to have generative conversations around the expansive realm of queerness and all it encompasses. I felt limited in my everyday experiences. I wanted so much more than where I was in that chapter of my life. And yet I look back and realize that at the age of 23, life was just beginning for me. So I can go a little easy on myself.

a photo of the author from the shoulders up, he's wearing a light blue button-up shirt, buttoned to the top. he is Black and bald with thick eyebrows, big brown eyes, and he looks into the camera with a slight bemusement and lift of the left side of the lip.

At 24 I started doing drag. I bound my chest for the first time, went on stage at a Hamburger Marys and did a Tupac mix. I wore facial hair and felt so electric. I explored a lot about who I could be on stage. I explored ways to pack. At 25 I shaved my head bald. I fell in love with parts of myself I hid. I started T when I was 26. It was here that I really sat with myself to unravel the next layer of my identity. It was here that I figured that I could give myself permission to go deeper. Subconsciously I was moving away from the binary. I felt like I got to the next level of gender identity journey.

the author in a white tank top and jeans with a white dorag tied at the front of his forehead, performing in drag as Tupac

During this time I started working at the LA LGBT Center as a Youth Specialist for the R.I.S.E., and I honestly feel that played a part in my self discovery. I felt comfortable exploring and seeing all the possibilities for who I could be. Seeing other queer people and co-workers living their lives outside of the binary, was like I was resuscitated. I was jostled into the next portal of queer existence and I wasn’t going back.

I’m a Sagittarius (sun, moon, & mercury), so I’m usually in a state of curiosity and self discovery. I compare the excitement I feel now with how I felt when I walked into a thrift store in Brick Lane, and came across tops I never knew I could wear. I’m at a place where I’m comfortable exploring clothes that my 21 year old self wouldn’t dare wear in public. And it’s not to shame my 21 year old self. I did what was comfortable and true to me. The 31 year old self is bold enough to hold the hand of my former self and say, “We are gonna try this, look, and see where it takes us.” There’s a re-emergence of crop tops. A re-emergence of carrying hand bags, a re-emergence of large hoop earrings. A re-emergence of tenderness with myself & others. I make space for all of the sides of me again— and not just the one that I felt would protect me from the dangers of society.

This growth left some people behind. I left those who questioned my masculinity when it was paired with black leather mules. I left those who said you need to dress more “guy-like” to be liked. I left those who recoiled at the thought of me being in front of anyone with my ass up and back arched. I left them all. Once I did that, I entered this space where I could probe into this limitless universe of eclectic expression. It was as though I was being pulled towards the light! The light in which everything was possible. I’m seeing these possibilities more and more as I get older and I welcome it.

a photo of the author's face, his bald Black head, watchful brown eyes, thick eyebrows, and slightly pursed mouth

My partner arrived into my life at a time when I identified as a woman. I can remember moments in which I wanted to explore my pronouns, and I whispered to them and said “can you use he/him pronouns for me”? They looked at me with the sweetest eyes and endearingly said yes as they kissed me. This moment was beyond transformative. It signified this level of vulnerability I was once afraid to show, and express my needs as it related to my identity. I had the support to vocalize everything I had been cultivating over the last 15 years. It signified being in communion with someone who understood. It signified the arrival into a new world.

The community I involve myself with is liberating and forever explorative. We are rewriting the script individually, & collectively as we see fit. Which must include respect, support, and freedom to do, wear, and feel however you see fit. When we move with love of self, we can move with love for others. When we allow ourselves to say yes to all the parts of our being, we are truly evolving. If there is anything I’m coming out of, it’s the limits I placed on myself.

Everything is subject to change. Whenever, & however I see fit.

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cat jones

Cat Jones is an artist based in Los Angeles working with fabrics, photography, digital mediums, & audio/visual mediums to express his connection to life, the unknown, & his past. His projects seek to uplift the voice from within, and to encourage others to share their truth in ways that are therapeutic & healing. He centers his work around those who identify as black, trans, & queer, in ways that are inviting and warm. He uses his 10 years of non profit relations to gage his work, and influence the narratives that are necessary to highlight.

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  1. Thank you, Cat, for this. I relate so hard. Denying my own femininity and looking for it in “the other” (is a partner) was definitely an aspect of my experience as a masc person that denied me some of the best parts of my humanity. I’ve only recently come to the realization that I want to be vulnerable and express kindness and compassion, even if it causes people to see me as more feminine than I’d like. (My avatar being more feminine-looking than my usual look is a step in threat direction) I feel that the fact that society’s sexism sees these qualities as feminine or only for women harms us all, including cis men. Thank you for writing so personally and eloquently on the subject and to autostraddle for publishing it.

  2. I loved reading this, and especially this part: “If there is anything I’m coming out of, it’s the limits I placed on myself.” Beautiful and powerful.

  3. “I whispered to them and said “can you use he/him pronouns for me”? They looked at me with the sweetest eyes and endearingly said yes as they kissed me. This moment was beyond transformative.”

    I smiled so wide at this part, what a blessing. Love is not a lie.

  4. This rules. “Every time I went to bat for my masculinity, I neglected my femininity” I relate to this binary experience. Of leaning in one way and starving a part of yourself. Also. “They looked at me with the sweetest eyes and endearingly said yes” Tears. Small actions with great weight.

  5. Cat, thank you for these words,
    for the gift of your light and experience.
    Cheers to dualities and explorations and journeys of expansion and claiming space to demand more.

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