Amy Hunter

What's in a name? (In honor of National Coming Out Day)

Filed By Amy Hunter | October 11, 2009 6:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Living, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: coming out of the closet, relationships, suicide, transgender, transition

Those of you who speak to groups or do workshops know that there are certain questions you can almost count on. This is one of the more inevitable:

"How did you pick your name?"

I don't really want to answer. So, I tell my audience that Amy just seemed to fit naturally - no hidden sentimental or mystical meaning. Many transwomen are apt to choose names that have some "deep" significance, or they choose the name they think is the prettiest. Witness the over-abundance of Jennifers out there (can't swing a dead cat without hitting a trans-Jen, Jena, Jennifer, Jenny). Please, all you Jennifers out there, take no offense. Some of my best friends are Jennifer.

My father died in 1989, but he would have liked Amy. Mom was, well... Mom was "miffed." There was that unfortunate moment when she tried very hard to make this all about her, right down to the "After all I've put up with from you over the years, now this."

That was the day I came out to Mom. I told her my new name and that I had filed the legal documents and already had a court date. She was sitting across my dining room table from me, smoldering through the uncomfortable silence, looking at me in that tone of voice only a mother can use.

Finally, she spat: "Well, you look just like a woman," silence. "If you had been a girl, I would have named you Rebecca." Then she sat blinking as if she expected me to say something. Maybe something like "Oh, sorry, I don't know what I was thinking, I'll re-file the court papers first thing in the morning."

If Mom felt forsaken somehow; she was wrong. If anything, quite the opposite was true. Something I quietly hoped for was a relationship with her that would not have all the co-dependent baggage we'd been lugging around all these years. I was hoping my mother and I would be able to be in close proximity without her attempting to push my multiple buttons and me overreacting like a malfunctioning vending machine.

Mom's thing was to turn every circumstance into a crisis, which only she was able to solve. I wanted to have a real relationship with Mother, and, to an extent, that is what began to transpire. A new relationship did begin to grow. First, however, I had to reject the deep-seated crisis-based model and firmly remove my decisions from any form of debate. I was not rejecting Bill (me), Mom, Dad, my spouse Cindy, or anything about my life prior to transition. My vision was not in favor of a completely new existence, which didn't include them. Rather, I was looking toward a new, authentic life that would finally allow the disconnect I felt with all of them to close. Allowing my true identity to surface and transition are the solution to what had been a life long crisis.

I simply would not live in the struggle any longer.

Alright, I need to come clean. Amy as a name actually has deep significance. There is a story to the choice of Amy as my name. I suppose I simply haven't wanted to tell it yet.

While it is true that the name - like many other things, post-transition - just seemed to fit, there is a deeper connection: Amy Holmes. Amy Holmes was the woman, girl really, I was living with when I hit bottom for the first time. She knew about the clothes I kept supposedly hidden and seemed OK with it. But, still....

My plunge into self-loathing, alcoholism, and drug addiction was reaching a new depth. Supremely ill-equipped to deal with the inner conflict I experienced nearly every waking and sometimes even sleeping moment, I felt trapped.

Amy found me that night, already unconscious.

Rage within me rapidly breached my fragile emotional defenses as she told me she just couldn't. She just could no longer deal with the drinking and the depression and the clothes - could no longer deal with me. No pleading, no threat, no promise would convince her to stay. There was no hesitation as she closed the door behind her and no pause to reconsider as she tramped down the stairs. I don't remember exactly, but I think I put my fist through one of the fish tanks and cut my hand badly. The blood seemed like a good idea. I do remember clearly, sitting on the bed and calmly drawing vertical slits up both arms with a knife. Amy said she wasn't coming back. To this day, I don't know why she did. God wasn't through with me, I suppose. Still, I was pissed when I woke up in the hospital, bandaged. They told me I was nearly bled-out when she found me and tied tourniquets on my arms.

I never saw her again.

My mother, Phyllis, passed away suddenly just over two years ago. She was eighty-one.
By the time of her passing, she had become an advocate for the transgender community, regularly attending PFLAG and TransCend meetings. She introduced Cindy and me as her daughter and my partner. I knew that we were on our way to deep and lasting friendship when she began to criticize my clothes.

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thank you Amy,for making me think and remember,i do not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.I too have gone through alcoholism to cope with being trans.still took a few more years of being sober before I realized that I was a trans-woman.
tho I never had suicide in mind I was killing myself with the booze,3 trips to ICU.
(after Jesse James, a nick name due to the style of clothing i wore.

The most important factor in people coming out is SAFETY. I grew up in places where even today it's still not safe to be "out."

I hope that we value lives more than numbers. I've always said this. I repeat it today.

I'm glad you seem to have a choice in being "out," Diego.

When I "transitioned,"--out is a term that relates to the decision gay people, particularly men, make--there was no where I could hide or anything I could do to obscure it.

I soon lost my job of 15 years.

From the day people "come out" as gay how are they different?

What in the clothes they wear, the way they walk, in the way they talk is different?

When a Male to Female transsexual, a transsexual woman, transitions there is no way she can hide.

In some ways, it is a bit easier for Female to Male transsexuals, transsexual men--our society doesn't make the same judgments of a "woman" in pants as of a "man" in a dress.

The dominant paradigm that sexual orientation is the only model that counts imposes its terms and processes, such as "out" which might have value for gay and lesbian people but has no value and obscures and is destructive of transsexual people.

When a transsexual woman has transitioned and goes to work, there is nothing she needs to say to put herself at risk, nor when she walks down the street.

It is not a matter of what clubs she frequents, nor who she holds hands with, nor who she lives with--it is simply who she is.

For all that Obama was lionized at the HRC dinner for the knowledge he demonstrated about the relationships, families and military sacrifice of gay and lesbian people, he demonstrated nothing but ignorance, and for his silence apparently shame, about the lives of particularly transsexual women once they transition.

He talked about a young man who is kept awake at night worried about his sexual orientation and how this man's future will be better.

For the person who knows their sex is opposite to what it appears to be does knowing she/he can fuck whoever she/he wants make her/his life better?

Does knowing the future will be better for those people who do, as Obama has committed himself to making it happen, let her/him sleep any easier?

Or does it simply confirm her/his second class status?

In one of the many pieces on the March one gay man declared that None of us can be equal if any of us are unequal.

How hollow is that claim for those who were never even mentioned?

Please tell that to Barney Frank, Diego.

Just a reminder to keep it respectful :)

It is true, many MtF transpersons have no choice but to be "out" once they transition. I do, I could easily blend into society and no one would be the wiser. I don't know if that makes me fortunate. I suppose in some ways it does, no one gives me a sencond glance so, I am spared the quizzical looks of the clerk at the grocery store or the guy at the next gas pump. I was a high profile person in my community before I transitioned and that would have caused some challenges for me but, even before I took my first dose of estrogen I had decided to be "out". Perhaps, visible is a better word. Early on it became clear to me that many, many transwomen didn't stand a chance in a million of ever "pasing". (quick aside--I detest the words: passing, stealth, full-time, tranny--just for starters) Who advocates for them? We all do. I will never, ever judge another transwoman that has chosen to blend into society. If open to them, it is absolutely their personal choice and there are times that I just want to blend in myself. Nothing makes me more uncomfortable than to be told how courageous I am---BullShit! I am not now and never will be courageous. I am however, comitted to making the path smoother for those to follow. Again, I'll stress that this is my choice and my opinion but, if we are to ever become full partners in the society of our fellows we , now, in our time, must be willing to shoulder the burden of our percieved differentness. The Holy Grail here, as far as I can tell is that someday, all of us will be able to live fully authentic lives, free to contribute to the fullest extent of our abilities. So, since that day has not yet arrived, I will continue to be as "visable" and "out" as I can. Despite the threats--real or imagined (yes, I have been threatened with rape, amoung other things)I can't live otherwise.

No, Jessica, you were not being disrespectful. It just felt to me like this was a thread that had the potential of flaming out at some point. I mean't no offense.

You know what? I was out of order to have written the line about being respectful. No one had been and jumping in like that can only serve to quash commentary. Afterall, we are supposed to be exchanging ideas and expressing our opinions in an environment where we are emotionally, intellectually and spiritualy safe to do so.
My apologies, in particular, to you Jessica.

Apology accepted.

I may have been a bit too fast off the mark with my response; all I can say is I have been sensitized to such comments.

I don't know you, Amy, and I shouldn't have assumed the worst.