by Eddie Finan
As a 52-year-old gay man, I have unique memories of not only my own coming out process, but that of my loved ones, most especially my parents. They had their own coming out with which to deal. I came out of the closet at—what I consider to be—a later age. I was 29-years-old. This may seem young to some, but compared to most people I initially encountered, I believed myself to be a “late bloomer”.
Some people told me that coming out later was better, while others told me that it was most likely going to be more problematic. I slowly began to realize that, no matter at what age, it’s a bumpy road.
Today, almost 24 years later, I am an active member of the LGBT community. My family and friends support me, and I have a good circle of LGBT friends around me.
Regarding that circle, I can now honestly say that I do have a good mix of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender friends. I must now admit that I have not always had friends of the transgender community. I suppose that I am a “late bloomer” about this, too.
There was a time when I did not “get” the transgender community. What were they all about? What was going on with them? Why did they want to change? Nothing about them seemed clear to me. But that was then.
Within the early part of the 2000s, I began to meet members of the transgender community. This was mainly through my work in various organizations within the entire LGBT community of Long Island. I began to get to know them, not just as transgender, but more importantly, as people. And I witnessed their passion—a passion for making others understand who they were, and fighting for the respect that they so richly deserved.
I was inspired by them. I myself received many personal lessons in “Trans 101”. I heard the stories of the transgender people of whom I’ve met. Some were heartbreaking as they had lost their jobs, their homes and, most painfully, their families. I could not—and still cannot—even imagine the pain of being cut off from family members.
More than anything, however, I have come to experience how loving the members of the transgender community are. There are several to whom I can turn when I need help, and I know that they will be there. They are the epitome of friendship. I am very lucky to have them as friends in my life.
Today, I belong to a coalition which is working feverishly to pass the Gender Expression Non Discrimination Act, a New York State bill that will give the members of the transgender community their much needed rights. Right now, transgender people can still be terminated at their jobs, evicted from their homes, denied service in hotels and restaurants, and even denied medical treatment simply because they are transgendered. GENDA will change that. Alas, the bill is stalled in the New York State Senate.
I am proud to say that I’ve “transitioned”. I once had questions about the transgender community. I must even shamefully admit that there was a time when I preferred not to associate with them. Today, after my own transition, I am so proud to call them my friends. I plan to continue to help them in their fight to pass GENDA, and I’ll always be there for them.
If you haven’t transitioned, I urge you to do so. If you are aware of a transgender person—in your community, workplace, house of worship, or anywhere else—get to know that person. Talk with him/her. More importantly, listen! I promise that your own transitioning will be an amazing experience.