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    My Second Coming Out Was Better Than My First

    By Peter-Astrid Kane–

    The first time I came out to my parents as gay, I was two months shy of turning 20 and thinking, “You know, I really want to be able to say that I came out as a teenager.” 

    It was the last Saturday night before the end of winter break and I’d been working up the courage since the day before Thanksgiving. The conversation was about as maximally awkward as it gets, although no part of me thinks my parents were surprised. They came around (plus they’ve been warm and loving to every boyfriend I ever brought home).

    They also called my gay cousin in Oakland—our humongous Irish-Catholic family contains four other LGBTQ+ peeps that I know of—and asked him to “have a talk with me.” So, the first time I ever visited San Francisco was a rainy President’s Day weekend, courtesy of my cousins and their partners, who were in their late 30s and regarded me as a slightly baffling curio. Photos from that era are … embarrassing at best.

    As an identity, “gay” made sense for me, inasmuch as anything does, for a long time. In my mid-20s, I lived in Brooklyn and hung out with art-damaged Bushwick types, and anything pertaining to gender identity got subsumed by the even vaguer concept of being a 20-something Brooklyn hipster gay. We were already different, so different was fine. 

    Gradually, it became clearer to me that “gay” wasn’t an accurate term for me. By then I had moved to San Francisco, which fits me infinitely better than New York ever could. I drifted toward the BDSM crowd, met the daddy of my dreams, and got more comfortable with my furriness and chubbiness and my overall queerness. But I’m not a joiner, just an extrovert. And it was hard to separate my disinclination to join a clique from the idea that maybe I was fundamentally different in some other way—although who did I even think I was kidding with that, because I so obviously am. 

    Then the world started to change. Pronouns became a more salient feature of everyday life, and single-stall restrooms proliferated. You could sense Blue America’s growing pains as it reckoned with the concept that gender is fluid and complex, and now Red America’s somewhat harsher reckoning, too. 

    I went to Lyon-Martin and started a low dose of spironolactone (testosterone blockers), too low to do much of anything besides act as a nail for me to hang my convictions on. Eventually, I upped it and then started estradiol, too. None of this was in any way linear. I started and stopped hormones a few times, doing my best to document what felt different. It works for me.

    Last December I came out again, this time as non-binary. Actually, I did it gooey mozzarella cheese-style, stretching it out into a multi-year exercise of unnecessarily prolonged blurtings-out to friends and lovers long before making it Facebook official. I tried to be mindful of all the halting, late-night, drunken dorm-room conversations that preceded my working up the nerve to talk to my parents 20 years before, so that I wouldn’t repeat it—and then I basically did exactly that. Just as I agonized for years over the design of my first tattoo, I mentally tried on different names for the better part of a decade.

    “I think I’m going to go with the name ‘Astrid,’” I said to 10 people in 10 different conversations in 2017–18. “But, like, hyphenated. I like the cadence of ‘Peter-Astrid.’ What do you think about the honorific ‘Mx.’?”

    Anyone who betrayed the least hesitation was immediately shunned like a wayward Amish. I like the name I picked and you better, too!

    Now it’s been four months and I feel all the feels: relief, assurance that I made the right decision, and no small amount of shame that I waited until I was 39-and-three-quarters years old. That was dumb, but then again, this is not easy. And now it’s all out there: I am Mx. Peter-Astrid Kane! 

    Oddly, one of the most helpful things to quiet my turbulent mind has been cycling. Not only do 50-mile solo rides have a meditative quality, but since I came out again my quads have gotten really big. I’ve never been muscly—like, at all—so why would I be into it now? The realization that things don’t have to resolve into a coherent picture has been the biggest epiphany of all. If I want to swish around with cute nails and my big hairy gams, then that’s what I’m going to do. This is the Way.

    Most people, if they’ve ever been fit or athletic, are probably past their peak by 40. But I’ve never been in shape, and never felt this in control of my body, so now I’m filled with the goofily naive optimism that goes hand-in-hand with novelty. Coming out again has been a good use of the pandemic’s imposed semi-isolation, and I suspect quite a few other people feel similarly.

    More importantly, it’s a continuation of a 20-year adventure that I’ve been lucky to live out in San Francisco. Because non-binary is beautiful. Non-binary is exciting. Non-binary is awesome.

    Peter-Astrid Kane is an award-winning journalist who is the Communications Manager for SF Pride.

    Published on April 22, 2021