NCOD Project: I am here, I am proud, and I am ME!, By Ian R.

My name is Ian Rein I am a husband and father, I am also a gay transgender man. I have told my coming out story several times but it wasn't until this year that I realized the story I have been telling is a very simplified version. The problem is coming out isn't just a one and done thing. Coming out is never-ending.  I always joke that I came out 3 times once as a lesbian, then as a transgender man, and finally as a gay man. But really I have come out thousands of times. Every time you meet someone new there is the internal conflict of “Should I disclose to this person that I am gay? Should I tell them I am trans?” Those aren’t just simple yes or no questions--especially not with a toddler in the mix. 

While I come from a very supportive family, I like many other LGBT people went through stages of depression and self-hate as I grew into the identity that I have now. Coming out, even in the most supportive of situations, shatters everything you thought you knew about yourself. You have spent your life up to that point with this understanding of your role in society and how you are externally viewed, then you just throw it out of the...well, closet. It can be a bit chaotic, but also refreshing. However, for those without a support system, it can be devastating.  

The very first time I came out was in a car with my sister. She asked me if I was gay, I initially said no but after being drilled with questions I said maybe. I was 14. It wasn't until nearly 3 years later that I formally came out as a lesbian. Several years later I got asked a very similar question, one I had never thought about before and yielded a very similar answer...are you transgender? I would be asked this question 2 or 3 more times before saying yes. 

In 2013, I began my medical transition. Starting with therapy, testosterone, and in 2015 top surgery. About 6 months into my transition I told my girlfriend at the time, “I think I am gay.” This was probably the scariest, most nerve-racking “coming out” I went through. How do you tell someone that you have been with for over a year that you think you are attracted to men now? Not only that but how do you explain this to your family and friends? “Hey… I know you were fine with me being a lesbian, and you seem to be okay with the whole trans thing, I like men.” 

When I was first coming out as a lesbian I didn’t know anything about being transgender, so I just thought my feelings and mannerisms meant I was a lesbian. I only knew you either liked women, men, or both. I never identified as Bi because I wasn’t attracted to both men and women. Because of this, people were very frustrated with me. How can you go from ONLY liking women to ONLY liking men (spoiler alert I always liked men)?!  As a way to justify my feelings, I told everyone that I was a transgender man that was heteroromantic and homosexual (meaning romantically attracted to women and sexually attracted to men), because you know labels make everything clearer right? WRONG! 

Here we are 5 years later and I identify as a gay transgender man who gave birth to an amazing daughter and who has a fantastic husband all of which gets shoved back into the closet every morning as I get ready for work. I have a privilege that many trans people do not --my ability to pass as a cisgender male. All of my documents say male and for the most part, my birth name is all but memory only showing up on junk mail from time to time. Because of the nature of my job I choose not to disclose my LGBT status to my co-workers, many of whom are older and more conservative. This decision is solidified when I hear them talk negatively about MY community. 

Take a second and think of your favorite weekend with your spouse, now imagine you are describing your weekend to your co-worker. Now how would you explain that using gender-neutral language (without saying my wife/husband or she/he). It is really hard right!? This is an everyday occurrence for someone like me that lives life both in and out of the closet.  We constantly are putting on a mask and presenting a version of ourselves that is acceptable to society so that we can fit in.

Wouldn’t it just be easier to come out at work? When you start work at a new job you want to fit in, be liked, make a good impression, and show them that you are qualified for the position, right? Coming out to your co-workers could be like digging yourself a hole, so you wait until you have established your position… but if you come out now you lose their trust because you have been lying…it’s a catch-22. 

Having a toddler who is very much aware now, and quite vocal about the fact that she has a daddy and papa, not a mommy, makes staying in the closet in public harder. A month ago we were a store and a lady asked my daughter if I was her daddy, it was promptly followed by "No that is papa...that is Daddy,” pointing at my husband. The look on her face as she tried to continue the conversation made me know she was very uncomfortable. These situations are not uncommon and are ever-increasing.

The effort of self-censorship is incredibly draining and that is why this National Coming Out Day I throw away the mask and peel back the layers. I choose to be a father and husband and hideaway no more.

I am here, I am proud, and I am ME!

My name is Ian Rein I am a gay transgender man, happily married with a very active toddler. I grew up in central Illinois and now currently live in St Louis. I have two engineering degrees and enjoy my work as a municipal engineer. I spend my free time crafting and sewing utilizing recycled materials to make new creations. Along with my engineering degrees, I have a minor in sustainability and that means I spend a lot of time caring for the environment which is why we decided to use cloth diapers.

When I became a parent my whole world changed but I would not trade the long nights and busy lifestyle that has taken over for anything. That transition to parent life was made much easier by Grovia and their products. As a Grovia Content Creator, it is my goal to expand the reach of Grovia to the LGBTQ+ community and share my story. As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, it is important to support inclusive businesses, especially those on a smaller scale and it is sometimes very hard to find those companies.

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