People often ask me about my coming out story and I can’t help but giggle every time it comes up. I have “come out” so many times in my life that it seems laughable to an extent. I was 13-years-old the first time I came out to my mother.

It was the summer between 7th and 8th grade for me, and I was already feeling anxiety from having left school on such a note: I had just come out to my classmates literally on the very last day of school, at the very end of the day because I didn’t want to give people the chance to ridicule me.

 

“I felt like being “bi” would be a little less ridicule-worthy than being a full-blown lesbian”

 

I told them that I was “bisexual,” even though I felt no attraction towards men at all. But I felt like being “bi” would be a little less ridicule-worthy than being a full-blown lesbian, so that is the choice I made.

I was in the car alone with my mother when she took a turn away from our house. “I’m taking the long way,” she said. “I need to ask you something… Do you like girls or boys?” I slowly turned my head away from the window and towards her. “Girls,” I said quietly, almost ashamed.

She asked if I also liked boys and I told her that I didn’t think so. “Well your dad and I had a feeling and we just want you to be safe. People out there are dangerous, and we just want you to be happy and safe.” And that was that.

Eventually in 8th grade, I made it clear that I did not like men at all and would come to proclaim myself as a lesbian. It wasn’t really something that I had to announce though, it was just something that came to be known.

 

“I could never shake the feeling of something still being off”

 

I lived as a proud lesbian for over 5 years, but I could never shake the feeling of something still being off. I knew about transgender people, but I knew nothing of the process, and I was scared. I had told many people throughout my childhood that I wanted to be a boy, but they all laughed and made fun of me.

So, I learned to repress those feelings and deny that part of myself. I told myself that I would rather be a whole lesbian than half of a man because that’s what I thought at the time.

Fast-forward to age 18 and I am off to my freshman year of college where I had chosen to live on the “2-in-20” floor or the “rainbow floor,” which was made up of exclusively LGBTQIA+ students and allies.

 

“I came out again, this time as a transgender male”

 

It was there that I met two transmen in the middle of their transition. I bombarded them with questions until I knew everything that I needed to know to make the informed decision: almost exactly a year later, in the fall of 2011, I came out again, this time as a transgender male.

I started by telling my friends, which was easy. Most of them didn’t even blink, just asked what my new name was. I had chosen Damien, a name that I had always liked. My given name was Demicia, a beautiful name, but not the one for me.

My siblings and I all have names that start with “D”, so I knew I wanted to keep that. My mother felt otherwise. She called me almost in a panic when she realised I had changed my name and pronouns on Facebook.

When I told her why, she seemed concerned. She used words like “didn’t see this coming” or “out of the blue” neither of which I found to be true. I had always appeared very masculine, I was just changing how people addressed me.

She had hoped I would choose a name closer to my old one, like Dimitri or something. But I didn’t want to be reminded of my old name every single time I heard my new one. Eventually, she came around to Damien though.

 

“He proudly claims me as his son now and I am happy”

 

My father took a couple years to accept it, which I understand. We had a bad argument once that left me quite hurt. We have since made amends and he hates when I speak of that time, as he is ashamed. But I have forgiven him, and he has done more than made it up to me. He proudly claims me as his son now and I am happy.

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Once I came to terms with being a transgender male, I realised that I was no longer homosexual, I was heterosexual. But with the onset of hormones, I began to be attracted to men for the first time in my life. And that scared me because I felt like in order to pass as a male, I would have to hyper-masculinize myself, you know, be a “manly-man” and that meant only liking women.

 

“I just wanted to live a “normal” male life, whatever that meant”

 

So, I did for a long time. I lived a “stealth” life, not telling anyone about my transition. I thought it would save me a lot of explaining in the long run, and therefore make me happier. At the time, I just wanted to live a “normal” male life, whatever that meant.

After living many years stealth, hiding my identity started to take a toll on my mental state, especially when the topic of being transgender was now making its way into politics. I felt like I had a voice that needed to be heard, I had experiences to share.

On National Coming Out Day in 2017, I decided to make my transition public. I took to Instagram first where I posted a picture of me holding the trans flag, and it took off! I received almost 1000 followers almost instantly and it just kept going up from there. The positivity was overwhelming, and I knew I had to keep it going.

 

“Now I am officially out and open in all aspects of my life and I have nothing to hide”

 

In October 2018, I came out to my department of 70 people at my full-time job, which was received wonderfully. Now I am officially out and open in all aspects of my life and I have nothing to hide. I even recently came to terms with my attraction to men and other masculine individuals.

So, on this year’s National Coming Out Day, I took to Instagram once more to announce to the world that I am pansexual, which means I am attracted to people regardless of their genitalia or gender identity. I’ve never felt so complete and comfortable in my whole life. I went from bisexual female, to lesbian, to straight trans male, to pansexual trans male.

 

“Being authentic and visible has put my mind at ease, and I now use my confidence to inspire others to do the same”

 

Coming to terms with all these identities has been a challenge, especially in today’s world where everyone knows everyone’s business and judges them for it. But it has given me strength and courage that I never knew I had. Being authentic and visible has put my mind at ease, and I now use my confidence to inspire others to do the same.

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Damien "Phoenix" Montoya

Edited by Ash O'Keeffe

LGBTQ+ Advocate

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