My last post was about the metaphor of the slippery slope, but Allyson used an entirely different metaphor to talk about coming out, and I’d like to muse on it here if she’ll indulge me. She talked of the Tipping Point of coming out, the point at which the momentum to talk about your transsexuality shifts from yourself to others. Initially, she explained, you’re completely in control of your coming out — you strategize it, run dialogs in your head, and pick the person and situation. And those initial disclosures ask (demand, in fact, because of their nature) the other party to keep this information confidential, to come in the closet with you, so rather than moments of coming out, they are moments of building community inside the closet. However, the more you come out to people, the more crowded the closet becomes, and human nature being what it is, suddenly there’s no closet and people are coming to you to ask about your transsexuality. At this point, you’d better be ready to react because your proactive stage has ended.

The tipping point, said Allyson, is that moment where you shift from proactive to reactive, from controlling the situation to surrendering to it.

The metaphor is clearly physical, just as the slippery slope is physical, but in this case, the physical concept being used is the see-saw or the scales. Being closeted is like a see-saw with a huge weight (the closet) on one end, and these little moments of healing, of therapy, of telling people, are tiny weights loaded onto the other end of the see-saw. It appears as if nothing is happening for the longest time, and you begin to wonder if it’s all worth it, if you’ll ever feel whole, if this tortuous in-between feeling will ever end. Then you put one more weight on the end and voila! — you hit the tipping point. The big weight lifts gently off the ground and the momentum begins to shift. Another disclosure and the weight moves further, and all of a sudden you’re no longer acting to pile little weights on your end, but reacting to the momentum of the shift of the see-saw.

It’s a cool image. My scales are still firmly planted on one end, nary a shudder in the balance. But the other end is not empty — it has Mary Jo’s love, my increasing self-acceptance, my department chair’s kind words and acceptance, my friends Allyson and others in online forums — and I begin to anticipate the tipping point in the not too distant future, not with fear, but with eagerness and excitement.

[See also Slippery Slope]