Thank you for joining me in this month-long interview series for National Coming Out Day!
I had the pleasure of interviewing Chloe Corcoran, a friend, leader, speaker and volunteer.
SG: Thank you for joining me for today’s interview.
CC: You’re welcome.
SG: As we get started, how do you identify?
CC: I am a transgender woman. I think it is very important for us to self-identify. The difficulty comes when we step into society, and someone says, “You’re not really ‘x’” and they feel they can define you based on what their expectations of masculinity, femininity or gender, or sexuality are; and that is a huge issue in the community, one that can easily be changed. Of course, I’m going to respect someone else’s pronouns. If you tell me that your pronouns are “they, them” of course I’m going to respect that. Other people, when they pin their definitions on you, are not so likely to.
SG: Are you originally from Rochester?
CC: I grew up in the 19th Ward, and moved out to Greece right before high school. I attended a local university, worked for a local law firm and then decided to leave. I went down to Baltimore for a few years and then to Boston where I earned my Master’s degree. I moved to Baltimore knowing that I would transition, and I didn’t, and then I moved to Boston, knowing I would transition, and I didn’t. And then I moved back to Rochester, knowing I could never transition, and I did. I came back to Rochester about 6 years ago, and have gotten involved in the community since then, as well as working on my doctorate degree. Although I came out 10 months ago, this will be my first “out” National Coming Out Day.
SG: Could you tell me a little bit about your coming out experience? What was that process like for you?
CC: It didn’t happen overnight! I realized I was trans* the first moment I could have thoughts. My first memories I have was knowing that I am a woman, and that my body did not match that. I then quickly learned that was not acceptable, and I went the opposite way. I went the extremely masculine route- I played football in college, and coached college football on a voluntary basis for a year. I was trying to be loud enough to be quiet. I was loud enough that no one could know anything was different. I finally hit this point where I couldn’t not transition anymore. I just wasn’t going to make it. I didn’t make the decision to transition knowing I would make it. I’ve had some difficult thoughts- about what I’ve given up. But that is not about this being wrong or me feeling wrong about how I am, that’s about what society does to us.
SG: Coming out for anyone is an experience. How has your relationship with your family, friends or professionally, has life been affected because you transitioned?
CC: Yes! My relationships are different now, and a lot of them are much better. Because I am being more authentic, I’m able to share more of myself. There’s not as many walls. My relationships, personally, have either gotten better, or have changed- where they may not exist anymore. I think that is ok, too. I’ve been fortunate because I’ve added people to my life since I transitioned, and those people have gotten me through a lot of difficulties associated with transitioning. And some people have come back into my life, now that I’ve transitioned and repaired those relationships. Coming out for me was a moment like, well, here we go. I remember sitting at Equal Grounds, writing emails to family members and friends, letting them know that “Hey, I’m a girl,” and in the midst of that, I reached out to the author of “She’s Not There” which meant a great deal to me and thanked her for coming before me, doing the work she’s done, and letting her know that she made an impact on my life. She took the time to write me back, within an hour, and part of her reply to me was encouraging me to pay it forward. It’s important that I do for others, what she did for me. Which is why I’m more public and standing up.
I know this is rambling, but if you don’t mind, I’d like to share a story. I gave a speech when the transgender military ban was announced. This woman came up to me after, and she said that I was an inspiration to her and her family, which is always wonderful to hear. If I can let other people know that it is ok to be trans*, then I’m happy to do it. And then, her daughter came up to me, and she told me that she is transgender, too. She is 7 or 8 years old, and I realized I am the representation for her, that I never had when I was growing up. That really emphasized the importance of coming out, being out and living out, to me.
SG: Speaking of being involved in the community, how are you involved in the Rochester LGBTQ community?
CC: I’m the vice-president of the board for the Gay Alliance of the Genesee Valley, to be the OUT Alliance, and do a lot of volunteer work for them. I also think that being involved in the community, also means just being visible. Trans* people shop at Wegmans, too. Some people don’t like that, and I can tell by their stares, but I’ve got to get pickles.
I think being visible is important, if you can be. Some people can’t be yet, and I think it’s part of our job to take some of the gravel out of the road. I think there may have been a thought, that when we achieved marriage equality, that we were there. And we aren’t there, not for the gay community, the lesbian community, the bisexual community, the transgender community, or the queer community. We are not there. And we are seeing that we have a tenuous grip on those things we have earned and fought for. We need to stay involved and vigilant.
SG: If you were to evaluate how safe you feel, as a trans* woman in the City of Rochester, how would you describe that?
CC: I feel safe, contextually. There are some places I’ll go where I will sit with my back to the door. And there are some places I just won’t go. I didn’t attend any of the outdoor festivals this year, or concerts. Safety and access are intertwined. And if you don’t feel safe, then you don’t have access. You can be “othered” immediately, and that sometimes is not a safe thing. But then you have look at it comparatively- do I feel safer in Rochester, than I do if I were to go to another city? Probably, yes. I’m very fortunate, but I shouldn’t have to count myself fortunate.
SG: What advice do you have for those who are planning on coming out?
CC: It is important to build a support system, because you are going to need it. And even if things go extremely well, you’ll still need a support system, because you are going to feel it. Sometimes people stare and make comments. Build that support system, include a therapist in that system if you can. Be careful who you trust, but make sure you trust some people. I think that is what I would tell someone who is thinking about coming out. For someone who may never come out, know that if you ever want to, people have got your back. You are not alone.
SG: Thank you so much for joining me today, and thank you for celebrating your identity with me, and the rest of the world.
Thank you again for joining me, as I share coming out stories from Rochester area LGBTQ residents for National Coming Out Day. I’ll be sharing other coming out stories this month; follow along here, on Facebook or on Twitter!