Alex Gessner

Alex Gessner
© Alex Gessner
MYSTORY with …

34 Years, fRANKFURT

“It was Black trans* women who educated me about
our community’s history and present, the privilege
of being queer in Europe and about the long
way we have to go to eradicate discrimination…”

Published: September 2023

Privileges, Education & Coming outs.

I struggled to sit down and write this. It often feels like I don’t have something meaningful to share, but when it comes to my coming out story, it also feels like it was just super uneventful.  It is a super privileged position unavailable to many members of our community who have to fear for their safety if they come out. I wish for all members of our LGBTQIA2S+ community to have uneventful coming outs and possibly even no need at all for coming out in the future.

When I was 15 years old, I realized I was bi. I cared more about Xena, Warrior Princess and her soulmate situation with Gabrielle than I did about whatever straight girls my age were supposed to care about. I was attracted to men and women and didn’t know at the time that the gender spectrum held many more beautiful expressions.

Today, I would describe myself as pan or omni if we must have a label – to me, I’m simply queer.

I’m not attracted to only one gender identity. I just didn’t know because there wasn’t a lot of queer representation back in 2003.The L Word came out in 2004, and while it hasn’t aged well and is not a great example of an intersectional approach, it changed my world at the time, as did The L Word podcast.

I told my mom very soon and it wasn’t a big deal. Mostly because she’s super tolerant, but also because it probably didn’t feel real. I’d never had a boyfriend or girlfriend when I lived at home.
But I must have been worried about her reaction because I kept my first girlfriend a secret. I like to think that this wasn’t just because of her gender but also because we met online, had not met in person as there was an ocean between us and I associated the whole situation with shame. I was 19 and  left Germany to move in with my Canadian girlfriend in Brighton, a queer hotspot in Europe. We broke up after 6 months, and I think to this day, most of my family and friends thought she was a roommate. My second relationship was with a man. No coming out needed there, everyone knew him as my boyfriend.

The queer community remained a fixture in my life. Most of my friends and housemates were queer, I had fallen in love with the art of drag and went to every show that I could. I owe a lot to the queer community; they have helped me overcome whatever was holding me back from normalizing my own queerness while I was celebrating everyone else’s. They have shown me how to accept myself, how to fight for my community, how to exist in a world that assumed everyone is straight. It was black trans* women who educated me about our community’s history and present, the privilege of being queer in Europe, in a queer city, and about the long way we have to go to eradicate discrimination for ALL the beautiful members of our community who face violence and discrimination for simply living the life they were born to live. I was an ignorant 20-year-old and have been educated by their kindness and their fights. I wish I could say that I educated myself – I did, in later years – but that initial education was done by the people most marginalized in our society, and I owe them so much. I became an activist for queer and women’s rights and continue learning to this day. Although there is still a long way to go, one of the biggest achievements of our community is this: An elder trans* woman (she allowed me to say that) said to me last year, “Finally, trans* people can have a future! When I grew up, there simply was no representation and only the threat of dying young. I didn’t know I would be happy; that simply wasn’t in the cards. Today, trans* kids can see a future; we have trans* actors and actresses, athletes, politicians, ordinary couples who are happy.” That being said, we both agree that a lot remains to be done to ensure a safe future for trans* kids and adults.

I met the woman who would become my wife in 2012. We were colleagues first and then close friends for years before our friendship turned into love. It seems to be an unwritten rule that whenever two women are colleagues, not married, and hang out, they must have an affair. At least that was the rumour at work long before we developed romantic feelings for each other. I remember when we went to the cinema, it was the hot topic at work in certain gossip circles for a whole week. Sometimes rumors got back to me about sightings of us doing suspicious things like drinking coffee and sometimes these rumors were even completely made-up.
People were talking about us being together long before we were together, so when we started dating, we didn’t tell anyone but two friends at work. We just “were.”

Same with my mom. She immediately clocked that we were together, and that was that. I just walked through the world, normalizing the fact that I had a girlfriend who then became my wife, and most people respond in kind. I’ve been privileged enough to be working at a diversity-aware company when I fell in love with her, and when I switched companies, I was in senior enough positions that people did not dare to comment anything homophobic to my face. I’m not ignorant though; I’m aware it happened behind my back. I’m aware it happens to others, and I know that homophobia still is rampant in the workplace and our society. After years of remarkable progress for queer rights (which are, fundamentally, human rights), we find ourselves confronted with a historic backlash that threatens to roll back the hard-fought gains of decades, not just in terms of legal protections but also in public perception.

It is a critical moment for LGBTQIA2S+ communities and their allies, demanding swift action and unwavering solidarity.

There it goes. My Coming Out is not a very interesting story. In fact, a lot of what’s interesting is between the lines: about my own internalized stuff, stuff I had to unlearn, and things about which I was completely and utterly wrong. Like when I assumed my until-then 100% straight girlfriend would only treat “us” as an experiment, that she would never tell her family about us, that this new experience would shake her self-image to the point where she’d run. Or that she would have difficulty adjusting to a relationship after being single for 16 years and wouldn’t be able to make space for me. That it wouldn’t last.

We’ve been together for 100 months in July 2023, married for 4 years. She still doesn’t know how to load the dishwasher like a human being, but other than that, we’re fine.

Attacks against our community are increasing on a global scale. Merely celebrating the few rights and limited acceptance that gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals have achieved is not enough. The TIN* community is far from experiencing the same rights and acceptance. We must continue fighting until discrimination against queer BIPOC, queer people with disabilities, LGBTQIA2S+ migrants, and especially discrimination against our trans and non-binary siblings is eradicated. We cannot settle for mere awareness and visibility. Society is aware of us; what we need is equal protection, respect, and opportunities that should be extended to everyone within our global community.

(Note: *TIN refers to the transgender, intersex, and non-binary community)

Dear aLex, Thank you very much for YourStory!