How to Come Out As Transgender
Expert Reviewed Coming out as transgender is different for everyone. With time, you'll find patience and confidence in the process. Focus first on coming out to those you trust. Your friends and family may have questions, and not understand what it's like to be transgender. Help them to better understand by being informed and ready to explain what your identity means to you. It's okay to be uneasy about this process, but with a stronger support system, you'll feel more at ease.
Figuring Out What You Want to Say
Know your audience. Think about the people in your lives, and that ones who you trust. You may have certain friends or relatives who are more understanding and loving than others. Evaluate both the people who will likely support you and those who may not.
- If you are a minor, the coming out process may be more challenging since your parents are still legally responsible for you. If you are concerned that your parents will not be accepting, consider talking first with a friend or family member who you can trust. You may want to have someone on your side before coming out to your parents.
- Focus on preparing to come out to trusted and loving friends and family first.
- You don't need to come out to everyone all at once. Be strategic and tell those who are likely to be your allies first.
Inform yourself and do your research. Be knowledgeable about transgender issues. Understand the questions that your friends, relatives, and others may have about gender identity. By being more informed, you will show maturity and thoughtfulness in your coming out as transgender.
- Find literature or reading materials in your community or online. There may be LBGT community centers or youth groups in your area that provide information and helpful brochures.
- Learn about ways that your friends and family can be your allies via GLAAD: http://www.glaad.org/transgender/allies
- Understand your equal rights as a transgender person via the National Center for Transgender Equality: http://www.transequality.org/
- Find support as a LGBTQ youth about your coming out concerns via The Trevor Project: 866-488-7386 or http://www.thetrevorproject.org/
Consider writing a letter first. Get your thoughts out on paper as a way to find your voice and focus on what you want to say. No matter who the letter is intended for, be courteous and give them space to process the information.
- A letter can help you to focus on what you want to say without interruption.
- If you use a letter as a framework for coming out, it allows for the possibility of revision until you feel more comfortable with what you want to say. For example, let's say your tone is at times angry about being hurt in the past, and feeling unloved. Consider revising it to focus on how you are a stronger and more confident person about who you are, and what feels right for you.
- Sometimes a letter can reduce the pressure of face-to-face conversations, and can be useful if the person who you're coming out to is far away. For example, "I know it has been a while since we last saw each other. I hope that we can see each other soon, and I can tell you more about what I've been going through. I have been struggling with my identity for many years. I want to be able to talk openly in the future about what I'm going through."
- Consider having this letter handy when the day comes that you meet and talk in person about coming out.
Practice what you want to say out loud. Sometimes it's good to practice, in the same way you might practice when giving a speech or preparing a presentation. It can help you find the right tone and words to use. It can help you become more comfortable with saying "I'm transgender."
- Find a private room or space where you can practice.
- Consider practicing with someone who you trust and who you've already come out to.
- Don't try to rush and say everything at once. Pace yourself, and allow the audience to process each part of what you have to say.
Identify the best time and place to come out. Think about the "who, what, where, and when" of coming out. Be sure about who you want to tell, and that you trust them. Choose somewhere that is neutral and safe. Consider spaces that are more private, where there aren't people who you know who could be eavesdropping.
- Choose a time that won't feel rushed or shortened by other activities, events, or obligations. Make sure that there is ample time to talk.
- Consider places that aren't at school or at work. Avoid spaces where there are people you know and don't trust.
Be confident and authentic in coming out. Make sure that you want to come out, rather than feeling like you have to. Remember that this is your life, and how you come out is entirely up to you. Be confident in who you are, and share authentically about your experiences with being transgender. Understand your own identity at a transgender person.
- It's your life, and you can decide how, and in what ways, to come out. Be uniquely who you are and share from your experiences with being a transgender person. For example, you might share about what has been a struggle for you, such as feeling out of place among your peers. If coming to terms with being transgender has been a relief for you, then share this as well.
- Be thoughtful in how you describe and understand yourself as a transgender person.
- When talking about yourself as transgender, speak firmly with confidence. Be willing to be flexible and responsive to what others have to say. Consider saying, "I am confident that I am transgender. I know that you may have questions or not know what to say. That's okay. I'm open to listening."
Be patient when coming out. This process won't happen overnight, and will continue to shift and change as you and your loved ones understand more about being transgender. Know that as you get older, go to different schools, get jobs, or interact with new people that you will still be coming out throughout your life. Be patient with the process.
- While it may be nerve-racking at first, being honest with yourself and others about who you are will be deeply gratifying and make you feel better over time.
- Be accepting that others may not understand this process in the same way. Be patient with others who may want to help, but have ignorance about what you're going through. For example, if someone says, "You don't seem like someone who's transgender," be patient, and explore what being transgender means to you, rather than trying to correct them.
- Focus on how to remain calm, centered, and relaxed. Do things that help to relieve stress in healthy ways before you plan to talk about coming out.
Sit and talk about coming out. Learn to be open and direct in a loving way with your friends and family. Allow them time to respond and ask questions. They may react with shock, support, or frustration, but no matter what, remain calm and respectful. Tell them about your journey, and that you wish to transition or identify as transgender.
- Be open to answering their questions, no matter how small or odd the questions may seem. If you are not sure of how to answer, then provide them with resources or reading materials to help them.
- Give them time to respond, and understand that their first reactions may not represent how they feel later on. Sometimes shock or confusion can affect how a person responds.
- Consider that some people may react out of ignorance, be concerned for your safety, or try to change your mind. Tell them you are taking the process of coming out seriously and have thought about their concerns.
- Help to break down any stereotypes or myths. For example, they say, "Are you going to be a drag queen?" then you could respond with information about what it really means to be transgender.
End the conversation if it is not going well. In some cases, having a conversation about coming out might not work out as you hoped it would. If you feel like the people you are coming out to are not being supportive or kind, then you might want to gracefully end the conversation for the time being.
- Try saying something like, “I appreciate you listening to me, but that is all that I want to share right now. Maybe we can talk about this again sometime in the future.” Or, you might also say something like, “I’d like to talk more about this, but I have to run. Let’s talk more another day.”
Seek advice from supportive friends or family. Continue to reach out to those who trust and have been by your side in the past. Ask them about challenges they have faced in their own lives, and how they overcame them. Show them that you care about what they have to say.
- Finding advice and support in person can be reassuring and helpful as you continue to come out and let others know about your gender identity.
- Understand that even if your friends or family have not personally experienced what it is like to come out as transgender, they may have personal struggles with their own identities. For example, ask them, "Have you ever faced feeling like you didn't belong or fit in?"
- Feeling different or misunderstood is something that everyone goes through from time to time in their lives. Use this as a way to connect with others who feel this way, rather than distance yourself.
Talk to supportive professionals about your gender transition. Many people who want to transition as transgender wish to make physical changes to their body. You may be struggling with what you plan to do both physically and emotionally. Seek advice from experts who have helped others find their path.
- Talk with your doctor about making physical changes to your body. This may involve hormone replacement therapy or surgery. Talk with your doctor about a possible referral to a specialist in these types of medical procedures. Ask, "I am considering transitioning as a man (or woman) and want know about the medical treatments available in this area. Can you help me or make a referral?"
- Possibly meet with a counselor or therapist about the coming out process. They may help to give you insight into your concerns, and help you cope with your concerns. There may be a counseling center in your area that focuses on the needs of the LGBT youth and adults. Talk with them about individual or group therapy.
Connect with the LGBT community. Whether it's online or in-person, there is an LGBT community out there that can help you navigate your coming out process, and what feels right for you. You don't have to feel alone or isolated as you make choices about how to talk with your family, or what to do when things are tough. Seeking support will make the process easier for you.
- Find online forums or support groups. This can be helpful if you're not yet ready to talk with people face-to-face.
- Find community centers in your area. Go to CenterLink and find a directory of centers: http://www.lgbtcenters.org/
- Find peer support and counselors to talk with by phone or by chat. Go to the GLBT Hotline: http://www.glbthotline.org/
- Don't rush and be confident in who you are. This is an ongoing process of self-discovery that can be ultimately rewarding.
- Plan your discussion time when coming out accordingly, so you won't be interrupted and will have ample time for questions.
- Give people time to adjust. It can be a shock, but with time most people will come around.
- If you are feeling unsure about how to talk about it, try writing stuff down.
- This may cause some family and friends to not want to talk to you. Unfortunately this is a by-product of ignorance and resistance to change.