Since launching my blog I have received a few emails by women stating that they would love to come out as trans but that their circumstances are different. So in the hope that this information can be useful, or can help inform the difficult questions around coming out as trans, I thought I would go through a few check points of disclosure.
In the trans community there are few forms of disclosure. One being when you finally decide that you are ready to transition and you want to share that information with your loved ones. The second would be the follow up step coming out in the workplace. Another form of disclosure is for those in the community that we call “passible”; people who appear cisgender or in other words “they don’t look trans” but are disclosing their condition to a potential love interest.
Since each disclosure presents its own set of challenges and are complex situations with much to consider I don’t think I could do this topic justice with just one simple blog post, so for this week I will focus on the initial coming out to friends and family and the things that should be considered beforehand.
Before we begin, remember that once you decide to disclose your trans status to someone there is no going back, so make sure you think about it thoroughly and although it may seem like a lot and at times you may feel as though you are swimming against a current, coming out can be one of the most liberating experiences of your life. Hopefully this helps you as you consider taking this step:
1. Coming out to yourself- Before you can come out to anyone else you first need to own your truth. Owning your truth is the very first step to authenticity. Standing solidly in your realness is one of the most empowering things you can do to start your transition on the right foot. You might encounter people who will question your identity, so owning your identity as a trans person and knowing just who you are will help you not be shaken if faced with opposition. This step is also important because how can you expect someone else to accept you when you haven’t accepted yourself.
2.Weigh out the Pro’s and Con’s- After coming out to yourself and owning who you are, think about the benefits and possible draw backs to coming out. In an ideal world everyone would be super supportive and affirming, but that is not the world we live in. Statistics show that trans people, particularly trans women, are affected by disproportionate amounts of discrimination and homelessness. So think about the pro’s and con’s.
|Pros of Disclosing
||Cons of Disclosing
|Pros of Not Disclosing
||Cons of Not Disclosing
3. Have a contingency plan- Once you’ve weighed the pro’s and con’s, have a plan in place; this is vital. If at all possible have an emergency fund. Find out whether there are any trans-friendly shelters in your area if you get kicked out, investigate if there are trans-friendly non-profits that may be able to help you locate resources that you may need moving forward, try to identify a friend that you may be able to stay with if things don’t go well, so do your homework.
This maybe a scary time but just remember you are not alone. There is a whole support system at your disposal. Find a support group in your area if there isn’t one near you there is a huge online community of people who have travelled this road before and others who are in the midst of the journey as well; people who can offer you support and advice, so don’t ever think you are alone.
4. Lay down the grown work- So you’ve embraced your truth, weighed out the pro’s and con’s and come up with a contingency plan; now it’s time for you to lay down the ground work for “the conversation”. The worst thing that you could do is drop a bombshell on a loved one, especially if the person you’re coming out to is your spouse or child. Disclosing to friends and family is a lot different than coming out in the workplace since it’s not a matter of law or rights, but rather of feelings and emotions. Emotions often cloud rationale, so remember people may often say things out of ignorance or in the heat of the moment that they may regret later.
A good way to ease the conversation is to lay down the grown work beforehand. Every time something trans related comes on TV use that opening to feel them out, explore their views on the topic, see how much they understand and then take that opportunity to educate them. You can start the conversation with “What did you think about that?” “Have you ever met anyone trans before?” and eventually you can continue with things like “did you know gender identity is different from sexual orientation” “There are people who may have for a long time known that they were in the wrong body but because of our society never felt as though they could come out”. You don’t have to come out at this stage, you are merely setting the table.
5. Ask yourself: Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?- Ok so you’ve embraced your truth, weighed out the pro’s and con’s, developed a contingency plan and laid down the ground work; You feel you’re ready and you’ve made up your mind that you are going to disclose, ask yourself a few key questions.
- Who do you want to tell?
Do you want to tell your parents, children, wife, husband etc.
- Why do you want to tell this person?
Are you telling this person because you want their emotional or financial support or because you plan to change your appearance?
If you are younger are you disclosing to your parents because you want their consent to seek HRT?
- What are you willing to tell?
Go into the situation with a clear set of goals and things you want to say you can even have an outline of a script.
Disclosing that you are trans does not give someone the license to ask you anything that comes to their mind. Politely state that you do not feel comfortable discussing “this” topic or that you don’t think that “this” is appropriate.
- Is this person trustworthy?
Ask yourself, does this person talk about others behind their back? If so, do you really want to trust this person with such a personal part of you? If they decide to take it upon themselves to disclose to others for you, are you ready for that?
- Where do you want to tell them?
Ask yourself, is confidentiality or safety more important to you? If confidentiality is more important, then you might want to tell them in a more private setting. If this is a person with a history of losing their temper, you might want to tell them in a more public venue, maybe a park, where you can have some privacy but people are still around. A restaurant might not be the most ideal location since people are often in close proximity and maybe able to hear your conversation if things get out of hand.
6. Disclose- So you went through all the steps: You’ve embraced who you really are, weighed out the pro’s and con’s, developed a contingency plan, laid down the ground work and asked yourself some key questions, now comes the time for you to finally disclose.
A few more things to remember:
- There is never a perfect time- You can always give yourself an excuse why not to do it. Etc. My mom is older, Johnny is in High school, Emily is about to have a baby etc. Life will continue whether you come out or not, so don’t wait trying to find the perfect time—there isn’t one.
- If you are not ready, you’re not ready- Like I said earlier once you come out there is no going back, so don’t put pressure on yourself. Coming out is a very personal decision so only take that step when the time is right for you.
- Sometimes disclosing might have to wait- Your safety comes first, so if you don’t feel safe coming out or that your housing maybe placed in jeopardy which could be the case if you are younger and still live with your parents you might have to hold off for a little bit. Again, you are not alone if this is the case there are people out there you can talk to.
All of this may feel like a lot to take on and heaven knows that it takes a very thick shell to live authentically; but just know that living authentically and being true to oneself can be one of the most liberating, cathartic experiences of your life. Being true to yourself will not guarantee you an easy life or that everything will be roses, at times you may question whether it was all worth it, but when the dust is settled and you look at your reflection in the mirror, you will have a greater understanding of the true meaning of self-determination is and the strength and inner peace that come with it.