Coming Out as Transgender
What does coming out mean?
Coming out as transgender is a process in which a person whose sense of identity doesn’t correspond with their birth gender decides to share their status with others. For all members of the LGBT community, coming out is not an event that happens once. Many people will find themselves coming out continuously throughout their lives because people often assume heterosexuality unless told otherwise. The first time you come out to your friends or family may be a daunting experience and can cause a lot of anxiety. However, you will get a lot of satisfaction from being accepted for your true self.
Why should you come out?
Most people come out as transgender because they want to be honest with the people that they love. Others may want to explore their sexuality and some simply want to be accepted for the person that they really are. Trying to hide your true identity is a lot of pressure, and this can lead to problems in other areas of your emotional wellbeing.
Just remember to wait until you are fully ready before you decide to come out. After all, this is your life and coming out should always be something that you feel emotionally ready to do. The prospect of coming out is really scary and you may have concerns about the way that others will react. Not everyone will react in the same way and throughout your life you will experience positive and negative reactions. However, focusing on the people who do offer the acceptance and support that you need will help you to find the strength to continue on your journey.
Who should you come out to?
The first person to come out to is yourself. Self-acceptance is the first step to being true to your gender identity, and will really help you to come to terms with such a life changing adventure. This sounds a lot easier than it is, particularly if your body is changing into a shape that feels alien to the gender that you identify with.
When you first come out as transgender to friends and family, you may not get the reaction that you are expecting. They may be a little shocked, and they may even try to play down the way that you feel. If this is the case, try not to get downhearted. These are feelings that you have spent years coming to terms with, so your family and friends may need some time to get used to them too.
Again, there are no right or wrong people that you should come out to first, and you don’t have to come out to everyone, just the people whom you want to discuss your gender status with at the time. If you need support before you speak to your family, coming out to a trusted teacher or youth worker will help you to feel supported when you speak to your loved ones. If you have a close friend, they may also be a great means of support whilst you consider your options.
Is there a right time to come out?
Coming out is such a daunting experience and the build up to ‘that conversation’ can be really worrying. Therefore, it is really important to choose a time to come out that suits you, not anyone else. A lot of the LGBT community say that coming out to their family and friends was a really positive experience, but every single person has a difference story to tell. Some people have been told that their parents always suspected, so it may not be a shock to them.
Before coming out, wait until you are ready emotionally and can talk to the people that you trust. You may be asked some questions, some of which you won’t be able to answer but there is lots of support for families and friends of the transgender community. You should also remember that you aren’t alone either, there is a huge wealth of LGBT organisations around the world who can offer support, advice and connections with other people who are going through a similar experience.
How Should I come out?
When coming out as transgender, ensure that you are in a quiet and safe environment where you can talk freely about the way that you feel. If you are very worried, perhaps write the things that you want to say in a letter and give it to the person that you’re coming out to. Some people prefer to come out over the phone, but make sure that you are in a place where you can talk privately and that you have plenty of battery life!
Try looking at YouTube videos of other people who have come out to friends and family. Listen to the words that they use and watch the different reactions that occur. This will help to prepare you for the different reactions that you may be faced with, but remember the initial reaction may not be the way the person feels in the long term. After all, it may be a shock to them at first.
Before coming out, consider the timing. If you are already under stress or have exams coming up, it may not be the best time to come out as this may add to the pressure that you are under. Some people don’t get the reaction that they hoped for at first, and this can be upsetting. However, remember that this is your body and you have nothing to be ashamed of.
If you need more advice, the LGBT Foundation have a helpline on 0345 3303030 that you can call between 10am-10pm every day. They receive a lot of calls from people who are worried about coming out and will offer lots of on the spot help and support.
Should I come out to my sexual health provider and how will this affect my treatment?
Throughout your life, you will come out as transgender many times. Not everyone will be aware that you are transgender and whether you disclose this to anyone is completely up to you. However, disclosing your transgender status to your sexual health clinician is very important because this will ensure that you get the best possible care and the right kind of treatment.
In addition to providing specialist care for your sexual health, many sexual health providers can provide other information that may be of assistance to you. Transgender teens have been found to have healthy functioning psychology but they are more susceptible to anxiety and depression. They are also prone to self-harming, post-traumatic stress disorder, suicidal feelings, substance abuse and body image issues.
By confiding in a counsellor, GP or sexual health clinician you can be referred to any agencies that can help with any personal difficulties that you may be experiencing. For example, the Brook Charity is an organisation that offers confidential sexual health and wellbeing advice for people under the age of 25. By clicking on their website, you can find your nearest service and benefit from an all-round service that caters for the diverse needs of the trans community.
A lot of healthcare practitioners are choosing to undertake additional training in order to ensure that they can better care for the diverse needs of those in the LGBT community. The General Medical Council are working hard to incorporate awareness of transgender issues into the training of new medical staff and into the continuing profession studies of those already working. By coming out to your healthcare provider, you’ll get the right kind of care that you need, and get the additional support you require to help with other areas of your life such as your legal rights as a member of the LGBT community, mental health support and local support groups.