Hi Hannah. I’ve been following your blog for a long time and was asking for advice. I identify as a transgender woman. I was wondering how you came out to your family that you are transgender. I could really use the advice.
I’ve come out to maaaaaybe a dozen people in my life. Siblings, a parent, friends, girlfriends, and a roommate. Every time I’ve come out to someone it’s been a very different conversation from person to person. I have and have had different relationships and different dynamics with each person. I’ve come out to people for different reasons and there’s never been, not there ever will be, a conversation that works for every person in your life.
I came out to two different girlfriends because they HAD to know. I came out to a roommate in case she wondered why there was a nightgown hanging in the bathroom we shared. Both of these conversations were very different. Coming out to my girlfriend was complicated, my roommate? Not so much. She was very accepting and really didn’t care what I wore, just as long as I paid my share of the rent. I didn’t come out to every roommate I’ve ever had, but at the time I was just… tired of hiding this side of myself and I wanted to be able to wear what I wanted to in my own home.
My gender identity, like every non-cisgender person on the planet, has been a journey. I learn more about myself all the time and this was especially true in my youth. In grade school I was a boy who wore girl clothes. In junior high I learned the word ‘crossdresser’ and identified as such. In college I learned the term ‘transgender’ but it would be about twenty years before I identified as such. A few years ago I felt, and still feel, that ‘bi-gender’ is the six-inch patent black stiletto that fits best.
As I mentioned, every person I’ve had The Talk with has been different. But the commonality is that when I came out I came out as a crossdresser, not as someone who is transgender. These conversations were, if I want to oversimplify it, me revealing that I was a boy who wore girl clothes. These talks were alllll about clothes and nothing to do with gender identity. It was about what I DID and what I WORE and not about who I AM. If that makes sense.
I came out to my mom and siblings as a crossdresser about ten years ago. If I had that conversation today I would come out as transgender. Although I consider a crossdresser as someone who is indeed transgender, I’ve never come out in real life as a t-girl.
Essentially I have ZERO experience in coming out as transgender, ironically.
When someone is preparing to come out, there are a few things I would recommend keeping in mind:
Every person you come out to will react differently. If they respond positively and supportive it doesn’t mean the next person you go out to will react the same way… the opposite is also true.
Every time you come to someone, no matter how many times you do so, will be a new and different conversation.
Prepare for the worst.
Be gentle. This conversation will likely forever change your relationship with them and will, in a sense, rock their world.
Don’t come out if you feel it will be unsafe. If you are living at home and you think there’s a chance your parent will, well, react badly and you think you may find yourself thrown out of your home or that your life will be a living hell, then coming out MIGHT not be a good idea. If this is your situation, rest assured it will get better in time.
Talk to a gender therapist or if you are a student, a school counselor if you feel it is safe. Some states require school counselors to report to the parents of a student that comes out to them as anything other than cisgender or heterosexual. Know your state’s laws.
Don’t get your hopes up. This, of all the advice I’ve ever given, is what I wish I had kept in check for me personally. I love my sisters and I wanted nothing more for them to see Hannah as their sister. I dreamed of days shopping and getting a coffee with them but that hasn’t happened, annnnnd it probably won’t. My sisters are fine people and are supportive of the LGBTQIA+ community, but it can take some… getting used to when a family member comes out.
Know WHO you are, as best as you can. When I came out (again, as a crossdresser) I was asked a lot of the same questions from everyone I came out to. I imagine I would be asked the same questions if I were to come out as transgender. Be prepared for the normal questions about sexual identity and transitioning. It’s okay if you don’t know the answers to questions like these, but be prepared for them.
I hope this is helpful. There’s no roadmap to coming out but you can prepare.
Be safe and good luck.
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4 thoughts on “Ask Hannah!”
Hannah’s offers some excellent advice for sure. I just have to add my 2c!
It can be quite a shock for cis people to hear that you’re trans. Never forget that you’ve been living with your feelings, fantasies, and thoughts for… forever… and that they’ve known for maybe the few minutes since you told them. It can take quite awhile to process.
“Know yourself” Hannah wrote, and I agree. We need to as certain as we can be (of course) before coming out. Maybe, though, you’re in an exploration stage trying to figure it all out, and that’s perfectly okay.
For me, I went to almost a year of therapy, and then spent about a year reading everything I could find about trans people, including professional/academic writing. I needed to be as certain as I could be that we’re born this way and not somehow socialized to be trans. After I was as certain as I could be I went through a similar time and study to determine if I was trans. I most certainly am.
It was then that I started coming out and because of my homework I felt I was standing on solid ground and it felt like a relief to have the conversations. Of course it was scary as hell but I had my ducks in a row.
My advice: be as transparent about all this as you can be. For those who were interested I told them that my gender dysphoria had been with me from my earliest memories, that I sewed girl clothing (rather crudely of course) in elementary school, and on and on. I also offered to send links to YouTube videos of physicians, clergy (yes, there are some who are supportive), TED talks, and others. Some were interested, some less so.
I did lose some friends. One said it was a proclivity. I assured him that it is not. Another asked if I was going to undergo “that genital mutilation surgery”; I told him that a) it’s not mutilation whatsoever, and b) I wasn’t sure. (In the end, I had GCS three years ago.)
But most have been loving and positive, started using my new name and pronouns. Easy for them to make mistakes at first but that’s cool. Be patient.
“Be gentle. This conversation will likely forever change your relationship with them and will, in a sense, rock their world.” This!!! Choose carefully. Regardless of denials IMHO, most people unconsciously – or consciously will give you a label and put you in a “memory box”. You will be their “Trans Friend”, their Lesbian or Gay friend or whatever. I feel that that this is a natural thing. If they are truly your friend, labels will eventually disappear. If not, the “friend” will disappear – as sad as it may be. YMMV…
By the way Hannah: Renee Richards was the first “T” person I was ever aware of – watching her on B&W TV “back in the day”. To do her honor is one of the reasons I chose my last name…😊
It’s hard,there’s no easy way to tell people,expect the worst hope for the best.God Bless all my Sisters.