Knowing when or how to come out as trans can be scary. It can also be very liberating if you’re ready to do it. Embracing who you are, and then having the courage to communicate that to those closest to you can be very empowering.
The most important thing to know about coming out as trans is there is no right or wrong way to do it. There’s no “one way” to come out. At the end of the day, you need to do what feels the most comfortable, and the safest, for you. However, you can seek support through helpful articles, the LGBTQ community, and an LGBTQIA+ therapist to help you prepare.
If you’re considering coming out, we can give you some tips on things you should know or consider as you get ready to take this next step.
What Does “Coming Out” Really Mean?
First things first — let’s define what coming out means. The truth is, coming out as transgender can mean different things to different people.
Sharing your pronouns
You might be ready to tell the people closest to you that you identify as transgender. You may want to express your preference regarding pronouns. Do you want to be referred to as she/her, he/him, they/them, or another pronoun you identify with?
Establishing name or gender identity
Other things you can decide before you make the decision to come out can include: What name you want to go by and what gender identity and expression you want people to associate you with.
You might be thinking about a medical transition. This can be something to discuss with people in your life, as you may be hoping for support from them during this time.
Know that coming out doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing thing. You don’t have to announce to everybody in the world, all at the same time, that you’re transgender. You can tell one person, 10 people, or everybody you’ve ever met — the choice is wholly up to you. Only you can decide when it’s the right time to come out.
You should also keep in mind that the experience of coming out can be different depending on your identity. What coming out means for someone who identifies as gay, lesbian, or bisexual can be different than what it might mean for you to come out as transgender. The biggest point to note here is this — even though the idea of what it means to be LGBTQIA+ has come a long way in recent years, there still can often be confusion about what transgender means. Members of the LGBTQIA+ community are twice as likely to be bullied or experience harassment and discrimination than their cisgender peers are.
The most important part of your coming out experience is that you have people who you trust around you so you can have a support system in place if you need it. Build a relationship with individuals who will be there for you during the process.
What to Expect When Coming Out
Again, when coming out as trans, no two experiences will be the same. There will likely be some uncertainty, and you should know that’s to be expected.
Try to remember that there is no normal in this world when it comes to gender. You are perfect, exactly as you are, and once you accept who you are, you’ll be able to take the next steps in your coming out journey.
It might help to look at it like this: the very first person you’ll ever come out to will be yourself.
A few other things some people tend to experience when they come out can include transgender mental health issues, feeling frightened, or being nervous about how people will react to them.
Stages of coming out
“There are a number of stages a transgender person goes through on their coming out journey. Coming out as transgender should be thought of as an extension of your identity. It may evolve and change as you learn more about yourself and your feelings.”Talkspace therapist Reshawna Chapple, PhD, LCSW
Stage 1: Self discovery
The self discovery stage can be very private. It typically involves a variety of feelings and emotions. At some point, you may feel anxiety or confusion about different gender identities as well as your own identity. You might even try to deny how you feel.
During this stage, many people try to find information to help them understand who they are and what they’re feeling. Information can be found online, from friends you trust, or from a handful of other places. Once you work through the self discovery phase and feel confident in how you identify, you might be ready to come out.
Stage 2: Disclosure
The disclosure stage tends to be ongoing. First, you might be ready to share your identity with just one family member, or one very close friend.
If you get a positive and supportive response, you might feel safe enough to expand the circle of people you trust, eventually sharing with more and more people in your life.
However, if you experience rejection, you might feel the urge to revert back to stage one. It’s important that you know this is perfectly OK.
Stage 3: Socialization
As you begin to come out and find acceptance, you might find you’re ready to expand your circle and reach out to others in the LGBTQIA+ community.
Feelings of isolation, anxiety, and fear might start to diminish at this stage, and support will become increasingly important. You may begin to seek more help from those you’ve come out to in your life. Many people find they want to begin socializing with others in the LGBTQIA+ community, too. Socializing can help give you a positive sense of self. Finding and connecting with strong LGBTQ role models is extremely important during stage three.
Stage 4: Positive self-identification
During stage four, it’s common to start feeling really good about yourself. You might start looking for healthy relationships, and the best benefit can be the sense of peace many start to feel in their life.
You might come to terms with who you’re attracted to and begin to really internalize and believe that you actually can be happy. You can start to view your expressions and identity as both healthy and positive. Honesty and truth are strong hallmarks of this stage.
Stage 5: Acceptance and integration
As you integrate, accept, and become more open about your sexual orientation or gender identity, you might start to feel more confident, too. This can lead to you wanting to express yourself in several ways.
Maybe you start to openly share your identity with others. Maybe you’re still quietly “out.” This means you aren’t necessarily hiding your identity as a transgender person, but you may not be announcing it to everyone you meet either.
A number of factors can contribute to how quickly you get to the integration and acceptance stage. Positive and affirming relationships with friends and families and the different communities you interact with can have a huge influence on how well you’re able to self accept.
Stage 6: The lifelong journey
You don’t come out as trans just one time. Your journey will be lifelong. You’ll continuously be discovering yourself, learning new ways to accept yourself, and figuring out how to share yourself with others in your life. Experiencing a lifelong journey of self discovery is no different than anybody who identifies any other way. We’re all on a lifelong journey of self discovery and reflection.
“Understanding your identity is a personal process. You should not feel pressured to settle on a label or pronoun because people are curious. The most important thing is to learn about yourself and discover who you are, especially if your entire life you have been ascribed a gender that does not fit who you really are.”Talkspace therapist Reshawna Chapple, PhD, LCSW
How to Come Out as Transgender
Yes, we said there’s no one way to come out, but there are a few things to keep in mind that might make your process easier.
Make sure you’re ready
Being ready is the most important step of the entire coming-out process. You want to be confident in your truth and yourself. If you’re thinking about coming out, try and make sure that you actually want to do so, versus feeling like you have to do it.
Make sure you’re educated
Educating yourself about what it means to be transgender and how you know that you are can help you navigate the conversations you’re about to have. When you’re in tune with yourself and confident with your decisions, it will help others to better understand where you’re coming from.
Make sure you have support
Nothing is more important than the support you have during your coming out journey. You can look at websites for support and resources, find online forums, join support groups, seek an online therapist, or find somebody in your life you trust to be your support system in the very beginning.
Make sure you think through the logistics (who, where, when, and how)
Figure out who you want to tell first. Make sure that you trust that person or people. If you’re nervous about the reaction, having the conversation somewhere that’s safe and neutral can be a good idea. Make sure you have enough time so the conversation isn’t rushed, and it’s a good idea to prepare for and expect questions.
Make sure you’re being intentional
It can be difficult to figure out how to word your actual coming-out conversation. You don’t need to be scripted or formal, but if you feel like you need to write something down, that’s fine.
Try to pace yourself. Giving too much information can be overwhelming to the person you’re speaking to and could leave you feeling uncomfortably vulnerable. Being intentional can help avoid feeling defensive or unduly confrontational.
Make sure you’re ready for reactions
You can’t control how people react. So try to be ready for any response you might get, especially if you think your news will be a surprise to the people you’re telling.
Make sure you remember that first reactions may not be true feelings
To piggyback on the last point, if someone you come out to is surprised by your announcement, remember that their initial reaction may not be how they actually feel.
It can be hard, but try to be willing to give your friends and family a chance to really process what you’re telling them. If this is difficult for you, thinking back to your own self-discovery stage might help.
What to Consider
You should consider as much as possible before you make the decision to come out. Since no two journeys are the same, your experience may result in liberation, like a sense of freedom washing over you, or it might be a little less freeing. Either way, think about some of the following pros and considerations of coming out.
Benefits to coming out
You may find that after you come out, you absolutely love the feeling of being true to yourself. If hiding that you’re trans has been a burden, coming out can let you live the life you’ve always wanted.
You may also get the opportunity to meet others in the trans community, which can offer you the support that you may desperately be seeking or need. You might even feel a sense of power as you educate others and work to break down some of the negative stereotypes that are associated with transgender.
Considerations to coming out
The following can help prepare for anyone coming out.
- First and foremost — it’s essential to make sure you’re safe
- Figure out where and when you’ll have the conversation
- Be sure to let someone know if you want your information to be public or private after you come out to them
- Prepare for the possibility of a transphobic response or LGBTQ bullying
- Think about negative (and positive) reactions you might get
- Be prepared for somebody to try to convince you that you’re not trans
- Think about how you might feel if you’re rejected
- Try to be realistic if you’re considering medical procedures
- Consider the ways you may want to ask for support from the person you tell
- Remind yourself that you have the right to be your authentic self
- Some individuals may need longer to process
- Remember this can be a long process, but a rewarding journey
“Remember, not everyone will understand, and many may have questions you cannot answer. It is okay to end conversations with unsupportive people or tell people that you are still learning about yourself. The most important thing to remember is that you are okay not knowing all the answers. Be patient with yourself.”Talkspace therapist Reshawna Chapple, PhD, LCSW
Ways to come out
There’s no “right” or “better” way when it comes to coming out as trans. You just have to decide what feels the most comfortable to you. You can choose to have intimate conversations, or you could write letters if facing people feels too overwhelming.
For some people, the most difficult part can be knowing how to come out as trans to their parents. Since friends can feel like family, coming out to them can be hard too. You can decide to come out:
- Through a letter
- On a video call
- On social media
- Through email
However you decide to do it, remember how brave and strong you are. Make sure you’re in a safe place. Find the support you might really need.
Taking the steps to come out can be the scariest, and best, thing you ever do in your life.
“Talking to other trans individuals who have come out can help you develop a strategy, and think through what you want to communicate and how to respond, or not respond, to questions. You may also want to speak to the family and friends of trans individuals who have come out about how they felt when their loved one came out to them. The most important thing is to do what feels right to you.”Talkspace therapist Reshawna Chapple, PhD, LCSW
Even if you might not feel like it, there is a lot of support out there for you as you embark on your journey. Emotional support can come from friends, family, online references and sites, support groups, online chat groups, individual or family therapy, teachers, and more.
If you’d like the support of a therapist, learn how to find an LGBTQIA+ friendly therapist with Talkspace today.
- BULLYING AND LGBT YOUTH. Mental Health America; 2014:1-2. https://www.mhanational.org/sites/default/files/BACK%20TO%20SCHOOL%202014%20-%20Bullying%20and%20LGBT%20Youth.pdf. Accessed October 6, 2021.
- Know Your Rights. Lambda Legal. https://www.lambdalegal.org/know-your-rights?gclid=CjwKCAjw2P-KBhByEiwADBYWCh5YAoFKqKQFHiVBzqem_5fk8YEy0yurawKJbvjIZN9b9Jf0hsZ8JRoCjOkQAvD_BwE. Published 2021. Accessed October 6, 2021.