Coming out as transgender to friends and family can range from scary and difficult to exciting and liberating. It’s different for everyone. There’s no one right way to come out.
What does it mean to “come out”?
Coming out as transgender may mean that you tell people about your preferred pronouns (if you wish to be referred to as he/him, she/her, they/them, etc.). It may also mean that you ask people to call you by a new name and to think of you by the gender identity that you’re comfortable with.
Coming out as trans is a very personal decision and different for everyone. Some people choose to come out before they medically or socially transition, and some choose to come out after or during the process. You may choose to come out to different people at different times, or to not come out to some people at all. All of this is okay — only you can decide what’s right for you.
Although both involve telling friends and family about your identity, there are differences between coming out as lesbian, gay, or bisexual and coming out as transgender. A lot of people know what it means for a person to be gay, but there’s still a lot of confusion and misinformation out there about what it means to be trans.
And sometimes coming out or being outed as transgender can mean your identity is misunderstood, disrespected, or disbelieved.
If you choose to come out as transgender, make sure it's to people you trust and that you have a support system in place. This can include friends, family, or a support group. It's important to feel as confident as possible that coming out won't jeopardize your safety, health, or living situation.
How do I come out to my parents and friends?
There’s no one correct way to come out to your family and friends. You're the expert in what feels right to you, and who it feels safest to tell.
Here are some general tips for coming out:
When you decide that you’re ready to come out, give yourself time to think through how you’ll do it and what you’ll say.
Figure out the people or person in your life that you think will be the most supportive, and come out to them first. You can often get a sense of how friendly someone is to transgender people by watching how they react when the topic comes up in conversation.
Do some research so that you have information about being trans, in case they have questions or don’t know all the facts.
Some people are more comfortable writing a letter or e-mail rather than coming out in person.
After you decide who you’ll come out to, what you’ll say to them, and how you’ll say it, be prepared to wait as they digest and accept the new information. Give them the time they need to think about and try to understand what you’re going through.
Sometimes it takes people awhile to get comfortable with your new pronouns or name, and they may make mistakes when referring to you, even if they don’t mean to.
Don’t assume that everyone will react negatively. Some people may surprise you with their openness and acceptance.
The Human Rights Campaign's Transgender Visibility Guide is a good, step-by-step resource for helping you come out as trans and also includes information to help the people in your life understand your identity.
Where can I find support if I’m transgender?
You can find support in a lot of places, including:
Other transgender people who may share their experience of coming out or transitioning
Online communities of trans folks
Transgender support groups at your local LGBTQ community center
Cisgender people who are allies to trans people
Not everyone lives in a place that has lots of trans people or an LGBTQ community center. If this is your situation, check the Internet for communities and support.