What Comes Next: 5 Tips To Prepare Yourself For Coming Out As Trans

I (officially) came out twice in my life: once as pansexual, in August of 2017, and once as a transmasculine enby (“enby” being short for “nonbinary), in June of 2018.

Coming out as pan was, for someone like me with a strong support system, a lot like a flu shot: one pinch and then all over. I stammered my way through a dinnertime explanation with my family, made a couple of social media posts (because after figuring it out, I did not plan to hide it any longer) and that was more or less that.

Coming out as trans was nothing even close to that.

My coming out has been fairly recent, and my journey of self-discovery is not the same as everyone else’s. But here are five tips that may help you along in your own journey, experience, and self-discovery.

WARNING: If you feel it may place your life or your well-being in danger, I CANNOT recommend coming out. Feeling stuck in the closet can be miserable, but keeping up your livelihood and health are imperative—and as awful as that is to hear, a living, healthy trans person is always better than the alternative.

#1: People Can Surprise You…

...in both positive and negative ways. When I came out as Ben, my 87-year-old grandpa sent me an incredibly touching email, detailing how I was still his grandchild and how he still loved me dearly. Given that he had very much grown up with the gender binary fully enforced, it meant a great deal to me that he had reached out to let me know that my trans identity had no effect on his love for me.

On the other hand, when I came out to my parents—both liberal people who consider themselves deeply progressive, as well as people who love me very much—they had a difficult time accepting it. My father, at one point, even admitted to me that if it had been one of his friends who was transitioning, he likely would have felt fine about it—the troubling part, for him, was that it was his kid. Given that I had anticipated full support from my immediate family, this threw me for a loop, and hit me harder than it might have otherwise. People, sometimes, may act exactly how you expect them to—and sometimes might not. Whichever it is, it can be helpful to brace yourself for any reaction—that way, whether the response is negative or positive, you’re at least fully prepared for the impact.

 

 

#2: Dysphoria Blues

For me, pre-coming out, I would get occasional—but very painful—attacks of dysphoria. At the time, I had no idea what they were, and figured that it was just a side effect of having a less-than-stellar body image. It was always extremely unpleasant, but the one good thing was that it was always vague—I knew something felt intrinsically wrong, but I couldn’t put my finger on it.

The first time that dysphoria hit me, post-coming out, it was still awful—only now, it was very, very specific, as well.

Dysphoria is never an enjoyable thing at any stage of a transition. Luckily, there are ways to beat it back—and for me, that is much easier now that I’m out. Physical objects such binders, makeup, or clothes that you feel emotionally comfortable in can be a great help, as well as doing your best to mentally validate yourself: remember, no matter how you identify, you are valid, you are enough, and things are going to get better. Worsening dysphoria is not an uncommon phenomenon—but you’re not entirely powerless against it, either.

 

 

#3: External Validation

The other good news about combating dysphoria while out is that you’re validated a lot more by the environment around you.

I came out to my friends and family about a month before I came out to my workplace, mainly due to nerves and a lack of knowledge about how to bring it up. But the difference in my emotional health before and after was practically palpable—being called Ben by a group of people I saw every day felt incredibly validating, even when other people in my life were having difficulties getting used to it. And for me, there was nothing in the world like hearing my chosen name said aloud. For the first few weeks, I would start whenever anyone addressed me as Ben—I’d spent so long calling myself by that name in my head that at first it felt more like they were reading my mind than anything.

External validation also often leads to internalizing that validation—and feeling yourself slowly begin to like yourself more and more. Yeah, that’s a beautiful emotion right there.

 

 

#4: Take A Breather

One of the things that I wish someone had told me after I came out is how exhausting it was to open up about a huge, largely secret, part of myself to everyone in my life. In retrospect, it’s obvious—why wouldn’t that be exhausting?—but in the moment, I was totally unprepared for the energy crash that came afterwards.

Be prepared, after you come out, to give yourself a break. Eat ice cream out of the tub; watch your favorite movie; order takeout; take a long nap. Whatever works best for you. But you’re making a big transition from hiding a big part of yourself to being out in the open about it—and that, in my experience, often takes a ton of energy. Be kind to yourself.

 

 

#5: Nothing Stays The Same Forever

Like I mentioned above, at first, my parents had issues regarding my name and identity. That hurt, at first, and it definitely changed our relationship.

But they still tried to get my name and pronouns right, and to introduce me as their kid, instead of their daughter. And then they started to get it more right than not; I felt, at least, that as time went by, they began to see me for who I really was.

This is not to say, by the way, that you should put up with transphobia in the hopes that it will improve with time. Your emotions are valid, your health is important, and you should not feel like you have to bend over backwards or apologize for your identity in order to be accepted. You deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.

That being said, people can (sometimes) change—they can come to the realization that perhaps the way they’ve been behaving is unacceptable, and they may attempt to make amends. The way you handle that, of course, is entirely up to you—you are the one who knows them best. But if you feel, like I did in the first few days, that nothing will ever change in your circumstances and that you’re going to feel tired and outcast forever, it is always possible for change to occur. The situation that you’re in right now may not be the situation forever.

 

 

The most important thing I can impart is that although there are struggles and trials for everyone—and every trans person’s experience is different—being out almost always comes with a huge feeling of relief; a pressure off your chest, or a weight off your shoulders. There will be a lot to come—hopefully mostly good—but whatever else, you are no longer pretending to be anything you’re not. And that, in my opinion, is one of the best things a person can experience.