Part 3: Coming out as Transgender

Note: Transgenderism is not linked to sexuality, however both involve having to “come out” and tell friends and family about aspects of your identity they may not have been aware of. A process which would be made easier if children were educated about transgenderism at a younger age, during sex education. It is likely that coming out as transgender would be less daunting and the transition would be slightly easier if children were taught about transgenderism at school, enabling them to understand their identities at an earlier age.

Here is an interview about one woman’s experience coming out as transgender.

How and when did you come out?

I first came out to a close friend at University in early 2014. I was 18 at the time and had only recently accepted it myself. Although it wasn’t until about December 2015 that I started to come out to the rest of my friends and family.

What would have made it easier to tell people?

I think having prior knowledge about what my friends and family think about transgenderism would have made it easier to tell them. So having conversations about trans* issues would have assured me that they wouldn’t have a problem, I didn’t expect any of them to react negatively but I had heard loads of stories where trans people were outed by “friends” at work and on social media. It’s unfortunately not a topic which comes up in conversation very often, but there were a few friends with whom I spoke about trans* issues quite a bit. Also it would have been easier if there wasn’t so much nonsense about transgender people being spread by people like Germaine Greer and Jeremy Clarkson, but thankfully attitudes are changing.

Did people react in the way you expected?

My family have been completely supportive, as I expected. In fact, I’ve even had messages from some relatives with advice and links to transgender support and supplies websites. All of my friends have been incredibly supportive, some of them have helped me so much through my transition and I’m very grateful. You know who you are and I can’t thank you enough.

What reactions have you had?

One reaction which I’ll never forget happened when I had a phone call regarding my referral to the Gender Identity Clinic. I was with a friend at the time who didn’t know I was transgender, he realised it was an important phone call and when it ended he asked what it was about. We were in public at the time so I said I’d tell him if he came over to mine later in the afternoon. So that afternoon he came over rather promptly and after a minute of building up courage I told him. He responded with “Oh thank God!”, which confused me at first but he then explained that he thought I’d been diagnosed with a terminal illness or something, and then he started crying with relief. In a way it was rather sweet, because clearly transgenderism wasn’t an issue to him and he was more concerned about me having an actual serious illness. I haven’t had any negative reactions thankfully, so I think I’ve been very lucky.

Are there any questions that you wish people would stop asking?

Questions about my genitals. With close friends and my family, I don’t mind if they ask me such questions because I tell them they can ask me anything, no matter how stupid they think it sounds, but that’s only because they’re close to me and I know they actually care about me. When it comes to strangers asking such questions it’s generally more because they’re just curious about it, and frankly it’s none of their business. Also questions about my sexual orientation are frustrating, because again it’s nobody’s business, plus gender identity and sexual orientation are unrelated.

Are there any simple changes we could make to make it easier for transgender people to start presenting and telling others?

Spreading awareness about transgenderism would make it easier for people to come out, as seeing that people are supportive will make trans people more comfortable telling others. Also it is never too early to tell your children about transgenderism, it won’t confuse them. What will confuse them is telling them that your gender is determined by your genitals until they’re 12 years old and then telling them it’s not.

What advice would you give someone who is still presenting as a gender they don’t identify as?

Tell a close friend or family member, I know it’s easier said than done but if they really matter they won’t care what gender you are. If you think coming out would make life harder for you then you’re wrong, it’s far worse trying to ignore the pain of living a lie for the rest of your life – I’m much happier now that I’ve come out. Go to your GP as soon as possible, I know this can be daunting but it’ll be worth it in the long run – the main regret transgender people have is that they didn’t come out sooner. Don’t be afraid to be the best version of yourself!