Coming out as transgender will mostly be a long and challenging process. While it has similarities to coming out as lesbian, gay, or bisexual, there are many aspects of being transgender that make it more difficult.
For many people it is easier to wrap their minds around being lesbian, gay, or bisexual than it is for them to understand being transgender. After all, there is no one trait more fundamental to the way people perceive others in our society than that of gender. While many people are still ignorant about LGB people, far more lack correct knowledge about transgender people. Thus, there are more false assumptions to wade through, and more stigmas to overcome. Some see being transgender as more of a choice than being lesbian, gay, or bisexual since people choose to transition. Also, being transgender is much more difficult to hide or ignore with friends and family members, especially if one pursues physical transition. Like coming out as LGB, though, many people need some time to adjust to the new knowledge about their friend or family member’s identity.
There are several important factors to consider when picking the right time to come out. One of the most important things to keep in mind is your financial stability. If there is a strong possibility that your parents would cut off all financial support, waiting until you could have financial independence would be in your best interest. Having a solid job and a financial plan for the worst case scenario is a good place to start.
Also, there may be certain times that people will be more receptive to your coming out than others. For instance, coming out right before a major holiday with one’s family might not be the best option. Coming out at the very beginning of winter or summer break when you will be stuck in your parent’s home for the next month or two may also not be the best idea. However, if one puts off coming out too much, parents will sometimes be much more upset that they were left in the dark for so long. In the end, there probably will not be a time that feels like the “right” time—the trick is to find a time that is not a particularly “bad” one and to go for it.
After coming out to one’s self, it is helpful to start coming out to people that you know will definitely be supportive. In doing so, you can create a supportive network around you so you will have people to rely on when coming out to the more difficult friends and family members. Sometimes, coming out can be very emotionally taxing, so try to pace yourself. You should not feel an obligation to come out to everyone all at once, and you should not feel like you are always obligated to explain yourself. When choosing who to come out to, keep in mind what you want from people and be direct about it. If you want to be addressed by a different name and pronoun in the classroom, obviously you will need to come out to your professor. Coming out to all of your classmates may or may not be an issue.
There are several ways of coming out, and the method you use can be determined by how you communicate best, how close you are to the person to whom you are coming out, and by other circumstances like distance and time frames. If face-to-face confrontations are difficult, writing a letter (whether it is delivered in person then discussed afterward or just dropped in the mail box) is also a great way to come out. E-mail and telephone calls are also possibilities, especially for reaching numerous co-workers, professors, and classmates.
More ideas for coming out in the college setting can be found in Coming Out to Professors and Classmates. A coming out letter to a parent or close friend would probably need to be more personal. Coming out to parents can be one of the most difficult aspects of coming out as transgender. To assist their understanding, it can be helpful to give them materials to read, such as the book True Selves by Mildred Brown and Chloe Ann Rounsley, or P-Flag’s Our Trans Children. There is no one right way or one right time to come out. Each person has a different situation and different needs, so go with whatever works best for you