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Coming out as trans* or transsexual

How do I tell others that I have a different gender than the one they assume? How do I decide the extent to which I should come out at all? What can make my coming out easier?

One person chooses to tell her friends after retiring that she’s going to live as a woman from now on. Another knew already in kindergarten and told everyone that he was a boy. In a world that assumes the gender of a person is externally recognizable and remains the same for life, trans*people must “come out”. Often the big coming out with family and friends, in school and at work, is followed by many small moments of self-explanation.

Do I need to be sure that I am trans*?

Trans*people are often expected to display a certain certitude with regard to their gender identity. But they do not need to be sure or to take a clear stance. They are allowed to be hesitant; think about it extensively, follow their gut feeling, go back to their “previous” gender role or maybe choose an entirely different one altogether.

How do I decide if and who I want to come out to?

Your decision whether, when and who to come out to should be made keeping in mind what is good for your quality of life and safety.

Many people fear that they would be discriminated against once they come out and that they would lose important allies or protected spaces. These worries are understandable and can be even more daunting for people who already face racism, poverty or isolation. That explains why some decide to live out their gender identity only in certain spaces.

On the other hand, many trans* people say it is liberating to no longer have to pretend. A coming out may also lead to new relationships or to gaining a deeper understanding of yourself or making new friends. Also, coming out conversations are often more positive than initially feared.

What can help me to come out?

Many people find it useful to ...

  • read autobiographies, interviews or similar testimonies of others’ experiences in coming out;

  • exchange views with others on online-forums, in self-help groups or in counselling;

  • become aware of one’s right to self-determination in regard to gender;

  • use flyers or films to help prepare others so they can avoid lengthy explanations when coming out;

  • take as much time as they need.

How can I deal with negative reactions?

It can be hurtful and unfair when people react negatively or are sceptical to your coming out as a trans* person. Hence, it’s important to remember that you’re not the cause for such defensive reactions; but rather the other person. Try to spend your time with people and activities that empower you.