Almost five years ago, I came out as transgender to my family, friends, and, eventually, my broader community. I was blessed with a warm and welcoming response from those who loved me. Since announcing my news and living openly, I’ve met countless transgender people and heard a range of coming out experiences.
In honor of National Coming Out Day on Oct. 11, here are some helpful tips that I’ve picked up along the way for anyone coming out as transgender, gender non-conforming or gender fluid.
There is no wrong way to be you.
When I came out, I worried that some people wouldn’t believe me unless I conformed to their preconceived notions of a “trans narrative.” But the most important thing to remember is that there is no one way to be trans. Do and say what feels right for you. You are the best expert on who you are and what you need.
Part of preparing yourself is doing as much research as you can and thinking about answers to questions you anticipate coming up. Mostly, though, prepare yourself for diverse responses. Even the most supportive reactions may not be as positive or enthusiastic as you hope. Unfortunately, some reactions may be as negative as you might fear and it is important to seek out community and support for those challenging times.
While not everyone who is trans will transition medically, if you do, take some time to research medical professionals in your area. Some of you may live in areas with limited options, but it is important to explore your options. Oftentimes we must be our own advocates in health care settings. For more information on health care and providers, you can visit the Gay & Lesbian Medical Association or check out HRC’s transgender resources.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to other trans people.
While not every out transgender person is able to provide mentorship and guidance, do not be afraid to seek out other transgender people for help. Often we are afraid to ask for others’ time, but I’ve found that there is a strong “pay it forward” belief in the community. Gaining insights and advice from a handful of trans people who had walked that path before me provided invaluable help as I began to chart my own course.
Know the policies and laws in your area.
When you are preparing to come out, research the policies in your workplace or school, including their nondiscrimination policy and insurance plan. It is also helpful to know the laws in your city or state. Many places have passed gender identity protections, which may provide recourse should you face mistreatment or discrimination along the way.
Each of us live out our lives with various privileges, challenges, and unique circumstances. Every journey is different. But as you take the steps to have the world see and respect you as the person you are, know that you are worthy, you are valued, and there are people – many of whom you may never know – who are fighting to make this world a little better, safer, and more welcoming for all of us. None of us are alone.