here is my short two cents on coming out:
With today being Coming Out Day, you'll see ceremonies and events all over the country that will be primarily focused on the LGB end of the community rainbow. For the trans end of the spectrum, coming out has a different twist to it.
When people come out as lesbian, bi or gay, they are still the son or daughter that their parents brought home from the hospital that day. But when you come out as trans, it means that's akin to a death in the family.
The child they once knew will eventually be morphing into an outward gender presentation different from the one they brought home from the hospital. Those parents will have to get used to that morphed body over time just as it took the trans person involved a certain amount of years to come to grips with the reality they are trans.
We trans people are the only part of the rainbow community that have to pay for the privilege of being ourselves. In addition to having to go through medical and surgical intervention, there's also wading through the paper trail we have piled up and changing those identity documents to reflect who we are now.
I don't want to underestimate how liberating it is for a trans person to come out to family, friends and allies. It does wonders to lift the burden of carrying that tremendous secret off our psyches so we can begin to openly and honestly live our lives.
But a dose of reality as you make this life changing decision, especially if you're planning to do so under the euphoric environment of National Coming Out Day.
If you're a trans person of color, it's even tougher to come out and I understand that reticence to do so. When we average two transwomen of color killed every month, 70% of the names we read during every Transgender Day of Remembrance are Black and Latina, and we have the unwoman meme and disrespect hurled at us on a regular basis, it's enough to make you pause.
We've only started getting the attention we deserved in the tail end of the last decade. The Trans Persons of Color Coalition was founded in 2010, and we still have to fight tooth and nail just to get any kind of positive visibility or media attention for our role models and our issues.
Coming out for trans people of all ethnicities is tempered with the knowledge that we still have a long way to go to achieve trans human rights in this country We still have a lot of education we have to do even with recalcitrant hardheads in our rainbow family and within trans circles about what being trans is.
And I'm proud to be an African descended #girllikeus. That outweighs whatever negatives connected with our coming out decision.
But to get to the point where I, Janet Mock, Isis King, Kylar Broadus and countless other trans brothers and transsisters are, the first step is coming out and living your life openly and honestly. You need to not only do so for yourself when you feel comfortable and confident in yourself to do so, frankly the trans community needs you to do so as well.
The rest of being trans we can deal with one day at a time..
I think it’s important to start with thinking about the purpose of your communication, and that is just to come out to them, to come out of hiding and let them know who you are and what you’ve been struggling with. I’m making the assumption that you also wish to remain as close as possible to your family, and be accepted and hopefully supported by them in the future.
There’s also the question of if you should come out at all. If you are dependent on your parents/family (under 18, or if they are paying for college, etc…) then you need to think of the very real possibility of their cutting you out or off. The last thing you want to be is a homeless transgendered youth. If this is the case, then it may be wiser to spend some time finding and getting support before proceeding.
If you decide that the time is right and it’s safe to come out to them then…
My experience has been with Transgendered clients, that a letter works best. The letter has several advantages over face to face communications.
You get to take your time and think about what to say and word it perfectly.
You can have a friend, therapist or supportive person read it over first and give you feedback.
You can’t be interrupted.
The recipient can go back and read it again and take their time with it.
Why a letter and not an email? Well, it’s more personal, email can be a little cold.
I’m of the school of thought that you should just say it in your own words as clearly and plainly as possible. I think it can be good to also include the following:
Reassurance that you love them and want to remain connected and hope that they will be supportive.
Reassurance that this is not their “fault”.
A little bit about your struggle with gender over the years, your experience, coping, isolation, etc… (be specific! It will help them empathize with you)
A few recommendations of books, articles or support groups in their area and I recommend to ask them specifically not to respond right away, but to take some time (a week) before they respond. Let them sit with it. This will weed out any immediate bad response and let them cool down.
Just as you would tailor a cover letter for a job you may need to tailor your coming out letter for different family members. Your parents are two (or maybe more than two) separate people, invite them to respond individually.
No need to talk about specific long term plans/timetables or surgeries in your coming-out letter. Remember, the purpose of the letter is to let your family know that you are transgendered. Period. Future plans are better left for future communications. Why? Because just digesting the fact that one has a trans son/daughter/brother/sister is enough to begin with. Remember, you’ve had a lot of time to think about this and are ready to move ahead. They are just learning of this for the first time and need to absorb it. I think its ok to gently allude to the fact that changes might be coming in the future, but I wouldn’t go father than that in your first communication on this topic.
There is no need to go into the etiology of transsexualism here. There are too many conflicting theories biological and otherwise, and even if you knew the origin of your being transgendered, it wouldn’t change it.
If you get a positive response that’s great! Otherwise stay calm, even if you get a negative first response. Give them time.
Don’t be reactive to a negative response. Be the adult (or if you don’t feel it, just pretend). Remember the long term goal is to have them be connected to you and supportive. Keep the long term goal in mind in all your communications with them.
It does happen sometimes that parents have a very negative response and even reject you outright. This can be very hurtful and disappointing. When this happens, again, don’t be reactive no matter how you feel. Keep the long term goal in mind. It’s easy to “write them off”, but ultimately unsatisfying if you want to have your family.
Communicate that you are open and ready to talk when they are,
Be empathic with their difficulty in accepting/understanding/assimilating this information. Understand that they need time and may have a religious/cultural basis of understanding that can’t be overcome quickly.
Express your wish and hope that it will change over time.
Ask what you can do to help them accept this?
You know your family best, so keep that in mind when crafting your coming out communication.
Here are some other perspectives on how to come out to your family:
coming out, hormone, surgery, and other letters
http://www.videojug.com/interview/how-to-come-out-to-your-family-and-friends-as-transgender video ‘How To Come Out To Your Family And Friends As Transgender’
Article ‘Coming Out to Family as Transgender’ from The Human Rights Campaign
Transsexual Road Map – Family issues
Check out the "Coming Out" tab immediately below this post for previous entries on the subject.
Peace and tolerance and safe and cathartic coming out!!!!!!!!!!