Coming Out | LGBT youth north west

So, you’ve realised you’re Trans. Your gender identity doesn’t fit what you were designated at birth. Congratulations! Coming out to yourself is the first step on the journey to becoming who you really are. But you may be wondering what you do next. Who do you tell? How do you tell them? And if you’re wanting to medically transition, how do you go about it?

Firstly, the most important thing is to assure yourself that you are perfectly normal. There is nothing wrong with you because you are Trans, and although it may feel like it sometimes, you are not going mad. Also, you are not the only one! There’s a whole Trans community out there, and while you may think that there are no other Transpeople where you live, you may be quite surprised. Transpeople generally live quite happily in society without anyone knowing that they’re there.

Coming out as Trans is different from coming out as lesbian, gay, bisexual or any other sexual orientation. Your sexual orientation is about who you are attracted to and who you want to be with. Being Trans is about your gender identity and your gender expression which is how you present yourself to the world. It is possible to be Trans and also be lesbian, gay, bisexual, pansexual or even straight! Being Trans has no bearing on your orientation. The only difference it may make is that, for example, someone who is attracted to females but transitioning from male to female, may now identify as a lesbian, or if they are transitioning from female to male, they may now identify as straight.

Transpeople are a very small minority and so a lot of people don’t have any information about what it means to be Trans. This can mean that when you come out to someone, you might need to do a lot of explaining about what it is and what it means for you personally. Transpeople are all different and have different experiences, but the one thing they have in common is that they all want to be accepted for who they are.

Some Transpeople have known since they were very young that their gender identity didn’t match their sex, while others don’t realise until they start puberty because their body changes in a way they didn’t expect. There are also those who don’t realise till they are adults or in their 50s, 60s or even older! It doesn’t matter how old you are when you realise or when you decide to do something about it; there is no right or wrong age, or way to be Trans. It’s a very personal thing and only you can decide.

At some point, you will probably want to start telling people that you are Trans, and asking them to call you by a different name or use a different pronoun. There are different ways of coming out to people and a lot of it will depend on your relationship. Some people may be easier to tell face to face, or over the phone. If you feel that you might get sidetracked or get angry/upset, which is easy to do in a conversation, then putting down your thoughts and feelings in a letter can be beneficial. This way you are making sure that you say everything you want to without forgetting something important or getting into an argument. It can also help the person you are coming out to; when they read your letter, they can have their initial – and most likely emotional – reaction without you there, so that when you discuss it further, they will probably have calmed down.

It is difficult to know how people are going to react when you come out to them and that can make it very scary, especially if they are close friends or your parents. You may be afraid that you are going to lose your friends. However, because being Trans is something very few people know about, they may also be afraid that they are going to lose you! The idea of taking hormones and surgery can make people afraid that you are going to change your personality and become a totally different person. Talking through exactly what you intend your transition to include should help you all understand the situation and what is going to happen.

Bear in mind that this is something you’ve probably been thinking about for a long time and so you’ve had chance to get used to the idea of being Trans. The people that you tell may have always known that you’re ‘different’ in some way but will not have given it any further thought so it’s likely to be a big surprise to them. They will need some time to get used to the idea; after all, it probably took you some time to get used to the idea at first too! It is frustrating when people slip up with your new name or choice of pronoun but remember that most of the time, they’re not doing it on purpose. It’s simply that people are creatures of habit and it can take a while to learn to do something new.

“It took my mum over a year, and the change from a terrified, anxious, depressed ‘girl’ to a shy, slightly awkward, but happy man to get used to calling me her son. And I don’t think that was too shabby!” – Robin

So, you’ve come out to yourself, and you’ve started telling people that you’re Trans. What now? If you want to physically transition, that is, take hormones and have surgery, then you will need to visit your GP in order to get the process started. Generally your GP will refer you to a general psychiatrist who will do an initial evaluation before referring you to a Gender Clinic. There are several Gender Clinics throughout the UK and they will take you through the process of getting hormones and surgeries. The length of time this takes can vary, but it can be quite a lengthy process depending on what you want out of your transition. Male to female Transpeople require different surgeries to female to male Transpeople, and usually female to male Transpeople will require more surgeries.

There is also the option of seeing a private doctor rather than using the NHS. They are still able to give you a prescription for hormones and can also refer you for surgery if you want it. Both the NHS and private routes have pros and cons; generally the NHS route is free but can take a long time, while the private route can be faster but quite expensive. As always, it is up to you what you would rather do and how fast you want to do it. Your transition is your choice and you can take as long as you want over it.

During this transition period, you will be required to legally change your name and to start living in your preferred gender. This means living and working – or going to college/university – as your preferred gender. Going out in public as your true self for the first time, or even the first few times, can be very scary. It’s easy to feel nervous and that everyone is looking at you. Once you do actually go out, you will probably feel much better, and realise that most people are just too busy with their own lives to really mind or care, or even notice what you look like. Some people are very pleasant and will go out of their way to be friendly and affirming which can make you feel very good. It does get easier to go out in public as yourself the more you do it, and although you may worry about whether people see you as your true gender or not, most people generally do not bother.

“Maybe it was where I first ‘came out’ – a university city with quite a relaxed feel to it – but I generally found I’d maybe have just one unpleasant encounter in a weekend, and sometimes none, and like I say, you just move on, and remind yourself: it’s some stupid kid, it’s not everyone, and one street later, you’re still you with more sensible people around you.” – Susannah

It’s important to remember that you don’t have to come out. It’s perfectly okay that once you’ve realised you’re Trans to not to tell anyone about it, particularly if there’s a chance that it’s unwise or unsafe to do so. Sometimes it can be better to work on being in a secure position emotionally, physically, financially etc. before you come out. It’s entirely your decision as to when and how you come out and there is no shame in not doing it if you don’t feel ready or able to.

Another good point to bear in mind is that you don’t have to physically transition. Many Transpeople are unable to do so, either for medical or financial reasons, but also a great amount decide against it because it is not something they personally need. It is entirely your choice and deciding not to have hormones or surgery does not make you any less Trans. Some Trans people go on to live happy and fulfiling lives without ever having medically transitioned.