Coming out is the most important step if you are a minor considering a gender transition. Before you come out to your family, read this section and check out this page of questions to consider before coming out.
June 25, 2019: I am rewriting this. Sorry about the mess!
They think it’s their fault
- They will think it’s because they are
- too mean or too nice to you
- gave you too many rules or too few rules
- let you play with a gendered toy
- dressed you in gendered clothing
- gave you a gendered hairstyle
- let you do a gendered activity
They are religious
- Many religious families mix up gender identity and sexual orientation.
- Some religious families may be OK with being trans but not being gay.
- They might quote from a religious text like the Bible or make you see a religious leader like a minister.
- Some religious families will try to make you go to someone who will “cure” you.
- I have a page on faith with more information.
They thought they knew everything about you
- Families often feel they know every detail about your life.
- Coming out to them can be a shock sometimes.
They fear the unknown
- Your family cares about you. They may worry about what would happen if you transition. They worry you won’t be happy.
- They worry they cannot protect you from bad things that might happen.
They’re afraid what others will think of THEM
- Many parents do this. They worry what other people might say about them.
- Extended family
- Their friends
- People at work
- People in your faith
They think you’ve been brainwashed
- They will think you were tricked into believing you are this way.
- They will think a movie or show or comic or game turned you this way.
- They will think you have the fake disease “rapid onset gender dysphoria”
- They will think you have some other issue causing this, like being gay, or autistic, or shy, and so on.
Random thoughts about coming out
- Sometimes in life we end up displeasing our parents. Often that’s OK, even necessary.
- We can’t pick our parents, and they can’t pick us.
- Some parents might use threats like kicking you out of the house, cutting you off financially, or even physical abuse. Some might even threaten suicide in an attempt to control you. However, there are things beyond their control, which can be very troubling for them. When you are under 18 and living at home, you are completely in their control. That means you have to work within their control.
- Many people fear change, even if it would be change for the better. Not just parents, either. You might, too.
- You should count on ZERO support from your parents, financially or emotionally. Do everything you can to get their support, but don’t assume it’s going to happen for sure. It may take time and effort. If they come through, it will be a pleasant surprise. Don’t count on it until you’re done, though.
- You obviously love and accept your family despite some of their characteristics. They should reciprocate for you. If they don’t, then something is getting in the way of their unconditional love.
- Transition requires realistic expectations and self-acceptance. You must be OK with who you are before you come out to your parents. Without realistic expectations and self-acceptance, your coming out and your transition will not succeed.
- Many TSs spend so much of their lives trying to please others that they don’t take the time to look inward and do what would please themselves.
- If you know in your heart that you should transition and have no doubts, then you should share this with your parents in a carefully planned way
Coming out tips
If you are under 18 or still dependent on your parents (living at home or receiving money from them), you will always get further along faster with your parents on your side. Coming out to your parents is an important step. It’s the only way you’ll be able to get anti-androgens before you’re 18 without going through non-legal means.
Some girls have a fantasy that they will make a lot of progress without their parents finding out. This is usually untrue, especially if you are seeking therapy or medical stuff like hormones. There comes a point where you can’t get any further without telling your parents.
However, you must plan this very carefully.
1. Read Ten things you can do before your parents know
2. Read the FAQ for coming out to parents
3. W Ma Vie En Rose
- Ma Vie En Rose (My Life In Pink). It’s in French with English subtitles, so you have to do some reading, but it’s pretty easy to follow. If you identify with Ludo in the story, it might be a good way to help your parents understand that you have felt like this for a very long time. Some parents understand how their child feels after seeing this movie.
- It’s $11 (used) on amazon.com. You can probably find it in a larger video store, too. Call before you go over. Might be the best $20 or $30 bucks you ever spend.
4. Read “Mom, I need to be a girl“
Some parents do better when they see that other parents have been through this, and that the ending was happy.
NOTE: If your parents are super-religious, be careful of p. 5! From a reader:
Just a little warning about this book. I actually purchased the book and gave it to my parents to read. At the very beginning of the book on page 5, there is the following paragraph:
“My children were brought up without God even though I had no idea how to raise children without religion. I was raised in a conservative Christian home where sin, punishment and guilt seemed to be waiting around every corner. It is my belief that I am responsible for my actions. If there is a God, He does not need my adoration or my money. I don’t believe that He is involved in the day to day happenings of every person’s life. I did like to think there was a strong feminine force up there somewhere watching over my children when they were out of my sight, a heavenly grandmother.”
While I was forgiving enough to overlook this paragraph, my parents were not. Everything that followed that paragraph just about fell on deaf ears and I don’t think they read much beyond it. I can’t say that I recommend this book to religious parents who are trying to understand what their child is going through. If that paragraph wasn’t in there, it would not have been a problem and perhaps my parents would have been more open minded to Evelyns experiences.
What you can do if you think it might bother your parents: delete that paragraph out of your copy.
Even though your parents may present a unified front sometimes, they are two separate people and will each have different reactions and opinions about your news. They may be pretty much in agreement, or they could be in almost complete disagreement.
People go through five stages when they get certain kinds of unexpected news (like their child telling them they are TS): shock, denial, guilt, expression of feelings, personal decision-making, true acceptance. Your parents are in shock/denial. Because you’ve told them how you feel, you’ve started them down the path to acceptance.
Both your mom and your dad will go through these stages differently.
You might get a sense from your parents that one is more resistant than the other. I’d recommend trying to talk to the parent who is more likely to come around first.
1. Talk to them one on one
I suggest speaking with each of your parents separately, when you have a lot of time alone together. Pick a time when one of them is out, and you’ll have an afternoon or evening to talk one on one. Make sure that both you and your parent aren’t angry or stressed. The main thing is to keep the conversation calm. You also want to speak from the heart, but be sure to come across as reasonable. If you act in a way your parents think is irrational or purely emotional, it will hurt your ability to make them understand.
Make it clear you are always happy to answer any questions as honestly as you can.
2. Let them deal with it when they feel up to it
That doesn’t mean keep letting them blow it off. You have to maintain gentle but steady pressure for them to continue thinking about it. One of the best ways is to give them some stuff they can look over on their own. This allows them to deal with it when they are ready. I suggest having a tape of Ma Vie En Rose you can leave them, and a copy of “Mom, I need to be a girl.” You might also leave them a web link to Lynn Conway’s list of TS Successes, or any other information you think might help reduce their fears and anxieties about your feelings.
3. Write them a letter you can leave them after you’ve talked.
You might consider writing a letter that they can read when you aren’t around. Tell them that you love them and you understand that this is all very difficult. Tell them how you feel, and share some moments from your childhood that made you realize there was something going on.
I especially recommend telling your parents about a few early memories of how you have always felt you should be a girl. Many parents are amazed to learn that this isn’t something that just came up. most TSs have very specific memories from early childhood. Describe some of these to them in detail. For instance, I told my mom and dad one of the happiest moments of my life when I was 5 or 6 happened in the emergency room at the hospital. I had gotten my finger stuck in a piece of metal, and they had to use a ring cutter to remove the metal. The nurse was going on about what a pretty girl I was. Obviously, my parents remember that night, so when they connected how young I was then with the story of the nurse, it helped them understand a bit more.
I also told them about a time we were watching a magic show on TV and the magician did a trick where he disappeared, and female singers appeared in his place. I was probably about 4 or 5, and I though, Oh my gosh– I didn’t know there was a magic way to become a girl! I have to learn that trick! They said that explained why I’d been bugging them about learning to do magic tricks.
4. Try to help them ease their fears
The main thing you are trying to do is show your parents that transsexuals do exist, but that your parents probably have the wrong idea about them. People often fear things they don’t understand. People who don’t think about transsexualism as much as we do can’t even imagine what it’s like to feel the way you do. In fact, they will probably never fully understand. What you want to do is help them understand that being transsexual is very rare, but it’s really just a trait, like being left-handed, or being tall.
Once they get past their basic fears, they will have to deal with issues of how they will be perceived by others. For them,this is as scary as it is for you to come out to your parents. They are afraid that neighbors, coworkers and friends will think that you’re the way you are because of something they did (which is silly). This will take a lot longer to deal with. My own mom is still nervous about that kind of stuff. In my case, it helped that they retired and moved, so now no one knew me before. When I first went to my parents’ new church, people told my mom that her daughter is very lovely, and that really helped her get over many of her problems.
5. Try to get into therapy
If your parents can afford it, you should try to get into therapy. Once you have a therapist you like and trust, maybe your parents can come along. For many parents, hearing a therapist’s opinion is the thing that finally helps them turn the corner and come to terms with their TS child.
If your parents cannot afford a private therapy, you might see if they’ll let you get involved with a local gay and lesbian teen outreach program. These places often have access to therapy at reduced rates.
If at all possible, you should try to get on an anti-androgen, and this usually has to be done with medical supervision. It probably won’t be possible without your parents’ support, so it’s important to keep steady pressure on them to deal with how you feel. Don’t nag or whine or scold, but let them know this is not a passing fancy, and that it’s not going to go away.
Things you can do while still living at home
- Do well in school. That can let you:
- Learn a trade on a scholarship
- Go to college on a scholarship
- Doing well in school means
- better job options
- jobs with more money
- better insurance options
- Start working as much as you can and saving money.
- Even an $8 an hour job 20 hours a week will earn you about $8,000 in just one year. There are lots of things you can do. Ask neighbors if you can
- walk dogs
- yard work
- cleaning houses
- raking leaves
- shoveling snow
- feed their pets
- wash cars
- make crafts you can sell
- sell things at a yard sale
- allowance for chores
- help at family business
- Just make sure you keep your research materials where they won’t be seen by your parents.
- Start practicing now– it takes a while to get it right. Make sure to practice where your parents won’t hear you, and be sure to hide your practice materials.
- You should spend some time deciding on your name. Read my section on that.
- If you want long hair after transition, start growing it out all one length.
- If you want short hair slowly get it cut in shorter styles over time. It might help to let family know first.
- Some styles and colors may make your family ask questions before you are ready to come out.
- Take good care of it. Moisturize and use lots of sunscreen, and avoid the sun. Wash your face twice a day and exfoliate. You’ll thank me later.
- If you say you’re just very depressed, you might be able to get therapy without your parents suspecting about gender stuff. However, they will certainly want to talk to you about how you feel, and this can lead to some intense questioning sometimes.
- Transfeminine and genderqueer + people should get this started on your face as soon as possible. It might be hard to find someone who will work on a person under 18 without parental permission, but check around.
- This will definitely raise suspicions, and it can cost a lot of money
- It is much better to take hormones with your family’s knowledge and consent.
- It is much safer to take hormones with a prescription.
- You can get hormones without your parents’ knowledge.
- Planned Parenthood may be able to help.
- The nearest large city may have programs for someone your age.
- I do not recommend self-administering hormones, but if you are considering it,
- on the street (can be expensive and might be fake)
- through overseas pharmacies (can be expensive, might be fake, sometimes stopped at the border).
- See my pages on how to set up a mailbox and obtaining hormones as a minor if you feel this is a step that is right for you.
The Trevor Project (thetrevorproject.org)
- Coming out as You (PDF)
Here’s a great FAQ page you can send your parents to or print out. http://www.pflag.org/index.php?id=12
OutProud has a copy of a great brochure. http://www.outproud.org/brochure_coming_out.html
The Human Rights Campaign has a HUGE section on coming out. http://www.hrc.org/Content/NavigationMenu/Coming_Out/Get_Informed4/Coming_Out3/Index.htm
Questions to consider before coming out http://pflag.ineb.org/comeout.html