Coming out is the biggest social step if you are a young person who wants to make a gender change. You need to plan how to do it right.
Before you come out to your family, read this part.
Things you can do before you come out
- Do well in school. That can let you:
- Learn a trade on a scholarship
- Go to college on a scholarship
- Doing well in school can mean
- better job choices
- jobs with more money
- better insurance choices
- Start earning and saving money.
- Even if you are not out, saving money now will help later.
- If you are not out, make sure you keep your research materials and history where they will not be seen by others.
- If you want a different voice, you can start now– it takes a while to get it right. Make sure to work on it where others will not hear you.
- You should spend some time choosing a name.
- If you want long hair later, start growing it out all one length now.
- If you want short hair, slowly get it cut in shorter styles over time. It might help to let your family know you are going to cut it.
- Some styles and colors may make your family ask questions before you are ready to come out.
- Take good care of it. Use lots of lotion and sunscreen, and avoid the sun. Wash your face twice a day. You will thank me later.
- You can start therapy before you are out.
- If you say you are just sad or worried, you might be able to get therapy where you can figure out the best choices for you.
- Some therapists are better than others about gender stuff. If you do not like your first one, you might be able to change.
- Your family may want to talk to you about how you feel. They might ask a lot of questions.
Hormone blockers and hormones
- 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 how to get hormones if you feel this is a step that is right for you.
- Transfeminine and gender diverse people should start 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
They think it is their fault
- They will think it is 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 have strong faith
- Many faiths mix up gender identity and sexual orientation.
- Some faiths may be OK with being trans but not being gay.
- They might quote from a holy text like the Bible or make you see a faith leader like a minister.
- Some faiths 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 thing about your life.
- Coming out to them can be a shock sometimes.
They fear what will happen
- Your family cares about you. They may worry about what would happen if you transition. They worry you will not be happy.
- They worry they cannot protect you from bad things that might happen.
They are afraid what others will think of THEM
- Many parents do this. They worry what other people might say about them.
- Family who does not live with you
- Their friends
- People at work
- People in your faith
They think you have been tricked
- They may think a movie or show or comic or game or friend made you feel this way.
- They may think you have the fake disease “rapid onset gender dysphoria“
- They may think something else made you feel this way, like being gay, or autistic, or shy, and so on.
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 trans): 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 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 of us 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 thought, 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 we 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 gender 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 trans 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 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.
The Trevor Project (thetrevorproject.org)
- Coming Out (PDF)
Teen Vogue (teenvogue.com)
MCC Transgender Ministries (mccchurch.org)
LGBT Youth Scotland (lgbtyouth.org.uk)
- Coming Out (PDF)