How To Tell Someone You're Transgendered

I often get email asking me, “How do I tell my wife/mother/friend that I’m transgendered?” I find myself at a loss for what to say, because there is no recipe for sharing such a personal part of yourself. Yet I realize that my silence does no good – sharing my experience and insights may perhaps provide a starting point for someone else. There are two caveats I’d like to mention first. This is my experience and is based on what I’ve learnt sharing with my friends and family. Different people will react differently, and different situations will call for a different approach. Use your best judgment on how to tell someone. This advice may not be suitable for crossdressers who aren’t transitioning, or for those who are depend on someone else such as teenagers. Crossdressers should read How To Tell Your Wife You Crossdress, and teenagers should look at Teenage Crossdressers

My Experience Coming Out As A Transgender Woman

It’s easy to theorize on how one should disclose this, it’s much harder to actual share it in practice. One of the reasons I waited so long is because I felt like I had insufficient experience telling people. In a sense I still feel that way. Over the last few years I’ve told my wife, mom, dad, brothers, four close friends, hair dresser, both my electrologists, HR, my managers and a few colleagues.  I haven’t told some less intimate friends and everyone at work yet.

Be certain about your message

When I told my mom I was only 95% certain that I wanted to transition. This was a big mistake. Even though she was supportive, this 5% doubt gave her room to suggest various cures that I should try – from spiritual exorcisms to therapeutic remedies. Even though it came from a place of love and concern for me it wasn’t helpful in my journey. Be certain about what you’re going to tell them. Even if you’re almost sure, take the time to get sure. Your certainty shouldn’t depend on someone else’s reaction anyway, so there is no need to rush.

Be Prepared

Once you know what you’re going to say, be prepared. At a minimum you should have read a transgender book and done some research on the Internet. Rehearse in your mind a few times what you want to say, but don’t stress about getting it exactly perfect – this isn’t speech class. Spend your mental energy on listening to the person you’re telling and taking notice of their non-verbal communication. Empathy and connection will get your further than polished prose.

Set Your Intention

In all likelihood you’re telling this person because they’re important to you. You care about them and trust them with the information you’re about to reveal. Think about what you’d like to happen. Perhaps you want to be yourself around them, and hope that your relationship will grow closer because of it. Whatever your goal is for telling them, keep it in mind. Your intention will come through in your tone of voice, body language and subtle cues. Make it a good intention.

Start with Someone Who Will Accept

Telling someone for the first time can be daunting. Who you tell is just as important as how and when. The first time you tell someone you are going to be nervous, you’re going to forget what you want to say and get asked a question you didn’t anticipate. If you tell someone who is likely to be accepting, they’re also likely to overlook any hiccups and will be flattered that you chose to share with them first. There are no guarantees that someone will accept your transgender revelation, but you probably have a few friends who are likely candidates.

Pick The Right Time, Choose The Right Moment

Timing is important. Ideally you can find a time that you’re alone together or in a relatively private and quiet setting such as a restaurant or coffee shop. I’d recommend a neutral place, so if things don’t go well they don’t feel threatened by your presence in their home (or vice versa). Wait for the moment in your conversation to appear, after the small talk is over and the drinks have arrived. If you told them before meeting that you have something to share they’ll help you create the moment by asking about it.

Don’t use jargon

Transgender, transition, m2f, ffs, hormone therapy – oh my! The person you’re telling likely won’t have a clue what you’re talking about if you pull out the gender jargon. Use concepts they can understand. I usually start off something like, “You’re a good friend, and I value our relationship. I’ve got something I want to share with you that has been part of my life for a long time. I believe I was meant to be a woman, and I’m starting the necessary medical therapy to change my gender.”

Expect a Reaction

And as a corollary, expect a reaction you didn’t expect. Shock, Anger, Concern, Curiosity and a desire to cure you are all common reactions. Don’t be surprised if they react negatively, or even if you get no reaction. They’re still processing the information, give them time. The most common reaction I’ve received is, “I wonder when you were going to tell me”, followed by acceptance. In this regard I’m fortunate, or perhaps fortunate that my subtle hints beforehand were well received.

Good luck sharing such a deeply personal part of yourself!

Comment and let me know about your experience telling others, and any advice you have for the ladies out there.

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About the Author

A woman living in Seattle, enjoying the freedom to be who she is every moment of her life!

10 Enlightened Replies

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  1. genderella says:

    I say prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Fortunately, for me, since I started coming out 20 years ago, I have only lost 1 friend as a result. Many transgendered people are not so lucky. Some lose friends and even have their family turn their backs on them. No one ever knows for sure how anyone is going to react when you come out. For me, everyone I expected to be supportive has been and people I thought would reject me surprised me greatly by being some of my biggest supporters, which gave me greater confidence to continue coming out to others.

    • genderella says:

      One very common reaction I get from people that I have known most of my life is usually a brief moment of silence followed by "Wow, now it all makes sense. I knew there was something different about you but could never figure out what it was, I knew you weren't gay or anything, but knew there was something more to you. This is it! It totally fits you. Somehow it just makes perfect sense to me that you should be a woman."
      That was the reaction I got from my best friend when I told her and it totally floored me when she said it. It felt good that she said it and that she felt that way. We have known each other since we were small kids, we grew up together and have always been very close. After coming out to my ex-wife (before we were married) my best friend was the first person I came out to.
      I was very surprised when other of my older friends gave me the same reaction when I came out to them. that there was something about me that they could not figure out and that, while they never expected it, it made perfect sense to them that I wanted to be a woman and that made everything they had wondered about just fall into place. They all say they knew there was something they could never put their finger on, but this brings all the pieces right together for them.

      • genderella says:

        As far as ways to come out to people, I have always chosen to talk face to face with everyone. Some people I can just come right out and say it, with others, it is much harder. (I have come out to a few people over chat or email only because of the distance and not knowing when we would have a chance to see each other in person to talk)
        I know some crossdressers/TG's at times will elect to write some people a letter when they are expecting a very negative reaction or when they have tried to come out verbally many times and failed. Usually, they will also include a photo or two of themselves dressed as their true gender.
        Sometimes they will mail the letter or leave it with the person they wrote it to for them to read alone. Other times they may just have a hard time getting the conversation started and will hand them the letter and let them read it while they are there with them and then let the discussion begin. Some will write a letter and instead of giving it to the person they are coming out to, they will read it out loud to them and then discuss it.

        • genderella says:

          As I said, I usually tell everyone face to face and that has worked for me. The only person left to tell is my Dad, and I do not expect a very good reaction at all. I want to (and have tried a few times) to come out and tell him, but so far, this has been too hard to do. I have considered writing a letter on this one, but still I feel that I owe it to him to tell him to his face about it. Either way, he will be told soon and I will soon be back into full time transition.

          Some things you have to remember when coming out to anyone are:
          1.) try to do it at the right time and the right place, but also realize that, usually, there is never going to be a "perfect" time.
          2.) no matter how much you rehearse or prepare, you will find that there is no one perfect way to tell someone. You may feel you have it down and then when they are right in front of you everything you have thought about for weeks, months or even years may just fly right out of your head. The only way to do it is just to do it. The first few words are the hardest to get out. Just say it. Just open your mouth and speak. Some things are just hard to tell someone but they have to be said. Even if their reaction is negative, if you have held it in long enough and wanted to tell them, you know the torture you feel by wanting to tell them and feeling that you can't. You will feel much better and so free once you tell them and let it out, even if they don't react well, than if you continue to hide it and allow it to continue building and festering inside of you.

      • Vanessa Law says:

        I've been surprised at how many people have made a similar statement to me – it's ranged from 'it all makes sense' to 'I was wondering when you were going to tell me'. Thanks for your detailed comments hon!

    • Kristian Brandreth says:

      genderella your lucky, I relocated numerous times and have lost contact with my family over my transgender/cross dressing. I am undergoing male-2-female sexual reassignment surgery and have been cross dressing since high school, I made the full time transition to female cross dresser after high school when I left Washington. Now living and working in Las Vegas I have found acceptance, dating is still an issue but workplace discrimination is not tolerated.

      Their our also great transgendered social network system and support groups here in Las Vegas, additionally we fit into the club scene fairly easily, so despite long term relationship issues we are accepted here.

      Kristian Brandreth
      KBrandreth@arialasvegas.com

      • lucinda says:

        I HAVE BEEN CDER FOR MANY YEARS AND STILL IN THE CLOSET WITH IT BUT MY WIFE AND 2 OLDER CHILDERN NOW ABOUT MY FEMININE SIDE. I HAVE ALSO HAD OPEN HEART SURGERY AND ACID RELFEXS DISEASE, DEPRESSION AND AXITY. UNEMPLOYED AND NO ONE WANTS TO HIRE A PERSON WITH HEART TROUBLE. ANYWAYS I AM SEEING A SYCIETRIST I WOULD LIKE TO KNOW IF I SHOULD OPEN UP AND TELL HER ABOUT MY FEMININE SIDE. I DRESS UP TO BE RELAXED AND FREE OF BEING A MALE MODEL IN THE HOUSE WHEN NO ONE IS AROUND AND IT FEELS OUT STANDINGLIY GREAT.ANY SUGUESTIONS ON OPENING UP TO MY SYKITRISTS

  2. genderella says:

    3.) Anyone planning on transitioning full time who is waiting on "The right time" should realize that there is no ideal or perfect time.
    However, I do understand wanting some things in place before beginning the journey. We all have different circumstances that we have to consider. I realized this early on and decided to jump right into my transition. While I was not living full time as a female, I was spending a lot of my time dressed up and being out in public. I was ready to talk with my employer at that time about transitioning at work and was seeking a good therapist and HRT, etc. when my fathers health went really bad. I had not come out to family yet, and While I was not so much worried about his acceptance, I didn't want it to give him a heart attack and kill him, which I literally believe it would have done, so I put transition on the back burner. It has now been about 10 years (give or take) and I have denied myself long enough and he still has health issues, but I believe that he is now strong enough that I can tell him without it killing him, although I know he will not take it well and will likely disown me.
    Anyway, that is my personal situation, because it came between my transition and the life of my father, so I chose to not take a chance and keep my Dad around as long as I could. Happy that he is still with us and doing well and I do not regret sacrificing my true self in that case.
    I am sure others may have situations that leave them with no choice but to hold off transitioning, but you have to evaluate and consider everything as far as if you are waiting for a better time to come out at work, or when you think it will be a better time to be in public dressed and being accepted, or when your family/friends and everyone else may be better accepting and general life situations, you will always be waiting for everything to fall into place and it will never happen. You really have to look at the reasons you may be putting off transitioning and ask yourself if it will really be any different later than it is now.
    With my fathers health and knowing that he is definitely going to be upset, telling him with his heart condition at the time just wasn't the thing to do. and we didn't expect him to make it much longer, so I figured it best to hold off in that case, but the man of many miracles has surprised us all many times and I am grateful to still have him with us.
    As far as normal life situations, people are still people, good and bad, they will all still have reactions, some will stare, point, laugh, etc. work life may be a disruption for a short while, but do your job and do it well and be yourself and it will pass and you will gain acceptance once everyone gets used to the new you. The more you get used to being you, the more everyone else will and the more confidence you will gain. After a while you will stop wondering so much about "what is everyone thinking about me" you'll stop looking around to gauge everyones reactions (which is one of the big things that gives away even the most passable of us) Like anything else, it all takes time and experience before we are comfortable with ourselves around others and that makes it easier for others to be comfortable around us.

  3. lucinda says:

    I HAVE BEEN CDER FOR MANY YEARS AND STILL IN THE CLOSET WITH IT BUT MY WIFE AND 2 OLDER CHILDERN NOW ABOUT MY FEMININE SIDE. I HAVE ALSO HAD OPEN HEART SURGERY AND ACID RELFEXS DISEASE, DEPRESSION AND AXITY. UNEMPLOYED AND NO ONE WANTS TO HIRE A PERSON WITH HEART TROUBLE. ANYWAYS I AM SEEING A SYCIETRIST I WOULD LIKE TO KNOW IF I SHOULD OPEN UP AND TELL HER ABOUT MY FEMININE SIDE. I DRESS UP TO BE RELAXED AND FREE OF BEING A MALE MODEL IN THE HOUSE WHEN NO ONE IS AROUND AND IT FEELS OUT STANDINGLIY GREAT.ANY SUGUESTIONS ON OPENING UP TO MY SYKITRISTS

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