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.
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.