Coming out can be a difficult process. Many transgender people worry about how other people will react and how they'll treat them once they find out.
For many people, coming out means that they can be honest about how they feel and not hide that part of themselves.
Realising that you're trans
The first stage of coming out is acknowledging to yourself how you feel about your gender. This isn't always straightforward.
Some trans people feel clear about their gender identity from a young age. But for others, it's less obvious, and how they feel about their gender may shift over time.
Acknowledging how you feel about yourself sometimes involves overcoming feelings of shame, guilt or fear of disapproval.
If you feel a persistent discomfort about your gender and you can't work it out on your own, psychological therapy or counselling may help. Ask your GP what help is available in your area.
Who to tell about coming out as trans
When you're coming out for the first time, it's best to tell someone who you trust and who will be supportive and understanding. This may be a close friend, a parent, a partner or another relative.
Coming out as trans positively
TransBareAll and The Gender Trust, both organisations that support trans people, offer the following tips:
- Make contact with other people in a similar situation because this can build your confidence. If you know people who would understand, you'll be in a better position to tell others.
- Try to act confidently even if you don't feel confident.
- Talk to people you trust, and don't tell everyone at once.
- Be prepared for questions, and make sure that you have as much information as possible to answer questions.
- If you tell someone who is close to you and they have a negative reaction, give them space. Try to put yourself in the position of the people you tell, especially partners. Your news can affect how they feel about themselves and about their sexuality, as well as how they feel about you.
- Be patient but persistent if you want someone to call you by a different name and pronoun.
- Work out what's right for you, not what's right for other trans people. Be open to your feelings and needs changing over time.
After coming out as trans
"By the time you decide to come out, you've already had time to process how you feel," says Jay McNeil of TransBareAll.
"You need to give other people time too. It's unrealistic to expect those who are close to you to come to terms with it immediately.
"But when other people do accept who you are, it really helps your self-esteem."
Coming out if you decide to transition
If you decide to transition (live full-time in another gender), coming out involves more than just telling the people who are close to you.
Unless you move to a new area, you'll have to tell almost everyone you know, from family and friends to work colleagues. Transition involves being accepted in your new gender by those around you.
Transsexual people who want to transition but haven't yet had gender realignment treatment face specific difficulties. They may have started taking steps to "pass" in their chosen gender, such as in the way they dress, but find it difficult to convince people that they're a particular gender because they may still look and sound like another gender.
Living full-time in a different gender usually means changing your name. People will have to change the way they talk about you, for instance referring to you as 'he' rather than 'she' or 'she' instead of 'he'. Sooner or later, you'll have to update your records with organisations such as the DVLA, the passport office, the tax office, banks and insurance companies.
Changing your name after transition
To update your records, many organisations or official bodies will ask you to provide evidence that you've formally changed your name. The most straightforward way to do this is by obtaining a statutory declaration.
Some people who transition decide to apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate. Official gender recognition means that you must be treated as a person of your new gender for all legal purposes.
Page last reviewed: 05/07/2013.