Question: Can we talk?

Dez asks…

I’m at that really awkward stage where I know that I’m trans, I dress like I’m trans, but I haven’t actually come out to everyone. The moment never seems right.

How do I start this conversation with them or with anyone?

Please post your response in the comments below.

» Ask Genderfork «

Posted by on November 17th, 2010 at 04:00 pm

Category: questions 15 comments »

15 Responses to “Question: Can we talk?”

  1. Sofia

    I know how you feel. I almost think it was harder to start some of those conversations because people just thought I was dressing and behaving differently for attention or something. But I was able to use my appearance and mannerisms as conversation-starters a lot of the time. You could try something like “Wow, I dress so differently than I did [X many] [time units] ago. Is it totally obvious to everyone that I’m trans, or what?”


  2. Riam

    I just waited until I absolutely couldn’t stand it anymore, the depression and pain and lying were killing me, and then I came out. One person at a time. “I need to tell you something” kind of thing. Also, per my request some of them told others for me.


  3. Terra

    For me this took practice. I started with the people closest to me, the ones that I knew would be pretty safe to tell. This way, even if it turned out awkward, I would not have to worry about defending myself or have someone run off screaming. There never really was a perfect moment to bring it up and I am not sure such a moment exists. I just started with, “hey, I have to tell you something that is really important to me”. To one slightly shocked co-worker I just started with, “John Doe is not my name, it is actually Terra”. He led the conversation from there by asking questions.

    There is not a “right way” to do this exactly, you just have to find what works for you. It would be nice if people only had to come out once but the reality is that you have to come out over and over again. So you tend to get a little practice.

    ps. I advise against having this conversation while under the influence. I did that a couple times and I was not nearly as eloquent as I could have been. These issues can be hard enough even with a clear head.


  4. Eli

    Most of my conversations have started accidentally. I’m lucky in that way. I have put out feelers (painstakingly, but rewardingly) about how people perceive my gender, and it’s nice to know that I’m not boxed in. I think figuring out how you’re viewed is a nice first step.

    Everybody’s experience is different, though. My hard-won starting point is two people who will call me by a chosen name, one person who will refer to me by my chosen pronoun, a best friend who understands everything I say and loves me for who I am, and a brother who more or less considers me as a brother. I am lucky, but I also made strides on my own.

    Find people you know will be OK with YOU, regardless of who “you” is. It’s not easy, but it’s a battle worth fighting.


  5. Elias

    Oh how I know this feeling so well. I’m pretty obviously male-identified and have been out for about 8 months but some people still don’t ‘know’. I agree with making small references in conversation and it works for me often. I like to talk about what a homo I am to bring people around to the idea that I am, in fact, a very queer little boy. When it’s really not getting through, saying things like “I’m such a silly BOY” really helps :)

    Good luck!


  6. Jessica

    You can wait till people ask you and then respond honestly. Some people prefer to go boldly out and shock folks… it can be a useful tactic to separate the wheat from the chaff, but it can be disruptive of existing relationships, jobs, etc. You’d be surprised how many people want to know you, but not know about you. For that class of people you know, you may never need to rock their boats, unless (see above) that is your thing. I like to think that other people haven’t gotten to the place I am and I really have no right to enlighten them, especially against their will, but that’s just me. Some people would say I am a coward for saying this. OK, maybe I am… but I have continuity in my life many trans people don’t. It’s all part of the choices you make. My only real advice is not to burn bridges that don’t need burning. Good luck.


  7. Anonymous

    Jessica’s got a point. I’m sort of at the same place you are. There are many people I haven’t told. It was really bugging me to not say anything, though, so when I noticed a friend being really trans-friendly on national coming out day, I thought…what better place to start?…and mentioned it to them. They aren’t someone I speak to much, but I just like having a confidant whom I know will take me seriously and respects me and now knows my view of my identity clearly, in my own words. Beyond that, I just try to be as true to myself as I can. I try and act with as little shame as possible about all the lines I cross, stick up for myself and be open, and treat everyone kindly. I’d be surprised if they haven’t guessed I’m a little out of gender bounds by now…but my friends still like me for who I am…and that’s what matters.


    Jessica replied:

    Thanks anon. In reading your post, I got to thinking of my transness as rather a zen thing… it’s not something I am doing, nor is it something I am doing to others, it’s just a being thing. I don’t make a point of it. I don’t raise the issue. If people think I am weird, well, ok, I am, so what?


    Terra replied:

    Jessica, I admire your zen approach. Talking with people can, and very often will, change relationships. Gender topics are likely to rock most peoples’ boat and sometimes it is best to just let them be. However I am curious about how you handle informing people of a new name or pronouns.

    I would have liked to avoid confronting people when I came out but I just did not see a way to introduce my new name without having “the” conversation.


    Jessica replied:

    Firstly, it’s easier for me because I am genderqueer, not transsexual. How I identify and how I present are not so radically different… it’s not like they’re interacting with me in the “wrong” gender: whether he or she, neither is correct.

    Secondly, I have always had a private name that was me, which only very, very intimate people know, and not always then… so my “real” name has always been for me a name I didn’t like, an alias I operated under, part of the disguise. Yes, being referred to as my traditional gender and official name rankles, but women have always had the name thing to deal with and we were supposed to like it and look forward to. My mother was known for most of her life as Mrs. Edward Henry M… Not than anyone referred to her as Ed, but that was her legal married name. Seeing it on documents and correspondence makes it real, even if you think it fictional.

    I know that, working in corporate America, I am never going to find a place where I can be ME out and in the open and free to be whatever way I am… that’s not my goal. I sit in my cubicle and do my work well and I try not to bother other people with what isn’t any of their business anyway. But I live an interior life, a richer fuller life for being trans, for my explorations and my revelations and my (to some extent) reinvention of myself. I wish sometimes I could share this with some of the straights I know and like, but their lives aren’t mine to mess with. If I think somebody is open and tolerant, or it comes up, I’ll talk about it… I refuse to be ashamed. But it’s just a part of my life and I don’t feel it incumbent upon me to share that aspect of me with everyone.

    Some people do. Some people feel compelled to yell it to the roof tops. Again, if I were 14, 18, 25 I might well feel that way. More power to these people and I’ll gladly help, if I may… but we’ve all got a different course in this big ocean.

  8. epistemic murk

    The above exchange is genuinely moving.


  9. anta

    I was lucky enough to start my transition during a time in my life when my social contacts were very scarce and I have only hat “the conversation” once and that with my mother (with my brother supposedly listening in on it in the adjacent room).

    After this big coming out event I still had some six months all for myself before building a new social life in a new town when I started my studies at a university, and by then I was already used to asking people call me by my family name rather than my given name, and started a routine of stating explicitly that I was not female whenever someone spoke to me in a way I assumed they would not address a cis-male. (It does help that my first language has nothing but gender-neutral pronouns.)

    I have no idea how I would have dealt with all of this if I had had an extensive social life.

    For me the first step in living “my true identity” was deciding not to care how other people read or labeled me. It didn’t matter to me, and it still doesn’t. I’ve never worried about passing. (This is apparently something my doctor does not take well. In his opinion I seem to lack some mysterious masculine quality. Hello? My transition is about me being me, not about me “becoming” a whole new and factory-approved version of me.)


  10. roundhouse

    There’s no really amazing time, and if there is you’ll be waiting for it forever. The way my friend came out: A coming out party with everyone you trust… only no one knows what it is then you come out in a ballgown or tux or whatever. :)


  11. Anonymous

    Maybe, sometimes, you don’t need to tell people. Let them figure it out for themselves, or wait until they ask. This does not apply if you want people to start using a different name or something like that, but it works for me who is just a little bit genderqueer in general… ;)


    Jessica replied:

    I do that a lot. If they wonder they wonder. Ir’s good for them.


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