Coming out as trans*, intersex, gender diverse or as an individual questioning their gender or where they fall within the gender spectrum can be a challenging process, and most likely will not be a one-time event. While it has some similarities with coming out as lesbian, gay, or bisexual, coming out as trans*, intersex or gender diverse poses some unique challenges.
In relation to coming out as LGB
For many people it is easier to wrap their minds around being lesbian, gay, or bisexual than it is for them to understand being trans*, intersex or gender diverse. After all, there is no one trait more fundamental to the way people perceive others in our society than that of gender and / or sex. While many people are still ignorant about LGB people, far more lack correct knowledge about gender variant people (including queer trans* people). Thus, there are more false assumptions to wade through, more stigmas to overcome. Some see being trans* as more of a choice than being lesbian, gay, or bisexual since some people choose to transition. Also, being trans* is much more difficult to hide or ignore with friends and family members, especially if one pursues physical transition. Like coming out as LGB, though, many people need some time to adjust to the new knowledge about their friend or family member’s identity.
Choosing the best time
There are several important factors to consider when picking the right time to come out. One of the most important things to keep in mind is your financial stability. If there is a strong possibility that your parents or providers would cut off all financial support, waiting until you could have financial independence would be in your best interest. While the EEOC has ruled that sex discrimination protection in the workplace now includes trans* and gender non-conforming people (as of May 2012), having a solid job and a financial plan for the worst case scenario is a good place to start. Also, there may be certain times that people will be more receptive to your coming out than others. For instance, coming out right before a major holiday with one’s family might not be the best option. Coming out at the very beginning of winter or summer break when you will be stuck in your parent’s home for the next month or two may also not be the best idea. However, if one puts off coming out too much, parents will sometimes be much more upset that they were left in the dark for so long. In the end, there probably will not be a time that feels like the “right” time – the trick is to find a time that is not a particularly “bad” one and to go for it.
Who to come out to
After coming out to one’s self, it is helpful to start coming out to people that you know will definitely be supportive. In doing so, you can create a supportive network around you so you will have people to rely on when coming out to the more difficult friends and family members. Sometimes, coming out can be very emotionally taxing, so try to pace yourself. You should not feel an obligation to come out to everyone all at once, and you should not feel like you are always obligated to explain yourself. When choosing who to come out to, keep in mind what you want from people and be direct about it. If you want to be addressed by a different name and pronoun in the classroom, obviously you will need to come out to your professor. Coming out to all of your classmates may or may not be an issue.
Methods of coming out
There are several ways of coming out, and the method you use can be determined by how you communicate best, how close you are to the person to whom you are coming out, and by other circumstances like distance and time frames. If face-to-face confrontations are difficult, writing a letter (whether it is delivered in person then discussed afterward or just dropped in the mail box) is also a great way to come out. Email and telephone calls are also possibilities, especially for reaching numerous co-workers, professors, and classmates.