Jan 27 2013
Every aspect of the coming out process can help you feel relieved because you are no longer carrying as heavy a secret; in addition, coming out can help you feel more visible and less alone. Many transgender people are eager to come out to their families because they long for the recognition and love for their real selves that they have never fully felt. Others are reluctant to do so because they are pretty sure the reaction will be negative or they feel too fragile to handle parental rejection. Coming out to your parents is an intensely personal choice; there is no one decision that fits all transgender people and their families. If you’re considering coming out, there are certain things to consider.
Weigh the Pros and Cons
For some people, coming out seems vital, while for others the idea is terrifying. Either way, it’s important to carefully weigh the pros and cons before deciding whether or not to do so. That way, you can make sure you are aware of exactly what you’re getting into. For those eager to come out, doing a pro and con list helps ensure that there are no unpleasant surprises. For those who are reluctant, it helps check whether fears are realistic.
Take a sheet of paper and divide it in half. Set a timer for 10 minutes and free write everything that comes to mind in the “pro” column. Don’t censor yourself; keep writing even if what you’re writing doesn’t make sense. Do the same thing for the con column.
Once you’ve written your pros and cons list, put it aside for a couple of days. Then reread your list. Cross out anything that doesn’t make sense to you and highlight anything that resonates extremely strongly. Use the revised list to help you decide whether or not to come out right now.
Consider Various Ways to Come Out
If you decide you want to come out, the next step is to figure out what the best way to come out is. Some people prefer to come out in person, while others may want to call their parents or even come out via email. Some people make videos or send letters with their current pictures.
There is no wrong way to come out. It’s all a matter of what you feel comfortable with.
In most cases, you should anticipate eventually having a face-to-face conversation with your parents. Even if you come out by letter or email, the point is to establish a relationship with them as your real self and strengthen your existing relationship with them. Unless your parents completely and irrevocably reject you, the first conversation you have with them about your gender identity is probably not going to be the last.
Don’t Expect Perfection
When I first came out to my parents, I expected that I would tell them, they would immediately accept it and that would be that. Now that I’ve traveled this journey with them for over a year, I can see how unrealistic that expectation was.
No matter how loving and accepting your family is, it’s going to take time for them to fully embrace your new identity. Even after they’ve accepted it, they may slip up from time to time. My parents still occasionally call me by my birth name because they knew me as the woman I wasn’t for over 30 years. If this happens to you, remember that your parents’ intention is more important than how perfectly they adjust to the new you. If your parents are trying to accept you as you are, that’s valuable. Don’t throw it away over mistakes.
Stages Parents May Go Through
Not every parent goes through every stage and not every parent goes through these stages in the same order. Some parents, unfortunately, stay stuck at the challenging or ignoring stage and may disown their children or refuse to ever call them by their chosen name and gender. Many parents do work through this and transition into acceptance if not outright advocacy.
There are some cases where it’s best to cut your ties and walk away, but it’s important to allow your parents the time and space to move through these stages at their own pace. If you decide you want to come out, consider how likely it is that your parents will react in some of these ways to your transition and decide what you will do if they do.
Are you unsure whether to come out to your parents or how to deal with their reaction? If so, help is on the way! Register for my new teleseminar “When Will My Parents Get It?” today! If you’d prefer to sign up for one-on-one coaching about handling your relationship with your parents, I still have slots available.