"Coming out" is a term used to describe sharing information about your identity or past that has previously not been known, either to yourself or other people. Disclosing your identity or feelings should be a voluntary action - one that you choose to do and do not feel forced into.
The first step of coming out is usually making a realisation about yourself or acknowledging something about your identity to yourself.
Coming out is linked to being different and challenges the set of assumptions (or norms) that others put on us. People don’t usually come out as being heterosexual or as being cisgender, right? You come out as trans or non-binary or something else because of the assumption that you are cisgender.
Coming Out To Yourself
Coming out to yourself might involve doing lots of research – finding out from others as well as reading online and getting some good information. Perhaps you’re coming out to yourself right now as you’re reading this.
It also involves lots of deep reflection about who you are. Coming out to yourself can be really deep and philosophical. You can also feel quite lonely as you are starting to figure out who you are and how you feel – all of which is something you’re not ready to share with anyone yet. It can also be quite scary too and you might be worried about what lies in store. You might wonder if you’re trans and feel uncertainty. You may live with that uncertainty and choose not to share it for rather long periods of time. It can take time to come to terms with who you are. But remember no one is not trans enough.
Coming Out to Family, Carers and Friends
People choose different ways to come out and of course no one comes out just once. Coming out includes telling someone about your feelings for the first time as well as letting people know about your trans status – even if you feel you transitioned some time ago.
Only you can choose what works best for you and of course for the person or people you want to tell. Some young trans people choose to write a letter or email. Other people may be more comfortable speaking face-to-face. However, we recommend trying to pick an appropriate time to sit down and speak to someone about it.
Coming out as trans can be a shock for people. But it can also be a very positive experience.
LGBT Youth Scotland have written an excellent Coming Out Guide for Young Trans People. It is full of useful tips and information about coming out as trans. We also have written a guide for young trans people which looks at coming out.
Telling parents, carers and other family members can be one the hardest things for some young trans people. Often, as parents have known us the longest, they have most investment in the idea of us as 'sons' or 'daughters', and this can be difficult to let go of. The important thing is to make sure you are patient and give your parents time to adjust to the idea. They may not get it straight away. This may be the first time they've ever thought about you and your gender in a different way. Communication is key. Also it might be a good idea for your parents/ carers to get support themselves from others who have similar experiences.
Some parents may feel it is their 'fault' or blame themselves. It's good to reassure parents that this is not the case, that there is nothing wrong with being trans and it's not something caused by bad parenting. Educating parents about being trans can be really helpful. Gendered Intelligence has a resource booklet and offers a range of support for parents - look at our Families section for more details.
Coming out on social media
Another major aspect to transitioning is letting people know on your social media networks and changing your profiles. You need to decide when and how to change your name, gender identity descriptor and basically share with your friends and followers that you are trans. It’s recommended that you don’t do this before you have already told the people who are closest to you.
This shouldn’t be a way to come out but treated as the thing you do that is similar to changing your other identity documents.
When things don't go well
Most of the time when people come out to parents, carers or family members it can be a shock. Sometimes parents can react angrily or become upset at the young person who has come out. It's important that if you suspect your family may have a strong reaction that you try and ensure you have a safe place to go outside of your family home if the worst were to happen. This could be with a supportive friend or relative, for example. Forward planning is important to make sure you're safe if things don't go as you may have hoped.
If things don't improve to the point where you may feel unable to return home, charities like The Albert Kennedy Trust and Stonewall Housing provide services to LGBT people who may be struggling with housing and homelessness as a result of being LGBT. You don't have to be living on the street to get in touch with them - any LGBT young person having problems at home which are making it difficult to live there can make an appointment to chat with one of their members of staff. Contact us if you have any concerns and we can try and find the right support for you.