Since everyone’s gender identity is unique to them, there is no one perfect way to come out. Some methods will work for some while they won’t work for others. It can be tricky to figure out how to come out, but it is an important step in getting to be yourself.
If you are looking to come out, here are some things to consider when figuring out how you’re going to do it.
Who are you coming out to?
Who are you going to be coming out to? Some big ones are usually parents, siblings, friends, and other family. You’ll most likely come out to a lot of people in your life, though, so the list is endless.
Will this be the very first person you come out to? If not, then you have a bit of an opportunity here: Rather than come out alone, you could bring someone supportive whom you’ve already come out to along with you; for example, a supportive sibling or friend. Sometimes, that can make things easier.
Are you going to come out to one person, or many at the same time? You will probably come out to a lot of people in your life, so coming out to groups all at once can be convenient. For example, if you live with five people, coming out to all the members of your household at once will take much less time and energy than coming out five different times to five different people.
However, it is not always best to come out to everyone all at once; that’s for you to decide. Sometimes, it can be more stressful to come out to a large group of people.
What are you coming out as?
What are you coming out as? Does the person have any knowledge of it? This may be a bit silly, but when you’re coming out, it’s important to show that you know yourself well, while also being understandable to the person you’re trying to come out to.
For example, if you are transgender and want to come out to your mom, she may not know what transgender means. You can tell her “I’m transgender,” but that does not mean she will understand. If she doesn’t understand, she will most likely ask you what that means, and it is best to have some self-assurance and know what it means to you and what you’re going to say.
What are you going to say? Deciding what you want to say to the people you come out to before you do it is always a good idea. It shows that you have put thought into what you are saying and doing. It can also help you feel prepared and not miss any important points you want to make while sharing your gender with others.
However, don’t worry too much about following the script. Coming out can be a high-pressure, high-stress time for some people, so if you don’t say exactly what you meant to say, that’s OK. So long as you have thought about it, your thought and seriousness will show, regardless of how flustered you feel.
When are you coming out?
Whether it is the day after you figure your gender out, or many years after, it is your choice when to come out. There are many different times when it might make the most sense for you to come out. This can also be a hard process to plan.
Will you come out before transition? Many people decide to come out before transitioning. This is often because it is easier to transition with a support system around you. If you are a minor (under 18 years old), then you will have to come out to your parents before you will be able to make any big changes, especially physical changes. Most medical support options are unable to happen without parental consent if you are under 18.
If you’re unsure about your gender, but think that you may be transgender, one way to test your comfort living as another gender is to ask a close and trusted friend to start using new pronouns or a new name for you. It might not feel natural to hear at first, but there can be a noticeable difference in how it feels to hear a new pronoun versus hearing the pronoun used for you since birth.
Will you come out during transition? Coming out is a major part of social transition, as it lets people know that you want to make a change. Socially transitioning usually includes new pronouns, and sometimes even a new name, so having the support of others can be important.
You may have to come out many times during your transition. For example, if you have a substitute teacher one day at school, they might make a mistake about your gender and use the wrong pronouns. You can sometimes avoid this by coming out to them as soon as possible. If you notice the substitute as you walk into class, go up to them before sitting down. Let the substitute know your name and pronouns and ask for them to use those to refer to you. If your name is different than the one the school has on record, make sure you let the substitute know that.
Where will you come out?
Where will you come out to the person? In private or in public? If you think that they will have a positive and supportive response to your coming out, then you don’t have to give place too much thought. For positive reactions, a private place can be nice, because it allows for you to both show how you feel freely. If you think that the person may respond negatively or unhappily, then it may be best to come out to them in a more public place, like a restaurant or a park. They may be less likely to express their bad reaction in public.
Will you even come out to them in person? While most people would say that coming out in person is the best way to do things, you don’t have to. A lot of factors can make it impossible to come out to someone in person, so you may have to resort to a letter, an e-mail, a call, or some other form of long-distance communication.
A letter or an e-mail gives you a lot of space to say everything you need to say at once, instead of being stopped by the person’s reaction or by any other distractions. A letter or an e-mail can also let you avoid seeing or hearing a negative reaction, and it gives the person more time to think about things. Their response to you may not be as negative as their first reaction, should you have the conversation face to face.
Phone calls are another way to come out. Make sure the other person has the time to talk before starting to come out though. You probably do not want to have this conversation twice with the same person, so get it all done in one call.
Why are you coming out?
What do I gain by coming out? There is a lot to be gained by coming out, which is why most people will do it. Most of what you gain is emotional, but sometimes, you even have the chance to gain something physical.
First, there is the feeling of being accepted for who you really are, which is a wonderful feeling, especially when it comes from people you love and respect.
Secondly, there is comfort to be gained in coming out. When you come out, you can request that people use your proper name and pronouns to make you more comfortable and happy. You also gain a feeling of freedom in being around the person you’ve come out to.
Third is transition —coming out is a massive part of transitioning, both socially and medically. While it is not necessary to transition as a transgender person, most transgender people want to take steps toward at least social transition, and many wish to medically transition. Getting support and help by coming out is a key way to work toward a transition that will make you happy.
Is it always necessary? No. It is not always necessary to come out, even to gain some of the above. For example, if you are just talking to the cashier while shopping, and they use the wrong pronoun, you could just correct them. In brief instances, little corrections tend to work just fine, and you won’t have to go through the discomfort of divulging your whole story.
How will you come out?
After you have gone through the who, what, when, where, and why, you’ll have to figure out exactly how you would like to come out. There are plenty of methods for coming out, whether it’s by direct conversation, a clever cake, a little performance, or any number of other possibilities, and you are sure to find one that works well for you.
If it is not your first time coming out, it is important to reflect on how coming out went for you before, because that can help you figure out what you want to do differently or similarly to before.