Coming out tips

If you are under 18 or still dependent on your parents (living at home or receiving money from them), you will always get further along faster with your parents on your side. Coming out to your parents is an important step. It's the only way you'll be able to get anti-androgens before you're 18 without going through non-legal means.

Some girls have a fantasy that they will make a lot of progress without their parents finding out. This is usually untrue, especially if you are seeking therapy or medical stuff like hormones. There comes a point where you can't get any further without telling your parents.

However, you must plan this very carefully.


Preparation

1. Read Ten things you can do before your parents know

The first thing I suggest is looking at my list of ten things you can do while you work on your parents. You should be growing out your hair and working on your voice right now.

2. Read the FAQ for coming out to parents

If you haven't read it, check it out. This is all really good advice, even though it's written primarily for gay kids.

3. Buy Ma Vie En Rose

If you haven't seen it, rent (or better yet, buy) the movie Ma Vie En Rose (My Life In Pink). See what you think. It's in French with English subtitles, so you have to do some reading, but it's pretty easy to follow. If you identify with Ludo in the story, it might be a good way to help your parents understand that you have felt like this for a very long time. Some parents understand how their child feels after seeing this movie.

It's $11 (used) on amazon.com. You can probably find it in a larger video store, too. Call before you go over. Might be the best $20 or $30 bucks you ever spend.

4. Read "Mom, I need to be a girl" or buy True Selves

Some parents do better when they see that other parents have been through this, and that the ending was happy.

NOTE: If your parents are super-religious, be careful of p. 5! From a reader:

Just a little warning about this book. I actually purchased the book and gave it to my parents to read. At the very beginning of the book on page 5, there is the following paragraph:

"My children were brought up without God even though I had no idea how to raise children without religion. I was raised in a conservative Christian home where sin, punishment and guilt seemed to be waiting around every corner. It is my belief that I am responsible for my actions. If there is a God, He does not need my adoration or my money. I don't believe that He is involved in the day to day happenings of every person's life. I did like to think there was a strong feminine force up there somewhere watching over my children when they were out of my sight, a heavenly grandmother."

While I was forgiving enough to overlook this paragraph, my parents were not. Everything that followed that paragraph just about fell on deaf ears and I don't think they read much beyond it. I can't say that I recommend this book to religious parents who are trying to understand what their child is going through. If that paragraph wasn't in there, it would not have been a problem and perhaps my parents would have been more open minded to Evelyns experiences.

What you can do if you think it might bother your parents: delete that paragraph out of your copy.

5. Check out Lynn Conway's page on TS Successes.

This site might help put your parents at ease. I think this is one of the most positive contributions out there, not just for transsexuals, but for their parents. It shows that once we have dealt with transition, we are able to go on to do amazing things if we want. Keep in mind that many successful TSs choose to remain stealth, so no one ever even knows they're TS unless they feel like telling them.

There are transsexuals in every area of employment, and some of us do very well. We are lawyers, computer programmers, multimillionaire business owners, doctors, pilots, you name it! Being transsexual does not mean you will have an awful life at all.

Many times parents think that their kids will end up being prostitutes or freaks if they transition. This is simply untrue, especially for those who get good grades and have supportive parents. In fact, the ones who end up on the street are the ones whose parents don't support them or are in denial.


Parents

Even though your parents may present a unified front sometimes, they are two separate people and will each have different reactions and opinions about your news. They may be pretty much in agreement, or they could be in almost complete disagreement.

People go through five stages when they get certain kinds of unexpected news (like their child telling them they are TS): shock, denial, guilt, expression of feelings, personal decision-making, true acceptance. Your parents are in shock/denial. Because you've told them how you feel, you've started them down the path to acceptance.

Both your mom and your dad will go through these stages differently.

You might get a sense from your parents that one is more resistant than the other. I'd recommend trying to talk to the parent who is more likely to come around first.

1. Talk to them one on one

I suggest speaking with each of your parents separately, when you have a lot of time alone together. Pick a time when one of them is out, and you'll have an afternoon or evening to talk one on one. Make sure that both you and your parent aren't angry or stressed. The main thing is to keep the conversation calm. You also want to speak from the heart, but be sure to come across as reasonable. If you act in a way your parents think is irrational or purely emotional, it will hurt your ability to make them understand.

Make it clear you are always happy to answer any questions as honestly as you can.

2. Let them deal with it when they feel up to it

That doesn't mean keep letting them blow it off. You have to maintain gentle but steady pressure for them to continue thinking about it. One of the best ways is to give them some stuff they can look over on their own. This allows them to deal with it when they are ready. I suggest having a tape of Ma Vie En Rose you can leave them, and a copy of "Mom, I need to be a girl." You might also leave them a web link to Lynn Conway's list of TS Successes, or any other information you think might help reduce their fears and anxieties about your feelings.

3. Write them a letter you can leave them after you've talked.

You might consider writing a letter that they can read when you aren't around. Tell them that you love them and you understand that this is all very difficult. Tell them how you feel, and share some moments from your childhood that made you realize there was something going on.

I especially recommend telling your parents about a few early memories of how you have always felt you should be a girl. Many parents are amazed to learn that this isn't something that just came up. most TSs have very specific memories from early childhood. Describe some of these to them in detail. For instance, I told my mom and dad one of the happiest moments of my life when I was 5 or 6 happened in the emergency room at the hospital. I had gotten my finger stuck in a piece of metal, and they had to use a ring cutter to remove the metal. The nurse was going on about what a pretty girl I was. Obviously, my parents remember that night, so when they connected how young I was then with the story of the nurse, it helped them understand a bit more.

I also told them about a time we were watching a magic show on TV and the magician did a trick where he disappeared, and female singers appeared in his place. I was probably about 4 or 5, and I though, Oh my gosh-- I didn't know there was a magic way to become a girl! I have to learn that trick! They said that explained why I'd been bugging them about learning to do magic tricks.

4. Try to help them ease their fears

The main thing you are trying to do is show your parents that transsexuals do exist, but that your parents probably have the wrong idea about them. People often fear things they don't understand. People who don't think about transsexualism as much as we do can't even imagine what it's like to feel the way you do. In fact, they will probably never fully understand. What you want to do is help them understand that being transsexual is very rare, but it's really just a trait, like being left-handed, or being tall.

Once they get past their basic fears, they will have to deal with issues of how they will be perceived by others. For them,this is as scary as it is for you to come out to your parents. They are afraid that neighbors, coworkers and friends will think that you're the way you are because of something they did (which is silly). This will take a lot longer to deal with. My own mom is still nervous about that kind of stuff. In my case, it helped that they retired and moved, so now no one knew me before. When I first went to my parents' new church, people told my mom that her daughter is very lovely, and that really helped her get over many of her problems.

5. Try to get into therapy

If your parents can afford it, you should try to get into therapy. Once you have a therapist you like and trust, maybe your parents can come along. For many parents, hearing a therapist's opinion is the thing that finally helps them turn the corner and come to terms with their TS child.

A 15-year old reader writes:

I tried to come out to my parents 3 times, resulting in arguments and hurt feelings (mainly my own and my mother's). But a few days ago, things got so bad, since my parents wouldn't at all let me be myself, I attempted suicide. (Which I think was brought on by a combination of things including: harassment at school, being ts, my parent's past denial, and my eating disorder: Anorexia, which all I deal with every day!) Well, the next day I went to school and told the guidance counselor, who is very supportive of me.

Well, because of school policy, they had to call my parents and I had to have a psychiatric evaluation.

Well, I had been to a physiologist before, last may, when I first tried to tell my parents, and they took me back to the same person, who is also very supportive of me, and I have kept in touch with her via e-mail.

To get straight to the point, she gave me no option, and brought them in and told them everything they needed to hear, but had refused to listen to. It's really weird, when I told them, they would try not to believe me, and determine some way to make it my fault, telling me I had "made it up" 'it' being my feelings. But when she told them, since they were forced to listen, they got to hear what they needed to hear, and now they actually want to help me anyway they can.

I guess my advice is to somehow get into a physiologist if you can, and have them help you tell parents. It worked for me, and I think parents are much more prone to believe a professional, no matter how many times you try and tell parents.

I generally recommend not going to gender clinics, since they are usually not very responsive to the needs of young TSs. This is because there are a lot of legal issues. If they counsel someone under 18 who later changes their mind, they worry about being sued. In addition, I suggest not going to a TS conselor if your parents are not being accepting, as it's likely they will not have as much credibility in your parents' eyes. They might think you're being coached or brainwashed. Better to find a good therapist you trust who will help you discuss this with your parents.

If your parents cannot afford a private therapy, you might see if they'll let you get involved with a local gay and lesbian teen outreach program. These places often have access to therapy at reduced rates.

If at all possible, you should try to get on an anti-androgen, and this usually has to be done with medical supervision. It probably won't be possible without your parents' support, so it's important to keep steady pressure on them to deal with how you feel. Don't nag or whine or scold, but let them know this is not a passing fancy, and that it's not going to go away.

A note from a 13-year-old reader

Hi,

I recently told my mom about my problems. Maybe you can put this on your site for others? Anyway, at first I thought my mom would be unaccepting. I thought she would literally kick me out of the house because of my transsexuality.

Before telling your parents, you have to know before hand if they actually care about your problems, and if they would still love you no matter what happens after the hard conversation. So this is what I did, with some help of your site:

I said I needed help, and if your parents are nosy enough to even care, they would say, "What is wrong?" You would then have to say something like I want to tell you something but I am not sure if I can tell you. It is important to pressure your parents, and if they continue saying what is the problem and getting worried, you know they will love you even afterhand. This is exactly what I did and my mom seemed to accept beforehand, so I told her of my troubles. I also showed my pain with tears. That came easy, and I told her what I thought her reaction would be. She then told me how that was like nonsence!

So those who may think their parents would not accept them, give the test and if they fail to seem to care then I would hold off. If they end up finding out and accepting, you finally feel much relief. This is for all child transsexuals as a note of advice.

From a woman in her early 20s:

i started slowly with a little phrase here or there about something that i found cute or attractive about female attire and things. i also used more feminie words. slowely started not talking about masculine things as much about the things males are supposed to talk about. did things like keeping my nails cleaner and lookin alot nicer (was noticed by all family) told them i felt cleaner by doing that and shaved as much as i could and talked about how i liked not havin facial hair and how it felt to be smooth. slowly showed more of a perspective to the female side. even started to have a more feminine walk. eventually she started to kind of change a view at me but didnt really remark on it till i was able to tell her. her and it kind of soften the blow to her. also i dont live with my dad and nor have i ever really we dont have a relationship so i dont know how this will work with a father figure around. like i was sayin this did soften the blow to my mom and startin to rebuild a relationship as we go ( i hope we are ) wish i had known about your site before most of what i went thro and what i am goin thro. by the way i am 24 and came out when i was 23 to other people. so i dont know how this will really affect girls younger than me but should have the same desired affect as what i did. thanx for everything you have done with your site it means the world to me.


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If you transitioned in your teens or twenties and have any advice you'd like to share, please contact me , and I'll give it a permanent (and anonymous) home.