Helpful hints for coming out to families, friends and loved ones:
Coming out to those who are closest to us can be incredibly overwhelming and difficult. We often fear that those we love the most may reject and abandon us. While these fears are understandable and make sense, they often keep us from moving forward with our transitions. Here are a few helpful hints for coming out to those you love:
-Don’t decide for other people how they will react. This will cause anxiety for you and often times it is not even accurate. Give your friends and family the benefit of the doubt and let them make their own decisions about the new information they are about to receive.
-Start with people you are confident will react positively. It’s important to build a support network, when possible, before making yourself vulnerable to potential negative reactions.
-Be patient! While you have probably known about your own transgender identity for a long time, this may be news to most people in your life. They’ll need time to adjust to this information, just as you did.
-Validate their emotions and reactions: confusion, concern, and sometimes anger are common responses. Help them understand that you are still the same person they have always known: they just have more information about you now. Often times our loved ones fear that they are losing us. Reassurance can go a long way here.
-Expect their emotions to go up and down. Family members may go back and forth from anger, confusion, and acceptance until they have fully processed the information. This process could take months or even years for some people.
-Be prepared for ignorant and invasive questions. Know ahead of time what you are comfortable disclosing and let them know if they ask something you’d rather not answer. Typically avoiding information about surgical interventions is best at the beginning.
-Have resources available to offer if they would like more information.
-Take care of yourself after an intense disclosure. Call a friend, go for a walk, or do something that helps you feel good about yourself.
Transitioning on the job:
Transitioning on the job can be a very stressful and overwhelming process for many transgender people. Today, more and more companies are adding protection for transgender people to their anti-discrimination policies. In Wisconsin, Madison and Milwaukee have laws protecting gender identity and gender expression in their anti-discrimination policies. While this is a very positive step, there may still be challenges along your way.
-If your company has a human resources department, start with that person as he or she will be best equipped to help you with your workplace transition.
-Know what you are asking for ahead of time. State your needs clearly and directly. You might say something like: “I am transgender and am in the process of transitioning. I am now going by a new name and new pronouns and I would like people at work to start using them. What is the best way for me to get the information to the whole company?”
-If you have legally changed your name, bring that documentation with you, as your employer will need to change it in their records.
-Find out what your employer’s policy is on workplace discrimination and how he or she would like you to handle it if you face any harassment or discrimination. Knowing these things ahead of time can cut down on anxiety if discrimination occurs.