Coming out to your loved ones is the hardest part of the process because these folks matter more to us than anyone else. Indeed, many times it has been these people who have forced us to remain in the closet and have caused most of our trauma. If you are fortunate enough to have supportive family and friends, then you may not need to do any of the follow suggestions. However, if you are afraid of how your loved ones will respond, these tips are certainly for you!
Tips for Coming Out to Family
- Make a list of all the people you consider loved ones: Our loved ones are the people who we look to for support (financially and emotionally) and guidance. This could be anyone from close friends to family members to teachers.
- Reorganize your list into the following categories: people who will be okay with your coming out, people who will not be okay with your coming out, and people you aren’t sure about.
- Evaluate the three lists: Are the people on the “will not be okay” list people on whom you rely for housing, medical insurance, transportation, and income? Are the lists evenly distributed–- are there about an equal number of people on all three lists? Are the people on the “okay with it” list the type of people who would support and fight for you if you were kicked out of your house or cut-off financially?
- Proceed strategically: Increase the number of people on the “okay with it” list by seeking support from local support groups (see First Steps). If you are not financially independent, work towards gaining financial independence by taking a second job or saving a month’s income. Once you’ve come out to people in your support group, then begin to come out to people in the “okay with it group” who you can trust to keep it a secret until you are ready for everyone to know.
- Use Your Connections: Often, people on the “okay with it” list will know people on the “not okay with it” or “I’m not sure” list. Ask these people if they are comfortable helping you come out to folks on these two lists. Having an ally (or two) with you often helps to soften the blow or give you courage to talk to difficult people. This is not a sign of weakness, it is an effective and smart strategy.
When Your Parents are Unsupportive
Sometime parents are supportive, and if yours are on the “okay with it list” this ignore this tip. If they are “not okay with it” or you are unsure where they stand, then you should proceed with caution if they support you financially. You should strongly consider not telling your parents until you have the means to support yourself financially. This means you ought to have at least a month’s income (three month’s is ideal), your own transportation, and the ability to secure housing before coming out to your parents. It is a good idea to have supportive family members help you come out to your parents and to even ask their advice about how to do so.
It’s a Transition for Everyone
Understand that they are transitioning too: Transitioning is a process which includes the transgender individual and their loved ones. It is important to approach your loved ones with compassion and understand that while you’ve had a lifetime to consider your feelings, they only get a couple seconds to take in what you are telling them before they respond. There may be angry and hurtful words, but don’t take them personally. Family counseling is often essential to heal any wounds which appear as the result of coming out. Marriage and Family Therapists (also known as Couple and Family Therapists) are usually affirming and are an excellent resource. Additionally, you can share our Loved One Resources with your family and friends who need answers and help in their transition with you.