What Should I Do Before Coming Out to Someone?
Do you feel safe coming out to this person? If not, or if you’re not sure, you may decide to:
- have a support person alongside you
- tell them in writing
- have another person disclose the information on your behalf
- arrange to have someone you can check in and debrief with after the conversation
- ask the person not to respond right away, so they can take some time to let the information sink in, or
- not come out to them
In situations where you are at risk of losing a sense of safety in your home, or at risk of losing your housing altogether, pre-arrange a back-up place to stay and have a bag packed with essentials in case you need to leave right away. It is good to have a safety plan in place.
You may want to make a timeline to indicate who you want to come out to and when, based on your own life circumstances and goals.
It’s a good idea to consider other people’s circumstances, too. Is someone you want to come out to going through their own major life event? If so, they may not be able to provide you with the support you are hoping for and you may want to choose a later time.
Practicing what to say
If you are coming out in person, you may find it useful to practice:
- what you want to say
- how you want to respond to positive and negative reactions, and
- how you want to respond to various questions
Some people react very positively when someone comes out to them as trans, and are supportive right away. Others may be surprised, or not understand what is means to be trans. Some people may have a lot of questions.
Not everyone is able to offer immediate understanding and acceptance. Some people may need time and space to adjust to the news you are sharing with them. Expect that the person could feel surprised, shocked, honoured, uncomfortable, fearful, supportive, disbelief, curious, confused, angry or relieved.
Consider some strategies for dealing with reactions that don’t feel supportive. For example, you could say “I know this is probably a lot of new information to digest. How about you take some time to reflect on this. I’m ready to talk more about it when you are.” For more tips on handling negative reactions, see “Responding to negative reactions” below.
Even if the person you are coming out to is accepting, they will probably need some guidance from you about what feels supportive. For example, would you like them to call you by another name? Use a different pronoun? Use different family labels (i.e. sibling/sister/brother; daughter/son/kid; aunt/uncle/aunctle; etc.)? What else do you hope for, in terms of support? Use your intuition to determine whether this is the time to make these requests.
News can travel quickly. Let people know if you want them to keep your trans identity confidential. Be aware that some people may or may not honour this request. If you are considering coming out by email, keep in mind that email can be easily forwarded to others without your permission.
Do you feel ready and willing to answer people’s questions about trans identities? If not, you may want to look at the resources on our Families page.