Coming Out Trans
How Can I Be An Ally?
My best friend just emailed me that he is transgender and would like to begin living as a woman publicly. How can I support my friend when I’m so confused about how he kept this secret from me for so long?
Well, if you understand how scared she was to tell you, then you might also understand why she kept the secret from you and how desperately she needs your support. Coming out transgender is a terrifying thing to do. Changing sex is rarely a easy thing, and most people are still fairly uncomfortable with it. It is almost always awkward for the person doing it (I mean can you imagine having such an intimate and personal issue being on public display throughout your transition).
I’m sure your friend is struggling with many issues from their professional reputation, to parental anxiety (as a child and as a parent). They are dealing with fears of social rejection, financial costs associated with transitioning, hormonal and bodily changes, and concerns about being out as a woman and being “read” as a transsexual on the streets. The last thing she needs to deal with is your issues about the timing of her coming out.
You might be hurt thinking she should’ve told you before, but each of us comes out in our own way and in our time, and it is not for anyone else to judge the timing of that (just ask Rosie or Ellen.) Coming out is always hard, but coming out trans is rarely without many bumps in the road. I think your work right now is to figure out quickly how you can support your friend now, and not worry so much about why they waited so long to tell you. While you and I are kibitzing, she is checking her email to see if you’ve responded.
Try this on for a response. “Wow, thank you so much for telling me about this important journey you are about to undertake. I am so proud of you. Let me know what I can to do to be supportive. Maybe we can start with having lunch together. I can’t wait to see the new you.” Or maybe you can offer her to go shopping with your friend, to buy all those new clothes she will need to go out dressed as a woman?
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Arlene (Ari) Lev, LCSW, CASAC, a therapist in the Albany area for over 25 years, serving the LGBT community at Choices Counseling and Consulting, as well as pieces written by the committed staff therapists of Choices Counciling in Albany.
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