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Coming out to family and friends can be one of the hardest parts of transitioning. No matter how open-minded or supportive they are, it is virtually impossible to predict how our closest friends and family members will react when presented with unexpected news.
One of the most common – and best – pieces of advice offered to transgendered people coming out to their loved ones is this: Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. This advice is not meant to frighten people or discourage them from coming out, but rather to help them mentally prepare for something that might not be a pleasant experience. Answering questions about your new gender and identity can be overwhelming, and a proper mental preparation will help the conversation go smoothly. As social acceptance of transgendered people grows, the reactions of parents and family members is likely to continue improving as well, but even the best allies can have trouble adjusting when it is a member of their family or someone that they know intimately. When preparing to come out, there are several things that you should do in order to protect yourself from the wide range of potential reactions.
- Find a solid support base: It can be extremely hard to confront your parents about an issue regarding identity, but having a solid base of friends that support and respect you can do a lot to ease the experience, should it be unpleasant. Have a friend on-call to meet up with you or talk to afterwards so you can work through any emotions that come up.
- Wait until you are confident in your new identity: One of the worst things a transgender person can do in their situation is to come out before they are fully ready to do so. If you’re still feeling insecure and vulnerable, negative reactions may have a significant impact on your mental health. It’s best to feel fully confident, strong, and sure of your path as not only will this protect you from negativity, it will also help your family members adjust more quickly and accept the reality of the situation. If you seem unsure, they are likely to cling to that and may tell themselves that it is simply a phase that will pass. For some, this leads to having to go through the experience all over again as you come into your true identity.
- Never assume that you know how a specific person will react: Many of the worst experiences have come from persons who assumed that their open-minded and supportive parents would continue to be open-minded and supportive no matter what. Negative reactions in these cases can be even more heartbreaking than known conservative parents reacting in predictable ways. As is said often by the community, hope for the best and prepare for the worst.
The important thing to concentrate on is that you’re about to start living the life you were born to live. The happier you are about that, the happier your friends and family will be about it, too. Keep your positivity high and be open to answering any questions your family may have, and your announcement is sure to be met with a favorable reaction.