One of the most traumatic experiences for any transsexual person
is to tell family, friends and colleagues about your feelings. The
overriding worry is always that someone you care for will reject you
as a result.
However, no matter what you fear their reactions may be, the
worst thing you can do is keep it to yourself and suffer
silently. Doing so (as I did for about 28 years) just seems
to put off the moment when it all comes crashing down and you
can't handle it anymore.
With that in mind (and if you're reading this you've already
got as far as looking for help) the best thing you can usually
do is to be open and honest with those you love and care for.
You may well (as I was) be surprised at how accepting and
supportive they will be.
One very important little tip - don't give people you talk to
more detail than they need unless they ask for it or you're
really sure they'll be OK with it. Remember that you may
have had years
to come to terms with who you are, but for them it's almost
certainly going to be a big surprise and they'll need some time
to come to terms with it all.
A close friend is almost certainly the best person to talk to
first. The first time you do, don't be surprised if you spend
absolutely ages waffling around the subject, without
actually telling them anything (the first time I talked to a
friend it took me over 20 minutes to get to the point - but when
I did she was wonderful).
With time (and hopefully support) your confidence will rise,
and before you know it you'll be able to talk openly and
honestly about what you're going through without any difficulty.
[Update, August 2003]
I can only say that my own experience with friends has been
absolutely stunning - with the exception of (all but two of)
those I knew through my old church, all of my friends
have been totally
supportive and accepted me without question. If you have a
browse through my photo album, particularly those of the
reunion I went to in February 2003 and my
trip to Tewkesbury in July 2003, you'll see what I mean.
True friends will almost certainly stick by you. Don't be
afraid to trust them, but always be aware that some friends may
not be as true as you thought, or may have their own issues to
deal with and may not be able to cope with yours.
Unfortunately, talking to a partner is much, much harder.
Don't be at all surprised if their first reaction is anger and
hostility - remember that they are effectively being told that
the person they love isn't the real you. Give it time and
understanding, and maybe you'll be able to salvage at least a
special friendship from your relationship. I even know several
people whose relationships have survived transition, so that's
not impossible either - but I'm afraid it is unlikely.
Sadly, my own case followed a rather typical pattern, and as
a result we divorced and although I tried to obtain access to my
children through the Family Courts, I eventually gave up.
Although during the early stages of the divorce it looked as if
my ex and I would remain friends (and indeed at one stage it
looked like the kids might be staying with me), sadly that's not
how it turned out.
I hope that in time I will see my children again, but
regardless I really do wish my ex all the best in her new life.
Parents and Immediate Family
Parents also deserve a special mention. When told, they are
likely to feel that your suffering is at least partly their
fault, so do try to reassure them.
I told my parents about my feelings on 12th February 2002 -
just after my wife and I had started divorce proceedings, and 5
months after I talked to a friend about it all for the first
time. After reading the experiences of others, I decided that
the best way would be to write a letter explaining what I was feeling and why,
together with what was likely to happen.
Once I'd written the letter (in the form of an email) I
called them and told them that I had something I needed them to
read, and to please call me back after they'd read it. I sent
the email after calling them, and then waited - very
nervously. When they rang back I was overjoyed when they told me
that it didn't matter - they loved me regardless. Subsequently,
my mum expressed some reservations (actually, she said it was
the worst decision I'd ever made - but I know she's
wrong), but despite that I believed they would not reject me.
Sadly, although they appeared to initially be supportive, as
my transition progressed I began to get the impression from them
that they couldn't handle who I was and didn't wish to discuss
it with me.
Rather than us all endure the awkward conversations that were
becoming the norm, I eventually stopped calling - and I'm sad to
say that they never called back. I later learnt from a relative
that shortly afterwards they had moved house without telling me,
which was a pretty unambiguous sign of which way the wind was
Although that hurt, they made their choice - and there is
nothing I can do about that. When I later learnt that my mum
passed away in April 2011, no one in the family thought to tell
me (let alone invite me to the funeral), which really says
It's a real shame - not only did they never get to really
know me, but by shutting me out they never gave themselves the
chance to meet my new family (Beth's family, our godson etc.).
I honestly don't know where to begin on this topic. My own
experience has been that young children are incredibly accepting,
but that merely because they are so young transsexual parents often
have difficulty in gaining access to them. A transsexual parent
being awarded custody of a child is very rare, but it does
happen (I know of several cases in the UK).
Older children (particularly teenagers) will probably have a
lot more difficulty accepting the transition of a parent. This
makes a lot of sense, when you consider the emotional and
hormonal upheaval they are going through at the time.
If you have children in your family the
Resources for Transsexual Parents section on Anne Lawrence's
site is well worth a visit.
Churches and Fellowship Groups
Although what I'm going to say here particularly relates to the
Christian Faith, the same can be said for other Faiths.
The sad fact is that many churches don't even begin to accept
transsexualism, so you would be wise to be prepared for the
possibility of losing your Fellowship. This seems to be most
common in Evangelical, Baptist and Pentacostal Churches which
often have a very literal interpretation of scripture. The
rhetoric of Christian groups such as the Evangelical Alliance
doesn't help in this regard, although things are changing
By way of contrast, MCC, the Unitarian Church and Quakers
openly welcome us, and some Anglican Churches will too. When
you're ready, don't be afraid to seek out local Churches and ask
them - or contact
Inclusive Church to see if you can find an inclusive
Finally, if you find yourself without a Fellowship, please
try to remember that you're still loved by the Lord and there
are many of us whose Churches would welcome you with open arms
if only the opportunity arose. Don't let those who judge
dampen your Faith!
Firstly, and most importantly - don't expect to
transition with little or no notice at work. Attempting to do so
will almost certainly just confuse people - give them time to
adjust to the idea.
Unless you feel your management is going to be hostile or
unsupportive I'd suggest that you talk it through with someone
in authority within your company before talking to any
colleagues. That way you should be able to get the company's
support and backing for your transition before news of it
becomes public knowledge. Furthermore, if a colleague does
react badly to the news there's someone who can deal with it.
Be realistic about the likely outcomes. The chances are there
will be some bewilderment or confusion (hopefully not hostility,
but that can't be ruled out either), as a result of which some
people may avoid you for a while. Be patient, and (assuming you
have the company's support) with time it will hopefully sort
I suspect it's a bad idea to make a company-wide announcement
until your transition is fairly close - especially if (as I did)
you need time to really "look the part".
By way of example, I told my Director about my impending
divorce and transition in February 2002, started hormone therapy
at the end of May, and intend to start my real-life-test at
Christmas. He briefed my project team in August (the day before
I went on holiday), and the rest of the company was briefed in
As far as the "big announcement" goes, my plan was to bring
in a counsellor from the Gender Trust to make a presentation to the
staff (and maybe take a day or three off to give the gossip a
chance to die down). In the event, the company did a brilliant
job of explaining it to everyone (the counsellor wasn't needed)
and I didn't take any time off either!
I worked in the male role until the end of the year, and came
back as Anna after the Christmas break. Although it felt surreal
at first (and yes, I was nervous that first day!) within a few
days it just felt natural - almost as if nothing had changed.
Finally, if your company turns out to be hostile (these days
it's less likely, but sadly it does happen), above all remember
that in the UK you have legal protection - you cannot
be dismissed for undertaking a Gender Transition. Know your
rights and stick by them.