My top 8 tips on coming out as trans
I’m Lewis Hancox – filmmaker, comedy writer, aspiring actor and a transgender advocate. I’m passionate about seeing more trans representation in the media. I love creating comedy sketches and films, writing, directing and acting in them. I’m co-creator of the My Genderation documentary project, telling the stories of the trans community. I’ve worked with Hollyoaks, Lucky Tooth Films, Channel 4 and All About Trans. My work has featured on BBC3, Latest TV, The Guardian, DIVA Magazine and more. I’m an ambassador for All About Trans and patron for the National Diversity Awards. I don’t pretend to be an expert on trans issues. Coming out is different for everyone, all I can do is draw from my own experiences and if these nuggets of advice help just one person then my job is done!
1. Come Out To Yourself
They say ‘how can others love you when you don’t love yourself?’ It can be hard enough just to accept yourself, never mind love yourself! But self-acceptance is the first step towards living your life authentically. I used to be really embarrassed of feeling like a boy when my body disagreed. So I bottled everything up throughout high school and college. It took me time to realize that being transgender didn’t make me any less of a guy, or more importantly, any less of a person. We’re all different in our own right and we should embrace those differences. You should feel good in knowing that you’ve figured out the root of the problem – it’s all uphill from here.
2. Make Connections
It’s good to chat with other trans folk, and what better way to do this than from the comfort of your own home. There are a multitude of vlogs on YouTube and loads of support groups on Facebook, full of people eager to make new friends and talk all things trans. The tiny Northern town I come from doesn’t have any trans support groups – in fact, most residents probably don’t know what the word ‘transgender’ means! Luckily, I discovered a whole community of gender variant individuals online. I got chatting with some inspirational people and, ultimately, it feels great to have a support network from the off.
3. Family Meeting
Okay so it doesn’t have to be as formal as a ‘meeting’… but gathering your family (or close friends) together to explain your situation means you don’t need to go through the nerve-wracking process as many times. It also means you can do a bit of a ‘Q & A’, because there will be many questions! Equally, if the thought of being in the spotlight is daunting, just tell one person at a time – whatever feels right. Try to remain calm and explain yourself as best you can. Consider referring them to videos of trans people and educational sites. If those who care about you react negatively, it may be because they’re scared for you. By introducing positive representations of trans people via vlogs and films, you’re showing them that transitioning can lead to a happy, healthy life.
4. A Little Patience
You have to prepare yourself for some not-so-positive reactions. Not everyone is going to understand straight away. The hope is that those who know you the best will realize you’re being true to yourself. Other people may think you’re confused – when really, it’s them who are confused! Further down the line when those around you see how much more comfortable and confident you are since transitioning, they’ll surely realize that this was right for you. And if they don’t, maybe they’re not worth being in your life. Even some of my best friends struggled with calling me by my new name and male pronouns at first. It’s not only people you need to be patient with – it’s the whole journey. As soon as I discovered that I was trans, I wanted to snap my fingers and be fully transitioned! The reality is it can take a few years to get hormones and surgery. Not everyone wants to medically transition of course. You are who you feel you are, regardless of the physical.
5. The Name Game
My first thought was that ‘I’m male’… Only later in life did it hit me that in order to ‘live in society as male’ I’d have to change my name. You may have a nickname, or you may be happy with your birth name and not feel the need to change it at all – if you have a gender-neutral name, that’s ideal! If you do want to change it however, you can do this for around £30 via deed poll online. But do take your time in choosing a name! It could be something similar to your original name, to make it easier for others (and yourself) to adjust. I went from Lois to Lewis… not much of a change there! Some people want to change theirs to something completely different. Why not ask opinions from friends and family to make them feel included?
6. Call The Doctor
Physically transitioning begins at your local GP. They can refer you a local psychologist who can then refer you on to the Gender Clinic. I hadn’t been to my GP in years before that all-important appointment. I was terrified and didn’t know how to explain myself. If I could go back in time, I’d say it with confidence and make sure I got what I needed. More often than not doctors aren’t so clued up on trans issues. They need to respect that this is not a lifestyle choice – this is how you were born. There are even studies that show the white matter in a trans man’s brain resembles that of a biological male’s brain, and vice versa for trans women. But let’s not get too scientific… just get that referral!
7. Living Proof
When I was first told by the Gender Clinic they needed proof in the form of documents I was ‘living as male’, I was dumbfounded. I retorted that I’d lived my whole life as male because I WAS male! Looking back now, I do understand why they need proof. It’s helpful that they push you in that direction because that’s generally the aim anyway, to transition in all areas of life. So, you need to make sure that once you’ve changed your title and name, you alter your ID and also inform your school, college or workplace so that they can change your details there too. This doesn’t mean you need to come out to the whole world, just tell those who are in charge and can sort out your documentation. Take it all at your own pace and remember there are laws in place for discrimination, so no need to be scared.
8. Press Play
I put my life on pause for years because of transitioning. I pushed all of my ambitions to one side and couldn’t focus on anything else. Now I have a lot of catching up to do! If there were only one bit of advice I could give to someone trans, it would be to not let transitioning stop you from achieving your dreams. Foremost, I’m a filmmaker, writer, actor, boyfriend, best friend, son, coffee-drinker, doodler, daydreamer… being transgender is such a small part of who I am and the same goes for you. So invest your energy into something worthwhile. Why not get creative, use your experiences to inspire you – write a blog, a song, a script. Make a film, a comic, a collage. Keep positive and don’t lose yourself. Yeah, it can be a difficult and frustrating journey but everything is hard before it gets easy.
For more inspiration and to keep up with Lewis, don’t forget to follow @lewishancox on Twitter.
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