Coming out

Coming out is the process of becoming aware of your trans identity, accepting it and telling others about it. There is not a simple set of steps to follow, however, this page will give you a few pointers to help along the way.

Coming Out

Should I come out?

Navigating who to tell about being trans and when to do it is a lifelong process which may get easier over time.

Your right to privacy

Many people keep their trans identity and expression private all or part of the time. Some people refer to this as going stealth The practice of living life after a gender transition entirely as one’s gender, without disclosing past gender experiences. (Source: QMUNITY) .

This decision may be based on how you think others might react. Coming out may involve an increased risk of being exposed to harassment, discrimination or violence, or of losing relationships or housing. You may also feel that this part of your identity is private.

All of these reasons are legitimate. You have the right to choose whether or not to disclose this part of yourself.

Benefits of coming out

For many people, the benefits of coming out outweigh the risks. Some of the personal benefits of coming out include:

  • Developing closer, more open relationships
  • Building self-esteem from being known and loved for who you really are
  • Reducing the stress of hiding your identity
  • Connecting with other trans people

If you choose to come out, you may also help others by:

  • Dispelling myths and stereotypes about trans people
  • Making it easier for future generations of trans people to come out
  • Becoming a role model for others

Of course, you can choose to come out to some people and not others. It may be helpful to weigh the pros and cons of coming out in each aspect of your life (family, friends, work and school) or to particular people. This reflection can help you decide how much risk you are willing to take in each case.

Who should I come out to first?

Many people start by coming out to the people who are most likely to accept their trans identity. This way, they have a support network around them if they choose to come out to people who may respond negatively.

To help determine whether someone will be accepting, some people test the waters by bringing up a trans issue or trans person in the media to see how that person responds.

You may also decide who to tell based on whether you trust them to maintain your confidentiality.

Options for coming out

There are many options for coming out. You might come out in person (face to face or by phone), in writing (email or letter) or by writing a letter you read in person. You may choose to come out in person to some people and in writing to others.

The advantages of coming out in writing are that:

  • You can take your time and think about exactly what you want to say
  • You can ask other people to read what you’ve written and get feedback
  • You can speak your truth before answering questions
  • You do not have to hear a person’s initial response (initial responses can be intense, but often mellow after reflection)
  • The recipient can go back and read it again and again

What should I consider 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 come with you
  • Have another person disclose the information for you
  • Plan to check in and debrief with somebody else after the conversation
  • Ask the person not to respond right away so they can take some time to let the information sink in
  • Not come out to them

In situations where you feel unsafe at home or might lose your housing, plan ahead by arranging a backup place to stay. Keep a bag packed with essentials in case you need to leave quickly. 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 life circumstances and goals.

Consider other people’s circumstances, too. Is someone you want to come out to going through a major life event? If so, they may not be able to provide you with the support you hope 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
  • How you want to respond to various questions

Possible reactions

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 it means to be trans. Some people may have a lot of questions.

Not everyone offers immediate understanding and acceptance. Some people may need time and space to adjust to the news. Expect that the person could feel surprised, shocked, honoured, uncomfortable, fearful, supportive, disbelieving, curious, confused, angry or relieved.

Consider some strategies for dealing with reactions that do not 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, read our section on Responding to Negative Reactions.


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? 
  • Should they use a different pronoun? 
  • Should they use different family labels (for example sibling/sister/brother, daughter/son/kid or aunt/uncle/auntle)?

What else do you hope for in terms of support? Use your intuition to determine when 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.


For more help on answering people’s questions about trans identities visit our Understanding Gender and Parents & Families sections.

Responding to negative reactions

There are different degrees of negative reactions. In response to a mildly negative reaction, you might say:

“I understand this information may come as a shock. You would probably like some time to digest this. I’m open and ready to talk about this more when you are.”

If a situation is emotionally or physically unsafe, leave. This enables you to be safer and regroup before you have to further deal with the situation.

If someone shares information about your identity in a negative way at work, school or in another public environment, go to the person in charge. Describe the discrimination or harassment you are experiencing. If this does not resolve the situation, you may need to go up the chain of command or file a formal complaint. Keep a record of each incident of harassment. 


Visit Trans Rights BC for more about how to deal with this kind of situation, learn more about the human rights complaints process in B.C. and more. 

How can I connect with other trans people?

Connecting with other trans people can be helpful in several ways: 

  • Engaging with others helps you appreciate the wide range of gender identities and expressions
  • You can learn strategies for navigating the world as a trans person
  • Others can help you anticipate potential challenges associated with coming out

If you live in a rural area, connecting with other trans people can be a bit more challenging. Fortunately, there are plenty of online trans communities. Use our Peer Support Directory to find a list of groups.

What should I do if I’m outed?

Being outed refers to a situation where someone discloses or discovers your trans identity without your consent.

Sometimes, the problem of being outed is caused by a lack of understanding rather than a harmful intention. In these cases, you may wish to inform the person about your right to privacy and confidentiality, and the consequences of being outed for trans people. If you feel unsafe, you might choose to have an ally communicate this information for you.

What you can do

If someone starts to react in a negative way, it’s best to stop them before they get too far. Put your hand up and say something like, “I was not actually asking for your opinion.” Exit the situation if needed.

For tips on dealing with a more hostile situation, read our section on Responding to Negative Reactions.

Many trans people carry a letter from their doctor stating that they are trans and intend no deception or ill will. This letter can be useful if you are outed when, for example, you are crossing a border or dealing with police.

Need support?

Contact our team of experienced health navigators for information about gender-affirming care in B.C.

Community Voices

Read some unique perspectives, stories, and insights from trans, non-binary, and Two-Spirit community members.
—M, on the topic of transition timelines
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A thing that I wish someone told me is, it's okay if you wait before accessing any kind of gender-affirming medication or surgeries. It's okay to take your time. You don't have to rush into doing anything if you’re not ready. Just know that you are not alone. You get to customize your transition however you want.

—M, on the topic of transition timelines