9 transgender people talk about when they knew, coming out, and finding love (2023)

Coming out to family

Kortney Ziegler

My family loved me for who I am, and that's how it's always been. Although gender is not your sexuality, they supported me when they thought I was a lesbian. So coming out as someone who identifies as male wasn't as difficult as I probably thought it would be.

I'll post pictures on Facebook. I'm seven years into my medical transition now, but I'll still post pictures of things that have changed. And my family comes up and says, "Looks great," and all these things. It's really a great, supportive environment. I am lucky enough to not have had any issues with family members. I like to think it's quite fascinating for them to have me in the family because I've gotten to educate them through my work and my life experience.

9 transgender people talk about when they knew, coming out, and finding love (1)

Robyn Kanner

My dad had multiple sclerosis growing up. That took priority in my family. There were a lot of times when I really wanted to open up about my issues with gender but I really couldn't, just because there was something else in the room that took priority.

I was sort of a mess coming out. It came out in pieces. I told strangers a lot. It was a way to work through saying I'm trans without any consequences.

"I used to be so miserable that it would reflect in my daily attitude and how they viewed me. They were, to a point, just not happy to be around me."


For the most part, my family took it quite well once I explained a lot of it to them. It's been a mixed process.

I used to have a horrible relationship with my mother. Since I started transitioning, it's been very positive, because she's seeing I'm happy now for the first time in my life. Because she's seeing the happiness in me, I guess we now have a closer bond.

But I also have some uncles who refuse to acknowledge my existence now. One uncle refuses to talk to me at all. The way my mom puts it to me is that he thinks I'm dead to him. I was really close to him before, but he cut off the relationship entirely because I'm trans. It still upsets me.

My ex-wife knew about me being trans before we got married. But she just didn't want me to transition. I thought I could cope with it. She wasn't shocked when I finally said, "I'm done being miserable." I still keep a good relationship with her.

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With my kids, who are 7 years old, it's been extremely positive. I used to be so miserable that it would reflect in my daily attitude and how they viewed me. They were, to a point, just not happy to be around me. Now they're extremely happy to be around me, and we spend lots of time together. I go to school meetings with them. I'm very involved in their daily lives.

My kids just adapted to it. The first year, I asked them if they wanted to call me daddy or if they wanted to call me something else. They told me they wanted to call me Katie. About six months after I started transitioning, they told me they liked me much more as Katie than they did as daddy.

Lily Carollo

My mom has been amazingly supportive. She's been pretty enthusiastic about the whole thing. She still remembers the day and date I told her "I want to be a girl" for the first time.

My little sister, five years younger than me, is okay with it.

My father, I was a little bit worried about. He was okay with it, but around the time I started transitioning my parents started going through a divorce. It added more stress to me during my transition.

9 transgender people talk about when they knew, coming out, and finding love (2)

Jordan Geddes

[My parents] are the most supportive people that I know. One of the reasons they were so supportive is for so long I was very depressed, and my parents realized being able to transition would help a lot. Resources were very limited at the time, so my parents had to decide to support me and be the ones to push the issue in school.

The only real time I've had any pushback from my family is when I started taking hormones. Before, it wasn't anything medical or surgical. I think the medical aspect made it harder for them to accept.

I know my mom had a hard time adjusting. She's not questioning the fact I'm trans. I think it feels for her like she's losing a daughter — and I think she's been struggling with that. It's when she had to see it actually happen. But she's come a long way. I think it's finally come to her that she's not losing me; it's just I finally look like I should have from the start.

9 transgender people talk about when they knew, coming out, and finding love (3)

Emily Prince

I came out to my family in October 2013. They threw me a party to celebrate, which should tell you how supportive they are.

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My mom — I love you, Mom! — was a little confused at first. She didn't get I wasn't telling her that I'm gay. She thought I was telling her that I'm gay. But she realized pretty quickly, because we started talking about hormones.

My immediate family — my mom, dad, and brother — is very accepting. It was hard for them at first getting the pronouns and the names correct, just because they were scared of telling someone who didn't know. But they did a fantastic job in the end and were fantastically supportive.

I came out to my extended family several weeks later.

I should mention I have a very communicative family. We chat online with iOS's messenger service. If you ever lose your reception, you'll come back to 100 or so messages waiting for you.

No one messaged me specifically for about a week. At first, I thought it was rejection. But they were just living their lives. Some also didn't know what to say because they were worried about offending me. But I took it the wrong way, and I cried so hard. My mom had to talk to them and clear up how I felt about it. They then let me know that I'm still part of the family, and it's been fantastic ever since.

Several months later, I came out to my grandmother in person, who, not surprisingly, isn't on the messenger service. I drove up to New England and told her I'm Emily now. She, who's turning 90, was fantastically accepting and has completely adopted me as one of her granddaughters. She has been amazing.

So my entire family has been accepting. I don't have any family member who has rejected me.

Sheri Swokowski

After I retired, I began to work as a teacher in the US Army Force Management School. At this point, I began experimenting more. I only presented as a man in the schoolhouse. I was always a female outside the work environment.

I came out to family to very mixed emotions.

My older brother told me a few things that stuck with me because they were so hurtful. He told me he wanted to keep his children from me. Then he told me he had to protect my grandchildren from me. Subsequently, when we still had communications, he tried to avoid telling people about it.

My younger brother was accepting, although I'm not totally sure to what extent.

My ex-wife was accepting at first. But in the long run, peer pressure from her sister and brother caused her to recoil. I haven't had any contact with my ex for eight or 10 years.

The bright side is my two kids are very happy. They like me more. Not that I was a bad, but they like me better now. That makes total sense, because I like myself much better now.

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"My older brother told me a few things that stuck with me because they were so hurtful"

Ramona P.

Around 2008, I came out to my then-wife, now my ex-wife, and told her, "I have to transition." For a period of time there, I thought we might stay together despite everything else — the things I had done to really wreck the marriage. At that time, I also came out to my parents and close friends.

But for a lot of complicated reasons, I had a freakout and scrambled back into the closet — a couple months away from starting hormones. In July 2012, I started hormones again. I went full-time as a woman in December 2013.

I haven't talked to my biological father for 10 years. So I'm not sure if he even knows about this.

With my mom, who's much more central in my life, it's been a process of steady evolution. At first, she didn't really understand. There wasn't outright hostility, but there was a lack of understanding, questioning whether it was a phase, and concern about my well-being. To give some credit, she had read about how difficult life can be for trans people, and she was really worried about me going through that.

But my mom has really come around. She's one of my biggest supporters. Our relationship is a lot better now. It's closer. My stepdad has also been very good.

My little brother, who's 18 years younger than me, has been great. He didn't skip a beat. He went from calling me bro to calling me sis, just like that.

One person surprised me a lot: my very, very conservative grandmother. I was girded and expecting some unpleasantness with her. But she has been really, really supportive.

9 transgender people talk about when they knew, coming out, and finding love (4)

Leah Roukema

They weren't receptive to me transitioning or me being trans for a little while. The relationship was very tense then. But they didn't cut off communication or attempt to tell me flat-out that I was wrong.

It's still awkward with my siblings. They don't like to talk or really acknowledge it. I wouldn't say they aren't supportive of LGBT people, but I don't think they've had any contact with trans people before me. The lack of communication might have a lot to do with me being different now than I was a year ago, more than being uncomfortable with transgender people.

My parents have come a long way. For a while, they just didn't talk about it. In a lot of ways, I think they were just hoping it would disappear if they didn't acknowledge it at first. It wasn't until I tried to start hormones that they started arguing with me, saying it was a mistake. I wasn't a minor anymore, so I could proceed with it myself — although it was a little tricky financially without their support. Once I started transitioning socially, I think they got a lot more comfortable with the fact that this was something I wanted to do and that this was more than me just trying something.

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Coming out to the broader world

Kortney Ziegler

I've experienced racism in a completely different way than I did when I was perceived to be a woman. I definitely have more sympathy and compassion for black men than I did when I wasn't one.

People police me a lot more than they did before — by that, I mean literally police. People feel they can touch me more without my consent. I'm physically stopped a lot. People are visibly uncomfortable around me. I'm always considered to be stealing things.

There are a lot of moments of my life where I'm like, "Wow. How are all black men not crazy at this point? How have they not been driven insane by racism?" The way they're treated is so sad. Everyone thinks you're a criminal all the time.

A lot of my work is in the tech industry, where there aren't a lot of black men. I was recently going to an event here in Oakland that was held by a private group. I walked in the place, and this woman literally grabbed me, stopped me, and said, "This is a private event. You're not supposed to be here." Those things happen to me all the time. People always tell me I'm not supposed to be in places without even asking me.

It's a whole new experience. Living in this world being perceived as a black man, I'm still learning. I think that's the major focal point of my transitional journey: how to remain sane living in this world that discourages black masculinity so much.

9 transgender people talk about when they knew, coming out, and finding love (5)

Lily Carollo

The more time I spend as a woman, the more of a feminist firecracker I become, and more involved with women's issues. It really shocked me when I transitioned and started passing as a woman how differently women are treated in society compared with men. I knew I was passing well when men started harassing me.

My overall opinion of the male gender has steadily declined ever since I started transitioning. Preparing to go out on a walk around the block in a city or in a downtown area, I now worry about whether I'm alone and whether it's dark and whether I'm safe. And even if men don't street harass, there's a lot of leering. Even if I stare at them back with a look that's asking them what the fuck they're doing, they continue to stare at me. It bothers me. Stop staring at me!

Another huge pet peeve that really, really bothers me is how people assume I'm straight. Before I transitioned, I was a straight male. Now I'm a woman and still prefer women.

But people assume I'm attracted to men. People ask if I have a boyfriend and what I look for in a man. It's a really uncomfortable position to put me in. If you assume I'm attracted to men, it puts me in a position in which I have to come out, which can cause some sort of awkwardness or tension, or I have to keep my mouth shut and give you the wrong image of me throughout the conversation.

I don't understand why people assume other people's sexuality. It drives me nuts.


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