Health and Safety Notice: Before reading the principles outlined below, please check your birth certificate and ensure you are over 18 years of age, because this area of the website is for adults only. If you are, rather annoyingly, full of youth and indeed a child of the 21st century, then you should consult your school, college or university for advice, or indeed the Departments of Education or Health, on all aspects of coming out.
This page is to assist trans-people in the closet who want to come out and present themselves as they feel most comfortable, but because of relationship, lifestyle and cultural factors it is a daunting decision.
There is no definitive text book on this subject so these principles are based on experience rather than medical science or psychology, so they are for general guidance, they may or may not work for everyone and anyone, but hopefully will give you food for thought, so you can customise your trans-journey to accommodate your own needs and emotions.
My name is Julie Miller and in this video and transcript below I describe my experience of coming out as transgender, and in doing so hopefully I can assist other people in a similar situation and provide some interesting thoughts and direction in respect to their transition from the unwanted and rather bothersome gender presentation they currently experience to one that they are more comfortable with, whether transitioning totally from one binary gender to another binary, man to woman or woman to man, or to a non-binary gender expression, and indeed whether their goal is to transition on a full time or part time basis depending on ongoing health, lifestyle and relationship issues, or indeed the size of their bank balance.
I have been openly transgender for nearly 50 years (yes under these multi-layers of foundation of primer, undercoat, top coat is a 60 year old human being) and I have always presented either a non-binary or binary transition away from my birth gender, which was a boy.
And in my childhood days the words transgender and non-binary were only used in scientific research by sexologists behind closed doors in darkened laboratories, bristling with electronic conversion therapy machines and menacing looking surgical instruments straight out of the torture chamber of a James Bond movie. For many years through the 1980’s and 1990’s I presented myself as a very feminine guy, as you can see in these pictures:
This video describes my experience of coming out as transgender. Below is also a full transcript if you just want to scan and visit the "Principles".
What are you feeling now?
I am going to describe some of the feelings I had when I was firmly in the closet about my desire to present myself in public and to society as a woman, but in those days I only dressed as a woman in the secrecy and security of my home.
Fear - fear of being caught, fear of rejection, fear of physical or psychological bullying and the resulting impact on my relationships, on my job, and indeed my physical well-being. In the 1970’s I lived near Oxford and used to see a trans-person who managed a late evening fast food takeaway. She didn’t pass as a woman, but dressed in clothes associated with women, her favourite accessory being a beautiful silk pink scarf, but she had the physical and mental scars of repeated physical beatings and mental abuse from the drunken revellers that passed by her on a Saturday evening. They nicknamed her Joyce the Poof. I had good reason to be afraid about revealing my true desire to dress in the same feminine attire.
Disgust - I felt deep disgust in myself for wanting to wear a dress as a teenage boy, because in the 1970’s culture, the wearing of a dress or any feminine attire, by a man, was frowned upon and many regarded it as a perversion, a sexual fetish, or indeed a mental illness, and therefore something to be acutely ashamed of. But my experience of the 21st century is that people are relatively more educated and understanding of people who are different, whether through their gender presentation or indeed their racial or cultural background and any feelings of disgust I felt have now evaporated. And incidentally in regard to sexual perversion, it is now fully accepted by our medical and scientific professions that boys as young as 4 years old can experience gender dysphoria and the desire to wear dresses and skirts, and a four-year-old boy certainly doesn’t have these feelings for sexual reasons. And unlike my childhood days, he does have to feel disgust in himself for wanting to present femininity.
Loneliness - In the 1970’s and 80’ and most of the 90’s there was no internet, we used to communicate using the ancient tools of a bygone age, like pens and paper, and we used to engage in a social skill that is now nearing extinction, the art of conversation; and the nature of the secrecy of transgender culture meant I felt like I was the only boy in the world with these feelings of desire to be feminine, and I felt very alone in the world. But thankfully the inter-galactic fibre-optic highway that is the world wide web means that no trans-person should ever feel lonely, there are always friends out there in cyber-space to provide comfort and reassurance and friendship.
Denial - For decades I was in a state of denial, and instead of accepting that my most comfortable gender presentation was that of a woman, I presented myself publicly as a very feminine man. I persuaded myself that I was just pushing the fashion freedom frontiers of men’s clothing. I buried my true gender expression desires to a dark corner of my mind and tried to ignore them, but they continuously gnawed away at my conscious mind, they sapped the spirit from my living soul, and caused me continuous anxiety and what the doctors now call "gender dysphoria"
Anxiety - the sum total of all these negative feelings meant that I could never feel content with who and what I was, and as the years past and at the age of 50 and as I entered the second half of my life, and the most dominant feeling was anxiety, deep burning gnawing anxiety, which in turn led to suicidal intonations; my head felt like a nuclear explosion was imminent between my ears, I was heading for a mental breakdown. I knew I had to do something quickly or my existence on this planet was coming to a premature end; I knew I had to:
Come out as Transgender
So those are some of the feelings I experienced for many years, but gender dysphoria is the medical term for the negative feelings people experience in relation to their gender presentation, dysphoria is the Greek word for unhappiness and indeed the opposite is euphoria which means happy. So in reality the word dysphoria represents a whole myriad of negative feelings associated with being transgender.
The principles in this video are based on my own experience of coming out as transgender, which I did 5 years ago at the tender age of 55. I call them principles mainly so that I can increase the amount of hits I get on Youtube for this video, but in reality they are just my thoughts and my experiences. They worked for me but may or may not work for everyone and anyone, but hopefully they will give people food for thought, and to customise their trans-journey to accommodate their own needs and emotions. They helped minimise the pain and trauma of my “coming out” ensuring I maintained a good quality of life and the love and respect of all those I care about. I hope that other people will find them interesting and in some way assist with their gender identity issues.
10 Principles of Coming Out
Principle 1 - Be careful with the "T" word. When I first starting wearing dresses as a young boy the only two words that described me were transvestite and transsexual, the former defined by the Einstein of Sexology, Doctor Magnus Hirshfeld, in 1910 as men who wore women’s clothes for social and sometimes sexual reasons, and the latter describing someone who transitioned fully, including surgical interventions, and I did not relate to either of these descriptions. But latterly in the early 21st century the word "transgender" came into common usage and is contemporarily used as an umbrella term to cover a multitude of different gender identities and presentations. And it a word that I can relate to because somewhere under this umbrella it describes my gender identity, which is non-binary gender-fluid. But because it is new in the English language it is open to much misinterpretation and it means different things to different people, and as a result people may draw the wrong conclusions and make incorrect assumptions and this can be to the detriment of a trans-person. So if you haven't told anyone yet that you are transgender it may not be wise unless you are confident they really understand the true meaning of the word as it relates to you. It is only transgender people that really know and understand the whole concept of transgender as it affects them. It may be a better option, as I found out, to apply Principle 2 below.
Principle 2 - Focus on Feelings. Transgender is not an illness or a disorder, it is a state of being, like being short or tall, musically gifted, left or right-handed. But the rejection by our culture of transgender people causes us negative feelings, depression, despair, loneliness, anxiety, fear, inadequacy, poor self-esteem and possible suicidal thoughts. It is these negative feelings, or at least some of them, that I communicated to my friends and family, and most importantly to my doctor. I left him to make the diagnosis that they were related to gender identity issues. So my advice is that you must communicate to everyone how you are feeling and leave it to the medical establishment to make the diagnosis that they are related to gender identity issues, see Principle 3 below.
Principle 3 - Medical Authentication. People place blind faith in our doctors and trust that if the medical establishment authenticates a condition, it gives that condition validity. I made an appointment with my GP and discussed with him my negative feelings and the impact on my life, including relationships, mental stability and suicidal thoughts. I allowed the doctor to make the diagnosis that these were attributable to gender identity issues, and I was easily able to steer him that way, for example by telling him/her that my anxieties reduced when I wore various clothes as a source of comfort. I didn’t accept superficial treatments like anti-depressant tablets, and he realised I needed help from a mental health professional, like a counsellor or psychotherapist. Eventually I was referred to a Gender Identity Clinic, and received a diagnosis by one of the leading gender identity experts in the UK. By taking this medical authentication approach, my friends, family and other people who I deal with in the course of my life, are more accepting of me as a transgender person because of the medically authenticated "gender dysphoria" diagnosis.
Principle 4 - Show Consideration. Once a person has been diagnosed as having gender dysphoria, and wants to change their gender presentation to alleviate this condition, their friends, family and everyone else will have a range of emotions, but inevitably some will be negative. I am married to a wonderful woman who I want to stay married to, and so I am very sensitive to her needs and feelings because she has now unwillingly embarked on a journey into the unknown, and which can be an emotional roller coaster ride for her as much as for me. So my advice for anyone who has friends and relatives who are impacted by their gender identity issues is to show them the appropriate empathy and consideration; this way you will be joining them side by side on the journey you have all now embarked, you will be fighting on the same side rather than opposing sides. They will see this and hopefully in turn provide you with the empathy and support you need.
Principle 5 - Don't Rush. If you show signs that you hastily want to transition away from your current uncomfortable gender expression to one that you desire, your friends and family might be concerned, even angry, with your over-enthusiasm at the expense of their readiness to accept the new you! Take your time, try and move at a pace that they find acceptable. It may take several years to get to your final destination, but if you take your time you will arrive safe and robust, rather than ravaged and torn apart by the whole emotional roller-coaster ride.
Principle 6 - Proportionality. Each trans-person's transition away from their unwanted gender presentation takes different routes and ends at different destinations; some want permanent full social, physical and legal changes whilst others may only want partial and reversible changes. But from my experience of reading our newspapers and social media the focus is almost entirely on those transgender people want total transition from one binary gender to the other, which is not the case, there are many gender-fluid and non-binary people. The fact is only 25%-40% have genital plastic surgery (see appropriate text books referenced in this website). I have set the expectations of my family and friends that my transition away from my bothersome masculine presentation is to a gender-fluid and non-binary feminine presentation, and definitely not full social, legal, physical and irreversible and I have to set their expectations of what will happen in the months and years ahead. A brilliant book that I would recommend is linked here and is by Felix Conrad, How to Mindtrick Your Gender Dysphoria, it is definitely a good read and it describes how to apply this sense of proportionality to the transition process.
Principle 7 - Indulge in Trans culture. One of the most powerful emotions I had as a non-binary feminine man was loneliness; I used to call those years my cultural wilderness, and I knew that if I presented myself as a woman, the transgender community would be a friendlier environment. I remember going to the local transgender club dressed as a feminine man but did not feel welcomed by the transwomen; but now that I go looking as much like a woman as I can get away with, I am more accepted in the club. So my advice is to try and make friends with other trans-people who you relate with, whether binary or non-binary and ideally meet them physically, but if not online. All trans-people (or at least the ones that I have met and socialise with) by their nature are loving, supportive and caring people, I really believe it goes with the trans way of life. You will find they provide the comfort and care you need during your transition, they will give you strength through the bad times and the determination to reach your gender presentation goals. Inevitably they will meet your non-trans friends and family, who will in turn see that the trans sub-culture is full of wonderful and loving people.
Principle 8 - You Don't Need to "Pass". For any trans-person, especially trans-feminine, unless you have been very lucky at birth, there may be aspects of your physical presentation that will be difficult or impossible (or impossibly expensive) to change. If you are 6 foot 6 inches tall with large hands and size 13 shoes, it doesn't matter how much hormone treatment and plastic surgery you have, you will still not easily pass as a woman. Historically many trans-people were desperate to "pass" in their acquired gender to avoid the inevitable stigma, abuse, victimisation and harassment, but in today's Western Society everyone is much more accepting and accommodating of people who look different (and that obviously relates to race and religious differences as well as gender). Don't beat yourself up and allow the gender dysphoria to continue, accept and love yourself as you are ("How to Jedi Mindtrick your Gender Dysphoria", by Felix Conrad, is definitely a good read). And if you do respect yourself, it is more likely that everyone else will respect you.
Principle 9 - Add Extra Value. Whilst it is true that our 21st century laws like the Equality Act 2010 and our western culture are more accepting of people who look different, unfortunately in our society there continue to be many many people whose views on trans-people are negative; they regard us as people who willfully disobey the unwritten sociological rules and regulations of the contemporary binary-gendered culture. And every day we can read of trans-people who suffer inequalities, whether through victimisation and bullying at work, or being ostracised and ridiculed at home and in the street, or indeed being physically abused and even murdered. One option a trans-person has to counter-balance this negativity is to do something significantly and overtly positive whilst presenting in the gender that is most comfortable to them, something that makes them morally superior to the accusative non-transgender people. This can be interpreted as "adding extra value" to the community, for example doing unpaid community work, volunteering to help with extra-curricular activities at work, or as I do working for a charity. Or it could be as simple as being a charming and cheerful person to meet in the pub or cafe when presenting in your most comfortable gender; or wearing clothes, make-up and accessories that are overtly aesthetically pleasing to other people, rather than a more run-of-the-mill appearance. I add extra value by working voluntarily for a charity, but I only do so presenting as a trans woman. I treat my body as a blank canvas and try to make it as aesthetically pleasing to the average passer-by, by wearing colourful and coordinated clothes; and I always wear a smile.
Principle 10 - Be Proud. Transgender is not an illness or disorder, it is a state of being, just like being musically gifted, athletically gifted or academically gifted. It is in my DNA, it is in my soul, it is who I am. I am proud of who I see in the mirror, it is my right to present my gender as I feel most comfortable. My advice to you is to exercise your right by walking the walk, take a stroll down your high street presenting yourself to the world as your true self, in the gender presentation that makes you happy; you are majestic, hold your head high and look people in the eye and smile, they may think it's their high street, but it's not, YOU OWN IT!