Coming out as trans at school, university or work

Coming out as trans to big groups of people can be hard, especially when you don't know how they will react and you have to spend most of your time with them. Read our guide to help you choose how and when is the right time for you.

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It can be hard to know where to start if you want to come out at school, uni or work.

A number of definitions fall under the transgender umbrella, but it basically means someone who wants to present themselves as a different gender to their biological sex.

If you’re reading this, you might have already thought about your gender and considered whether you might be trans. If you’ve already come out to yourself and family or friends, the next step might be to make your wishes known publicly at school, university or work, so you can live your life in the way you want to.

Who do I tell first?

This is entirely up to you, but you may find it easier to first tell those you think will be most supportive. If you want to tell your teacher, for example, taking along a friend or family member might help. If speaking in person makes you feel uncomfortable, you could write your boss or lecturer a letter or email. After they know, a face-to-face conversation should be easier.

What do I tell people?

It can be hard to know where to start. People might ask you why you’ve made this choice. Be clear about your reasons, but remember this is a personal choice, which you can explain is the right one for you. Don’t feel like you have to tell them everything.

It’s also a good idea to think through exactly what you want to get out of telling them. What would you like to see change now you’re openly trans? For example, you may like to:

  • Change your name
  • Be referred to by a different pronoun – ‘he’ not ‘she’, or ‘she’ not ‘he’
  • Change the way you dress
  • Alter your physical appearance

What happens next?

Once you’ve informed your school or workplace about your gender identity they should be able to put a plan in place to help you. Schools are subject to the Public Sector Equality Duty, which means they must eliminate discrimination and provide equal opportunities. This may include:

  • Setting some agreed steps to help you transition, along with agreeing a date by which you want this to happen
  • Changing your name, gender and pronouns on legal documents and records. If you want to officially change your name you will need parental consent if you’re under 18.
  • Staff and colleagues receiving training about transgender issues
  • Making sure there are bathroom facilities to match your gender identity or unisex stalls
  • Ensuring you have safe spaces to change alone, if necessary, to combat transphobic bullying

I’m worried about negative reactions

You may feel worried that:

  • People won’t understand you or will act differently around you
  • You don’t know what your rights are
  • You might be bullied

It’s a big hurdle to come out so it’s OK to feel stressed and anxious. While there may be some negative or hurtful reactions, times are changing, so feel positive someone will understand and help you. If you are worried, speak to your school counsellor or workplace HR department. They can guide you through the process, let you know your rights and what to expect.

I’m at a single-sex school – what do I do?

You have a right to wear the clothes and uniform you choose. Many schools have a unisex option available for students so you can pick what makes you feel more comfortable. If you transition while at an all-boys or all-girls school you can still stay at that school. The 2010 Equality Act states: “A girls’ school which permits a pupil who is undergoing gender reassignment to remain after they adopt a male gender role would not lose its single sex status.”

What do I do if someone won’t let me use the toilet of my assigned gender?

There is no law in the UK that prevents trans people from using the bathroom that matches their assigned gender. If someone tries to stop you, remind them you aren’t doing anything illegal and have every right to use the facilities.

How do I support a friend who’s coming out?

If you know your friend is coming out at school or work the best thing you can do is be there for them. Show them your support by:

  • Asking your teachers if you can do a presentation in assembly about trans people
  • Stand up for your friend if you hear someone bulling them
  • Correct other people if they use the wrong name or pronoun for your friend
  • Check-in on your friend regularly to make sure they’re OK

I’m not sure I’m ready to come out yet – is that OK?

Telling people who you are can be a tough experience so it’s OK to feel you’re not ready. Take as long as you need to figure out what you want to do. Remember, you don’t owe anyone an explanation, so if you never want to tell anyone that’s OK too.

Next Steps

  • The Albert Kennedy Trust supports LGBT people aged 16-25-years-old who are homeless or living in a hostile environment. AKT has offices in London (call on 020 7831 6562), Manchester (0161 228 3308) and Newcastle (0191 281 0099).
  • Queer Youth Network gives you the opportunity to meet and chat with other LGBT young people online.
  • Mermaids is a support group for trans people aged 19 and under. Call the information line on 0344 334 0550, open Monday to Saturday from 3pm - 7pm.
  • Do you want to understand your relationship better? Love Smart helps you work it all out.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.

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Updated on 23-Jun-2017

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

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