One of the most traumatic experiences for any transsexual person is to tell family, friends and colleagues about your feelings. The overriding worry is always that someone you care for will reject you as a result.
However, no matter what you fear their reactions may be, the worst thing you can do is keep it to yourself and suffer silently. Doing so (as I did for about 28 years) just seems to put off the moment when it all comes crashing down and you can't handle it anymore.
With that in mind (and if you're reading this you've already got as far as looking for help) the best thing you can usually do is to be open and honest with those you love and care for. You may well (as I was) be surprised at how accepting and supportive they will be.
One very important little tip - don't give people you talk to more detail than they need unless
they ask for it or you're really sure they'll be OK with it. Remember that you've had years
to come to terms with who you are, but for them it's almost certainly going to be a big surprise and
they'll need some time to come to terms with it all.
A close friend is almost certainly the best person to talk to first. The first time you do, don't be surprised if you spend absolutely ages waffling around the subject, without actually telling them anything (the first time I talked to a friend it took me over 20 minutes to get to the point - but when I did she was wonderful).
With time (and hopefully support) your confidence will rise, and before you know it you'll be able to talk openly and honestly about what you're going through without any difficulty.
[Update, August 2003]
True friends will almost certainly stick by you. Don't be afraid to trust them, but always be aware
that some friends may not be as true as you thought, or may have their own issues to deal with and
may not be able to cope with yours.
Unfortunately, talking to a partner is much, much harder. Don't be at all surprised if their first reaction is anger and hostility - remember that they are effectively being told that the person they love isn't the real you. Give it time and understanding, and maybe you'll be able to salvage at least a special friendship from your relationship. I even know several people whose relationships have survived transition, so that's not impossible either - but I'm afraid it is unlikely.
[Update, August 2003]
I hope that in time that will change, but regardless I really do wish her all the best in her new
life. Despite the anger I know she feels, the girl I love is still there...somewhere.
Parents and Immediate Family
Parents also deserve a special mention. When told, they are likely to feel that your suffering is at least partly their fault, so do try to reassure them.
I told my parents about my feelings on 12th February 2002 - just after my wife and I had started divorce proceedings, and 5 months after I talked to a friend about it all for the first time. After reading the experiences of others, I decided that the best way would be to write a letter explaining what I was feeling and why, together with what was likely to happen.
Once I'd written the letter (in the form of an email) I called them and told them that I had something I needed them to read, and to please call me back after they'd read it. I sent the email after calling them, and then waited - very nervously. When they rang back I was overjoyed when they told me that it didn't matter - they loved me regardless. Subsequently, my mum expressed some reservations (actually, she said it was the worst decision I'd ever made - but I know she's wrong), but despite that I know they won't reject me.
[Update, August 2003]
Rather than us all endure the awkward conversations that were becoming the norm, I eventually stopped calling. They never called back, and now I gather they've moved house (I found out from a relative).
It does hurt, but I'm hopeful that eventually they'll be ready to know me again. I understand the pain they must be feeling, and I don't blame them.
By way of contrast, my brother Mike has been fantastic...he accepted me without question
and sent me a lovely Christmas card last year. When I see him next (he hasn't met me since my
transition) he's going to get a huge hug from me whether he likes it or not...
I honestly don't know where to begin on this topic. My own experience has been that young children are incredibly accepting, but that merely because they are so young transsexual parents often have difficulty in gaining access to them. A transsexual parent being awarded custody of a child is very rare, but it does happen (I know of two cases in the UK).
Older children (particularly teenagers) will probably have a lot more difficulty accepting the transition of a parent. This makes a lot of sense, when you consider the emotional and hormonal upheaval they are going through at the time.
If you have children in your family the Resources
for Transsexual Parents section on Anne Lawrence's site is well worth a visit.
Churches and Fellowship Groups
Although what I'm going to say here particularly relates to the Christian Faith, the same can be said for other Faiths.
The sad fact is that many churches don't even begin to accept transsexualism, so you would be wise to be ready for the possibility of losing your Fellowship. This seems to be particularly common in Evangelical, Baptist and Pentacostal Churches which often have a very literal interpretation of scripture. The rhetoric of extremist Christian groups such as the Evangelical Alliance doesn't help in this regard, although fortunately they seem to be rather good at making idiots of themselves in public debates on the issue!
By way of contrast, the Quaker Church openly welcomes us (I even know one transwoman who's an Elder in a Quaker Church), and some Anglican Churches will too. When you're ready, don't be afraid to seek out local Churches and ask them.
Finally, if you find yourself without a Fellowship, please try to remember that you're still loved
by the Lord and there are , many of us whose Churches would welcome you with open arms if only the
opportunity arose. Don't let those who judge dampen your Faith.
Firstly, and most importantly - don't expect to transition with little or no notice at work. Attempting to do so will almost certainly just confuse people - give them time to adjust to the idea.
Unless you feel your management is going to be hostile or unsupportive I'd suggest that you talk it through with someone in authority within your company before talking to any colleagues. That way you should be able to get the company's support and backing for your transition before news of it becomes public knowledge. Furthermore, if a colleague does react badly to the news there's someone who can deal with it.
Be realistic about the likely outcomes. The chances are there will be some bewilderment or confusion (hopefully not hostility, but that can't be ruled out either), as a result of which some people may avoid you for a while. Be patient, and (assuming you have the company's support) with time it will hopefully sort itself out.
I suspect it's a bad idea to make a company-wide announcement until your transition is fairly close - especially if (as I did) you need time to really "look the part".
By way of example, I told my Director about my impending divorce and transition in February 2002, started hormone therapy at the end of May, and intend to start my real-life-test at Christmas. He briefed my project team in August (the day before I went on holiday), and the rest of the company was briefed in late November.
As far as the "big announcement" goes, my plan was to bring in a counsellor from the Gender Trust to make a presentation to the staff (and maybe take a day or three off to give the gossip a chance to die down). In the event, the company did a brilliant job of explaining it to everyone (the counsellor wasn't needed) and I didn't take any time off either!
I worked in the male role until the end of the year, and came back as Anna after the Christmas break. Although it felt surreal at first (and yes, I was nervous that first day!) within a few days it just felt natural - almost as if nothing had changed.
Finally, if your company turns out to be hostile (these days it's less likely, but sadly it does happen), above all remember that in the UK you now have legal protection - you can't be dismissed for undertaking a Gender Transition. Know your rights and stick by them.