Coming Out As Trans
The prospect of outing ourselves to family, friends and colleagues can be one of the most terrifying experiences for anyone coming to terms with the fact that they may be trans. 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, probably the worst thing you can do is keep it to yourself and suffer silently. Doing so (as I did for about 28 years) can just put off the moment when it all comes crashing down and you can't handle it anymore.
With that in mind the best thing you can usually do is to be open and honest with those you love and care for. Society is a lot more enlightened than it used to be, and you may well 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 that level of information. Remember that you may have had years to come to terms with who you are, but for them it is almost certainly going to be a big surprise and they may need some time to adjust.
If you need to talk to those in your immediate circle a close friend is probably 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.
My own experience with friends was brilliant - with the exception of those I knew through my first church, all but two of my friends were totally supportive and accepted me without question. If you have a browse through my photo album, particularly those of the reunion I went to in February 2003 and my trip to Tewkesbury in July 2003, you will probably see what I mean.
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 what you are going through as well.
Unfortunately, talking to a partner can be much, much harder. Don't be at all surprised if their first reaction is anger and hostility - remember that when you come out to them they can feel like they are being told that the person they love isn't who they thought they were. Use patience and empathy, and just maybe the relationship will endure - and even if it doesn't in its current form it may evolve to become a a close friendship or similar. Every relationship is different, and you can never tell what is likely to happen.
Sadly, my own case followed basically the worst case pattern, and as a result we divorced and although I tried to obtain access to my children through the Family Courts, I eventually gave up. Although during the early stages of the divorce it looked as if my ex and I would remain friends (and indeed at one stage it looked like the kids might be staying with me), sadly that's not how it turned out.
As a result my kids have grown up without me. I wish them the best, and the door is always open.
Parents and Immediate Family
Parents and immediate family also deserve a special mention. When told they may well feel guilty that what you are going through is at least partly their fault, so do try to reassure them.
I told my parents about what I was going through on 12th February 2002 - just after my wife and I had started divorce proceedings, and 5 months after I talked to a friend 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 knew she was wrong), but despite that I believed they would not reject me.
Sadly, although they appeared to initially be supportive, as my transition progressed I began to get the impression from them that they couldn't handle who I was and didn't wish to discuss it with me.
Rather than us all endure the awkward conversations that were becoming the norm, I eventually stopped calling - and I'm sad to say that they never called back. I later learnt from a relative that shortly afterwards they had moved house without telling me, which was a pretty unambiguous sign of which way the wind was blowing.
Although that hurt, they made their choice - and there is nothing I can do about that. When I later learnt that my mum passed away in April 2011, no one in the family thought to tell me (let alone invite me to the funeral), which really said everything.
It's a real shame - not only did they never get to really know me, but by shutting me out they never gave themselves the chance to meet the family that has grown around Beth and I since we met in 2004.
I did however keep the door open, and there is a postscript - in November 2016 my Dad wrote to me saying that he was ready to talk. That phone conversation led to a visit, reconciliation and to us rebuilding our relationship.
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 trans parents often have difficulty in gaining access to them. Even today a trans parent being awarded custody of a child is probably uncommon, but I know it does happen.
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.
All you can do is do your best, be patient and keep the door open if things don't work out.
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'tknow how to deal with trans people, so it is wise to be prepared for the possibility of losing your spiritual home. This seems to be most common in charismatic churches which can have a quite literal interpretation of scripture. The rhetoric of some Christian groups doesn't help in this regard, although things are changing gradually - Revd. Steve Chalke's pivot from opposition to support of LGBT people in 2013 is a good example.
By contrast, Metropolitan Community Churches, the Unitarian Church and Quakers openly welcome trans folks, and some Anglican Churches will too. When you're ready, don't be afraid to seek out local churches and ask them - or contact an inclusive organisation like Inclusive Church to see if you can find an inclusive ministry nearby.
Finally, if you find yourself without a church, please try to remember that you're still loved by the Lord and there are many of us whose church would welcome you with open arms if only the opportunity arose. Don't let those who judge dampen your Faith, and remember that even if the church isn't #FaithFullyLGBT, you are.
Firstly, and I imagine 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 organisation before talking to any colleagues. That way you should be able to get the organisation's support and backing for your transition before news of it becomes public knowledge. Furthermore, if a colleague does react badly to the news that makes it more likely that someone in the organisation will deal with it.
Be realistic about the likely outcomes. It's getting easier, but there may be some bewilderment or confusion (hopefully not hostility, but that can't be ruled out either). Be patient, and (assuming that you have the organisation's support) with time it will hopefully sort itself out.
I suspect it's a bad idea to make an organisation-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 organisation turns out to be hostile (these days it's less likely, but sadly it does happen), above all remember that in the UK you have legal protection - you cannot be dismissed for undertaking a Gender Transition. Know your rights and stick by them.