When we finally decide to come out as transgender to friends and family, we might have a portfolio of explanations and arguments on hand, ready to answer all the questions people will launch at us. “When did this happen?” “Are you insane?” “Is this your way of getting attention?” These are only some of the questions we have to contend with, and there are a hundred more where those came from. But there is one question that we are usually not prepared to answer: “What can I do to help?”
While this question conveys the kind of open-hearted response we all want to receive, it’s a hard question to answer if we’re not prepared for it. “What can you do? Um… I don’t know. Nothing, I guess.”
In fact, there are plenty of things our friends, co-workers and loved ones can do to support us on this journey, so here are a few ideas:
- “I need you to be there for me.” While this may seem obvious, it’s a good place to start when putting your needs out there. Being there for you does not mean trying to “fix” you or change your mind. It just means being present with you as you navigate this unfamiliar terrain.
- “If you have questions, just ask me.” Many people are afraid to ask questions, for fear they might offend us. And to be fair, there are some trans* people who get very defensive when questions are asked. This would be a good time to talk about what kinds of questions you welcome and what kinds you would rather not answer. Remember, the more questions they ask, the more comfortable they will probably feel with your transition.
- “You could read this book…” There is no better way to help someone than by educating one’s self about the issue they’re dealing with. Find a book or two that you think would be helpful for someone who has questions, and then be ready to recommend them. You can also direct them here, to TransFormation Ministry, where they can read some blogs and write to us with any questions.
- “Just be careful not to ‘out’ me. I want to share this news in my own way.” It is important for your loved ones to work through their own feelings about your transition, and in order to do that they might need to talk to someone. But talking to people you have not yet come out to could cause more harm than good. You might recommend they talk to a therapist or trusted friend who can maintain confidentiality.
- “Check out the local PFLAG chapter.” This is a great resource for someone who might be struggling with your transition. If there is not a PFLAG chapter in their area, you can suggest they find a PFLAG group on Facebook, anywhere around the world.
These are only a few ways you can answer when someone asks how they can help. If you have more ideas, leave a comment and tell us how you would want someone to help when you’re in the process of coming out. This might help others be more prepared for the one question they were least expecting!