The New Girl: On Coming Out As Trans

And one lesson learned​


Coming to terms with my new gender identity was tough enough. It took me 30 years to accept the fact that I could no longer be Ryan and needed to embrace my true identity as Rhyannon. I'd already 'come out' once to some members of my family as a gay man. Now I would have to do it again, but this time as a woman. How tough could this be? I was about to find out. 

When it came to telling my family about my transition, it was obvious my younger sister, Danielle, would be first. I've always been able to share the deepest of personal things with her.  As she's a nurse and a lesbian, I had a hunch that she'd possibly encountered trans people before. 


She lives in Australia, so I decided to tell her during her trip back to the UK over Christmas.We were sitting in her car and I remember saying, 'Sis, I'm not very happy being Ryan. I've always known I've felt like a girl and I think it's time I started exploring this.' Her reaction: 'Oh my God, are you going to tell mum?'

Despite her initial shock, my sister accepted my news quite quickly. But I wasn't sure if my parents would do the same. I knew I had to tell them, but I didn't know how.


My mum and I had a great relationship as mother and son. She singlehandedly raised my sister and I (my parents divorced when I was 8-years-old), providing everything we needed. Because I was a feminine-acting boy growing up, people labeled me as gay. And as a teenager I accepted that identity because I didn't know I could be anything else. 

When I told my mum I was gay she told me she wasn't surprised. Although I did have girlfriends and had slept with women, I had been walking around the house in girl's clothes and playing with my sister's Sindy dolls since the age of 7. 

In hindsight, I was attracted to both men and women when I was young and still am. I just didn't know back then that I was allowed to be. In my village you were either normal (meaning straight) or a 'poofter' meaning gay. I was principally physically attracted to males, but I also loved females. And since I believed my community wouldn't accept me having boyfriends, I developed wonderful relationships with women. 


But back to the business of coming out as trans. I decided to go back home to Stafford and tell my parents during the Christmas of 2012. I had changed my name and adopted the identity of Rhyannon eight months before, but my parents didn't know this. And it didn't seem right for me to turn up in women's clothing and makeup like, 'Call me Rhyannon - I'm a girl now!' So I instead showed up as Ryan.

As soon as I left my house in Hackney, dressed in baggy clothes without my padded bra and makeup, I felt sick. I was doing myself a complete injustice by denying my desire to express as female. And on my journey up North, as random people referred to me as 'mate,' I felt completely lost.

My mood worsened during my three-day visit with my family. I was moody, distant and itching to get back to my life as Rhyannon in London. My family noticed my change in attitude and I wanted to tell them the reason for it. But it wasn't something I could blurt out so I decided it was best to break the news another time. 

Following a concerned phone call from my dad in January, I decided I would write my family a letter explaining my recent behaviour. It took me two months to draft that letter. This was essentially my autobiography and I didn't want to leave anything out. 

I addressed the letters to my mum, dad and two brothers and with shaky hands, put them in the post. I then waited for their response and waited…

I didn't speak to my mum or see her again for nearly a year. 

Her partner wrote me a letter explaining her absence: 

'You are, in your mum's eyes, Ryan. Ryan, the baby boy she brought into this world and whom she watched grow and develop into a son she felt so proud of. Now, in her mind, that person, that son, no longer exists. In her mind, when the inevitable meeting takes place, she will be meeting someone she has never met before. Your sexual identity has never been a problem for her. However, the gender change you have embarked upon is, to her, something akin to bereavement… This letter is to reassure you that, although you have not heard from or spoken to your mum for some considerable time, she still loves you as much as she did, and always will do.' 

It took nine months before my dad replied with a similar response:

'I am sorry Christmas 2012 was difficult for you, and yes you did cause us some concern. I knew something was not right, but I hope now that nine months on you are happy with the way you are, the way you look, and the way you feel inside. If being a woman is right for you then you have the rest of your life ahead of you as Rhyannon. But for us we have lost Ryan and it is difficult to accept this. We know that you are alive and hopefully happy but it will never be the same again, this is a life changing experience for us as it is you.'

In hindsight, I wish I had told my family from the very beginning. If I had brought them into the discussion earlier on and been honest about how I was feeling, detailing how I was going to embark on this transformation, their reaction may have been different. 

I'm not a parent yet. I don't know what it feels like when your son turns around and changes the narrative you'd written for them. 

Receiving their letters was hard, as I suppose receiving mine was for them. It's only been in the last year that communication and physical contact has been re-established due to a massive amount of patience, acceptance and time on either side. My sister played a big part in bridging this void and talking to them on my behalf.

Our relationships now are not the same as they were, but neither am I. 

It's true, I am a different person. But however I decide to present myself, I will always be their child.

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