How Do Trans People Come Out? 12 Real Millennials Share Their Stories

When we set out on this project — interviewing a dozen transgender millennials from a dozen states — we wondered whether it would be difficult to find people to take part. There's no concrete data yet on just how large the U.S. trans community even is; the census doesn't ask.

As it turned out, finding participants was easy. America's trans community is large, diverse, and everywhere — in cities and towns across the country. And, they've been there since long before Hollywood or the national media started paying attention to them.

What you’re about to read are the stories of 12 individuals from across the country, all of whom have only one thing in common: They don't identify with the gender that was assigned to them at birth. Otherwise, they're as diverse a bunch as they come — often disagreeing with each other, and never fitting neatly into stereotypes. When we asked one young man how he'd describe himself in a word, he said, "human."

His story and 11 others are ahead.

Amira: "I Think I'm A Force To Be Reckoned With"

Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Amira Gray, 27, Jersey City, New Jersey

I always gravitated towards the “feminine” things. I spent a lot of time around the women in my family, who are all very strong and independent and successful; I had very positive role models. Early on, womanhood was just something that felt naturally ingrained in me, before I was even aware of it.

Later in life, I became I aware that there was something I could do about my gender. I searched out Fenway Health in Boston; I went and sat down with the therapist. I was about 20 years old. They just held my hand and guided me through the various steps — therapy sessions, getting approved for hormone-replacement therapy, all the letters you need in order to get your gender marker and your name changed.

Once I’m identified as a trans person, suddenly people think I’m not, like, still a person — that I don’t have life experiences or a family. The biggest misconception about trans women of color is that all of us are sex workers (we’re not). I’ve been blessed; I’ve been with the same man for about five years now.
Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.

I was at a restaurant a couple of weeks ago and walked past a table of guys on my way to the restroom. One of said, “Oh, that’s a drag queen,” which I hate, because I’m not a drag queen; I’m a trans woman. Then, the other guy said, “Oh, is that what that is?” I was just like, no. I’m not a “that.” I’m a person — I’m a human being. To this day, I have to have a very thick skin, because I’m always going to hear these things, and I can’t fight every battle. I can’t always cause a scene. But, I hate the mislabeling nonetheless.

I feel like I’m one of the silent trailblazers as far as trans rights are concerned — and I do feel like I have an obligation — because my story is so different from most. A lot of trans women, their families don’t accept them, so they don’t have a home to go back to — they end up as sex workers or homeless or things like that. My experience has been the polar opposite, so I really feel like I need to give back.

I was the first trans-issues intern at GLAAD. Every year, GLAAD does a pride T-shirt with American Apparel; my co-workers sent some of my photos over to American Apparel and they selected me to model. Those experiences — working at GLAAD and doing the ad campaign — definitely helped me be even more comfortable with who I am and with the decision that I made. I know I have people who are supporting me, whereas a lot of trans women feel very alone.

After the campaign, I got a few nice notes. But, I also got some bad ones, too. It’s been both an advantage and a disadvantage, being publicly identified as a trans person. After a while, you learn not to read certain things. It’s been easier for me than for the trans women who came before me — even just 10 years ago. When I went to get my passport changed, a law had just been passed in New Jersey stating you no longer need sexual reassignment surgery; you just need a letter from your physician stating you’re undergoing hormone replacement therapy. I was on my mother’s health insurance when I started HRT, too, which made it all even easier. I’ve been lucky.

I think I’m a force to be reckoned with. Every day, out in the world, I own the fact that I’m a trans person. I’m in malls, I’m in restaurants — and I don’t cover myself up. I don’t hide behind glasses or a hat. I’m just here. A lot of trans people are (rightfully) afraid to live a normal life like that.

The day I started HRT is like my second birthday. I’ll never forget it. But, every day has been its own transition, too. Sometimes, I just have to check in. I tell myself: This is my life and it’s okay. I play the cards I was dealt, and I celebrate a little every day. There are times when I look in the mirror and think, I’m so happy with what I see. I don’t think that’s something a lot of trans people get to feel.