Coming out as trans
Find information here about coming out as trans at University and where to get advice and support if you need it.
This web page will use the word ‘trans’ as an umbrella term to cover the many diverse ways in which people can express their personal experience of their gender and gender expression. However people will view themselves and experience their lives, in unique ways. We acknowledge this, and though we use terms under the ‘transgender’ or ‘trans’ umbrella, this does not mean that we think all people who identify with one of these more specific terms will also see themselves as being transgender or trans.
Though similar in experience of telling friends and family about your identity, there are differences between coming out as lesbian, gay, or bisexual and coming out as transgender. A lot of people know what it means for a person to be LGB, but there’s still a great deal of confusion and misinformation out there about what it means to be trans.
Being trans can feel individualistic, you may feel differently about your ‘trans status’ to other trans people. You might be questioning or perhaps decide eventually that you don’t identify as trans. You don’t have to ‘fit’ any particular category of trans, but if you’re thinking about or questioning your gender, this page aims to guide you to some support so that you are able to express your true self.
We acknowledge that this is not a complete list of definitions of gender identity or gender expression, but it might be helpful to look at some common terminology.
- transgender or trans for short, refers to people whose gender identity or expression differs from their assigned sex
- person with a trans history someone who identifies as male or female but were assigned the opposite sex at birth. This is increasingly used by people to acknowledge a trans past
- trans man a man who was assigned female at birth
- trans woman a woman who was assigned male at birth
For some people, they find this a useful way to explain their gender identity or expression. For others, they do not like these terms, find a way to express yourself that is comfortable to you.
non-binary or genderqueer is a variety of gender identities that are not exclusively masculine or feminine -identities that are outside the gender binary
genderfluid refers to someone who is flexible about their gender identity rather than committing to one gender. People might fluctuate between genders or express multiple genders at the same time
agedner also known as genderless, genderfree, non-gendered or ungendered. Someone who identifies as having no gender or being without a gender identity. This can also include a broad range of identities which do not conform to traditional gender norms
demigender is a person identifying partially or mostly one gender at the same time with another gender
cisgender or cis a person who identity and gender corresponds with their birth sex
deadnaming is when people refer to a trans person using the name they had before they transitioned
misgendering is when someone refers to a trans person using the gender they were assigned at birth instead of their real gender.
Coming out/talking about your gender identity
Coming to understand your gender identity can be seen as a gradual process or journey. Typically, this realisation can be coined as “Coming out”. We will use “Coming out” as an umbrella term on this page, but you do not need to name the process for yourself if you don’t want to.
Regardless of how you identify Student Services are here to support you. Every individual has different experiences and support needs.
Some people may know they’re trans from an early age, however others might not have the language or understanding of what it means to be trans until later in life. It is something distinctive and core to your sense of self.
For some trans people, having gender reassignment surgery is an important part of their transition (access to that surgery is very difficult at the moment). But for others surgery isn’t something they want. Being trans isn’t about how you look, it is something that’s core to a your identity – regardless of outer appearance. You may or may not chose a different name and pronouns, it is completely up to you.
Sexual orientation is completely unrelated to gender identity. You can be trans and gay, trans and heterosexual, trans and bi, pansexual, or anything else. If you would like some specific advice on coming out in regards to sexual orientation please see our page Coming out: talking about your sexual orientation and gender identity.
Coming out as transgender may mean that you tell people about your preferred pronouns (he/him, she/her, they/them, etc). It may also mean that you ask people to call you by a new name and to think of you by the gender identity that you’re comfortable with.
There is no right way to come out
Whilst at university, you may have space to explore your own gender identity, which can be positive. However, you may also worry about how your friends, family and university may respond. Telling people about your gender identity can feel daunting. There is no one way to come out.
If you choose to come out as transgender, make sure it's to people you trust and that you have a support system in place. It's important to feel as confident as possible that coming out won't risk your safety, health, or living situation.
Don't feel under pressure to come out, take your time with it
When considering sharing your gender identity, do it in your own time and only when you are ready. Some people have groups of friends that know and others that don’t. It is important to do what feels right for you. You don’t have to come out to people if you don’t want to. You might choose to only come out to yourself or talk about it with a support service and not tell anyone else.
Seeking support and telling someone
Sometimes telling people about your gender identity is not necessarily a onetime thing and you may need support at various points of your journey. If this is the case, please do approach the supportive groups listed below.
Maybe you have come to terms with your gender identity, or you’re still thinking about it. Either way, it can helpful to talk to someone rather than coping on your own. If you do decide to come out, but are unsure how others might react, making contact with a LGBT+ student group or trans group at university or another local supportive group might be helpful.
- the SU LGBT+ student group
- Off The Record which is local to Bath
- the GIRES website has supportive information
- the SU advice team
- Doctoral students are able to join the staff LGBT+ group Kaleidoscope
The Wellbeing Service run daily non-judgemental and confidential sessions. This can be a safe space to talk about your feelings, explore your orientation or identity in the knowledge that the advisor will not pass any of the information on to your tutors, lecturers, parents etc.
Telling friends and family
Many people worry about how their friends and family will react when they come out. They might be surprised, have lots of questions, or not know how to react.
One possible way to come out could be to gather your family or friends together to explain your situation means to you and then you don’t need to go through the process many times. There will most likely be lots of questions and this would provide you the opportunity to answer these in one go.
If the thought of telling a group of people is overwhelming, just tell one person at a time – do what feels right for you. It can be a good idea to tell one person who you think will be supportive and who you trust to confide in. Before you have the conversation try to think about some questions they may have and how you might answer them.
Not everyone will understand straight away. The chances are, those you trust and know well will be happy you chose to confide and were able to share something personal and can be your true self around them. For some people it takes time for them to get comfortable with your new pronouns or name and they may make mistakes, even when they don’t mean to.
If a friend doesn’t react how you would wish them to, they might just need some time to process what you’ve told them. It may not be how they feel overall in the long run. Hopefully after time those around you see how much more comfortable and confident you are since be opening and living as your true self.
As with your friends there is no one way to tell your family. Being away at university can provide you time to consider your options and think about how you would like to tell them. You might choose to tell them face to face. Another option could be to write a letter or to email them. As with your friends it can take time for them to take in the information, so their first reaction may not be how they feel forever. This can be a particularly emotional time even when family respond positively. Talking to supportive services/groups about how you are feeling about telling family members can be really helpful.
People often have inaccurate perceptions of what it is to be trans, it can take time to educate others and express your gender identity. It can be common that people may associate Coming out as trans with sexuality even though they can be unrelated.
Many families will be highly supportive of you. If this is not the case for you, please come and talk to us. In some cases, a formal estrangement might be in place and this could entitle you to additional support and funding.
What do you have to do to be recognised as trans at University?
You are able to change your name and pronouns at University without changing your name legally and can do this through contacting the Academic Registry. This process can take time, please do be aware that it is not instant and you may still receive information with your deadname and incorrect pronouns. You will also need to contact your tutor/DoS so that they can update any records that they hold.
If you would like help with this process, please do contact the Wellbeing Service. They can help you liaise with the appropriate teams within the University to change to your preferred name and pronouns. More information on how the University can help and support you.
You can use the bathroom that fits your gender at the University.
The student trans roadmap may help you navigate support and life at University, it also provides the location of gender neutral toilers on campus.
Discrimination and harassment
Sadly, we know that some people can experience discrimination as a result of coming out. If this does happen, please know that you can talk to the Wellbeing Service. We will listen and you will be believed.
You can also report hate crime and harassment via our Report and Support tool.
Being from a BAME community can sometimes make it more complicated to come out as trans. Here are a few resources that might be helpful:
Faith and sexuality
For some people of faith exploring your sexuality or gender identity may be difficult. Here are some resources and places where you can talk in confidence:
- University Chaplaincy
- Support for Gender, Sexuality and Islam
- “I’m Muslim and I might not be straight”
- Muslims for Progressive Values
- LGBT friendly church in Bath
- Karma Nirvana a national charity supporting survivors of forced marriage and honour based abuse
- Sarbat a volunteer-led group addressing LGBTQ+ issues from a Sikh perspective
The Wellbeing Service can listen and support you to find specific help.
Student Services also welcomes suggestions for other support agencies that we might not be aware of.
Other supportive services
- MindLine Trans+
- careers advice for LGBT+ students
- counselling through our Counselling and Mental Health service at Bath
A word about Conversion therapy: In the UK, all major counselling and psychotherapy bodies, as well as the NHS, concluded that conversion therapy is dangerous and have condemned it by signing a Memorandum of Understanding to say that they will not provide it. University of Bath counsellors are registered to professional bodies that adhere to this.
University of Bath Statement on trans equality
Key things to remember:
- take your time
- people’s experiences differ
- there is no right way (make sure if you do decide to come out that you are in a safe space)
- remember you can talk to supportive services – who are confidential non-judgemental