Trans Men Reflect On How Coming Out Impacted Their Mental Health
As millions of people across the world deal every day with the prospect of coming out to their friends and family, two transgender men have discussed the impacts coming out had on their mental health.
Still, the notion of having to explain your identity to others remains daunting and can cause mental health issues that stem not only from having to come to terms with who you are, but from the idea of how others may react.
Alex, a 23-year-old children’s nurse from Nottingham, came out as pansexual when he entered into his first same-gender relationship at 16 years old, before coming out as transgender when he was 19.
Ahead of coming out, Alex found that keeping quiet about being pansexual and trans ‘really affected [his] mental health.’ Speaking to UNILAD, he described himself as being ‘scared and ashamed,’ so much so that he turned to self-harm as a result of having to hide who he was.
Thankfully, Alex found that his mental health improved greatly when he was open about himself with his loved ones, adding that the impacts of coming out for him were ‘99% positive.’
He explained: ‘It gave me a sense of relief, freedom and self-identity. My depression lessened and I felt more true to myself.’
For Alex, the only negative impact coming out had on his mental health was that he became subject to transphobia. With that in mind, he advised anyone who is yet to come out to only do so when they’re ‘really ready.’
[Coming out] can have a great impact on your mental health and that’s a huge positive for coming out, but for some people it may bring with it negativity and isolation, leading to bad mental health.
It’s important that you feel strong enough in yourself and ready enough to come out. Take your time and love yourself for who you are.
This Pride Month, Alex plans to celebrate his identity by creating YouTube content relating to LGBTQ+ matters, using his platforms to encourage others to participate in Pride.
Noting that Pride events started as protests for acceptance and rights for the LGBTQ+ community, Alex said it’s ‘important to remember that, when we’re also celebrating who we are.’
Alex is not the only one who found mental benefits in being open about his identity, as 16-year-old River, also from England, agreed that ‘the positive impacts outweigh the negative.’
River came out in May as a transgender male, having previously struggled with anxiety and depression stemming from his attempts to hide his identity.
The teenager told UNILAD that hiding aspects about himself made him ‘angrier,’ as well as making him wonder whether people around him could guess his true identity. At a particularly low point, River felt that he ‘couldn’t forgive [himself] for being trans,’ and he contemplated taking his own life.
Doctors reportedly told River he was ‘too young to be depressed,’ but the teenager is confident that his depression stemmed from ‘dysphoria and hatred towards [himself].’
After River decided to come out, he was met with ‘lots of support from family and friends,’ and as a result is ‘much happier’ today. He now feels ‘free’ and comfortable with using ‘he/him’ or ‘they/them’ pronouns, and found that his depression has eased as he can ‘finally laugh and be [himself] for the first time.’
River noted that some of the issues he dealt with before coming out have been ‘replaced’ with other mental health struggles, such as anxiety over ‘trying to prove [his] transness,’ but he has found these resulting issues are easier to deal with than everything that came with attempting to hide his true self.
‘Overall’, River said he believes coming out has helped improve his mental health, and advised anyone who may be struggling with the idea of coming out to ‘stay true to yourself.’
He said: ‘You can’t be mad at yourself for having these struggles when you were born like this. It’s not fair, it’s really not but you can work through them and it does get better.’
River admitted that while coming out is ‘scary,’ it’s ‘so worth it in the end’ as it offers a chance for people to ‘live the way you want to.’
He added: ‘I would much rather someone hate me for being myself than like me for being someone I’m not.’
As has likely been the case for many areas in the UK, Pride events where River lives were cancelled this year due to government guidelines regarding coronavirus. After coming out, however, the teenager is hoping that he and his family will still be able to celebrate with their own ‘Pride at home.’
Though coming out can spur its own difficult situations, it is clear that doing so can have a huge positive impact on mental health, as well as paving the way for others to offer support and help deal with any resulting issues moving forward.
If you’ve been affected by any of these issues and want to speak to someone in confidence, contact the LGBT Foundation on 0345 3 30 30 30, 10am–6pm Monday to Friday, or email [email protected]