This post is a reminder for my friends and I in the transgender community but is also very much for allies to trans people everywhere. I want to talk about the incredibly important topic of "outing". This is a subject that is incredibly sensitive to transgender people as well as other members of the LGBT community.
Until a transgender person decides to come out their anonymity is generally very important to them. Consider that one statistic says a trans woman has a one in twelve chance of being murdered. The chart below from transgenderlaw.org shows some other statistics.
In addition workplace discrimination laws for transgender people are almost non existent and easy for employers to circumvent. In the military, service members can be discharged if it's discovered that they are transgender.
When you take these risks into account it's easy to see that the gender identity of a transgender person is a private matter. So I want to look at some things that trans people and allies can do to protect their identity until they are ready to share it.
As almost anybody can tell you, social media is a constant source of unintended revealed secrets. We all love our social media and when we come out of the closet one of the first things we want to do is create a new profile for our newly accepted identity. The further out you get the higher the risk of being seen. I am by no means tech support and I can't begin to describe all of the risks or safeguards to be taken in the use of social media. What is important is that you read the privacy settings and information for the sites that you choose to use. With the recent media attention to government spying many sites have increased their privacy settings. Taking steps such as not putting up a profile picture are a great start but there are many more things you can do. Facebook allows you to set strict privacy settings and control to some extent what can be seen but you must be aware of how these things work. One often forgotten step is the use of a blocked list. My blocked list may be larger than my friends list. By blocking a Facebook user you ensure that you will not pop up in their suggested friends. You can also go through each of your pieces of information and set them to ensure they can only be seen by friends.
With all social media there are limitations. If a friend tags you in a post their friends may see you even if your settings are strict. So for members of the trans community and their allies communication is important. Allies ask your trans friends what is ok. Can you tag them in posts? Is it ok to post pictures of them? How should you refer to them when speaking to mutual friends? Many of us have fallen victim to being outed by a well intentioned friend and the results can be really difficult. So ask question and if you are in doubt air on the side of privacy.
For my friends in the transgender community, we also need to own responsibility for our nom de plume (secret identity). Consider who you will share with. I have said in the past that when you decide to come out you must consider the possibility that you could loose everything. When you share with a new friend you may choose to feel them out first. After sharing with someone make sure you are clear about who they may tell or what level of openness you are comfortable with. An ally may assume that because you told them it means you are out completely. Make allies aware of what is at stake. For instance, I have shared with friends in the military who did not understand that my gender identity was not allowed at work yet. Also, understand that as your identity gains momentum there comes a point when you can no longer control the flow of information. Be prepared for that. What will you do if you receive a friend request? If someone asks you will you lie or tell the truth.
There is no greater feeling than being accepted by another friend or family member, it's incredibly affirming. I would ask that everyone do what they can to make sure that it remains a positive experience. Thanks for reading along. As always feel free to share, and comment so I can make this better.
"Nothing is too girly and nothing is too masculine. But I do love color, and maybe that's a little girly - especially pink." Stacy London