skip navigation
Serving Transgender Victims of Sexual Assault
Message From the DirectorAbout This Guide
Transgender 101Sexual Assault in the Transgender CommunityTips For Those Who Serve Victims
June 2014
Text size minus icon plus icon

Transgender-Specific Issues

The Choices: Degree of "Outness"

Mainstream society has begun to acknowledge and become more accepting of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or transgender) people. Consequently, some LGBT people have felt more comfortable sharing their sexual orientation and/or gender identity with others.

To be out means that people know about a person's gender identity or history, sexual orientation, or both. Although many studies of gay and lesbian individuals have found that being out can lead to greater self-acceptance and self-empowerment,21 it is unclear if "outness" carries the same positive benefits for transgender people.

The choice to disclose gender history or transgender status is often on a need-to-know (or want-them-to-know) basis:

  • Many transgender individuals who transition from one binary gender to another may not feel any need to disclose their gender history to others.
  • Others may choose to disclose specific pieces of information about their history but not all of their history. For example, someone may be extremely out about being trans but may rarely discuss their surgical or genital status.
  • Transgender people may be out to some people and not to others based on preference or necessity. For example, they may selectively disclose their gender history to new friends, coworkers, in-laws, and others once those relationships are well established.
  • If transitioning on the job, people may need to disclose their intentions to direct supervisors or to the human resources department. In some companies, this process creates a safer environment for transition; in others, it may create more friction and challenges. Regardless of who is officially told, however, other current employees will likely know after the transition.
  • People who have gender non-conforming identities may want others to know about it and will regularly let people know, either verbally or visually (i.e., through their appearance).
  • Individuals who transitioned many years ago may become so accustomed to their lives and gender that they legitimately forget to disclose this information.
Read More

In this e-pub*

*Clicking these links will take you to other sections in this e-pub. To return, hit your browser's "back" button.

Sometimes, being out or not is not a choice. Transgender people who have not had genital surgery and must disrobe in urgent care settings may not have any control over disclosure. At other times, transgender people are accidentally or intentionally outed by someone who knows their gender history—whether their intentions are benign or malicious. Outing may also happen when transgender people have to produce documents that have their former names and/or gender markers on them, such as driver's licenses or health insurance cards.