Caitlyn Jenner says that before she came out as a transgender woman, she had "totally isolated" herself from the trans community. Meeting others like her, she says, has been "an eye-opening experience." Touched by their harrowing but often inspiring stories of survival, Jenner, 65, has partnered with WhoSay to release a weekly series of editorials called "The Real Me" that shine a light on the issues and people in the LGBT community.
Hi, friends. I hope your week is off to a great start. As always, thank you for your unending love and support. Every day, I’m humbled by the thousands of you who reach out to tell me your story, ask questions or provide encouragement. Even though I can’t respond to each of you individually, I want you to know that I appreciate your kind gestures more than I could ever express.
To those of you who have asked me for my opinion or expertise, I want to remind you that while I’ve know that I was trans since I was a small child, learning about the trans community is still very new to me, and I don’t have all the answers. That said, the one constant I’ve noticed is how incredibly difficult it is for transgender folks to transition and become their authentic selves and still be healthy and secure – emotionally, physically, financially … the list goes on and on.
We have to make things easier for the transgender community, and my friends over at the Human Rights Campaign are fighting to do just that. For those of you who aren’t familiar already, HRC is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. The HRC is an incredible resource to the LGBT community and its allies.
In fact, I asked some of the talented experts at HRC to help answer some of the questions you have sent me. I hope these insights from Alison Gill, Ellen Kahn and Beck Bailey shed more light on the transgender community and make things easier for all of my friends out there. Stay strong! –Caitlyn
Anna: I think my 4-year-old son may be transgender, and I have no one to talk to about it. His father is in complete denial and won’t speak on the subject. Nobody believes me and just laughs. Do you have any advice?
Trust your instincts, Anna, but also reach out to folks who are equipped to guide and support you. There are medical professionals who specialize in helping transgender children. If your child is transgender, obtaining a diagnosis from a medical professional may encourage others to understand what they are going through, and also help you get the support that you need. HRC has a resource that can point you to clinical-care programs for transgender and gender-expansive children. You can find it here. –Alison Gill, Senior Legislative Counsel at the Human Rights Campaign
Carrie: I am a trans ally with quite a few friends who are trans. My question is, how can us allies be …. well … better allies? What sorts of things can we do in order to help our trans family and friends have a more positive experience and avoid some of the common issues faced in the community?
Carrie – thank you for being supportive! Strong trans allies talk openly about transgender issues and make a point of learning about transgender people and the issues they face in society. They are also vigilant about using appropriate names and pronouns for transgender people, and asking others to do so as well. Trans allies speak up when others make fun of transgender people, and they speak out in support of legislation and policy changes that help make transgender people safer and protect them from discrimination. HRC has a great resource on being a supportive ally to LGBT people – read it here. –Alison Gill, Senior Legislative Counsel at the Human Rights Campaign
Tandi: My friend is a M to F transgender and was just denied medical coverage through her insurance here in Oregon. Do you have any suggestions or resources she can look into? What can she/I do?
Hi, Tandi – Insurance providers that sell policies to businesses in Oregon are not allowed to offer plans that exclude transgender people. Your friend should appeal the insurance decision. Suggest that she enlist the help of her medical provider to navigate the system. She may also want to reach out to the Oregon Insurance Division to make a complaint, or seek help from an attorney to pursue a claim. –Alison Gill, Senior Legislative Counsel at the Human Rights Campaign
April: What would your recommendation be for people who want to transition but have no reasonable expectation of ever being able to fund it?
Stay positive – coverage for transition-related services for transgender people continues to expand across the country. More states are requiring that insurance providers offer transgender health care, and more businesses offer trans-inclusive benefits. This coverage will only increase as medical providers, insurance companies, and businesses continue to recognize that transition-related care is medically necessary for transgender people. Check out HRC’s Corporate Equality Index to see which corporations offer inclusive benefits, and the Municipal Equality Index and State Equality Index to see which cities and states have inclusive coverage for their employees. Good luck, April! –Alison Gill, Senior Legislative Counsel at the Human Rights Campaign
Cris: What is the best way to explain being transgender to children, particularly when it is someone they know personally?
Hi, Cris – I’d recommend that you keep it simple. If a child’s friend is transgender and will be transitioning socially, say from Sam to Sarah, you can explain that Sam has always felt female. You can tell your child that Sam has known he’s a girl, even though he was born in a boy body. And that Sam has been very unhappy as a boy, and now, as Sarah, she is able to be who she really is and she is so much happier, and that we are all very happy for her. –Ellen Kahn, head of HRC Foundation’s Children, Youth and Families Program
Stephanie: I recently found my sister’s Tumblr account and it says how she is transgender. I don’t know if I should tell my sister I know. How should I approach her?
It would be best not to confront her about her Tumblr. Instead, make clear to her in everyday conversations that you are an ally to transgender people. Let her know that you are there if she ever wants to talk about anything, and that you love and support her. Referencing I Am Cait or I Am Jazz may be a good way to start a conversation about transgender issues. Thank you for being a caring sister, Stephanie. –Alison Gill, Senior Legislative Counsel at the Human Rights Campaign
Livvie: I’m trans and I don’t know how to come out. Help!
Hi Livvie! We know this can be an exciting time when a person can feel proud, strong, uncertain and nervous all at the same time. Remember that everybody’s circumstances are different and there’s no one right way to “come out,” just as there is no one “right way” to be trans. First, work on finding community with other transgender folks – the Internet can be a place to start, or a local LGBTQ organization that has resources for transgender people. If you live in a rural area, you may want to connect virtually.
When you start telling people, first consider speaking confidentially to the most trusted people in your life. Let them know that you are telling them because you trust them and value their friendship and support. A lot of folks don’t know very much about transgender people, so you might need to answer some questions for them about what it means to be trans.
While there are benefits to coming out to people, there can also be serious risks and consequences. The decision is yours and yours alone. But we encourage you to weigh both risks and rewards before making a choice to tell others. HRC has a great Trans Visibility Guide for thinking through your coming out process. Check it out here. –Beck Bailey, Deputy Director of Employee Engagement at the Human Rights Campaign Foundation
RELATED VIDEO: Caitlyn Jenner’s Message to Transgender Youth: ‘We Are All Beautiful’
For more information on the transgender movement, see a list of resources at CaitlynJenner.com.