In my last article, we discussed the emotional preparation for coming out, and ways you could explore your identity both by yourself and with the help of others. By now you may have figured out the way of expressing your gender identity that suits you best. You might also need more time, which is perfectly ok! However, if you have figured things out, now might be the time to consider whether you want to come out to the University of Edinburgh.
From my experience, this was a daunting step, and not without its perils. However, it had the immeasurable benefit of allowing me to live how I wanted to live in the academic environment, rather than just privately at home. This meant I no longer had to go through the strain of hiding my identity for the large proportion of my waking life that I spent in tutorials, working in the library, in lectures and so on.
The mental benefits are many, but so are the logistical challenges. You will probably have many unanswered questions, such as what paperwork you have to fill out, who you have to inform and what financial implications this will have. In this article we’ll tackle the difficult business of letting people know you’re trans.
Possibly the most daunting step in coming out is letting family know that you are trans. Your mileage here is going to depend heavily on what your family is like, and so you should prioritise your safety above all. Hold off from telling them in person if you think it will put you in harm’s way. If your family is living in another city, this distance can be used to your advantage by writing a letter and or text message. This will help you get everything you want to say down without interruption and give your family time to process things, sparing you a violent reaction. I got my friends to sign my letter, helping build my support network and expressing that those who knew me best knew this was a good decision for me.
If your family reacts poorly and you become estranged there are steps you can take. If you relied on your family for financial support, EUSA can provide emergency hardship loans that will reduce the immediate shock to your bank account. In the longer term, you can apply to Edinburgh University or the Student Loan Companies for support, although this is a more arduous process. Keep your friends close— in the absence of a first family, it helps to start building a second.
In terms of coming out to the university, it helps to inform your tutorial/seminar tutor, so that you can have the correct details be used in your classes. This can be as simple as writing a brief email to tell them your new name and pronouns. Tutors are required by policy to respect any changes in name, and you are well within your right to escalate to your school’s support if they don’t. It will also help to inform your student advisor, they can get you connected to support and resources within the university.
If you have a part-time job, also consider letting your supervisor know so that they can activate any work-specific policies. Outside of classes, you could let any societies you participate in know, either by letting the members know individually or by contacting their wellbeing officer, if they have one. Like with the University, EUSA has its own equality policies that they will need to respect.
A crucial thing to do is inform the Student Support Office because the University’s Trans Equality Policy requires a named contact within the university to discuss an action plan. This will involve deciding what you want on the student records changed, and how the university can support you. Once you’ve sent an email, they will follow up with an advisor meeting.
This is a lot of people to write emails to, so you may want to draft all these messages beforehand. This has the added benefit of meaning you can tell everyone in one go by sending the emails all at once, allowing you to schedule a coming out “D-Day.” Doing this made the process much less nerve-wracking for me, by getting everything sent out in one go and organising things around a specific date.
All this sounds very intense, but once it’s done you will have gotten over that first, stressful hurdle in your transition. Take it all one step at a time and know that you can do this.