Asking for a Friend: Help! How do I come out as genderfluid to my transphobic parents?

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  • Each week, we respond to a question from our readers and give them advice and resources they can turn to
  • This week, Hong Kong trans youth organisation Quarks helps a student who is nervous about telling their parents about their gender identity
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Your parents may not understand everything at first and might need a little bit of time and information to learn more about what it means to be genderfluid. Photo: Shutterstock

Need an answer to a personal question that you’ve never mustered the courage to ask? We’ve been there. Whether it is about school, family issues or social life, share your thoughts with us.

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Dear Friend of a Friend

I have a problem that has been troubling me for quite a while. I am genderfluid, which means my gender identity switches from time to time. Since more people have started paying attention to Hong Kong’s LGBTQ+ community these days, I have decided to come out to my parents and tell them about my identity. However, I know they are transphobic, and I am scared about how they will react and what they will say. What should I do?

Thanks, Genderfluid

What NOT to say when a friend comes out to you

Dear Genderfluid,

For many LGBTQ+ people, coming out of the closet is complicated and full of challenges and anxiety. Some people come out at a young age, whereas some never do. Some tell almost everyone they know, while others share this information with only a select few.

There’s no right or wrong way to come out, and it all depends on what you’re comfortable with and your situation. You mention your parents are transphobic – how do you feel they will react? Do you think they will say bad things to you, or that you wouldn’t be totally safe in your home? If you feel concerned about your physical safety, it’s totally understandable if you decide to wait to come out.

Why pronouns are so important

This week we reached out to Quarks, a local organisation for trans youth, for more advice. Here’s what they had to say:

Hello friend. First of all, we are pleased to hear that you have decided to talk to your parents about yourself!

We wonder what the scope of your coming out involves. Are you hoping to change the way you express your gender after talking to your parents? Are you planning to use a different name or change your hairstyle, clothes, or even make-up? Are you considering gender-affirming hormones or surgeries? It may be helpful to sit down with yourself and think of answers to these questions, so you know what to tell your parents if they ask. You may not have all the answers right now – which is totally fine.

It may help to have a community of other LGBTQ+ people to speak to. Photo: Shutterstock

There are a few things to keep in mind before you speak to your parents. Have you decided how and when you would tell them? Would it be better to tell them both at once, or one at a time? Have you told anyone else about being genderfluid before? You may want to organise your thoughts by writing down all the important things you want to tell your parents (you can even give this paper or text to them directly). You can also have this coming out conversation with your closest friends first. Apart from saying it directly, you could also show your family transgender-related news and clips.

How to support your trans friends

Parents may not know much about sex, gender or LGBTQ+ issues, and even those who are well-versed may find it difficult to say yes to their child being transgender or non-binary, at least at first. They may not understand everything immediately. But we do hope that after the conversation, your family will know a bit more how to treat you. Even just small changes can help you be yourself more at home.

Coming out is never just opening the door of your closet once and for all. It is about communication. You will have to explain bit by bit, answer their questions, and remind them over and over again. Look for local transgender friends who have similar experiences (us for example!) to have deeper chats.

Yours sincerely, Quarks

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