Coming Out as Transgender: Navigating the Social Implications of a Transgender Identity

Stacey M. Brumbaugh-Johnson, Kathleen E. Hull

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


This study examines transgender coming-out narratives. Most previous studies of coming out as transgender have relied on psychological stage models of identity development, with little empirical verification. This study uses identity theory to reframe transgender coming out as a primarily external, ongoing, and socially situated process. The data were collected from 20 transgender people residing in the Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota metro area through interviews and focus groups. The analyses reveal that coming out as transgender requires navigating others’ gender expectations, others’ reactions, and the threat of violence. The results indicate that transgender individuals do not simply decide to “come out of the closet” and then stay out. Rather, they make strategic decisions regarding the enactment of gender and gender identity disclosure based on specific social contexts. Coming out as transgender is best conceptualized as an ongoing, socially embedded, skilled management of one’s gender identity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1148-1177
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of Homosexuality
Issue number8
StatePublished - Jul 3 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This article is based on research supported by the the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law and the following University of Minnesota funding sources: College of Liberal Arts; Life Course Center; Office of the Dean of the Graduate School; and Office for Multicultural and Academic Affairs.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, © 2019 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.


  • Transgender
  • coming out
  • gender
  • gender identity
  • genderqueer
  • identity disclosure
  • identity theory
  • transitioning


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