Matt Kailey, USA
Ask Matt: Returning to High School as Male
May 28, 2012 by Matt Kailey
A reader writes: ďIím sixteen and a closet FTM. None of my friends
know, but when I return to school after this summer, I really want to
present as male.
ďIím going to counseling, but itís going very slowly (Iíve only
managed to get two appointments so far), and I havenít been diagnosed
with GID yet. Iím almost positive I have it though. I feel like a boy.
ďSo I was wondering: Do you have to be diagnosed with Gender Identity
Disorder before coming out to everyone?Ē
The short answer is: No, you donít have to be diagnosed with GID
before coming out. You know who you are and you know how you want to
live, so if you want to come out as trans and live and present as
male, you can do that at any time.
Now the long answer (you knew it was coming):
I donít know your living situation and whether or not you are living
with your parents. If you are living with a parent(s) or guardian(s),
you will probably need to come out to that person or those people
before you begin presenting as male. If your appearance is changing at
all Ė clothing, hairstyle, and so on Ė they will obviously notice that
and will want an explanation. So that will probably be your first
order of business.
Also, if you intend to return to a school that you have previously
been attending as female, you will need some backing from your
parents. Itís possible that school personnel will not be as
cooperative as you might envision. There will be issues with restroom
use, gym class, and your new name and pronoun.
Depending on the school and its policies, it is quite possible that
they will not honor your requests to be treated as male, particularly
without your parentsí backing. If you intend to live as male when you
return to school, you and your parents should meet with the principal
and guidance counselor prior to the school year to devise a plan on
how this will all work. If you just show up at school and tell your
teachers you want to be called by a male name and referred to by male
pronouns, it is likely to fall flat. This type of thing takes some
Another thing to consider is that once you come out, you canít go back
in. Based on your age, I would guess that you will be at your school
for at least another year or two. If you come out as trans and start
living as male, that will stay with you for as long as you are at the
school. You are at risk of bullying and other mistreatment, and it
could be rough. I am not trying to discourage you from living as your
authentic self. When itís time, itís time. But itís important to have
the schoolís backing to help prevent some of the problems that you
Now, while you do not need an official diagnosis to come out, in many
cases, you still need one to actually transition. While policies and
guidelines are loosening up, and ďinformed consentĒ clinics are
becoming more popular, depending on where you live, most medical
doctors still require a therapistís letter to prescribe hormones, and
most surgeons still require a therapistís letter to perform surgery.
In addition, because of your age, most medical personnel will also
require parental consent.
But if you are not intending to medically transition at this point,
you donít need to worry about that right now. Your primary concern now
is how you are going to handle this with the school. So if you do
intend to return to school in the fall living and presenting as male,
I would recommend the following:
> Come out to your parents as soon as possible (if you havenít already) so that they have time to process this news. They need to be able to deal with it and resolve it for themselves before they can back you up with the school.
> Come out to your friends so that they can get used to the name and pronoun use over the summer. Their use of the correct name and pronoun can help reinforce this with other students at school. They can also support you if other students tease or bully you.
> With your parents, set up an appointment with the school principal and guidance counselor. The principal might also want the superintendent present Ė thatís up to the principal, who will follow whatever the district policies are. It might take more than one meeting to hammer this all out, but it should be done before the school year starts.
If you donít feel that the school is cooperating, you can contact your
stateís ACLU or your local LGBT legal resources to get more help. You
might even want to contact them in advance to get the lowdown on what
your stateís laws are, what your rights are with the school, and what
problems you might run into. The school will likely be contacting
their own lawyers to find out what their legal position is in this
All of this is assuming that you intend to live openly as male. If
your intention is only to come out to your friends and present a
masculine appearance, but you plan to continue to use the womenís
restroom and locker room, and go by your female name and pronouns with
teachers and other students, then you donít need to go through all
this rigmarole. You can simply live as male with your friends and in
your private life, and grit your teeth and live as female in the eyes
of your teachers and classmates.
So itís entirely up to you how to proceed. Think about it, but donít
delay too long if you want to live openly as male, and be treated as
male, at school in the fall.
Readers, what do you think? Any experiences in this area?