On this episode of The Truth Is, 13 Reasons Why actress Tommy Dorfman (@tommy.dorfman) sits down with Chella Man (@chellaman) and Aaron Rose Philip (@aaron___philip) and shares her experience coming out as a trans woman.
In July 2021, Tommy publicly came out as a trans woman in an interview with Torrey Peters in TIME magazine, and the response was overwhelming.
“I knew there would be a response to that reintroduction of self,” Tommy shares. “I didn’t know it would be as expansive as it was.” Tommy admits that she had been thinking about and living as a trans woman for some time before the TIME interview, but after using the isolation of the pandemic to feel it out and understand herself, she felt she was ready to share it with the world.
“It was really clear and I was ready, and I was in a relationship at the time that was a little bit more public than any relationship I’d ever been in, and I was getting misgendered a lot in tabloids and press,” she says. “And I felt more and more that I was doing myself a disservice by not talking about myself, and not clarifying my pronouns and who I am today, and the woman that I’ve grown into.”
Not being able to identify publicly as a trans woman led Tommy to start to resent her life as a person in the public eye. “I was getting really resentful at my public life because ultimately I hadn’t told people who I was, I just expected people to get it in some way, which now seems silly but at the time we know it’s hard to be vulnerable.”
Vulnerability aside, Tommy was also feeling that she and other queer and trans people don’t necessarily owe that personal information to the public. “I don’t think we owe the world all of ourselves, especially as trans and queer people. I think we are allowed to pick and choose what we share for our own safety,” she says.
But ultimately, Tommy felt that she needed to live her life as authentically as possible. “The pandemic happened, and I had to sit with myself—as we all sat with ourselves—in isolation, and I had no other direction to go in other than this one. I was like, ‘What am I doing living my life if I can’t live it as myself?’ Like, it’s just not worth it.”
Chella, Aaron, and Tommy discuss the importance of gender fluidity and gender creativity when figuring out “what home feels like” as a queer person, especially when negotiating one’s queer identity for the sake of someone else’s comfort. “Without being molded and formed by society, I think the autonomy of being trans and actively living your true self requires fantasy, it requires performance, it requires figuring out what works for you and what doesn’t,” says Tommy. “I think that’s why gender creativity is so important and I think that’s why fluidity is so important and I think that’s why people should be able to change their name 100 times if they have to.”
Tommy has been very open about her transition and queer journey in the hopes that it will give visibility and inspiration to others who may be going through the same thing. “I was really intentional about using my Instagram as a visual time capsule [or] documentation diary of a body in transition,” she explains. “A lot of why I’ve kept those pictures on Instagram and [why] I chose to speak openly to TIME magazine on a global platform is hopefully that that discomfort that it brought me for weeks and weeks after that piece came out helps other people, and I know it has helped other people. I know I’ve been used in PDFs of teenagers who have used my experience to help their family members understand who they are.”
Ultimately, Tommy wants her experience to help others feel less alone in their lives. She explains that she shares her experience publicly “in the hopes of one, two, 20, however many people seeing this feel less alone and feel more confident in talking about themselves.”
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