Skip to main content

Home Culture Culture Film & TV

Tommy Dorfman says ‘shame and internalised transphobia’ stopped her coming out sooner

The 13 Reasons Why star came out publicly as trans last month.

By Alastair James

Words: Alastair James; pictures: Instagram/@tommy.dorfman

Tommy Dorfman has opened up about her transition in an interview where she discusses always seeing herself as a woman and the response she’s had to coming out as transgender.

The actress, 29, who is best known for her role in 13 Reasons Whycame out publicly in July in an interview with TIME magazine, saying she had been living and identifying as a trans-woman for a year.

Dorfman previously came out as non-binary in 2017.

“I feel so much better”

In a fresh interview with InStyle, Dorfman explained why she had chosen now to come out: “I had to be in a more secure place in my life — in my career, financially, whatever — because I needed to take time off to do it.”

Despite documenting her transition on social media for the past year, Dorfman says she remained wary of coming out publicly, saying: “I had a weird amount of shame and internalized transphobia that was keeping me from coming out — not looking perfect enough and not having all my ducks in a row. I wanted to align my body with my spirit, but I didn’t want to disappear for years to do that.”

Dorfman says she’s always felt in tune with what it means to be a woman, and despite spending 28 years walking “in the privilege of a male body,” she’s only ever felt like a woman internally.

“Whenever I close my eyes or dream, I see myself as a woman. That was always the case. A trans elder asked me what I see myself as when I’m older, when I’m 60, 70, 90. It was so clear, I just saw Cate Blanchett. [laughs]”

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by tommy dorfman (@tommy.dorfman)

The actress reveals she’s “never felt better” after moving onto hormones. “I spent 28 years of my life suicidal and depressed and recovering from alcoholism and drug addiction. I don’t think I’ve ever been genuinely happy until this past year,” adding that she can see how unhappy she was in old photos.

“Two weeks into having estrogen in my body, I was like, ‘Oh.’ It felt like I sank into the earth and was grounded. I can sleep now. I wake up moderately happy. I felt it hit, and I was like, ‘Let’s ride’. And as the testosterone leaves my body, I feel so much better.”

“You are divinely held”

Dorfman describes seeing herself in her former male identity on a billboard in New York in a Calvin Klein campaign as a moment where it dawned on her that she had to transition. “It was supposed to be something I was so proud of, this ‘iconic thing’. I was looking at it, and it was the most dysphoric I’ve ever felt. Which I think ultimately helped push me along.”

Talking about her career, the actress has already bagged a small role in Lena Dunham’s (Girls) film Sharp Stick, and is also looking forward to more roles in the future: “I can’t wait to bring life to women onscreen. I went to theatre school and would always wish I could portray one of the sisters instead of the boy love interest.”

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by tommy dorfman (@tommy.dorfman)

The 29-year-old also discussed her role models – Laverne Cox, MJ Rodriguez, and Jamie Clayton – as well as the messages she’s had from people since coming out.

She says she had “hundreds of messages” from people after the TIME interview with people telling her she had given them the confidence to come out themselves. These are things she says she will look back on in the future.

Asked what advice she has for a young trans person Dorfman say:  “You are divinely held. I have that tattooed on me — and for anyone who’s struggling, it’s a nice reminder.”

Read the full interview here.

The Attitude September Style Issue, is out now.

Subscribe in print and get your first three issues for just £1 each, or digitally for just over £1.50 per issue.