To Be or Not to Be Out Online?

For a very long while now, I’ve maintained the pseudonymous me online that I use here and on Twitter. Lately, I’ve been giving much thought to how out I want this identity to be and if or when I merge it with the online me that uses my legal name.

The further I go in my transition journey, the more pressure I’m starting to feel to converge identities. This pressure comes from the desire to live my life more authentically and open after years and years of hiding a core part of myself from others. It’s liberating to be able to tell other people about me and what’s happening in my life.

Another positive benefit to being more out online is the increase in legitimacy it would bring to my online identity. With an un-verifiable online identity, it takes longer for other people to trust that you’re not a poseur, a chaser or a dog.

There are other positives, like not having to context switch or juggle accounts and not having to worry about being outed accidentally or intentionally by myself or others.

The downsides, on the other hand, tend to be more murky.

I’m very lucky in that if I’m outed online, it’s clear that I won’t lose my family, my job or my best friends.

What’s unclear is how it would impact my professional reputation, my long-term ability to get another job, my professional network, insurance, credit rating and a bunch of other stuff I’m probably not even aware of yet. Then there’s the other stuff like potential harassment, stalking or hurtful/hateful stuff that could spill over and effect my family somehow.

Even more unclear is what would happen to all the other stuff I’ve poured into the Internet over the years. Some of it I would want to bring along into an out online life while I’d like other bits to stay where they are and rot, never to be seen again.

I assume (and you should too,) that anything written or posted online will never, ever go away and that the ability to retrieve the entire corpus of a person’s work and correlate seemingly different online personas will get easier and easier as time goes on.

Therein lies the conundrum. If it’s getting easier to pierce the veil of anonymity or pseudonymity, why bother?

Because for now, I’m not out and I still need a space away from my existing life to vent, to cry, to laugh, to share and to grow in.


About cistotrans

A Seattle-area trans woman seeking a happy spot to stay at along the path of transition.
This entry was posted in coming out, community, observations, safety, self-acceptance. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to To Be or Not to Be Out Online?

  1. Elizabeth says:

    I'm not sure you need to be worrying so much over this issue. The decision really comes down to your personal feelings on the matter. The reason I say this is that you might be surprised to find, as I was, just how difficult it is to change a name, legally.

    I never realized how many people and organizations, governmental and otherwise, need to be updated concerning this seemingly small bit of information… and they all needed a certified copy of the legal order, costing me $25 a pop!

    To make a long story short, the process I have undergone to change my name legally has been a long and difficult one, proving that most anybody besides family and friend don't really give a shit what you call yourself… they have a number for you, anyway 🙂



  2. Jenn Ifer says:

    What I'm most concerned about is the newly blurred line between private and business/professional life.

    At some point, I will be looking for another job and I'd rather not have this information at a prospective employer's fingertips. To this day, if you know how to look and are patient enough to sift through all the results, you can find stuff I wrote 19 years ago online and has my legal name attached to it. Stuff that most people would find offensive.

    One of the last things I want to have happen is to have those words lead to people prejudging me and not giving me the benefit of the doubt, because the context in which they were written are completely lost now, and context is important.

    The Internet blurs context. It's a bit like if I went with friends to a bar, drank a bit too much and started ranting about my psycho ex, but someone transcribed the entire monologue and posted it online. It's one thing to hear it in a bar, an entirely different thing to read it on a screen and compare it to a resume.

    My friends and family have my number on the ranting – my potential employers do not. 😉


  3. Elizabeth says:

    There is a lot of talk these days about how potential employers look up people's social network pages. What I meant to say was how little that actually happens.

    In my experience, no employer goes into that much detail when hiring. In fact, when I applied at Target the first time, before I'd had my name changed, I put on the application my “preferred name” and thought that someone would pay attention to that. When I got called in for an interview, the person on the other end of the line used my former name, so I erred on the side of caution and went to the interview in masculine clothes, clothes I hadn't worn in a couple of months. It ended up being the right choice, as my then legal name was continuously used and no mention of my “preferred name” ever came up. I realized that these idiots hadn't even read their own application!

    It also caused a backslide in my transition, as I was then stuck wearing men's clothes at work for two more months, but that's another matter. I understand where you're coming from, but it's my opinion that your fears are just a bit of a paranoid phase we all go through.

    Please, don't think I'm making light of your feelings. I just want you assure you that in all my attempts to draw my two lives closer at the time, it all went completely unnoticed. Most people are too wrapped up in their own lives to even notice others' going on around them. To that end, I also want you to know that I'm here for you, if you'd like to bounce opinions, worries or thoughts off me. My fiancée and I are a great source of non-judgmental information and support.

    Love and Big Hugs!


  4. Jenn Ifer says:

    Thanks for the comments, Elizabeth. Maybe I am being paranoid. lol

    If I'm honest with myself, quite a bit of this fear comes from years of being super-private to prevent people from getting to know me that well. Years of hiding my real self from the world did that to me.

    I work in the Internet industry, and I know that I turn to Google, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. to get a read on people before I meet them, and I hear that it's becoming a more common practice for HR and hiring managers to pre-screen people using those tools.

    I guess I should take the attitude that if they're pre-screening me out based on me being trans, I probably don't want to work for them anyway.

    For now, I'm not going to worry about it and will turn my attention back to it if/when I go full-time. But these are tricky things, these decisions of how open to be, in which forums and whether or not to woodwork/be stealth.

    There's another conundrum in there: finding myself and then thinking about hiding myself again.



  5. Elizabeth says:

    I think your attitude about not working for a company, if they're going to have a problem with trans issues is the best way to look at it. The paranoia that I mentioned is precisely due to the causes you mention. That's why I believe most, if not all, trans persons have gone through this phase… I know I did 🙂

    You know I'm rooting for you, in whatever path you choose. Finding your own path is the most difficult, and also the best, thing anyone can do in their lives. I'm here to help, in any way I can 🙂



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