What It Means to Come Out in the Transgender Community

2 minute read

When Caitlyn Jenner made her debut on the cover of Vanity Fair, it was her way of officially coming out as a transgender woman – but the process of doing so varies from individual to individual.

“It’s very personal,” Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, explains to PEOPLE about the process. “It’s just not linear at all. It’s more like a blender, where you put the ingredients in – and they’re your own ingredients – and then you hit ‘Frappe.’ ”

Keisling says that transitioning means very different things to different people.

“I know people who their transition is just telling people at work, ‘Instead of my name being Andrea, I want you to call me Andy, and I’m going to be a guy now,’ ” she explains. “For other people, it’s a lot closer to what Jenner’s done – without the media attention – which has been, ‘On such date I’m going to do this, and then on another date I’m going to do this.’ ”

While Jenner, 65, has undergone medical procedures as part of transitioning, that is not always the case. (Jenner has previously spoken about a nose job, upper lip lift, forehead work and facial-feminization surgery; according to Vanity Fair, she has also had hair removal, a tracheal shave and a breast augmentation.)

Coming out may also include a legal transition, in which the transgender person obtains new documentation and identification.

“I assume that Caitlyn will or maybe already has legally changed her name to Caitlyn, but not everybody does,” says Keisling. “[Regardless,] Jenner has made it clear that she wants to be called Caitlyn and she wants to us to use ‘she’ pronouns.”

Sometimes a name change is not even part of the process at all: “For some people it’s just a social transition,” Keisling tells PEOPLE. “It’s just letting people know.”

Ultimately, there is no one way to come out or to prepare for doing so.

“It is so dramatically varied,” Keisling says. “When you talk to different trans people, they will tell you what the pattern is, and they will all tell you different patterns.”

This article originally appeared on PEOPLE.com

See The Life of Caitlyn Jenner

1976 Olympic Games. Montreal, Canada. Men's Decathlon. USA's gold medal winner Bruce Jenner.
At the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, Bruce Jenner won the gold medal in the decathlon, setting the world record at 8,616 points.Getty Images
Bruce Jenner celebrates during his record setting performance in the decathlon in the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal.
Jenner became a national hero following his Olympic win and was later inducted into the Olympic Hall of Fame in 1986.Tony Duffy—Getty Images
NBC Sportscaster - Bruce Jenner
Jenner became an NBC Sportscaster in the late 1970s following his Olympic performance in Montreal.NBC/Getty Images
Bruce Jenner and Linda Thompson
Jenner married actress Linda Thompson, above, on Jan. 5, 1981, following his divorce with Chrystie Crownover.Getty Images
Nancy Reagan With Celebrities
Jenner was diagnosed with dyslexia as a child. In October of 1985, he received the Outstanding Learning Disabled Achiever Award from then-First Lady Nancy Reagan alongside stars such as Cher and Tom Cruise.Getty Images
Bruce Jenner
Jenner was a successful race car driver in the 1980s, though in a 2013 interview he said, "I was a lot more badass runner than I was a driver.”Ann Clifford—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
Bruce And Kris
In 1991, Jenner married Kris Jenner, previously Kris Kardashian, just one month after she finalized her divorce from Robert Kardashian. The two had dated for only five months.Maureen Donaldson—Getty Images
Kardashian Jenner Family Portrait
Their marriage merged two already large families, evident here in this 1991 portrait.Donaldson Collection/Getty Images
Bruce Jenner
After his sports career, Jenner, seen here at a celebrity golf event in 1993, had a number of small acting jobs and television appearances.Stephen Dunn—Getty Images
"Cinderella" Release on Video
The family poses at an event in 1995, the year Jenner and Kris welcomed the first of their two children together, Kendall Jenner.Ron Galella—WireImage
Former US gold medal decathlete Bruce Jenner (C),
Kylie Jenner was born two years later in 1997. The girls can be seen here on the red carpet in 2000, long before they covered magazines and appeared on TIME's Most Influential Teens list.Scott Nelson—AFP/Getty Images
E! Entertainment Television's 2005 Summer Splash Event - Arrivals
Jenner, seen here in 2005, would re-enter the spotlight thanks to Keeping Up With the Kardashians, which first premiered in 2007.Steve Granitz—WireImage
Bruce Jenner
Jenner spoofed his reality-star fame with a commercial for Tropicana Juicy Rewards in 2010.AP
The Tonight Show With Jay Leno
Jenner and Kris, here at The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in 2011, announced their separation in 2013. She filed for divorce the following year.Kevin Winter—Getty Images
Bruce Jenner On "Extra"
Jenner poses with a box of Wheaties in 2012. He appeared on the front of the box first in 1977 after his Olympic gold-medal win, then in 2012 when Wheaties rolled out a retro series.Noel Vasquez—Getty Images
Brandon And Leah Album Release Party For "Cronies"
Jenner appears with two of his sons, TV personality Brody Jenner and musician Brandon Jenner, who records with his wife as Brandon & Leah, at an April 2013 release party.Chelsea Lauren—WireImage
Celebrity Sightings In Los Angeles - October 20, 2014
Jenner walks with step-daughter Kim Kardashian in October of 2014 — about five months after rapper Kanye West became his son-in-law.Bauer-Griffin—GC Images
Bruce Jenner Vanity Fair Caitlyn transgender
Caitlyn Jenner, formerly Bruce Jenner, appeared as a woman for the first time on the cover of Vanity Fair's June 2015 issue, photographed by Annie Leibovitz.Annie Leibovitz—Vanity Fair
The 2Caitlyn Jenner 2015 Espys Arther Ashe Award015 ESPYS - Show
Caitlyn Jenner accepts the Arthur Ashe Courage Award onstage during The 2015 ESPYS at Microsoft Theater on July 15, 2015 in Los Angeles.Kevin Winter—Getty Images

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com