“13 Reasons Why” star Tommy Dorfman isn’t calling her official entrance into the public world as a trans woman a coming out. To her, its more of a “reintroduction.”
“It’s funny to think about coming out, because I haven’t gone anywhere. I view today as a reintroduction to me as a woman, having made a transition medically,” Dorfman said in an interview with Time Wednesday. “Coming out is always viewed as this grand reveal, but I was never not out. Today is about clarity: I am a trans woman. My pronouns are she/her. My name is Tommy.”
Regardless of how the moment is defined, Dorfman’s decision to publicly state her identity is an enriching one, both personally and professionally. “I feel like I haven’t scratched the surface of my career or work because everything I’ve done up until the end of last year has been in the wrong body,” Dorfman said in an accompanying video. “So much of my work as an actor was hiding this part of myself and then bringing life to character … I loved acting but I would hate going to work. It always felt really uncomfortable for me, and now I know why.”
Those details put Tommy Dorfman’s acting career to date in new focus. Knowing her performances in “13 Reasons Why,” “Love, Victor” and “Love in the Time of Corona” came while feeling as if she couldn’t fully embrace all of herself reveals a new level of personal challenge those roles brought for her. Now, her challenge is to carve out a new path for herself playing femme-presenting roles, leaving all male-presenting roles behind with her past.
“It’s impossible for me to separate my personal and professional transition, because my body and face are linked to my career,” Dorfman said. “I’m most recognized for playing a bitchy gay poet on a soap opera, and I feared that by actively transitioning in my personal life, I would lose whatever career I’ve been told I’m supposed to have.”
Her first step on that path will come in Lena Dunham’s latest film, “Sharp Stick,” where Dorfman will portray a female character for the first time. “It was so exciting and validating,” Dorfman said. “I’m thinking about how I can infuse my trans body into film and television.”
Beyond her professional goals, Dorfman’s “reintroduction” represents her desire to control her own narrative. She has been doing that throughout the pandemic, creating what she describes as a “diaristic time capsule” on Instagram documenting her journey through the fluidity of gender.
“I’ve been living in this other version of coming out where I don’t feel safe enough to talk about it, so I just do it. But I recognize that transitioning is beautiful. Why not let the world see what that looks like,” Dorfman told Time. “However, I’ve learned as a public-facing person that my refusal to clarify can strip me of the freedom to control my own narrative. With this medical transition, there has been discourse about my body, and it began to feel overwhelming.”
She also commented on how the common framing of transitioning pressured her to feel like “everything was terrible before” despite holding love for past relationships. “The sad part is you don’t get to acknowledge some of what you’re leaving. One doesn’t have to medically transition to be trans, but for me, it was an active choice. I’m aligning my body with my soul. Yet as a result of that, I am losing some things,” Dorfman said.
“I was in a nine-year relationship in which I was thought of as a more male-bodied person, with a gay man. I love him so much, but we’ve been learning that as a trans woman, what I’m interested in is not necessarily reflected in a gay man,” Dorfman continued. “We’ve had incredible conversations to redefine our relationship as friends. Transitioning has been liberating and clarifying.”
“I have to reckon with the fact that I brought along a lot of people and things who might not end up being there for this part of my journey. All I can do now is look to a future where I am, hopefully, just radically honest,” she added. “This is an evolution of Tommy. I’m becoming more Tommy.”