Tommy Dorfman on Coming Out as Transgender and Why She's 'Never Felt Better'

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Tommy Dorfman covers InStyle
Anthony Maule/InStyle

Tommy Dorfman is living her best life. The 13 Reasons Why star is opening up about her journey to coming out as transgender in July in a new candid Q&A with InStyle magazine.

Dorfman, 29, graces a special subscriber cover of InStyle's October beauty issue. She says she's always seen herself as a woman, but thought she would come out in her 40s. However, after receiving support and guidance from other trans women, she took the steps necessary for her to come out as transgender.

"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," she says with a laugh. "But I really couldn't imagine not being a mother or a grandmother. My spirit was so attuned to whatever it means to be a woman. I've walked in the privilege of a male body, but [being a woman] is all I've known on the inside. Trans women would clock me all the time and be like, 'Hey, girl, what's up?' because it's sort of a thing you recognize."

She also got positive reaction from unexpected places after publicly coming out.

"There are some people that I grew up with in the South who I thought I was never going to see again," she shares. "So it was nice to get text messages and calls from people I grew up going to NASCAR with or who you would expect to be incredibly conservative and not accepting. But to see me, someone they knew as a child, stepping into this space in a public way helped them wrap their heads around it."

Dorfman says she's now taking hormones and has definitely felt positive effects.

"I just switched my hormones, and I've never felt better in my life," she notes. "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. I look at the Internet chronicle of photos of me since I started working, and I can see how f**king unhappy I was in every photo. It's wild."

"Two weeks into having estrogen in my body, I was like, 'Oh,'" she also shares. "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. I'm more energized. I feel how I think I was always supposed to feel."

When it comes to her pronouns, Dorfman says she is understanding of people who have known her for years and are having trouble adjusting.

"It's baked into their brains. But it's the best when people self-correct -- that's always so meaningful," she says. "Sometimes people get embarrassed and then angry at you for correcting them. They get defensive like, 'I'm trying!' That's fine; I'm not trying to attack you. But if you could correct yourself in the moment, that would be helpful. Maybe it's a matter of slowing down in general."

Next up, Dorfman is playing a trans woman in Lena Dunham's film, Sharp Stick, and says she only recently started auditioning as a woman.

"I can't wait to bring life to women onscreen," she says. "I went to theater school and would always wish I could portray one of the sisters instead of the boy love interest. My brother and I played video games like Mortal Kombat, and I would only choose to be the female characters because the idea of playing a male character was impossible to me. I was talking to my other actor friends, and I was like, 'I can't believe I had any kind of career as a boy, because I can't imagine doing that now.' I would love to play a boy again in some capacity, but as a woman."

Dorfman's interview will be featured in InStyle's October issue hitting newsstands on Sept. 24.

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