Tommy Dorfman, the 29-year-old Atlanta-born actor best known for portraying Ryan Shaver in the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why, gave fans one more reason to stan this week when she made her public debut as a trans woman. “It’s funny to think about coming out, because I haven’t gone anywhere,” Dorfman said in an interview with TIME published on July 22. On the same day, the actor also posted a moving Instagram photo from her shoot with TIME where she stuns in a bold red dress. “I view today as a reintroduction to me as a woman, having made a transition medically. 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.”
According to TIME, fans and paparazzi alike have been speculating about Dorfman’s gender identity for the past year, keeping close tabs on her Instagram for hints about this big milestone. Until this week, however, Dorfman has kept silent. “For a year now, I have been privately identifying and living as a woman — a trans woman,” Dorfman told TIME. “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? So I kept, on Instagram, a diaristic time capsule instead — one that shows a body living in a more fluid space.”
But for Dorfman, the subtle nods to her transition (wearing more dresses and skirts, posting selfies in a bra) never felt like enough. “I’ve learned as a public-facing person that my refusal to clarify can strip me of the freedom to control my own narrative,” she said. “With this medical transition, there has been discourse about my body, and it began to feel overwhelming.” So she decided to take her coming-out into her own hands.
“There’s the version [of coming out as trans] I couldn’t really afford to do, which is to disappear for two years and come back with a new name, new face, and new body. But that’s not what I wanted,” she said. “For me, personally, it’s not viable. I’m not changing my name. I’m named after my mom’s brother who passed a month after I was born, and I feel very connected to that name, to an uncle who held me as he was dying. This is an evolution of Tommy. I’m becoming more Tommy.”