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"I didn't sleep. I thought maybe I'd bitten off more than I could chew. I had waited so long because I wasn't emotionally stable enough," Dorfman said. "After cocooning for nine months, I felt secure and grounded enough to do it, but I was still freaking out. It had nothing to do with people's reactions, because that's out of my control, but with the attention and conversations that come up around this topic."
The 29-year-old actress said she felt like this year was the right time to reintroduce herself because she knew she'd need to take time off to transition and wanted to be in a secure place in her life. Since publicly coming out and starting on hormones, Dorfman said she's "never felt better."
"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," she said. "I look at the Internet chronicle of photos of me since I started working, and I can see how (expletive) unhappy I was in every photo. It's wild."
"Today is about clarity: I am a trans woman. My pronouns are she/her. My name is Tommy," Dorfman told Time last month, adding that she has officially undergone a medical transition as well.
Though she acknowledged that she was "never not out," Dorfman, who previously used they/them pronouns, noted that being public about her transition for the first time is nonetheless a "beautiful" process.
For those who've known her by her male pronouns for most of her life, Dorfman understands it can be difficult to get her pronouns right and tries to be compassionate when people mess up, but appreciates it when people at least try.
"I think everyone has different tools for correcting people on pronouns. It's part of why I decided to come out in a public way, to help clarify that, so that some of the responsibility for reminding people was taken off my chest. Because it's exhausting, obviously," Dorfman said adding she likes when people correct themselves.
Dorfman also discussed what it was like rising to celebrity status in a body that was unfamiliar to her.
"I went to college and worked hard to get my first job, so when I started in this industry, I thought I was just supposed to be grateful no matter what. I felt that speaking out or changing anything would just (expletive) something up, and then I wouldn't be able to work anymore," she said.
She noted she got clarity when she saw an ad she did with Calvin Klein during the pandemic on a big billboard. It made her feel like she needed to transition.
"It was just, like, boy face, boy body, shot by Ryan McGinley. It was supposed to be something I was so proud of, this 'iconic thing.' And it was such an honor because it was Pride. But I was just so unhappy," Dorfman said. "I was looking at it, and it was the most dysphoric I've ever felt. Which I think ultimately helped push me along. I didn't have a choice. I was like, 'Oh, I have to.' "
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Contributing: Jenna Ryu
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Tommy Dorfman: '13 Reasons Why' star on coming out publicly