Gizelle Hernandez for TIME
Tommy Dorfman is reintroducing herself to the world as a trans woman.
Dorfman, who played Ryan Shaver on 13 Reasons Why, publicly discussed her transition for the first time in an interview with novelist Torrey Peters published by Time on Thursday, saying, “For a year now, I have been privately identifying and living as a woman — a trans woman.”
“It’s funny to think about coming out, because I haven’t gone anywhere,” she continued. “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.”
Dorfman, who has been documenting her changes in style and appearance for several months on Instagram, says she felt the need to publicly address her gender identity in order to maintain control of her own narrative.
“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?” she said. “So I kept, on Instagram, a diaristic time capsule instead — one that shows a body living in a more fluid space. 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.”
Dorfman, 29, will not change her name, which she was given in honor of her mother’s brother who died shortly after she was born. “I feel very connected to that name, to an uncle who held me as he was dying,” she said. “This is an evolution of Tommy. I’m becoming more Tommy.”
“I love my name, I want to keep my name and give new life to my name,” she continued. “I’m really proud of the person that I was, too. I think that’s important to acknowledge. I’m proud of who I’ve been for the last however many years.”
Gizelle Hernandez for TIME
Given her trajectory thus far, Dorfman said it has been “impossible for me to separate my personal and professional transition, because my body and face are linked to my career.”
“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,” she said. “But I’m no longer interested in playing ‘male’ characters.”
Dorfman was given her first role as a woman in Lena Dunham’s upcoming film Sharp Stick. She’s also set to direct an adaptation of Mason Deaver’s I Wish You All the Best and is starring this fall in the Channel 4 limited series Fracture.
“I feel like I haven’t scratched the surface with my career or work because everything I’ve done up until the end of last year has been in the wrong body, and not in my truth,” Dorfman said. “So much of my work as an actor was like, hiding this part of myself and then bringing life to a character. And so I think I’m just excited to play women. Trans women, cis women, women in general. Non-binary, femme-presenting people. And it’s funny because I loved acting but I would hate going to work. It would always feel really uncomfortable to me. And now I know why.”
And in her personal life, what the star is looking for in a romantic partner has changed as well.
“Personally, it’s wild to be 29 and going through puberty again. Some days I feel like I’m 14,” she said. “As a result of that shift, the types of romantic partnerships I seek out are different, 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.”
“So we’ve had incredible conversations to redefine our relationship as friends,” she continued. “Transitioning has been liberating and clarifying.”