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'13 Reasons Why' Star Tommy Dorfman Is A Trans Woman, Actor Who Plays Ryan Shaver Reintroduces Herself To The World

Jul. 22 2021, Published 12:02 p.m. ET

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Tommy Dorfman of 13 Reasons Why fame is a transgender woman.

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But rather than come out in the traditional sense, the 29-year-old actor is choosing to reintroduce herself with a Time magazine cover story.

reasons why tommy dorfman trans woman actor ryan shaver
Source: @tommy.dorfman/Instagram; Netflix
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"For a year now, I have been privately identifying and living as a woman – a trans woman," Tommy said at the top of the interview, which debuted Thursday.

"It's funny to think about coming out, because I haven't gone anywhere," she explained. "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."

The Netflix teen drama – in which Tommy played a self-proclaimed "bitchy gay poet" named Ryan Shaver – put the actor on the map back in 2017.

After a few years of fame and a subsequently large social media following, fans began to speculate that Tommy was transitioning.

But the star remained mum on the subject while still living, dressing and existing as a trans woman. And that, she says, was no accident.

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tommy dorfman transgender woman  reasons why acting career time
Source: Gizelle Hernandez for 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," she explained. "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. 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. So, recently I looked to examples of others who have come out as trans. There's the version 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."

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Tommy said that version of "coming out" was just "not viable" for her – or anyone, for that matter. She feels it's "completely unrealistic and unsustainable" for any trans person to take months or even years away from their lives and livelihood to transition, making sure to note that undergoing medical procedures are a choice and not a requirement.

reasons why tommy dorfman trans woman actor ryan shaver
Source: @tommy.dorfman/Instagram
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Additionally, she's not changing her 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," she said. "This is an evolution of Tommy. I'm becoming more Tommy."

reasons why tommy dorfman trans woman actor ryan shaver
Source: @tommy.dorfman/Instagram
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As far as her career goes, Tommy knew it would be "impossible for me to separate my personal and professional transition, because my body and face are linked to my career;" therefore, she is "no longer interested in playing 'male' characters."

She credited Lena Dunham with giving her her first female role in the upcoming film, Sharp Stick.

tommy dorfman transgender woman  reasons why acting career time
Source: Gizelle Hernandez for TIME
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As far as her personal life is concerned, Tommy has been married to Peter Zurkuhlen since 2016.

Though Peter was not mentioned in the interview, Tommy said there had been a "shift" in the "types of romantic partnerships" she was interested in pursuing.

"I was in a nine-year relationship in which I was thought of as a more male-bodied person, with a gay man," she explained. "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. Transitioning has been liberating and clarifying."

In recent months, Tommy has been photographed holding hands with 24-year-old non-binary Boy Erased star Lucas Hedges.

reasons why tommy dorfman trans woman actor ryan shaver
Source: @tommy.dorfman/Instagram
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