Tommy Dorfman Knew She Had to Come out as a Trans Woman When She Saw Her Calvin Klein Billboard: ‘It Was the Most Dysphoric I’ve Ever Felt’

Tommy Dorfman spent years hiding her true self — until in July 2021, she found the strength to embrace her authentic self and came out to the world as a trans woman. In a sit-down interview with InStyle, Dorfman revealed that a defining moment in her transition came during her Calvin Klein photoshoot. Read on to learn more about Tommy Dorfman’s defining moment with Calvin Klein, her journey toward embracing her authentic self, and her upcoming acting gigs. 

Tommy Dorfman hid her trans identity out of fear

Tommy Dorfman is seen arriving to the Thom Browne Spring 2022 Collection during New York Fashion Week
Tommy Dorfman is seen arriving to the Thom Browne Spring 2022 Collection during New York Fashion Week. | Gilbert Carrasquillo/GC Images

Dorfman told InStyle that it took her a long time to work up the courage to embrace her trans identity. One reason was that she didn’t want her transition to negatively impact her acting career. According to IMDb, Dorfman landed her first big acting gig on the Netflix original 13 Reasons Why in 2016. She portrayed the character Ryan Shaver from 2017 to 2020. The show was great for Dorfman’s career and served as a distraction from having to deal with the body dysphoria she had been struggling with throughout her life. 

While Dorfman was able to suppress her true feelings for years, things came to a crashing halt after she landed a modeling opportunity with Calvin Klein. While this should have been an amazing experience and career accomplishment for Dorfman, it only heightened her dysphoria. After seeing the pre-transition photos of herself plastered across billboards, the actress realized she couldn’t deny her trans identity any longer. 

Dorfman said her Calvin Klein campaign was the most dysphoric she had ever felt 

In her interview with InStyle, Dorfman went into great detail about her feelings during her Calvin Klein campaign. She told InStyle:

“But during the pandemic, I did a Calvin Klein campaign in New York, and they put me on the big Lafayette Street billboard. 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. 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.'” 

While said she Dorfman knew she couldn’t deny her feelings or put off her transition any longer after her Calvin Klein campaign, it didn’t make the next few steps any easier. It was especially difficult to tell her family, friends, and then-husband Peter Zurkuhlen.

Dorfman also revealed to InStyle that before the Time article broke about her coming out, she wasn’t sleeping and was very scared about what the public reception would be. Luckily, things worked out for Dorfman as she received hundreds of messages on social media from fans celebrating her announcement.  

Dorfman overcome fear and embraced her true self 

While it was a difficult and complex journey to self-acceptance, Dorfman has shared that she is happy to finally feel comfortable in her own body. She also revealed to InStyle that she is ecstatic to finally be able to land her acting roles as a woman; she landed her first in Lena Dunham’s upcoming independent film Shark Stick

If there’s one thing that Dorfman wants young trans kids or other people struggling with their identity to know, it’s this: “You are divinely held.” Dorfman has this saying tattooed on herself as a gentle reminder that things will get better even in difficult times.

Ultimately, Dorfman said she hopes that her journey of overcoming fear and embracing her true self will inspire others and help them realize they are not alone in the struggle. 

RELATED: Tommy Dorfman Announces ‘Redefined’ Relationship with Husband Peter Zurkuhlen Amid Transition