The 'when' to tell is as important to consider as the 'how' to tell. Whilst I acknowledge arguments for and against telling a prospective partner before things get 'serious' I think it is risky to set a blanket guideline. Actually getting to know the other person can be a big part in working out how and when to tell them.
Coming out to close family, particularly your wife is one of the hardest things and also one of the most personal things. Only you can know the strength of the relationship and only you are in a position to predict the reactions. In my case I told my wife several years ago... I had not been subtle, leaving clothes hanging in the closet. I can say it didn't go well!
No one wakes up one day and decides to be gender variant.
Recent research into brain morphology and neurophysiology shows distinct differences between genetic males and genetic females, but that "female" characteristics occur in some males and vice versa with females. The degree to which these characteristics occur probably drives the way in which a person expresses their gender identity - which is supported by the TgR 2011 survey results, i.e. MMMM, MMMF.... FFFF.
Donnagirl wrote about her coming out:
Sadly I think there is a lot of truth in DonnaGirl's observation.
As a community we are heavily fragmented into little groups...each designed to provide comfort to those who want to inhabit them. Heaven knows - life in the past has been pretty tough on anyone who put their head up and admitted to being gender diverse. So for every manifestation of gender expression you can find groups who have come together to provide mutual support - frequently on the lines of "its OK to be like you are because we are like that too".
I was reading the coming out section of the forums and a word struck me as more important than anything we ever discuss. COMPROMISE.
Like many other members I've grown up with what I call a social apartheid - my friends are split between those "who know" and those who don't.
But it is an apatheid that is apparently no longer necessary and a division that constrains our life.
So it has to go!
Having worked through my family and friends over a lot of years gradually sharing the news about the true "me" I can agree that the starting point has to be your SO if you are in any meaningful relationship.
Today I told my flatmate everything..
We were at the local having a beer or 5, and a few games of pool. He seemed to be well lubricated after a couple of hours so I said "hey I've got something to tell you.."