Broadly stated, transitioning is the process of bringing your gender expression in line with your gender identity, rather than the sex you were assigned at birth. For many trans people, transitioning is a way of alleviating gender dysphoria. As defined by the Mayo Clinic, gender dysphoria is the feeling of discomfort or distress that might accompany a difference between gender identity, sex assigned at birth or sex-related physical characteristics.
It’s important to note, however, that not all transgender people experience gender dysphoria, nor do all transgender people decide to transition - for example, many non-binary, gender non-conforming, gender fluid, and genderqueer folk may not see transitioning as part of their journey. As The National Center for Transgender Equality describes it, transitioning can be a means of “living a life that feels truly authentic...a life-affirming and even life-saving decision.”
There are psychological, social and medical components to transitioning. It can involve coming out to friends, family and coworkers, changing your name - legally or otherwise - and starting to use preferred pronouns. It can entail altering the way you dress, move, and speak. It can mean undergoing hormone replacement therapy, electrolysis and other forms of hair removal. It can also involve surgeries such as breast augmentation (or “top surgery”), facial feminization surgery, tracheal shaving, and gender-affirming surgery (“bottom surgery”).
Today, we’re talking about 3 key things to consider (of the many considerations!) if you are just starting out on your own journey of transitioning or beginning to think about it.
There is no “right” way to transition
Transitioning is a very private, deeply personal, and completely individualized process. For many, this process can start with speaking with a mental health professional about their gender dysphoria. And for others, it may be a deeply internal discussion with yourself before you decide to disclose how you truly want to express yourself.
Not every trans person opts to take hormones, or to have surgery, and some trans people opt to have certain surgeries and not others. Also, not every trans person seeks to “pass.” Your journey is unique - and it’s not a race or a competition! Transitioning can take months or even years. For some, it is a journey that never ends, as they continue to evolve and discover new aspects of their gender identity. It’s important to go at your own pace and take the steps that feel right for you, when they feel right for you. After all, this is your journey and you define it.
Self-care is critical to your wellbeing
Believe in yourself. You are deserving of happiness, worthy of love and to be treated with dignity and respect. To transition is to engage in a process of constant self-reflection and discovery, and at some point you may experience self-doubt and feelings of anxiety and depression. This is normal. You are going to face challenges, disappointment, and negative feedback in the course of your journey, but you are your own best ally. You’ve come this far. Making the decision to transition was no spur-of-the-moment matter. You gave it a lot of thought, and the choice you made is an indication of just how very brave and strong you are. You’ve got this.
You are not alone
Your journey is unique and unlike anyone else’s, but there are so many others on similar paths. Having adequate social support and access to information while you transition is crucial, including creating a care team that you can enlist to help you. If you are just starting to learn, you can connect with other trans folk online, whether in Reddit communities devoted to trans issues or on platforms designed exclusively for connecting trans people like Transgender Heaven and Trans Refuge. In real life, you can connect with other trans people by finding groups in your area that meet regularly. Transgender Map provides a wealth of information on the social, medical, legal and financial aspects of transitioning as well as resources by state in the US but also abroad, including listings of local advocacy and support groups. Having a community of people who understand what you are going through, who you can share with and learn from, is so important to your well-being and goes hand in hand with self-care.
Do you agree with these considerations? Let us know by commenting below - and remember, we’re here to support you no matter where you are in your journey and how you decide to express yourself!