Updated: Jun 6, 2020
Alright. You’ve made it. You have discovered and accepted that you’re not in the outdated gender binary. Great! That’s one major decision off your plate! The weight has lifted! You’re free! But now what? Just because you decided that you are transgender (or enby, or agender, etc) doesn’t mean you know a damn thing about how to go about affirming it. Or even whether you should. Certainly, if it would be dangerous or detrimental to your health or livelihood, then I sorrowfully must advise against pursuing affirmation in that type of environment. People are crazy nowadays and folks are dying because of it. But let’s be a bit more positive for now, shall we?
There are many ways to affirm your identified gender, the three most common of which are social transitioning, medical transitioning, and surgical transitioning. A person can transition with any combination of these, or all of them. And then some choose no transition at all. All of these choices are just as valid as the next, and no one should judge someone else’s life based on what they think another person should be doing. You are you; own it!
But what do these three terms mean? Social, Medical, Surgical….
Social Transitioning: changing only your physical appearance to reflect your gender identity, such as clothing, binders, packers, jewelry, laser hair removal, voice training, haircut, makeup, shaving (or not), etc. Some would also say that “acting” more like the opposite gender would also fit this, but I feel like being yourself shouldn’t be “acting” like anything. Shit, I’m a cisgender female, but you wouldn’t know it due to the way I act sometimes. LOL!
Medical Transitioning: this is where you start taking prescription medications, mostly involving hormones, in order to alter your physiology and physical appearance. Some of these effects are permanent, which is why many people are skittish to start them if they are still uncertain of their transition goals.
Surgical Transitioning: here is a set of pretty-much-permanent changes to your physical body. Whether it be for top surgery, bottom surgery, or both, this is a major step and not to be undertaken lightly. It is often almost prohibitively expensive, has a good bit of red tape to break through, and can be quite taxing physically due to pain and being out of work for a while (depending on the procedure).
So which is the correct way? There is no right or wrong answer. It is something everyone must work out for themselves. In a previous blog, I discussed ways to discover if you are Trans, and I must plagiarize myself here because the same methods apply to deciding on which transitional method mentioned above is the most appropriate.
1. Go online! The internet has loads of information regarding this topic, sometimes a bit too much. I would suggest seeking out the lecture by Dr. William Powers that is on youtube. I have the link under the Education tab on my site. It is a long lecture, but well worth the time invested to learn about trans statistics, development, and hormone therapy regimens. Also, many youtube videos contain stories, experiences, and advice from transgender people that can be very useful. I have a link or two for this under the Education tab as well.
2. Support groups/organizations. There are usually at least a few LGBT support centers scattered here and there, whether online or at a physical location, that you can contact and get some further information from, and/or interact with like-minded people who have "been there and done that." Learn from their wisdom and experience.
3. Take some "me" time. Really explore your inner feelings. Did anything in particular bring this revelation to light? Is there anything specifically that you are wanting to figure out first? What would your goals of transitioning be? Really get to know yourself, as weird as that sounds.
4. Therapy time! It certainly isn't a requirement, but I will say that many of my therapy colleagues can really help people get to the root of their feelings and help them walk through their options.
5. Envision your perfect body. What does it look like? Now think of how your body currently looks. What makes you comfortable? What makes you uncomfortable? Are there things that you can do in the present that will make you feel better? Are there things that you would want to change/alter that you are physically unable to without medical intervention? Really try to pinpoint the source(s) of your discomfort and what could possibly alleviate it. Start small and work up. This isn’t a race.
6. Check out your bod. No, really. Stand in front of a mirror, clothed and/or unclothed, and perform the same mental exercises as mentioned in #5. What do you like and dislike? Comfortable/uncomfortable? What would you change altogether? What might you leave the same? What could be changed just a little bit? Get a good picture of what you want so you can work towards it.
If you aren’t 100% decided on everything, that’s fine. Many people still question themselves even years into their transition. It’s just human nature. The purpose here is to ponder it slowly and thoughtfully, and over time to carefully bring yourself to your conclusions. There are so many options out there now. Many people start with social transitioning as a way to “try it before you buy it” so to speak. And I have to say, it seems a very useful method of feeling things out that can be relatively safe (and reversible if need be).
TALK with your therapist, friends, family, healthcare provider, or anyone else you might trust to help you make this decision. Never take someone else’s opinion as your own answer, though. Just incorporate their answers into your own list of resources, and then keep reviewing your own feelings and experiences with this additional thoughtful outside input to give yourself a bit of perspective. Some people desire only minimal transition. Others want the whole nine yards. Only you can decide for yourself what gives you happiness and affirmation. And if you begin to transition and then stop, that’s fine, too. No one ever said once you commit that you have to continue forever. There are many reasons this detransition might happen: health, safety, acceptance, money, availability, etc. Don’t be so hard on yourself. And if, in the end, you decide that you don’t want to do anything different, that’s fine. You know who you are on the inside, and that’s what matters most. Find the balance within. Just know that you are valid, your choices are your own to make, and no one else should dictate your gender to you. Ever.
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