5 Steps to Transitioning for Transgender People
If you ask five people what steps to transitioning they took, you will get at least three different answers; sometimes more. Understand, first and foremost that there is no ‘one way’ to transition. You may decide you only want to undergo hormone replacement therapy and not get surgery. That is completely your choice. You may decide you only wish to explore your gender through presentation and not go through hormones or surgery. Again, this is you becoming your authentic self. No one should dictate who you are, except you.
What I present now is five of the most likely steps, in no particular order, which people have taken in their transition. I say ‘in no particular order’ because I do not want you to assume you have to do it in this order. It is just an order that has made the most sense and that many have used in one form or another. And remember, your transition is YOUR transition. Not someone else. You do not have to follow their timeline or do it exactly how they did it. You have to feel comfortable and do things on your time.
5 Steps to Transitioning for Transgender People
- Presentation and Socialization
- Hormone Replacement Therapy
And now, 5 steps to transitioning for transgender people:
Seeing a gender therapist is an excellent first step in exploring your gender identity. You may only wish to change your gender presentation. The choice is yours in the end. But talking to someone who has experience can help you decide what you want to do. And a professional gender therapist can help you sort out the feelings that go along with that exploration. They may also be able to help with coming out. It is not the easiest thing to do and knowing someone is there helping you can help a lot. Gender Identity Centers and Pride Centers can help.
Presentation and Socialization
Where gender identity is how you feel and identify, gender presentation is how you dress and behave. Again, there is no wrong way to present your gender. It is YOUR expression. And it is important to remember that not everyone is on the binary gender spectrum. For some people, simply presenting as their identified gender is enough. And there is nothing wrong with that expression. It is important to be comfortable in your own expression as well as your own gender identity. Society is comfortable with the binary. That does not mean you have to be comfortable with the binary or being gender conforming.
One of the most important and often difficult things people do during their transition is the choosing and changing of their name and/or pronouns. Some people keep their name. Others choose a different name, one that means something to them. With a name change one must also remember to update their driver’s license, SS card, and birth certificate, though this last one can sometimes be problematic.
Another important part of name change is pronouns. There are a multitude of pronouns as well as reasons to use them. Some stick with the traditional ‘he/him/his’ or ‘she/her/hers’. There are others and some even choose to use the pronoun ‘they/them/theirs’. This is perfectly acceptable as many a famous author has used ‘they’ as a singular pronoun. Some of these are Oscar Wilde, Shakespeare, and the dictionary. Even the Bible has used ‘they’ as a singular pronoun.
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT or HT)
HRT consists of getting blood work done as well as seeing a medical practitioner and replacing one hormone (Testosterone or Estrogen) with the other. On some occasions the doctor will want a letter from a gender therapist stating they believe you are ready and have been informed about HRT. Others work on what is called the ‘informed consent’ model, skipping the need for a letter from a therapist. Both have their good and bad sides.
Once you get hormones, you may get blockers, estrogen/testosterone, or both blockers and estrogen/testosterone. It is normally recommended you are on HRT for 6 months to a year before you get some surgeries. This is to allow the hormones time to do their magic. Always consult with your doctor when it comes to dosages and do not take more than prescribed. Also, only take hormones from your provider. Do NOT take hormones from ‘a place you found online’ or from someone else. It could cause serious health issues.
There are several different kinds of surgeries you can undergo in your transition. From trach shaves to full gender confirmation surgery there are a multitude of surgeries you can elect to take to help you achieve full authenticity. If your authenticity involves no surgeries, that is completely up to you. No one can tell you what you HAVE to do to transition. It is never okay to for someone to ask you about your genitals unless they are a doctor conducting an examination or they plan on sleeping with you. Even then, they should be careful. And you are under no obligation to anyone to discuss what surgeries you may or may not have had.
These 5 steps to transitioning for transgender people are presented not only to give a transgender person some idea of what to expect during their transition, but also for friends and family. Quite often, they may feel left behind and want to have some idea what is going on in their loved one’s life. While your transition is wholly your own, those around you will be naturally curious. Closing yourself off is never a good idea. Plus this small checklist may say what it is you cannot say. When someone transitions, there are stages of processing to go through, much like the stages of grief. Give your loved ones a chance to understand as well.
As was discussed, transition is a personal choice. The paths you take are yours and yours alone. Remember these steps are only guidelines, not hard, fast rules that must be followed. Transition the way you feel, with guidance and thought of course. Help yourself or someone you know by sharing this post. If you know someone who talked about transitioning but does not know where to start, this list could help them.
Do you have any other tips or ideas you would like to share? What have been your experiences in transitioning, yours or someone else? Let us know in the comments below.
Paul Gross, LPC
411 Lakewood Circle Drive
Colorado Springs, CO 80910