How to be Transgender
Disclaimer: this title is clearly a joke. Only you know how to live your life. This article is here to give anyone who might be struggling with their gender identity, or anyone who would like to support a trans* person, a few small pieces of “advice.” These “pointers” come from my real-life experiences as a transgender man who has learned to embrace this often misunderstood and stigmatized identity.
As you contemplate what your next steps will be along this journey you will feel so, so very alone, but trust me you are not. It just takes a little while to find your wolf pack. Throughout my transition I have spoken to trans people from all across the world. From Australia to Germany to South America to Ohio. These people have given me immeasurable strength even though I have, and probably will, never meet them. We live in an era where virtual connections can be just as life saving as tangible ones. Utilize this to the fullest. Research everything.
2. Get a therapist who has experience with trans patients.
Obviously this is not attainable for some simply because of financial issues, family issues etc., etc. However, if it is possible for you, I strongly recommend you see a therapist who has seen other trans patients before. Obviously being trans isn’t a disorder, but unfortunately the way our ass backwards society is set up, changing your gender marker on things requires a “signing off” from a therapist. Now, I get it, this is complete and utter bullshit. You are who you claim yourself to be. However, bureaucracy doesn’t see it that way, so if for no other reason, find a therapist (even if it’s through your school) who can help you with the paperwork end of things and they might even help you out with some other stuff along the way.
3. Join Instagram.
From we_are_trans to transcommunity to transandinked, there is such a vibrant trans community on Instagram. I’ve met some of my best friends on Instagram simply by commenting on their transition related pictures and talking to them on social media sites because of it. You never know how close someone may live to you. So if you see a cool trans person on the gram and think you two might hit it off, message them! Lots of trans people use pages like we_are_trans and transandinked as a way to meet people in the community. Use these pages to reach out to people and find your crew. Even if it’s a simple question, I’ve met tons of trans people who are willing to help and answer my questions, either through direct message or through Kik or whatever else you have access to. Also, there are some babes on there 😉
4. Realize that you will lose people when you transition.
….BUT you’ll keep and meet the best ones. I used to see transitioning as a life- long curse. I lost all my friends from high school because of my transition. But now I see transitioning as a real-life water filter. Let me explain, just as a water filter gets rid of all the junk that you don’t need in your water, transitioning serves kind of as a tool to figuring out who genuinely loves you for you are and who sees your happiness as paramount to all else. Transitioning is also an opportunity. It’s an opportunity for the people in your life to reclaim their love for you. Be grateful and show gratitude to those who support and love you. Without the supportive people I have in my life I don’t think I would be alive today. Try to get past your pain for even just a minute and say thank you. Thank you for loving me whole-heartedly. Thank you for going through this with me. Thank you for understanding. I can’t tell you how amazing it feels to have an aunt or cousin simply use the correct pronoun and during that one little utterance of a word a magnitude of support, love and understanding is echoed. The people who are beneficial to your self-discovery and growth will stay and the people that are impeding you from living authentically will disappear, just like the bacteria in a filtered glass of fresh water. So basically, being trans really is a life-long filter rather than a curse.
5. Wallow in self-pity for a while and then use that anger to change some shit.
I know when I first came to terms with being trans I kind of just stayed on house arrest. I got anxious leaving my room because I knew what I would encounter – an onslaught of invalidating comments coupled by feelings of inadequacy. I was called the wrong name in class. I was misgendered constantly. I was nervous to use the bathroom. I was so sad about so many things. I realized if I wanted to start T (testosterone) I would have to self-inject for the rest of my life. I would have to get acceptance from my family. I would have to endure the awkwardness of family interactions. I would have to get my name legally changed on everything. I was overwhelmed. I found solace in self-pity. Why me? Why couldn’t I just be born cis? No one will ever love me. No one will ever understand me. I will never have friends again. But I was so so wrong. I wallowed for a while and then little by little I started to realize that if I wanted to live in a less shitty world it was MY job to make it less shitty, no one else’s. If you want to be treated better, demand it. When someone misgenders you, correct them. When the law clerk at the courthouse says Miss instead of Mr. or Mr. instead of Miss tell them why that’s so offensive. When your school refuses to change your legal name on university documents go to the Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs and draft a preferred name bill for your university. When members of the LGB community shun you or make ignorant comments remind them that we are part of their community as well. Complacency is not an option for the trans community; there is far too much work to be done. Anger and self-pity can turn into a world of change and productivity if you just…get outta the bedroom.
6. Gender norms are silly, don’t be something you’re not.
Transitioning is about living your truth and if your truth is a being a beardly man who dances around their bedroom to ‘Say My Name’ by Destiny’s Child then ownnnnn that shit. Be yourself. Isn’t that what transitioning is about anyways? I was once told before I started T that I was “too feminine” to be a man. Maybe so, I do dance around to Destiny’s Child on Pandora but I am manly enough because I am a man and I say so….and gender norms are foolish as all hell. They are meant to be broken. So have fun with your gender and don’t take yourself too seriously. You’re not transitioning to cis, you’re transitioning to your truth.
7. Being trans is awkward. Find humor in it.
Unfortunately, we live in a society where documents dictate our life, from driver’s licenses to credit cards to insurance cards. You’ll walk into your dentist’s office one day for the first time in a year and your dentist will call out your old name and you’ll walk up and their mouth will slowly drop in front of your eyes. This will happen. Maybe not this exact scenario but something like this will. Laugh. You will call your credit card company to have them change your name and they will ask you to verify your address 10 times because they cannot believe that voice is coming from that name. Laugh. Gender is awkward and silly for everyone; we’re just the lucky ones astute enough to realize it.
8. Grow a thick(er) skin.
I think that identifying as trans already means you’re pretty badass and you have a thick skin. I mean you’re going against culture, bureaucracy, family, friends, government, everyone, just to be who you are. But let’s face it, even though we are badass we all just wanna sit down for a meal without being misgendered, but unfortunately, “politeness” in our culture typically entails people using gendered terms. For cis people this may be all good and swell but for many trans folks this can make that delicious slice of pizza that you just gulped down utterly tasteless. I’ve been there. I’ve felt that. I’ve contemplated flipping a table or two. I wouldn’t hold it against you if you did but I will say that being misgendered is a part of being trans. You have to internalize the belief that you are who you know yourself to be and no matter what anyone tells you, you know yourself better than anyone else does. And if that doesn’t work, just cry, until you can’t anymore. It’s okay. One day it might just get a whole lot better.