In the spring of 2014, I was serving my second year with a public service organization. One day, before heading home, I had a really interesting conversation with a coworker. We talked about gender roles, specifically, how women were viewed in society. While I do not remember every word that was said, I distinctly remember telling my friend, “I don’t consider myself a woman.” I did not realize it in that moment, but that statement was the first time I had admitted to myself or anyone else, that my gender identity was in flux.
After this initial realization, the first questions I had for myself were: How do I see myself? How does the world see me? Am I comfortable in my gender presentation? The final question that moved me from acknowledging my gender identity to actually moving toward transition was: Do I feel like I can exist as my best self in my current body? As I considered this question, I began experiencing anxiety and discomfort about my body that was so extreme, I often couldn’t focus on day-to-day tasks.
I knew that I needed to make a change and started to take steps toward transition in February 2017. If 23-year-old me knew what I know now, I might have done things a little differently, so I would like to offer advice to anyone that is beginning their journey.
Locate a therapist or counseling professional who is competent in supporting LGBTQ people.
It is easy not to know what to do after realizing your gender identity, especially when you come from a community where seeking professional help is not encouraged. I come from a Black, Christian upbringing and since I didn’t know who I could really talk to, I kept what I was feeling to myself. Once I found a therapist, I was able to determine what my ultimate goals for transition are. For me, that looked like starting hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and getting top surgery.
Find community with others who are going through a similar transition.
The trans people I saw in the mainstream media were trans women, namely Laverne Cox and Janet Mock. They were open about their transitions but didn’t share my experience and I never saw trans men who had platforms as large as theirs. It was not until I started seeing transmasculine people on social media, showcasing their journey to live authentically, that I felt confident to continue on my own journey. Once I started to talk to others on YouTube, Tumblr, and Twitter, I started to realize that medical transition was a possibility for me.
Inform others of your transition when you are ready.
Telling my close friends and coworkers wasn’t particularly challenging, because many of them also identify as LGBTQ. Having their support gave me reassurance that I was on the right track and the confidence to continue coming out to others.
When it came time to inform my family, I started with my brother because he’s genderqueer and I knew he would be understanding. Telling him first gave me an opportunity to practice for what would be much more complicated conversations with other family members. I decided to use writing as my method for coming out because helped me flesh out my thoughts and gave me the space to tell others when I was ready. I decided not to let anyone else know until after I started HRT. Looking back, I would have come out to the rest of my family before starting HRT because I could have prevented the stress that came with hiding who I was when I was at home.
Document your changes and be patient.
The beginning of your transition will likely be very tough. You will likely look at others who are at similar places in their journey and compare yourself to them. It can be hard to be patient and realize that you are changing everyday even if you can’t tell, but one way you can overcome this challenge is by keeping track of what happens each month. Seeing a hair sprout on your face, finding that your clothes fit better, or that you are finally comfortable with your voice are small things that can add up and make a big difference. So take pictures and record videos., Aand when you get discouraged, you can look back and see how far you’ve come.
When you plan for your transition, you give yourself a chance to really focus on your journey. After all, you are working toward becoming the most authentic version of yourself and nothing should stand in the way of that.
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You've been part of the work so far, and you can be part of so much more in the coming year. So, let's build.