What was transitioning like for me?
I was recently asked this by a person who is considering transition, but is concerned with the struggle it might entail. I thought my answers might help someone else, so here they are:
What was transitioning like for you? How long did it take before you could stand in front of a mirror and actually see yourself standing there? What does your family make of it all? What do strangers make of it? Was it worth it? So many questions, but they’re all very personal and everyone’s different!
What was transitioning like for you? The hardest part, in my case, was figuring out that my discomfort was about gender issues, and then finding out how I wanted to live my life gender-wise. There were difficult moments later, of course, such as coming out in all the different spheres of my life, but they were limited to a relatively short time periods. Even the aftermath of each coming out never extended further than a couple of months; whereas it took years to finally feel comfortable within myself, and know what I needed to do in order to be happy. Once I figured that out, the rough spots of transition were tolerable because I knew they were taking me closer to my goal. Like Lucille Ball said, “It’s a helluva start, being able to recognize what makes you happy.”
How long did it take before you could stand in front of a mirror and actually see yourself standing there? My own reflection made me uncomfortable for years before questioning my gender, though I had no idea why. But when I first tried thinking of myself as a boy, even before cutting my hair, I spent hours staring at my face close to the mirror, wondering “can I see a boy there?” – and I could (at least from certain angles, some of the time). After cutting my hair short, it got better; I could recognize my whole head as mine. Binding helped even further.
The only thing I really struggled with about my reflection was my hips – they threw me completely, so I avoided full-body mirrors. A few months on testosterone helped immensely, but I think it was psychological because my body fat didn’t shift that quickly – I think I finally felt comfortable enough in my body to accept it as a whole.
What does your family make of it all? My family had a really hard time accepting the changes in my appearance: ever-shorter hair, clothes from the men’s section… Living with my parents, it was a constant fight. But they finally worked through their issues (they did attend therapy for a few months) and, when I came out as trans, they had already done a lot of processing and were ready to take it on. That doesn’t mean they accepted it instantly; but within a few months they were using the correct name and acknowledging my decisions.
What do strangers make of it? I don’t know; most strangers are in your life for a short period of time, so they don’t really see how you’re changing (though my neighbors think that I’m two different people). The hardest group of people, for me, were the people I knew by name but who weren’t my friends (most of my schoolmates), because I had to interact with them but didn’t feel close enough to tell them about my transition; so they kept misgendering me. It was awkward. No one ever commented about my appearance, though, and trust me, my classmates saw me change radically.
Was it worth it? This is the most loaded question, but also the very easiest to answer. Yes. I never dreamed transition could make such a difference in my quality of life; though I must’ve known –or hoped– it deep inside, or I wouldn’t have done it. I’m glad you didn’t ask “was it hard?” because I would’ve had to tell you “yes, it is hard”, and I wouldn’t be showing you the whole picture. Yes, it might’ve be hard, but living is so much easier now –seriously, you wouldn’t believe it– that every ounce of struggle I’ve gone through is worth it. Most of the time, now, I don’t even remember the tough moments I’ve gone through, and when I do, I’d readily go back and endure ten times the strain, knowing what life is like now.
I can’t tell anyone what their (possible) transition might be like –everyone’s goals and contexts are different– but in most cases it is not impossible to change at least some parts of your life in order to feel more comfortable. Maybe it was just me, but when I first thought about transitioning, it seemed laughably infeasible. It took me several months to realize that the world wouldn’t end if I started living in a different gender. Quite the opposite.