When I first started my transition there was a melange of advice, videos, and peer support that I had to discern in order to make sense of my new identity. I feel like I was able to more or less navigate my way through, and this was in the age before social media was a thing, so I wanted to share some tips that could help you work your way through the early stages of your transition. As always, these are told from my experience, and I am sure you will have your own tips as you progress through your transition.
1) Your transition is unique to you
Yes, there is plenty of advice and support out there, but your transition will reflect your lived experience. It is very easy to judge yourself against other people, we all do it, but it is important to recognise that your transition is not a race against anyone else. It took a few years for me to appreciate this, but if you can find that inner sense of self and identity it will help ground you through any travails you encounter.
2) Don’t feel like you must rush everything
The decision to transition triggers a whole rush of emotions and desires to do absolutely everything right now. I get it, I did it with shopping for clothes, going out, trying on all the things, and generally having no clue about my who image. It becomes a second puberty, that time of experimentation and trying out looks, styles, and personas to see which one fits. It is only natural, but remember that if you are already out of your teens you may need to temper this rush as you have to live and work in wider society. Experiment to your hearts content, though also remember that you have the rest of your life to enjoy your new gender
3) Hormones and surgery are not the end point
This is a contentious one, especially if you cannot or are unable to medically transition. It is very easy to say that a medicalised transition is the transition ideal, but gender identity is much more than biology and gender expression. Yes, if you can or wish to medically transition then all power to you, but it is a process that is a part of the journey rather than the final destination. Whatever route you choose, or have to adept to, your gender identity is not defined by that path, and it is you who affirm who you are as a gendered being.
4) Find moments of joy in other things
While transitioning can be all consuming, have other things that bring you joy can help ground the tough moments. Be it hobbies, friends, work, getting out into nature, playing your favourite games, engage with things that you can find that spark of happiness and contentment. Your mental health is the sum of who you are, and while your gender transition is vital right now, your life does not need to be completely consumed by it. Plus, having things that make you happy beyond gender allows to have things to look forward it.
5) There is no right way to transition
This ties in with tip 1, namely that often the way your transition pans out will be unexpected. By all means have a plan in your head, but life has a habit of getting in the way of the best laid plots. While it can be frustrating having to wait or see other people doing things you wish you could, you will get there in the end. This can be hard to hear, especially when you are just starting, but your journey is an intimate personal experience.
6) Finding a good GP/doctor is complicated
Depending on where you live and your income you may have no choice in who your GP/doctor is. If you can afford it you may be able to go private, and this is something you may want to consider. Your GP/Doctor can act as your greatest champion, an ally in your corner, or they can frustrate and make your transition harder. You need to judge for yourself how your medical treatment is going, and then decide on what is the best course of action for your needs. Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself, though be aware of your GP may not be up-to-date with the latest gender protocols.
7) There may be significant delays in receiving gender care
This is especially true if you live in the UK and are reliant on the NHS. This is a very frustrating state of affairs, and one which is not easily solved. Even if you go private, you may still have to wait significantly longer for your care than a decade ago. Honestly, this is probably the worst aspect of transitioning in 2020 than in 2000, as all healthcare systems have struggled to keep up with the increase of transgender patients. Thus, it is vital that you find ways of contextualising and find those moments of joy to have you work through these delays.
8) Your mental health matters
You are unique, and people do care about you. Yes, life can be tough and demanding, and transitioning always takes it toll on your mental health, but no matter how bad it gets you are wanted and cherished. If you need help and support you can speak to professionals, and if things get too unbearable there are helplines you can call and speak to someone who will listen. Dark moments can come, though there are invariably many more moments of happiness to come. Please take care of your mental health, as you do matter.
9) Be kind to yourself
It is very easy to see transitioning into your new gender identity as a daunting mountain to climb. You can be your biggest ally and your worst critic, and often both can present at the same time. Self-care and self-awareness are easy to advise, but only you can judge want works for you. Being kind to yourself in the darkest times is hard, but when those moments of joy come you can enjoy them and let yourself float free.