You may have just come to terms with your gender identity and considering coming out, or you may be further in the process.
Whatever the case, you are likely to experience your journey as an ongoing choices between the needs of ‘you’ as a full deserving individual being, and of ‘you’ as a social being – a product of expectations of your family, teachers, peers. The tips below will help you navigate those dilemmas allowing you to be yourself and keep around you people that matter.
Don’t compare your transition to anyone else’s
It isn’t difficult to find a lot of personal stories shared on the internet, which show what is possible and how to go about things, but it’s not always useful to compare how others look or behave, and even less to compare their process, it’s pace and individual traits.
Some people need time to think and consider to go from one step to the other (for example between coming out to one person and the next), whilst some like to act fast and get results once the decision has been made (coming out at school, changing names, writing to the clinic – all almost in one day). Whatever is your way – it’s the right way.
Only do what makes you feel comfortable, and make time to get comfortable with whatever you have done
In terms of dress, haircut, behaviour there are no rules other than your own feeling of being comfortable. Whatever change you decide to make will also take time to ‘settle into’, because sometimes you can’t foresee the full impact of it (for example once you change your name it feels like you have to ‘come out’ constantly, which is exhausting, and people don’t seem to take notice and forget your new name).
Find people to talk to
Going through the massive changes can be overwhelming and but also exhilarating. In either case it is important to have people to share it with. Parents, seemingly the first ‘go to’ people, might struggle with the process and understanding it themselves, and actually require some support from you to ‘come around’. In such case let them be, give them time and use online blogs, support groups, a therapist, friends – old and new, it helps if some of the people around you are trans as well.
Know your boundaries and your rights
Although it would be great to assume that everybody will be supportive and friendly, the reality is that some people might not. It is not worth your time to try to convince anybody, it is also important to understand when the boundaries are crossed and that you have the right to be protected and safe. Do not expect that your school authorities will automatically know that – make your voice loud and clear (ask your parent or another supportive adult to be your ‘amplifier’ if necessary).
Get interested and in charge of your transition
Whether you are embarking on the NHS route of treatment or not, you need to be well informed about the processes and what are your choices. Even though you will be dealing with highly competent professionals, ultimately you are the one who makes choices and decisions about your life.
The more informed you are the more likely it is that your parents will support your decision (if you are the age where their consent is needed) – they want to be reassured that you have an understanding of what you are embarking on. Similarly, you should be under no pressure to make changes that you are uncomfortable with or unsure of. Open, honest dialogue about your feelings is crucial.
Take photos of yourself throughout the process
It may feel like nothing is happening, things are taking ages, you are stuck in the waiting room forever. In reality you may be changing more than you are aware of – even though your medical treatment, if that is what you have chosen, hasn’t started. You might be gradually more comfortable with new clothes, haircuts, behaviours. When you look back at your photos you will have a clear evidence that things are happening, because you are making them happen.
Last but not least
You may find that your parents or carers are not as supportive or enthusiastic as you would have expected. Most often this is not lack of caring, but the opposite. Because they care they get scared and anxious. Please read ‘Tips for parents’ to understand their side of things, it will help you and them to understand each other.
For more information and helpful articles from Anna, visit Counselling Directory or Jezuita Therapy. Click to read about Transgender Sons and Daughters - Allow Your Parents to be Unhappy for a while.