I wrote this for an FTM group over on LiveJournal, and thought I should repost it here.
I transitioned nearly eight years ago. Well, more accurately, I started my transition a little less than eight years ago. I’m pretty sure I’ll never stop transitioning, because I keep coming on things that I’d been socialized female for, most recently, body changes as one ages.
In the beginning it was really rough. I had so much self doubt, I was in an emotionally volatile relationship, a ton of stress at work, and the overwhelming fear that I was about to ruin my life. So here are the things that I wish I knew at the time. That said, everybody’s transition is different, so this is by no means a set of instructions. But for me I wish I knew:
1. Nobody gets to tell you you’re doing it wrong. I mean, they may tell you you’re not a “real” transsexual but that’s their issue. Fine to ask for opinions and advice from people — the more conversations you have, the more you will see the range of gender expression, decisionmaking around medical, legal & social transition, and the more lessons from others you’ll get exposed to. But please, don’t let the voice of inauthenticity stay in your head, because it has this way of never admitting it’s wrong. If you want to take it slow, go low- or no-hormones, or go as fast as you safely can, that is your decision.
2. How I came out to people affected how they took my news. Every time I told someone and I was full of nervousness or I made it about managing their feelings, it went badly. At some point in my process I came out to an old friend by saying that I had great news; I’d figured this thing out and struggled with it and now was much happier. I’m not saying that which words we pick totally controls the response to us, but for me it had some kind of role in the reaction. And when I told people they could have some time to adjust on their own about it, I found out who my friends were, which you know, is really quite helpful.
3. Not all doctors/therapists/court clerks/DMV staff know what the hell to do with transpeople. I’ve gotten erroneous medical information, wasted time in therapists’ offices because they were messed up people, and so on. That’s where places like LJ and FB and other social networking sites can come in handy — ask around before making your appointment for hormones or surgery, and go into that meeting with some more knowledge than zero. And if you think you’re not being treated well by a given front-line person, try again with someone new. Or take a friend with you, because some hostile places treat you more professionally if you’re not alone.
4. Never compare yourself to folks who transitioned years ahead of you — let me clarify: don’t expect to have a great burly beard like that dude who went on T in 2003, or a bust like that woman who started transition a decade ago. Heck, I’m 8 years in and I still can’t grow a full beard. Hormones may be the same, but our DNA is obviously different, and it’s our genetics that respond to the hormones. Which brings me to…
5. Try not to get hung up over which changes you get, don’t get, or don’t get in the way you expected. Wanted a full hairy chest? Great if it happens, but it might also come with a thick swath of shoulder hair. Or you might get back hair instead of chest hair, and go totally bald. You may be self-conscious about how big your hands are, or worry that your voice will give you away as trans. Every body is imperfect, of course. This journey into this new body is not controllable, really, and I highly recommend good therapists for keeping an eye on the big picture. I mean, many of us whine about this and that in terms of how our bodies shifted, and that’s normal, but becoming obsessive won’t make your DNA change.
Anyway, that’s me list. Thanks for listening.