Transition is a unique path each transgender person takes.
Historically, it was assumed that there was a prescribed path to transition; that each person had to jump through certain hoops in a specified sequence, in order to first “qualify” as being truly transgender, and then actually be “allowed” to transition. Each step was strictly laid out, and any deviations – whether external or internal – immediately set you back. One misstep could endanger your entire transition.
Unfotunately this ideology still permeates not only the general public’s perception of the way transition works, but a lot of health providers’ as well. While we know it to be wholly untrue, those in a position of authority to help or hinder are not always up to date with the latest standards. This may lead them to operate under false assumptions and perpetuate these myths, which ends up hurting rather than heping many transgender people, who are at their most vulnerable point in their journey.
Even today, most people think of transition as a standard sequence of steps: therapy for a year; come out and reveal a different name and set of pronouns; start hormones; eventually get surgery; and finally obtain proper legal documents reflecting your new gender.
Fortunately, more and more health professionals are educating themselves and their community, or are open to being educated by us. They are enabling standards and practices which promote our autonomy and advocate for our power to make our own decisions at our own time. We acknowledge outside help is a necessity, yet we’re seeking – demanding – proper care, that supports rather than undermines.
Of course, we’re setting an important precedent too, by demonstrating that healthy individuals stem from making healthy decisions. We’re living proof that transgender people can actually turn out ok when left in charge of their own journey.
I often say that I’ve transitioned backwards.
My first step towards transition was binding. Shortly after came “the big epiphany” – discovering and embracing that I indeed fall under the transgender umbrella. Once that hump was jumped, I was on the fast track towards surgery. But after surgery, I was left with an unopened Pandora’s Box, filled with unknown goodies waiting to be unwrapped. I proceeded to seek out a legal gender change, though my efforts were thwarted at the time by pure logistics. Good thing, because I didn’t “find” my a name until a year later, just last month. In the course of that year, I decided to take a low dose of hormones. Oh, and finally see a therapist. Finally, one of the last things on my list has been to publically come out as transgender, in as subtle a way as possible, and publically shift my name and pronouns, though I suspect this will be a be drawn out process.
That’s my transition, in a nutshell.
As I read more and more individual stories, I’ve come to realize that many have traveled the same road, yet we’ve all taken vastly different means to get there, and will all arrive at slightly different destinations. Granted, there are similar recognizable patterns, while others are more erratic.
I clearly went about transition in the wrong order, and not only that, I completely eschewed any established conventions and medical guidelines and standards of care in place at the time. At times I knew without a doubt what I wanted, and I went for it; on other ocasions I tackled each step as it came, failing to foresee the butterfly effect those consequences would create. But always, always, I followed my heart, my gut, my self.
More and more people are taking non-traditional routes. Those who came to my non-binary transition workshop were not necessarily non-binary or genderqueer themselves, they just wanted to know about alternative options. The new WPATH Standards of Care “officially” open the door for this flexibility in everyone’s identity and their expression of it. It puts the power back into our hands – our bodies, our minds – and allows to choose the option that is right for us.
My path is not a common one. But nor is anybody else’s.