Basics: What Transitioning Is And Is Not

Follow your own rainbow

Transitioning is a complicate thing. It looks different for everyone. Transitioning is many things and it’s not many things. Below are some handy-dandy lists detailing the basics of what transitioning is and is not, followed by a brief—for me—outline of how transitioning looks for me.

Transitioning Is:

  • Unique to every trans* person.
  • May include one or many of the following:
    • Declaring one’s trans* status, when and where appropriate, and according the comfort level of said trans* person;
    • Presenting yourself as your gender identity or lack thereof;
    • Legally changing one’s name to better reflect their gender identity;
    • One or more different gender confirmation surgeries;
    • HRT;
    • Talking with a gender therapist;
    • Changing sex marker on birth certificate, followed by all ID, in provinces/states that only require a letter from a therapist or doctor confirming your gender identity;
    • Changing sex marker on birth certificate, followed by all ID, after surgery.
  • Fluid.

Transitioning Is Not:

  • This concept that one must have very risky surgeries to change their chest and genitals, and be on HRT.
  • A fixed path.
  • Conforming to either cis or trans* ideas about what your gender should look and act like.
  • About passing.

This list may not be complete. It’s just the basics from the top of my head, as things listed in the “Is Not” section are the biggest misconception I run into on a daily basis.

How Transitioning Looks For This Trans Man:

When I came out in a very public way just over three years ago, and started to live full-time as my idea of masculine, I considered myself to have transitioned. Both my doctor and my gender therapist agree.

HRT was eliminated as a possibility because I have lupus, antiphospholipid syndrome, and have a history of chronic migraines, numerous TIAs, and had a stroke at 30.

Surgery was also eliminated because of my medical history and I’ve had seven surgeries, putting me at an extremely greater risk for complications, such as bleeding and not waking up from a general anesthetic. When I had my hysterectomy when I was 29—for reasons unrelated to being transgender—they couldn’t give me a general anesthetic because of huge risk of not waking up. Instead, they had to give me a heavy sedative and use a spinal block so I wouldn’t feel anything. Sedative and spinal block are not possible for top surgery.

Because transitioning is fluid, there have been a couple changes within the last three years since I first transitioned.

I legally changed my name to a masculine name because I was getting married and there is no way I’d get married with the legal requirement that my full dead name be used in the ceremony, and be used when I signed the legal documents. Plus, continuing to live with a feminine name was making my dysphoria worse.

Worsening dysphoria is a common side-effect after one declares their trans* status.

Also, despite the extremely huge risks of having another surgery, I’ve decided that having a bilateral mastectomy and chest contouring is a must for me, and only me.

Not only did my dysphoria increase after disclosing my status as a trans man—thanks to constant misgendering, among other things—it exploded once I legally changed my name and the misgendering increased. It’s also caused nightly dysphoria-induced night terrors.

Having top surgery is not going to stop the misgendering because I’ll never “pass”. But it will stop my fantasies about taking a knife to my chest and cutting off my breasts, and help with some of my night terrors.

After talking with my doctor, despite the life-threatening risks, she agrees with me that top surgery is a need that must be fulfilled. And now, I’m seeing a gender therapist to help prepare me for everything I need to be prepared for, before and after surgery.

Also, it’s extremely important to me that the government legally recognize my gender identity, because most people won’t.

Currently, my province of birth is discussing changing the Vital Statistics Act to remove the clause that requires one surgery for the purposes of SRS (only using that term because it’s the legal term in Canada), which eliminates my hysterectomy, and two letters from medical professionals attesting to my gender identity and confirming surgery was for the purposes of SRS.

However, I can’t wait that long to be legally recognized. There is a very good chance that those laws will change before I have my surgery, thanks to a very long waitlist. Even if the laws changed tomorrow, I’ll still have the surgery because I no longer want to feel like I’m going to puke looking at my top half in the mirror, and I no longer want to have fantasies that involve me cutting of my breasts with a knife from the kitchen. That’s not healthy.

So, in handy-dandy list form, this is how transitioning has looked for me, so far, and will look in the next two to three years:

  • Publicly declaring my trans status on a high-profile website, and continuing to do so when I feel it is safe to do so and appropriate.
  • Living as a man.
  • Legal name change.
  • Talking with a gender therapist.
  • Future surgery.
  • Future changing sex marker on birth certificate and all ID.

This path is certainly not required of other trans* people. It really is perfectly okay to change and re-change (multiple times), your transitional path.

*Note about the Indiegogo: While it may look like it’s 1oo% funded, it actually still has a long way to go before I reach my maximum goal. The 100% was just the minimum goal. There are some amazing stretched goals, so please take a moment to check it out and read the updates. And if you can’t contribute, please share, and share often. The social currency of sharing is just as important as contributing cash money.

I’m a trans man. My preferred pronouns are “they/them” because it forces people to treat me as a person, instead of a gender. Though, I will very happily respond to “he/him.” You can read my full bio here. You may send me an email.

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