We can be pretty confused human beings when we start our transition. Everything is changing and we want it done now. But it isn’t something that happens in a month, or a year. It happens over a few years give or take. It depends on the person.
I personally think of transition in three parts:
- The physical transition that might consist of nothing (some people can’t take hormones and have no desire for surgery), but often consists of hormone therapy with a possible reassignment surgery awhile down the road. Hormones do most of their major work in the first two years, but your body keeps changing after that as well.
- The social transition where you maneuver through your relationships and start presenting as Mark instead of Marge. You might do this in a few weeks or a few months. Typically this ends with your workplace if you’re employed, and at that time you can be a full time trans man or trans woman. For short we just say full time.
- The mental transition where you accept yourself in your new gender. Why do I say this? Aren’t you already a gender that isn’t changing? Well, yes and no. If you’re trans your gender doesn’t agree with your body, but it isn’t quite the same as being, for example, female if you are an MtF. There’s a process as you transition where you really do change substantially, socialize as a woman, learn the female culture and how to navigate society. In this process some aspects of your internal gender are reinforced and some are cut away.
The mental transition can take years to fully happen and I’m not sure it ever totally finishes. But remember that we as people are always learning and growing and this is just another example.
With this in mind, what do our nearest and dearest see? How do they perceive things, and why do we need to exert ourselves to have understanding and patience?
- They first have to start to get to know this person who they’ve always thought of as Arnold, let’s say for 32 years, as Amy. They’ve had no warning, Amy just came in one day and said she had something to tell them. They all made suitable noises and retreated to privacy to consider what was going on.
Some considerations here. Consider whether the people you’re telling are going to be taken completely off guard. You might do better with a note, or to have your therapist talk with them. Leave them time to process, this is a huge shock to people who’ve known you your whole life.
- Amy’s asking them to use her new name and new pronouns. They really do try, but Amy still looks an awful lot like Arnold and sounds, acts, moves, etc. just like him too. Despite their best efforts they slip up a fair amount.
When someone starts transitioning, even if they by some miracle could pass perfectly on a physical basis (which generally requires at least hormones), they won’t pass on other counts including voice and behavior. It is extremely difficult, probably impossible, for those close to you to totally override the parts of the brain that identify gender from these queues. I still have trouble from time to time when my voice gets bad. Getting angry or abusive is not appropriate unless it is absolutely crystal clear that something more is going on.
- Now that Amy’s appeared she seems to have brought along a bunch of new friends, some of whom are not the sort of folks they’re used to seeing. And this really depends, but most “straight” people have never met cross dressers or transsexuals and it is really shocking how many people don’t realize how many gay people live and work around them. Just understand that if your family has “conservative values” they might need some breathing room. But defend your friends.
I think you get the picture. Friends and family see all these changes, as well as many demands and petulance when perfect accommodation isn’t achieved. My job is to tell you, my new trans male or trans female, that you can’t have that perfection. It can’t and won’t happen.
What you should be extremely pleased with is love, understanding or the attempt to understand, accomodation as much as they are able to, and with genuine attempts to do the right thing. Their tolerance of all the ridiculous outfits and makeup you’re going to wear at first and gentleness in trying to correct all that mess.
Oh, and don’t tell me you won’t present as a hot mess. I don’t care how many episodes of what not to wear and you tube videos you’ve watched. It takes time to develop a personal sense of style. It takes time to learn to apply makeup appropriately and with subtlety to enhance yourself and not turn your face into a mask.
If your family and friends love you, love them back without reserve. If they love you and accept you for who you are count yourself as being among the blessed. This is a journey of loss and any small win is enormous.