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 publicly come out as transgender, in as subtle a way as possible, and publicly 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.
13 thoughts on “The Road Less Traveled By”
Good piece of blogging there! It is funny how you say you ‘transitioned’ backwards. I think I did too (or am). I saw a therapist, got some FFS cosmetic work, saw a therapist, started HRT, saw a therapist, saw a therapist! I came out today to my schools LGBT group today — I told them that I am transitioning but right now I am adopting a ‘neutral’ more gender-queer look until I figure things out. That’s my latest! 🙂
That definitely sounds what some would call a “non-standard” path. I’m glad you are doing things your own way and it’s working out. Thanks for sharing!
Part of the problem is that it can be left in the hands of individual healthcare providers to “legislate” on what constitutes a “proper man/woman”, so we can be at the mercy of individual prejudices based on homophobia, religious beliefs, sexism, obsession with the binary gender model and so on.
Plus many of us (depending on what country we’re in) have inherited a top-down The Doctor Is God™ paradigm that makes it harder for us – and for the healthcare professionals – to let go into the radical idea that we might know what’s best for us, that we should be asked what we want instead of told what we need.
You only have to spend five minutes in a trans support group to know that no two people’s transition is the same.
Amen, couldn’t have said it better.
Indeed, one of the biggest issues is that it’s the medical providers legislating these decisions for us. It’s a broken system where they teach them nothing except to think they know everything. Most doctors do not get any exposure to LGB/T issues in school, and never seek that knowledge out on their own. Sadly, it is sometimes our job to educate the medical community, slowly but surely, until they start educating themselves.
Reblogged this on Zander's Blog.
I also “completely eschewed any established conventions and medical guidelines and standards of care” when I embarked on my medical transition in 2005.
I had read Becoming a Visible Man by Jamison Green, Testosterone Files by Max Wolf Valerio, and Just Add Hormones by Matt Kailey, so I was aware the various routes to transition. I was also fortunate to learn about FtM pioneer Lou Sullivan, who was rejected by the Stanford University Gender Clinic due to his gay identity, which prompted him to search out alternative routes to transition in San Francisco, where he resided. He found the routes and shared them with others. We have Lou to thank for carving out these “alternative” options!!
It is people like Lou (and you) who pushed the boundaries of the time to make what’s possible today. That’s why I’m so interested in learning about our history and our trans “elders” who paved the way (I mean, they aren’t that old, but in trans years they are already legends).
It’s also us who keep pushing the boundaries of these organizations and of medical providers. It’s hard to believe that the WPATH Standards of Care v7 (which are now very inclusive and up to date with the community) came out less than a year ago; which puts most of my transition outside of following the “Standards of Care.” And I can bet most trans* people were not following them either. It’s not that we all of a sudden took a different road, it’s that the Standards finally caught up to us.
I’d tell you my whole transition spiel, but I daresay you know it already! But to recap…
1. Exploring my masculinity/femininity (just to make sure I really am transmasculine).
3.Toying with name change/pronoun and gender marker changes.
4. Coming out as transgender
5. Social name change and pronoun swap, when I can manage it.
6. Hormones in September!
So yeah, probably a lot more traditional than I’d prefer. Sigh…
Caminante, son tus huellas
el camino y nada más;
Caminante, no hay camino,
se hace camino al andar.
Al andar se hace el camino,
y al volver la vista atrás
se ve la senda que nunca
se ha de volver a pisar.
Caminante no hay camino
sino estelas en la mar.
Este poema tambien me encanta.