If someone considers themselves to be transgender, it means that their sense of identity and gender do not correspond with the biological sex they were assigned at birth. Every person who transitions has their own personal journey that they go through to connect their body to their mind. During a transition, a transgender person’s biggest threat may be other people. If you are transitioning, be extra careful about where you go and what you do to protect yourself during this period, and don’t feed into the insults, stares or words that people may use.
There is a lot of transphobia and misinformation in our society, which can adversely affect a transgender person’s mental health and well-being. People are scared, don’t understand, or are unwilling to learn about what it means to be transgender, and so they just make fun or say that the transgender person must have a mental disorder, or call them freaks. In reality, transgender people are like everyone else in this world – just wanting to live their lives authentically. Accepting that gender may be expressed as a spectrum and that it can be fluid is a necessary first step to acknowledging the equality of all human beings.
Being transgender comes with a multitude of issues or daily concerns, like something as simple as using the bathroom. Imagine going through the whole day not drinking enough fluids, just so that you don’t have to use the bathroom for fear that you’ll be outed or beaten up! This is an everyday occurrence for so many transgender people. In many cases, transgender people are denied health benefits or not allowed to express who they are at work for fear of losing their jobs. Unfortunately, some may risk their lives just to go out of the house! Alarmingly, studies show that at least 40% of transgender people try to commit suicide, and societal factors like the ones mentioned above may contribute.
For those that wish to “pass” as the gender they identify with but cannot, it can be a very scary situation. The daily routine of someone who is transitioning may include adaptive measures such as deciding to bind or tuck. Binding is when a trans male (born female) flattens their breasts with constrictive material, so that they appear to not have women’s breasts. Tucking is when a trans female (born male) hides their bulge to appear more feminine. This may help the people they encounter out in the world feel a little more comfortable around them, but binding and tucking can be very uncomfortable, and if not done properly can be painful and cause potential medical problems. However, it can provide emotional relief to transgender people and provide them with a measure of safety, since it may help them pass more easily.
Some people may decide to go through their transition by taking hormones in order to help them develop physically into the gender that they feel they are inside. Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) is used for the purpose of synchronizing or more closely aligning a person’s secondary sexual characteristics with their gender identity. When people are transitioning from male to female they get estrogen and anti-androgens, which promotes the development of breast tissue, softer features, feminine pattern of hair growth, and fat and muscle distribution. Conversely, when transitioning from female to male, people use androgens like testosterone for more masculine characteristics, such as a deeper voice, body hair and facial changes, as well as fat and muscle distribution. In order to get these hormones, the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) recommends that individuals satisfy two sets of criteria – eligibility and readiness – to undertake any stage of transition, including HRT.
There are a few basics for those that are looking to transition. First, it is about knowing who you are and realizing that you need to change to live your life as the real you. Generally, it is a process of survival and big changes – finding new things about your body, voice changes, learning how to use make-up, how to dress, doing things that help you be yourself. Be honest with yourself and then get ready to wait – transitions take time and energy, and it is a process which you have to let take its course. Find a doctor and look into getting hormones. You’ll need to give them time to work before looking into surgeries, and certain surgeries may not be needed, as once the hormones begin to take effect, they may change your body more than you expect. The last and most extreme step is surgery. Some people choose to have a surgical transition and undergo gender reassignment surgery (also called gender-affirming surgery). This last process is usually the final step to matching their body with their minds.
It is a difficult journey to travel and you must be brave and stay strong, find support systems or groups, and be around people that care, understand and love you. Most of all, this is your personal journey, so just be true to you. Contact Dr. Stacy Friedman as she specializes in working with the LGBTQ community. Dr. Stacy can help to guide you through your journey to offer support, knowledge and a safe place for growth.
Author: Dr. Stacy Friedman