I don’t like to discuss transgender issues or transition a lot, but I feel that others could learn from my experiences and avoid the mistakes I’ve made and the bridges I’ve burned.
My three years and two months of physical transition have been a lonely road. I’ve lost more friends than I’ve gained and circumstances and bad decisions have resulted in me moving from place to place, in search of the ever-elusive place I long for, known as ‘home’.
My advice to any transgender individual pre-transition or in the early stages of transition to take note. Because if I’d have known then what I know now, my life most likely wouldn’t have fallen apart in the way that it has.
If you have a supportive employer, family or group of friends, STAY WHERE YOU ARE. I cannot emphasize this enough, as moving from place to place searching for greener grass has cost me dearly. When I came out as transgender, I had an employer that completely supported me and my transition, even if many of my coworkers didn’t know what to make of it. I was earning good money too, in a position that would usually require a BA (I have no formal qualifications beyond UK GCSE’s). I had a supportive counselor and I’d started to make friends in Miami. I made the mistake of moving back to the UK, under the illusion that if would be an easier place for me to transition. Granted, I was paying for my hormones in Florida, but I could easily afford it and could’ve saved up for SRS within 3 years.
Since January 2015, I have moved from place to place, one bad situation to another. I did have my family in the UK who have been extremely supportive, but now I’ve turned my back on that too. I do have good mental health support here in New York, but I have just one friend in this city and I’m currently rather stranded. I am also facing the prospect of being on the streets or hospitalized due to my declining mental health.
Hormone therapy (HRT) essentially saved my life. But it isn’t an easy adjustment. Aside from the physical changes, I became more emotional in just about every sense. People would complain that I had become ‘bitchy’, one of my friends at the time called me a ‘teenage woman’ because HRT does cause a second puberty, so be prepared for that. I used to cry for almost no reason at all and I became ultra-sensitive to any criticism or any perceived attack. I guess it was a little easier for me than most people, as I had always had low testosterone prior to transition, but it still took some adjustment. Do not be alarmed at your emotional responses to certain situations – it’s normal. Cisgender women have had to deal with it since they started puberty.
No one warned me about the perils of male attention. Up until being sexually assaulted in May last year, I was completely naive and that cost me. At first I liked male attention, but that rapidly faded and eventually became dehumanizing and endlessly frustrating. I was not used to being objectified and had no idea how to respond to it. In other words, be careful and bear in mind that many men are predatory and very sexually minded. Beware of ‘tranny chasers’ too (men specifically attracted to transgender women). Being on the receiving end of the vulgar side of male attention is degrading, rather than validating so BE CAREFUL. Also, beware of men who don’t realize you’re transgender at first, then flip their shit when they find out. I feel that the safest bet IS disclosure, no matter how much you ‘pass’.
Be prepared for the intrusive and often offensive questions that cisgender people will fire at you, sometimes out of pure curiosity, other times with a hint of malice. Do not feel obligated to explain yourself to anyone and don’t feel like you need to justify your transition. If you’re not comfortable answering certain questions, simply politely decline.
Misgendering is something else I wasn’t prepared for and it almost sent me over the edge for the first year and a half of so of my transition. I can’t really give you any advice to ease the pain it causes, except to say that it will get better and misgendering will become far less of an issue, or it’ll even stop completely. In my case, I very rarely get misgendered these days, though my voice and my height often ruin it. It still hurts when it happens, but thankfully it’s rare these days.
Do not assume that the LGBT community at large or even the transgender community will be accepting. I’ve experienced a lot of transphobia (and biphobia) from gay men and lesbians. The transgender community itself is essentially a hierarchy based on physical appearance, post/pre-op and age. Activism tends to focus mainly on transgender kids/youth and I quickly learned that transgender support groups are not very supportive at all and many people who attend are transvestites rather than transgender people, which is triggering to me.
So if you’ve got support in the place where you live now, stay where you are, unless presented with a golden opportunity elsewhere. Transition is a difficult journey and you need all the support you can get. No one could’ve prepared me for the dangers I’ve faced and this would’ve all been so much easier and safer if I’d just stayed where I was and tried to keep my job, despite my failing mental health.
Do not make the mistakes I’ve made. There is no such thing as a ‘transgender paradise’, unless you live in San Francisco perhaps. Danger is everywhere as we are the most marginalized minority group there is and the easiest targets.
I hope this helps a few people who are pre-transition or going through the perils of early transition.