7 Things I Wish I’d Known About Being Transgender
Being transgender is hard. It doesn’t matter how much you’ve accepted yourself or how much those around you have accepted you or how far along in your transition you are. There are, inevitably, stressors and, challenges to being trans.
No one prepared me for what these were, but I’m hoping today to shed some light on some truths that have unfolded for me with the hope that for some baby trans person your journey may be smoother as a result of knowing this information ahead of time.
1. You’ll lose friends and family
I’m starting with this one because it’s the hardest truth but it is the truth. You will lose friends and family members due to your gender transition, plain and simple. I have family members that stopped talking to me after I came out as Danni and won’t return phone calls and texts. I have queer women friends who stopped talking to me the moment I came out and crossed the line into masculinity. My parents lost their sh*t when I told them I was having top surgery and I’m not sure what will happen to our relationship moving forward.
There’s been a lot of loss. I can’t sugar coat this one except to say: while it sucks to lose people, being transgender serves as a sort of vetting process for your relationships. The ones you’re left with truly have your back. The friends in my life that survived my coming out and the new friendships that I’ve made are rock solid.
Remember that it’s not personal. It’s their own self-hatred, their own transphobia, and their own fears and insecurities keeping them away from you. Hold your head up high, keep moving forward, and focus on the friendships you’ve got and the ones you’ve yet to make.
2. A gender transition may be too much to bear even for your liberal parents
This is one I really want to make clear. Just because your family and friends vote liberal does not mean everyone will be on board with your gender transition. Voting one way and supporting your friend, child, cousin, etc. through a gender transition are two very different things. A lot of folks are still very much misinformed, even if they in theory support LGBTQIA+ rights. It’s one thing for your parents to vote for LGBT rights; it’s another to have your son in front of you, who you once believed to be your daughter, saying “I’m going to have my chest surgically operated on and they’re removing my breasts.” Being trans will challenge the progressivism of those around you. It will not just be your Trump-supporting relatives that struggle to accept you.
3. It’s like being a teenager all over again
I have one word for you: hormones. Most transgender folks (although not all) opt for taking hormones, which in my case as an FTM means taking yes, testosterone (or T, for short). I’d heard about T prior to taking it, and knew it got a bad rap and knew that it was the culprit behind men’s high sex drives.
Welp, I now understand why. Being injected with T every two weeks will induce a second adolescence of sort and everything that comes along with it. For me, that means a changing voice that shifts and cracks and drops most days like I’m a 15-year-old boy. It means a sex drive that has quadrupled by all accounts. It means, at times, being obsessed with sex and not being able to think about anything but. Which leads me to my next point:
4. Your sexuality may shift
One of my biggest pet peeves is when folks conflate sexuality with gender. They are two different questions. And yet, they seem to do a dance together. They are interwoven, undeniably. Before I started taking hormones, I primarily identified as a gay ‘woman.’ I was exclusively interested in dating women and I operated as a woman. Now on testosterone, I’ve almost entirely lost my interest in dating women and have swung back towards only dating men, leaving me to wonder if I am, in fact, a gay trans man.
I’ve become pretty obsessed with masculinity, on me and on those I date (hence the starting of my Masculinity With D blog).
I’m not sure what to make of this shift except that I’ve talked to lots of other transgender folks who have had similar experiences. When hormones entered the picture, their sexuality shifted some. For others, it stayed the same.
I wish someone had warned me for that because my sudden obsession with men’s asses everywhere I went was not something I felt prepared for in the slightest.
5. It’s worth it
There have been many times I have wondered to myself: is this actually worth it? For all the fights with my parents, friendships lost, the misgendering, the lack of respect towards me, the microagressions, the money, the 200 phone calls I’ll have to make for my official legal name change when its clears…is it worth it?
I can tell you almost a year into my transition process: the answer is, resoundingly, yes.
When I look in the mirror, for the first time in my life, I see myself, Danni. I look like myself. Can you put a price tag on being you? No, you can’t.
Another interesting thing that’s happened since taking hormones is I’ve begun to be read as almost a decade younger than I am at times. I’m a real-life transgender Benajmin Button.
Do you know the stress and toll on the body that being closeted takes? It’s huge. Coming out has allowed for freedom and for peace and I both look and feel younger as a result of this process. I’ve heard this reported by other trans folks on the plethora of trans-Facebook groups I’ve now joined (highly suggest joining these if you’re new to this process, as there’s instant support available day and night).
6. You’re going to be okay.
Recently I had the chance to be on my friend’s podcast in Mexico where I spoke about my transition. You can give it a listen here if you speak Spanish and want to hear my full transition story. She asked me for one piece of proverbial wisdom to pass along to those on this path like me. That’s a big question and not an easy one.
But what I said was this: you’re not always going to feel okay, but you are going to be okay.
I repeat: you’re going to be okay. I don’t know how exactly, but keep putting one foot in front of the other and things will get better. At least that’s been my experience.
7. If you want to survive, you’re going to have to learn to ask for help.
Being transgender may mean walking through a medical transition. This is one of the arenas I was sorely underprepared for. For starters, a medical transition is extremely expensive financially, even after insurance for many of us. On top of that, recuperation from surgeries can be very lengthy and invasive. You’re going to need help and all the support you can get.
For uncoupled trans folks, the ability to ask for help and then to be able to receive it is incredibly important. Many of us are estranged from our families or if not estranged, like in my case, I just don’t have my families’ approval nor support to move forward with top surgery. This means that leaning on my friends and chosen family is absolutely necessary if I am to move forward with top surgery.
Recently, I’m dealing with the sticker shock of top surgery. The surgery costs my insurance company around $12,500. After my benefits are applied, I still owe $2700. For many I know, it’s more. I’m a public school teacher and not rolling in the dough. So what did I do? Well, I’ve started a GoFundMe to raise the money.
I should say I hate asking for help and I certainly hate asking my friends for money. But almost overnight, my friends helped raise the money to cover my legal fee for a change of name and gender. In California, that alone comes in at $435. Oof.
Humble yourself and be willing to ask for the help that you need. It’s the only way to survive.
Well, I could keep going but I think I’ll stop here. Being transgender sure ain’t easy, but it sure is worth it. Wherever you may be today on your transition journey, I want you to know I see you. You are not alone. And it’s going to get better, whatever choices you do (or don’t) make for yourself. Come back to this list if you need to and feel free to shoot me an email if there are things I forgot but you’d like me to include for next time: firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit my website at: www.masculinitywithd.com.