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Transitioning Probably Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Does

Transitioning Probably Doesn't Mean What You Think It DoesIn the trans community, one of the most often used words is “transitioning.” We say things like “I started transitioning” or “I transitioned on some such date.” I think the trans community uses it differently than people outside the community.

I’ve had a number of interactions with people that have led me to this conclusion. I have been asked how far along I was in transition. When speaking about me, someone once said I was “in transition.” A nurse asked, “So you want to be a...?” Woman was the word she left out.

All of those questions come from the assumption that I am changing from one thing to another. From a man to a woman. This is not correct. I am a woman.

So what are trans people talking about when we talk about transitioning?

There are three primary areas in which we transition: medically, legally, and socially.

Medical transitions can look different for many people. It can include hormone blockers, hormones, and/or surgery. This is usually what the general public thinks transitioning is all about. It’s NOT.

Legal transitions may include name and/or sex marker changes (although not everyone changes their name) and ID changes (e.g., passport, driver’s license, social security card, etc.). This can also include changes on employment history documents and other forms.

Social transitions generally refer to presentation and informing people of your name and pronouns, and that may include wearing hair or clothing that you deem appropriate for your gender. This is usually not solely about “passing,” but also about acceptance.

Not all trans people are on the same path. Legal documents and medical procedures are expensive and may be out of reach for some. Some of us may use hormones, but not opt of surgery. Some of us change our names, some do not. For others, it’s enough to change legal documents. Regardless of what path trans people are on, we tend to use similar language. And at some point, many of us have had an epiphany, like “Oh, I’m really a woman (or man).” We recognized what we were and wanted the world to recognize us that way, too.

So, when many people in the trans community talk about transitioning, we are usually talking about transitioning socially. Even if we are talking about when we started hormones or some other step of the process, we did those things to support social transition.

For me, I’m not a man who wants to become a woman. I’m a woman whose body looks so much like a man’s, no one believes I’m a woman.

Transitioning is not about becoming anything. It’s not about changing gender or sex. Transitioning is about setting the record straight.


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