How to be Transgender

Jamie DiNicola in 2014

Disclaimer: This title is meant to be a joke. Only you know how to live your life. These are just a few pointers I’ve picked up along the way.

1. Have a solid web presence.

As you contemplate what your next steps will be along this journey, you will feel very alone, but trust me you are not. It just takes a little while to find your wolf pack. Throughout my transition, I have spoken to trans people from all across the world. These people have given me immeasurable strength. We live in an era where virtual connections can be just as life saving as tangible ones. Utilize this to the fullest. Research everything.

2. Get a therapist who has experience with trans clients.

This is not attainable for some people due to financial issues, family issues, etc., but if it is possible for you, I strongly recommend you see a therapist who has worked with other trans people. Being trans isn’t a disorder, but unfortunately, due to the way our ass backwards society is set up, changing your gender marker on things requires a “signing off” from a therapist.

Jamie DiNicola lg 20143. Join Instagram.

From @we_are_trans to @transcommunity to @transandinked, there is a vibrant trans community on Instagram. I’ve met some of my best friends on Instagram simply by commenting on their transition-related pictures and talking to them on social media sites. You never know how close someone may live to you. Lots of trans people use pages like @we_are_trans and @transandinked as a way to meet people in the community. Use these pages to reach out to people and find your crew.

4. Realize that you will lose people when you transition.

BUT you’ll keep the best ones, and meet new ones. I used to see transitioning as a life-long curse. I lost all my friends from high school because of my transition. Now, I see transitioning as a real life water filter. Just as a water filter gets rid of all the junk that you don’t need in your water, transitioning serves as a tool to figuring out who genuinely loves you for you, and who sees your happiness as paramount to all else.

Transitioning is also an opportunity for the people in your life to reclaim their love for you. Be grateful and show gratitude to those who support and love you. Try to get past your pain, for even just a minute, and say thank you. “Thank you for loving me whole-heartedly. Thank you for going through this with me. Thank you for understanding. I can’t tell you how amazing it feels to have an aunt or cousin simply use the correct pronoun, and during that one little utterance of a word, a magnitude of support, love, and understanding is echoed.”

5. Wallow in self-pity for a while and then use that anger to change some shit.

I know when I first came to terms with being trans, I stayed on house arrest. I got anxious leaving my room because I knew what I would encounter an onslaught of invalidating comments that would couple with my feelings of inadequacy. I was misgendered constantly. I was nervous to use the bathroom. I realized if I wanted to start T, I would have to self-inject for the rest of my life.

I would have to get acceptance from my family, and endure the awkwardness of family interactions. I would have to get my name legally changed on everything. “Why me? Why couldn’t I just be born cis? No one will ever love me. No one will ever understand me. I will never have friends again.” I was wrong. I wallowed for a while. Then, little by little, I started to realize that if I wanted to live in a less shitty world, it was MY job to make it less shitty.

If you want to be treated better, demand it. When someone misgenders you, correct them. When the law clerk at the courthouse says ‘Miss’ instead of ‘Mr.’ or ‘Mr.’ instead of ‘Miss,’ tell them why it’s so offensive. When your school refuses to change your legal name on university documents, go to the Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs and draft a preferred name bill for your university. When members of the LGB community shun you or make ignorant comments, remind them that we are part of their community, too. Complacency is not an option, there is too much work to be done. Anger and self-pity can turn into a world of change and productivity.

6. Gender norms are silly; don’t be something you’re not.

Transitioning is about living your truth, and if your truth is being a beardly man who dances around your bedroom to ‘Say My Name’ by Destiny’s Child, then own that shit. Be yourself. Isn’t that what transitioning is about?

7. Being trans is awkward. Find humor in it.

We live in a society where documents dictate our lives, from driver’s licenses to credit cards to insurance cards. You will call your credit card company to have them change your name and they will ask you to verify your address 10 times because they cannot believe that voice is coming from that name. Laugh. Gender is awkward and silly for everyone; we’re just the lucky ones astute enough to realize it.

8. Grow a thick(er) skin.

I think that identifying as trans already means you’re pretty badass and you have a thick skin. You’re going against culture, bureaucracy, family, friends, government, and everyone just to be who you are. But let’s face it, even though we are badass, we all just want to sit down for a meal without being misgendered. But, unfortunately, “politeness” in our culture typically entails people using gendered terms. For cis people, this may be all good, but for many trans folks, this can make that delicious slice of pizza you just gulped down utterly tasteless. I’ve been there. I’ve contemplated flipping a table or two. Being misgendered is a part of being trans.

You have to internalize the belief that you are who you know yourself to be. You know yourself better than anyone else does. And if that doesn’t work, just cry until you can’t anymore. It’s okay. One day it might just get a whole lot better.

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