The word 'transition' is generally used to refer to the process of living socially one gender to living socially the other gender. This in my opinion is highly misleading as it reduces the entire process to not much more than looks, clothes and possibly to the sexual attributes of an individual. I find such a definition of womanhood, femininity or in fact of myself highly demeaning - though not that this were anything new for women just about everywhere.

 

It is not possible to give a "how to transition when you're transitioning" because transitions are as diverse as people are. To start there can be a social transition, a hormonal one, one of self-expression, an emotional one, a surgical one, a spiritual one, one of self-perception, a sexual one, an intimate one, one with a partner, children, friends, a workplace, parents, siblings or other family - and this is just to get the list started. Which particular form and what kind of importance each and every one of these has for an individual is, well, individual.
Finding and expression one's individuality
is after all the whole point of doing this transition, so it could as well be defined as one of the ultimate forms of self-finding.

 

From this we can extrapolate a few important points:

- In almost all individuals transition starts as an "internal process", it is this usually for some time until the individual is convinced that external changes are needed, that they in fact are needed so desperately that social alienation, mistreatment, abuse and physical pain must be accepted because expressing what the individual has found is that important.

- Simplistically this can be split into an "inner transition" (the part that takes place within an individual and is not directly visible from the outside) and a "social (or outer) transition" (the part that is visible to the environment). It is clear that almost always inner transition will start before any social transition will take place (it is possible that people do "social transition only"), after all the social change is the result of the inner conviction that this change is necessary. However at what time social transition will start is highly individual, in some people it would never have to start except that today's treatment-regime forces social transition onto us even if we don't want or need it. Because inner transition is a form of personal self-finding it by definition never ends, after all we all "find ourselves" throughout life, or so I hope anyway.

- Consequentially it must be assumed that in most cases mental-health practitioners will be too late in observing inner transition, at best they will see the tail-end of it. The fact simply is that most people come to the therapist's office with at least some knowledge of where this will be going, many come in full knowledge and only go there because it is a requirement to obtain treatment. It is true that patients who come to the psychiatrist saying "I don't know who I am, please help me" do exist, but these really are very rare. 

 

 From my own perspective (though I know this is different for others) transsexuality is all about the realization of what I find within myself, it is intensely personal, most of it happens hidden, for nobody to see or to interpret. It is neither motivated by sex, sexuality, gender nor a social image or interpretation of myself, these are all expressions of what I find is me, not causes. Or to put this differently, in the context of trans-treatment: It is my opinion that any human-being will express his/her nature to his/her best ability if the environment allows this, no pressure and certainly no enforcement by mental-health of such expression is needed. In fact a forced self-expression is by definition not a true self-expression as it is externally created. Therefore in cases like mine everything mental-health does is to get in the way of our true self-expression by interfering and by mandating a different expression of self than the one I would choose myself. By doing this they destroy much of what is just about to blossom!

 

It is true that some people need help in self-finding. However it is also true that a great majority of people will do just fine without professional intervention. The same is true for transsexuals! When I knocked on the doors of mental health - counselling was a condition forced onto me by medical dogma - I was not only socially living female full-time (openly lesbian and trans in a typical urban neighbourhood), I had also dealt with all these other issues beforehand.
I agree that this internal change took a few years but I do not agree that one needs professional or even medical support to achieve this. In fact as mentioned I felt (and still am of the opinion) that medical mental support only ever gets in the way of what this is all about because the medical power (by means of the prescriptions we need and the permits for surgery) is abused to enforce absurd compliance, it is abused to make us live what they want instead of who we are! True self-finding cannot be imposed from the outside, we need to do this ourselves. True self-expression cannot be dictated to us, we need to have the freedom to express ourselves freely! If this is not given to us then we will never become who we should be, we can never live our lives, we can neither free our potential nor can we truly experience who we are!
Because I did not accept that anybody would dictate my life to me, but more so even because I wanted (and needed) to find myself without negative influences and pressures, because I did not want to end-up finding a self created by a therapist I stayed away and did this myself. So by the time I knocked on the door of that therapist all I needed was a prescription for hormonal treatment and a referral for surgery - because there was nothing else left to do!


Excerpt from A Matter Of Life:

I full well understand that changing one’s social role and appearance from male to female is a major adjustment. The question is, For whom? I certainly do not need to accept myself for who I am. I do this ‘transition’ because I know who I am and because I have acknowledged this at least to a degree which makes me accept public humiliation, starting a life with a very uncertain future and accepting that I will have to submit to any and all decisions some stranger I have not even met would make! I do this because for me, this is a matter of life! I know I can do it, I don’t even think this is much of an issue. Be myself! Honestly, what’s the big deal? Everybody does it. Or don’t they? How sad it were if they wouldn’t! But will I be allowed to make this a matter of life? Or will it be made into a matter of death instead?
So by the time I get there, when I knock on the doors of mental-health, there’s nothing left to do except getting permission for medical treatment. I live ‘myself’ to their expectations, I suppose they refer to this as “the real life test”. I apparently have very few practical problems and even fewer personal ones doing so and these “few problems” all had good and obvious reasons, such as not having a valid id, not one I could use anyway.

What now has to happen for any further progress? A psychiatrist will have to accept that I am who I say I am! But how can I make anybody accept something like this? Well, I can’t. Of course I can’t! Accepting a person and taking her personal beliefs and identification seriously is subjective. In fact this is about as subjective as things ever get! Either somebody is willing to see, to accept, to believe or to just take me by my word or he’s not. In which case there’s really nothing I can do!

I understand that people who have seen my before and after could interpret this as being rather dramatic. From their perspective. I mean it’s from living male to living female - overnight! Only from my perspective this is expressing what a lifetime of accepting myself has shown me, not a single day! What I don’t understand is that psychiatrists could not possibly give me some credit and accept that for me this isn’t dramatic at all! I just become a little more myself!

For the therapist there’s one more problem: My self-finding doesn’t happen in his office! In fact it happens everywhere else except in his office! Because that therapist’s office is the one place where I am not allowed to be myself, where I need to be somebody else! Because that therapist insists in providing therapy to “my old self”, the one I really never was!

This change is a very small step for me, a minute increment in my life’s journey. Only for everybody else it looks like one giant leap! Because it is that last infinitesimal increment that’s needed so everybody else no longer has the luxury to ignore who I am! Because THIS forces THEM to start to question THEIR own views of me - and maybe their views of just a little more than myself!

Or to paraphrase history: That’s one small step for a woman, one giant leap for everybody else… [Well, I was tempted, but in the end I thought that I had already offended plenty of people and therefore opted not to use mankind there…]

 

Seen like this it becomes clear that what happens visually and publicly is in fact only a very small part of what transsexuality is all about, what it does to transsexual individuals and how it should be seen and interpreted. It is true that in this society social transition is often a difficult step but at least from my own personal perspective social transition was absolutely minimal compared to the internal process of accepting my true identity.
The very fact that psychiatry (and their dogma on treating transsexuals) puts such emphasis on this visible social process shows to me that their understanding of it is at best highly distorted. Dogma, for example, requires transsexuals to live "full time" in the "desired gender role" before any thought can be given to genital surgery, meaning that they define the entire process by looks and possibly behaviour. How wrong this is may be illustrated with another excerpt from my book, this one is about the start of hormonal treatment:

 

So I started taking the drugs within the hour (of course) and sure enough my lab-results on testosterone soon flirted with the zero-mark. Now I’m not saying I didn’t feel good on HRT, yes I did! It was like seeing the world in 3D-IMAX with surround-sound instead of the previous 1910 sepia experience with a mistuned mechanical piano for sound, add a world of odours and flavours to the previous simplistic experience of “sweet, sour, salty and bitter”, just to give some impression of the magnitude of this change. The most dramatic part however was not cognitive but mental and emotional!

Mental, well, this may have taken four or maybe six weeks. I could virtually feel how the “thinking process” changed. True, there is no “male or female brain” if one makes such distinctions these are always statistical differences. But even so my experience of it was one of having a world turned upside down! Not every transsexual experiences this and I very much suspect that this depends upon “how female a brain” one has to start with or how well a “predominantly male brain” accepts this change. Some people get virtually no experience of change, some “think female” from the start while others “remain mentally male” but still feel female. It’s normal, after all females come with “statistically female brains” as well as with “statistically male brains”. Just not equally as often!

The impact on me was, well… significant? After a week or so I needed to bring a list to school so I knew how many kids I had to collect there because three was just a bit too much to remember all at once… And that was on these days when I got to school at all - it is after all a ten minute walk from home with about four turns on the way… Parallel parking? Just forget about that one, will you? So yes, things changed. Rather dramatically actually! One surprise after another, pretty much a new one every day! But much of it I found was temporary. A month later I had no problems anymore to pick up all our kids, find the way to school or park my car, this was just like before. The effect hit hardest a few weeks after starting HRT and by two months into it this was pretty much back to where it was before. There are a few effects that remained: People say that women can’t read maps. Well, I can still read maps without any problems just as I always could before. What I now have great difficulties with is to correlate what I see in the real world with what’s on that map, pinpointing my location on it or figuring out what direction in reality corresponds to up and down on the paper... Well, maybe women aren’t all that bad at reading maps after all, we just have no clue where we are? I usually sum it up by telling people that I am not geographically challenged because I have no problem to find the best route from Chicago to L.A. on a map, I am rather directionally challenged because I then can’t find the highway when I’m actually driving… And yes, just to mention it if you hadn’t already suspected: This was never even remotely an issue before because I just always knew where to go…

The true benefits of this treatment however are emotional: I now think that what I feel is what I should be feeling, I now have ways to express what I feel. Before I always felt “emotionally locked-up”, I was “incapable to express” or “incapable to emotionally experience as I knew I should”, I was “emotionally remote and withdrawn, suppressed”. This is now gone, I have in fact found that there is even more to be experienced than I ever suspected (or missed)!

I now have means to deal with emotions such as anger and sadness or conditions such as stress a lot better, because I now have many more avenues to express and communicate these. Before it was all “bottling it up” or “suppressing it”. With the entire range of well known consequences. It is very difficult to describe the emotional freedom that comes with the hormonal change. That I can now have tears on the outside when I cry on the inside may be a hint as to what this is all about. At age five I dried-up emotionally, it is when this ordeal began. It took me four decades of waiting until I was allowed to have tears again.