How to Cope With Gender Transition
This article is dedicated to my dear, old friend Karii Cloud. With a heavy heart, a lump in my throat, and tears in my eyes, I have to say that my friend has lost her battle with long term depression that she felt through her life up to her earlier stages of transitioning. I can only hope that my words can inspire more people to become open minded so that future transgender peoples can come out of their closets openly without fear to be whom they truly feel that they are at heart. No one should be afraid or sad to become the person who they truly are.
Gender Transition Terminology
Transitioning: Transitioning is the act of choosing to live as the opposite sex of which one was born. Transitioning is a more holistic and usually includes physical, psychological, social, and emotional changes in ones life. Transitioning is often confused with sex reassignment surgery (SRS), but a gender transition does not always include SRS, in fact, most people whom decide to transition often times chooses not to go through the surgical procedures, but will transition their bodies in other ways, such as with hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
Passing: Passing refers to being perceived and accepted by society (and loved ones) as the desired gender identity one is transitioning into.
Going Full-Time: Going full-time refers to a person who decides to live their everyday life as the gender they are beginning to transition into. People whom choose to go full-time may or may not pass as the preferred gender, but continue to work on their personal presentation with the ultimate goal as passing. One does not have to “pass” to be able to present themselves as their preferred gender full-time.
Going Stealth: Going stealth means to live as a gender without other people realizing a person is transgender (or transitioning from one gender to the other). Many transgender peoples often times go out in stealth when in public or at work, but are open when with close friends, family members, and/or intimate partners. Going stealth is often times easier for those who “pass” as their transitioning gender identity.
What is Gender Transition?
Gender transition is the process of changing one's gender presentation to fit and represent the way one feels internally and mentally. For a person whom is going through a gender transition feels that they were born the wrong sex and have decided to go through a drastic physical transformation to appear whom they believe they are. People whom are going through a gender transition are also known as transsexuals. Transsexuals often take drastic measure to transform their bodies into the gender that they feel they should have been born, such as hormone replacement therapy and gender reassignment surgeries. Of course the transitioning person will also dress accordingly to the gender they wish to become. A gender transition is first and foremost an internal and personal decision, and once one has made the choice to transition they must then to proceed to “come out”, which means that they must tell not only their family and friends about their transition but must also tell their coworkers and employer as well (the order of “coming out” is also a personal choice for the one who is going through the transition and can tell people once it feels proper and right).
The Stages of Gender Transition
There are many different stages of gender transition. The first, obviously, is the decision to change ones gender and to begin to look into the steps of transitioning to the opposite sex. Then, the person whom is choosing to transition must come out to family, friends, employers, co-workers, and those whom they are involved in personal relationships with (this is the most difficult, but necessary step when transitioning). The third step is to begin the transition process (whatever that might mean to the certain individual that is going through the gender change). After one has come out about their transition and have begun the process, the next step is to decide whether or not one would like to undergo reassignment surgery (this step is usually irreversible and it is advised to live as the opposite gender for a long period of time before undergoing any type of reassignment surgery).
How to Distinguish Between Emotions
When a loved one confides in you that they are going to transition from one gender to the other, the emotions you feel inside may become hard to distinguish and/or control. It is easy to lose control of your emotions at this tough time if you do not know exactly how you are feeling when you feel it. When a loved one comes out to you that they are going to be going through a gender transition, you must be in control of your emotions so you do not hurt your loved one during this difficult process. It is very important to be open with your loved one about your many (and more than likely mixed) emotions, but be careful how you express yourself because you do not want to hurt your loved one in the process of learning how to cope with the change.
The Coping Process
The person who is transitioning is not the only person who needs to cope with the life altering change, but the loved ones (such as yourself) must also cope during this process (sometimes the loved ones of the transgender person can have a more difficult time with the coping process than the transgender themselves). After you can begin to distinguish between your emotions and control them, you must learn how to cope with the transition and learn how to identify with the transition in the same way that the transgender identifies themselves. Coping is a conscious effort to solve personal and interpersonal problems and seeking to tolerate, minimize, and/or master stress or conflict in ones life. There are many different ways to cope, and everyone digests the information of a gender change in very many different ways (most people choose to deal with the information in very unhealthy ways that effect the relationship with the transsexual very difficult and at times impossible). If you have a desire to continue on with a healthy relationship with the loved one whom is choosing to change their gender than it is important to cop with the transition in a healthy manner (and in solitude). Coping with a gender transition in a loved one can be very similar as coping with a death or a loss (in the sense that you may feel you are losing the person the transsexual was once identified with).
Healthy Ways to Cope
What is it?
Proactive coping is anticipating the problem. If one can anticipate what it would be like, than it will help reduce the stress when the issue becomes reality.
Social Coping is seeking social groups that have endure the same type of issues. Speaking to others that have been through the same stresses will help one better understand how to cope.
Nutrition and Exercise
When one is under extreme stress nutriton and exercise is a very healthy way to cope. If one keeps their body healthy, their mind will be healthy as well. Plus, exercise is a good way to reduce stress and control anger.
Laughter and humor is another healthy way to cope when under extreme stress. By finding the humor in certain situations and learn to laugh, one will feel better about the stressful situation and will also help one be able to talk about it.
Unhealthy Ways to Cope
What is it?
Dissociation is mild to severe detatchement from certain situations.
Sensitization is when one becomes more sensitive to surrounding stimuli. Sensitization is often characterized by an enhancement to a class of stimuli and therefore it is repeated inthe coping person. For example, repetition of a painful stimulus may cause one to become more sensitive to loud noises.
Avoidance is avoiding the stressful situation altogether. When one feels that they are under extreme stress they tend to avoid what is making them feel stressed, avoiding certain social circles, people, and things that they normally would find gratifying.
Escape (and/or self medication)
Escape and/or self medication is when one feels extreme stress and to cope they use medication (or other forms of escape) to numb their body and mind so that they no longer have to think od the stressful situation.
Accepting the Gender Transition
After distinguishing between your emotions, and going through the coping process, it is then time to accept the transition that it is indeed real. The fact about gender transition is that once one has decided to go through the process of changing their sex, it is more than likely that they will continue to live their lives as a different gender (and become someone who appears differently). Accepting this change is very important so that the transsexual will feel comforted, supported and loved. A gender transition in a loved one can be very difficult to accept and it will take time and patience. If you find it difficult to accept the transition, try to think of the individuals personality, not their outer appearance, if this is a person whom you feel you need to keep in your life no matter of how they appear, you have learned that you can accept the change. If you discover that you would rather not accept the change (or cannot accept the change), that decision is yours (if you do decide that you cannot accept the change, explain it in a way to your loved one so that they can understand and become less hurt by you not being involved).
After you accept the change that your loved one is making, it is time to start moving on (whether you agree with the decision or not). If you have decided to accept the transition and have decided to continue on in your close relationship with the person whom is actually transitioning, than you must discover a way to feel comfortable and move on to establish a fresh relationship with your loved one. Moving on can be difficult for both you and your transitioning loved on, but it a necessary step in the life altering process. How you choose to move on, is a decision you will have to make so that you feel personally comfortable with the change. If you feel that you cannot accept the change then you must move on separately from the person whom is transitioning so your resentment and/or hostility does not affect them in their new life (and identity).
Establishing a New Relationship While Holding onto the Past
If you decide to accept the transition, and have decided to place your emotions in the right way and move on, it is then important to establish a bran new relationship with the transitioning loved one while continuing to hold onto fond memories of the past. Many people feel that if a loved one changes their personal appearance that they are a different person, this is completely untrue. The transsexual is still the same person as they were before the transition, but they have found a sense of identity and well-being within themselves. It is important to establish a fresh relationship so that you can identify your loved one with their new identity, this usually means you must meet them as being their new gender, call them their new name, and speak to them as if they are the gender they are choosing to become. It is equally important for you to remember the past so that you do not feel a total sense of loss.
Do you know someone who has gone through a gender transition?
© 2013 Jami Johnson