A three-dimensional process for transitioning from male to female
by, Rachel Boyer
There is probably nothing more daunting than the prospect of changing one’s gender from one to the other. It involves a complete change in social, emotional, and relational functioning. It means risking one’s well being, one's financial stability, and, most importantly, one’s inner life to live one's truth. It is a journey that takes great courage and commitment. It is often the case that an individual is undergoing extreme emotional turmoil before the transition process begins. When this turmoil progresses to a tipping point, then the decision to come out begins. While this is not always the case and many mitigating factors come into play, it is safe to say that a person suffering from gender dysphoria will get to a point in their life where living inauthentically is no longer possible.
Once you make the decision, there is tremendous relief and cause for celebration. Individuals often experience a sense of euphoria as they are now beginning to become free to be their authentic selves - everything changes. Relationships change, some are lost, and others are newly formed. Sometimes there is a significant amount of lost friendships and family. But the journey toward the life you have always dreamed of is now in sight. Then there are the social consequences that so many have to face. Is it safe to venture outside in the daylight in a dress? What about public bathrooms? And work? There’s a lot to consider and a lot of issues to manage at first. The fear of being yourself in public needs to be overcome, little by little. And then there are the inner struggles, confusion, doubts, fears, and more. Even though there is a great sense of relief over the initial decision to come out, there is so much more that needs to be addressed. Are you doing the right thing? What about the people that will be hurt by your coming out? These are, but a few of the issues trans women deal with daily. Without support and a stable and reliable emotional support system, it is easy to fall into despair and confusion. The truth is that the transition process is quite difficult. And without support and guidance, the process may become more difficult and painful than need be. What I believe would be very helpful is to focus on the three central dimensions of life that undergo a significant transformation during this time. These three dimensions will allow individuals the opportunity to focus on what is most important in their lives moving forward. The first dimension is the internal one. How we see ourselves and what is truly going on inside us is of primary importance. As we begin to transition, many questions will arise concerning who we are. The ability to be honest with ourselves is needed to make progress. This ability may be more slippery than one may think. We tend to present a picture of ourselves that makes us feel good rather than an accurate one. And we often are not aware that we are doing this. To have the feedback of others who can act as a mirror helps us to see the distortions that are keeping us from growing. Being honest with ourselves concerning who we are and positively dealing with our truth in a fashion is the foundation for growth and expansion. The second dimension is the interpersonal arena. Here we learn to have compassion for ourselves as we venture into relationships with others from the position of inner confidence as women. We learn about ourselves, our needs, and our vulnerabilities through relationships. Learning how to relate to others from a feminine perspective is quite challenging, and you may find yourself feeling like a little girl with no communication skills. All the subtle ways in which women communicate and all the assumptions women have of one another may feel overwhelming to you. The emotional intelligence women naturally develop growing up as girls may be foreign to you. This is an area where much support and patience with yourself is needed. The third dimension of transition is our integration into society at large as women. Here we discover our power as women and find our place in society as contributors to the greater good. How do we, as trans women, who see ourselves as women, fit into a world that may not be so forgiving of our still-developing sense of womanhood? How can we blend in and be ourselves in a world where the rules of behavior often are painfully learned along the way? To become a fully actualized woman, a feminine being inside and out is a lot of work!! It means starting from the beginning for many of us and accepting the fact that emotionally, socially and relationally, we are at a deficit, not because there’s anything wrong with us but because we did not have the opportunities to learn. We need the empowerment and help of others to learn the lessons we will need to be fully who we truly are. The path to coming out is so much more than a world of fashion, make-up, and flirting with men. It means growing up into women of dignity and grace. You can do this as I have, and I am here to help you on your journey. My next three blog posts will be unpacking each of these three dimensions in detail. I hope to meet you there.
Be well my lovelies.