What Does it Mean to Socially Transition?
Image credit: Gender Spectrum Collection.
For many trans people, social transitioning is the most important part of transitioning. Social transitioning includes:
Dressing the way you are most comfortable.
Choosing a name that reflects your gender identity, if your current name does not.
Switching to different pronouns.
Changing the title associated with you. In addition to Mr and Mrs, Mx is a gender-neutral title that can be used before a person’s name.
It is important to note that not everybody wants to transition to the same extent, or in the same way. Plus, not everyone can safely socially transition. Trans Medical Research recognises all trans people, regardless of their ability to publicly affirm their gender identity.
If you do want to start exploring your gender identity, whether in public or in private, this section will give you some tools to start experimenting with your presentation.
Image credit: Gender Spectrum Collection
For AFAB trans people:
For AMAB trans people:
Chest binding is the act of flattening your chest. Many different kinds of people bind their chests, including trans men, non-binary people, butch lesbians, crossdressers, and cosplayers. Nobody has to bind their chest to be valid, but many people choose to bind in order to be comfortable, or to be safe.
When binding, it is important to be aware of your limits. Some people can bind for 2 hours, some can bind for 4, some can bind for 8. Some people cannot comfortably bind at all. It is also crucially important that transmasculine people source chest binders from reputable companies, rather than binding unsafely. Using bandages puts the ribcage at risk, and restricts breathing.
Ancient Fish King.
eBay (cheap binders).
Amazon (aside from Underworks).
The Discriminant, now called “2bGenderFree”.
If you have wider hips or a larger body, full-length binders may roll up or be uncomfortable. Half length ones will likely be better.
Binders should be tight and secure, but not painful.
Some people wear gc2b binders inside-out, as the interior fabric can be too itchy against the skin.
Never bind with bandages or duct tape.
Never sleep in your binder.
Strapless binders are usually unsafe, because of the pressure on your ribcage.
Tucking is the act of flattening your crotch. Tucking is a common practice for transfeminine people, including transgender women and non-binary people that are assigned male at birth. Crossdressers, cosplayers, and drag queens also tuck sometimes.
Tucking involves compressing the genitals to create a flatter appearance. According to community reviews and feedback, the online store LeoLines provides some of the best tucking garments, along with padded bras and shapewear. You can view LeoLines products here.
If you do not have financial access to tucking garments from LeoLines, other garments can be used to compress your crotch. Here are some videos, made by members of the trans feminine community, describing their tactics for comfortable/tight tucking. However, it is important not to harm your body when you are pursuing gender euphoria, or trying to alleviate gender dysphoria. If you begin to experience pain, it is important to seek the help of a trans-inclusive doctor.
Coming Out, Changing Name and Pronouns
Coming out as transgender can feel very daunting. Many people do not understand trans communities and identities, and so your family/friends can struggle to comprehend your situation. Often, initial confusion or negativity disappears as people become more accepting, and many trans people do enjoy eventual peace and validation. Whatever your social context, you must put your safety first. Ensure you are in an environment where you are able to make your own decisions and that you will not be prevented from living your most authentic life.
Even if you are in the most progressive situation, with educated friends and family, it is very likely that they will need some time to adjust. This is normal. Ideally, they should adjust with you, and travel alongside you on this journey. They may make some mistakes for a while, possibly slipping up and using your old name or pronouns, but as long as they aren’t being malicious (and are genuinely trying their best), try to stay patient.
Here are some tips for coming out:
Make sure you are as ready as you can possibly be! You are under no obligation to come out. If you want to wait, for whatever reason, you are allowed to take it at your own pace. There isn't one universal timeline that everyone must follow, as they affirm their gender identity.
Understand that coming out is a big deal. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed or anxious. Make sure you're getting the support you need, ideally from a mental health professional.
If you are going to come out in-person, practice what you are going to say. That way, if you feel overwhelmed or emotional, you'll be more likely to get the words out.
Choose an appropriate place, where you are comfortable and safe.
Come out one-on-one if it will be easier to engage with a single individual. Start with the people in your life who you believe will be the most accepting, and can possibly help you come out to other people.
Know that nobody has the right to harm, abuse, or criticise you for being trans. If at any point you feel unsafe, try and remove yourself from that environment, or seek the support of people who can shelter you. Local LGBT+ organisations may have resources you can benefit from.
Get as much support for yourself as possible. Whilst online forums and support groups will be of benefit, having your own individual counsellor, psychologist, or doctor experienced in gender transition will help you work through this process.
Names and Pronouns
Many trans people will choose a new name, and often identify with different pronouns to the ones they have been referred to from birth. Usually the decision to go by different pronouns is indicative of a person’s discomfort with their birth pronouns. Gender dysphoria can range from mild to severe, and being addressed as the incorrect gender can be severely upsetting for many trans individuals.
They/them/theirs are the most common pronouns used by people who do not fit into male/female gender binaries. However, many non-binary people use she/her and he/him as well, or even exclusively. Some butch lesbians use they/them pronouns to express their gender non-conformity and unique experience of gender. So, it follows that different pronouns are used by a wide range of people within LGBT+ communities.
Here are some basic examples of how pronouns work:
He/him/his: He is my friend. I talked to him. The bag is his.
She/her/hers: She is my friend. I talked to her. The bag is hers.
They/them/theirs: They are my friend. I talked to them. The bag is theirs.
Ze/zir/zirs: Ze are my friend. I talked to zir. The bag is zirs.
Leslie Feinberg, an activist who wrote the revolutionary book Stone Butch Blues, used zie/hir or she/her, and also said, "I care which pronoun is used, but people have been respectful to me with the wrong pronoun and disrespectful with the right one. It matters whether someone is using the pronoun as a bigot, or if they are trying to demonstrate respect.” Zie were an influential, world-changing individual who is only one example of gender complexity and pronouns outside the binary. To familiarise yourself with gender-diverse experiences, Stone Butch Blues is a recommended read (provided you're prepared for some very confronting content). It can be downloaded for free here.
That being said, it can be hard to get used to different pronouns unless you’re using them often, or somebody in your life has begun to use them. The television show Billions stars Asia Kate Dillon, a non-binary actor, as a non-binary character named Taylor. Through watching the show, the viewer can become very familiar with their pronouns, in a way that is quite organic. If you are trying to familiarise yourself with they/them pronouns because you personally want to try those pronouns, this show would likely be valuable. Conversely, it may assist your family members or friends in adjusting to they/them pronouns.
Dating and Partners
Image credit: Gender Spectrum Collection.
Whether you have one partner or multiple, coming out to them is a huge step to take, and often one that may cause great anxiety. Coming out can actually save some relationships, because a trans person’s partner remains with them throughout the intense process, and the pair can come to know each other more deeply. In other circumstances, a partner may struggle to pair their sexual identity with their partner’s true gender.
The revolutionary documentary Man Made (2018) features a trans man named Kennie, and his current partner, a lesbian woman. She speaks honestly with the film crew about her sexual identity, and her determination to support Kennie while she also tries to figure out whether they can remain together. It is well worth watching, both for their story, and for the romantic experiences of other trans subjects.
It is normal for your partner to have some concerns about how medical treatment will change you, how they will feel about being intimate with somebody of another gender, or how this changes their personal sexual identity. But if they insist that you are not allowed to transition, then you need to make a decision to put your mental health and wellbeing first.
However, not all couples break up because one partner comes out as transgender!
Penny Whetton, the transgender wife of Greens senator Janet Rice, passed away peacefully in 2019. Her wife, while initially surprised by her partner’s gender identity, decided that she would stay with her partner, and transition alongside the person she once knew as her husband. She found herself identifying as bisexual (whereas once she had been straight), and theirs was a happy marriage right until the end. You can read about them here, and watch an interview with them here.
Image credit: Gender Spectrum Collection.
Coming out at school can cause a lot of angst, and it’s not just if you attend a single-sex school or a religious school. It can help to start with a staff member at school who you think will be supportive. This could be a school counsellor, a trusted teacher, or an administration person. It is against Australian law for schools to discriminate against you because of your gender identity.
Once you have a supportive staff member to talk with, consider discussing an approach to the following:
Names and pronoun use at school, and on school documents/records.
Use of toilets and changing rooms.
School camps and events.
Coming out to the school community.
Your family, a counsellor, and (ideally) a psychologist experienced in transgender identities, can all help you through this intense time. An excellent guide for the whole school to support trans students has been created by the Safe Schools Coalition Australia and is available here.
In Australia, discrimination or harassment in the workplace is against the law. A human resources manager is a useful first contact. For employees, employers and co-workers, there is an excellent comprehensive guide titled Coming out in the workplace published by the Anti Discrimination Commission Queensland. Download here.
This article is also worth reading: Transgender: a new frontier in workplace diversity by Michael Starkey.