The hardest part of going through gender transition is coping with long waiting times. We wait for our first referral, for appointments in between, for hormones and surgery if we chose it. The relief first felt at realising we are trans, is soon replaced with anguish. The road ahead seems impossibly long and the mountain too high to climb. Understandably, our mental health often suffers as a result. Therefore, if we are to survive this process intact, we must learn ways to cope with the wait. In the following blog, I will share the top five things which helped me to get through my gender transition.
When I started my gender transition journey, I had this wonderful picture in my mind of the man I would be. Imagining my future, helped me to keep the hope alive that I would get there. However, when it comes to coping with waiting times, overly focusing on this far away picture can do us more harm than good. I have found it much more helpful, to acknowledge that future, but to put it to one side. Then, to use my energy to focus on smaller short-term goals.
For example, if you have just come out, your goal focus could be telling everyone you need to. Or, if you are waiting for surgery, your goal could be completing a 4-week exercise program. Break your journey down into small manageable chunks. Doing this will help you to have a sense of achievement and progress.
It is incredibly important to remember that there is more to you than your transgender identity. When we go through gender transition, it can easily consume our life and cause us to neglect other aspects of ourselves. The waiting times, attending appointments, recovering from surgery, its unsurprising that gender transition takes over.
However, we have so many other things in our life, our friend groups, our hobbies, or our school, college, university or work. Aim to make some goals that are around these other aspects of yourself. Having a more rounded view of our whole selves and lives, can help remind us of all the good things, and keep us upbeat and busy.
When we focus too much on the waiting time ahead, it can make us feel stuck and that we are never going to get anywhere. Therefore, it is helpful to find a way to remind ourselves of the progress we have made.
A good way to remind ourselves is by keeping a diary or journal. I have always found journalling helpful and more recently started to use a bullet journal. In this journal, we can log the milestones we have made in transition, even ones we think are tiny. We can also log the other goals we are focusing on. When we are low, our mind can play tricks and convince us that we have made no progress whatsoever. However, keeping a diary will give you evidence, to remind yourself of all the things you have achieved.
Having a positive mindset and outlook does not mean denying things are difficult. There is no denying that the waiting times in gender transition are incredibly painful. Instead, a positive mindset means that you acknowledge the difficult aspects, but instead of focusing on them, you shift to focus on the positive instead.
Positivity is like a muscle, the more you work at it, the easier it is to conjure it up in difficult times. One of the best ways to exercise and grow your positivity muscle is by writing a gratitude list. Initially, trying to write a gratitude list, especially when we are low, can feel difficult. However, if you start small, you will soon find that you come up with more and more things that are good in your life which you are grateful for.
My suggestion, if you are struggling, is to start with being grateful for the pen in your hand, the paper you are writing on, the table you are sat at. Before long your list will grow and you will find yourself smiling. Keep this list somewhere handy, perhaps in your journal. Then, when you are frustrated and low and the waiting times are getting you down, you can re-read it to remind you of the good things in your life.
The trans community is one of the most supportive communities I have ever been part of. I could not have got to where I am today, had it not been for the amazing trans people I have met along the way. It is so important to share this incredibly difficult journey with people who understand. Which is why trans groups, both face to face and online, are so important.
For example, in early days, when we are constantly misgendered, having trans friends, who truly see us, is invaluable. Being seen helps to increase our confidence and resilience when we face being misgendered by everyone else. Meeting people who are in the same situation as us, also helps us to feel less alone. Additionally, trans groups are a great place to get advice and information from people further down the line. Seeing people further ahead also helps to remind us that we do all get where we need to be in the end. Most importantly, in these groups, we will find people newer to the journey than us, and we can then help them and feel like we have experience and purpose.
You can find a list of support groups, both face to face and online, on my resources page.
I hope these tips are of help to you. Developing patience, resilience and the ability to stay positive, will help you to navigate this tough journey. Above all, remember to relax in the knowledge that you will get where you need to be. By paying attention to the path immediately bellow your feet, rather than the distant mountain, you will soon look up in wonder and awe at how high you have climbed. Hang in there.