Welcome, and congratulations! If you’ve landed here, you’re at least curious about what it might take to transition to female, and that in itself is a big step. Or you may already be on your way, and looking for tips and guides for how to improve things.
Every person’s journey is different, and there is no right or wrong way to transition; but there are things you can do to make the process easier on yourself and those you choose to bring along with you on this adventure. The goal of this post, and this site in general, is to provide the basics and more advanced topics for those who are looking to transition from male to female, and to take some of the mystery out of the process. Think of this as a roadmap – I’ll help you understand the landmarks, and what to look for, but ultimately it’s up to you to take the steps and explore all there is to see and enjoy.
Before we get too far, its worth acknowledging that this journey isn’t without its risks, and will be a very stressful, embarrassing, emotional and anxious process. You are creating a new you, and asking everyone in your life (or at least those you choose), to undergo the process of creation along with you, whether they want to or not. This is a complicated process that is hard for everyone, and even the most supportive, loving family and friends will struggle at some points, just as you will.
But that said, if you’re seriously exploring transitioning genders, it means that you are driven by a deeper need to explore the unknown and to find your true self. The wonderful thing is that the destination is whatever you choose it to be, wherever you find your sense of happiness and acceptance.
Preparing for your MtF journey
Which leads us to the starting point. Like any good journey, the first, and most important step of any MtF transition is the planning. In the same way you wouldn’t set off into the jungle without some basic equipment and skills, you’ll want to spend some time preparing the things you’ll need, and need to know, in order to make your transition as comfortable and gratifying as possible.
There are 5 things you’ll need to assemble, learn and decide on before you begin.
- An end goal. Transition means different things to everyone, so clearly, and specifically outlining your goal is the most important step.
- The basic skills. Depending on your goal, you’ll need to learn how to change your hair, makeup, clothes, voice and anything else necessary for reflecting your vision.
- A strategy. You have a few of different options for how you want to approach your transition – do you need to go fast, or can you take it slow? Do you want to transition gradually as your body changes, or all at once and let the physical changes catch up?
- Your transition support team. You need a team of people who can support you during and after your transition. You don’t have to go it alone. I’ve written more about this in another blog post.
- A timeline. Once you’ve figured out your route and prepared, its time to pick a starting point and the major milestones you’d like to reach along the way.
The Goal: Where do you want to go?
Transitioning is really hard. That said, we are living in a world where there is more support, knowledge and understanding of fluid gender identity than ever before. This means that there are a range of transition options that are available and supported. For many people, the goal is full transition to female, up to and including gender confirmation surgery (GRS/SRS).
For many though, the journey is one of exploration, where the goal is more uncertain. Perhaps you are simply interested in exploring your feminine side during specific times, but largely continuing to live as a male. Or you might be considering how to integrate your feminine attributes into a non-binary or gender fluid presentation. Or maybe you just want to have feminine breasts and keep everything else the same. These are all completely valid and viable end goals, unique to each individual.
Whatever you choose, you will want to have a visual or emotional picture of what the end of the journey is. This might be a picture of a woman you feel a specific connection to. Or it might be a painting, or a poem, or a word. Whatever it is, you’ll want to choose something that is both inspiring and also specific enough to help you find your way along your journey.
It’s important to remember you can change your goal at any point; most people do. Transition is a process of learning, and you’ll be happier if you allow yourself to update what your end goal is based on what you’ve learned you like or don’t like. I know plenty of trans women who start out with a very femme vision of themselves in their new gender identity, but after a few years trend towards something a bit less over-the-top girly.
The Basic Skills: What do you need to learn and buy?
Regardless of what your goal is, you have a lot to learn! On my own journey, I’ve made a running list of all the things I’ve had to learn, many of which I only discovered when I was well on my way.
This will usually include hair, makeup and clothes. For most trans women, voice training is also a key requirement for passing as a woman. For more information on where to go to learn these skills (there are people much better than me!) check out the resources page.
In addition to the skills, you’ll also want to plan a budget for all the things you need to buy. A basic budget might look like:
- Bras/Underwear: $400
- Work Clothes: $1,500
- Casual Clothes: $1,000
- Hair Products: $100
- Wig: $300
- Makeup: $300
- Miscellaneous: $500
In addition to the one-time costs, you’ll also want to plan on ongoing expenses like hair appointments, nails/waxing, and hair removal treatments.
This obviously doesn’t include any surgery costs, which can be tens of thousands of dollars. Some of that may be covered by your insurance, but for most trans women, things like Facial Feminization Surgery (FFS) still aren’t.
There is no wrong way to transition, but there are strategies that can ensure you have the time and space to take care of yourself and those you love as you transition.
A lot of people assume that once they have made the decision to transition, they immediately have to tell everyone and change their appearance, pronouns and name. Though this may seem appealing at first, it also puts you under a lot of stress. Not only does that mean you have to do and manage a lot of complicated, emotional things at once, it also means you have less time to learn along the way. Transitions are a journey, not a race, and though it might feel desperately urgent to transition, planning to give yourself some time and space is important so you don’t get overwhelmed.
Generally, I encourage people to first practice the skills necessary to successfully transition, then once they are comfortable, slowly engage the people in their lives in the process of transition.
Some questions you’ll want to think about are:
- Who do you need to tell? Who do you want to tell first? Who do you trust to open up to about your journey and goals?
- How do you want to handle rejection? Do you want to engage with people who don’t support you, or move on immediately?
- How will you answer the inevitable questions like ‘why?’ and ‘are you sure?’
- When do you want to change your name? Are you comfortable living under your old name while you transition, or do you want to assume a new name immediately?
- How will you handle your professional relationships? Do you want to continue in your current job or find a new one?
- What are the barriers unique to your life? If you are going to change your name, what needs to be changed as well (like loans, legal documents, etc).
- If you have a significant other, what do you hope and expect from them during the transition? Do you have contingency plans if they can’t or won’t provide those things?
Having at least considered these questions before you transition can provide a helpful set of inputs to your process. Sometimes the downside risks are very real, and should be considered carefully even though they may not change your ultimate decision.
Your Transition Support Team
As I wrote about separately, you will benefit immensely by having a team of professionals who can support you in your journey. At minimum, I suggest seeking out the following types of people:
- A therapist: you’ll need someone who you trust and can help you understand and heal from a lifetime of trauma.
- A primary care physician: a good doctor who can help you to navigate the long-term health implications of a gender transition.
- A professional coach: someone who can help you to navigate the professional challenges unique to trans people.
Be sure to give yourself plenty of time to find these people; building a solid relationship that you trust takes time.
A Timeline: When do you want to reach certain goals?
A transition is actually a lot of small milestones. As you set out, its helpful to set some goals for when you want to reach those points, and how long you want to take to get there. Some people want to move as quickly as possible, while others may have larger life events they’d like to plan around. There is no right answer, just the process that works for you.
Some key milestones in my own transition (and timelines)
- Learning the basics: 3-4 months
- Hair and makeup took about 2 months
- Clothes took 2 months
- Voice training: 6 months of daily 30-60 minutes of practice before I felt like my voice was passable.
- Transitioning to my closest personal relationships: 4 months
- Transitioning my professional relationships: 12 months
All total, my transition took about 2 years. In the first year, I focused on the core skills and the people closest to me. In year 2, I focused on my extended personal and professional network. By that point, I was a passable woman, which helped me to move beyond some of the doubt and uncertainty that comes with the early transition phases.
I hope this helps you have a big picture view of what a transition can require. As the old saying goes, the devil is in the details, but you’ll never make progress unless you take the first step and start your own journey.
Best of luck and let me know how its going in the comments.