When I started this site three months ago, it was largely an exercise for myself. Over the first two years of my transition, I wrote down a lot of notes about my experience, what I learned and what I wish I knew before I started.
Some of these notes were practical, like how to shop for a wig. Some of these were more esoteric, like how to handle the stress and sadness that is part of the journey. For me, the process of writing has been transformative; giving me a way to process my own experience and to help anyone else who is struggling along the way.
In the three months since, the reception has been way beyond what I expected. The site has grown rapidly, and continues to see 20-50% growth in views week-over-week. I honestly never expected anyone to find the content helpful; I told myself I’d consider it a success if even a single person read what I wrote.
There is obviously an unmet need that MtF Handbook is filling. There are plenty of great resources out there for trans folks, but not as much covering the basics for someone starting out. So the natural question is: how do I (soon we) continue to grow MtF Handbook to be a better resource for trans women, or anyone who is questioning or changing their gender identity?
Before my first post, I wrote down three guiding principles I wanted to shape the Handbook:
- Accessibility: the hardest thing about starting your transition is finding resources that are understandable and approachable. Being a beginner is tough, and all our content needs to be accessible.
- Respect: there is no ‘right’ way to transition, just as there is no ‘right’ gender. Everyone has their own experience and desires, though there are many common challenges and milestones along the way. We need to be kind and conscientious towards all experiences and goals.
- Honesty: transition will be hard, it will be embarrassing, it will be messy. It will also be glorious. Everything we write needs to be intellectually and emotionally honest and willing to acknowledge the good and bad.
In the long-term I want to make sure that the core content stays free and easily accessible to anyone who would find it useful.
Starting is easy, scaling is hard. Continuing to build MtF Handbook while maintaining these principles will be the more difficult challenge to come.
One of my next goals is to grow the community of writers that contribute to the handbook. Trans women have a wealth of insights and diverse range of experiences, and we need more voices contributing what they’ve learned.
Specifically, I want to find ways to pay writers to contribute to MtF Handbook. Trans women are 25% more likely to be unemployed and 50% more likely to be in poverty than their cis counterparts. Providing paid writing opportunities to struggling trans women is a win-win; we get to help support them, and they get to share their knowledge and experience with those starting their journey.
I’m still working on the details for how exactly this will work, so stay tuned. If you are interested in writing for MtF Handbook, let me know.
Building a Community
I hope that one of the small things I can do is bring together a community of folks who would like to contribute their knowledge and share encouragement.
Twitter is great, but there are some obvious (content length) limitations that make it hard to really share, explore and collaborate on the complex issues involved in transition. Other places like Reddit tend to be swamped by folks who’s motives aren’t, let’s say, as pure as one would hope.
In the near term, keep an eye out for some sort of more conversational component to MtF Handbook. Maybe Discord, but probably a forum tool like Discourse so that the content is more easily archived and searchable.
Like any other passion project, one of the long-term challenges is sustainability. Right now, I cover the costs of hosting, and do the writing for free. We do have Amazon affiliate links, but so far they’ve generated one dollar and 90 cents in the last three months. I would prefer to keep the site ad free if possible, so I want to try a more direct route to financial sustainability.
You can now become a Patron of the MtF Handbook. Any membership level is helpful, but the more you can contribute, the more it helps offset the cost for people who can’t otherwise afford it.
Your monthly support will do two things:
- Ensure we can keep the lights on, and explore new features that can help grow the community.
- Pay for more writers (see above) to expand the content and experiences in the Handbook.
As a benefit of being a member, you’ll get access to early drafts of content, Q&As with the members, access to the community (see above) and chance to provide input on new content and directions for the writers. I’m still trying to figure out exactly what the right mix of member benefits are, but rest assured all content will always be free.
This is a big experiment, and I honestly have no idea how it will go. I hope that anyone who’s found this content helpful will support the site, even if its only a dollar.
If you have any ideas about how the Handbook can be a better resource, please let me know in the comments!