Yes, you can transition medically without transitioning socially

Zinnia JonesOne of the most difficult stumbling blocks for trans people who are still coming to terms with their gender and struggling to envision their life as a trans person is the idea that transitioning is a fixed, one-size-fits-all process. The notion that being a trans woman or a trans man entails progressing through a rigid and specific set of steps, regardless of whether those steps are necessarily right for you, can make the prospect of transition seem intimidating, overwhelming, and even offputting. If a trans person doesn’t want vaginoplasty or top surgery, for instance, a model that yokes surgery to being trans will demarcate transness as being off-limits to them; if a trans person wants to begin medically transitioning but is not yet comfortable publicly presenting as their gender, and has been told that the latter is a prerequisite for the former, taking even the first steps toward embodying their gender can seem impossible.

These are not hypothetical issues – these expectations of what shape the unique experience of gender must take for all trans people, many of which had been shamefully promoted by clinicians in decades past and persist to this day, can needlessly amplify the doubts that are already a nearly universal feature of questioning one’s gender. The reality is that each trans person has their own unique relationship to their body, their gender, and how they wish to live both in their private life and in society. Transition is not meant to be a singular process that all trans people are fed through; it is an ensemble of tools meant for each person to utilize as needed to get to where they truly want to be.

While rigid models of “the” process of transition may have held sway in the past, gender clinicians and professional organizations today recognize that individual trans people have individual needs – what’s right for one of us may not be what’s right for another. 

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About Zinnia Jones

My work focuses on insights to be found across transgender sociology, public health, psychiatry, history of medicine, cognitive science, the social processes of science, transgender feminism, and human rights, taking an analytic approach that intersects these many perspectives and is guided by the lived experiences of transgender people. I live in Orlando with my family, and work mainly in technical writing.
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One Response to Yes, you can transition medically without transitioning socially

  1. Lona Gynt says:

    Thank you for this, socially transitioning is not right for me at this time, I fear the discrimination that would happen professionally, but I have medically transitioned and privately am every bit female, feeling better about myself and the dysphoria and suicide risks are sooo… much better. It is not ideal, I would rather live the female life, but sometimes you take what you can get. I appreciate your recognition of the diversity and individual imperatives in transgender life. This is a far cry from the strident militancy you are sometimes accused of.

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