So I haven’t written in a while … okay, a LONG while. A lot has been changing in my life, not always for the better, but if I’m going to be honest, mostly my own fault. And yeah, I’ve just not had the time, or really the energy to maintain this blog.

I’ve started realizing though that I do need it, though perhaps not in entirely the same shape or format as before. In the past, I needed to come to terms with my trans status, and a big part of that involved doing research and getting to a place of acceptance based on science, philosophy and the ways in which other cultures and individuals have approached gender issues. I’ve moved past that place in my life to a large degree, though I’d still like to maintain this blog as a resource, but over the last while I’ve really started to need a place where I can just … talk about things. Things that perhaps I’ve been too afraid to confront or expose in the past.

So I’m going to start blogging again, but with a change in focus, more on my personal journey than on all the stuff I’d been doing here in the past (though I won’t stop doing research and writing about it) I do hope that those of you who’ve been reading genderlines since I started it will stick around. Hopefully, while the focus changes, I’ll still be putting enough useful stuff on here that it’s worth your while.


Please note that this is the fifth post in a series entitled Transition 101.

This is it. The culmination of all your work and preparation. By now you should be getting read as female fairly regularly by strangers, whether you are actually dressed as a male or female. You should be comfortable going out and interacting with the world as a female from your experiences living part-time, and yeah, basically there’s nothing stopping you now, so …

  1. Come out at work, or if you’re still supported by your parents and attend school or university, to all of them. Obviously how you go about this will vary a lot depending on the people you work for and with, but tread carefully whatever the situation may be. Hopefully by now you’ve built up a substantial contingency and learned to live small, so that if the worst happens and you’re out of an income, you can still recover from it while continuing your transition. In fact, I would urge that you NOT come out at work or to your parents UNTIL you have that contingency firmly in place. If need be, delay coming out for as long as you can, but have nest-egg.

  2. Negotiate a FT-schedule with the above people. Obviously you can’t just come out and tell people you’re transitioning, and the next day show up as a different sex. You need to make it clear to the people involved that this is going to happen, but you also need to be flexible in allowing them some time to let it sink in, break the news to everybody else, and figure out the logistics of it – how to deal with customers, clients, co-workers or other students, how to manage concerns around bathroom use, etc.

    Of course, if you drew the short straw and got a bad response, none of this matters because you are unemployed and possibly homeless. Don’t freak out. This is what the contingency is for. If you did it right, you have friends who can help you out with a place to stay, you have money in hand for HRT and living expenses, and hopefully you have updated documentation you can use to start looking for work. Also, by now you should be quite passable and comfortable in your new persona, so prospective employers need not even know about your past. Just take it one step at a time.

  3. Come out to everybody else. Friends, family, clubs, religious groups etc. – everybody needs to be told, and how you decide to do this is largely down to logistics and what you’re comfortable with. Some people like to announce it in person and be right there in order to field any questions and manage the gossip, for others, a letter or an email with a bunch of recipients proves to be a better approach. I chose the email, and mailed everybody a documentary DVD to explain the technical stuff.

  4. Schedule surgeries. If you plan to get SRS, FFS, Breast Augmentation or whatever else, now is the time to schedule them. It might seem odd that I leave this so late in the entire process, especially considering how long the waiting lists are at the top surgeons, but until you are sure you have a supportive employer and thus a stable income, it’s a huge risk to take. Granted, you may be fortunate enough to work for a good employer where you were able to come out much sooner, and in that sort of situation, the earlier you can schedule your surgeries, the better. Failing that though, this is the safest approach.

  5. Aaaaand finally … Go Full Time. For better or worse (hopefully better), you’re done. You’ve transitioned socially. Congratulations!

And that’s about it for Transition 101. I’ll be following up with a few additional posts with links to resources, terminology, etc. and hopefully, if I can find guest writers, some transition guides from other perspectives. This is it for Mina Magpie’s (Really Rough)Guide to a (Mostly) Stress-Free Transition (For Girls) though, so thanks for bearing with me!

Just on a final note, this guide simply reflects my experiences and those of people I’ve spoken to over the years. Everybody’s circumstances are different though, and ultimately you have to find what works for you. Hopefully though some of what I’ve said here might serve to give you perspective on your own situation. Good luck with your transition.



Please note that this is the fifth post in a series entitled Transition 101.

By now your appearance and manner should have significantly feminised to the point where you are getting double-takes and confusion about your gender on a fairly regular basis, no matter what you’re wearing. This is the point at which I started buying female clothes and gradually started coming out of the closet, dressing androgynously and telling some people. The nice thing about androgyny is that you can go either way with a bit of work, so you can still pass as a guy when you have to, but with a bit of make-up and the right clothing, you can pass for female, at least at first glance.

  1. Go Part Time. Maintain your male persona for work and such, but start going out as you. This is terrifying initially, but it’s a hurdle you do have to get across at some point. You’ll find though that it’s not nearly as bad as you think it is. Most people are too wrapped up in their own affairs to really take note of the people around them, and those that do will often not say anything for fear of appearing foolish if they turn out to be wrong. As long as you’re not attracting attention to yourself with unusual dress or over-the-top make-up, you’ll be surprised at how comfortably you breeze through.

    All that said, young kids and teenagers are the bane of many a trans-person. They are hyper-observant, as a rule, and usually don’t have (or choose not to) apply the same kind of social … etiquette that adults would. So avoid them if you can, but as long as you aren’t notable in any other way, you should be fine.

  2. Start coming out to the people you trust and rely on most. Their perceptions of you will have gradually shifted with the changes in your presentation and manner and with the physical changes brought about by HRT and hair-removal, so it won’t be quite as jarring and difficult to accept. If you have trusted friends at work, even better, because they can help to manage perceptions and attitudes in the workplace for when you do finally go full-time. Just be sure that the people you tell can be trusted to keep the secret. The last thing you need is to get outed at work before you are ready for it.

  3. Apply for your name change, and if you can, gender amendment. The process can take a while depending on where you live, so getting this out of the way now just means that you will be able to get your documentation in order that much more quickly when you go full-time.

  4. With name change (and perhaps even gender-change) in hand, get all of your documentation reissued and updated before you go FT. ID documentation and driver’s license, degrees, diplomas and certificates, bank accounts, tax stuff – all of it needs to get updated, so make a list.

Now, assuming you have managed to get your name changed, but they wouldn’t grant a gender amendment, (because your authority requires SRS, for example) I would suggest you still get at least basic identity documents amended, even though you’ll just be doing the same again later on. Believe me, there are few things as scary as getting pulled off the road by a cop when you’re not even passing as a guy any more, and your driver’s license has you sporting a beard or looking like Brad Pitt or George Clooney. Having picture ID that matches how you look just makes everything that much easier.

“Phase Five: Full-Time Friend”, is where everything comes together. Full-time or bust baby. See ya tomorrow.


Please note that this is the fourth post in a series entitled Transition 101.

Having laid a good foundation for transition by observing, learning, doing research, and building a network, the next phase is to start physically transitioning.

To a large extent you just keep doing what you did before – continue to work on your presentation and voice, educate yourself and work on your financial and social resources, but this is also where people’s perceptions of you will gradually start to shift. At first, as you work on your presentation and manner, people will probably start to think you are gay or something, but since it’s a (hopefully) gradual change, it’ll be a mostly subconscious shift in their perceptions. Eventually, as you start to take HRT and your body changes, people may wonder if you’re sick because they see you losing weight and muscle mass. Your skin will change gradually and you’ll have less and less facial and body hair and you’re scalp hair will gradually be getting longer and thicker. You may start to wear a tight sports-bra and baggy clothing to hide the physical changes, and people will notice, but if you manage it carefully, they’ll only pick up on the changes subconsciously, which is exactly what you want.

  1. Get on anti-androgens as soon as you possibly can. Oestrogen is important, but anti-androgens are critical in buying you time and preventing further masculinisation. Typically a psychiatrist will diagnose GID and refer you to an endocrinologist for HRT after about 3 months of regular consultations (assuming said psychiatrist is following the current SOC recommendations), but if you can’t wait that long, or if your therapist looks like she’s going to drag her feet on it, you might consider the self-medication route. You will probably have to supplement your HRT anyway once you are under the care of an endocrinologist, since they tend to be very cautious as regards gender-variant people, and rarely prescribe more than post-menopausal HRT, which isn’t really sufficient.

    If you’re going to go the self-medication route though, it is vital that you do your research first, and that you have access to blood testing, perhaps through a GP or a private clinic. You’ll also generally find, though not universally, that many doctors will make your self-medication official and try to oversee it rather than not treating you at all. Your mileage may vary though, so tread carefully.

  2. Once you’ve been on HRT (preferably oestrogen also, but AA’s only will do) for a few months, start going for electrolysis, if you can find a good practitioner. Facial hair growth will have slowed down from the HRT, so the benefit will be that much greater.

    Comparing the two main methods of hair removal, the benefit with electrolysis is that it’s permanent and more importantly GRADUAL. Laser only reduces hair, it’s not guaranteed to remove all of it, and it’s VERY visible. Suddenly going from having a beard, to having dead hair growing out two days later, to NO beard a week later as the hairs fall out – people are going to notice that. By contrast, if you go for an hour or two of electrolysis a week early in the weekend, and you ask the tech to spread the work (which (s)he should do anyway to minimise damage to your skin), people won’t notice that your beard is gradually thinning out, at least not initially.

    If a good electrologist is hard to come by, as they often are nowadays, then laser is better than nothing, and it does have advantages. The bonus with laser hair removal is that you don’t have to grow your hair out, so you can keep your facial hair very short and hopefully minimise how much people notice. Also, you only need one session to clear your face entirely, and as long as you time your repeat-sessions to coincide with regrowth, you can be virtually facial-hair free for good.

    Unfortunately it is fairly visible that you’ve had laser for a week or two after a session as the dead hairs gradually push out, so schedule your initial clearing before a holiday or a long weekend. That way your face can heal, so that, by the time you go back to work, school or college, nobody will notice. One has to typically get laser ever 4 to 6 weeks initially, gradually extending to around 8 weeks as the hair grows sparser and weaker, so try and schedule things in such a way that you always have a few days to recover after a session, even if just a weekend.

Like phase one, phase two can be frustrating. At times it felt like I was just marking time. It’s important though to be patient and let the HRT and hair removal do its thing, and allow the changes you’ve been making to settle in, both in your own subconscious and that of the people around you.

Up tomorrow, “Phase Four: Part-Time Lover”, where you finally start presenting as your target gender and start making the social, administrative and legal adjustments necessary to transition.


Please note that this is the third post in a series entitled Transition 101.

Welcome back to Transition 101. Yesterday I talked about how important it is to get in the right place mentally before transitioning, of having a clear Intent. Arguably as or even more important, properly researching and planning what you actually need to do and how to go about it is next up. Laying a good foundation is critical in determining how successful your physical transition will be, and plays a much larger part than most people would care to admit in how others react to that transition. So of we go…

  1. Start by drawing up a schedule and starting a journal. I know it sounds a bit OCD (which I freely admit I am), but I can’t stress enough how useful these proved (and still do!) in my own transition. I didn’t even follow the schedule most of the time – often I would miss deadlines or accomplish a milestone sooner than expected, but it helped me to define a clear sequence of what I had to do. As a motivational tool it was also critical. Seeing a looming red circle on the calendar focusses your attention really nicely.

    The journal is just as useful. Keep track of your physical progress, make to-do lists and note down your conversations with the various government departments, banks, schools, businesses and the like you’ll have to deal with – besides providing you with a historical record you can refer back to, it’s also administrative ammunition. Being able to name names and dates when you’re fighting with the Department of Home Affairs or the bank often ends up making a huge difference.

    Finally, start a file and organise everything about your transition in there. Get a copy of every blood test and report. File every bit of correspondence. Print out and keep useful research so you can add your own notes and highlights. My file has proven invaluable to me.

  2. Save. Start saving every cent you possibly can. Walk or cycle instead of using the car (good for other stuff too, like your butt 😉 ); Where you can, stop going out; Cut back on luxuries (and essentials) and learn to live … frugally, for lack of a better word. All it takes is some creativity, and you’d be amazed at how much you can cut back on your spending. Something as simple as changing your diet to primarily vegan can halve your food bills, for example (worked for me!), and I even read a forum post once by a trans-woman who was saving almost 100 USD a month by subsisting on instant noodles and multivitamins. Not something I’d suggest, but it worked for her in saving up for SRS, so who am I to argue, really?

    So yeah, find ways to save that work for you, and stick all that extra money somewhere risk-free where you can’t get your hands on it easily. Fixed-savings, 32-day notice accounts and the like have served me very well in this. Even better, if you are able, try and generate additional income through extra shifts or a second job, or by starting a low-investment business of your own part-time, or by contracting your skills out. Be creative.

  3. Leading on from point two, start feeling out the people who support you financially. Find out if your employer has official procedures for dealing with trans people, and whether they have past experience with transitioners. Most importantly, find out what your rights are, so that if you are dismissed unfairly, you know how to fight it. If you’re still living at home with your parents, or they’re supporting you while you study, try to get a sense of whether they will be willing or able to support you in your transition, and more importantly, whether they will continue to support you, full-stop. All too often people start to transition without a contingency in place, and then to boot they’re fired or get kicked out, and they end up on the streets. Don’t let this be you.

  4. Network. You can’t do this alone. You might manage the transition thing by yourself (if you’re really brave, lucky and persistent) but somewhere along the line you will need support. Your money will run out, or you’ll hit a legal or administrative brick wall, or you’ll need a lawyer to help you hang on to your job, or you’ll just need somebody who can listen. So start making allies. Build up your friendships, focussing on people you can reasonably expect to at least be tolerant of your situation. Engage people where you work or go to university/school/college, get active on internet forums and chat. Be the helping hand and the shoulder to cry on. It may sound extremely cynical, but as much as you need to build up financial capital, you have to build social capital as well, because the world is built on relationships.

    Now, if you are really sure about somebody, you know them and trust them, you might consider coming out to select people now, but I’d advise against it. Even if they are the dearest friends in the world, they will subconsciously gender you according to your appearance, and coming out so early only makes it more difficult for them to bridge that gap between their perception of you and what you are telling them. As you gradually feminise, the disconnect will become less and less acute, so that, by the time you do tell, the mental leap is that much smaller to make, and they are likely to have less of a problem processing it.

  5. The same does not hold true of Significant Others though. Remember that, unlike family or friends, you have a responsibility towards your spouse or partner, and to your children. When you enter a relationship as a spouse or a parent, you commit to put their needs ahead of your own, and if you’re going to transition, they need to be a part of that decision. A spouse who suddenly discovers that her husband has been on HRT for 6 months and is well on the way to transition will feel very deeply betrayed, justifiably so. SO yeah, if you are in a committed relationship with somebody, it is your duty to come out to them first, before you take steps down the road to transition. You’ll have to negotiate a compromise that suits you both, and unfortunately that might include separation or even the end of that relationship. It is much more likely though that you will be able to minimise the hurt caused (to yourself and your partner/children) and to salvage the relationship in some form if you are upfront and honest about what you need to do, and involve them in the process.

    Now, parents are a special case in this. On the one hand, having their support early on can often make a huge difference, psychologically as well as procedurally, but on the other hand, if you’re still dependant on them, a bad reaction on their part can literally end up destroying you. So yeah, when to tell your parents is a tough call you need to make yourself. If you are dependant on them though, my advice is that you treat them in the same way you would an employer – build a contingency plan first.

  6. Start working hard at losing weight and muscle. Even though you might not be overweight, what muscle and fat you do have is laid down in a distinctly male pattern, and HRT won’t change that, it will only cause NEW muscle or fat to be deposited in a more female pattern. Even after almost two years on HRT, I’m still carrying a bit of male-pattern weight around my middle that stubbornly refuses to move and I have a fair amount of upper-body muscle left, despite working really hard at it. That said, I used to weigh about 25 kilos more than I do now, so I’ve done well thus far – being on anti-androgens and turning vegan really stripped the muscle off big time. Other approaches such as a palaeolithic diet or Adkins or the like are good for losing fat, but not so good at losing muscle – for that you need to cut your protein intake way down. Vegetarian or occasional Piscetarian also works well, though more slowly.

    To lean out your physique and gain a more feminine shape, take up yoga, belly dance, street dancing and/or aerobics – join a class or invest in/download some videos or whatever, but get into an activity that places an emphasis on tone, flexibility and grace over strength and endurance, for example.

  7. Educate yourself on the WPATH and alternative/modified Standards of Care (SOC), local laws around name changes, gender change and stuff, and the details of HRT, SRS, FFS and all the other aspects of transition. Besides wanting to be confident and well-informed when you approach potential service providers, it’s also vital to know this stuff, because often your service-providers won’t, and it will be up to you to educate them or fill in the gaps where they aren’t able to do the job properly. Also find out where you stand with everybody as soon as possible. Find out whether the service provider has past experience, what his or her process is, what version (if any) of the Standards of Care they follow, what changes they’ve made to those Standards of Care, what their requirements are for specific referrals, etc. Get it in writing if at all possible. If you’re already seeing a psychiatrist or an endo or whatever, clear these things up as soon as you can, either by asking explicitly (remember, tact and delicacy are your friends) or failing that, figuring it out from past interaction.

  8. Observe women. Read about women. How women move, interact with one another and with men, how they react in different situations – most of that is socialisation, stuff girls learn from moms and aunts and peers and so on as they grow up, though alot of it is informed by evolutionary psychology. We don’t have the benefit of that socialisation, so we have to make up for that lack by knuckling down and studying, at least initially, while we’re still presenting as male and interacting with the world as such.

  9. More specifically, really educate yourself on body-language and feminine movement and the like. The subconscious queues you drop during your interaction with people makes a huge difference in how they perceive you.

    Good books are to be had from the library or online, and you can infer alot by careful observation as well: To start off with, keep in mind that the key difference between a male and a female is that a male expands to fill the space around him, while a female contracts into her own space. So a guy will sit with his legs spread, his arms out and open. He’ll lean forward when sitting down or walking, leading with his head and shoulders, while a woman will lead with her hips, keeping her head and shoulders back. Guys tend to turn their hands and shoulders forward, while women pull their shoulders back, tuck their elbows in and lead with their thumbs or wrists. So by simply consciously turning your hands so that your thumbs are pointing slightly forward and out to the sides, you will already hugely alter your movement and presentation.

  10. Start working on your voice. There are some excellent resources freely available on-line. Whether you end up needing to go to a speech therapist will be up to you – some people snap the techniques almost immediately from watching videos on-line, others are absolutely useless on their own, and most of us fall somewhere in-between. You’ll have to decide for yourself whether it’s worth the cost and time.

  11. Start a good grooming routine. Buy or download a good book on female health and beauty (I own a few I can highly recommend: Mary Quant’s “Classic Make-up and Beauty”, Horst Rechelbacher’s “Aveda Rituals” and the Lorenz Books “Haircare, Skincare, Make-up and Fitness”). You’ll gradually want to start a facial routine, learn to look after your hands, feet and nails, get into the habit of using a skin lotion or creme, start growing out your hair and really looking after it. Part of this is finding a good hairdresser, and explaining that you want to grow out your hair – it’s important to go for a trim ever 3 or 4 months to take care of split ends and keep your hair healthy.

    The caveat with hair of course is when you don’t have much of it. Unfortunately probably the most visible damage Androgens (especially DHT) inflicts is Male-Pattern-Baldness. While you MIGHT be lucky and find yourself growing some of it back once you start HRT, or have some success using restorative products, the reality is that hair tends to be gone for good. So when you do start going Part-Time, you will have to invest in a good, professionally fitted wig, and later on either start using a weave (a semi-permanent hair-piece that is blended in with your own hair – once it’s been “fitted”, it’s treated like natural hair. You go back to the hairdresser every couple of months to have it shaped and adjusted and stuff) or go for a surgical procedure known as a scalp advance, where the surgeon actually redistributes hair from other parts of your head to fill everything out a bit.

The preparation period – saving money, reading up on the SOC and HRT and legalities and stuff, building a network of friends and allies, establishing new habits and finding a good electrologist and therapist and the like – it can be helluva frustrating. It’s legwork, it’s slow, boring and it doesn’t seem to be movement in the direction of where you want to go, but it’s really, really necessary. The time you spend now on building up resources, working on body-language and voice and movement and just on observing and reading about how women interact will stand you in very good stead in the long run.

Up tomorrow, “Phase Three: Ch-ch-ch-changes”, where all the preparation, hard work and patience gives way to the mad roller-coaster of emotional instability, a crazily changing body, and weird looks from strangers. Yay! ^_^


Please note that this is the second post in a series entitled Transition 101.

“Know Thyself”. It’s one of those horribly over-used clichés that get tossed around all the time, and end up meaning very little. Which is a shame, because they are words to live by. Unless you really get to know yourself, you’re always going to be floating around in life just reacting to whatever gets put in your way. After all, journeys don’t start with a step, they start with an intention. Magick is the same. If you want to plot your own course in life, but you don’t know where you’re going, how are you going to get there? Likewise if you don’t have a clear understanding of where you’re coming from.

For somebody who is gender-variant and planning to transition, to whatever extent, knowing who you are and who you want to be is even more vital. Alchemy is not something to be taken lightly. You need to make sure that you know your subject as well as you possibly can, and have a clear, precise understanding of what you will be transforming that subject into. Transition is risky, lonely and all-consuming, and the subject is you. Know it well your subject well, or you risk failure.

  1. When I finally faced up to the very real possibility that I was, in fact, a “freaky tranny”, (Yeah, I really didn’t want to be, I’m ashamed to say.) I resolved to make damn sure first. My personal memory sucks and always has, so I thought hell, maybe there’s something in my past that is making me like this, maybe I’m confusing these feelings and they’re actually something else, blah-blah, etc. So I bought a blank exercise book, closeted myself in my room and just wrote randomly for the next three weeks, trying to recall bits and pieces of memory and use them to unlock other bits and pieces that I might have forgotten. A particularly useful technique was something I’d picked up from Scientology (DON’T say a word!), which basically involved randomly picking sensations, like feeling afraid, or tasting something sour, or seeing something evil, and then trying to recall an instance from your past where you actually experienced that. It took a while, but eventually I managed to build something approaching a picture of my past, and I kinda had to face up to the fact that these feelings I’d been feeling had always been there, despite my best efforts to suppress them or explain them away. It also forced me to be honest with myself for the first time, and admit that they wouldn’t be changing. I was in fact a transsexual. One with lots of baggage.

  2. I would suggest that this is an important and necessary step, even if you are entirely sure of and comfortable with yourself. Doing an introspection like this forces you to face up to your strengths and weaknesses, to face the mistakes and ugly things in your past and really put them behind you.

  3. So knowing where I had been, I started to think about where I wanted to be. This was a much more gradual process. Having faced up to being trans, I spent a few months just surfing the internet, reading web-comics and personal pages and lurking on forums, trying to understand what it all meant. Gradually though I got an idea, realising that transition was not only possible, but that I might actually have a chance at a successful, happy life afterwards. Key to this was finding inspiration, people and stories that I could point at and say: “Hell, just look at what they achieved!”. I think this is quite vital. Unless you have people to look up to, it’s all too easy to fall into the trap of thinking that what you are attempting is foolish and impossible, that you can’t do it. There are going to be many people telling you that, so you need some positive influences to counter all that negativity.

    Reading about Harisu and Dana International proved to be the catalyst I needed. They inspired me with their beauty, determination and success, and I realised then and there that, however my parents might react, or the community, or the church, or whatever else, none of them could argue against the reality of these remarkable women. If they could do it, I could at least get part-way there.

  4. I had to figure out where “there” was though. Where did I want to end up? Who did I want to be, and what did I want to achieve with my life? If you can’t answer those questions for yourself, then I don’t think that you are ready to transition yet. After all, what would you be transitioning to?

    So gradually, I formed a mental image of the woman I wanted to be. What she looked like, what she did with her life, what other people thought of her and what she thought of herself. I drew pictures, I wrote about her. And finally I started to get a sense of her name.

    I keep those drawings and poems and bits of prose near at hand to remind me of what I’m working towards whenever I get despondent or think this is all just too hard. It doesn’t always do the trick immediately, and I can wallow in self-pity with the best of them, but being reminded of who I WILL eventually be, always seems to get me back on track sooner rather than later. I don’t stop there either. I try to recall and review that image of my future self regularly. A big part of magick lies in visualising the effect you are trying to achieve, in putting your Intent out in the universe on a regular basis. The more often you do that, the more real it becomes to you.

Just a final note on this process of self-exploration. Be honest with yourself. Nobody ever has to see any of this stuff but you. You can explore your deepest fears and dreams, the stuff you’d never tell another living soul about. Don’t be afraid of yourself.

Don’t be afraid of your dreams and desires either. Be realistic, absolutely, but keep in mind what people achieve on a regular basis when they really put all of themselves behind it. If you need to, plaster your walls with pictures of your role-models and their achievements, and just keep reminding yourself that you’re capable of equally amazing things.

Well, that’s it for today. Sorry of today’s instalment was maybe a bit more serious than usual – I get all weighty when I start waxing philosophical. I promise that the rest of Transition 101 will be lighter fare.

Up tomorrow: “Part Two: The Long and Winding Road”, which will look at the essential research and planning needed to give one’self the best possible chances at a smooth, relatively risk-free transition.

Laters! (Shoo. Go away now. Nothing more to see here.)


Let’s be honest. Transition is damned scary. You’re taking a leap into the unknown and doing something most people can’t even contemplate. You’re changing one of the most fundamental characteristics of who and what you are, one many people regard as the most immutable of all. You are actually changing your sex, not just anatomically, but emotionally and personally, socially, legally … Take a moment and let that sink in for a bit. You’re doing alchemy here. Transformation. Like real, actual magick. You’re changing reality.

So why would you go and make it harder for yourself than it already is?

And yet, that seems to be what people end up doing to themselves way too often when they do take the plunge. Time and again I’ve read of or met people who have lost everything during the course of their transition – Friends and family, career, income, home. It’s tragic and painful to watch, and such an easy trap to fall into.

I mean, finally coming to terms with being gender-variant, you want nothing so much as to burst out of the closet and RUN. You’ve hidden yourself from the world your entire life, and so the urge to do a complete 180 is overwhelming.

But as much as that urge to change the past and remake yourself drives you, you can’t let it control you. Transition is a major undertaking, and unless you approach it with some kind of a plan, you’re going to get into trouble. Probably a lot of it.

SO DON’T DO IT. (Don’t put tuna in the mix! ^_^) Patience is the keyword to a stress-free transition, patience and self-discipline. You need to make provision for unforeseen circumstances. You need to give people the time and space they need to come to terms with your changes, especially Significant Others like spouses or boyfriends/girlfriends or children/parents, not to mention the people who pay you. The more preparation you make up front, the better-equipped you will be for your actual transition and your new life afterwards.

Introducing the Band

The Transition 101 series is a kind of “ideal guide” of how I would have liked to tackle the whole process if I’d had the benefit of hindsight. I’m not even going to pretend like this is a particularly good guide – I don’t know that good or bad even really apply to something as subjective and personal as transition, but what I’ve shared here served me well, and I do hope that everybody who reads it will find something of value in here.

I divide transition into five distinct phases, and I’ll cover each in turn over the next handful of days, followed by a couple of additional articles on specific topics such as transition resources on-line, terminology, etc.

On a final note, I’m a Male-to-Female Transsexual person. Which of course means that this entire guide is written from that point of view. While I hope a lot here might prove useful to the FtM community, or to Neutrois transitioners, or whomever else, I can only write what I know. I would be absolutely DELIGHTED if I could find some guest writers to add other perspectives to this guide. (hintnudgewink! ya interested?! email me!)

So anyway, Welcome to Transition 101, Mina Magpie’s (Really Rough) Guide to a (Mostly) Stress-Free Transition (For Girls)! ^_^ See ya tomorrow for Part One: Knowing Me Knowing You.




Okay, so I ended up being gone a while, but in my defense, it’s been a busy, eventful, wonderful month. March that is. 😉

I’m now legally Mina! (Well, the real name I use in real life IN PLACE of Mina anyway ~_^) After a fair bit of fighting with Home Affairs, my name change came through last week, and on top of that, I got referred for an orchi … which happened 5 days later! Sometimes it’s amazing how things can just … shift literally over the course of a day or two after months of nothing so much as bashing your head out against a wall.

So yeah, I’m over the moon … and really sore. But the sore will pass, and in the meantime, Tramaset FTW! ^_^

Probably won’t be writing regularly again for a while yet – now the next priority becomes to find a job as a matter of urgency, but once that’s out of the way …


Transsexual and transgender people often get accused of threatening the very survival of the human species. Groups such as Focus on the Family single us out as the last gambit in the “Homosexual Agenda of Death”, tasked with nothing less than destroying the very foundations of the family and continued human existence. By turns we’re sinful perverts, demoniacally possessed or simply pure evil. Secular critics are a bit kinder: to them we’re just nuts.

These accusations tend to be extended to chromosomally or endocrinologically intersex people as well, despite irrefutable proof that they are simply biologically different. Even physical intersex gets dismissed as, at best a deformity, at worst the physical manifestation of original sin. (Yes, I’ve actually heard that as an argument for why people are born intersex. More than once.)

At the end of the day though, we’re all disorders and deformities. When sex evolved 350-odd million years ago, male and female were mutations, disorders that seemingly threatened the very survival of their species because these individuals needed to pair up to reproduce, unlike their ancestors who basically just cloned themselves. But because sexual reproduction allowed for greater adaptability and faster spread of advantageous traits, sex proved successful and became the dominant form of reproduction in both the plant and animal kingdoms. Sexual reproduction turned out to be a brilliant survival mechanism and it became the new norm. From the point of view of asexual creatures though, every male and female on this planet is a freak.

I’m not saying that intersex conditions fall into this category – the entire spectrum of intersex and transsexualism and transgender may be developmental dead-ends. But variation is the essence of evolution, and there is no way to predict what new variations add to our species as they develop. The fact that bisexuality and gender-variant behaviour is so widespread amongst animals, especially mammals, points to there being a definite survival value to it, otherwise these behaviours would long since have died out.

As a species, we are quick to label developmental variations as disorders or even as immoral or sinful, but I would argue that the disorder lies more in our society’s inability to adapt to and deal with these variations, than in any objective assessments of value. We fear what we don’t understand so we attack it, destroy it or hide it.

Take autism for example.

Autism is still regarded by most of the general public as a horrible mental disorder characterised by severely impaired social ability, repetitive behaviour, and mental retardation. Historically, autism and other neurological variations were regarded by turns as demonic possession or punishment from God. There are a few societies where such people were regarded as holy innocents instead, but the majority view was deeply negative, as it overwhelmingly remains today.

In reality though research is starting to show that autistic people are actually hyper-intelligent, and that it is our failure as a society to communicate with such people effectively that’s the problem.

The latest understanding of Autism Spectrum (AS) disorders is that people with AS have extreme male brains. They simply have a different way of thinking, hyper-systematizing and ordering. Under this new understanding, people with AS are actually hyper-intelligent in areas such as spacial and technical ability, and this is reflected by the fact that fathers and grandfathers of AS kids are almost twice as likely to have been engineers. Students in science tend to have more relatives with autism than the general population, while mathematicians tend to themselves be autistic more often. Asperger Syndrome, a milder form of autism, has even been called the “Geek syndrome” because sufferers tend to be extremely intelligent when it comes to science, math and other technical subjects, but lacking in social and empathic ability.

And then there are the truly amazing examples of this intelligence: Savants.

Stephen Wiltshire is an architectural artist with the ability to draw landscapes after only a single glance. He has featured on various television specials, has had collections of his work published and once drew the entirety of central London after a single helicopter trip over it. Yet he only developed the ability to speak around the age of nine, having been diagnosed with autism at the age of three.

Our society simply doesn’t know how to deal with these hyper-intelligent people, how to educate and interact with them, so we label them idiots, stick them in institutions and forget about them. Their amazing technical abilities go to waste and we are all the poorer for it.

Likewise, gender-variance is a poorly understood phenomenon, and despite mounting evidence of biological causes, still regarded almost universally negative by modern society. And yet people with intersex and gender-variant “conditions” have been around for at least as long as we’ve been writing things down, and in many cultures such people often came to be valued as mediators, medicine-people and priests. Falling “in-between” in a sense was seen to give such individuals a unique perspective on both sexes, and that perspective was valued.

Many gender-variant and intersex people see their “condition” as a burden, something to be ashamed of or angry about, and I can understand the sentiment – in our world it is a burden that isolates us and singles us out for ridicule and attack. And yet, in many other societies it was a gift, and in the same way that autism actually masks genius, who knows what gender-variance and intersex really is?


This is the last of my reprints from en.gender, so I promise there won’t be any more blasts from the past. Yay!

When Taysia Elzy and Michael Hunt were murdered late in 2008, a huge amount of attention was focussed on the fact that Taysia was transgender. Reporters made sure to point out that “he” had not had “the surgery” yet, that “he was living as a woman”. Commentary by readers was similarly obsessed with Taysia’s gender, and if the fact that the two of them were murdered was mentioned at all, it was mostly as an afterthought. The Huffington Post has a good summary article detailing events around the case.

Unfortunately it’s an all too common complaint against reporters covering trans-related stories. There was a rash of murders last year of trans people in the US, especially amongst black women, and yet most of the reporting was much more concerned by their gender than by their murders[1]. Closer to home, the Sunday Times in South Africa ran a feature called “Tranny Day”[2] in October of 2008. And most recently, I came across this little gem:

from LA MetBlogs:

I went to the tranny session and out of all the minorities struggling to find their voice in the LGBTI movement, none is between a bigger rock and a harder place than trannies. Generally considered a liability – as in, “You Buffalo Bills and walking Thai surgery centres represent that slippery slope argument they keep talking about” – trannies are the black sheep of the LGBTI family. My group was stymied as to how to make their social and political challenges relevant to the movement without alienating the public and indirectly hurting the gay community as a whole. What I took away from this was: that’s how non-white gays and lesbians used to, and still do, feel![3]

Nice huh? I thought the “Silence of the Lambs” reference was particularly classy.

Journalists don’t have the greatest track record when it comes to presenting the concerns and circumstances of transgender people sensitively. Granted, there’s still alot of misunderstanding and lack of knowledge around transsexuality and transgender people, but one can only excuse so much through ignorance before the argument falls flat. There are plenty of resources out there for journalists who care to look … sadly it just seems like many of them don’t.

The Associated Press updated its style guide in 2006 to take modern terminology and common usage of language around the LGBTQI community into account. Good style guides are also available at various places online:

  1. GLAAD Applauds Updated Associated Press Stylebook Entries
  2. GLAAD Media Reference Guide: Transgender Glossary of Terms
  3. NLGJA Stylebook Supplement: T

Just in brief, some basic guidelines and definitions to follow might include:

  • Gender identity is a person’s internal sense of him or herself as either a man or a woman. For transgender people, this gender identity is in partial or total conflict with their physical gender.
  • A transsexual person is somebody who’s gender identity is in direct opposition to their birth sex. Transsexual people sometimes do not identify with the broader term “transgender”, so use the term the person you are interviewing is comfortable with.
  • An androgyne person is somebody who’s gender identity is an equal mix of male and female elements, or else is in flux. Use gender neutral pronouns such as zir/zie or singular plurals, unless the person in question uses different pronouns.
  • A neutrois person is somebody who has no sense of gender identity, or else regards theirs as a distinct third type. As with androgyne people, use gender neutral pronouns unless otherwise okayed.
  • Transition is the process by which transgender people bring their bodies into alignment with their gender identities. This may include any or all of the following: counselling, hormone therapy, surgery, electrolysis and voice training. Transgender people do not always want to transition to the sex opposite that of their physical body. This may be especially true of androgyne or neutrois individuals. Most transsexual people do, though they may elect not to or be unable to have certain treatments due to costs or medical risks.
  • Terms such as “tranny”, “she-male”, “he-she” and “it” are all deeply offensive. Avoid using them.

Beyond language usage there’s also the question of … tact. Understandably, journalists are always looking for something to make their piece stand out and draw readers, but there are certain boundaries that need to be respected:

Obviously, the first and most important rule is that you respect the person. You’re talking to an individual, a human being, not a gender. Ask the person how they want to be referred to and stick to that, and respect boundaries they set on what they are willing to share or discuss.

  1. Refer to a person by the pronouns and conventions of their gender-identity, not their physical sex, and use their chosen name. So if somebody identifies as male, use male pronouns and conventions, whatever their biology and/or gender presentation at the time. The same goes for a person who identifies as a woman, as androgyne or as neutrois.
  2. Trans people are born the gender they identify as, so don’t refer to the past in terms of “when you were a “guy/girl”. If you have to bring up the past, which is a touchy subject to most trans people to begin with, stick to “before you transitioned”, or something along similar lines. Similarly, a trans woman might have been born physically male, but that doesn’t equate to her being born a man. She was born a woman, though with a male body.
  3. Gender identity is not sexual orientation. Gender identity is who you are, sexual orientation is who you are attracted to. Just as there are straight, gay, bi and asexual non-transgender people, trans people also exhibit all orientations. Sexual orientation is expressed in terms of the person’s gender, not their birth sex. So, for example, a trans woman attracted to women is a lesbian, the body she was born with notwithstanding.
  4. Privacy. Besides the obvious that there are certain things people will not be comfortable discussing, not respecting a trans person’s privacy can have devastating repercussions. Most transgender people blend completely into society in the gender they identify as, with nobody the wiser. Publishing sensitive information can not only compromise this, but place a transgender individual at serious risk of losing a job or a home or of being targeted with violence.
  5. Do not discuss genitals. Ever. How would you like a perfect stranger asking you about yours? Whether the person has had surgery or not is similarly none of your business. The only people who have a right to know these things are medical professionals and intimate partners.
  6. Most importantly, don’t treat them differently. A woman with a trans history is simply a woman with a medical history. The fact that she had to have a birth condition medically rectified has no bearing on who she is. Treat her as you would anybody else.



1. 2008 at TDoR

2. Tranny Day – Sunday Times ZA

3. Equality Summit or: GayCon 2009 – LA MetBlogs