My Experience of Gender Transition

My Experience of Gender Transition

It’s over seven months now since I transitioned to living full-time as a woman and I think it’s a good time to review what has happened in that time and what I’ve learned.

My Work Transition

At work
Hard at work (soundtrack by Green Day)

The time has certainly flown. It doesn’t seem so long since I first turned up at work as Alex. Perhaps preparation was the key — I discussed it with HR beforehand — but it went without a hitch. I visited a local solicitor on a Friday evening to have my Statutory Declaration — my legal change of name — witnessed. I had printed several copies of my own document based on a template on the Citizens’ Advice Bureau web site. The solicitor checked the wording and I had four of them witnessed at £5 each. Quite a bargain! and I ended up with four original documents from which I made a number of photocopies. (Some organisations require an original when changing one’s name; most do not.)

The following Monday morning I arrived at work as a woman for the first time and sent a company-wide email in which I simply stated that I am a trans woman and I had changed my name. I included a brief description and links to information on the web as well as two of my own blog posts.

The reactions ranged from total indifference to active support, and sitting here months later I can say that I have not had a single negative experience at work. Understandably, since I had been in the job for seven years as a male, some people have slipped up occasionally with pronouns but they correct themselves and I just let it go as an honest mistake.

Changing my name on my employment records was straightforward with a copy of the declaration for my personnel file, and I had already contacted the Inland Revenue and my bank to inform them so that all my details would be in step. I was issued a pass in my new name with an updated photo, and my company login and email address were altered that same day.

What Happened Since

When I transitioned at work I was taking medication for depression that was caused by my gender dysphoria. I’ve written about that before, but I’ll just summarise: the SSRI pills (Citalopram) helped a lot initially with the low mood, loss of appetite and poor concentration, but I did suffer moderate side-effects including nausea and disturbed sleep. After I transitioned I increasingly felt that the negatives of the medication were outweighing the benefits, especially since transitioning improved the circumstances that were the main cause of my depression.

Now that I’ve been off the pills for several weeks I feel more myself. I’m better motivated, I’m sleeping well, my appetite is normal and I’m able to concentrate fully. I do still feel very low at times — the depression hasn’t been magically cured — but it’s manageable.

My relationship with my wife, Anne, continues to be strong even though her illness means we have not been out socially at all since New Year. Her support is another factor helping me cope with my depression.

What I’ve Learned

I went into my transition with an open mind and only the minimum of planning — not one of my strengths. All I have — all I need — to guide me is my self-image. I know who I am and the steps I take along the way are to bring me closer to that.

That’s not to say I didn’t learn all I could about transitioning, about the various options for medical treatment and about other trans people’s experiences through their writings. There are a number of things I’ve learned; some practical, some important and some trivial.

  • There are no “right” or “wrong” ways to transition, no particular order in which steps must be completed. Indeed, there are no compulsory steps at all. It’s important to find what works for you because your situation and individual needs will be particular to you.
  • It takes longer to get ready in the morning. Showering, dressing, applying make-up and styling my hair means that my morning routine is longer and more time-consuming than it used to be. Rather than get up earlier I now start work later. (I’ve never been a morning person!)
  • I am very self-conscious about my facial hair. I have not yet had any form of hair removal treatment so I rely on shaving my face and reducing the shadow using make-up. I am reluctant to go out the door, even into our back garden, without at least a shave and some foundation.
  • I hate shaving my face! I have sensitive skin and after shaving it is always reddened, dry and sore in places. I also, despite all my years of experience, still manage to cut myself with the razor more often than not.
  • Pretty much everybody I interact with at work and outside just treats me normally. Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised, but I kind of expected to be regarded as a bit of a freak. This was one of my most pleasant surprises.
  • I feel more vulnerable when I’m out on my own than when I was presenting as male.
  • The NHS services for the treatment of gender dysphoria are seriously under funded and under resourced. It took over 6 months to even get a response from the Charing Cross clinic after my referral, and it is likely to take many more months before I get my first appointment for assessment. All this is required before any treatment such as HRT will be considered.
  • There is more variation in the sizing of women’s clothing than men’s. One item labelled size 20 (UK) could be equivalent to another labelled 16. Being able to judge a garment’s size by eye is a useful skill to develop.
  • Driving in heels doesn’t affect my control of the vehicle but can cause a lot of wear on the backs of the shoes. I now wear flat shoes for driving and change when I get where I’m going.
  • Having my ears pierced didn’t hurt much at all. I guess the earlobes are not very sensitive.
  • It’s not worth spending a lot on clothes when starting your wardrobe for your new gender role. It takes time to learn what colours and styles suit you, and what feels most comfortable.
  • It is worth having a reasonable budget for shoes, and taking your time when choosing them. Don’t forget that any shoes for work will be on your feet all day, so don’t sacrifice comfort for looks.
  • Sports bras that have built-in padding work great with breast enhancers (aka “chicken fillets”). They’re comfortable, keep things in place well, and the pads smooth out any “lumps” as well as adding a little extra size.
  • A lot of women’s clothes use softer fabrics than men’s, which is a bonus for someone like me who has above normal tactile sensitivity.
  • Fancy outfits are fun and great for going out (or to work), but don’t forget to include something casual for popping down to the shops, lounging around watching movies, and doing chores. As much as I love a dress and heels, I find a T-shirt and leggings or pyjamas are most comfortable and practical in and around the home.
  • Invest in a practical bag. Very few dresses or skirts have pockets, so you’ll need something to carry your wallet/purse, keys, phone, etc. while making sure you can actually find these items. It’s not good if retrieving your keys means emptying your bag every time you arrive at your front door!

18 thoughts on “My Experience of Gender Transition

  1. This post made me smile. I’m happy to hear things have been going well for you and your transition at work went so positively.

    It’s interesting that you find the fabrics of women’s clothes to often be more comfortable. I’m sitting here wearing my husband’s new flannel shirt, which I’ve poached from the laundry, and wishing I’d gotten one for myself. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Making somebody smile is so rewarding! 🙂

      I’m sat here wearing a jersey (cotton/synthetic blend) dress that is soft, smooth and moderately stretchy — and very comfortable. I used to wear cotton shirts to work but had to be very picky to avoid issues with collars, seams and material that was too stiff. I ended up with 6 or 7 identical shirts once I found one that suited! One plus was that I never had to decide what to wear! 😉

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  2. Hi Alex,
    I just want to say that it has been just great to see how you seem to have become happier in yourself since you embarked on this – something that I think others have noticed – which confirms it has been a great thing to do. I salute your courage in the whole process and I think that it has probably been good for others to see that such a change has been a positive thing.

    With regard to bags, I have had a ‘manbag’ for over 25 years now – starting back when it used to get funny looks in town. But of course I always end up filling it so I guess no bag is ever going to be big enough! Gave me a small insight to what it might be like having a handbag 🙂

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  3. Many of the things you noticed are perhaps made more noticeable by the transition and having experienced it from two genders. I wonder how much insight we could gain into gender issues if we listened more to the trans population’s experience of changing gender roles. In any case, thanks for sharing and I’m glad to hear that you are doing well with the transition!

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    1. Thanks T.Rob. I’m sure you’re correct. Having some experience of both ends of the gender spectrum does provide an insight into differences. But one surprising thing is how similar the experiences are one you get past the superficial aspects.

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  4. I always love to hear your thoughts on your transition, especially when they are so positive! This whole post really made me smile and gave me a lot of good stuff to think about.

    Also, this may sound a little silly, but there are a few of those points I wish somebody would have told me (as a cis woman) when I started finding my style, deciding how I wanted to appear at work and in social settings, and even just going through puberty. Some little things just never get mentioned, and to some of us it takes us quite a while to figure it out without somebody explicitly stating that “Yes! You CAN drive barefoot! No one will arrest you or call you gross or throw your shoes out the window.”

    P.S. Using emphasis tags to wrap the word “me” is both really satisfying and really confusing. Tongue- Finger-twister.

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    1. Hi Nattily. Yes, it’s quite a revelation when you figure it out. I had my share of false starts (blue nails really don’t suit me, and as much as I love my boots with the 5″ heels they’re not very practical for everyday).

      P.S. I had to try emphasising “me”. Just because. Very satisfying! 🙂

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  5. It is interesting to read such a detailed gender transformation process description. I never paid much thought to the practical side of it, but of course it is a practical process, as well as a psychological and social one.

    Driving in heels doesn’t affect my control of the vehicle but can cause a lot of wear on the backs of the shoes.

    I had an accident many years ago, one of the few times I’ve tried to drive in heels. I think what happened was that the heel got under the brake pedal, because I couldn’t get the brake pedal down, and slowly rolled out into an intersection where I was hit by another car. (I was also feeling very stressed/depressed that day, and maybe was simply fumbling & panicking in the same time due to poor concentration).
    Nowadays I rarely drive with any type of shoes on, I take my shoes off when I enter the driver’s seat, and just drive in my socks or bare feet. I find that I have a much better sense of control & fine coordination that way, and it also feels much more comfortable and interesting to be able to touch the pedals and surroundings with the feet all the time. It is always nice to be able to move one’s toes:-)
    A good thing about shoes with heels is that most are easy to slide in and out of, so it isn’t really a biggie to take them off before driving, people barely notice it.

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    1. I wore heavy boots almost exclusively as a male, and had occasional driving slips with them: because of the width of the sole I occasionally hit both the brake and accelerator with the same foot (darned pedals too close together), which was scary. At least I’d successfully pressed the clutch with my left foot, or it could have been nasty. I have driven barefoot or in socks a couple of times, but find my feet are overly sensitive and it’s not that comfortable. So now, as I mentioned, I wear a pair of flat shoes that I can quickly change from my heels. Being able to just slip them on and off is great, especially compared to the time it used to take to lace and tie my boots. Slip-on shoes FTW!

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  6. Hi Alex! So pleased it’s going well for you, just something to note- I’ve found shaving has gotten worse now my skin has softened from hormones, women’s razors with aloe or something similar may help.
    Love hearing about others transitions, makes me feel part of something.
    Hugs
    Steffi

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    1. Thanks Steffi! I also love to read other experiences with transitioning, and I know just what you mean about feeling part of it. I’m looking into hair removal (electrolysis) right now, so hopefully (if I can afford it) the shaving will become less of an issue. Thanks for the tip about women’s razors. Paradoxically I’ve noticed that shaving more frequently seems to cause less irritation, maybe because the hairs have less chance to grow. xx

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  7. Hiya Alex.
    I transitioned three and a half years ago and reading this, especially your list, sounded so familiar. The biggest difference was work. I transitioned while unemployed which, while hard, was not impossible. I just wish I’d had your list then. I’m now working as an assistant manager of an IT company and am just treated as one of the girls, (although, one of only two). Only three people at work know of my past and their reactions were along the lines of “Yeah, and…?”. Glad to hear you still have a strong relationship with your wife. Tracey knew right from the start of our relationship and we married last year and, if it wasn’t for her, things would have probably been a lot more difficult. I do hope that things speed up with the NHS for you. Having been there, its a pain but worth the wait. I look forward to reading more.

    Christine x

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    1. Hi Christine. It’s really encouraging to read your experience. While I have no doubts or regrets about where I am today, the length of the process sometimes feels daunting. It helps to hear from somebody who is further along as it reassures me that the journey is finite and I will get there in the end. Thank you xx

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  8. Hey Alex, it’s great to hear a little recap and how everything’s been going. I’m so happy for you that everything seems to have gone pretty well! And interesting to read your remarks on female clothing, like no pockets and the sizes all over the place 😉 Annoying things, but already part of the way the world is for many women, and you have a fresh perspective on these things.
    I can imagine the shaving is a bit of an issue, I suppose it’s so “in your face” (liteally and figuratively. I was wondering if the combination of shaving and the foundation creates problems? I mean, the skin becomes more sensitive and then there’s make-up on top of it, could that add to irritation?
    Anyway, I hope things work out / go quicker with the NHS and that your experiences continue to be so positive!

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    1. Hi Petra. I don’t think the make-up is causing any problems – there’s no redness or irritation after I remove it. I’ve always had problems with shaving — that’s why I had a beard for so many years. I’m looking into electrolysis at the moment but cost is an issue. I’ll just have to do what I can as and when I can save up the money. Thank you for your kind wishes. x

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