Transitioning is the process of changing genders - the idea of what it means to be female or male. For transexuals, the new gender is "opposite" that of birth sex; for intersex people it is different from how they were raised; for genderqueer people it is neither solely female nor male. Cross-dressers and drag queens and drag kings tend not to transition. Though people who transition from one gender to another have a lot in common, the details of transitioning are unique to each one.
Transition must begin with a decision to transition and the realization that the transitioner's gender identity does not match the gender identity that others perceive them to have, normally the one they were assigned at birth. The most significant part of transitioning is coming out for the first time. Transitioning is a process, not an event, that takes anywhere between several months and several years. Some people, especially genderqueer people, may spend their whole life transitioning as they redefine and re-interpret their gender as time passes. Transitioning generally begins where the person feels comfortable: For some, this begins with their family with whom they are intimate and reaches to friends later or may begin with friends first and family later. Sometimes transitioning is at different levels between different spheres of life. For example, someone may transition far with family and friends before even coming out at work.
Transitioning is sometimes confused with gender reassignment surgery but GRS is, at most, one element of transitioning. Many people who transition choose not to have SRS. Whereas SRS is only a physical change, transitioning is physical, social, and emotional. Some genderqueer and some intersex people have little or no desire to change their body but will transition in other ways.
Passing refers to being perceived by others as their own gender identity. This can be one part of phase of transitioning, though genderqueer people may choose to purposely not pass. Someone observing, for example, a trans woman passing may know of her trans status but still considers her a woman.
Real life experience or Going fulltime refers to passing or trying to pass all the time, limited only by legal or bodily restraints. When they begin going full time, a person will not pass; this comes after practice. Psychiatrists using the Harry Benjamin Standards of Care for Gender Identity Disorders require going fulltime before recommending hormones or surgery.
Going stealth means to live as a gender without others realizing they are or were trans. Thus a person may be passing but not stealth. Trans people often go stealth in public but not with family, partners, or intimate friends.
Transitioning is a complicated process that involves any or all or the gendered aspects of a person's life. Below are the some common parts of transitioning. People will choose elements based on their own gender identity, body image, personality, finances, and sometimes that attitudes of others. A degree of experimentation is used to know what changes best fit them. Transitioning also varies between cultures and subcultures according to differences in the societies' views of gender.
- Coming out
- Gender role changes
- Legally and/or socially changing their name to something consistent with their gender identity
- Asking others to use a set of pronouns different than before
- Having one's legal gender changed on their driver's license, ID, birth certificate, etc
- Personal relationships take on different dynamics in accordance with gender
- Changing the type and style of clothing, jewelry, accessories, and makeup
- Adopting the mannerisms, or gender role
- Any surgery and/or hormone therapy
- Changing their voice's pitch and inflection
- Sexual acts, especially if the body's sex organs have changed
- A person's ideas about gender in general may change which may affect their religious, philosophical and/or political beliefs
- Real life test/experience issues and how to cope with them such as passing or going stealth
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