Originally published on Neutrois.me and republished here with the author’s permission.
After what seemed like an endless quest for just the right word to describe your experience outside of the gender binary, you found a label that screams YOU.
Or perhaps you were on a decades-long seesaw, oscillating between masculine and feminine, when you planted yourself firmly in the middle, nearly defying gravity.
And you were ecstatic.
You felt seen and heard and understood for the first time. You felt there was a way out of a gender binary that wasn’t allowing you to live.
That’s all old news to you.
You’ve already embraced non-binary gender as a core essence of your identity. Now, you want to do something about it.
It might seem as if transition is only for “real” transgender people – those who identify as men or women. After all, a trans man is a man, and a trans woman is a woman.
Where does that leave us, the trans not-men, trans not-women?
As a result of poor information, several myths and misconceptions surrounding non-binary people and their options for transitioning abound.
And not only is most of it false, but there are indeed ways to transition authentically, to pursue changes while staying true to who you need to be.
But we’ve got to get past these pesky myths first.
Myth #1:You Can’t Transition At All
Well, this is obviously untrue. I – and many others like me – are living proof of that.
But let’s unpack it for a moment.
For me, being transgender simply means having a gender that doesn’t match the one you were assigned at birth (which is nearly always exclusively male or female, and based on external genitalia). The importance of this definitions lies in its ample leeway to identify outside of the binary, while still honoring the shared experience of unease with the gender you were expected to be. .
Once I realized that I didn’t have to “want to be a man” in order to be transgender, I felt huge relief, and immediately settled down and got cozy with the trans label. Consciously identifying as transgender wasn’t just the gateway to invaluable resources, it also gifted me with a community: a group of people I could see myself – my experiences, past, present, and possible futures – reflected in.
The second assumption behind this myth is trapping the concept of transition within a binary.
Again, I didn’t have to “want to be a man” in order to “not be a woman” – those two paths not mutually exclusive.
Someone at a workshop once said, “I’m not going from point A to point B. All I know for sure is that I left point A.”
It’s okay if your destination is still unknown. As long as the next step is right in front of you, there’s no reason you shouldn’t pursue it.
Myth #2: You Can’t Medically Transition
Untrue. (Of course, all of these will be false, because they’re myths, so I’ll just stop saying it.)
WPATH released the 7th version of their Standards of Care in late 2011. And for the first time ever, people with non-binary gender were included.
Purposefully vague, the new guidelines mention “target gender” as opposed to “opposite gender.” They encourage the use of Informed Consent so medical professionals act as providers rather than gatekeepers. And WPATH clearly states these are guidelines, not rules, emphasizing a holistic care model to treat individuals on a case-by-case basis instead of applying a blanket set of rules.
So officially, you’re covered.
Yet we all know something about having to go against the grain to be happy.
Standards or guidelines shouldn’t stop you from seeking (or finding) what you need.
For instance, I had top surgery before WPATH updated the Standards of Care, when hormones and “opposite gender” and “12 months of real life experience” were the “official” norm.
I had surgery without a letter from a mental health professional (which, by the way, is still a requirement, even under the newest SOC). I had surgery without any intentions of transitioning further. It’s what I felt I had to do at that moment, so I pushed forth.
Yet often what makes us hesitate are not external regulations.
Does “not trans enough” sound familiar?
Whether it comes from outside peer pressure or from internal doubt, we carry a kind of guilt that we’re accessing services we don’t “really need” because we’re not “really trans” or whatever other “scare quote phrases” we mentally try to convince ourselves of.
There’s nothing more I can say to assure you that this is totally, utterly untrue and invalid – other than to restate that, no matter what others (or your mind) say, it’s simply not true.
I leave you with this story. A few days after my surgery, I found myself emotionally vulnerable. I was freaking out about my mangled, bloody chest, and frantically questioning my decision. I kept pleading with my father, “What if this was a mistake? What if this is all just some radical idea I bought into?”
He very patiently responded, “Well, why should you buy into that idea?”
Even the idea that we’re not really trans is just a construct.
Myth #3: You Can’t Socially Transition
False again! (Okay, last time, I promise)!
You can – in a way.
Social transition in any scenario takes a lot of work, though more so if your gender falls outside the binary.
Changing your name or having uncommon pronouns will require a lot of explaining, a lot of reminding, a lot of pushing against the current, and an embarrassing fear of sounding ridiculous or not being taken seriously.
Sometimes, this fear might even turn into reality.
As long as you’re willing to put in the work, there’s a chance you can get close to your ideal. Especially if you just focus on the few dozen people you encounter every day – those that account for upwards of 90% of your social interactions, those who are also willing to put in the work with you – it’s possible to get to a place where you feel pretty darn good about yourself.
It’ll probably never be perfect, but nothing ever is.
As much as I’d love it if random strangers stopped calling me “ma’am” or “sir,” I’d like it a lot more if random strangers said “good morning,” or if they didn’t give me the stink eye or push me around on the bus, and if they were overall just a little kinder.
A big part of transitioning (as with everything in life) is learning to accept what is possible and what is not – coming to terms with the fact that we are all imperfect humans living imperfect lives.
But if we push hard enough, the line between the impossible and reality can shift – ever so slightly, ever so slowly, forward.
Myth #4: You Can’t Legally Transition
This one really depends.
Legal territory is as complex as the gender spectrum, so I won’t get too much into it.
With less than a handful of exceptions worldwide, it is impossible at the present moment to change your legal gender to something other than M or F.
However, it is possible to go from one to the other, even if you do not identify as either.
Remember that “legal gender” is a social construct: It’s only as good as the document it’s on.
In the US, each document has its own rules for how to change the legal gender on it, often requiring at least a generic medical letter (DMV or US Passport), or some sort of surgery (birth certificates), or a specific set of surgeries (many countries), to possibly long and costly trial involving doctors and lawyers and judges (see Germany as one example).
One thing’s for sure: You’ll end up doing lots of paperwork.
In the end, you simply have to ask yourself if it’s a step worth taking when the outcome is still not ideal –and don’t be afraid to answer “yes.”
Myth #5: Nobody Will Love You
Our bodies are all different.
For example, I‘m short – really, really short. This means I was pretty bad at most competitive sports, given that my competitors had a huge advantage over me, literally. This also seriously hurt my chances at finding love, because dating someone more than a foot taller than me would feel awkward.
Genders – and gendered bodies – are considered to be a “legitimate” reason for liking or not liking someone. I mean, most people usually eliminate half of the population just by declaring a preference towards one gender, popularly known as a sexual orientation.
Instead of gender, I can more easily relate to the myriad other criteria for why someone would or would not want to date/cuddle/bonk you, whether we’re talking about your body (short), your mind (analytical), your emotions (stoic), your personality (spunky with a bit of bossy), where you live (on the other side of the world), what music you like (jazzercise), or even stuff like whether you’re a cat person or a dog person (cute puppies only, please).
And given that delicate web of requirements, it’s clear that you’re not going to find that magical connection with just anyone.
So forget about gender and people’s preoccupation with it, and concentrate on finding people who like everything else about you.
Above all, concentrate on loving yourself, too.
Lastly, take a moment to consider that you – yet another ordinary person – have been able to come to these enlightening conclusions about the gender binary.
Who’s to say some other random dude/dudette/dudelydoo won’t as well?
Transition: It’s Not Easy, But It’s Worth It
It took me a while to realize non-binary transition – on my own terms – was an option at all.
From there, I logged countless sleepless nights frantically doing research, from figuring out what I wanted to do in the first place, to what it would mean for me and my gender, to finally sorting out logistics of how to go about doing it.
I’ve had to figure a lot of this out on my own.
Non-binary transition is riddled with unanswered questions that are ultimately up to the individual to decide.
Sometimes, the best answer is “it depends” or “it’s really up to you” or even “it sucks, but you gotta deal with it.”
But at least we’re thinking about it, swapping stories, and figuring it out together. In some cases, it’s only a matter of awareness; if people know where to look, they will more likely find.
Transition has brought me an inner comfort and happiness I never expected to be attainable for me, and I hope it can do the same for you.
Micah is the little awesome writer and transgender advocate behind the blog Neutrois Nonsense, which explores non-binary transition, gender, and finding life wisdom beyond the binary. You can follow them on Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook @neutrois.