3 Lessons I’ve Learned Transitioning From Female to Male
And what you can take away from them
In everyday life, I often come across people who, after finding out I’m transgender, become curious about it all. “What’s it like?” “Does it feel weird?”
I’ve been medically transitioning for five years. After several assessments over four years by different doctors, I was finally approved for HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) and gender reassignment surgeries (‘Top Surgery’ and Hysterectomy) from the age of 20.
When I first got the approval, you would’ve had a super hard time wiping the smile from my face. So much so, all the way home I felt like I had to keep myself from smiling too much at strangers (people think you’re weird if you do that here in the UK).
When it came time for the first injection itself, I was shaking with both anticipation and excitement — that was until I realized the site of injection was my butt. I had to laugh. When all was said and done, I left the doctor's office with a sore cheek and an even bigger smile.
Here’s what I’ve learned from transitioning.
Life is a long game
As a kid, I remember using analog, early digital stuff and a time before the internet was present in my family— VHS tapes, cassette tapes, huge box TV’s, Floppy disks in massive computers, the Sega Megadrive (remember blowing those cartridges?). Those are the kinds of devices that instill delayed gratification.
We as a society soon started down the slippery slope towards instant gratification. And I must say, I’m very much guilty of succumbing to the “I want this by yesterday” attitude.
But what’s all that got to do with transition? People are still often mistaken by the idea that a person undergoes a ‘sex change operation’ and results are effectively achieved overnight — instant gratification, right? Even in the transgender community, we typically compare ourselves to one another and obsess over having ‘changes’ as soon as possible.
Well, I’m afraid that’s not the case. It takes a long-ass time to transition medically.
In the early days, there’s a lot of excitement of ‘finally being on T (testosterone)’, but the initial excitement does wane when changes are slow to arrive.
Patience can be quite a tough character trait to develop for a lot of people. However, all it takes is an understanding that life is a long game, you don’t always get what you want when you want it — and sometimes it’s better that way.
In your life, try to cultivate a habit of delaying gratification. Suck it up and do the hard things first before allowing yourself to relax and fall into procrastination mode.
Calling out sexism
I’m just going to say it, a lot of guys have quite different kinds of conversations when there aren’t any women around. Usually, it’s about sports, games, or TV and fandoms, in my case anime. But other times, in traditionally male-only spaces like a barber’s shop or gym changing rooms, the topic of women becomes forefront.
Since ‘passing’ as a male, albeit a pretty short one, I’ve been welcomed into these spaces and conversations. I’ve heard such wonderful delights as dude-bros bragging about cheating on their girlfriends, talking about how much they want to ‘ram’ some other poor girl next. In some rare cases, even going as far as joking about rape.
You could cut through the thick tension with a knife when I say “Dude, that’s not cool,” or “I don’t get it, is that supposed to be a joke? Explain it to me.”
When that happens, any laughter stops dead. Granted, it’s taken a long time for me to become confident enough to push back against this kind of behavior when I see or hear it. I’ve also realized men become quite uncomfortable when it’s coming from ‘one of their own’.
Having experienced sexual objectification as a teenage girl, being on the other side of the fence has taught me these kinds of men only respect other men's opinions. So I have to use my position to call out sexism when I come across it.
Guys, if you have a friend who makes sexist remarks around you, don’t be afraid to question them and make them feel uncomfortable about their sh**ty behavior. Laughing along with them only serves to reinforce their beliefs that what they’re doing is okay.
Love for myself and others
The other huge lesson I’ve learned is being kind to myself and loving others, whatever they think of me.
Early on in my transition, it would upset me a lot if someone misgendered me. I’d get angry, impatient, or irritable. I’d project this idea they either hated me or didn’t respect me, which in reality was just a reflection of what I thought of myself at the time.
I had customers at my job who were familiar with my face but didn’t know me well, assumed I identified as female, and used the incorrect pronouns. Yes, I corrected them but they still forgot nearly every time, right up until I started to grow facial hair.
Heck, if people don’t see my testosterone-induced facial hair or balding head (hat and mask), or hear me speak, they sometimes still misgender me because I’m so damn short, which can’t be helped.
That doesn’t mean they hated or had some sort of vendetta against me. Most of the time, they probably weren’t even sure and felt embarrassed by their uncertainty. In the rare case someone actually is expressing hatred towards me, I have the confidence to just laugh at them and sometimes engage in a real conversation with them to see why, and let them know I’m just as human as they are.
(Of course, if you’re in physical danger, be vigilant and call emergency contacts/services if you need to.)
By learning to love myself more as I get older (and my transition becomes more irrelevant), I’ve also learned to extend that love to others. I’m far happier for it than withering in a bath of misery.
There are billions of different ways to view the world and other people. Just because your way might be all you can see, doesn’t mean it’s automatically ‘right’ or ‘true’.
I’d encourage you to have a conversation or two with people who either disagree with you about something or comes from a contrasting culture. Instead of trying to ‘win’ the conversation, try to understand them. By doing this, you can foster empathy and love for others.
In my case, these lessons came from personal experience, but most can be applied to your daily life as well. Sometimes the best lessons are those that we can observe from other people’s experiences (instead of making lots of mistakes ourselves)
Alexander Boswell is a Business Ph.D candidate specialising in Consumer Behaviour and uses this knowledge as a freelance writer in the Content Marketing and B2B SaaS space. Find him on Twitter @alexbboswell or his website alexanderbboswell.com