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Transgender people have a range of experiences with transitioning. Some may transition socially, legally, and medically, some may transition only socially, and some may not do any of these.

What does it mean to transition?

Transitioning is the process of changing the way you look and how people see and treat you so that you become the gender you feel on the inside. Transitioning can means lots of different things. It can involve medical treatment and hormones. It can involve changing your name and preferred pronouns. It can involve changing your appearance and dress. It can involve coming out to your friends and family. It can be a long and ongoing process. Or it can be something that happens over a short period of time.

How do transgender people transition?

There are two different types of transition, or ways to affirm your gender: social transition and medical transition.

Social transitioning may include:

  • coming out to your friends and family as transgender

  • asking people to use pronouns (she/her, he/him, they/them) that match your gender identity

  • going by a different name

  • dressing/grooming in ways that match your gender identity

For trans men, or FTM, medical transition may include any of the following:

  • hormone therapy (to create masculine characteristics such as a deeper voice, facial hair growth, muscle growth, redistribution of body fat away from hips and breasts, not getting a period, etc.)

  • male chest reconstruction, or “top surgery” (removal of breasts and breast tissue)

  • hysterectomy (removal of internal female reproductive organs such as the ovaries and uterus)

  • phalloplasty (construction of a penis using skin from other parts of your body)

  • metoidioplasty (surgery that causes your clitoris to work more like a penis, along with hormone treatment to make your clitoris grow larger)

For trans women, or MTF, medical transition may include any of the following:

  • hormone therapy (to create feminine characteristics such as less body hair, breasts, redistribution of body fat toward hips and breasts, etc.)

  • breast augmentation (implants)

  • orchiectomy (removal of testes)

  • laser hair removal (to remove hair from your face or other parts of your body)

  • tracheal shave (making your Adam’s apple smaller)

  • facial feminization surgery (create smaller, more feminine facial features)

  • penile inversion vaginoplasty (creation of a vagina by inverting penile skin)

Does everyone who is transgender decide to transition?

No, not all transgender people transition. For those who do, not all transition in the same way. Some may transition socially and not medically. Some may transition medically by doing one or only a few of the procedures listed above. Some may take hormones and decide not to have any surgeries, or just choose one kind of surgery and none of the others.

There are many reasons for the differences in how people transition. These medical procedures can be very expensive, which means that not everyone can afford them. Some transgender people may have health insurance that covers transition-related procedures, and some may not. And finally, but most importantly — not all trans people want all of the available medical procedures.

Regardless of whether a transgender person chooses to transition and how they choose to do it, they're no more “real” than other trans people who don’t transition. Someone’s gender identity should always be respected no matter how they decide to transition socially or medically.

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