No Straight Answers: A fiercely queer guide to love, life and mental health.
Therapy sessions with trans and gender non-conforming people often end with the words, “I just need to be patient”.
For clients, this often means being patient with themselves, patient with their friends and family, and also patient for systemic change.
The process of ‘transitioning’ can be incredibly exciting, hopeful and joyous but also very painful and can involve a grieving process for all involved.
Those of us who socially, psychologically and/or medically transition have the enormous task of trying to work out what our gender identity is in a cisnormative world that assumes everyone is cisgender from birth.
For the lucky few, the process of transitioning is quick. This might be because of financial resources, good support from friends and family, or because medical transition is not necessary. These factors can mean family and societal rejection and stigmatisation is massively reduced.
For others, transitioning can be a very long and drawn-out process, particularly where there are multiple intersecting identities. Religion, race, class and other identities may mean increased stigma around being trans and gender non-conforming.
Our relationships with our friends and family can become fraught during our transition journeys. Part of the reason for this is that many trans and gender nonconforming people have spent years in secrecy coming to terms with the possibility of being trans or gender nonconforming.
When we do decide to come out to our friends and family, this long-awaited disclosure may be met with shock, surprise, disbelief, dread, fear, anxiety and all manner of painful emotions. Tragically, this disclosure is rarely met with celebration and joy.
This doesn’t mean that family and friends don’t later celebrate our transition, but these initial. sometimes painful, experiences can destabilise our relationships.
Relationship strain in friendships can also happen when trans and gender nonconforming people discover they need more queer community in their lives as they progress in their transition. I hear many of my clients voice frustration about having to upskill their cisgender friends and becoming increasingly worn out by the emotional labour involved in these relationships.
For those who wish to seek medical transition, this journey can be much longer. We know waiting times for gender identity clinics (GICs) in the UK have reached an all-time high – some upwards of 5 years. This figure doesn’t even include the extra time added between further appointments.
Whichever way you cut it, transitioning takes time.
Patience is a lesson and skill we all must learn at some point in life and when it comes to transitioning, trans and gender nonconforming people are tasked with mastering patience.
For those of you who are going through the process of transitioning and struggling, please know that it gets easier.
Trust what you need in this process and know that it’s okay to not have it all figured out.
Yes, you may lose people along the way but you’ll benefit from knowing that the ones who remain are your true friends.
Know that despite recent political setbacks, systemic change is happening. I see it everyday.
Most importantly, know that you are enough.
If you’re struggling with your transition, reach out to you local queer organisations and LGBTQIA+ therapist directories.
Trans community can be a cure-all for transitioning trans and gender nonconforming people, so find ways to connect either online or through a local LGBTQIA+ group (I’ll list just a handful of organisations below too).
For more from The Queer Therapist, follow their social channels @theqtherapist
Chris Sheridan, The Queer Therapist, is a trans non-binary psychotherapist, sex and relationship therapist, Diversity, Inclusion and Equality Consultant and health content writer who specialises in trans and queer mental health, sex and relationships.
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