Ever since I came out as trans, I’ve been getting a lot of questions about my transness. Many of these questions are about the science behind it, the process I’ve been going through, and other things that require detailed answers. I very much so appreciate that so many people have been coming to me, an informed jackass with a blog, as opposed to some other misinformed jackass with a blog so I want to answer all of your questions but it is a lot of work so I decided to make this FAQ to help me with that. Please read it, please use it as a secondary/tertiary resource, and please share with your friends. Don’t be afraid to ask even more questions in the comment section, below. If I get enough questions, I might do a “Trans FAQ 2: Electric Boogaloo” or something like that. I’ll be glad to answer any questions that are asked in good faith.
Please note that I am a white trans woman and will be speaking from the point of view of a white trans woman. That means there will be significantly less information that applies to trans men, non-binary people, gender fluid people, and trans people of color. I do not feel qualified to speak about any of those topics with any authority. My goal isn’t to exclude other trans people. I just don’t want to speak for someone that I’m not then get it wrong.
This is not a traditional article. There will be no closing paragraph so I’m going to insert the obligatory, “please like, comment, subscribe, and follow me on social media,” right here. I will also be posting a bonus article that is basically just a list of trans resources that are local to Austin, Texas and surrounding areas on Monday. I will resume my regular writing next Friday. Please enjoy!
1. How do you know?
There wasn’t a single epiphany or anything like that. It was a bunch of small things that added up over time. My earliest sign was probably back when I was a little kid. Back then, I was obsessed with archeology. Popular media had me thinking there would be a lot more guns and magical artifacts involved. Anyways, I wanted to be like Indiana Jones but I wanted to BE Lara Croft. At the time, I didn’t realize how big of a distinction this would be.
There were other signs, though. I naturally gravitated to almost exclusively female role models both fictional (Pink Ranger, Cardcaptor Sakura, Chun Li, etc.) and otherwise (my older sister, my 4th-grade teacher, Vanna White, and so on). I was secretly obsessed with the idea of making and wearing women’s clothes. I absolutely loved Project Runway despite constantly pretending to only begrudgingly watch it because that’s what was on TV at the moment. I liked to jokingly send my friends texts where I would say, “SELFIE!!!,” and send them a picture of Heidi Klum, some anime girl or something like that. I also said, “like OMG Becky!,” a lot. I pretended like I was being ironic but I really wasn’t. There were a lot of little things like this. I ended up getting to a point around April or May of 2018 where I took a week off from work and went to a thrift store with some trusted friends. The result of that trip is what is confirmed it all for me.
2. How does it work?/What makes a person trans?
The first thing to note is that my condition is called gender dysphoria. It used to be call gender identity disorder back in the day but the majority of the scientific community decided that this term is incorrect as there is nothing wrong with the identity itself. You don’t have to have gender dysphoria to be trans. Your identity is valid with or without it. Anyways, I’m really bad at science so I’m going to do what middle school teachers do when they show up to work, hungover. I’m going to show you an educational video, and take a nap instead of teaching you, myself.
3. What are you doing about it?
The first thing I did was I found a gender therapist. For those of you who don’t know, a gender therapist is the same as any other therapist except they specialize in working with people who are in a similar situation to me. You could technically hire any therapist but that’s not always a great idea. Most of them don’t have a much, if any, experience working with trans people. Some may even be actively transphobic. Trans people should hire specified gender therapists for the same reason a concerned parent would likely want to hire a specified child therapist. They’re who are best equipped to help you. Gender therapy is an incredibly important step for any trans person to take. I can’t recommend it enough. I found my therapist using https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapists. They have an option where you can search by specialty and gender therapy is one of the specialties you can select.
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) is another big step. HRT is basically medication that helps alter your body to better match your identity. There is a lot involved in explaining HRT (especially the science behind it) and I’ll get into that in a little bit but that’s what you need to know for now. Also, not everyone undergoes HRT and that’s fine. They’re still valid.
Another optional thing is learning to adopt some different behaviors. It is by no means necessary but I have been trying to teach myself how to be more ladylike. For me, this has involved changing the way I walk, altering my vocabulary, changing my posture (especially when sitting), gaining and losing certain mannerisms, etc. Once again, I’m doing all of this because I want to. I’m doing other things as well, but I’ll get into that later.
4. What does HRT do?
So for trans women, you take the same medication that cis women going through menopause take. There is spironolactone which is a testosterone blocker. It slows down your body’s testosterone production which causes several things. It decreases the rate at which your facial and body hair grow. It also slows down male pattern baldness, meaning you go bald more slowly. It reduces libido, the number of erections you’ll have, and ball size as well. That part might sound scary to some people but not being horny all the time took away a lot of stress for me and I love my tiny balls. The one thing spironolactone doesn’t reduce is your boobs. It generates some mild breast development. The other thing it does is make it easier for estrogen medication to do its job.
Estrogen medication does what it sounds like it does. It pumps you full of those wonderful hormones because estrogen is the bestrogen. It can come in one of three forms; tablet, patch, or injection. The most common estrogen medication is called estradiol and it does things to your body. It grows your boobs, redistributes your body fat, softens your skin, makes your skin less gross and oily, shrinks your peepee, and improves your mood. I’m not joking. It really does shrink your peepee and improve your mood. I am very happy with my tiny peepee. Estradiol can make you moody and I’m told it can have an impact on your sexual orientation but I don’t know if that’s true. That sounds like more of an unfounded rumor to me.
These medications do other things, as well but what I’ve listed are the big things. Other things to note are that if you ever hear a trans woman talking about titty skittles, tittles, titty sprinkles, feminems, or anything along those lines, they’re talking about HRT meds. Also, I did not talk about the process for trans men because I don’t know the process for trans men but I think they have to do the injection which sounds terrifying. I personally take 200 mg of spironolactone and 6 mg of estradiol a day but with any luck, my daily estradiol dosage should be jumping up to 8 mg in April.
5. Where do you even get HRT?
I go to a place called The Kind Clinic. It’s a facility/organization in Austin, Texas that focuses on providing medical services to the LGBTQ+ community. Multiple Planned Parenthood locations also have gender clinics and you can go there as well. You can also take your chances with pretty much any endocrinologist and they can prescribe you HRT meds, as well.
6. How long does it take?
It’s different for everyone but most people see their first changes about 2-3 months into the process. The average person sees their full changes in about 2-3 years but I’ve known people where it’s taken up to 5 years. You don’t get to stop taking HRT once the changes are complete. In order to maintain some changes, I have to take it for the rest of my life. I think I forgot to mention that some changes are reversible and others are not.
7. What doesn’t change?
I may grow facial and body hair more slowly but it still grows. The number of individual hairs is also not reduced. HRT doesn’t change my voice, height, or bone structure. There are a lot of learned behaviors that also don’t change with medication. I am taking other measures to address these issues.
8. Are there any health risks involved?
Yes, but most of them are pretty minor. These can include moodiness, migraines, nausea, and slight weight increase. My nausea is tied to a more sensitive sense of smell. It’s almost impossible for me to clean the litter box without vomiting, now. I’ve had two migraines since starting HRT. They both put me completely out of commission. Drinking more water and not drinking Mountain Dew at all seems to help keep them from happening. I’ve only lost weight since starting HRT due to diet, exercise, and an overall loss of muscle mass. The only thing I haven’t learned to manage is my moodiness.
The only major risk that I am aware of is blood clots. Estradiol does increase that chances of having one but it is a very manageable risk. I quit smoking because of this as smoking also increases your chance for blood clots and the two, together is an awful idea. Obesity is another risk factor that can be managed. I should mention that blood clots are rare, regardless of your risk factor.
9. But what about the children?
A popular conservative talking point is that, “them damn trannies,” shouldn’t be pumping our children full of hormones. I’m inclined to agree. It sure is a good thing that that doesn’t actually happen. Trans children don’t receive any sort of medication until they’re about puberty age. Even then, they aren’t given hormones. They’re given what are called puberty blockers because puberty doesn’t ask permission before it just starts pumping our children full of hormones and this can lead to some irreversible and detrimental changes. Puberty blockers prevent this from happening until a child is of sound mind and absolutely sure of what they want. If they want to transition, they start HRT and if they don’t, they simply stop taking the puberty blockers and puberty continues as normal.
10. What are you doing about your voice?
I receive weekly voice training at a place called Out Youth. It’s, honestly, one of the best parts of my week. There is so much more that goes into it than one might expect. There’s not only speech pathology, singing, and acting work which make sense on a surface level but also a lot of kinesthetic and mindfulness work as well. My eventual goal is to have a similar voice to my favorite Disney princess because I’m a basic bitch. My favorite Disney princess is Meg (from Hercules), by the way. Meg is the best Disney princess. Fuck you, fight me. If Mulan counts despite not being an actual princess, Meg counts.
11. How about hair removal?
You can shave, wax, Nair, or whatever frequently but I grow hair like a fucking werewolf so that’s really inconvenient. That’s why I’ve been looking at permanent hair removal. There are two popular forms of permanent hair removal. The first one is called electrolysis. It’s supposed to be more permanent than laser hair removal but let me tell you about the time I tried it.
They take what is basically an electrified acupuncture needle and stick it in your pore. The needle cauterizes the thing that your hair grows out of. At the same time, they use a pair of tweezers to yoink that hair right out of you. Imagine the feeling when you use tweezers to remove problem hairs. Now, imagine that feeling but about a centimeter or two under your skin. Yeah, it’s not comfortable. They do all of this one hair at a time and I was required to provide my own numbing agent. This is why I’m starting to look into laser hair removal aka the other popular method. I don’t really know much about that yet but I can’t wait to have someone shoot lasers at my face.
12. Are you going to get surgery?
I don’t know. I’m not even going to consider it until a few years down the road. When I’m done developing, I might consider making my boobs bigger if they’re still kind of invisible but that doesn’t seem likely since I’m already past a point of no return in that department. The idea of facial reconstruction surgery scares the living shit out of me so that’s not likely. I’m also not likely to get bottom surgery. I like my feminine penis. Why is no one talking about my feminine penis? If you don’t get that joke, there is a YouTuber named Natalie Wynn. She runs a YouTube channel called Contrapoints. You should watch all of her videos but especially her video called “Tiffany Tumbles”. Let’s get back on topic! One of my favorite parts about being trans is telling people, “I’d rather cut my own dick off,” with 100% sincerity so who knows what I’ll decide in the future?
13. Why have trans people only recently started popping up or why have I only recently started hearing about them?
Trans people have always existed. We’re less than one percent of the population but we’ve been here. Trans people have often remained hidden because of the shitty way people often react to us. Being trans is scary and often dangerous. There have also been many attempts to erase us from history. Do you know that really famous photo of that Nazi book burning? Those weren’t just some books. Those were the research and findings of a scientific institute called “Institut für Sexualwissenschaft” that existed in Germany from 1919-1933. They studied sociology and their research focused on gay and trans people. Their findings validated us and the Nazis didn’t like this. With this in mind, I’m not saying that everyone that doesn’t like trans people is a Nazi but I am saying that everyone who doesn’t like trans people is siding with actual Nazis on this issue and I think that’s worth noting.
14. What do words mean?
Trans/Transgender = a person whose gender DOES NOT match the gender they were assigned at birth. Please be aware that “transgendered” is not a word and some people don’t appreciate when you say it. It makes it sound like something that was inflicted upon you as opposed to a simple description of what you are.
Cis/Cisgender = A person whose gender DOES match the gender they were assigned a birth. Despite what some conservatives have chosen to believe, this word is not a slur. It is only a description. “Normal” should not be used in its place because defining a cis person as normal is the same as defining a trans person as a freak and that’s not okay.
Non-binary = a person who identifies as neither male nor female but something in between.
Genderqueer = another word for non-binary
Genderfluid = Someone who does not have a fixed gender but rather their gender changes. They could identify as a male one day, a female the next day, and something in between after that. I really hope I’m not over-simplifying this. I am not an expert in this area. Please correct me if I got it wrong.
Het = Short for heterosexual
Cishet = a person who is both cisgender and heterosexual
MtF = Male to female
FtM = Female to male
15. Are there any trans celebrities or other notable trans people I should or do know about?
Yes. We all know Caitlyn Jenner, Laverne Cox, and Chelsea Manning but there’s a lot more than that even if some are only famous within the trans community. Have you ever seen The Matrix? The directors, at the time, were known as the Wachowski brothers. They’re now just known as the Wachowskis because as it turns out, in addition to being twins, they’re both trans women. I keep being told that I need to see something they did, called Sense8. It apparently has a character that is a trans woman, played by a trans woman, written by trans women, and directed by trans women. I can honestly say I’ve never seen that before.
I already mentioned Natalie Wynn of ContraPoints. She’s a trans icon. There are many other popular trans YouTubers, though, such as Gigi Gorgeous, Stef Stejani, Alayna June, The Pedantic Romantic, and so on. I would avoid Blaire White like the plague, though. She’s basically trans Milo Yiannopoulos and she’s awful.
There’s also the voice actress, Madeleine Joan Blaustein, who is best known for being the original voice actress for Meowth in the Pokemon cartoon. Let’s not forget popular comic book artists, Sabrina Symington (Life of Bria), and Rachel Pollack (Doom Patrol). There’s also the journalist, Thomas Page McBee, who reached fame after winning that boxing match at Madison Square Garden. This isn’t even the tip of the iceberg. Trans people are everywhere. You can’t escape us.
16. How do I ask someone if they’re trans without being rude?
You don’t. The most polite thing you can do is to ask them what their pronouns are, then call them by those pronouns without prying any deeper. You’ll be putting people in an uncomfortable position if you go any further on the topic, no matter how well-intentioned you are. You are not entitled to know what’s in my pants. That is privileged information that I just happen to be posting, publically, on the internet, where anyone can see. I’m comfortable sharing but a lot of people aren’t and it’s rude to ask.
17. Do trans people have an athletic advantage or disadvantage?
It is commonly believed that trans women have an unfair advantage in athletic competitions. This common belief has been the source of a lot of controversies. In the 1960s, women who competed in the Olympics were required to show their genitals in what was commonly known as “nude parades”. In 1976, a trans woman named Renée Richards entered a New Jersey professional tennis tournament. Over twenty other women refused to play. There was also a major controversy when an intersex athlete named Caster Semenya won an Olympic gold medal in track and field in 2016 and she’s not even trans. She’s a cis woman with a higher than average testosterone level.
There hasn’t been a lot of scientific research on this topic but the research that has been done suggests that trans women don’t have an advantage over cis women, trans men have no disadvantage against cis men, and that trans men have a rather large advantage when forced to compete against cis women. I’ll note a few studies and examples but I don’t want to dive too deep as I’m not much of an athlete or sportsball fan, myself.
A scientist named Joanna Harper published a study in 2015 that measured the run times of trans women as they transitioned. All of their speeds slowed from times that were average to above average for cis men to times that are more typical for cis women. In 2017 and 2018, a trans man named Mack Beggs won back to back state titles for women’s high school wrestling. He wants to wrestle boys because he’s tired of his obvious advantage but the state of Texas requires competitors to compete under the gender on their birth certificate because of course, Texas would fucking do that. I don’t feel like listing any more examples right now. Next question!
18. Are trans people allowed to compete in sports and other physical competitions?
The short answer is, “depends on which organization we’re talking about”. The long answer is long but basically, all athletic organizations fall into one of three categories in relation to this question. These categories are, “no”, “yes”, and “yes but…”. There’s no way I’ll get everything before my self-imposed deadline but I don’t need to. I just found this awesome website that did it all for me. Transathlete.com appears to be the best resource for any questions you have regarding trans people and athletics. They even have a database of policies, as they apply to trans people, that covers the majority of high school, college, recreational, and professional leagues. That is an insane amount of work they compiled. Please use this resource.
19. How do you go shopping for clothes?
I started out only shopping on the internet and going to thrift stores/the mall with trusted friends. I specifically went with other women because there’s nothing unusual about a man in the women’s clothes department if he’s with a woman. I’m now to the point where I’m comfortable clothes shopping in public by myself. Fun fact: turns out that the less you care, the less those around you will care. There are a few things that I’m still uncomfortable with. I’m still not comfortable shopping for makeup by myself and I’m still uncomfortable using any fitting rooms that have employees attending them. I’m sure I’ll get there, eventually, but I’m not there yet.
As far as the kinds of things I wear goes, I put a lot of strategy into what I do. This will, in no way be a comprehensive guide but there are a lot of little fashion tricks you can use to maintain a more feminine appearance. Earrings that dangle, make your face look slimmer and more feminine. Hair tied in a high ponytail or bun can do this, as well. Cold-shoulder tops and dresses make your upper arms look less broad and manly. Choker necklaces cover up your Adam’s apple but low hanging necklaces keep people from looking at it in the first place. The most important trick is always well-fitting clothes. A lot of people like me will never be less than an XL even in our best physical shape so specialty stores like Torrid are our best friends.
20. Does this have any impact on your sexuality?
It hasn’t. I still, very much, prefer women. I sometimes wonder if I should try dating men but the thought, “damn, he’s hawt,” has never really crossed my mind before and it’s not likely to start now. I guess there have been a few rare exceptions such as Chris Hemsworth but come the fuck on! How is anyone not supposed to be attracted to him? On the plus side, I’ve never had to struggle with growing up gay in Texas because my attraction to women was considered normal when everyone thought I was a man.
21. How are you with makeup?
I’m not very good yet. I’ve only recently started learning and I’ve dedicated myself to gitting gud by my friend’s wedding in late May. I think it is a necessary skill for me. Note that I am not all trans people and what I need isn’t what everyone needs. Not all trans people need to know makeup. Also, before you say, “no, you don’t,” in an encouraging act of kindness, please allow me to say, “that’s easy for YOU to say, Little Miss Cheekbones!”
22. How did you choose your name?
There is no right or wrong way to choose a name. As a child, I wanted to be like Indiana Jones but I wanted to be Lara Croft. That’s how I chose my name but I did learn, after the fact, that had I been born a cisgender woman, my parents would have named me Laura. My middle name is Patrice. I let my mother choose it. It’s not uncommon for trans people to let their parents choose their middle names but this is in no way a universal rule. Trans people are not required to let our parents pick our middle names and the likelihood of us doing so is often directly correlated with how supportive our parents have been. Had I chosen my own middle name, I would have gone with Lynn because I’m a basic bitch who enjoys alliteration.
23. Are you going to legally change your name?
Of course! It just takes a little while. I’m not going to go into detail here because it’s kind of a detailed process that can vary quite a bit, depending on where one lives and where one was born. Changing one’s legal name and gender markers could be an article all by itself but I don’t want to write it. It would be super long and full of legalese. Please just Google it if you really want to know more.
24. Do you ever regret it or think you might?
Not at all. Coming out and living as my true self is easily the greatest decision I’ve ever made. I’ve felt happier and happy more often. Bad things don’t hurt as much anymore. I’m better able to bounce back. It’s easier to make friends now. I’ve started reconnecting with old friends I hadn’t spoken to since high school. I’ve been more confident and for the first time in a long time, I’m excited to get out of bed on occasion.
I am speaking from a privileged position. I’ve been surrounded almost entirely by supportive friends and family members who have immediately accepted me as I am. I also live in Austin, Texas which is probably one of the best places in the world to be trans. I remember how awful Rachel (my trans parent) had it 20 years ago and I have it so much better but, unfortunately, not everyone has what I do. Many trans people are regularly harassed and mistreated by those around them, family included. When a trans person regrets transition, it’s usually not because it was the wrong choice for them. It’s because of the abuse they receive from others as a result.
25. What about non-binary and gender fluid people?
They exist, they are trans, they are valid, and they deserve your respect. I am neither of these things and I cannot fairly presume to speak for people who are. I can only speak honestly about my own experiences.
26. Is it safe?
It’s hard to say. It’s not safe for a lot of trans people. There are a lot of chasers and other people out there that are looking to take advantage of and cause harm to us. The same goes for all marginalized communities. For me, personally, I’m just now starting to have noticeable boobs. I’m right around 5 months on HRT and while I have developed some noticeable feminine features, most people look at me and wonder, “why is that dude dressed like a lesbian?”. I have been safe thus far for this reason but we’ll see as I get deeper into the process.
27. Are you scared?
Yes but I’ve become slowly less scared over time. I started out being shit-my-pants terrified of everything and everyone when I first realized. I have slowly started trusting more people and places as I keep getting positive feedback, the more I trust. Almost everyone that isn’t actively supportive or affirming simply doesn’t care. This is great because I think apathy is one of the best responses I can get. People rarely pretend to be apathetic about things like this so I know they’re genuine and apathetic people harbor no ill will towards me. What more could a girl want? This isn’t the same Austin I remember from 20 years ago where being trans was way more dangerous.
28. What Resources are out there?
So my original draft ended up with about two pages worth of content just answering this question so I’m only going to give a brief summary of available online resources since that will apply to more people. I also want to discuss resources local to Austin but I have a lot to say, there, so I’m going to have a whole separate article, dedicated to just that. And holy shit, there are a lot of online resources. Please just click on this link. It lists most of the major resources and saves me the time of having to compile such a list, myself. I didn’t see Susan’s Place on that list and I do think y’all should be aware of that site. The forums, there, have been especially helpful to me but the whole website is great. I’m sure there’s like a million resources I’ve missed so if you know of any I didn’t mention, please let me know in the comments, below.
29. Can trans women experience male privilege?
I’m not touching this one with a 40-foot pole right now. This question has been the source of a lot of angst and several wars on trans twitter. People lose both friends and their minds when it comes to this topic. I do have a stance on this issue but I’d rather give I what have to say on the issue its own article. Basically, I’m not going to touch that kind of drama, unprepared. Don’t worry. The article will come out soon.
30. What should I do if I think my child is trans?
I am not a parent. I do not feel qualified to answer this question or any questions similar to it. Even if I were qualified, I do not want to accept that kind of responsibility. Please read this article from the Human Rights Campaign, instead. They cover this topic way better than I ever could.
- Kornei, Katherine. “This scientist is racing to discover how gender transitions alter athletic performance—including her own.” American Association for the Advancement of Science, 25 Jul 2018. https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018/07/scientist-racing-discover-how-gender-transitions-alter-athletic-performance-including. Accessed 07 Mar 2019.
- Associated Press. “Transgender Texas wrestler wins second high school girls title.” NBC Universal, 25 Feb 2018. https://www.nbcnews.com/feature/nbc-out/transgender-texas-wrestler-wins-second-high-school-girls-title-n851106. Accessed 07 Mar 2019.
- “Patient education for transgender feminizing hormone therapy.” San Fransisco Department of Public Health, https://www.sfdph.org/dph/files/THS2/PtEducationDocumentationFeminizingHormoneTherapy-122313.pdf. Accessed 07 Mar 2019.
- Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers LLC. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapists. Accessed 07 Mar 2019.
- Kindclinic.org, The Kind Clinic, 2018. https://kindclinic.org/. Accessed 07 Mar 2019.
- Outyouth.org, Out Youth. https://www.outyouth.org/. Accessed 07 Mar 2019.
- “What are puberty blockers?” Planned Parenthood Federation of America, 2019. https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/teens/puberty/what-are-puberty-blockers. Accessed 07 Mar 2019.
- “Laser Hair Removal vs. Electrolysis: Which Is Better?” Healthline Media, 2005-2019. https://www.healthline.com/health/beauty-skin-care/laser-hair-removal-vs-electrolysis. Accessed 07 Mar 2019.
- James D. Steakley. “Anniversary of a Book Burning”. The Advocate (Los Angeles), 9 June 1983. Pages 18–19, 57.
- Transathlete.com, Trans Athlete, 2013-2018. https://www.transathlete.com/. Accessed 07 Mar 2019.
- Torrid.com, Torrid LLC, 2019. https://www.torrid.com/. Accessed 07 Mar 2019.
- “Transgender Resources” Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD). https://www.glaad.org/transgender/resources. Accessed 07 Mar 2019.
- Susan’s Place, Susan’s Place Transgender Resources, 1995-2019. https://www.susans.org/. Accessed 07 Mar 2019.
- “Transgender Children & Youth: Understanding the Basics.” The Human Rights Campaign. https://www.hrc.org/resources/transgender-children-and-youth-understanding-the-basics. Accessed 07 Mar 2019.
- “The Science of Being Transgender ft. Gigi Gorgeous.” Youtube, uploaded by AsapSCIENCE, 20 Sep 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MitqjSYtwrQ. Accessed 07 Mar 2019.
- “Tiffany Tumbles | ContraPoints.” Youtube, uploaded by ContraPoints, 02 Jun 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j1dJ8whOM8E. Accessed 07 Mar 2019.