Gender identity is complex, personal, and private. It can be impacted by a multitude of factors ranging from personality to genetics, life experiences, and more. When someone doesn’t feel the sex that they were assigned at birth matches their true gender identity, they may decide to transition. For transgender people, the transitioning experience can vary greatly. Although it can bring relief to finally step into one’s true identity, transgender individuals face discrimination, hardships, and obstacles that are unique to them. Each of these can impact their mental health negatively, making it vital to address the disparities that exist. By recognizing and eliminating these inequalities, the transgender community can hope to receive better treatment from the mental health care system and society as a whole.
Transitioning refers to the period of time during which a person is aligning their life to match their gender identity more clearly. In general, it means transitioning from male to female or female to male, but people can also identify in a multitude of other ways. The male-to-female transition process (and vice versa) looks different for everyone. Those who are transitioning are referred to as transgender because they feel their sex assigned at birth doesn’t match how they feel inside.
The term transgender can include a variety of gender identities, feelings, orientations, and expressions. Transgender individuals come from all backgrounds, races, and cultures and can be of any age. For lots of reasons, it can take years for someone to decide to transition, making it a big deal.
The transgender transition process looks and feels different for everyone. Some people make legal changes, such as to their name, while others undergo surgical procedures to change their bodily anatomy. Some change almost every aspect of their lives to match their gender identity, while others only make minor changes.
The transition process is personal, meaning different people will be content with different levels of change. If someone is doing a full transition, they’ll have legal, social, and medical changes. These can be in any order, but medical changes are often the final step. Sometimes, however, someone needs surgical procedures to happen before they can fully step into their identity. Examples of the changes transgender individuals may make include, but are not limited to:
Whether someone makes changes from each of these categories or only one of them, that doesn’t make them any less of the gender they identify as. Around 1 in 4 people choose gender affirmation surgery, meaning another 75% do not use surgery at all. Transitioning is often more about how someone feels on the inside and how accepting they are of themselves rather than how they choose to present themselves. However, many find that the way they present themselves to the world helps them be more accepting of themselves as they are. Every individual’s transitioning process will look and feel different.
Becoming a transgender female or male can be quite a lengthy process, but it can also be relatively short. Since everyone has unique wants and needs, the process could take anywhere from a few months to several years or more. The factors that could affect the length of the process include the number and type of surgeries chosen, whether hormones are used, a person’s mental and physical well-being, financial situation, having an adequate support system, and more.
Being a transgender person can come with unique mental health challenges, but gender transitioning can come with lots of benefits. First, it’s important to understand the disparities transgender individuals face in daily life and how it can end up affecting their mental health. According to research, those belonging to the transgender community are:
If you or a loved one are experiencing suicidal thoughts, reach out for help immediately. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255 and is available 24/7.
Since transgender people are more likely to face discrimination than the general population, they are usually at a higher risk of having a mental illness. Other disparities that put them at risk of developing a mental illness include lack of healthcare coverage, stigma, poor financial situations, lack of resources, and violence. Within the mental health care system specifically, they may have a hard time finding a provider who understands and supports them without discrimination.
If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse in any form, reach out right away to the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1.800.799.SAFE (7233) for immediate support, advice, and assistance.
Addressing the disparities that transgender individuals are up against is important, and change can’t come soon enough. Everyone deserves an equal opportunity to receive mental health treatment and be treated well in society. To address these disparities, several steps need to be taken, including:
Providing adequate care to those most underrepresented can help society flourish. Building inclusivity takes time and hard work but helping the trans community to feel more accepted is well worth the effort. Since transgender people still face discrimination in multiple areas of their daily lives, everyone can do their part by fighting for equal rights and being an ally to these individuals.
Gender transitioning can help alleviate some of the mental health struggles faced by trans people as they step more into their true identity. For example, research shows that transitioning can have the following positive outcomes on an individual’s mental health:
Those who choose to get gender-affirming surgery have better mental health outcomes in the long run. In fact, their odds of needing support for a mental health condition declined by 8% every single year after getting the surgery. While surgery certainly carries risks, the benefits may outweigh them and be worth pursuing.
You may be thinking, “I want to transition from male to female.” Perhaps it’s something you’ve been considering for a long time or an idea that recently came to mind. Wherever you’re at in the process, it’s important to recognize how you feel as an individual. This means coming to terms with your own emotions before considering how other people feel. It can be easy to be persuaded one way or the other when people we love or trust give their opinions. While it’s good to consider what they have to say, especially if they care for you, it’s also vital to set boundaries and make a decision that is best for you. It can be hard to find adequate support from your loved ones, but leaning more into the people that accept you can help. At the end of the day, what matters most is that you accept yourself.
Gender transition is a very unique and individualized experience. To begin transitioning, you can choose any number of paths for yourself. First, you should explore your gender identity both alone and alongside trusted friends and family. Seeking help from a mental health professional is also a good idea, especially if they have experience working with trans individuals. During this time, you might decide to come out to your community, but make sure to do it on your own timeline.
You can continue making small changes and working up to the bigger ones, such as surgery. After going through a medical transition, transgender individuals may feel lots of different emotions. However, realize this can happen at any point of the transition process. Talking to a therapist can help you process and regulate your emotions.
After deciding that this is really what you want, you can begin altering the way you present yourself. For example, you might begin dressing differently, change your pronouns, or ask to be called by a different name. You shouldn’t feel any pressure to do anything you’re not comfortable with. Transitioning is all about you and moving at your own pace is essential. Becoming the person you’re meant to be can take months or years, and no one moves at the same speed. Leaning on your support system, staying true to yourself, and meeting regularly with a mental health professional can keep you committed to your goals and aligned with your truth.
Transitioning can be an incredibly emotional process of both highs and lows. During this process, you’ll need to prioritize your well-being both physically and mentally. Transgender individuals face unique challenges that make it vital to try to maintain positive mental health. While it’s wise to see a professional if you can, this isn’t always possible or sustainable. Plus, it’s extra helpful to develop healthy habits you can incorporate into your daily life. So, here are some ways you can watch out for your mental health on your own:
Looking out for your mental health is especially important if you’re transitioning. Transgender individuals face unique obstacles that can make it more difficult to stay positive and mentally healthy. Even if you’re seeing a mental health professional to assist you through the process, it’s still important to do things on your own time that promote mental well-being. Your brain is sure to thank you for all of your efforts, big or small.
Wondering how to become a woman from man? Confused about the transitioning process? Whether you or a loved one is considering or already in the process of becoming a trans person, BetterHelp may be a helpful resource along the way. BetterHelp is an online platform that matches qualified mental health professionals with those in need of support. Plus, you can do your therapy sessions right from the comfort of your couch. Connect over video chat, a phone call, or by using a messaging feature. All you will need is a smart device and a reliable Wi-Fi connection to get started.
Millions of people have found success using online therapy, and many prefer it to the traditional options that are available. Everyone has different needs, and you may have preferences that align better with one or the other. What matters most is that you’re prioritizing your mental well-being and getting the care you need. Whatever that may look like, know that BetterHelp is always here should you need assistance. Reach out today to get matched with a therapist and to start your unique journey to healing.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How much does it cost to transition from female to male?
Gender reassignment surgeries tend to be fairly expensive, depending on what you’d like changed. For example, you may choose to get facial reconstruction, breast reduction, or body contouring services. Sometimes insurance covers these surgeries, but not always. The estimated cost of fully transitioning from female to male surgery-wise is around $100,000 or more; however, this number could be even higher depending on a variety of factors. Some things that go into this cost are hospital stays, anesthesia, and how many surgeries are being performed. If insurance doesn’t cover it or an expensive or private hospital is utilized, it can drive the cost up even higher.
Can you change your gender without surgery?
You can identify however you’d like. Changing your gender is more about what’s on the inside than the outside, but some people prefer their outside to match how they feel on the inside. If that’s you, know that you have options. Not everyone is able to get surgery. It might be a financial issue, a health problem that makes it impossible, or something else. An alternative to surgery, however, is hormone therapy. This type of therapy involves taking hormones prescribed by a physician and can help someone develop more masculine or feminine characteristics, depending on their goals. Sometimes people use hormones and go through surgery or use hormones alone. Whatever you decide, be sure to consult with a doctor so you can make the best decision for yourself.
What happens to the male body when transitioning?
Everyone’s transition experience will be different. When transitioning from male to female, one can expect to experience changes like:
Your transition experience will be unique, and it’s important to talk with your doctor so you know what to expect. Weighing the risks and benefits of the procedure is essential to making an informed decision. Hopefully, your transition will help you feel more like yourself.
How can you tell if someone is transitioning?
It’s not always obvious that someone is transitioning. They may tell you they are if they’re comfortable doing so, but there also might be some signs you notice. For example, you may see them dressing or grooming themselves differently or behaving in new ways. If they’re taking hormones or going through surgery, you might see their body or voice start to change. It’s important to realize that there are no definite signs you can rely on to be able to tell that someone is transitioning. It’s better to let someone tell you they are than to make assumptions and potentially hurt the individual.
How do you start a transition MtF without hormones?
You don’t need hormones or surgery to begin the process of transgendering from male to female. You can start by changing your name (even legally) as well as your preferred pronouns. Dressing or grooming yourself differently may also be part of the process, such as adding makeup or hair updos to your daily routine or shaving more often. You might paint your nails, carry a purse, or get hair extensions. Perhaps you begin using the bathroom that correlates with your gender identity or speaking in a voice that better resembles your gender. Whatever you choose to do, it should make you feel more like yourself and bring you happiness.