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Transitioning refers to the process of living in your acquired gender role which matches your gender identity. Transitioning can involve many different elements and stages but ultimately, is concerned with changing your physical appearance and body to match your gender identity.
Not everyone chooses to transition and those who do, may transition to different degrees.
Similarly, some people only choose to live part-time in their preferred gender identity, whereas others want to be permanently accepted in their acquired gender identity. This often begins with a process of changing their name and the pronoun they wish to be referred to as(he/she). This may then lead on to taking hormones and having surgery to make their bodies conform to their acquired gender identity. But even when it comes to hormones and surgery, not everyone will make the same choices.
There really is no hard and fast rule. It’s a very personal choice and needs to come from you and what you want. You should never feel pressurised.
To help understand your feelings about transitioning, here is a helpful list of questions you may wish to ask yourself, from the brilliant Living My Life leaflet.
This leaflet also contains detailed information about the different aspects of transitioning and surgical procedures you may or may not wish to go through.
For male to female trans people, non-surgical transitioning may include:
For female to male trans people, non-surgical transitioning may include:
The Gender Recognition Act 2004 gives certain legal rights to trans men and women. Under the Gender Recognition Act of 2004, trans men and women can:
To apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate, you must be over 18. The application process requires you to prove that:
Find out more about the Gender Recognition Act 2004 and how to apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate.
To receive this treatment on the NHS, you will need to be referred to a gender specialist or a gender clinic by your GP.
If you are under 16, you will need to be referred to a specialist young person’s clinic such as The Tavistock and Portman. You may then be offered hormone blockers to delay the physical changes of puberty which would give you time to think carefully about living as a man or woman for the rest of your life.
In 2011, the age at which young people would be offered this treatment was lowered from 16 to 12. At the age of 16 you can begin receiving hormones that help you transition but currently the Tavistock and Portman is the only clinic that offers this. From 18, you can attend any NHS gender clinic.
Most professionals will recommend that you live as your gender identity for at least 3 months before starting hormone therapy. You will also be offered counselling. This is because the effects of these hormones cannot be reversed so it’s vital you’re sure.
Taking female hormones will:
Taking male hormones will:
The international Standards of Care for the treatment of transsexuals require that you live in your acquired gender for at least a year before you have surgery. Here in the UK that requirement is extended to 24 months.
Having gender realignment surgery is a personal choice that not everyone makes. For those who do, they may only choose to have some surgery. For example, some trans women may have facial feminising surgery and breast implants but will opt not to have lower body surgery.
For trans women, surgical options may include:
For trans men, surgical options may include:
For more information on transitioning and treatment, visit the gender dysphoria section of NHS Choices and read this guide to gender dysphoria services (PDF). You can also visit the various organisations that are dedicated to giving you the advice, support and information on all aspects of being trans or non-binary and transitioning.
Content reviewed by Kirstie McEwan – Lead tutor in Gender Studies, Cambridge Institute of Clinical Sexology, accredited therapist and trustee of the College of Sexual and Relationship Therapists.
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