Transitioning early in life: Tonya's advice

(ed. note: I've changed her name to protect her privacy. -A)

Tonya is from Great Britain and is in the middle of transition. She told her parents in her teens and was in the middle of transition when she sent me this in May 2002.

I have a few thoughts of my own about the whole issue of when/where to ‘come out’ and who to tell…

I started my transition (physically) age 17 after finding several support group websites geared towards teenagers with TS issues (www.mermaids.freeuk.com is an excellent site which is worth contacting whether you live in the UK or not), which in turn directed me towards a London based Adolescent Gender Identity Development clinic.

I am currently about to begin the hormone part of my transition following the completion of my exams (I would have started earlier but the specialists I had seen refused to prescribe oestrogen to under 18’s, plus they wanted me to concentrate on achieving good exam grades – a very good idea.)

The single most important piece of advice I can give is:

Sort it out. As soon as possible. I’m not talking about the full physical transition (you can be much more flexible about that), but you MUST get over the obstacle of telling parents and close friends as soon as possible – I just kind of blurted it out to everyone in the space of a couple of days when I was feeling really low, and was amazed how people react – don’t be scared, if they’re reasonable people (and if they aren’t, why are you friends with them?) then they should be supportive or at the very least, not try to murder you!)

‘Coming out’ to close friends and family is the second biggest step (the first – coming out to yourself, don’t run from who you are!) and can effectively lift a huge weight from your shoulders.

Once this obstacle is out of the way, however, you have to make serious decisions which will depend upon how confident you are…

You have two choices really

Staying on at school/college until you’ve completed your exams (I believe it’s called ‘graduation’ over in the US) is essential because no matter how urgent and immediate your problems are, you have to survive in life and things will be SO much easier if you have a firm base to begin from.

You can make the transition in school/college (this has the potential for much unhappiness)

Or

You can wait until after school/college and then transition before university/employment (you have to wait a bit longer but it makes the ‘in-between time’ easier)

I can understand that it is very difficult to make a transition while in education, but if you feel confident enough (confidence is the key) then it’s worth going for it – If you can look feminine or at least androgynous then this is a bonus!

Your friends should be your friends for a reason, and your transition will be a perfect test for them – they should still be your friends regardless of other factors.
Talk to a tutor at school who you know well enough to trust – this is an invaluable tool for advice and assistance in avoiding sport lessons

I know so far I’ve only recommended telling others about the problems but this is THE ONLY WAY TO MAKE LIFE EASIER…don’t suffer in silence!

If you’re fortunate enough to have a few good friends who at least tolerate your gender dysphoria then you have a way to discuss things with people who you know and can relate to. Don’t bottle the feelings up.

Start as early as possible even if this just means sending an e-mail to a support group or telling a close friend, the feelings will not go away no matter how much you hate and fear them.

Once you’ve made a start, every step onwards from there is before you and it is up to you how fast or slow you take them. Remember to tell people when you want something – they can’t guess if you don’t specifically say! It took me ages to get started on GNRH Analogue (suppresses testosterone production) because I was too shy to say I wanted to do so!

I share the wish of many TS’s to be ‘stealth’ once transition is complete (or at least mostly complete), but I am aware that this is certainly not practical for the period when you don’t seem to fit into either gender category (perhaps I’m not the best person to talk about that because I’m one of the lucky few who could pass as a girl before starting any form of treatment at all!)

The problem with being ‘stealth’ is the fear of discovery. If you tell just a few of your best friends then you can soften the blow in case it happens, as well as alleviate the frustration of not being able to be open with ANYONE.

Besides from that, I’m afraid I don’t have much more advice (my experience of being TS is limited to the 3 or 4 years in which I have seriously realised just what the implications of my feelings are)

I hope I have been some sort of (however miniscule) help…feel free to chop/change/delete/add to any of this.

Best Wishes and good luck for the future!


Andrea's comments

I agree that a support network is essential. If you plan to tell your parents, it's a really good idea to think it through carefully. How and when you tell them can make a difference in how they respond. Please read my section on coming out for details.

When to transition is affected by many variables, mostly money. If you have the support of your family, both emotionally and financially, you will have many more options open to you. Many young women have to choose between school and transition, which is an agonizing choice. It's a situation that will be unique to your circumstances.

Stealth is a very elusive goal that many can never reach. in addition, stealth is a house of cards. Most of us are selectively stealth, but it's very difficult to make a life after transition where no one knows. Someone always knows. Talk to your therapist about the pros and cons of stealth, so you can have a realistic sense of what it might be like.


Send me your thoughts, links, and advice!

If you transitioned in your teens or twenties and have any advice you'd like to share, please contact me , and I'll give it a permanent (and anonymous) home.