As a transman who is extremely open about his transition, I find myself getting messages from other transmen. Some are early on in their journey or are about to take the plunge and they ask for advice. First and foremost, I am extremely honored, privileged, and humbled to be someone others come to seeking advice or guidance. Especially regarding a topic so near and dear to my heart. Nothing in the world makes me happier than seeing others come to terms with their authentic self and start taking the steps necessary to show that person to the world.
Giving advice on how to come out or take pride in yourself as a transman early in his transition is never a simple answer, no matter how often I do it. There is so much I wish I could go back and tell my younger self while I was getting started. Yet, there is still so much I continue to learn the further along I get in this process. Therefore, my answer is always growing and adapting. When I started testosterone and finally began this wonderful yet chaotic lifelong journey to becoming the man I am, I was alone.
I didn't have any other transmale friends I could talk to or seek guidance from. I didn't know where to turn. I felt like I was a baby bird that had just been thrown out of the nest, it was either fall or fly. It hurts my heart to think of anyone else in the position I was in when I first came out. I was extremely scared, I had questions and I didn't have the slightest clue where to go for answers. I think this made me overthink absolutely everything I was doing in my transition. I didn't know what to expect or when to expect it. I didn't know how any of it worked. I was walking blind. If I could offer anyone advice so they can avoid feeling the way I did, I'd speak all day long.
I try to tell them what I wish someone would or could have told me. I try to be the person for them that I wish I had. First and foremost, what everyone starting their transition needs to know is that the only acceptance or approval they need comes from within. It may or may not come as a surprise, but when you come out, there may be multiple people in your life that don't accept it and may try to sway your decision. Don't listen to anyone who isn't encouraging you to be your very best self, no matter what that is, transgender or not. Time is an extremely valuable thing and one thing we all have in common is that our time is limited. You cannot waste your precious time and energy trying to fit someone else's mold.
It's your life. The path you are paving is yours and yours alone. I promise you won't gain anything beneficial by trying to please anyone other than yourself. I wholeheartedly believe the people who criticize others for taking their lives into their own hands, only project their hate and negativity because they lack the courage to do so for themselves. Don't listen to your critics, listen to your fans. If you know who you are and you're confident enough in yourself to own it, you will remain untouchable. Everyone else is background noise.
Secondly, and this one may be a tough pill to swallow, but you have to be patient with other people when you first come out. Particularly in regards to using your preferred changed name and/or pronouns. Yes, beginning your transition is an extremely drastic change to your life, but it also is to those close to you as well. While some people will be able to immediately make that permanent change, it may not be so easy for some others. They might accidentally slip up and use your "dead name", as we call it. I still find my grandmother recalling old stories from when I was a baby and using the words "she" and "her." Not because she thinks of me as female, but because at the time in those memories, that's what I was to her, a granddaughter.
As long as you know that person is truly trying and making an effort with that adjustment, be patient with them. There is a fine line, however, between being patient and being a doormat. There comes a point in time when you can no longer let it slide; when you get misgendered or called by your former name, you have to be assertive and adamant. Correct them. You have to make it known that that's something you no longer go by and you won't allow yourself to be disrespected like that. By defending yourself and refusing to falter, that shows others that you're serious. Again, this stems back to the most important takeaway; confidence. Own it, sister.
It's just as important to be patient with yourself. I wish I could go back in time to visit myself literally one month on testosterone and grab myself by the shoulders while shaking me back and forth saying "stop examining yourself in front of the mirror!" There I was, at not even a full month on testosterone, scrutinizing every inch of my body. Where was my deep voice? Where was my thick arm pit hair? Where was the face masculinization? Where was my full beard?
I thought I wasn't developing as quickly as I should've been, so I beat myself up over it. I convinced myself I was falling behind or failing at transitioning. Do not look for changes. The more you analyze yourself and search for physical changes, the longer it will take to spot them. You won't notice a change that you monitor every second of the day. Instead of keeping yourself under your own microscope, photograph yourself and record your voice every couple of weeks. It feels a hell of a lot better to look back and be able to see how far you've come. Be patient. You need to enjoy the ride. When I got my top surgery date, I would wake up ecstatic to change the countdown I had written on a whiteboard. I didn't get to do that afterwards.
Of course, having my surgery felt a lot better than the excitement, but I didn't have anything to look forward to anymore. Enjoy the process while it's happening before it becomes something that already happened.
Speaking of examining and overthinking yourself and the progress in your transition, one thing I wish every transman would realize is: transitioning is not a competition. Honestly, just don't even search the hashtag "transgender" on Instagram until you're at least a year on testosterone. I would always find myself looking at other transmen on social media and then being extremely disappointed when I saw pictures of myself. I would see pictures of transmen who were on testosterone longer than I had been at the time and think "when do I get to look like that?"
Even worse, I'd see pictures of transmen who looked like they had been on T for much longer than me, only to find out they weren't on it as long as I had been. Coming across a guy who looks extremely naturally male, who you'd never expect to be transgender had you not known, who was on test for less than you were? The absolute worst. What a low blow to your self-esteem. I wish I could go back to my younger self and made sure I understood that transitioning isn't a competition. It isn't a race. I wish I could drive home the point that there is no right and wrong timeline, there is no right and wrong way to transition. Everybody blossoms at their own pace, and each one of us are beautiful in our own unique way, that's what sets us apart.
Never ever use the fact that you're transgender as an excuse. What I mean by this is, if something goes differently as planned, never say the words "it's because I'm trans." Contrary to what your head might try to tell you, you do not start lower on the totem pole just because your genitals don't match that of a cis male. The expectations of others as well as your own shouldn't be lowered just because you're a transman. You are equal. You are a man and you are valid.
Being transgender isn't an excuse for anything and you have absolutely nothing to apologize for. If you find yourself yearning for the affection of anyone who won't give it to you and you think "maybe if I wasn't transgender they'd like me," stop yourself right there. If you think someone is going to like you if you weren't trans, you don't want them to like you in the first place. It isn't a favor or a sacrifice to others to love you for being real and true to yourself.