“How should a new trans man deal with all the increase in anxiety after finally being honest with themself?”
- Question submitted by Anonymous and answered by Liam Lowery as a part of Everyone Is Gay: Second Opinions
You know the expression, “It’s not what you say; it’s how you say it”? Here is what I perceived from the way you asked this question:
I am guessing that there was always a nebulous question mark looming over your head when it came not just to sexuality—but to more basic things, like your name or preferred gender pronouns.
I am guessing that you eventually decided you needed to answer those questions about yourself.
I am guessing that inevitably, you saw a plot arc on The L Word, or came across a Tumblr featuring cute trans guys in bow ties, and a chord was struck somewhere deep within you. For the first time, maybe, you felt called towards an answer about yourself.
But, given societal transphobia, lack of inclusion in some LBGT spaces, and the entire overwhelming process of transitioning (though that means different things for different people), maybe you didn’t want that answer to be “trans.” You thought about the process of telling family and friends, and your heart sank. Could you really take this on?
Maybe I am just projecting.
You see, the hardest person to come out to is always yourself. Because when you come out to yourself, it sets you on a path lined with decisions only you can make. When I realized I was trans, I wanted to shove the realization deep into the recesses of my mind and never deal with it again. But I couldn’t, and I’m glad for it now.
I have news for you, new trans man. Since you’ve come out to yourself, you are not so new after all—in fact, you’ve already done the hardest thing. Congratulations!
For the anxiety:
[First, I want to say this: if at any point your anxiety is overwhelming, or makes you think suicidal thoughts, seek the help of a mental health professional immediately. Not to be a downer, but it is important to be aware of since one of the sad legacies of our community is an increased rate of suicide and depression.]
Early-transition anxiety varies a lot from person to person. Some people may have a hard time talking to their family about their new identity. For others, it might be trying to gain access to trans inclusive healthcare or afford things like new gender affirming clothes. For others, it might be gaining trans-specific legal resources to aid in their transition. For others, especially those who are geographically isolated, it might be establishing a trans support system. All of these problems can be solved using the Internet: PFLAG’s website for families, eBay for cheap clothes, Sylvia Rivera Law Project and Lambda Legal for legal resources, Art of Transliness, Original Plumbing and Bklyn Boihood for community resources, and to meet cool new friends.
Then there’s the stress, though. The stress of trying to decide what medical steps, if any, your transition will involve, and how to afford them. The stress of convincing your family and friends to respect your identity and, when they do, reflecting how your relationships have changed as a result. The stress of legally changing your name and/or legal gender, if you decide to do so. The stress that even when you do “transition” (whatever that really means), even if you are stealth and passing, you can never un-learn the questions you had to ask to get there: what does gender really mean, and how does gender inequality inform everyone’s lives.
Deep stuff, right?! When I was newly out, I felt like I was on a long road with no end in sight. It’s scary. I totally understand. As such, the last thing I wanted was more information on how to start a Kickstarter to fund my surgeries, or how to do a testosterone shot. I wanted to know (preferably from someone a few years post-coming out) how to get through the dark days when you feel bad/ugly and your family isn’t talking to you and everyone at school thinks you’re a freak. I didn’t want advice on the beautiful butterfly I would become (I am sure you know that you, too, are a beautiful butterfly), I wanted to hear how to survive as a caterpillar. In case you can’t tell, I am about to get mad real.
Take a bath. No, seriously. Take a bath. Make yourself a nice cup of tea, light a candle, get in the tub. Or if you live in a place with only a shower, go get one of those shower steamer things that makes your shower smell extra good.
Or: eat an ice cream cone. Clean your room. Do a yoga pose. Buy a plant and keep it alive. Wash your clothes with fabric softener. Take a walk. Paint a picture. Nap. Make yourself a dinner like you’d make if company were coming over. Sleep in.
The goal of this is two-fold: 1. Remind yourself that you are special and deserve to be taken care of. 2. Spend some time with you, in leisure, since you are already spending lots of time working on you. Get to know you, get to like you. You deserve that.
Then, after your bath/nap/ice cream/walk/laundry, take a minute to be grateful.
Take a second to say to yourself: I am so lucky to have the clarity to know myself. I am so lucky have already done the hardest part. I am so lucky to have good things in my life.
Gratitude is a practice, and often throughout any transition (whether you’re moving away from home for the first time, or changing your life to better reflect your gender identity) gratefulness is often the only thing that can ward of anxiety and fear. It is one of few sure ways to foster happiness in yourself without any external motivator. It is very good for sustaining you through long journeys, like the one you are on.
And then, always, remind yourself that the hardest part is behind you.