Transitioning is the process of changing characteristics to align with gender identity, and it’s a highly personal and varied process. Transitioning can be social, medical or legal, or any or all three.
Social transitioning is a process of changing your gender expression to better match your gender identity.
Transitioning socially can be such a euphoric process! It can include coming out as trans; using a new name and/or pronouns; exploring and playing with gender expression like clothing, hairstyles and mannerisms; and using gender-affirming shapewear like binders.
It’s OK to feel scared or not know what you want yet. Transitioning is a big life change and any feelings around it are valid. You don’t have to stick to a timeline, and there’s no right or wrong way to transition.
This guide will share a few tips for transitioning socially, including some ways to save on gender-affirming clothing and shapewear.
Fashion is a powerful form of self-expression. It can make you feel confident, comfortable and attractive.
Choosing clothing that feels best
While you figure out what feels best, think less about gendered articles of clothing and more about style. Take note of clothing on TV or in your day-to-day that attracts you, watch fashion-haul videos from creators whose styles you like and create Pinterest mood boards to help you think about how you want your wardrobe to look.
Both “men’s” and “women’s” sections in stores may have clothing that presents as feminine and masculine, so if you’re comfortable, look through both to see what catches your eye.
Notice which parts of your body bring you euphoria or dysphoria to choose clothing that makes you feel best. For example, if you experience hip dysphoria, look for straight shorts that don’t curve around the hips. Or, if your legs are a great source of euphoria, find articles of clothing that highlight your legs.
Try on clothes and ask yourself how it feels to wear them. Does your outfit spark joy? Do you like how it fits on your body? Is it comfortable? Do you feel good wearing it?
If you feel nervous leaving the house wearing what you want, you can always start small. Wear an outfit at home to see how it feels, and slowly work up to the outside world.
Save money on a new wardrobe
Getting a new wardrobe can be very expensive, but there are some simple ways to save.
A clothing exchange is a great way to get new looks and build community. Check your local LGBTQ center to see if it offers a community closet for the gender expansive community.
You can also organize an exchange with friends. That lets everyone get rid of clothing they no longer wear while getting new clothes.
Thrifting is another inexpensive way to explore a variety of styles. It is one of the most eco-friendly shopping method — and you can make fun of old styles of clothing while you shop! Some of the most unique finds come from thrifting.
What is shapewear?
Shapewear is a category of undergarments that helps change the appearance of your body shape. To relieve dysphoria, people looking to feminize their expression can use shaping camisoles and gaffs, and people looking to masculinize their expression can use things like binders, binding tape, and packers.
Shapewear is lifesaving. Trans and non-binary people ages 13 to 24 who have access to gender-affirming shapewear and binders attempt suicide at lower rates than those without access (14% and 26% respectively), according to the Trevor Project.
Safe binding practices
Please be mindful of your body if you use shapewear. Binding helps many people relieve dysphoria, but it can lead to permanent rib, back, muscle and lung damage when done unsafely.
- Don’t bind for longer than eight hours at a time. If you’re out all day, take binding breaks when possible.
- If you’re experiencing pain or discomfort and can’t go without binding, wear an older or looser binder.
- Never use ace bandages to bind.
- Use recommended oil-based solutions to remove KT tape to avoid skin irritation or blistering.
- Never sleep with your binder on.
- If possible, use two sports bras instead of a binder.
- NEVER double bind, even if your binders are loose.
- In hot weather, wear a half tank instead of the full.
Save money with binder and shapewear giveaways
Some LGBTQ centers also take binder donations from people who no longer use them and run giveaways. Look into these organizations if you can’t afford binders or other gender-affirming shapewear.
- Point of Pride offers both binders and tucking gaffs giveaways.
- Binder Drive provides binders to Black trans and gender non-conforming folks in the United States.
- FtM Essentials provides binders for folks 24 and younger who can’t buy binders due to financial burdens.
- The Binder Project gives away three binders at the beginning of each month.
- Trans* Lounge has a binder exchange program for its members. Membership is free!
Choosing name(s) and pronoun(s)
If you’re struggling with choosing a new name, you’re not alone.
Choosing a new name can feel like such a permanent task — but you don’t have to use thee name you choose forever. Plenty of people go through multiple name changes.
For me, “Emme” is part of my journey, but not my final destination. Even though I don’t feel fully connected to it, it feels much better than my deadname, and it gives me more time to find a name that clicks.
Free places to search for names
Some people find names by looking through baby name websites, searching for names based on meanings, and asking friends and family for their input. Others will take their given name and pull pieces from it. Some will even adopt the name of someone they admire.
While you explore what feels best, you’re allowed to use different names and pronouns with different people. Is there someone you can test out a new name with?
Trans support groups are also a perfect space to try new names and pronouns. Check your local LGBTQ center to see if they have a group, or get plugged into a virtual space.
You’re in the driver’s seat of your life
There is no roadmap to transitioning, because everyone’s relationship with gender is different. Those who respect you will continue through this process with you.
For some gender-expansive people, passing — being assumed to be cisgender — is the goal. For others, it’s not. You have the autonomy to do what you want with your body and decide what being trans means for you.
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