Choosing not to transition

“Can I know I’m trans and still not transition” – search term

Simple answer?   Up to you.   There’s no rule that says you have to transition (socially or physically) as soon as you know you’re trans, just like there’s no rule that you have to run out and have gay sex immediately upon figuring out that you’re gay.

Of course, if it was that simple it wouldn’t be something people ask.   Question is, what does being trans mean to you?   Some people have very little dysphoria, they don’t feel the need to transition.   I liken it to having a very mild form of depression and being able to handle it with journalling or good friends instead of medication or therapy.   Different people just experience their dysphoria in different ways.

So how do you feel?   Are you ok with the world seeing you as a girl (or guy, if you’re MtF)?   Do you feel fine in the body you have?   If both of those are the case then go for it.   I couldn’t do it, but I’m not the one who has to live your life.   Everyone’s different.   I’ve had more than a few guys tell me they could never transition to be an effeminate man and that’s fine.   It’s not for them.   Maybe transitioning isn’t for you.   Maybe you’re cool to just know in your head that you’re a guy and let everyone else keep thinking of you as a girl.   There is absolutely nothing wrong with that as long as you’re happy.

There is a warning though.   Often “choosing” not to transition is more a form of denial than a well thought out decision to maintain happiness.   Transitioning is scary, it means changing everything you know.   You have to worry about what happens if you end up changing your mind (which always seems so much more common than it actually is), how people are going to react, and, if you have kids and/or a partner, how it’s going to affect them.   It often seems easier to just ignore any dysphoria you may have and pretend everything is fine how it is.   Sometimes that’s true, but if it’s not, well then you end up in a situation where you’re miserable for no good reason.

It doesn’t all have to be transition or ignore.   You could decide to tell a few close friends and relatives, create yourself a sort of gender oasis.   Maybe you wear guy clothes and use a gender neutral name, but let everyone except your friends and family consider you a girl.   Maybe you’re happiest being a girly girl in public and a manly man at home.   Whatever it is, it’s your choice.   No one can tell you how to handle your gender except you.   Sit, think, maybe experiment with a few different options.   If something works that’s great.   If not try again.   Eventually you’ll figure out what makes you happy

17 thoughts on “Choosing not to transition

  1. I have not transitioned. I’m equally terrified that I may transition in the future, and that I will never do it. Part of it is denial, part of it is being scared of how everything will change and how I will have to rebuild my life from scratch. I like to tell myself that my dysphoria is mostly sexual. I feel like I should be male in bed. Other than that I am pretty effeminate. My gender presentation would probably be about the same had I been born with a dick. So why transition? But when I really think about it, it absolutely kills me that I am seen as a slightly butch-ish woman instead of a slightly effeminate man.

    I dunno.

    Thank you so much for addressing this though, I feel like I’m the only guy who doesn’t want to transition completely and immediately.

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    • You’re definately not the only one. I have seen some informal numbers saying that less than 10% of transsexuals actually transition. I think one was by a NY psychologist who was treating TS people for decades. From the people who came to her office and who she diagnosed as fully trans, only 10% transitioned (or something like that, can’t find the source). The others didn’t for a plethora of reasons. Also, physical transition is only possible since about 100 years. Before that *no* trans person transitioned physically.
      People transitioned socially if they could, but that depended largely on their ability to pass or on the roles a society offered for people who were trans.
      You wrote:
      “I feel like I should be male in bed. Other than that I am pretty effeminate. My gender presentation would probably be about the same had I been born with a dick. So why transition? But when I really think about it, it absolutely kills me that I am seen as a slightly butch-ish woman instead of a slightly effeminate man.”
      This could have been written by me 20 years ago, literally. I think I might have even written this in my diary 😉 It caused me confusion to no end and I wish I would have met others who felt the same. 20 years ago, nobody got what I was saying.
      I the end you have to find your individual way. As NA has written, there are so many variantion to living as trans. You could get your very own tailor made solution, doing it step by step and seeing how changes feel.

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    • Adam, I’m in the exact situation as you! Miserable in bed with my boyfriend (desperate to have a dick), acknowledging that if I took T I’d still dress the same, but furious that when I’m read as female, I’m read as a slight tomboy instead of as an effeminate gay boy. There’s such a crucial difference between the two. When people read me as female, they get EVERYTHING wrong about me. They misread my gender, my gender expression, my sexuality, AND my sexual role (ie, to them: girl/fairly butch/obviously then a dyke/not butch enough to be a top when the truth is that I”m really boy/twinkish, effeminate/into other boys/top. it’s sooo frustrating.

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    • Adam,

      You are definitely not alone. I live in that middle ground area myself. I am in my early 50s and don’t know if I will ever transition. I have talked it over with my son (he is almost 29) and he accepts me either way, my youngest daughter (age 21) would likely not accept it and has expressed just that, and my middle daughter would probably be OK with it. I have always dressed in male clothes and read men’s magazines and act and think like a man. About two years ago, I started going by the gender ambiguous name of Tyger so that if (or when) I transition, I can easily go by Ty. I intend to legally change my name this year. I am definitely not confused about my gender…just confused about my sexuality. I always thought that I was a straight man because, while I have never dated women, I could see myself being the protective boyfriend. However, I get off on gay guy sex…love jerking off and watching it…never was into the vaginal intercourse. I always thought it was because I had penis envy. I am still not sure. Maybe I am just a gay male top. Even if I ever dated women, I would still need my gay male porn. It confuses me as to my sexuality. Anyway, there are many of us out there that have not made the transition. I do love that in my pictures when I was a child, I look 100% like a little boy…..I have known since I was a toddler that I was male.

      Tyger

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  2. Yes, it’s good to say this.

    I’ve been the last 6-8 years avoiding medical transition for a lot of reasons and they all made sense at the time and don’t now. I needed that time to both sort out a bunch of external crises as well as become comfortable with the prospect of starting from scratch. Didn’t make me any less trans but it sure did make me feel that way often.

    There’s a lot of pressure from folks who’ve done the medical thing to “prove” yourself like they have – comes from insecurity and them trying to justify their own experience. Even though I *get* where it’s coming from, it’s still really hard to process as someone who isn’t choosing to follow the same pathway at the same time.

    I’m so glad you posted this. Thank you.

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  3. I hate being seen as a butch woman, because it makes guys avoid me like the plague relationship-wise (well, that may also have something to do with the fact that I’m not exactly the prettiest, girliest thing around, even if they do know my history of dating guys!), I find actual butch lesbians tend not to like me much either (had one as a boss, so difficult to get away from), have a hard time getting to know exclusively straight women (somehow it seems that anyone that’s willing to talk to me turns out to have at least some bi leanings!) unless there’s a gay male middleman around, and then of course there’s always the “I don’t hit girls, but you don’t count” stuff that ranges from jokes to (in school) actual violence from the homophobic crowd. Despite presenting as a woman, still, and liking only guys.

    Transitioning, at least if it were accomplished via “magic wand” and not surgery that leaves scars and currently less than acceptable, to me, results, would make me happier with my body, and happier in bed certainly, but it wouldn’t make me any less gay than people think I already am, so I can’t see much out-of-bed social benefit, the way society currently is.

    And then there’s the whole “to what” thing, being not entirely male, but a somewhat male-leaning androgyne. Sufficiently distinct from a female leaning one that I want the other parts, but I’m not entirely a man, either. I do also think I’m the same *person* I’d be had I been born with the other set of parts, though, gender expression-wise.

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    • Kareil- I have had similar thoughts and have been through very similar experiences. No answers for you (you didn’t ask for any), because everybody has to find their own way, but the reassurance that you are not alone with this.

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  4. Not all those with dysphoria are all that butch, or lesbians. I deal with the dysphoria that is an artefact of my polyamorous, pansexual, bi-gender, butch enough to matter, slightly genderfluid, definitely-not-cisgender, middleaged self, through a series rituals.
    Shaving. Dressing. Awareness of self and others. Deliberately flirting with straight middleaged women (they probably think a lesbian is hitting on them).

    If you’s asked me at the age of 21-22 if I wanted to transition, the answer would have been “oh God, Yes Please!” But the medical technology and procedures had not been developed then. I went on to have a child and to marry. Life is OK, and I haven’t changed essentially from what I was in my 20’s.
    Dress codes for women have relaxed have relaxed significantly in the past 35 years, so the fact that I wear exclusively male leisure, work and business clothes 99% of the time is not remarkable, though it represents an extreme of current western dress.
    I’d like to pack, and I tried this one day at work using a homemade packer. I felt too selfconcious, so haven’t repeated the experiment. I don’t think anyone actually noticed. I don’t know why I chose a work environment for the experiment! When I was in my 20’s I packed 50% of the time. I gave it up as a breastfeeding mother – I switched for a couple of years.
    The world of human gender ID is as wide and deep as you can imagine. There are no rules, and no norms. We are self made men/women/whatevers.

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    • Not all those with dysphoria are all that butch, or lesbians.

      Um. Everyone this blog is designed for knows that. That’s kind of the entire point.

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  5. Another point on the to transition or not argument is that, despite what many people seem to think, it’s not an all or nothing thing. I have known of many trans guys who say that if someone doesn’t want to have chest surgery then they can’t really be a trans man.

    About 6 years ago I returned home to the trans group I went to when I was a teenager (after having been on T for a few years, passing completley and being totally unrecognised by people who used to know me), when I said that I wasn’t planning on having surgery I was met with a stunned silence, disbelief, and some ameture psychologising as to my reasons for it. The truth was that the testosterone had had such an effect on me and changed my life so much that I felt comfortable as I was and didn’t feel like I needed to go through the trauma of chest surgery (I’m actually now starting to look into chest surgery but that’s beside the point).

    I’ve also known people who just want to have chest surgery and not take hormones. And others who choose to socially transition but not have any medical treatment at all.

    I’m sure this is all stuff you know about Aiden, but I’m just making the point that the whether or not to transition thing is not as black and white as many people think (or as I was led to believe it was when I was first getting to grips with it)

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  6. *sighs despondently* This post came up after I googled “How NOT to transition* I keep telling myself that the dysphoria is NOT that bad – low intensity. I don’t ever even cross dress. I’ve never tried to present as my real gender except online. So why am I obsessing all the time now as being trans??? How do I just accept the fact that I’m trans and find those suppressed parts of me that want out and just let them show? If I don’t change my body or my clothes how can anyone really even know?!? I wish I knew who I really was.

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    • You didn’t write much about your circumstances, age etc, so it’s a bit difficult to answer, but I’ll give it a shot.
      First of all, the “coming out to self” process can be a long one. That’s pretty normal. It’s also normal to do some baby steps, then hide for a bit and so on.
      On the other hand, obsessing seems to be a normal part of the process too ;-)I’d say by obsessing, you are doing your steps towards self-realisation. Maybe you just need time to feel your way.
      Not everybody cross dresses before transitioning. Not everybody transitions physically and/or socially, or full time. Some people express their gender solely through writing, the internet and so on. Some are content with just fantasizing or cross dressing at home.
      All this can be an end in itself or tools to find out what you want. Other tools would be to meet trans people, find a support group (online or real life), see a trans shrink, attend some drag king workshops to cross dress in a “safe”, playful environment, and so on. You could allow yourself some space and time for experimentation. If you get scared, take it slow. It’s all learning by doing and you don’t have to make that one big creepy DECISION.

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    • I’m pretty new to this too, but the one thing that someone told me that really helped was this – It is not a race. You don’t have to figure yourself out super fast once you notice something is different. You don’t have to figure yourself out at all, there’s no prizes for reaching the end first.

      You may decide to tell people, or not. You may decide your gender ID is best served by being your real gender online, or in RPG’s. You might decide to wear all your same clothes but for socks which are made for your real gender. You may decide three years down the track you don’t ID as trans at all. And that is totally cool.

      Take your time. Rushing into things makes you stressed, can head you into places you aren’t comfortable being. I know it can be so tempting to get ALL the information you can possibly find because the way other people made their decisions must help you make yours, but if you find yourself putting pressure on yourself to figure it out RIGHTNOW, try taking a step back. File away the info, and go about your life like you are now. Maybe take a look at how you feel when real-life stuff happens – that’s how you’ll figure out which parts of you are suppressed. It can be as huge as “They all see me as X and I’m really Y!” or as small as “I want to be able to do/wear/say/behave/emote that, but that’s not for the gender I’m supposed to be”

      So, yeah, rambly. But basically, you don’t need to find all the answers right away. Take care of yourself.

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    • I remember being in the same place as you. What really changed things was admitting it out loud to someone I could trust. Once I said it, I knew immediately how much it really meant, despite the years of telling myself that it wasn’t that bad. The fact that you’ve come here and written this comment says to me that you already know that your dysphoria is bad enough to seek help.

      Now that you know this, you’re going to have to start accepting it. This is the hard part, as you’re going to have to work through some negative beliefs about trans people and transitioning. Like ShipOfFools mentioned, meeting other trans people helps – knowing that there are people just like you and that they are leading fulfilling lives may help you come to terms with your dysphoria, regardless of whether you take hormones or have surgery.

      Also, baby steps. Transitioning is a process and is comprised of thousands of decisions. It’s all very overwhelming at first, but if you tackle just one thing at a time, it becomes more doable. How bout just spending the next few hours thinking about what you might wear tomorrow. Have you ever bought male underwear? You could try that – no one would see it, but wearing it will tell you a lot about you identify and how good it makes you feel will tell you how important this is.

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  7. On the one hand I really want to transition to look like a guy to society but on the other hand there are many reasons I’m not ready to transition/not sure if I even will: Firstly I recently was diagnosed with a mental health disorder that I will be managing for life and I’m still dealing with that big change, another big leap might trigger relapse. Also T would break my voice and I really love to sing, it’s very important to me, I’m terrified of losing my vocal range. Although my singing voice can go high, my speaking voice is low enough I can pass when dressed manly even if I talk, in fact several people have assumed I’m on T already. I’ve socially transitioned already (legal name change) and family and friends accept and see me as male. But meeting new people, they still assume I’m going to transition medically as soon as I can. I respect some people do transition ASAP but for me it’s complicated.

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  8. Thank you everyone for your contributions. I’m 37 now. I’ve always known I was a boy. Was born in post fascist dictatorship catholic Spain to a homophobic family. When I hit puberty I become a rather pretty girl. I hated my bobs and had an imaginary penis. I started manifesting my manliness visually. Back in the day there was no FTM visibility and I didn’t knew science was there for us. I looked like a butch and hated it, it was a mockery of the man I was. I felt a Frankenstein, ugly, rejected by both men and women, lonely. I was bulimic, abused drugs and got into abusive relationships. I was promiscuous and self harmed. I had “attachment issues” and seemed not to have boundaries, nor identity. It was diagnosed Borderline Personality Disorder. At 18 I realised that was not a life. I stopped drugs, self arm and bulimia. I was left with the desolation of visible FTM stigma. By 23 I couldn’t take more loneliness or abuse. I started feminising. I left Spain and migrated to France. With a little step at a time, I grew hair and worn mildly fem cloths. Forgot about the FTM stuff, too much pain. I decided to embrace what I had, a female body: to love it and find it beautiful because dysphoria was killing me and I could not change that body, so only healthy way out was loving it. I had few long relationships with men. Non worked more than 3 years, they felt out of place, I felt out of place. I still had underlying mental health issues that I was ignoring on a daily basis. I WAS NORMAL to my self. Last year I met a man who said will accepted me as a man with female appearance. He abused me mentally and physically. Police was involved. Over the past 4 years I’ve learn there was something “wrong” with me, I couldn’t have relationships. I wanted to fix myself, I revisited the BPD diagnosis. I have had two mental health crisis on the last year. I decided to get serious about healing and solve every single of my issues. I knew there was some old trans stuff hid at the cellar. So I joined the local trans group. It has been enlightening. I know what I am and why I have struggled. I don’t consider myself as a mental health genuine case. I’m just trans, born on the wrong body and I’m experiencing an understandable reaction to this fact. Also having natural reactions to family & social rejection. I think I have a normal reaction to cronic loneliness. Although being trans is not best news I feel happy and relieved. I’m not a nut case. Anyone in my skin would have had high chances of going bananas. Today, just a month after meeting the LGBT group and having these realisation, I’m faced with the choice of transition and most importantly to me, what choice will lead to better mental health. I fear to be a butch, have a bad recollection of these years. I reckon the scene has changed and that could make a difference: I have no connections with family and almost no one knows me here in the U.K. where they are more open minded. I like the idea of T and chest surgery, I fear about the loneliness and rejection that seems to go with it? I really long to have a family, become a father. I like my long hair, feel comfortable on androgynous cloths and saving for a tailored suit. For the last month I’m muscling up and stand straight, wide and tall, walking and talking like the man I am. In bed I feel naturally attracted to women and “can do” man. I like almost e-v-e-r-y woman and just the really manly guys. I have NO luck attracting women so far, but seem to cast a powerful spelland on some men. I think I’m their un confessed dreamed gay bromance. I have two married man after me, it is relatively easy to find people to go to bed in my current disguise, but I just want to keep genuine to myself. I need to find the courage to flirt with women, take rejection and don’t stress out about eventual discrimination. I’m panning to go to the U.K trans festival to meet folk like me and find out the different formulas that make people happy on their skin. I’m a trans that hasn’t transition, and just now I’m ok with it, but feels is an interim period while I explore and reach my own conclusions about what is right for me. I am particularly thankful for the post talking about taking time and patience. I am obsessed about the trans topic just now, I’ve come out and quite strong. Quoting a friend, is like awakening a crocodile, all you can do after is hang up to the tail and hope not to be shaken away. I’m going to reflect on that comment and try to slow down after this inicial exploratory phase. Seems a sensible thingh to do. I hope I can achieve it! Thanks for being there, share and listen guys, the world feels a better place since I know I’m not alone!

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  9. I have no qualms about my gender. I am a woman in a man’s body. It is the outer world that puts expectations of what men and women should look like. Am I to cater to the demands of hateful strangers?

    “Often a form of denial” would be more convincing if that phrase wasn’t so often abused and used to abuse Non-binary persons. The fact of the matter is that diversity means diversity. I find that the word “Often” is often used when people actually want to say “Always’ – which is disrespectful and transphobic of itself. That belief ought to be examined before someone even claims psychological authority, before it even slips outside their mouths.

    If they don’t even have a practice of examining their own beliefs in the first place, then they’re definitely not worthy of calling themselves a medical professional. Because only a trusted public medical professional has enough clout that that could be believable. But then again – the medical profession, as it is in my country (USA), is marred with all sorts of private and political interests. So, even then, not the best authority on my mental health. Pity.

    This article has a lot of truth to it. I would agree – we define our own gender and our own lives – and thus no one gets to tell us the rules of how our gender operates. For gender in itself has been historically repressed. Therefore it is best to question the sentiments of the external world’s majority status quo, at all times, and run by our own rules. Because that status quot is based on lies and false assumptions about people we don’t even know, from a point of view that is not cultivaterd from any real skillset.

    I am woman in a man’s body. I have never experienced unmanageable dysphoria about my feelings about me or my body. MY Happiness does not hinge on external circumstances. Bless the struggle though, because it is real, even without the dysphoria, it is still challenging to be who you truly are – cisgender or not. I have no intention of transitioning at this point.

    I find that 100% of the time, the outter world has a problem with my appearance. So I stopped listening to them. Because gender isn’t about appearances. It’s about your Soul. And this is the part of me that they’ll never ever take away from me.

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