One of the advantages we, as trans men, have is the opportunity to almost completely remake ourselves. No one is too surprised if we undergo a few personality shifts as we come out and transition and they’re not likely to say much unless those shifts are negative. It’s a great time to experiment and figure out not only who you are, but who you want to grow into.
I didn’t take advantage of this opportunity. It’s the kind of thing you have to be in the right mental place to do and not knowing where your next meal is coming from is not conducive to that place. Lucky for me, this isn’t something that it’s ever too late to think about. It’s like having sex: the right time is when you’re ready.
How does one go about becoming the man they want to be? I’m not sure anyone has an answer to that. I do know what I did (and am still doing, being the person you want to be is a lifelong process), but that may not be the process for you. Like everything on here from wardrobe to T effects, take it as a jumping off point and customise until you get what works.
- What are your values? In order to know who you want to be you have to know what you value. I am a major fanboy geek and always have been so for me this was easiest when I thought of it as belonging to a particular Hogwarts House or Faerie Court (yes, I’m that kind of geek). I like logic and reason and restraint and originality and curiosity and self discipline and compassion and ambition and thoughtful loyalty. I like people who know what they want and will do almost anything to get it, but I don’t like people who wilfully hurt others for no reason other than that they can. I like people who can argue for things they disagree with because they understand the reasoning even if they think it’s flawed. I like people who are curious about the world around them. I believe morality and ethics are most often grey areas with no clear right or wrong. I believe there is a time for friendship and a time for competition. I believe that winning by cheating isn’t winning at all. I believe that taking advantage of loopholes in rules isn’t cheating, it’s being intelligent. I believe that some things can only be obtained by hard work while others require natural talent. All of these things shape who I am and want to be.
- Do you live up to your values? Not everyone does. Everyone slips up from time to time. I place a very high value on self-discipline, but I am honestly complete crap at it myself. I admire hard work, but I get frustrated more easily than most anyone I know. Make a list of the areas you are managing and those you need to work on. Then pick one area each month or quarter or year to put a conscious effort into. At the moment I’m trying to work on my self-discipline. This is an ongoing project for me. The ADHD means that it’s harder than it is for the average person and I’ve had to learn to be a bit easier on myself when I screw up. I know that I can do it though because I was incredibly good at it when I was in a highly structured environment as a teenager. So I work at it. And work at it. And work at it. And slowly I’m improving.
- What image do you want to present to the world? Anyone who says appearance doesn’t matter is either naive or lying. Appearance doesn’t matter in terms of your value as a person. It certainly makes a difference in the way the world treats you. If you dress like a dudebro people will assume you are a dudebro. Maybe that’s not fair, but it’s still reality.Who do you want the world to see when they look at you? Even if you can’t present that way yet, it’s a good thing to know. Try to picture it in your head so you know what you’re working toward.
- Is your desired image realistic? This is important. If I had my choice I’d present as a 5’10”, gorgeously toned, effeminate-leaning-dapper man with perfect hair, striking eyes, and a larger than average cock. I’d be James Bond’s gay cousin. (Ideally Pierce Brosnan Bond, definitely not Daniel Craig Bond.) I am 5’0″, have almost no ability to build muscle mass, and hair that has to be forced into submission. (You can guess how the cock issue is going.) My ideal image is not going to happen unless someone invents body swapping technology.What I can do is go for the effeminate-leaning-dapper part. I can cultivate the confidence and grace that I admire. I can work toward particular qualities rather than physical attributes. (And I can spend three hours beating my hair into submission every morning.)
- What might need to change in order to meet your desired image? I am going to be 100% honest here: I am not remotely like the moderately effeminate, dapper gentleman I would ideally like to be. I am klutzy. I am awkward. I am constantly putting my foot in my mouth. I could use some work on the “calm and collected” thing. These are not things that necessarily need to change. They don’t hurt me. I could accept them and move on. I just don’t want to. Much like how I don’t feel comfortable with breasts, I don’t feel like certain aspects of myself are me. Those parts I work on changing. I take ballet, I consciously correct my posture, I try to think before I speak (that one’s hardest). Like with the self-discipline, slowly these things are changing.
- What parts don’t fit your desired image, but you like them anyway? This is not about changing who you are. It’s about learning how to make who you are show through to other people. It’s about consciously being who you are instead of subconsciously being someone else because of your socialisation and what’s easy. I am kind of a sarcastic ass. I’m ok with that. I will never be the kind of person who is considered “nice”. I am cynical and often derisive and I don’t have patience for stupidity. Those things don’t fit with the “dapper gay gentleman” image and I am not remotely willing to change them. They’re a core part of who I am right along with being attracted to men. I am willing to learn to suppress those things when necessary to get what I want, but that’s as far as I’ll go. My friends and family will always have to accept my less than nice side.
- How much effort are you willing/able to put in? Not everyone has the same emotional, physical, or financial resources to do everything they’d like. Not everyone wants to put in all the resources they can. If I was rich I’d hire myself a team of tutors and trainers and stylists and wardrobe consultants and tailors and personal assistants so I didn’t have to think of all the details myself. I am not rich. Wish I was, but I most definitely am not. I also have depression and ADHD and a few chronic illnesses that mean I don’t always have the energy to do more than get out of bed and take care of my dogs. On those days I have to simultaneously try to remember that the phase will pass, avoid beating myself up, and attempt to do at least one thing more than I think I’m capable of. Managing to wash my hair is a big deal. You have to decide how much you can put in, sometimes on a daily basis. Maybe that means learning to stand up straight and look people in the eye, maybe it means buying a brand new wardrobe and taking classes at night for a new degree. It depends on your resources and desires.
- Do you have a way of keeping track of progress? If you don’t try to keep track there’s a better than even chance that you won’t notice change. It’s like with T where the changes are small enough and slow enough that you don’t tend to realise how much is different until you see someone after time apart or you look at old pictures. I keep a journal. It’s not much, just random things I write down throughout the day, but I can look back and see that a month ago I didn’t mark a single thing off my ‘to do’ list while now I’m getting through at least half. Part of that is getting better at putting down things that need to get done and avoiding things that I know aren’t likely to happen and part of it is a slow improvement in self discipline. The actual journal parts show that I’ve become much better at articulating what might have triggered a depressive episode and help provide a few clues as to things I should avoid. (Watching Criminal Minds alone is a sure way to give me nightmares.)
- Is it time to re-evaluate? Once you’ve started this should be asked periodically. Maybe once a month, maybe once a year, whatever works for you. This is particularly true if you’re also early in transition or a teen to young adult. (Not because you’re flaky or anything, adolescence and young adulthood are just natural times of personal growth and experimentation. You’re most likely going to be a different person at 40 than you were at 22.)Transition is an awkward time for most people. If you look around at early transition guys you’ll notice that we seem to revert back to adolescence even if we’re well past it. It’s not surprising when you think about it, we’re learning to be men as much as a thirteen year old is. It just means that we tend to do a lot of exploring. Things we think fit us when we first transition might not six months down the line. After being read as male regularly for a few years we tend to settle down. If you’re in a space where you’re testing things out it’s a good idea to check in once and a while and make sure that the testing is working for you. I know that for me the early months of transition meant a lot of tossing out traditional trans concepts and trying to create my own. Later on I had to work at removing all of the misogynistic attitudes I’d picked up early in transition (I’m still working on that one). More recently I realised that trying to be polite and nice all of the time was making me nearly as uncomfortable as being a girl did. As you try things out you’ll find that some work and some don’t. Don’t be afraid to toss out the things that don’t work.
- Are you done? I don’t actually think a person can ever really be done with this because no one will ever be perfect, but I needed a tenth point or it was going to drive me mad. In any event, if you reach a point where you’re happy with who you are and don’t think you need or want to change anything else then stay there. Check in once and a while to make sure you’re living up to your values and enjoy the person you are.