1. Trans FlagSome people WILL actually accept you.
    • I don’t have to write, “There are people in life who won’t accept you” because you already know that. There’s a lot of risk to coming out. Your relationships, career and life itself is in potential danger when you come out as transgender. It’s tempting to just stay closeted so that you don’t have to worry about losing your closest relationships. I can’t promise you that everyone in your life is going to be accepting—how can I? But I can promise you that at least one person in your life WILL accept you for who you are, even if you haven’t met them yet. Come out to that person. Screw everyone else.
  2. Learn your triggers.
    • When I was a teenager, the word “trigger” was only used in the mentally ill community. It was for kids in mental hospitals who didn’t feel like doing their homework. When I say, “trigger” as it pertains to the trans community, I don’t mean just trigger words like the t-slur or being deadnamed. I also mean that you need to learn your limits. What specific words, phrases, TV shows or situations make you dysphoric, angry or afraid? The sooner you map these out, the greater chance you have at avoiding them. To be honest, I’m still figuring these out.
  3. Not being “trans enough” isn’t a thing.
    • Wrap your head around the fact that it’s mostly cis people who will tell you that you’re not “trans enough,” so, that should make it pretty easy to ignore. In all seriousness, it doesn’t matter if you’re not passing, don’t adhere to gender norms or aren’t on hormones. You are valid.
  4. Help the people who are in worse situations than you.
    • In the past year that I’ve been out, I’ve met trans folk whose families don’t accept them. I’ve met those who are homeless and even one trans woman who escaped human trafficking. I’ve decided to offer up my home to these people through the Transgender Assistance Program of Virginia as a way to give back to my community.
  5. Strengthening your community strengthens you.
    • Through volunteering with TAP Virginia, I’ve connected with an entire ecosystem of people and heard their stories. I’ve become more involved by attending events such as TIES and Pride. I’ve even joined a transgender support group, in which I am the only transman and the youngest by like, twenty years. All of these experiences have made me more confident and at peace with myself.
  6. When people get your name and pronouns wrong, distinguish maliciousness from an honest mistake.
    • Everyone has a different threshold with how much misgendering they can take. Mine happens to be very wide, so, being patient with people comes easier to me. I only really get offended by misgendering if I know that it was on purpose. When you correct someone, do they apologize and do their best to not misgender you again, or do they get defensive and willfully stick to the wrong name and pronouns? Observe peoples’ behavior after they’re corrected, and then be the judge of if they’re someone you want to hang around with or not.
  7. You don’t have to go through literal hell to have an advocacy story worth telling.
    • I was extremely fortunate to have a very smooth transition. I transitioned as an adult living on my own, every family member and friend who I told has accepted me with open arms and the only bullshit I ever had to deal with was with work and society. I was never thrown out of my house, or stuck in an abusive situation with nowhere to go. I was never violently discriminated against. When I went to TIES, I took a seminar on telling your advocacy story. Everyone else’s stories were riddled with trauma, and honestly, some of the saddest stories I’ve ever heard. I left early—right before we were supposed to tell our advocacy story—because I felt that I had nothing to say. I was afraid of invalidating everyone else with my own baby ass experiences that don’t even compare. Don’t be like me. Don’t compare scars, because all you’re doing is silencing yourself. You have a story worth telling, no matter what it is.
  8. It’s okay to keep memorabilia from before you transitioned.
    • I still have a framed picture of myself from when I was ten with one of my little sisters in my lap and the other on the other side of me, and it’s one of my most treasured possessions. I also have a cross-stitched towel with a clown on it that my Bubbie (Yiddish for “Grandmother”) made me that has my deadname on it. But these things still bring back fond memories, and I don’t want to get rid of them just because they’re proof that I’m not cis. I’m keeping them because of the relationship significance to my family members.
  9. Your past made you who you are today, even if it doesn’t make sense.
    • Whenever I tell the story of my life, I sometimes make things up so that it’ll make sense to the other person how I ended up this way. Because truthfully, if you knew my past, some things would match up to my current self, but most of it won’t because I was living my life as a girl. When you spend your life locked inside of a façade, it doesn’t make sense on a surface level why you turned out the way you did. But your past brought you here. Don’t be ashamed of it.
  10. Creative outlets can save your life.
    • I tell people all the time that if I didn’t have writing, I’d be dead. Writing gives me a way to express my feelings through character creation and development. Once you find something like that, nothing can silence you.
  11. Transitioning is the most freeing and limiting thing you can do.
    • Transitioning, by definition, means that you are living your authentic self. You are leaving behind a life of lying to yourself and presenting yourself as who you were always meant to be. There’s nothing more freeing than that. And then, you come into this world reborn only to discover that there are laws that make your life more difficult, many people don’t understand your “lifestyle choice” and there is a literal risk of being killed on the street at any moment. Live your authentic self so that you can change the world that limits you.
  12. Take as long as you need to figure out your transition.
    • None of this is a race. I came out full-time when I was twenty-five, which is old for a millennial. Only you can find the best time to transition.
  13. The beginning of a transition can feel weird, and that’s okay.
    • Feeling weird about using a different name and pronouns all of a sudden isn’t a sign that you’re making a mistake—it’s a sign that you’re getting used to the change. Eventually, it will feel natural. Pick the perfect name and introduce yourself to someone new. It may help you practice.
  14. Learn to distinguish real allies from fake ones.
    • We all know those allies who always offer a listening ear and correct any mistakes with pronouns on the spot. Then, there are the self-proclaimed, safety-pinned know-nothings who actively drown out your own voice and insist that they accept you for who you are but still use the wrong name and pronouns after being corrected over and over. I’m Autistic, so, I’m actually at a disadvantage when telling who is who, but a telltale sign is measuring how much they listen. If they’re constantly interrupting you, using the wrong pronoun even after you’ve modeled using the right one and updating a status on how they’re helping the trans community in the middle of you telling them something deep and personal about your transition, they’re doing it wrong.
  15. Don’t rely on other people to validate you.
    • This may sound harsh, but nobody owes you validation. It’s always nice, and it can help us tell who is safe to come out to and who isn’t, but in the end, you are responsible for validating yourself. Relying on other people for support and love is not a healthy way to live, and it’s not a sustainable one either. Validation about your own transition can only come from you.
  16. Dysphoria is real and unforgiving. Kick its ass.
    • If you’re trans, you know what dysphoria is. That gut-wrenching feeling when you look down at parts that should not be attached to you. That sickening churning in your stomach when your job forces you to wear clothes that make you feel disgusted and humiliated. But when you’re alone, society can’t touch you. If it works to do something stereotypically gendered like working with tools or painting your nails, do that. Or if you want to do something for self-care that is entirely gender nonspecific, do that too. Do anything that you can control to make you feel like yourself again.
  17. If you have the spoons, teach people.
    • People always say that it’s not the responsibility of marginalized people to offer a #teachablemoment to the cishet’s of the world. And they’re right. But who better to help a cis person understand the experiences of the trans community than a real-life trans person? If The Cis have questions and they’re not being douches about it, what’s the harm in answering them? If you think it would be beneficial for that person to understand, or if you feel that helping them understand would help create a better, less transphobic world, why not offer them your two cents? Creating bridges between cis and trans people could go a long way, and it starts with giving them that good ol’ fashioned OwnVoices perspective. Cis people actively seeking out information to learn about what trans people are really like and trans people bending over backwards to lead a cis person to water who won’t drink are two entirely different things.
  18. Don’t wallow in regret for not transitioning sooner.
    • I’m honestly still struggling with this one. My biggest regret in life is not transitioning in college. I would have had a much better experience, and I went to a really progressive, LGBTQ+ accepting school. Everyone would have been fine with it. But I was so paralyzed with fear that I couldn’t bring myself to do it. And when I just couldn’t take it anymore at senior year, I was starting student teaching and studying abroad and transitioning simply wasn’t an option. I didn’t transition in college, but I did transition right after, and I’m creating the best years of my life. Yeah, I transitioned a few years later than I would have wanted, but I’m still enjoying my life as a man. Learn from my mistakes. You transitioned when it was the best time for you, and there’s no room for regrets.
  19. Remember that when you transition, everyone else is transitioning with you.
    • This ties into the whole being patient with people who get your pronouns wrong thing, but this is more about a broader issue. Other people need to wrap their heads around seeing you a different way than what they’re used to. They have to come to terms with the fact that who they saw was actually just a very dysphoric exoskeleton. Be patient with people who don’t get it at first. If they really care about you, they’ll come around.
  20. Nobody can transition alone.
    • No human being can live their lives completely alone, but being trans adds a whole new meaning to this. When you transition, you are leaving behind a mask that you’ve put on for your whole life and living your authentic self. It’s only human nature to want to share that with people. Hang out with friends who you’ve come out to. Volunteer. Join a support group. Being a part of a larger community makes transitioning a whole lot easier.
  21. Your perspective is ONLY your perspective.
    • I put a disclaimer on my sensitivity reading business that I do not speak for all marginalized people who share my identities. I do not speak for all trans people. My opinions and experiences are my own. Case and point, if you google the ‘Shitty Trans Ally Bingo’ card, I’ve actually encouraged two or three behaviors from that list in this article. There are trans people out there who do not think that “teaching” cis people willing to learn is beneficial and that getting pronouns wrong one time is an unforgivable, friendship-ruining hate crime. This shows that I have my own opinions, and there are going to be other trans people who disagree with them. And that’s okay.
  22. You will now headcanon everyone as trans. EVERYONE.
    • I do this with Autism too, but now that I’m trans, I find it very easy to headcanon characters from TV shows or books as trans too. I think it has something to do with you identifying with a character, and it being colored with blue, pink and white because being trans is such a huge part of us.
  23. You will never be cis. That doesn’t make you any less of a man or woman.
    • Sometimes, it’s fun to imagine what you would be like if you were cis. Me? I’d be that stereotypical gamer nerd playing WoW and Magic and whining on the Internet about how “nice guys finish last.” Then, I count my blessings that I’m not that guy, ‘cause I’d be an asshole. In all seriousness, I had to make peace with the fact that I would never be cis. I’ve accepted that I’m just as much of a man as anyone else—I just have a different way of getting there.
  24. You are a role model for trans youth.
    • Recently, I’ve “adopted” a trans teenaged boy and we’ve become really close. He calls me “dad” and I call him “son” and we have really deep conversations. At some point in our relationship, it hit me: I’m a mentor figure for this kid. I’m living the adult life that he is anxiously waiting for, and I’m probably one of the only examples of a trans adult that he has. I want to be someone he can rely on. I want to test out all of the experiences of being a man for him so that I can make all of the mistakes that he won’t have to. I know I can’t physically be there to protect him from this transphobic world, so, I’ve decided to teach him how to protect himself from it. I want to guide him and be there for him as he goes from boy to man. I don’t really know what I’m doing, but I think that’s the point. If he watches me figure it out, maybe he can figure it out for himself. Trans youth need us, perhaps more than anyone.
  25. As long as you are alive, you are a beacon of hope to closeted trans people.
    • When I think about my time in the closet, all I can remember is how isolating it was. I didn’t know any trans people, and I didn’t even know what transgender was until college. But when I graduated from community college and transferred to a four-year, I started having regular contact with trans men and women. I was seeing examples of people living their lives authentically and unabashedly, and it made me see a future for myself. All openly trans people, whether they realize it or not, are living proof that it is possible to be who they were always meant to be.

Nathaniel Glanzman is a high school English teacher on the Autism Spectrum. He is a volunteer with TAP Virginia and writes novels for fun.

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