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Transmissions: New year, new (trans) you

by Gwendolyn Ann Smith

Illustration: Christine Smith
Illustration: Christine Smith  

I want to take a moment to primarily speak to those who may be questioning whether they may be trans or nonbinary themselves, or are still fairly new to the potential transitions. Don't worry, if that isn't you, you're still welcome to read on.

The first of January is an arbitrary date that, for many, signifies a new year. Given its proximity to the shortest day of the year and coming along in the deep of winter, it's certainly a good time to mark a new year, and fill one's life with hope for a better tomorrow.

For many, too, New Year's Day includes a resolution, where one declares steps they may take to improve themselves over the course of the year. It's often when diets start, gym memberships are secured, or when some might opt to quit smoking.

For those of us who are trans, however, I wonder if we can't look at this time-tested tradition as one we can take advantage of. Consider for a moment how this may be the perfect time to lay the groundwork of coming out as trans or nonbinary.

With winter weather dropping the mercury, it's a good time to do some study and introspection. It's an opportunity to curl up inside and read some books about transgender issues. Maybe grab a copy of "Trans Bodies, Trans Selves" to page through, or one of the many trans autobiographies and memoirs you can find via a nearby bookseller or online retailer.

Speaking of things online, one can also take this time to hunt the internet for resources, and learn about the vast number of options available for a trans person in this new year. You may even be able to find a local support group or other nearby resources that will allow you to reach out to people.

Barring that, of course, social media and other online forums will give you both a place for support and, possibly, a place to explore your preferred gender identity or expression in an otherwise anonymous and potentially safe environment. Provided, of course, that you don't give away too much personal information, naturally.

I also recently came across a free phone app, called Solace LGBT, which provides its own series of helpful articles on transition in a supportive framework. One caveat, however: the application is very transfeminine-focused. While it will give you plenty of advice about buying a bra or trying makeup, you'll find nothing about binding or other needs for transmasculine people or many nonbinary people. I hope the app creators will fix this glaring oversight as Solace evolves. It's available via Apple's App Store and Google Play.

Think of these early months of the new year as a good time to spend your energies within yourself, and focus on just what it is to be you. You might not be able to get out to all the places you'll enjoy during the summertime, but you can get plenty of time to stay inside and learn about you and your future.

I offer one more reason why the winter months of a new year serve us who are trans: For those who may opt for hormone treatment and other such physical changes, but may not yet be fully out in the world, consider for a moment how much easier it may be to manage such changes when one opts for the bulky coats, scarves, and sweaters of the winter months, versus the T-shirts and shorts of the warmer months. There's a distinct advantage to be had.

Oh, and it's worth noting that a lot of clothing retailers are busy trying to sell off their fall and winter apparel now, allowing you to take advantage of clearance sales. That's very useful whether you are building a new wardrobe, or just want to experiment with what feels right to you.

Perhaps you are ready to come out to friends and family. If you didn't during the holidays in December — always a risky time to do so, among all the other challenges of the often-dramatic family gatherings — then perhaps this otherwise quiet time of the year may give you some time to come out in a less stressful moment.

Besides, maybe some of your relatives and friends resolved to be more tolerant and accepting.

All of this, of course, is just one trans woman's suggestion. Perhaps there are times that are better for you, and that's perfect. One thing about being trans or nonbinary that few may realize: there is no timeline and you are in complete control of what you do and when.

For some, they may transition quickly, never looking back, at any time of the year. For others, their transition may take many twists and turns. All of this is all within your own timetable, and there is no shame in whatever path you find yourself having to take. If transition isn't for you, then by all means, don't. Being trans isn't about following a cookie cutter of specific steps, but about your personal well-being: my path may not be yours.

With that said, the best time to move toward your own well-being is today. If you have questioned if you might be facing gender dysphoria, or as trans or nonbinary, this is the very moment for you to contemplate what that means for you, and what steps you may wish to take.

One more thing: while we all face our own unique challenges on our path, there isn't a single one of us who cannot succeed and find their own happiness. It will take tenacity and a lot of work — but you can thrive.

Gwen Smith didn't take her own advice, and came out in November. You'll find her at www.gwensmith.com

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