For the general public, trans identities and medical transition —hormones, genital surgery, mastectomies, etc.— are closely linked. It is often thought that when transitioning, a trans person begins as one gender, undergoes medical interventions, and comes out as another gender. However, this emphasis on physical transition overshadows a much more complex and non-linear process of social transition.

Transition is a process that has no end, since gender is made and remade as we perform it. What’s more, it is often a process that does not have a single starting point, but rather many.

By understanding transition outside of a linear framework, it is revealed as a process full of  both uncertainty and opportunity. It is a time to rethink everything one has learned about gender throughout their life, investigating not how their gender should be, but rather how it can be, giving trans people the opportunity to build gender identities that oppose patriarchal gender norms.


When I told him (my dad) I said, “I'm going to wait. I'm going to wait until I have my psychological certificate, and my psychiatric certificate.” And I know that’s pathologizing, and that I did not need it with the other people I came out to.

Telling their own transition narratives with the benefit of distance allows many trans people to make sense of an often confusing process. However, as trans theorist Kadji Amin points out, this same insistence on renarrativizing the process of transition as one with a discrete “before” and “after” can also collapse individual trans experiences into transnormative stories that efface the complexity and individuality of navigating gender transition.


In fact, it was to such a point that I didn’t come out as trans until after I finished university. I've only been in transition for a year. In terms of my childhood? Well, now that I'm older I can realize that I was always trans. Because I liked... feminine things and I was very different from other boys my age.

Theorist Jay Prosser has argued that autobiographical practices “post”-transition allowing trans people to retroactively bring order to what is often experienced as a confusing and chaotic time; in short, the benefit of time allows trans people to retroactively make sense of —and narrativize— their transitions into often neat, linear stories.

The idea that transness is inherent and linear — that all trans people understand themselves as trans from the moment of consciousness — is part of a larger tendency in the global LGBTI movement toward the language of biological determinism.

While on one hand, this “born this way” strategy has proven effective in a variety of sociocultural contexts, it is also imperative that we examine both the logics undergirding this way of thinking.

Despite its political efficacy, a linear understanding of trans temporality obscures and effaces differences in the individual life narratives of trans people, in favor of a narrative of trans gender identity that mimics cisgender identity almost completely.


It’s that thing of wanting to be too visible. But I am realizing that almost all trans girls have this same thing. I mean, when they're just starting out, they hatch out of the egg and come out like they want the whole world to see them, you know? “Please, look at my photo,” or they are sharing it here and there. Like you literally go crazy. And I fell, I realized, “ah, I fell for the same thing.” And the fact that you can just take a picture of yourself and they say that you have a nice body, I don't know… they give you a lot of ‘likes’ and things like that. Of course, at first it’s nice because it inflates your ego… until they start harassing you.