Jahn Westbrook

By jahn westbrook


Those of us living outside the gender binary, these are more than fleeting emotions. They shape our lives. The later in life we transition, the more these fears become like an outfit we wear. Further complicating matters, is that there are levels of fear. For instance, take the lead in of this article. It appears like I, the author, have made obvious misteaks mistakes, That creates a concern or worry in me, that the reader may have an opinion of my writing acumen. Concern and worry are examples of fear, yet on a much less intense level.

We have our fear pacifying moments, like when the phone solicitor addressed me as “Miss.” We have our fear validating moments, like when that disturbed gentleman followed me down the street laughing, pointing and screaming in public, “You have the nerve to wear that(hahahaha)…you look like….”


My personal illustrations above are examples of Fear. Were those fears Rational or were they Irrational? Rational fear, the ‘fight or flight’ response is designed to protect the individual from harm. Irrational fear, or phobia, has a deleterious effect on the individual, severely hindering daily life. For the purpose of this exposé, we’ll focus on the rational fears.

The rational fear I felt walking through NYC post-transition was so paralyzing. I felt my body flood with adrenaline. I “knew” everybody on the street was staring, closing in, as if to a stoning. The reality was, I had no idea how people were reacting, if they even would react. Still, all my insecurities, about my appearance, appeared in front of me, like floating arrows pointing out every flaw.

Fear affects the gender dysphoric individual throughout, my self prescribed, three stages of their lives, discovery, transition, post-transition. Fears can fluctuate throughout her or his life, have physical or mental expressions, or both, range in gravity and transmute across all three stages.

Discovery: the phase from the first moment the individual realizes she or he is different from the other boys and girls.

childhood through puberty:

  • parental admonishment or punishment for crossing the gender lines through wearing opposite gender clothes; caught trying on make-up(boys); playing opposite gender games(girls -army soldier; boys -ballerina); playing with opposite gender toys(girls -trucks; boys -dolls); mental abuse; emotional abandonment; physical abuse

  • Family member estrangement for acting different around their cousins; ridicule from relatives;
  • classmates teasing and bullying on playground; ridiculed in the locker room; bathroom use; physical abuse; being shunned from participating in activities; mental abuse
  • family embarrassment for being a ‘freak’ or abnormal

puberty through adolescence:

  • development of wrong gender body parts; having to live out a societal prescribed role; being expected to fulfill gender designed role; physical abuse; mental abuse; feeling sensitive(boys); feeling aggressive(girls); their own bodies; abandonment or being kicked out

adolescence through college:

  • relationship with the opposite or same gender; intercourse
  • substance abuse as means to escape; suicidal thoughts and actions; self mutilation; physical and emotional abandonment; being kicked out of home
  • rejection as reflection on themselves; physical abuse; mental abuse

Transition: acknowledgement phase where the decision to live out the rest of her or his life as the opposite gender from that assigned at birth overrides the ability to remain in their birth gender.

  • being outed: retribution; affect on family and friends and relationships; employment impact; legal impact
  • passing: proper comportment; appropriate dress; vocal timbre range; make-up appropriate; eternal genitalia in ‘correct proportion’; fitting into society
  • relationship: loss of girlfriend or boyfriend; loss of spouse; lesbian or gay confusion; acceptance of family and friends; loss of children
  • surgical: complications; poor result; fatality; recovery; medical coverage
  • work: loss of job; unemployment; demotion or harsh working conditions; acceptance of co-workers
  • social: wrong pronoun identifier
  • legal: name and gender changes; driver’s license; passport; airport security

Post-Transition: she or he is now living as their appropriate gender, having under taken their own level of surgery(ies) and having legally changed name and gender

  • marriage: dissolution and loss of spouse; estrangement from children; loss of property; financial ruin
  • work: loss of job; unemployment; demotion or harsh working conditions
  • relationship: living alone; end of relationship; ostracized through social media
  • social: wrong pronoun identifier; mistaken for female(FtM) or male(MtF)
  • legal: airport security

Those fears identified above are ones either I have personally had to overcome, or know people who have had to overcome. It is far from an exhaustive list. We at Transgender Universe would love to hear from our readers about any additional fears you have overcome, unintentionally omitted from the above. Also, any strategies and advice for our sisters and brothers going through transition are welcome. Tweet us at @transgenderU#fears

Fear can be overcome. And when it is overcome, courage is the reward. The more we face our fear, the more courageous and free we become. Join a support group. Friends and family who support you are also tremendous support. Seek out help from mental professionals while transitioning. Just know that you are not alone. There have been other people with gender dysphoria who have overcome the very fears you are facing now. We, as a community, are here to support each other.

Fear is choice. Love is choice. Choose wisely.

mir, irini, peace, amn,



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