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What is Transitioning?

by Salina Shafi

Hi everyone! This is the last article in our Pride series, which highlights transitioning for members of the LGBTQ+ community. This article covers the importance, symbolism, and challenges that are associated with transitioning, as well as how people can serve as an ally for members of the LGBTQ+ community. Happy Reading!


“Who are you?” This simple question can bear heavy on many people, each with vastly different understanding of who they are. But many members of the transgender community are unable to answer to who they truly identify as. While coming out, so many transgender people face ignorant questions, along with stigma and negative backlash when they come out, which is why there are thousands of people around the world trying to figure out their own journey while avoiding the hatred and stigma.

The American Psychological Association defines transitioning as the process of moving towards a gender that is different from the one that was assigned at birth. This process can entail social changes, alongside medically driven changes as well (APA 2018). Social changes could include changing one’s name or clothing style, whereas a medically driven change could be surgery or hormones.

Social transitions range from names to coming out. Some people will change their pronouns while others will change their name. Everyone’s coming out story is a little bit different, and some people don’t come out at all, this is also a social transition and can vary from situation to situation. Social transitions are at the comfort of the individual, changing or adapting their dressing style is another social change that can allow individuals to express themselves authentically.

Medically driven transitions

Possible transitions for trans men and non-binary individuals:

  • Hormone therapy to gain characteristics like:

    • Not menstruating

    • Muscle growth

    • Facial hair growth

    • Voice changes

  • Male chest reconstruction, also known as “top surgery”

    • This is the removal of the breasts and breast tissue

  • Hysterectomy

    • Surgical removal of the female reproductive system

Possible transitions for trans women and non-binary individuals:

  • Hormone therapy to gain characteristics like:

    • Lack of body hair

      • Another possible route would be laser hair removal

    • Distributing fat towards the hips and breast

  • Breast implants

  • The removal of the testes

  • Facial feminization surgery

    • The Adam’s apple can also be reduced

  • Penile Inversion vaginoplasty

Access to Healthcare

Transitioning is a process that can be different for everyone, whether that be due to accessibility or personal preference. A common issue is a lack of access to healthcare. Many transgender people have pointed out that finding a physician with adequate knowledge in transgender medicine or transitioning procedures has proven to be somewhat difficult.

Medical knowledge about transgender medicine is not always taught in the doctoral program completed by physicians, this makes it difficult for transgender people to find an adequate physician. Along with the difficulty of finding a physician comes the difficulty of insurance. Depending on the insurance company, some policies will cover limited transgender procedures, hormones or surgeries.

Unfortunately, a majority of insurances do not cover transitioning procedures, those companies labeled these procedures as exclusions to deny coverage. The healthcare law that is currently in place actually prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in certain health programs and different activities. The general population does not know how difficult or extensive the process of transitioning can be. Many of the limitations that are in place on insurance policies are for transgender adults. Depending on the insurance, some insurances will consult with a physician and the guardian of the individual to determine whether the transition procedure is necessary and should be covered. Unfortunately, this opportunity to appeal is only available for some insurance companies, but this is only for minors.

A common question is “How can I support?”. There truthfully is no one right way to be an ally. Some people go out and volunteer for those communities while others raise awareness on social media. An ally is someone who unconditionally supports. Protesting, dealing with law enforcement to push for new policies, creating a safe space, and being respectful are all ways you can be an ally. There are hundreds of ways to be an ally and if you’re not sure, just ask!

Some members of the trans community also choose not to transition, and that must be respected as well. It is essential that we respect each other in regard to our preferred names and pronouns. As we celebrate pride month, it is essential to remain respectful and spread the love.


Thanks for reading the last article in our Pride series! We hope you learned about transitioning, and the changes in healthcare that must be made to create a more inclusive environment for members of the LGBTQ+ community.

If you enjoyed reading this article, please check out our article on Healthcare and the LGBTQ+ community, which goes over a broad array of healthcare issues for the LGBTQ+ community.

Until next time,

Salina and the Writing Committee :)


American Psychological Association. (2018, September). Defining transgender terms. Monitor on Psychology, 49(8).

What do I need to know about the transitioning process? Planned Parenthood. (n.d.). June 30, 2022.

Safer, J. D., Coleman, E., Feldman, J., Garofalo, R., Hembree, W., Radix, A., & Sevelius, J. (2016). Barriers to healthcare for transgender individuals. Current opinion in endocrinology, diabetes, and obesity, 23(2), 168–171.

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