As humans, learning who we want to be as people is a long term, messy, unrefined process. As toddlers we assert to our parents that we want to dress ourselves, and pair clashing items of clothing together without much thought for how the pieces might work as an ensemble. As children, we tend to mimic behaviors we see on TV, or the ways our parents act, or the mannerisms of the people we most want to like us. As teenagers, we experiment with boundaries, and try to find room for individuality in a world that will soon expect us to make long lasting choices about our futures. Developing a personality, discovering interests, and working out who you want to be as a person is a process that takes years, and for most people happens at a fairly predictable pace between the ages of around two and twenty.
But, for those of us who are transgender, a lot of that personal development has to start over from scratch, and that can be a bit of an awkward process at first.
I first started to come out as a trans woman to my friends and family in my late teens, around the age of 18. At that point in my life, most of my peers were pretty comfortable and happy with who they were, and had learned most of the things they would need to know to start heading into the world themselves. I certainly felt like a bit of an outcast as I first started to come out, as there was so much I simply did not know about the life I would have once a few years of transition and self exploration were done.
When I first decided to start wearing female clothing more often, in the hopes it would lead to more people perceiving me as female, I had no idea what clothing size I was in shops, or how wildly clothing size categories varied from store to store. I didn’t know what styles of clothing would be flattering for me to wear, which items of clothing were appropriate for which social situations, or what items of clothing would be perceived as age appropriate. I spent several years in my early twenties wearing dresses which were too short, with a bra which was poorly stuffed, wearing dresses no matter the weather because I didn’t want to be seen as not making an effort to present myself to the world as female. I couldn’t rely on a parent selecting outfits for me the way a child would, I just had to get out there and try some outfits.
It took me a long time to reach a place in life where I became comfortable being more relaxed and confident in my clothing choice, and there was no way to skip that learning process. Much like that toddler learning how to pick appropriate outfits through early trial and error, there was simply no way for me to learn what clothing worked for me, without wearing some awkward or in hindsight embarrassing outfits along the way.
Similarly, when it came to developing my voice to a new less deep resting tone, or experimenting with speech patterns, there was a lot of early experimentation involved. During the first year or so I was out full time as a trans woman, my voice was exaggeratedly high pitched. In an attempt to learn where my voice could comfortably reach, and what would sound natural but not masculine for my own voice, I went through a period of almost comedically shrill speech. I am fairly comfortable with my voice today, but only thanks to take chances and tryiong voices out for a while in public first.
From learning public bathroom etiquette, to shared sleepover etiquette with friends, written communication rules, to dating technique, a huge amount of what I had learned about life over the years had to be relearned, decades after my non trans peers, and I won’t deny I was a bit of a socially awkward mess while muddling through that.
And that’s okay.
Humans are not machines. We take time to learn new things, we learn through experimentation, and as transgender adults, transitioning after a lifetime of development, things are going to be rocky. You might look back on some of your choices in early transition and cringe, but ultimately they’re all an important journey on the road to becoming the confident comfortable version of yourself you’re going to end up being.
It’s totally normal to have an awkward phase when coming out as trans, embrace it, have fun with it, and look back on yourself with pride for the things it taught you.