Transition is a word used to describe the changes a person may make to express their gender.

These changes can help reflect the things you understand about your gender to the rest of the world.

In TV and movies there is what is called “a single story” which only shows one way of transitioning and being transgender. On TV this often includes a character having surgery or taking hormones, but there are several options available when it comes to transition. In reality, everyone finds different ways to navigate their transgender identity.

Some people tell a close circle of friends and/or family. Sometimes all a person needs is to have their friends and family understand and see them for who they are. Other people choose to do what is called “social transition”. Social transition includes changes to things like their name, pronouns, style and appearance to better reflect a person’s gender identity. Some people do choose to take hormones or have surgery to change their appearance through what is called “medical transition”. During some of these processes, people may want to change some of their legal documents.

As you decide which, if any, of these steps sound okay to you, it can be helpful to talk about your feelings with a professional who knows a lot about gender identity issues. You deserve to feel good about expressing yourself in ways that you feel comfortable, without pressure from others. Our counsellors can help provide information about your options.

Taking hormones or having surgery is a big step. For some, it is absolutely necessary. Most people who choose to medically transition strongly need their identity and body to match. To medically transition you will need to find a doctor who is knowledgeable about transgender health. They will likely refer you to a psychiatrist to access some of these options. Send us an email for the most up to date resource list of doctors and specialists involved in transgender issues.

How to access a medical transition

If someone is under 18 and wants to access hormones, they will need strong support from their parent(s) or guardian(s). We know this can be tough for young people whose families are not supportive. At the Centre For Sexuality we offer counselling and support to families who may be struggling with this.

With family support, people under 18 can go to the Alex Youth Health Centre. Depending on a person’s age, The Alex may be able to provide hormones or a medical plan for when medical transition could take place.

For children, a family physician can provide a referral to the Metta Clinic, which is currently the only location in Alberta to access puberty blockers.

If you are over 18 and want access to hormones you may be able to get a prescription from your family doctor. Not all doctors are familiar with hormone replacement therapy, so they may refer you to an endocrinologist. If your family doctor will not prescribe hormones you can also email us for a current list of family doctors who prescribe hormones.

Some people may also want access to surgery as part of their medical transition. To access surgery, you will need a letter from 2 psychiatrists who specialize in gender issues to verify you understand and consent to surgery. To see one of these psychiatrists, you will need a referral from your doctor.

Some people are unable to come out and share their transgender identity until much later in life. There is no right time to come out and we’ve met plenty or middle aged and older adults who waited to transition. On top of accessing social and medical supports for transition, you may also be needing supports related to aging. Give us a call or email for the most up to date list of trans-friendly service providers working with older adults.

Gender gear is talking about different types of undergarments or accessories some people use to enhance parts of their gender identity. Common forms of gender gear include binders, packers, STPs, gaffs, and breast forms.

Binders: A clothing item that compresses the chest. Many people wear them as an undergarment under their shirt to minimize the size of the chest. Binders come in many different styles and colours to fit people’s life and style.

Packers: Packers are any item used to fill out the pants so that a person appears to have a “package”. Some people choose to use something like a sock to fill their pants while others may choose to buy a prosthetic. Prosthetics come in many different colours and sizes.

STPs: STP stands for “stand to pee” and are devices a person can use to pee at a urinal in a public washroom.

Gaffs: A type of underwear that allows a person to tuck their genitals between their legs and minimize the size of the pelvic area.

Breast forms: Breast forms are items used to fill out the chest area so that a person appears to have breasts. They can be worn under a shirt or inside of a bra. They come in many different shapes and sizes.

There are several online resources to purchase gender gear from but not that many local options.  If you are looking for binders or gaffs we often have a small stock for sale at our office. Some people find it helps to read online reviews before spending money on items like this.