For my entire conscious life, I’ve been trying to figure out how to engage with people and society in a way that actually felt real. About two or three years ago, I finally recognized that the disconnect and discomfort I’d always felt was gender dysphoria.

So I began a gender transition. (I’m agender.)

I’m not going to explain in this post what a gender transition entails. Some people pursue surgeries (for example, I got top surgery) and hormone therapies, but there’s so much more to it than physical transition. It’s a big can of worms, possibly for another time. For now, I’ll sum it up this way:

A gender transition means shifting from living as the gender everyone thinks you are to living as the person you actually are.

In this post, I’m going to talk about what that process has been like for me.

My process for that has been an exhausting (yet strangely inspiring) spiral of these five steps.

1. Waking up to coercion

First, I recognize some way I’ve been coerced into denying my instinct, and instead, pushed to misrepresent myself. There are countless ways this has happened. The source is typically some kind of prolonged pressure from a whole lot of people who believed the same things.

It also typically isn’t intentional. It just comes from people expecting the world to be a certain way, and not having room to accept (or even perceive) anything else.

2. Digging up the suppressive ideas

In lots of cases, the coercion I discover started during childhood. This means it’s typically had a long time to soak in my brain and impact me. I have to then dig up every root that has grown out of it: typically they extend deep, and have profoundly limited how I’ve come to believe I’m allowed to interact with the world.

Because of this, there are a lot of negative and destructive thought patterns to hunt down and get rid of. How I work on this could be its own post—maybe some other time.

3. Grieving

From this, a lot of anger and grief pile up. And I have to process it. It’s upsetting that I couldn’t have just been seen and accepted in the first place, instead of being coerced into acting like something “better.” There’s a lot of frustration that the only version of me that could be acknowledged was someone that was never even real.

4. Powering up

The anger and frustration isn’t just a necessary downside. I use it as fuel for the hard part. I get strength from thinking about all the other people who have needlessly experienced this same kind of suppression. My frustration has a purpose. I can use it to brace myself against any coercion I’ll continue to face, backed by the belief that anyone trying to coerce me is promoting injustice. (Whether they mean to or not.)

5. Making a move

This is the part that people actually see (if they see anything at all). I act like myself in a small way I never have allowed myself to act before. I hold my ground regardless of any mockery that follows. I make space for myself where there is no space. And because I’ve processed so much to be able to do that thing—whatever it is, and however big or small—no judgment against that act has any credibility with me anymore. Because I know I’m being real.

And that, my friends, is what gender transition feels like.

You might be surprised by how unrelated to gender it seems. All of it stems from coming to deeper self-understanding — despite forces trying to override that.

It’s about defiance against coercion

I think to varying degrees, just about all of us have experienced some level of social coercion. Not just those of us who happened to navigate the early parts of our lives trapped in the wrong social role construct.

Whatever suppression you’ve faced, I hope you can find the strength to overcome it, and proudly defy the voices that want you to conform. Because whenever you do, you spread courage to anyone else who has faced that kind of suppression.

That, for me, is by far my biggest source of strength and motivation through my transition process. The fact that this is bigger than me, and when I don’t conform, I can weaken pro-conformity pressures that are crushing others.