New year, new (trans) you

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I want to take a moment to speak to those who are questioning whether they may be trans or nonbinary or are still fairly new to potential transitions.

Don’t worry, if that isn’t you, you’re still welcome to read on.

The first of January is an arbitrary date that, for many, signifies a new year. Given its proximity to the shortest day of the year and coming along in the deep of winter, it’s undoubtedly a good time to fill one’s life with hope for a better tomorrow.

For many, too, New Year’s Day includes a resolution, where one declares steps they may take to improve themselves over the course of a new year. It’s when diets start, gym memberships are secured, or when some might opt to quit smoking or some such.

For those of us who are trans, however, I wonder if we can look at this time-tested tradition as one to take advantage of. Consider how the timing may be perfect for laying the groundwork of coming out as trans or nonbinary.

With a thermometer dropping in mercury, the winter makes for an excellent time to do some study and introspection. It could offer the chance to curl up inside and maybe read some books about transgender issues. Maybe grab a copy of “Trans Bodies, Trans Selves” to page through or the sizable number of trans autobiographies and memoirs you can find via a nearby bookseller or online retailer.

Speaking of things online, one can also take this time to hunt the web for resources and learn about the vast number of options available for a trans person in this new year. You may even be able to find a local support group or other nearby resources that will allow you to reach out to others.

Barring that, of course, social media and other online forums will give you both a place for support and, possibly, a place to explore your preferred gender identity or expression in an otherwise anonymous and potentially safe environment. Provided that you don’t give away too much personal information, naturally.

I also recently came across a phone app called Solace that provides a series of helpful articles on transitioning in a supportive framework. One caveat, however: the application is very transfeminine focused. While it will give you plenty of advice about buying a bra or trying makeup, you’ll find nothing about binding or other needs tor transmasculine people and many nonbinary people. I hope this glaring oversight will be looked at as the application evolves.

Think of these early months of the new year as the perfect opportunity to spend your energies within yourself and focus on what it is to be you. You might not be able to get out to all the places you enjoy during the summertime, but you have plenty of time to stay inside and learn about you and your future.

I offer one more reason why the winter months of a new year serve us who are trans. For those of us who may opt for hormone treatment and other such physical changes, but may not yet be fully out in the world, consider for a moment how much easier it is to manage such changes when one opts for bulky coats, scarves and sweaters of the winter months, versus the T-shirts and shorts of the warmer months. There’s a distinct advantage to be had.

Oh, and a lot of clothing retailers are busy trying to sell off autumn and winter clothing at this time, allowing you to take advantage of clearance sales. That’s very useful whether you are building a new wardrobe or just want to experiment with what feels right.

Perhaps you are ready to come out to friends and family. If you didn’t during the holidays in December — always a risky time to do so, among all the other challenges of the often-dramatic family holiday gatherings — then perhaps this otherwise quiet time of the year may give you the chance to come out in a less stressful moment.

Besides, maybe some of your relatives and friends resolved to be more tolerant and accepting.

All of this, of course, is just one trans woman’s suggestion. Perhaps other times are better for you, and that’s perfect. One thing about being trans or nonbinary that few may realize is that there is no timeline. You are in complete control of what you do and when.

Some people may transition quickly, never looking back, at any time of the year. For others, their transition may take many twists and turns. There is no shame in whatever path you take. If transition isn’t for you, then by all means, don’t. Being trans isn’t about following a cookie-cutter of specific steps but about your wellbeing. My path may not be yours.

With that said, the best time to move toward your wellbeing is always “today.” If you have questioned if you might be facing gender dysphoria, or are trans or nonbinary, this is the very moment for you to contemplate what that means for you and what steps you may wish to take.

One more thing: while we all face our unique challenges on our path, there isn’t a single one of us who cannot succeed and find happiness. It will take tenacity and a lot of work — but you can thrive.

Gwen Smith didn’t take her own advice and came out in November. You’ll find her at gwensmith.com.