Most transgender people will at some point decide to transition and it can be one of the best decisions they’ll ever make. However, transitioning can very much be like a jigsaw puzzle in that there are a lot of pieces involved in the process. Some of these pieces include hormone replacement therapy, hair removal, learning to talk, mannerisms, clothing, and so much more. With so many parts to the transition puzzle, just figuring out where to start can in itself be a huge challenge. Often, just looking at everything you need to put together for your transition, can make it look much scarier than it actually is. In some cases, it looks daunting enough to make some people delay their transition.
Everybody has their own way of approaching a puzzle. Some folks choose to start with the edges while others look for pieces they can match together easily. Some will use the picture on the box to guide them while others just want to be surprised with the end design. Transition is pretty similar to this in that there are many different ways to approach the individual parts. Many will start with the edges by moving right away into living full time in the gender expression right for them. They will then begin to work on all the remaining pieces such as voice, hair removal, mannerisms, walking, coughing, and many other pieces they need to fit to complete their transition. The final piece in many cases though not all is surgery which is not a piece you can very often do without having completed the other pieces first.
A less common approach to transition is to put together as many of the inner parts first before moving to the edge. These folks will already have worked on their voice, have completed hair removal, begun HRT, and practiced everything from walking to mannerisms before they jump into the full time pool. In the case of female to male transgender people, I have even heard of some who have had their breasts removed before going full time. The advantages to transitioning this way is that you will more likely have a better chance of passing right out of the gate. Conversely, the only down side to this approach is that you have to live a little bit longer in the wrong gender expression.
The puzzle analogy seems very well suited to transpeople who identify along a gender binary. However, we all know there are people who do not fit in a binary classification system and in those cases the puzzle still exists though it may be simpler or more complex depending on the individual. Personally, I think it is easier to live in the binary and have a huge respect for the gender fluid folk and how much harder they potentially can have it. I see their puzzle box as not having a picture to help them and their pieces having multiple ways to fit together. Their struggle is definitely not an easy one; not to say those of us on the binary have it much easier.
The beautiful thing about the transition puzzle is that there is no right or wrong way to do it. The best way is always the way that works for your life and makes your transition as painless as possible. There will be points where you put together the wrong pieces and many course corrections along the way. Even years after your transition, you will still be finding little things that you were unaware of and that is perfectly normal. In most cases these little things are so minor that nobody other than yourself probably even notices them. The big picture is that the end result is always a better you, a happier you.