By Tyler Ford
My name is Tyler Ford, and I’m a queer, transgender writer and advocate. Ever since I came out as trans on national television on "The Glee Project" three years ago, I’ve received tons of questions and calls for advice about being LGBTQA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Asexual)-identified, and about life in general. I’ve carved out a space here to share my life experience with you, and to discuss any fears, feelings, and curiosities you may not feel comfortable talking about with anyone else.
Let's start with a few questions submitted by MTV fans:
How long does it take for the entire transformation?
“The entire transformation” AKA being “fully transitioned” is a phrase and a point that is extremely individual to each transgender person. Many people (myself included) don’t like this phrase at all, because it implies that there is a singular destination to be reached, that to be trans means to have an end goal of adhering to cisgender (non-transgender) norms and standards as much as possible. The trans population is extremely diverse -- just as the human population is -- and each person’s desires, needs, thoughts and feelings on being transgender and on transitioning are different.
Transitioning looks different for everyone, and there is no set order or timeline for a process that is so personal. Some people go on hormones and have surgeries, some people have surgery without going on hormones, some people start hormones without ever having surgeries, and some people do not go on hormones or have surgery at all.
All of these options are dependent on a variety of factors, including a person’s desires and their access to safe and affordable healthcare. Transitioning can also involve: a change in wardrobe, a change in beauty regimen and/or grooming, name changes, pronoun changes (ex: moving from he/him/his to they/them/theirs), a change in speech patterns and mannerisms -- there are so many ways to express gender and personality, and each trans person follows through with their own unique combination of changes, or no changes at all.
The steps someone takes to transition do not determine the validity of their identity -- all trans identities are valid, regardless of a person’s appearance, personal decisions or gender expression. A “full transition” is different for everyone, because there is no one way to be transgender or to transition.
I really want to start something at my high school to help people become more educated about the LGBTQA community. I'm not the type who is outspoken. But this means so much to me. I want a safe place for the LGBTQA youth. I'm not sure what I could do, but this is an issue that has always been important to me. I want others to know that they are supported. Is there any way I could do this? How would I go about asking?
You are definitely not alone in your desire for education and for a safe space at your school. The first thing you should do is talk with your LGBTQA friends and peers to ask what they need and what kind of changes they want to see in your school. What’s most important is that you actually listen to the needs of LGBTQA people instead of simply acting on what you think everyone needs.
Building relationships and community with these folks may also help you tackle projects once you decide to go to administration with them, as the greater the demonstrated need for resources, the greater the impact of whatever you are trying to implement.
Once you have figured out a few priorities and goals together, enlist the help of a teacher or school official you trust. A sample conversation-starter: “I’ve noticed a lack of support for LGBTQA students at this school, and I believe that needs to change. I’ve talked with many students, and we would like to start [a club, a support group, an alliance, a program, etc.]. Would you be willing to be our advisor?”
If they agree, this adult should help you with any administrative and organizational needs, and should be your liaison between students and school staff. Create a plan of action together (you, the other students, and your advisor), and go for it! If you cannot find any adult to help you get started and to help you run your program, whether a school official or someone’s parent, continue organizing with your fellow students. It is possible to make noise and to create change together. Never forget your own power.
In the coming weeks, I’ll be taking your questions via Twitter and Instagram @tywrent. Tag your questions with #heytyler! For longer or more private questions and concerns, you can message me at facebook.com/heytylerford. Your questions will be posted anonymously.