Transitioning is the process of changing genders - the idea of what it means to be female or male. For transsexuals, the new gender is "opposite" that of birth sex; for intersex people it is different from how they were raised; for genderqueer people it is neither solely female nor male. Cross-dressers and drag queens and drag kings tend not to transition permanently.
Transition must begin with a decision to transition and the realization that one's gender identity does not match the gender identity that others perceive one to have. One of the most significant parts of transitioning for many transgender people is coming out for the first time. Transitioning is a process, not an event, that takes anywhere between several months and several years. Some people, especially genderqueer people, may spend their whole life transitioning as they redefine and re-interpret their gender as time passes. Transitioning generally begins where the person feels comfortable: For some, this begins with their family with whom they are intimate and reaches to friends later or may begin with friends first and family later. Sometimes transitioning is at different levels between different spheres of life. For example, someone may transition far with family and friends before even coming out at work.
Transitioning is sometimes confused with sexual reassignment surgery (SRS), but that is only one possible element of transitioning. Many people who transition choose not to have SRS, or do not have the means to do so. Whereas SRS is a surgical procedure, transitioning is more holistic and can encompass physical, psychological, social, and emotional changes. Some genderqueer and intersex people have little or no desire to undergo surgery to change their body but will transition in other ways.
Passing refers to being perceived and accepted by other people as a desired gender identity. This can be one aspect of transitioning, though genderqueer people may choose to purposely not pass. Someone observing, for example, a transwoman passing may know of her trans status but still considers her a woman. Drag queens generally present with exaggerated female and feminine characteristics (e.g. heavy make-up, suggestive clothing, excessive jewelry) whereas drag kings present exaggerated male attributes and hyper-masculine personas.
Real life experience or Going fulltime refers to a person living one's everyday life as one's gender identity. One's passing can be limited by safety, legal or bodily restraints. For instance, someone who has worked at a job as female may feel one cannot safely present as male and may switch jobs instead. Psychiatrists using the WPATH Standards of care for gender identity disorders require going fulltime before recommending surgery.
Going stealth means to live as a gender without other people realizing a person is transgender. Trans people often go stealth in public but not with family, partners, or intimate friends. There have been many cases of people who have lived and worked as a gender identity opposite of their birth gender.
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