Press release: 26 November 2014

Trans* Jersey welcomes the Chief Minister’s report on equal marriage, especially its handling of the particular trans issue of the spousal veto.

Trans* Jersey met with Chief Minister, Ian Gorst, to discuss the findings of the consultation into the question of whether it is appropriate to introduce legislation to equalise marriage in Jersey. The resulting report is a significant document that has been compiled with consideration of both sides of the argument for and against equal marriage and, as such, is welcomed by Trans* Jersey.

Trans* Jersey’s founder, Vic Tanner Davy, said: “We are impressed by the work done by the Chief Minister and his department in addressing all aspects of the issue thoroughly and with great understanding.”

trans couple 2The report also addresses the issue of the so-called “spousal veto” that exists within the same-sex marriage law of England and Wales, but not the equivalent Scottish law.

Vic Tanner Davy again: “The spousal veto is a nasty piece of legislation that demands a trans person in a marriage asks permission of their spouse before applying for their gender recognition certificate, which makes them for all legal purposes their affirmed gender. This inclusion in the England and Wales law spoke to the concerns of some MPs that the non-trans party to an opposite-sex marriage would be forced into a same-sex marriage because of their spouse’s legal transition.

“In reality, a person’s transition does not happen overnight. It takes at least two years of living as your affirmed gender before you can apply for a gender recognition certificate in the UK. During those two years, a trans person will have undergone gender therapy, most likely started hormone therapy and may have had gender reassignment surgery. If their spouse is still with them at the point that the trans partner applies for their gender recognition certificate, they will already be aware that they are living in a marriage that, to the outsider, has changed.

“Transitioning is difficult and stressful at times as every trans person endeavours to maintain partnerships and family relationships intact throughout the process. The last thing they need is added pressure from the state intervening in what is a private matter between the two people who are party to the union. We are, therefore, delighted that the Chief Minister has taken this into consideration and will be proposing the Scottish model for dealing with the issue. This will enable marriages to change seamlessly between same-sex and opposite-sex with no requirement for divorce and re-marriage or for spousal permission when one party to a marriage transitions.”

Pathway to Care leaflet

Trans* Jersey has now produced a Pathway to Care leaflet for islanders wishing to transition. The full document can be downloaded here.

The leaflet has been produced in consultation with the various States of Jersey health departments that are used when a person transitions in Jersey.

It is suggested that you download the leaflet, print it and take a copy with you when you go to see your GP.

In due course, Trans* Jersey will be providing all the island’s GPs with a copy of the leaflet.


Pathway to care achieved

Trans* Jersey met with Helen O’Shea, Managing Director of the General Hospital, and Richard Jouault, Managing Director of Community and Social Services, today. As a result, we have now had the pathway to care for trans* islanders confirmed, and it is as shown.

Trans* Jersey will be working on getting this into a form that can be distributed to all GPs’ surgeries so that, as the first point of contact for trans* people, doctors know who to refer to and can advise their patients on the pathway to care.

This is the first of our 2014 manifesto goals to be realised. We are, therefore, grateful to the States of Jersey’s health service professionals for their openness and time to assist us, and to those trans islanders who shared their experiences of the health service in Jersey and the UK.


An open letter to our trans partner

I am the wife of a trans woman who transitioned during our marriage. I am writing this to support partners as there are significant areas in common for us all but each of our paths on this journey may be very different. I also write to the trans person and just hope you both talk to each other. We want to keep our marriages intact.

There is no clear cut care pathway for partners here so do not be afraid to seek help and counselling. This journey can’t be done alone. Local GPs and counsellors are not specialists, so the more we speak up the more awareness will be raised. This is not a life choice for either of us; something that took me years to understand. I still ask myself: ‘why me’?

I had advanced notice before we got engaged that my husband was cross dressing since childhood. She agonised over telling me but we still got married and have now been together for over 30 years and married for 27. The prognosis for staying together is much higher if surprises and shocks are limited. We decided never to have children and life is a lot less complicated. However, it was still a shock when my partner decided to transition and, before I could understand the implications, she was self-medicating secretly. I went through hell. Women are good listeners and can be sympathetic, but I don’t like dishonesty, hiding or deception. We can detect little signs, and you may think your partner is having an affair if female clothing is found in the house which does not belong to you.

Helen and Betty 1For the trans partner: please remember that this is like a bereavement but with no body and no funeral. If you are going to throw clothes from your previous gender away warn your partner and, perhaps, allow us to keep some sentimental items – even if just for a while, so we can grieve in our own time. Acknowledge this grieving process is just like any other, it HURTS!

Keep open channels of communication at all times and also agree to stop talking if it is getting too much. My counsellor suggested we have a password to use if this is happening, and we then agree to talk later at an agreed time. So far that works for us.

The trans person may be tempted to rush into transitioning (coming out, HRT, ‘real life experience’ and possibly surgery) because it is a lifelong desire to change gender. For the partner, it is a constant ‘in your face’ tornado of selfish wants that completely ignores and threatens the relationship. The effects of HRT on the mind and the body are visibly shocking and can be upsetting for the partner who knew another person intimately. Thankfully, there are now several good books out there and web sites. Bear in mind that by ‘outing’ yourself as being trans, you do the same to your partner and they may be concerned about what others think. The partner of a trans person may worry about peoples’ perceptions: are we a lesbian couple, sisters, sisters-in-law…?

Our particular relationship has been strong enough to overcome this. My partner first attempted a kind of dual life of living as a woman outside work many years ago, but this time around its permanent and that was a big adjustment for me. In transition we now tend to avoid the same haunts we frequented because waiting staff would recognize me and wonder if I have a new relationship as we sit at the same table ordering the same favourite meals. Even in places we have never been to, the ‘couple’ in us still comes out as we say ‘we’ the whole time when talking. I have to be very blunt here and say a part of our success is that my partner is completely convincing and I doubt if I would remain if she was not. Do not ‘carry the monkey’: other peoples’ reactions are their problem not yours. Who to tell and when is up to you. We have now told all our best friends and family, but my partner’s family proved to be the most negative.

For me this is not a linear process either. I have not gone smoothly from timid enquiry, anger, depression, thinking and reading to acceptance. Some days are better than others. Several times I revisit each emotion forwards and then backwards. This is where counselling helps. You are not alone. Also, bear in mind this is no-one’s fault so try not to blame when you are at your most angry to accuse. If you think that is easier said than done, I totally agree as I am guilty of doing that often – even now. I was quite shocked in one professional counselling session in the UK to be told I had in fact married a woman all along! To be told it was all to do with conception, what happens in the womb and the brain was earth shattering. Read, read and read. I have found it quite fascinating, painful and absorbing.

Having gone through more than a woman should for love, my partner wants a Gender Recognition Certificate. In 2014 with same sex marriage legal, the process is still unclear for married people where a partner transitions and, yet, retains the same legal rights. The irony that we already live as same sex couples after surgery is lost on them.

To end on a lighter note; there have been many fun moments, e.g. I now get to buy more clothes than before as she understands the need, but co-ordinating what to wear out can be a laugh. In the end love is more important than gender.

(Photograph is not of the post author but of Helen Boyd and her partner, Betty Crow. Helen is the author of She’s Not the Man I Married.)

The transition curve

John Fisher (Leicester University) is a well-respected business psychologist whose work on constructivist theory in relation to service provision organisations produced a model in 1999 of personal change, The Personal Transition Curve, which provides us with an analysis of how individuals deal with personal change. This was updated in 2012 and represents a development of The Change Curve, widely attributed to psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and her work on the process of bereavement and grief.

Business theory may seem a long way away from gender studies but it is relevant to us when we have to manage the effect that our transition has on those around us in order to retain our personal relationships intact during our transition. Understanding Fisher’s model and the phases that individuals go through when faced with change (of any sort) can help prepare us for the reactions of those closest to us around our transition. Take a look at Fisher’s 2012 model and there are probably some phases that seem familiar to you, reactions that you have witnessed in those around you to your news.

the-process-of-transition-fisher-s-personal-transition-curve-1Let’s examine the stages and apply them to the process of gender transitioning:

The awareness that events lie outside one’s range of understanding or control. Fisher believes the problem here is that individuals are unable to adequately picture the future. They do not have enough information to allow them to anticipate behaving in a different way within the new organisation. They are unsure how to adequately construe acting in the new work and social situations.

This is familiar to trans* people. The condition of gender dysphoria and the stages of treatment that trans* people have to go through is not well understood and outside most people’s experience. This breeds a fear of the unknown – what will life be like for the trans* person and what will life be like for those closest to the trans* person?

It is up to us to reassure those around us that we can see the future and it is going to be an improvement on the present. Using testimonies from trans* people who have gone before us, such as can be found on YouTube, can help those around us visualise our future.

The awareness that one’s viewpoint is recognised and shared by others. The impact of this is twofold. At the basic level there is a feeling of relief that something is going to change and not continue as before. Whether the past is perceived positively or negatively, there is still a feeling of anticipation and even excitement at the possibility of improvement. On another level, there is the satisfaction of knowing that some of your thoughts about the old system were correct (generally, no matter how well we like the status quo, there is something that is unsatisfactory about it) and that something is going to be done about it.

Trans* individuals may recognise this phase as the moment when people say, “We always knew you weren’t like other children”, and then congratulate you on having the courage to recognise it in yourself.

Fisher says that the happiness phase is one of the more interesting phases and may be (almost) passed through without knowing. In this phase it is the “Thank goodness, something is happening at last” feeling coupled with the knowledge that, if we are lucky/involved/contribute, things can only get better.

Significantly for trans* individuals, if we can start interventions at this stage we can minimise the impact of the rest of the curve and virtually flatten the curve. By involving, informing, getting a “buy in” at this time we can help people move through the process. This is where availability of factual information can help maintain the “happy” feeling. Collect a number of different sources for your family to read that underline the positives of transitioning so they can choose the medium that suits them: health leaflets, transgender biographies, sympathetic documentaries and Internet resources. Encourage your friends and family to talk to you about your transition and accept any help that they may offer in order to involve them in your transition.

The awareness of an imminent incidental change in one’s core behavioural system. People will need to act in a different manner and this will have an impact on both their self-perception and on how others externally see them. However, in the main, they see little change in their normal interactions and believe they will be operating in much the same way, merely choosing a more appropriate, but new, action.

According to Frances (1999), fear and threat are the two key emotions that will cause us to resist change.

The awareness of an imminent comprehensive change in one’s core behavioural structures. Here people perceive a major change to what they believe to be their core identity or sense of self. The realisation that the change will have a fundamental impact on who we are, how we see ourselves and what is key in our personality to us as individuals. This is the shock of suddenly discovering you’re not who you thought you were! It is a radical alteration to our future choices and other people’s perception of us as individuals. Our old choices are no longer ones that will work. In many ways this is a “road to Damascus” type of life-changing experience. In this phase, people are unsure as to how they will be able to act/react in what is, potentially, a totally new and alien environment; one where the old rules no longer apply and there are no new ones established as yet.

It is key for trans* people to combat these two phases by being clear and concise about what is going to happen to them physically, what the timescale is for their transition, when others can expect to see physical changes, when others need to start using correct names and pronouns, etc. Being clear about what you need from those around you creates the new set of rules that friends and family can use to replace the old rules that no longer apply, giving them some stability.

An awareness of a dislodgement of our self from our core self perception. We are not who we thought we were! Once the individual begins exploring their self-perception, how they acted/reacted in the past and looking at alternative interpretations they begin to re-define their sense of self. This, generally, involves identifying what are their core beliefs and how closely they have been to meeting them. Recognition of the inappropriateness of their previous actions and the implications for them as people can cause guilt as they realise the impact of their behaviour. Another of the emotions that may have an impact here is that of shame. This is the awareness of a negative change in someone else’s opinion of you from what you think it should be. The recognition of this shift in our own and other people’s opinion then leads into the next stage.

This is a particularly resonant phase for partners and parents who may have insisted, at various times in the trans* person’s life, that they dress or look a certain way. Depending on how forcefully this was done, those around the trans* person may feel guilty about this. It is up to us as trans* people to make it clear to those who love us that we understand they could not have known what they were doing and acknowledge that they meant well by their actions at that time.

Shame is one of the most destructive emotions for trans* people, when our family and friends feel ashamed of us because they receive, or think they will receive, negative opinions about us from others. Being out and proud of ourselves can help those closest to us to see that the world, by and large, is accepting of trans* people. Recounting your positive experiences of telling people can also help persuade friends and family that there is nothing to be ashamed of.

The awareness that our past actions, behaviours and beliefs are incompatible with our core construct of our identity. The belief that our past actions mean we’re not a very nice person after all! This phase is characterised by a general lack of motivation and confusion. Individuals are uncertain as to what the future holds and how they can fit into the future “world”. Their representations are inappropriate and the resultant undermining of their core sense of self leaves them adrift with no sense of identity and no clear vision of how to operate.

For trans* people this often manifests itself with declarations from friends and family that we are no longer who they thought we were or that everything they thought they knew about us was a lie. This, of course, is untrue. We need to remind them of all the things that have not changed about us. Gender is only one aspect of a person, it is not the whole. Undertaking activities with your friends and family that you have always done together can be a way to remind them that you haven’t changed and there are still lots of things about your relationship that are familiar.

Gradual acceptance
Here we begin to make sense of our environment and of our place within the change. In effect, we are beginning to get some validation of our thoughts and actions and can see that where we are going is right. We are at the start of managing our control over the change, making sense of the “what” and “why” and seeing some successes in how we interact – there is a light at the end of the tunnel! This links in with an increasing level of self-confidence and an awareness of the goodness of fit of the self in one’s core role structure, i.e. we feel good that we are doing the right things in the right way.

Moving forward
In this stage, we are starting to exert more control, make more things happen in a positive sense and are getting our sense of self back. We know who we are again and are starting to feel comfortable that we are acting in line with our convictions, beliefs, etc and making the right choices. In this phase we are, again, experimenting within our environment more actively and effectively.

It has also been suggested that there is also actually a final (and/or initial stage) of complacency (King 2007). Here people have survived the change, rationalised the events, incorporated them into their new construct system and got used to the new reality. This is where we feel that we have, once again, moved into our comfort zone and that we will not encounter any event that is either outside our construct system (or world view) or that we can’t incorporate into it with ease. We know the right decisions and can predict future events with a high degree of certainty. These people are subsequently laid back, not really interested in what’s going on around them and coasting through the job almost oblivious to what is actually happening around them. They are, again, operating well within their comfort zone and, in some respects, can’t see what all the fuss has been about. Even though the process may have been quite traumatic for them at the time!

Annoying though this may be, especially if you have had to invest time in supporting them through the transition curve, don’t allow yourself to get angry at their denial of the effort it has taken to reach this level of acceptance of your transition. Just be grateful that they are there!

Now, let’s look at some of the ways that the transition curve can get derailed into negative emotions that go nowhere:

This stage is defined by a lack of acceptance of any change and denies that there will be any impact on the individual. People keep acting as if the change has not happened, using old practices and processes and ignoring evidence or information contrary to their belief systems. In many ways when we are faced with a problem, or situation, we don’t want, or one that we believe is too challenging to our sense of self we constrict or narrow our range of construction. In this way we eliminate the problem from our awareness. The “head in the sand” syndrome: if I can’t see it, or acknowledge it then it doesn’t exist!

This one is horribly familiar to lots of trans* people. The constant use of old pronouns and old names is a classic example of where a person is in denial about your transition. Be patient with this one. Listen to them and attempt to understand where they are at that moment. Timing is important when managing change so don’t try to move them onto the next stage before they are ready for it. You will be ahead on them on the transition curve so you will know when the time is right to move the discussion on.

You have to listen to them and attempt to understand where they are at that moment. – See more at:
You have to listen to them and attempt to understand where they are at that moment. – See more at:

Fisher came to recognise over time that there seemed to be some anger associated with moving through the transition curve, especially in the earlier stages as people start to recognise the wider implications of change. This is not always present as it seems to be dependent on the amount of control people feel they have over the overall process. The focus of the anger also changes over time. In the first instance, for those where change is forced on them, the anger appears to be directed outward at other people. They are blamed for the situation and for causing stress to the individual. However, as time progresses and the implications grow greater for the individual, the anger moves inwards and there is a danger that this drives us into the guilt and depression stages. We become angry at ourselves for not knowing better and/or allowing the situation to escalate outside our control.

A lot of trans* people experience the anger of their friends and family at the changes being forced on them by the transition. Unfortunately, this anger frequently is directed at the trans* person rather than at the situation that those closest to us find themselves in. This is unfair but, if we understand why it is happening, we can recognise it for what it is and work through it. Hurtful and insulting remarks may be said in the heat of anger. We must try not to get angry ourselves and reply in kind but, instead, realise that they are not meant personally. They are a natural reaction to a situation that is out of an individual’s control.

The awareness that your values, beliefs and goals are incompatible with those of the organisation. The pitfalls associated with this phase are that the employee becomes unmotivated, unfocused and increasingly dissatisfied and gradually withdraws their labour, either mentally (by just “going through the motions”, doing the bare minimum, actively undermining the change by criticising/complaining) or physically by resigning.

The undermining, criticising, and withdrawal of support may be familiar to trans* people. Often this happens to a friend or family member who has previously seemed supportive of our transition. One way to re-engage them with your transition is to ask their opinion about an aspect of transitioning in order to involve them in the process again. It could be something as minor as asking them to go shopping with you for some new clothes and taking their advice on what might suit you, or it could be a more significant involvement such as asking them to help plan your travel and accommodation for a hospital trip.

The continued effort to validate social predictions that have already proved to be a failure. The problem here is that individuals continue to operate processes that have repeatedly failed to achieve a successful outcome and are no longer part of the new process or are surplus to the new way of working. The new processes are ignored at best and actively undermined at worst.

It is possible that some people in your life are not able to move forward and get stuck in the stages of denial, disillusionment or hostility. You may not be able to help everyone move through the change process, despite your best efforts. If this happens, your time might be better spent working with those who are moving through the curve and see your transition as a positive thing. These people can act as “champions” and may,in the long run, support those stuck in denial, disillusionment or hostility to reach the same view.

It can be seen from the transition curve that it is important for an individual to understand the impact that the change will have on their own personal construct systems, and for them to be able to work through the implications for their self-perception. Any change, no matter how small, has the potential to impact on an individual and may generate conflict between existing values and beliefs and anticipated altered ones.

To help people move through the transition effectively we need to understand their perception of the past, present and future. What is their past experience of change and how has it impacted on them, how did they cope, what will they be losing as part of the change and what will they be gaining? Our goal is to help make the transition as effective and painless as possible. By providing education, information, and support we can help people transition through the curve and emerge on the other side. Trans* Jersey has posted a page of change management tools that may help you manage your transition and the acceptance of those around you. Also, you may want to read around the subject of mechanisms for coping with change. There’s a good primer here from Mind Tools.

Each person will experience transition through the curve at slightly different speeds. Much of the speed of transition will depend on the individual’s self-perception, locus of control, and other past experiences, and how these all combine to create their anticipation of future events. The more positively you see the outcome, the more control you have (or believe you have) over both the process and the final result, the less difficult and negative a journey you have.

You can find out more about John Fisher’s process of personal transition here where the model’s history is discussed.

Change management tools

These are Trans* Jersey’s top tips for managing the change that your transition will create for those closest to you. They are drawn from business theories of managing change in the workplace but we think that they work for us, too. If you want to keep your personal relationships intact during your transition, you will need to expend some effort to do so. It isn’t enough to shrug and say that it’s up to your friends and family to just accept what you are telling them. It’s not fair to them to dump the news on their doorstep with no support to help them understand it. It’s a two-way process; it’s up to both you and them.

Because gender dysphoria and transitioning is so poorly understood at present, you will need to be a bit of an educator as well as a manager of change within your “team”. Teaching may not be a skill that you currently possess but you can take a couple of short cuts.

1) Any teacher will tell you that lesson planning is a large part of the job. For us that simply means planning what we are going to say, when we are going to say it and to which audience we are going to say it. If you aren’t good at this, before any important conversation, write down what you want to say and don’t be embarrassed to use your notes.

2) Use the educational resources developed by others. Do your research to make it easy for you and those closest to you. Point your friends and family to websites, books, blogs, etc that do the educator’s job for you and don’t forget to follow up with them to allow them to ask you questions about what they’ve read.

changemgmtOur tips (taken from a number of business publications including the Acas advisory booklet on how to manage change):

  • Act quickly, the longer the uncertainty lasts the worse people will feel. The anticipatory phase of change can cause anxiety and stress. Communication needs to be built into the planning process for change right from the very start when you decide: the issues; objectives; audience; and message you want to communicate about your transition. Connecting with your team and laying the groundwork for open, honest discussions sets the stage for a connected and collaborative change. Ideally, this first phase needs to be done swiftly so that people hear the same message at the same time and do not hear about your transition through rumour. For more information about how to achieve this, see Trans* Jersey’s page on Transition Management.
  • Involve stakeholders at the earliest stage in planning change. Your friends and family cannot realistically be involved in the healthcare aspects of your transition but you can involve them in all the social aspects. Thoroughly outline the details of your transition and communicate the high‑level types of changes that will be happening to you. Don’t lose people to “denial”. Involve them early and often to avoid some of the darker valleys of Fisher’s Transition Curve. Accept any advice they offer and, if it fits in with your plan, include it. If it doesn’t fit in with your plan, explain why. Don’t be bullied into compromising or changing your plan – you are the manager of your transition and you have the final say in how it will work.
  • Tell the truth! It can be tempting to gloss over the more damaging impacts of change. Don’t compromise your truth to appease other people. It won’t work. You will be unhappy with a partial transition and they will never learn to fully accept your change. Change can be painful so don’t draw it out for those around you. Tell them you are transitioning and then do so!
  • Build on positive feedback – some stakeholders may be relieved or even happy that something’s been done at last. There will be people in your life who always knew that you were different and will be thrilled that you have finally found a way to express that difference and be happy. These people are your champions – use them. Ask them to chat to other friends or family members who may be struggling with your news.
  • Offer reassurance. Reassurance is really important. Your key messages may well be based on your immediate objectives for your transition. However, these can seem like a big step to someone who has not caught up to where you are in the process. Provide context for your transition that makes the changes taking place meaningful to individuals, such as talking about your childhood experiences of dysphoria with people who knew you then. Those people who love us are the ones who have invested the most in our lives. A lot of their fears and worries around our transition are going to be for our health and safety. Make sure that they know it is going to be okay, that you are getting the best advice you can and that you are taking sensible precautions to stay safe.
  • Consult with stakeholders as soon as possible. Early warning of changes to your plan or new things that are happening to you during your transition can help people adjust. Hormone therapy, for example, is not an exact science. Everyone reacts differently. If your hormones are affecting you emotionally, let your friends and family know as soon as possible.
  • Be clear and consistent about the message you are putting across. This refers to good “lesson planning” again. Plan important conversations well in advance. Don’t rush them. You may only get one opportunity to say what you need to say so it needs to be clear, concise and easily understood by the person receiving the news. Try to keep your important communications short and to the point. Don’t “kitchen sink”. People can only be expected to take in two or three key messages at a time.
  • Think about the way you communicate. The more face-to-face communication you have with stakeholders the better. You may not be able to answer all questions during one session so consider using emails or newsletters to respond to queries. Always use plain English. Avoid jargon, it will only dilute your message and confuse your audience. See Trans* Jersey’s page on communicating assertively.
  • Address personal concerns and give stakeholders the chance for questions – constructive criticism can be very positive! Questions are good. It means that your friends and family are engaging with your transition and want to know more. Try to be patient, open and honest with their inquiries. If there are questions that you do not feel comfortable answering, say so but make it clear that it is fine for them to ask any question they wish, you just reserve the right not to answer.
  • Recognise how individuals feel. Taking regular “mood checks” on how people are feeling at different stages of the change will help you plan your communications strategy. Become a good listener and use the Transition Curve to help understand where people might be struggling with your transition. You should be able to work out what messages are not getting through or how to tackle any resistance to change. Be patient and try to help these people move on in their acceptance of the change. Rather than lecturing friends and family about how they should be feeling about your transition, a  better tactic is to ask questions to get them to explore why they feel like that.
  • Plan for stakeholders who cannot accept the changes and want to leave. Despite your best efforts, you may lose a friend or family member in the course of your transition. If you do, accept the loss of that relationship and allow yourself time to mourn that loss. Don’t expend energy on someone who refuses to take your journey with you. Let them go. You never know, they may realise that their life is poorer without you and come back in the future.
  • Provide training where necessary for new duties or procedures. Again, this speaks to the need to educate those around us about our transition. This doesn’t only include the clinical facts about gender dysphoria, hormones and surgery, but also includes educating our friends and family about who we are and how we want to be treated by society now.
  • Keep communicating. Don’t communicate for the sake of it but don’t be afraid to repeat your messages. Remember everyone will be at different stages in coming to terms with the change happening around them. See Trans* Jersey’s page on communicating assertively.
  • Offer strong leadership and motivation. This is your transition and, if you don’t own it, nobody will. Be clear about what you want from it and stick to that goal. To keep your transition in a positive place, inform and educate your stakeholders about the benefits of your transition and the good things that are already coming from it. You want to build confidence. Being open and positive about it will attract support from many more people than just your friends and family for what you are doing. Being shy or, worse, embarrassed and ashamed of your transition will provoke the same reaction in others. Everyone likes to be associated with success so you need to put in the work to ensure that your transition is the success you want it to be. Inspire them by helping them to visualize the future and their new role in your life!
  • Provide counselling where appropriate. For those people struggling with your transition, suggest that they go and see their GP to get a recommendation for a few counselling sessions to help them process the change that is happening. Be prepared to have this suggestion rejected – some people still have a stigma about going to see a counsellor – but make the offer none the less. The counsellor doesn’t need to be a gender specialist. Coping with change is within the remit of most psychologists. Your friend or family member should be able to get this counselling covered by their medical insurance or through the Jersey health service.
  • Set up a working group to work on specific problem areas. Where you encounter resistance to your transition, recruit your champions to help you. Ask them for their advice on how to approach the person who is resistant, ask them if they will have a chat to the resistant person for you to find out what might be bothering them, or ask them to accompany you as a mediator for your conversation with the person who is resistant.
  • Involve stakeholders in reviewing ongoing changes. There are lots of mini-milestones in transitioning where you can involve other people. Friends and family may feel honoured and, therefore, more invested if they are asked to be included at a moment that has significance for you. For example, ask them for their input when you go shopping for new clothes, MtFs might ask female friends and relatives for make-up advice, FtMs might ask male friends and relatives for tips on how to “talk sports”, take a friend or family member with you when you change your name or get your new documents, etc.
  • Celebrate successes. About a year into your transition, you will know who your supporters are and the hard work of managing your friends and family’s reaction to your transition should be behind you so make sure that you do something to thank them, maybe have a “transition anniversary” party or send everyone a personalised card thanking them for their support. Your friends and family will appreciate the gesture and it will be a way of marking the end of your role as the change manager for your “team”.

An open letter to our families

We know that being the family of a trans* person is not something you sought or ever thought you would have to deal with. We know that in coming out as trans*, we are also forcing you out as the family of a trans* person. We know that you are concerned for us, for our welfare, for our healthcare, for our relationships, for our safety, for all the reasons that you have seen as headlines in the newspapers, and that makes you afraid for us. We know that you can’t be sure we are doing the right thing, maybe we are just going through a phase. We know that you will get our name wrong and use the wrong pronoun sometimes, which may embarrass you in public. We know all of these things and that’s why coming out to our families is the hardest thing we have to do. We worry so much that, if we can’t help you find a way through all of these issues, we may lose you. We don’t want to lose you, we want you in our lives. Our love for you doesn’t change when we transition but, sometimes, your love for us does.

familyIn an ideal world, when we come out to you as trans*, at some point in the process, we would like you to give us a hug and say something similar to: “That’s great news. I’m so happy that you have reached a place where you feel able to express yourself in a way that is true to the person you really are. How can I best help and support you?” We know this is a big ask, but it’s not an impossible ask.

To our mothers and fathers: when the midwife placed us in your arms for the first time and said, “It’s a …”, would you have loved us any less if she had said our real gender as opposed to the gender dictated by our genitalia? To our partners, siblings, children and wider family: when you met us for the first time and were introduced to us, “This is …”, would you have loved us any the less if you had been introduced to us as the name that we have chosen for ourselves to match our true gender? If the answer to both these questions is “no”, which it probably is, then the problem with transitioning is not our gender or our new name, the problem is that we are changing from something familiar to something that seems unfamiliar.

Nobody likes change and our transition imposes a change on your life that you did not seek. Because of the process of transition, the news of this change is necessarily sudden for our families. Transitioning is never a spur of the moment decision and coming out to our families happens at the end of a process that may take years. Our families, therefore, receive the news of our transition with none of the preparation time we have had. Put like this, as the person transitioning, we have a responsibility to help those whose love and support we value to transition with us.

As the family of a trans* person, you have a right to ask them to accept this responsibility and to give you the help and support you need to manage the change that is happening in your life. This may include arranging for you to speak to a counsellor about your concerns or finding appropriate resources to help you understand the process of transitioning and why it is not a choice for the trans* person. To this end, we have added a post about the Transition Curve – the stages that everyone goes through when faced with change – that gives the trans* person in your family some guidance on how best to do this. You may also want to read it to understand a little more about why human beings don’t like change much and react in similar, predictable ways to it.

It is in our interests to help you cope with our transition. If we want you in our lives, we must make the effort. Communicating with you is, therefore, vital to the process. However much you might not want to talk about it, expressing your feelings is better than bottling them up. Please tell us how you are feeling. If you can’t do it face-to-face, phone us or write to us. If you need time and space, say so. We can respect that. Trans* Jersey’s post on communicating assertively applies to you as well as to us. Anger is a common reaction to change, especially change that is out of our control. Get angry, but please don’t get angry with us. Gender dysphoria is not something that we chose. If you need to get angry, get angry with the change, with the dysphoria, with the situation, but not with us.

To speak assertively: at some point, you have to accept that our transition is not just a phase, it isn’t going to go away. If you want us in your life, you must make an effort, too. Acknowledging this fact is the first step to accepting our transition and that goal of giving us a hug and saying something similar to: “That’s great news. I’m so happy that you have reached a place where you feel able to express yourself in a way that is true to the person you really are. How can I best help and support you?”

To answer the question, “How can I best help and support you?”, all we ask is that you are as proud of us as you always were. Be open and honest about our transition, don’t hide it. Be as proud that you have a trans* family member as you are of the other things we have done in our lives and the other members of your family. If you hide it, you are suggesting to those outside the family that there is a reason to hide it, that it is something of which to be ashamed. When people see that those closest to us accept our transition they, too, will take that attitude. After all, if those closest to us accept us, what right have others to find it “weird”? This also maximises our chances of staying safe from transphobic attacks – one of your fears for us. If we have allies who will step into defend us, we aren’t alone.

And that is what all trans* people who come out to their friends and family fear most – that they will end up alone as a result of their revelation. Please don’t do that to your family member, they will be much more vulnerable if you do and you will be the poorer for it.

Pathway to care – we think…

The infographic below is a first attempt to map the pathway to care for transgender/transsexual Jersey residents seeking to transition. It is based on personal testimonies of islanders who have transitioned and, due to the confusing nature of the system at present, may not match your experience. Please email us if you think you can contribute to our findings.

Apart from cost, the main difference between the public and private routes to care is choice of practitioner and speed. There are set procedures that the public system have to follow when treating trans* patients that include statutory waiting times where the patient must live as their preferred gender before being permitted hormone therapy and/or surgery. These waiting times, largely, fall away when going the private route.

Trans* Jersey is working to clarify the pathway below with the States of Jersey Health and Social Services Department. The question of funding is particularly unclear.


MtF timeline

For those who are still questioning their gender, take some time to read this site, to surf the Internet and watch video clips uploaded by transwomen, to read some of the excellent personal accounts of transitioning available as books from Amazon, and to feel comfortable with the idea that you are trans*. This is an important step and not one that should be hurried. It can take years to reach a point of ease with who you are.

However, it is worth reaching that point before you more forward with your transition, especially in Jersey. We all know how quickly news travels in small communities, more so than in a big city. You are unlikely to be able to keep your transition a secret in the island. You need to be prepared to ‘out’ yourself to all sorts of people in order to get their help and you can only do that if you are proud and confident about who you are.

Having reached a place where you know that you are transgender, your first point of contact is your doctor/GP in Jersey. Explain to them that you are unhappy with the gender assigned to you at birth and that you would like to start the process of transitioning. Ask your GP to write a letter of referral to a gender therapist (if going the privately funded route) or to a psychiatrist within the health services in Jersey (if going the publicly funded route).

There are no gender therapists in Jersey so you will have to go to the UK for counselling. Your GP can either refer you privately to a gender clinic of your choice or your Jersey psychiatrist can refer you through the NHS to the Charing Cross Gender Identity Clinic. The advantages of going private are that you control the timetable and can get things moving as quickly as you need to. The disadvantage is that you pay for private consultations (see the finance page). The NHS route is free but you are stuck with their timescale.

Remember that your therapist is not there to ‘judge’ you. They are there to help you make sure that transitioning is what you want to do. Therapy is a time for you to ask questions about transitioning, to be honest with yourself and answer the therapist’s questions as openly as you can, to think about alternatives to transitioning and to understand why they are not an option for you, and to double-check your feelings with an impartial and skilled observer.

Depending on how you and your therapist feel about your readiness to transition, the next step is either to change your name by deed poll to the name by which you want to be known going forward or to commence hormone therapy.

For more information about changing your name and all your documents, see the change of name page.

evolution-womanJersey has the necessary skills on the island to administer your hormone therapy, which will be a lifelong commitment to taking estrogen, progestogen and antiandrogen in some form. Your therapist will need to provide a letter to your GP or psychiatrist recommending that you commence hormone therapy, the appropriate delivery method of the hormones and the doses that you require. Your GP or psychiatrist can then refer you to the island’s endocrinologist. This can be done privately, for which you will pay, or you can be referred through the States system, which is free.

For more information about hormone therapy, see the hormones page.

This may be as far as you wish to go in your transition. You may consider the changes made by the hormone therapy sufficient to allow you to pass as a woman. However, you may elect to undergo one or more surgical procedures to further feminise your body. If so, you will need to leave the island again for your operation(s). Jersey has no surgeons who can perform this specialist surgery. You will need to decide whether you wish to pay for surgery privately or whether you are prepared to wait for surgery in the UK through the NHS.

If you elect to have surgery through the NHS, you need to ask your NHS therapist to place you on the NHS waiting list.

If you elect to have private surgery there are two advantages: you can choose your surgeon, so you can choose to see anyone in the world who takes private patients, and the timing of your surgery is your choice. You should research your surgeon carefully, taking time to read testimonials from transwomen who have had surgery with them. If you are unsure about your choice, ask your GP for their opinion.

Once you have selected your surgeon, contact them directly. You do not need to go back to your GP for a referral. However, the surgeon will undoubtedly want a letter from your therapist or GP referring you after you have made the initial contact.

For more information about surgery, see the surgery page.

Finally, take ownership of your transition. If you are not getting the answers you require from your health professional, keep asking until you do. Research as much as you can and prepare the questions you want answered before every consultation. Your Jersey GP may never have taken a patient through a transition process so you may need to guide them on what they need to do next for you.