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Transition as a noun is defined as "the process or a period of changing from one state or condition to another." For the purposes of defining Transition for the Trans* & Gender Non-Conforming community, this section discusses Social and Medical Transition.

What is Social Transition?

A social transition is the aspects of transition involving social, cosmetic, and legal changes, without regard to medical interventions.


The social process of transitioning begins with coming out, that is, informing other individuals that one identifies as transgender and what that means for the individual. From there, the newly out trans person may do several things that will help they move from one identity to another.


Possible examples:

  • Adopt a new name

  • Asking people to use pronouns (she/her, he/him, they/them) that match your gender identity

  • Dressing/grooming in ways that match your gender identity

  • Ideas about gender in general may change

  • Religious, philosophical and/or political beliefs may change

No social transition is ever the same for each person in the Trans* or Gender Non-Conforming community. For some it is an on-going process. Whether it means coming out to family, to their places of employment, or how they present themselves as they transition from one part of their life to another.

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What is Medical Transition?

Medical transition is a part of transition in which a transgender person undergoes medical treatments so that their sex characteristics better match their gender identity.

No medical transition is ever the same for each person in the Trans* or Gender Non-Conforming community. Not all people from the Trans* or Gender Non-Conforming community choose to undergo medical transitioning, while others choose to only go through some medical transitioning but not all. From the Beyond Gender Project: "There is no right way to be transgender. Not all transgender people wish to transition medically. Your choices are your own and they are personal, based on your individual life path. This information is for those who are considering medical transition or are curious about what some of the options are."

Medical transition generally requires the approval of a doctor before treatment can begin. This often means that one must be diagnosed with Gender Identity Disorder before being able to transition medically. Some doctors require a social transition to have been completed for at least a year before surgery can take place. These restrictions are a form of gatekeeping.

Examples of Medical Transitioning could be:


For trans women and some non-binary people medical transition may include any of the following:

  • hormone therapy (to create feminine characteristics such as less body hair, breasts, redistribution of body fat toward hips and breasts, etc.)

  • breast augmentation (implants)

  • orchiectomy (removal of testes)

  • laser hair removal (to remove hair from your face or other parts of your body)

  • tracheal shave (making your Adam’s apple smaller)

  • facial feminization surgery (create smaller, more feminine facial features)

  • penile inversion vaginoplasty (creation of a vagina by inverting penile skin)


For trans men and some non-binary people medical transition may include any of the following:

  • hormone therapy (to create masculine characteristics such as a deeper voice, facial hair growth, muscle growth, redistribution of body fat away from hips and breasts, not getting a period, etc.)

  • male chest reconstruction, or “top surgery” (removal of breasts and breast tissue)

  • hysterectomy (removal of internal female reproductive organs such as the ovaries and uterus)

  • phalloplasty (construction of a penis using skin from other parts of person's body)

  • metoidioplasty (surgery that causes the clitoris to work more like a penis, along with hormone treatment to make the clitoris grow larger)


The World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH), formerly known as the (Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association (HBIGDA), is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, interdisciplinary professional and educational organization devoted to transgender health. Our professional, supporting, and student members engage in clinical and academic research to develop evidence-based medicine and strive to promote a high quality of care for transsexual, transgender, and gender-nonconforming individuals internationally. We are funded primarily through the support of our membership, and through donations and grants sponsored by non-commercial sources.


Mission: To promote evidence based care, education, research, public policy, and respect in transgender health.

Vision:  We envision a world wherein people of all gender identities and gender expressions have access to evidence-based healthcare, social services, justice and equality.

Goals and Tasks
As an international interdisciplinary, professional organization, the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) will work to further the understanding and treatment of gender dysphoria by professionals in medicine, psychology, law, social work, counseling, psychotherapy, family studies, sociology, anthropology, sexology, speech and voice therapy, and other related fields.

WPATH provides opportunities for professionals from various sub-specialties to communicate with each other in the context of research and treatment of gender dysphoria including sponsoring biennial scientific symposia.

WPATH publishes the Standards of Care and Ethical Guidelines, which articulate a professional consensus about the psychiatric, psychological, medical, and surgical management of gender dysphoria and help professionals understand the parameters within which they may offer assistance to those with these conditions.

To find out more about WPATH, click HERE.

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