Social Butterflies: Overcoming Challenges in Social Situations During Gender Transition

Butterflies flutter around a silhouette of a head in profile view


Welcome to this guide on navigating social situations and events during your transition. This post is intended for anyone who is trans* and considering or beginning to socially transition, which includes coming out to friends, changing pronouns, altering gender expression, and coming out to everyone else. We understand that transitioning looks different for everyone, and there’s no right or wrong way to explore your gender identity. The most important thing is finding what works for you and helps you feel affirmed in your identity.

In this article, we’ll be focusing on social transition, which includes changes such as changing your name or pronouns, coming out to family and friends, dressing or grooming in a different way, and/or wearing gender-affirming gear. Medical transition, on the other hand, involves changes such as starting medically supportive treatments like hormone therapy and/or undergoing surgery, like top or bottom surgery. Don’t worry, we’ll be discussing navigating a medical transition in a future article!

Changing Your Name and Pronouns/Gender Markers

Social vs. Legal Name Changes

When navigating a social transition, you might consider changing your name and pronouns. This can be done both socially and legally. Social changes involve asking people in your life to use your new name and pronouns, while legal changes require updating government and school documentation.

Testing out Different Names/Pronouns in a Safe and Supportive Setting

Changing your name and/or pronouns can feel intimidating. It might be helpful to test out different names and pronouns in a safe and supportive setting to see how it feels and help you figure out what you prefer. This can be with close friends, online communities, or support groups where you feel comfortable.

Multiple Pronoun Sets or Going Without Labels

Some people may choose to have different pronouns for family, friends, and coworkers based on their comfort levels and to allow them to feel safe. Additionally, some individuals navigating a transition may feel more comfortable going without a label at first, rather than committing to one right away. Labels can also change over time. Remember, honouring your own process and having multiple sets of pronouns (or going without chosen pronouns for a time should you choose) does not invalidate your identity.

Updating Legal Documents and School Records

If you’re looking to change your name or gender marker on legal documents, you may consider updating your passport, Social Security card, health insurance card, birth certificate, and driver’s license. When changing your name on legal documents, you typically won’t require a letter from a medical professional. However, when changing your gender marker on legal documents, you may need a letter from a medical professional.

For school-related documentation, you have a few options: you can make an appointment with the registrar to change any and all school-related documents, change your preferred name on student portals, or change your name on your email account/signature. Note that trans-identifying students are often not required to present legal documentation to change their name shown on transcripts or diplomas.

Coming Out to Important People in Your Life

Personal Decision with No Right or Wrong Answer

Coming out as trans* is a deeply personal decision, and there’s no right or wrong answer on how or when to do it. It’s important to prioritize your safety, comfort, and mental wellbeing when deciding to share your identity with others.

Timing: Early Stages or After Making Decisions About Your Transition

Some people choose to come out during the early stages of their transition, while others wait until they’ve made some key decisions or experienced changes in their social or medical transition. Both options are valid, and you should decide based on what feels right for you.

Preparing for Questions and Seeking Support from a Counselor if Needed

When coming out, be prepared to answer questions from those you disclose your identity to. Some questions may be innocent, while others might be invasive or hurtful. It’s essential to know your boundaries and have a plan for addressing difficult questions. If you feel overwhelmed, consider seeking support from a mental health professional or counsellor experienced in LGBTQ+ issues.

Navigating Social Situations as a Newly Out Transgender or Nonbinary Person

Introducing Yourself with Your New Name and Pronouns

As you start using your new name and pronouns in social situations, it’s important to practice introducing yourself confidently. You can say something like, “Hi, I’m [new name], and I use [pronouns].” If someone uses your old name or incorrect pronouns, gently correct them and remind them of your preferred name and pronouns. Remember, it’s completely normal for it to feel a little awkward at first, but with time and practice, it will become more natural.

Setting Boundaries: Declining to Answer Overly Personal Questions

During your social transition, you may encounter people who ask intrusive or personal questions about your gender identity or transition process. It’s important to know that you have the right to decline to answer these questions. Politely say, “I’m not comfortable discussing that,” or “That’s a personal matter, and I’d prefer not to talk about it.” Setting boundaries helps protect your privacy and mental well-being.

Empowering Yourself in Social Interactions: Tips for Newly Out Trans* Folx

Navigating social situations as a newly out trans* or nonbinary person can be challenging. Here are some tips to empower yourself in these situations:

  • Practice self-compassion: It’s normal to feel anxious or uncertain in social situations. Be kind to yourself and remember that everyone’s transition journey is unique.
  • Find allies: Surround yourself with supportive friends and family members who respect your identity and can help you navigate social situations.
  • Connect with the community: Join support groups or online forums to share experiences and seek advice from others who have gone through similar experiences. Check out Qmunity’s peer support group page and resources throughout BC for more information.
  • Educate yourself and others: Knowledge is power. Educate yourself on transgender and nonbinary topics, so you feel more confident answering questions or addressing misconceptions.
  • Take breaks when needed: It’s okay to step away from social situations if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Prioritize your mental health and well-being.

Remember that your journey is your own, and it’s essential to focus on what makes you feel comfortable and authentic in social situations.

How to Manage Stress During Social Situations

A significant part of your social transition will be learning to navigate various social situations with confidence and resilience. This section will provide some guidance on how to handle interactions with others during your journey.

  • Building Confidence: As you start presenting your true self to the world, it’s essential to build your confidence. This may take time and practice, but remind yourself of your worth and the validity of your identity. Surround yourself with positive and affirming people, and celebrate the small victories along the way.
  • Setting Boundaries: It’s crucial to establish boundaries with the people in your life. This can include discussing your preferred name and pronouns, as well as expressing how you would like them to treat you. Don’t be afraid to communicate your needs and assert yourself in social situations.
  • Handling Misgendering: Unfortunately, misgendering may happen, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Develop strategies for addressing it when it occurs. For instance, you can calmly correct the person or enlist the help of a trusted ally to support you. Remember that you have the right to be treated with respect.
  • Dealing with Discrimination: In some instances, you may face discrimination or prejudice. It’s essential to know your rights and have a support system in place to help you navigate these challenging situations. Familiarize yourself with local laws and resources that protect your rights, and don’t hesitate to seek help when needed.
  • Creating a Supportive Social Circle: Surround yourself with people who uplift and support you. This can include friends, family members, and others who understand and accept your journey. Joining local or online support groups can also provide a safe space to share experiences, learn from others, and create lasting connections.

By focusing on these aspects, you’ll be better equipped to handle various social situations as you embark on your transition. Remember, you’re not alone, and there are resources and people available to support you along the way.

Boosting Confidence and Self-Esteem Through Gender Expression

Improving your social comfort, handling challenges, and navigating stress can be achieved by focusing on boosting your confidence and self-esteem. One way to accomplish this is by embracing your gender expression and making changes that reflect your true identity.

Dressing Differently

Your gender expression may change during your transition, which can involve altering the way you dress. You might explore different styles, colours, or types of clothing that make you feel more comfortable and affirmed in your gender identity.

Changing the Way You Talk and Adjusting Mannerisms

Some people might adjust their mannerisms or change the way they talk to better align with their gender identity. This could include changes in vocal pitch, tone, or language, as well as adopting different body language or gestures.

Body Changes Through Exercise

Exercise can help you achieve specific body changes that align with your gender identity. For example, strength training and cardio can help you change your body shape and muscle distribution to create a more masculine or feminine appearance.

Hair and Makeup Choices

Changing your hairstyle or experimenting with makeup can be a powerful way to express your gender identity. You might choose to grow out or cut your hair, try new hairstyles, or learn makeup techniques that help you feel more confident and authentic in your appearance.

Gender-Affirming Gear


Binders are compression garments designed to flatten the chest and create a more masculine appearance. They are particularly helpful for trans men and nonbinary individuals seeking to minimize their chest.


Packers are prosthetic devices worn in underwear to create the appearance of a penis. They can be particularly helpful for trans men and nonbinary individuals who desire a more masculine appearance.

Gaff/Tucking Panties

A gaff is a garment designed to hold the genitals in place and create a smoother, flatter appearance in the groin area. They are particularly helpful for trans women and nonbinary individuals who wish to minimize the appearance of their genitals.

Tucking Tape

Tucking tape can be used to secure the genitals in place, creating a smooth and flat appearance. This can be a useful tool for trans women and nonbinary individuals who want to wear tight-fitting clothing without revealing their genitals.

Gender-Affirming Gear and Resources

Finding the right gear to affirm your gender can be a game-changer during your social transition. Here are some resources to help you find gender-affirming clothing and accessories:

  • Binders: Binders can help flatten your chest and create a more masculine appearance. Some popular companies that specialize in binders are gc2b and Fytist. Be sure to follow proper binding practices and consult with a healthcare professional if you have any concerns.
  • Packers: Packers can help create the appearance of a male genital bulge. Check out resources like, rodeoH, and Get Your Joey for high-quality packers in various sizes, colours, and materials.
  • Gaff/Tucking Panties: Gaffs and tucking panties can help create a smoother and more feminine appearance in the genital area. Some online stores that offer these items include LeoLines and urBasics.
  • Tucking Tape: Tucking tape can be used to secure your tuck, providing a smooth appearance. TransTape is a popular option that is designed specifically for gender-affirming uses.
  • Clothing and Accessories: There are many stores, both online and brick-and-mortar, that offer clothing and accessories for gender expression. Some options include Haus Zuk, Shoe Freaks, and Period Aisle. Additionally, thrift shops, consignment stores, and clothing swaps can be excellent resources for finding gender-affirming clothing.
  • Support Groups and Online Communities: Connecting with other trans* folx can be a valuable source of information and advice for finding gender-affirming gear. Online forums, social media groups, and local support groups can offer insights into the best products available. Check out Qmunity’s peer-led support group page and explore transgender support groups located throughout BC for additional resources and connections.

By exploring these resources and talking to others who have gone through similar experiences, you can find the gender-affirming gear that works best for you and your journey. Remember, your social transition is unique to you, and there is no right or wrong way to express your gender.


Remember, social transition is a highly individualized process, and it’s essential to find what works best for you. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, and your journey is valid, regardless of how it looks. As you navigate the complexities of social transition, know that there are resources and support systems available to help guide you through the process. By surrounding yourself with knowledgeable healthcare providers, supportive communities, and the right resources, you can create a fulfilling and affirming social transition experience.

Disclaimer: This blog shares general information only, not professional advice or recommendations. Consult healthcare providers for personal guidance. Decisions based on content are the reader's responsibility. Thank you.

Clayre runs a group practice of three queer and trans therapists, including youth therapist Audrey Wolfe, RCC, LGBT therapist Camber Giberson, RCC, CCC, and gender-affirming therapist Clayre Sessoms, RP, RCT, RCC, CCC, ATR-P. Work with us: book a session.