Lived Through This

The Transgender Talk I Wish I’d Received

Sometimes our greatest advocacy is nothing more or less than living as ourselves

Riley Black
Human Parts
Published in
11 min readJul 29, 2020


Photo: Simone Ranzuglia/EyeEm/Getty Images

I never got “the talk.”

I’m not talking about my adolescent self, a lifetime ago. (Although the statement nevertheless holds true for my first time going through puberty.) I mean that when I came out as trans, and I decided to undergo hormone replacement therapy, I didn’t know anyone who might be able to sit down with me and chat about what lay ahead. That was part of the excitement and terror of transition — I’d have to learn it by living it.

Most of my friends are cisgender. “I’ll never 100% understand, but I support you,” is a common refrain. And within the conservative confines of Salt Lake City, I mostly meet other trans folks by accident and circumstance. Not to mention I was too afraid to reach out to anyone when I started taking hormones. I didn’t feel valid. I had to hide my identity for so long, and had a man’s appearance for so long, that I feared reaching out would only result in another round of being delegitimized and made invisible. It felt too risky.

I felt like I was drawing my own map.

In a sense, that’s what we all do. Even when I sat down in the doctor’s office for my initial HRT interview, the list of expected changes was little more than a vague outline of what transition looked like for me. “Your skin will get softer,” the doctor said.

“What does that mean? What changes?” I asked.

“You’ll know when it happens,” she replied with a shrug.

Not to mention that not all trans people medically transition, not all trans people share the same transition goals, and every single body reacts to transition in different ways. The terror and surprise of transformation are inextricably intertwined.

But I’m writing this for the people like me, the people who read and search for some idea of what’s ahead. As best I can articulate it, this is the talk I wish I’d had years ago.*

No matter what I say, remember that I might be wrong.

I know that statement might not inspire much confidence, but it’s the truth. What…



Riley Black
Human Parts

Distant cousin of T. rex. Author of Skeleton Keys, My Beloved Brontosaurus, and more. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @Laelaps.