There seems to be a lot of confusion with what transition is among people in general. Not just people who never think about trans issues but even people who have some exposure either personally, through the media, or reading online.
The most common is that transition is quick and simple. Usually expressed in a crude way as "just chop off your dick and you're a woman", which is wrong on multiple levels.
Another misconception is that trans women are just super gay men who want to be a woman.
There are so many issues with both of those arguments that it's hard to be succinct in why they are so inaccurate and harmful. For one, the people who makes these statements don't even consider that trans men exist usually. I don't think I am knowledgeable enough to speak to all the changes trans men go through so I will focus mainly on trans women. Just know that trans men exist and it's talked about far less and usually with just as many misconceptions.
Let's start with the second statement above. Trans woman means super gay. Sure, some trans women might start as a gay man and repress things and later come out. The real issue is that it's two separate things: gender and sexuality. Who they want to have sex with has nothing to do with what gender they are themselves. The pairing of being a man and wanting to be with men (or woman to woman) is gay. Wanting to transition to another gender has no bearing on who they want to be with afterwards. In the case of a gay man transitioning they would be straight as they are a woman pursuing men. When a trans person transitions a lot of people ask if they like men or women now. They think that you just want to transition so that you can be attracted to the opposite of what you transition to. It's not accurate. Nobody is saying: "I am gay, if I transition I can be straight and everything will be wonderful and society will be great to me." That is apparently what people think is happening, as far as I can tell.
Just "chopping it off" is ridiculous. There are so many implications and none of them are good. I can't think of a single, noble reason to believe that statement. It is far more complicated to have gender reassignment surgery than removing a penis. There isn't even one single surgery. There are multiple techniques with different outcomes. I will leave it to the reader to look these up and very detailed information can be found online, including videos of the actual surgery. Reducing people to their sexual organs is bad, m'kay.
Most people don't understand that it takes time. Lots of it. Puberty didn't happen overnight and this "second puberty" doesn't happen overnight. The media doesn't show the full story with the years of changes that a person goes through to transition. They show just the outcome. Seemingly overnight the transition is complete. Half the time they show someone eccentric solely to mock them or make a specific narrative.
The reality is that I, as a trans woman, will be on HRT for the rest (or most of the rest) of my life. My body will not begin producing estrogen (I was seriously asked that by someone). It's not just hormones though. There are all kinds of changes that are made: therapy, makeup, clothing, learning fashion, learning new mannerisms, vocal training, updating documentation, and for many hair removal. This list isn't an all or nothing deal. Some people don't want to change their fashion, not everyone wears makeup, not everyone changes their mannerisms, some people don't want the risks of any surgeries. Everyone will have their own list of changes. Many overlap but not making the same changes doesn't mean you are "lesser" than anybody else.
Overall it's expensive and time consuming. Many of the largest costs are surgeries of course. Hair removal will add up though but over a long time frame, and will also depend on what type is sought.
When a cis person get's rhinoplasty, nobody says anything. If a trans woman has vaginoplasty then people make a big deal about it. Yes, they are different surgeries but it is a horrific double standard when the goal and result is the same for both people to be happy with their body. My (or anybody else's) medical history or decisions does not concern you (the general public). It might impact a partner or someone personal and close to me but most people are not in that circle. There are other things this parallels that I am sure you can connect the dots and people are still debating that many years later. Anyways, back on track.
The changes happen across years for most people and the time commitments vary by person. It's never just "one and done". Surgeries need recovery, hair removal needs time, vocal changes need practice. The goal in the end is the same for almost everyone though. Just to be the person you want to be and not be looked at as an outsider because of it. Not being harassed, discriminated against, or in some cases physically harmed (or murdered) just because of who you are isn't a lot to ask.
When people think it's as simple as flipping a switch it's a pretty big misunderstanding. Many people seem to think that trans people are just sensitive and want special attention. The reality is that many trans people do whatever they can to improve their situation. Why would they go to the trouble of transitioning if there were other options? Just realizing that when a person transitions it's not a small task. Many trans people do seek every other option except transition just to avoid the stigma that still exists in many places. It's similar to the stigma that society seems to place on other issues to make people outsiders (drugs, poverty, mental health, physical health).
There are a lot of people who still think in terms of "us vs them" without putting any thought into how "them" and "us" are all just people with different views and perspectives and experiences. It is a long road to fix and often seems that we are never getting any closer to a solution.
This is all getting a bit too preachy for me so I will leave it here.
You don't have to like my opinions just as I don't have to like yours. We should show each other common courtesy either way. That's not that hard, right?