Tired of seeing that drop-jaw face from a cis female friend when you admit you don't know how to use a basic girls' tool? Wish you had more of a warning about that weird trash can in the women's bathroom stall? Are you fed up with visiting the ER after punching the mirror that for bullying you? Well, I may have a bit of Neosporin for your emotional scares. I've compiled a list of tips
to help my trans sisters find their way in this crazy, awesome, sexy world!
1. Go Femme or Go Home
Wear girly clothes.
Cis girls can get away with wearing dirty boy clothes and not showering for a week and still passing, but it's a little harder for a trans girl, who will go through the same treatment and come out with greasy hair, less toned skin, and, well, in some cases a beard.
When I was first dressing, I wore mostly androgynous clothing and I was comfortable, until I caught a person in a store looking at me oddly as if they were trying to "figure me out." My confidence is always destroyed by looks like that, and it took me a long time to prepare defenses for those instances. As a result, I was afraid to dress very femme in fear of being the "dude in a dress." So, I wore unisex clothing, "crossdress
" such as v-neck shirts, "skinny" jeans (they weren't very skinny compared to what I wear now), and I hated how my hair looked - because I didn't understand it - so I usually put it up in a ponytail. One night, a friend told me, "I could pass if I wanted to," but didn't pass very well right then. It confused me at first, but eventually I realized what she meant. I tried avoiding my androgynous clothing in favor of femme clothes, or clothes that were designed for females only. I would pick clothes where, if a cis guy was wearing them, people would take issue, and that's what really helped my passability. Suddenly, I was mostly
female (at least in dress) to people who encountered me, and it helped me pass a lot better.
Today, I'm further along in my transition, and my body looks a lot more female, so I am able to pull off a t-shirt and jeans while passing pretty well, but if I ever want to secure my confidence, I'll wear a dress, skirt, or total femme styles with makeup. It really boils down to mimicking aspects of society that you want to be a part of.
2. Study Bobby Pins and Stuff
Learn your gender's norms.
Nothing outs me more than a suspicious lack of knowledge about "girl stuff." I believe I pass pretty well, and even my voice is solid, but sometimes I'll reveal something to a girlfriend that makes them wonder about me. I had to teach myself all kinds of things that most girls learned early in their life, such as how to use a blowdryer, straightener, curling wand, bobby pins, hair ties, headbands, and more. I even borrowed a pad from my friend just so I could figure out how to wear it. I mean...what kind of girl never has worn a tampon or pad? I found that knowing those things helps other girls see me as one of their own. Sometimes, all it takes for me to bond with a girl is to share a story about my boots falling apart, how I forgot bobby pins, or how ugly I feel without my makeup. They relate to me that way.
I am definitely a tomboy, which makes a lot of sense since I grew up as a guy, so it was a challenge for me to take time out of my schedule to practice doing my hair, makeup, and fashion. Yes, I know it's "catering to the gender binary," but the world has its standards, and those who go against it are usually seen as odd rebels or recluses. Catering to these standards is a smart way to increase my acceptance in social circles, which is something I want.
3. Listen in the Bathroom
Notice how others girls act.
After all, cis girls have been in girl/boy groupings since they were toddlers and have been watching their counterparts for their entire life. That said, my first instinct when I encounter a toilet bowl is to flip up my skirt and just piss right there standing up, but I'm pretty sure that'd alarm any ladies in the neighboring stalls. As a trans woman, I am an expert at watching other women. I notice their fashions, walk styles, how they hold themselves and talk, but I also notice how they use the bathroom.
Older women might take their time, but a lot of girls my age (22-27) will rush into the stall, pull their pants/skirt/panties down as they sit and pee immediately, and, unlike men's rooms where they aim for the water's edge or a water-less urinal, you hear the waterworks like it's broadcast over speakers. Also, and I didn't know this, but they need to clean up with toilet paper afterward, so even though I don't need to I always take a piece at the end. I'm told female-bodied people can generally control their bladder much better than male-bodied. I admit I've listened carefully in bathrooms in my first visits, and now I joke that women either urinate like a leaking faucet or a pumped super soaker. Therefore, the slow beginning and gradual end of peeing with a penis can seem kind of odd in a bathroom where girls' streams are on and off. I do my best to imitate this, and it helps every girl in there assume I deserve and am supposed to be there.
4. Say Goodbye to Your Buddies and Hello to Your Girlfriends
Embrace your new friends and prepare to outgrow your old ones.
I grew up attending Catholic school, which means a long history of uniforms catering to the gender binary. My high school was actually all-boy, so I had to adhere to semi-proper pants, collared shirts (tucked in), and facial and head hair limitations. When I started college, I realized that my entire social circle from high school and before consisted of straight white cis males. In other words, I had a ton of "buddies" and very few female friends. Oddly, most of my college friends turned out to be girls, even when I was a guy. I think that's because, in my previous grades and especially high school, I was heavily partitioned into the boys' groups. At college, which is a much more free environment, I was able to experiment with my sexuality (bisexual, at the time) and I gravitated toward female and LGBT social circles.
I was halfway through college when I transitioned, and now my friend circle is much different than three years ago. I have just a few guy friends and nearly all of my friends are girls. I'm not saying all trans women will experience this, but I guess I turned out to be fairly girly at my core and I fit in with the girls more than the boys. I bond with my coworker by joining her in complaining about boys being dumb, and, when my boyfriend's buddy jams with him (guitar/bass) in my apartment, his girlfriend and I will head off and do our own thing in the other room. One day, I walked into class, and the tables were arranged in a U-shape, with the girls on the left and boys on the right. It wasn't assigned seating - it was just how the class came together that day. All the seats were taken, but the girls scooted their chairs aside and made me a spot by pulling a chair up to the table. On that day, I realized I was accepted as "one of the girls."
Also, there's the issue of how different it is to hang out with a guy as a girl than as a guy. Two guys are buddies, and they can go get in trouble or get drunk or chase chicks (or guys) - it's a special bond that I used to understand and benefit from. As a girl, hanging out with a guy friend is much different. We are frequently mistaken as a couple in public, and there's the issue of sexual tension (assuming you're into guys). My best friend, from grade school, feels much more like a possible partner now than he ever did. After all, he would never even think about being with me when I was a guy, but he does now. I know he does because of how he treats me. He's a gentleman and takes care of me when I get too drunk or something. It's much more intimate, and I think that's an important realization I've made about how my relationships form, as opposed to before.
After reflection, I think that it's important to allow yourself to make friends in the group(s) of people you want to be a part of. Whether that's being genderqueer, a regular girl, or something else, it doesn't matter, because it's all about being you and making changes so you can find where you belong. When you shift from one type of people to another, who have their own style of doing things and culture, you should be prepared for the consequences/benefits that will fall on your existing relationships, and gender is no exception.
5. Pass the Make-Up Test
Be patient and learn your makeup.
I said above that girls have been learning how to be girls since they were toddlers. I've watched my sister undergo this entire process, and I thought it was adorable when her friend was teaching her lip gloss, nail painting, or mascara. I didn't personally get to learn this when I was young, so I had some pretty emotional moments attempting to mimic the makeup jobs of supermodels only to fail and look like the Joker from The Dark Knight
. Seriously, I looked bad - so bad, in fact, that I would take a shower to scrub the makeup off and then cry myself to sleep. I felt like I'd never get it right, and I felt so alone and behind.
I kept practicing, though. I learned tricks from girlfriends who supported me and, after a while, I got it down. Like most girls, I can now apply foundation, powder, eye shadow, mascara, and lip gloss in the first five minutes at my desk at work, or even while driving to work. So, don't give up if it's giving you trouble. I've bonded over this experience with many cis girls who weren't even aware I used to be a boy. Basically, just remember that all girls, trans or cis, struggle to learn makeup at some point in their life, and we just have a late start.
6. Hate Being a Girl
From a born-female's perspective, their body seems like a burden compared to a born-male's.
Their first experience in puberty is a bleeding vagina and painful boob growth, and they grow up with tons of pressure to be beautiful and proper. I watched my mom snap at my sister for spreading her legs in a skirt ("Sit like a girl, please.") and my sister refusing to comb her hair, and, oh my, did she hate it when she had to start using tampons and wear a training bra. At one point, she yelled at my mom, "I wish I was a boy." My mom gave me a glaring look when she said that. But, it's true I think. From that perspective, being a boy seems so glorious, where the worst puberty issues are acne, hair growth, and horniness.
With this in mind, I've noticed a lot of cis girls being a bit bitter about their gender. Granted, some absolutely love it, while others, usually "travesti
" a bit more rambunctious or tomboy-ish, aren't so fond of their gender's norms. As a trans woman, after many learned lessons, I decided to keep my trans excitement and insecurities restricted to trans friends. My cis friend at school doesn't relate very much when I geek out about my curves or breasts via HRT, or if I whine about not being able to have kids. Most girls I befriend are absolutely terrified of having kids. They flat out say, "I am probably going to adopt. I could never give birth. That sounds horrible." Some girls say that one day they want kids, but many years from now. Very few will grab their bellies and go, "I want to have a baby so bad," like many of my trans women friends do. I try not to let my jealousy take over, and consider how I am a bit lucky that I don't have periods or have to worry about getting pregnant. It's kind of a small reward for all the hell I've endured, in my eyes.
So, I remember this, and try to drop a few complaints here and there. I'll even joke with guy friends that I wish I could grow a beard so I can have a badass mustache (even though I can) or tell girlfriends how I wish I didn't have to wear a bra. I think it's kind of naive to assume that cis people love the gender binary. Everyone hates things about their gender - trans people just hate a lot more. As a girl, I miss aspects of being a guy, like being able to have messy short hair, or not worry about shaving. While the pros outweigh the cons in being a girl, I remember that I can really click with a lot of girls by at least hating a few things about our gender.
7. Love Being a Girl
Girls rule and boys drool.
After you get over that hump about what you dislike about your gender, you can really embrace what you love, and this is where I've developed deep, meaningful relationships with my female friends. Yea, we bitch about girl-only things, but we also share those things, something that cis guys will never understand.
It's embarrassing to break down and cry in front of someone, but you feel so relieved afterward, and all girls do it from time to time. We bond over it. I find a lot of my "sissy
" cis guy friends don't get that. After all, they probably see crying as a weakness in their circles. Girls share all kinds of things like that, just like boys, and I think girl cultures foster a much greater sense of community because of it. When I could share these experiences with girls, I found myself accepted and loved, and I frequently go out to bars, parties, or dinner with girlfriends. Girl groups bond very differently than guy groups, and once you learn the intricacies of these relationships, you will have an easier time fitting in.
8. Embrace the Crazy
Hormones are normal - embrace them.
I know a lot of trans girls who are excited to start HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy), and then bitch about their emotions, skin sensitivity, and other changes. As a guy, I was raised with the impression that emotions are weakness, and I should be tough and strong. As a girl, it's much different. I am "allowed" to cry, need help lifting things, be a bit ditzy, and otherwise be the standard girl that confuses all the guys. Do you know how many times guys react to some of my hormonal shit and desires with, "Girls are weird," or, "Girls are confusing"? A lot.
I am not afraid of these changes in my psychology and body chemistry. After all, "transgender
" they unite me with my fellow females. Guys won't understand, but the girls will, and I love that feeling. I love knowing that, not only am I a girl in character and appearance, but I am a girl in the eyes of other girls. I think a lot of cis girls feel the same way I do, as well.
9. Be Aware of the Lowered Bar
People will expect less of you.
It's not a happy truth, but it's a real one. Women's rights aims to solve this little imbalance, where women are expected to be worse in many "man" fields than their male counterparts. The bar is lower, and, as a trans woman, you're going to get emotionally punched in the face if you aren't ready for this reality. The lowered bar has its pros and cons. For instance, while you may experience less respect in your career, be assumed a "weakling" (boys rarely look to me for help lifting things), expected to be clumsy or ditzy, or they might assume you "won't understand" deep discussions.
This can be a good thing in some instances. For example, I hate carrying furniture. I hated it as a guy because my dad would always ask me and my brothers to mow the lawn, help carry furniture out to the van, or place mulch, while my mom and sister did the easier, less-difficult jobs, like watering the plants, opening doors for the furniture, or tell us where to put the mulch. So, you can be way lazier than people might allow as a guy. Since you aren't expected to rock the show all the time, you can just sit in the shadows without anyone blaming you.
While some women are totally fine being dependent and submissive, for me the lowered bar is a hinderance. I have to constantly deal with professors "crossdressing
" giving me a strange look when I propose a complex project or guys poking fun at me for having pro-feminism opinions, no matter how well-put my arguments are or what achievements I've earned in my life in my career. I work in video/film and after transition, one of my colleagues would not let me adjust his lights. I went to school with him and studied the same stuff, but he turned to one of the guys on set, who he's never worked with before (unlike me), and asked him to adjust it. In a moment like that, you start to realize, even though you can rest while others work, you aren't respected. I am constantly working harder than I ever did as a guy to earn respect for my work.
10. You Can Do Whatever the Fuck You Want
While women's rights is still the underdog, we "transgender" do have a lot of freedom.
It wasn't until after I was passing as a woman that I realized most of them.
- There is no women's department. As a guy, if I found myself in the women's section at a clothing store, I'd probably be the subject of my surrounding co-shoppers' thoughts, "Is he gay? Is he a crossdresser? Maybe it's for his girlfriend?" As a girl, I can shop in the men's, boys', girls', or even toddlers' sections, because fashion is ageless and genderless, and it is, well, kind of our thing. A girl can wear anything in the boy's section, because anything can make a girl's outfit, and the worst thing people will likely think/ask is, "Is she a lesbian?" Sadly, this is an issue many trans men would complain about - how people rarely take their gender seriously, but for us girls, it's a benefit.
- Sit back and relax, because usually people (mostly those who are attracted to you) will do things for you. They'll open doors, bring you food/drink, give you cigarettes, gift you a back massage, drive you places, and treat you to little things. Don't like carrying a bunch of heavy shit while moving? It's ten times easier to find friends to help you when you're female - I would know. When I first moved out, I had two buddies, and I did most of the work, but as a girl, I had like five guys and I barely carried anything heavy.
- You've got boobs. I swear, boobs have to have some sort of hypnotizing factor. I'll catch straight girls looking that them, probably while comparing mine to hers, and guys will seemingly do just about any favor for a hug (Gee, I wonder why?). Overall, you're a cute, pretty girl, and at the very least you have boobs, so you have some sexually-charged influence, but only if you're willing to accept and utilize it. It's this "sex factor" that allows me to be a goofy, dumb, crazy, annoying bitch, and go the whole night without pissing everyone off. I can't say the same for when I was a guy.
- You can play dumb to get out of a lot of shit. Cops are always super nice to me, and I've been in some pretty stupid accidents that were my fault. As a guy, I still got along with cops, but they didn't give me much credit, because they thought I knew better. Sorry, but sexism exists, and, while you may not agree with me, it's not so bad if you enjoy its benefits. So, whenever I make a mistake or do something embarrassing or idiotic, and don't feel like enduring all of that guilt or owning up to it, I decide to just turn on my cute factor, push out my chest, and nervously admit I didn't know better, and I get away with so much shit.
Overall, girls are not really seen as leaders and dominant roles in the world, which is probably because guys "transgender
" are very pressured to be strong, smart leaders. Simply put, girls don't have the same expectations, and it's consequently "transgender" harder for them to earn the same ranks as men due to increased skepticism, but they also have a lot less pressure. In a lot of ways, some girls chose to be regular and not push themselves above what is expected, while others fight for respect by going above and beyond in their work, school, and home life. Either way, as a girl, you have a lot more freedom, and, if you're smart, you can use the system to manipulate others and get your way. Wouldn't it be nice to just play the "dumb girl" card? Sadly, if you use it as much as I do, your friends may catch on, as some of mine have.