I’ve heard from a few ladies who struggle with this. There is a deep longing inside them to express their feminine side, to live as themselves, to begin their transition. But there is an equally strong fear – fear of embarrassment, of rejection, of having others stare at them and mock them. Sometimes this fear is born of a dire imagination run wild, but other times it’s hard earned through experience. Regardless of the source, this fear holds them back, and turns what should be the joy of blossoming into their new life into tragedy and heart ache.
How can one hope to go full time when you don’t pass in public? When walking in public puts your safety in jeopardy, and using the restroom threatens to incite violence from those who share it with you?
I’m blessed that I’ve never had much trouble passing in public, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t had my own demons to slay, or had occasions when I failed to make the necessary grade. Today I’d like to share with you four strategies for ladies who feel trapped. If you’re feeling trapped by passability, read on.
Arm Yourself With a Smile
I remember an occasion where my birth assigned gender was discovered while I was out in public. I was with another trans-woman, at a restaurant in Portland. She’s a lovely woman, but both of us are quite tall, and two tall woman together are bound to draw attention regardless of what they look like. On her way out the restaurant a lady looked over at us with a look of disbelieving incredulity. And she kept looked, perhaps bend on starting through our clothes to verify the truth for herself.
When I noticed her I turned to her and gave her the biggest smile my face could hold, and after a few seconds she started smiling back.
Now, at no point did she seem intent on making a fuss, and she was more perplexed than threatening. Yet it is amazing how much difference a smile made – her whole countenance changed, and I’d be willing to bet that she walked out of the restaurant with a better impression of transgender women.
There is nothing as disarming as a smile – this should be the first weapon in your arsenal of public acceptance.
Walk Like A Girl
Before going full time there’s likely not a lot you can do about your appearance. Facial surgery is a drastic step without the certainty of full time. Hormones and weight loss are both valuable tools to use in passing, but neither will put you over the edge if you move like a caveman coming home from killing a wild animal.
No matter how tall or stocky you are, feminine movement will make the difference between instantly being outed and being given the benefit of the doubt. This is also something that you can practice in the privacy of your own home while you build up confidence for going full time. I highly recommend Denae Doyl’s feminine image DVDs – they’re a bit pricey, but well worth it. I find that she errs on the side of being overly feminine, but that’s exactly what you need when starting out.
Talk Like A Girl
If your eyes are a window to the soul, your voice is the door. If you’ve managed to keep composure and pass in passing, a deep masculine voice will undo all your hard work in an instant. I remember an occasion early on, before I’d begun voice training, when I walked into the bank to deposit some money. Before I spoke everything was fine, and when I opened my mouth the teller reacted with such shock you’d think I had slapped her. Clearly I had passed up until the point I opened my mouth, and clearly I no longer did. It wasn’t the end of the world, but both she and I felt quite uncomfortable for a few minutes.
I still stress about my voice, but after 18 months of hard work I’m to the point where I’m hardly ever misgendered because of my voice, even on the phone where that’s the only clue they have to my gender. If you live in the Seattle area I can’t recommend Sandy Hirsch enough – she’s not only a sweetheart but a very accomplished speech pathologist. If you’d rather do a self study course, Kathy Perez has a very solid set of training CDs to get you started.
There is No Pass or Fail
If you’re spending every moment in public wondering whether you pass I have news for you – you’re doing it wrong. At the end of the day it’s not about whether you pass. As Abraham Lincoln once said, “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.”
Do your best to blend in, and then be satisfied with your effort. Accept yourself as you are, and others are more likely to accept you. I know I still need to work on this area of acceptance – I can be a bit of a perfectionist at times, but I’m trying to head the advice of some good friends who tell me that I’m doing fine, and I shouldn’t stress about it.
It can be daunting to go full time, but try to have fun.
Good luck ladies!
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