How To Go Full Time When You Don’t Pass

Going fulltime without passing

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!

More Articles by Vanessa Law

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I’m passionate about creating a safe space for everyone in the transgender community to find laughter and friendship on their journey. I completed my physical transition in 2011 and through it I lost everything, and gained everything. I am blessed that I was forced to gaze inward and embark on the journey to discover and live my authentic self. My deepest wish is that all who wander here may find peace, happiness and freedom.
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Cheryl T
Cheryl T (@cherylinpa)
2 months ago

I agree whole heartedly with the “blending in” theory. So many of us will never truly pass, we just don’t have the genes, the bone structure or whatever. For myself, being 6′ tall, I gave up long ago believing that I could ever go without scrutiny. I am “out of range” so to speak. I’m not the average height or average weight for a female and people are quick to pay more attention to anyone who isn’t “average”. Two instances come to mind. I was at a bowling alley some years ago and all the guys were standing around chatting… Read more »

Tiffany Nicole
Tiffany Nicole (@tiffany-nicole)
2 years ago

You damn right I never asked to be born like this con man I’m in doubt but I also have feelings body as well with curves like a female and emotional like one too sometimes and I desire to be desire and if a person is attracted to me it’s okay for them to approached me when should women don’t do the too men… I’m a man I want to live and go out as a female and be with a trans person I’ve been this way my whole life but I tried to suppress it and fight it but… Read more »

Amelia
Member
Amelia (@constanze)
2 years ago

I love the article and the ideas and suggestions have helped me a lot. As part of the learning curve I no longer feel the need to pass. I have realised that this is who I am and that if others are upset or offended that is their problem not mine. Of course I try to be as feminine as possible without being noticeably self conscious or fey. I study women (a lifetime hobby) to watch how they move and dress.

Kacie Sullivan
Member
Kacie Sullivan (@kacies19)
2 years ago
Reply to  Amelia

That is exactly how I feel. I came out at work as a woman about 2 months ago and the fears and nervousness of going out on a daily basis have passed. I do my best to pass but at the end of the day, I’m being me and that’s more important.

Ginnie Gidlund
Member
Ginnie Gidlund (@ginnirg)
2 years ago

My tip is to build the strength inside you while you understand that there will always be those that cannot understand us. If you feel steady in your new role hat will bee seen and then the reaction will be less. I trained on a way that might help you too. I walked through the departments for woman clothes, tested the quality of the textile and when I felt that that my face start to get a little red I left. A couple of days later I repeated the same procedure and after a month or so I even dared… Read more »

Erica Mitchell
Member
Erica Mitchell (@erica13)
2 years ago

Erica Mitchell I’ve been out full time, in a fairly conservative rural community, for about 9 months. I do not pass and possibly never will. I’m six foot four, with (men’s) size 13 feet, broad shoulders, etc. Plus I have a rather deep voice, which I am trying to work on sounding more feminine, although wondering just how much it can change. When I decided to come out I just decided I really don’t care about not being able to pass. I’ve been on HRT for about 19 months, so my facial and body hair is very light, but I… Read more »

Frances Frondorf
Member
Frances Frondorf (@gwendolyn-greer)
2 years ago

I only dress in my apartment, occasionally. I went out dressed, once, to a Drag Poetry Slam, with the full package, lingerie, fake breasts, a corset, a long black dress, in pantyhose, and generic looking flip flops(shoes in my size are very expensive, and hard to find.) Never tried high heels, yet. To make a long story short, I was easily seen as an older female with the hat, and discreet veil I’d worn over my bearded face.(not recommended for any attempt at passing) However, as no one who knew me knew who I was; I had to recite my… Read more »

Kirsten C
Member
Kirsten C (@kirsten)
2 years ago

I can’t say for sure how to or how not to pass, but I went full time 2 months after starting hrt and being completely bald. I did some things to hide what I could, but I have to say that smile is what really seems to keep people off my case. If you show up confident, and look like you are trying to blend in, people usually give you that little extra acceptance. Since coming out I have worked hard to try to blend as much as I can. I use age appropriate clothing, minimal makeup, and a high… Read more »

Amelia
Member
Amelia (@constanze)
2 years ago

I could probably imitate a female voice and look forward to practicing on my wife, but maintaining it out side might be m ore difficult. A great article Vanessa. Thank you so much.

J G
Member
J G
3 years ago

I will add at times having a bad ass boyfriend keeps you safe,my BF was this big black guy who once threw a guy down a flight of stairs when he started messing with me.

J G
Member
J G
3 years ago

For myself I mainly got clocked for my voice,that is a hard issue. one thing is if you look to good and then get clocked for yor voice the guys freak when you speak because the found you HOT,then get angry.

Mariabella
Mariabella
3 years ago

While I do not act so bold in my home town, well they know me at the thrift stores for loving clip on earrings and long flowing skirts…for my wife😂. While out of the area alone I will do my lips and lashes just to feel pretty inside and without care of the reception. Granted I were a beige shimmer lipstick from NYX with a covergirl lipliner to really get the Cupid’s bow to pop. I have thick portugese lashes so a few swipes of the brush and my eyes have some pop and I have accentuated what I think… Read more »

Anonymous
Anonymous
9 years ago

"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." Yes I found that blending in instead worrying about passing is easier. I know… Read more »

Anonymous
Anonymous
10 years ago

I have to disagree with this, no amount of confidence will make the general public accept a transwoman as a woman, I am a confident person, don't look out for trouble or think about passing, just get on with life, but regularly get abused by chavs and chavettes, I know many many girls in the same situation too. So many articles appear in the media about hate crime towards LGB & T people, Drew on My Transsexual Summer admitted to her history of abuse, and we even saw one example by some chavs as they passed by her in the… Read more »

Kelli Blue
Kelli Blue
2 years ago
Reply to  Anonymous

You know, I find this interesting, I’ve got friends that transitioned 20 years ago who still get harassed by cissexist a-holes, and others, like me, who’ve transitioned within the last half dozen years who don’t. As much as I think “passing” is nonsense, and further fuels cissexism by equating looking cis with being normal, I think there’s something to be said for avoiding full on drag looks unless you’re at a queer nightlife spot. I see too many trans women, women who could be gorgeous easily, opting for blue eyeshadow, age inappropriate clothing, or gaudy looks. In an ideal society… Read more »

Vanessa
10 years ago

Thanks Julie!

Great point about the social and cultrural background helping – when you have laws or general society to lean on it can turbo charge confidence. Knowing that the person who does get upset is the exception, or has no legal standing to do anything more is very valuable.

Julie Higgins
10 years ago

I live in a state with strong anti-discrimination laws and a proactive anti-violence culture. Legally I have the right to present how I do, good, bad or ridiculous, and that gives backbone for being out in public. I aim for good but often settle for not too ridiculous when dressing – that saves considerable anxiety on my part. Yes, a smile and acting natural and confident are important keys. The legal and cultural climate mean I don't have to stress about passing but most of the time I think I do OK. Changed jobs recently to one that involves a… Read more »

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