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!

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Founder of Transgender Heaven

Latest posts by Vanessa Law (see all)

  1. Erica Mitchell 3 days 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 do have to shave. ( I can’t really afford electrolysis). My breasts are just about a B cup now, which I just love. I make sure to never go out without my face really smooth, with light to moderate make up, jewelry, and very colorful, comfortable feminine clothing. I love wearing skirts or dresses most of the time. I always try to walk and move gracefully, with a feminine ease, without exaggerating. When I speak I try to keep my voice light, with head tones rather than chest tones, and in higher pitch than my normal speaking voice.
    Do I fool anyone? I doubt it, but like I said, I really don’t care. I just try to express myself in the most feminine way I know how, and if people accept me, great. If they don’t that’s their problem, not mine. In 9 months of living full time I’ve only been insulted once–and that was in Portland, Oregon of all places! I feel it’s very important to always walk with my head held high, exuding total confidence (even when I don’t always feel it) and act as if, yes, I do belong in this world as the trans gendered woman I am, and have every right to be treated with courtesy, dignity and respect.
    The fact that I don’t pass is a positive in at least one sense, for it means I have more opportunities to try to educate people about trans genderism, and hopefully get them to see that we are just people like everyone else, and that we deserve an equal place in society, with all the full rights that “straight” people have.
    So I wish nothing but the best for any trans sisters who are struggling with this. Love yourself and believe in yourself. You have a right to be who you really want to be!

  2. Frances Frondorf 1 week 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 contest piece. Almost, as soon as they heard my deep bass voice, they immediately recognized me. So, I took off the veil, and the hat, and said hello to the ones I knew. For this occasion I went full out, with the attire, the dark brown wig, styled, accessories, and perfume, to further complete the impression of my dressed self as female. Had I had a few voice lessons to soften mine, I might never have been recognized, unless someone got right up in my face, and saw the facial hair under that thick veil. I did win a prize for my efforts. No pain, no gain.

  3. Kirsten C 1 week 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 pony tail to do what I can. Do I pass? No. Well maybe to some. But for the most part no. Do I get crap from people? No. Sure I get looks, but I get as many looks that are negative as are positive. I have even been publically shamed once in a fast food restaurant and a funny thing happened, no less than 20 people apologized to me and yelled at the worker for being a jerk to me.
    For the most part I think people couldn’t care less what you are doing in your life. As long as you aren’t affecting theirs.
    Personally I try not to care if I pass or not. I try to be happy with myself. To be proud of who I am now. And to continue to strive to be the best version of myself that is possible. Once again transition is more about self acceptance than anything else. Sure I hope to pass someday. But if not I know I’ll at least love myself for who and what I am. ❤️❤️

  4. Amelia 2 months 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.

  5. J G 5 months 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.

  6. J G 5 months 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.

  7. Mariabella 8 months 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 are my strongest features my pouty lips and hazel eyes

  8. Anonymous 7 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 that I have been viewed as a male in a dress by the public, but has not stopped me from continuing to go out dressed.

  9. Anonymous 7 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 street.

    • Kelli Blue 2 months ago

      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 one should be able to do these things without harassment, but let’s call a spade a spade here and admit that even in the USA in the 21st century calling an undue amount of attention to oneself invites the bullies.

      I’m thinking things are in some ways a bit better here in NY, maybe, maybe not, but rarely have I seen anyone quietly living their life get hassled.

      For myself I rarely have any problems, and on those few occasions where I have had I refuse to put up with it. I do not accept being hassled, discriminated against, or misgendered and while not overly sensitive if someone is just being a dick I’m happy to throw down. Usually that means a verbal confrontation or calling for a supervisor, but I do carry pepper spray

  10. Vanessa 7 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.

  11. Julie Higgins 7 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 lot of non-visual public address system work. Sometimes I cringe at my voice but it does motivate practice, for me raising the pitch makes a big difference. Consciously being present in my life as a woman is a big difference to erasing vocal habits of my male past.
    Well done with this blog.

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