Tuesday, May 29, 2012

How I Changed my Gender Presentation

A friend of mine asked me if I would write a post about what changes I made when I came out as trans to change my gender presentation.

In my case, it's best to preface with the fact that I was VERY secretive about being transgender - only two people in my whole life knew, and I was very, very careful not to let any signals slip. I was bottled up tight, and I was miserable as a result of living so protected and secretive. Regardless, this had me going through appropriate therapy long before I ever told anyone I was transgender. I began taking my hormones in secret, otherwise living as I was before. This was still, relatively speaking, much later than when I first discovered I was trans. I came to understand that I was transgender when I was 18, and began taking hormones by age 22. It was fall semester, age 23 by the time I was telling people that I was transitioning. It wasn't until just before my 24th birthday that I started to present as a woman on a day-to-day basis.

But hormones were not my only preparations. Ever since I'd been driving myself to college, roughly age 20, I'd sing along to whatever music was on the radio - but in my higher-register, girl voice. I sucked at first, but 5 days a week, 40 minutes worth of driving to and from school, I improved, slowly. This meant I had roughly four years of voice training under my belt before I ever told anyone I was trans -and this all happened in the safe secrecy of my car.

Further, I'd been growing my hair out for years - since the beginning of senior year in high school, in fact - but I kept it relatively unstyled. It was just simply tied back, no special treatment besides trimming split ends, that was it. But this was my plan; to let it grow out so that when I came out, I could get a stylish haircut. This would act as a rather large, signal change. Sure I could have gotten it styled prior to coming out - but that would have limited what I could change when I did come out. Even though I would have loved to had my hair trimmed into my current style, I held off. If I could save it, it would act as a rather prominent visual cue that I was serious. Otherwise, it was just "same old me, but now I wanna be called a girl". So I had banked on this, letting my hair grow really long, so that it could be styled when I finally came out.

So fast forward back to when I came out. I explained to people that I was transgender, and as an initial step, I had my hair styled, just as planned. I went from 'middle of my back long' to 'shoulder-blade length with bangs'. Which for a lot of people signaled to the new me, presenting as a girl. So, the plan worked. I slowly began integrating my new voice into daily use; and of course I had a year of HRT under my belt before I tried presenting any differently.

Another easy change I made was the decision to go get my ears pierced. Just some simple titanium studs, but it was another step along the road that I wanted to take.

 Eventually, I realized I couldn't just tie my hair back anymore, because of the layers, I needed some clips to keep it all tied back. This ended up being kind of my signature look, as I noticed that people read me as female more with them in. Is it because of the clips themselves? Or, is it just because my face wasn't being hidden? Perhaps because it showed my ears being pierced? I'm not sure which was the biggest factor, or if it's an all-of-the-above case.

I had very little money at the time, so I did not initially switch my clothes over. However, it didn't seem to matter, as far as passing was concerned. As long as I was 'trying', I was being read as a girl.

(This is where I kind of want to point out that I am, and feel, very, VERY lucky for this. I can't attribute this success in transition to anything but scoring many numbers in the genetic lottery right. I didn't need to change much, despite being 6ft tall, despite having broad shoulders, I pass without makeup, and without particularly feminine clothes. I can't pretend this would work for everyone, and I'm aware that I'm one of the lucky ones. )

None of this stopped me from getting a better wardrobe as soon as it was financially feasible; I switched to slightly baggy, v-neck shirts, in a variety of colors. Not much yet, but it's a start. I also wore more jewelry, a necklace here, a bracelet there. Just a few touches where I could

I still have to get Laser hair removal yet. I would like to learn how to use makeup proficiently, if only to use it for more formal events. I would like to extend my wardrobe to include more variety - but I can't complain too much. I'm accepted by my friends as a girl. I pass, in almost every conceivable social situation. That's enough for me, for now.


(If you have any questions you would like me to blog about, please leave them in the comments section below, I will address them in some way shape or form as soon as I can. Anonymous posting is enabled, so you don't even need an account. If you have a question, ask away!)


  1. Just read back through your archives and I just wanted to say what a thoughtful and well written blog you have here. I found your posts interesting and informative. Keep up the good work, I will be staying tuned!

  2. You write: "I was VERY secretive about being transgender - only two people in my whole life knew, and I was very, very careful not to let any signals slip."

    And you consider yourself a woman? I and billions of other women could never say "I was very secretive about being a woman..." because I am visibly, irrefutably female. Every detail, from hands, to proportions, to voice: my secondary sexual characteristics display my sex. And it's because of our sex that we are raped, not our "gender presentation". No woman, ever, has avoided rape by saying "Oh, but I identify as male."

    Transwomen can go stealth precisely because they are male, not female, and retain male privilege. Try on woman-face and, if it's inconvenient, pop back into masculinity for a spell... Do you not see that what you've written displays just how flimsy your "woman" identity is?