I was at a public event recently and saw several transgendered people. I shouldn’t have been able to spot them so easily but they made it really obvious. It made me think. Two in particular made very little effort to pass as female. They drew attention to themselves, stuck out like sore thumbs and sadly, looked like drag queens rather than women.
A transwoman is a real woman – according to her brain structure, that is. She’s trying to make her body and public image match how she feels inside. At least, she should be.
Too many transwomen seem to think they need to make a spectacle of themselves. Apparently certain individuals feel a need to be “loud and proud” about their transition. They often make little to no effort to truly pass as female.
They speak with loud, deep voices, they stand facing the toilet in the bathroom, they wear eye catching, loud clothing. They wear high heels even when six feet tall. They use vibrant, often badly applied makeup. Sometimes, some transwomen will think they can still wear jeans and traditionally masculine clothes. They try to wear a dress while they are sporting five o’clock shadow and no make up. All these things catch the eye and make their status obvious, when a little effort would avoid these problems.
Unfortunately, there are very serious consequences to their actions. Transwomen who don’t try to pass aren’t just making decisions for themselves, they are affecting many other people too. To put it bluntly, irresponsible transfolk draw negative attention to the community, and may even cause people to be beaten or murdered.
Consider the following scenario: There are several people who were born male but are making their best effort to fully become women. They work hard to pass as women. They moderate their voices, they dress in a feminine way, they act in feminine ways. They simply want to live their lives quietly, as women, and give no one any trouble. They don’t call attention to themselves, spending their time working, playing, and being normal people.
Picture now, in this scenario, what might happen if a masculine looking person who is six feet tall with a deep voice walks into a room with them. This person is wearing high heels, bright makeup, a badly stuffed bra, and is looking like a drag queen. She’ll probably freak out those who are intolerant, hateful, or fearful. She might even incite violence. At the least, she’ll inspire plenty of nasty comments. She’ll also draw attention to any person around her who is also sexually ambiguous.
Hypervigilance toward gender differences can lead to tragedy. It causes masculine looking women to be beaten and thrown out of bathrooms, as you can see if you’ve followed the news. A very poorly passing trans woman sensitizes bigoted individuals, pushes the issue into everyone’s faces, and frightens the intolerant into even more hypervigilance.
A transwoman who is busy “following her own bliss” and doesn’t take care with her appearance or actions not only puts others in danger, gives the entire community a bad name. They make people think all trans folk are drag queens, clowns, or circus side show acts. It’s very hard for someone such as myself to say “trans folk just want to live normal, civilized lives and blend in with society,” when there are so many six foot tall, inconsiderate, poorly passing “women” who think that it’s all a lark and figuratively jump up and down shouting “look at me! I’m trans! I’m trans!”
For women who truly are trying to transition, it isn’t a game for them, nor is it a joke. It’s a deadly serious choice between a painful, difficult, expensive process and inevitable suicide. Transwomen who make it all the way through gender transition have gone through more struggle and heartache than almost anyone else in the world. It takes tremendous courage and determination to be successful. The public perception of transition as a simple surgery is woefully inaccurate, in actuality it takes at least a year, including intensive counseling and hormone treatments.
If you’re trans, I cheer for you. If you support trans folk, I’m with you all the way. That’s why I wrote this article. I care about the trans community and I want everyone to be whole and free to achieve their own goals. We will never be free of hateful people, they’re everywhere, so why not do what we can to help each other and help ourselves at the same time?
For any transfolk who want to pass more successfully, I’d like to offer the following advice. I got it from friends of mine who are successful transwomen.
For the successful transsexual, the goal is to blend in to society.
The more gender cues you can display, the better. This is true no matter what direction you are going in, whether male to female or vice versa. Sometimes someone might spot you for one thing, such as a deep voice, but still decide you are bio female for other reasons – presence of breasts, wearing a skirt or dress, well applied makeup, etc.
Stay neat and clean. Bathe, groom yourself in a way that is appropriate.
Choose good role models. If you’re a man, don’t try to look and act like a low class thug, if you’re a women, don’t try to act like a cheap hooker. Transmen: Don’t be Al Bundy. Transwomen: Don’t be Peg Bundy. Instead, why not emulate people with real style and class?
Dress appropriately. Wear clothes that are classically masculine if you are a transman, or classically feminine if you are a transwoman. Don’t bother with loud designs or ambiguous clothing. No skinny jeans or stretch pants for a transman, no blue jeans or sloppy sweat shirts for a transwoman. The idea is to give people a good impression, with clear indications of what gender you are. Avoid loud, clashing fabrics or extreme styles. Go for a sylish but somewhat conservative look. Avoid extremes. Strive to be a lady or a gentleman.
Speaking of style and class, try always to be courteous and respectful to others. Not only will you be treated better, but even if you are spotted as trans, you will be a good ambassador for the rest of your community. Also, being polite doesn’t mean being a pushover. It means being assertive without being aggressive, and respectful of others.
Learn the skills appropriate for your gender, even if it’s a bit stereotypical. People sometimes rely on stereotypes to guide them though ambiguity. While a transwoman can retain any skill she had before transition, she should at least know how to talk about subjects regarding cooking and homemaking for example. A transman would do well to understand something about fixing things, building things, how a car works, and enough about sports so as not to appear a fool. In either case, research the things that everyone in your gender seems to know, and know them too. Besides, it can be a great deal of fun!
Do things the way others do, especially in the bathroom. If you’re a transman, don’t leave tampons around. If you still need them, be discreet. If you’re a transwoman, don’t face the toilet, but sit down to pee. If you have a hard time doing that, spend some quality time at home with a case of beer or other diuretic beverage and train yourself.
Never be a caricature. Stay balanced. When possible, take your cues from bio men and women, not other trans folk.
Alter your voice to match your gender, but don’t go overboard. Transmen, just deepen your voice a bit and use masculine word choices. Transwomen, don’t go falsetto. Instead, soften your voice, raise the pitch a bit, not the volume, and strive for smoothness. Always pay attention to what you are doing and how you are doing it. It does get easier with practice.
To all transwomen: I can’t emphasize this enough. You aren’t transitioning to become a transwoman or a drag queen – you’re transitioning to become a woman, in body as well as mind. Since you have the chance to remake yourself, why not be a lady, not a diva?