99 out of every 100 people you walk past in the street will either not notice, or not care than you are transgender. Society on the whole is pretty awesome. This is not some backward medieval state like Iran or Saudi Arabia, most British people are warm and welcoming, completely apathetic, or so wrapped up in their own self importance they can’t see past the end of their noses.
That 1% who do care, will assume it is their civic duty to make everyone around them aware of your trans status. This is usually a comment to a friend or a trogladytic guffaw, but on occasion it can become something a lot more aggressive, especially when alcohol is involved. While discretion is the better part of valour, sometimes a little victory is needed to stop you spending three days in a dark room sobbing into your pillow. Just make sure if you are going to stand your ground that you have an exit strategy in case things turn nasty.
3. Legal standing
Anyone refusing to do business with you in the UK because you are trans is in violation of the equality act in the same way as refusing someone because of their race, religion, nationality or sexual orientation is. Don’t make a scene, ask to see the manager and point out the situation and make sure they aware of the law and that you would like an apology from them and their staff. Even if you suddenly don’t want to give them your business anymore, the next person in your situation to walk in should get better treatment. It may seem like a lot of hassle, but if we can make things better for the next trans person, then it is worth it.
4. People WILL misgender you all the time at first.
You could look like a clone of Claudia Schiffer or Katy Perry, and people will still do it. It could be your friends or family who have known you from before your transition, or it could be from people who have read you and are unsure about your presentation. At first you need to be patient with people and gently correct them. The thermo-nuclear option should not be deployed right away as it will likely alienate people who are making honest mistakes…
HOWEVER, if people persist then you have every right to be upset. If family and friends refuse to make the effort then they are being massively disrespectful. Religion should not get a free pass at this either, as a judgmental zealot with a bible in their hand, is the same as any old dick waving book. When you have your official diagnosis of Gender Dysphoria, the law recognises your right to be referred to as your preferred gender, and if anyone deliberately flouts that or refuses to do so in a malicious manner, then that is abusive behaviour and can be dealt with through legal means.
5. Be reasonable
The key to knowing when to get angry at someone isn’t simple. One cannot realistically answer the telephone with a male sounding voice and expect to be instantly called ‘madam’. However, if you are in the supermarket, wearing a skirt, heels, low cut top and a ton of makeup and the staff still call you ‘sir’, then it is time to call over managers. I go by the rule ‘Gentle correction, firm correction, call the manager, thermo-nuclear.’
6. People can just be thoughtless.
People WILL out you. It is inevitable. Some people will just clumsily call you ‘him’ without thinking, others will talk about your being trans very loudly in crowded places, or think it’s okay to tell everyone they know that you are Trans. Some people will take snaps of you and show them to male friends to ask ‘Would you go out with her?’ some meaning it to be a confidence boost for you, others to laugh at the ‘poor sap’ who says yes. People need to understand that being malicious and hurting someone are not the same thing. Someone hitting you in the face could be accidental or deliberate, but no amount of apologising makes the bruising go down or your teeth grow back. Not only is it disrespectful to divulge someone’s medical history, it can also potentially lead to a humiliating or even dangerous situation, so you are right to be upset. The best course of action is to explain this calmly a first time, sternly a second, then take further action a third. If people are putting their jokes and gossip needs above your feelings and even your safety, then you do not need them in your life.
7. Beard control
You will find yourself wearing makeup to pop out to the corner shop or the supermarket. You will put on as much makeup to see your bank manager as you would for a date. However, makeup is NOT the key to passing. What you need, as a transwoman, is a lot of confidence (or just more front than Brighton beach) and a decent razor.It is ironic that it wasn’t until I became a woman that I learned how to shave properly. Years of cheap razors and shaving cuts led me to believe that no matter how clean shaven I looked, I would always be a stubble monster.
So here it is, I am going to tell you the best way to shave. Now there are plenty of youtube tutorials that show you how to prepare the skin and such. I just prefer to use a nicely scented, moisturising shaving gel after washing my face with hot water, and then using one of those four or five bladed razor heads (The vibrating ones are surprisingly effective). Go with the grain of the hair for each first pass, and then against on the second. Repeat two or three times and you will have a wonderfully smooth finish without a trace of stubble. close your pours by splashing cold water on your face and pat dry. Wait for a few minutes before applying a little concealer and foundation to hide any beard shadow and you’re good to go out in public for a good 12 hours. Replace your razor heads EVERY week and have different ones for your body and your face. I know it’s expensive but until you can get Laser Hair Removal it’s the best option, and LHR is usually pointless until you’ve started taking testosterone blockers.
It can be intimidating to go up to a woman at the makeup counter and ask her advice, but I strongly recommend it. In most department stores the girls on the makeup counters get commission for their sales so they have plenty of incentive to treat you respectfully, even if they do have a personal problem with you.
Now the makeup from department stores is quite expensive, but consider this an initial investment. Without professional guidance, opting instead to try and make semi-educated guesses will lead to you spending more money in the long term trying to get everything right. By all means buy some of the cheap stuff from the local market to experiment with colour combinations and the like, but if you want to be able to go to work and be taken seriously for job interviews or meetings or what-have-you, then get thee to Debenhams or John Lewis.
What you need for day-to-day wear is a good concealer, a good foundation, a good eyeliner, a good mascara, decent eye-shadow, and if it’s your thing, a decent lipstick and a good quality makeup brush. With these you will be set for any occasion. Just make sure you have about £150 to hand when you go in and don’t expect to come out with much change.
Once you have the makeup that best suits you, you can of course replenish your supplies by ordering online or going to the cosmetics section of your local supermarket where it will be cheaper. It is a lot of money to start with BUT IT IS WORTH IT!
Simple rules on sizing: Mens’ sizes are one size high than their womens’ equivalent. For example, a mens’ size 10 is a size womens’ 9. A womens’ size 9 is a 43 in European sizes, and an 11 in US sizes.
Ebay is a good source for larger sizes, but if you are a womens’ size 9 or under then you have a pretty extensive choice at New Look, and there are often many sale items in larger sizes. They also have a variety of width fittings for certain ranges. Asda also have a fairly decent selection of sizes up to 9, whereas Tesco don’t seem to believe that women have feet larger than size 8.
Most transwomen I know spend the first few months of their transition wearing heels at every opportunity, and then after switching to more practical, comfortable shoes out of convenience. For every pair of gorgeous heels you buy, get yourself a pair of ballet pumps, a pair of trainers or a pair of flip-flops. Going out in 6 inch strappy platforms may look and feel fabulous at 9 pm, but when staggering home four hours later, you will be desperate for the flip-flops in your bag.
This is the primary goal for the first stage of RLE (Real Life Experience). Some of us jump the gun and begin to self-medicate and that is a personal choice (I did). I cannot encourage anyone to be reckless with medication, but as adults we make our choices and your Gender Clinic and GP will not chastise you for doing so. Instead they will ask that you submit to regular blood monitoring to make sure your body is handling the medication well. One of the most commonly used testosterone blockers used by self-medicating transwoman is Spirinolactone. This is not primarily a blocker. Instead is it used as a diuretic (makes you pee) and as a way to treat high blood pressure. Lower testosterone levels are just a side effect, and do not make that much overall difference so be careful.
The reason of course that some of us choose to self-medicate, is that it takes the best part of a year to go from being Full-Time (i.e. Change of name, coming out to family and work, presenting as female at all times) to getting approved for the actual prescription. This means that the system expects you to live as a woman in your public, as well as your private life without the feminising effects of hormones to help you pass. It is very much a trial by fire, and even some of the people who work in the system feel it is an unfair way to do things. Hopefully their voices will be heard, but until then, however you choose to proceed, just be careful. Your health is the most important thing and without it, you will have a much harder time in your transition.