1. Avoid dressing like a drag queen
Okay, this doesn’t go for everyone, but it is relevant to a lot of trans people who are starting their transition. When was the last time you saw a woman going about her day to day life in a leopard print miniskirt or sitting in a Doctor’s waiting room in a ball gown? If you long to be a fabulous drag queen, then good luck to you my darling, but if you want to be taken seriously as a woman, you need to dress like one.
This tends to be more true of people who transition later in life, but for youngsters it can also be relevant. Some Trans people I have encountered seem to have an idolised and fetishised idea of what it is to be a woman, and so dress in a sexual and provocative way. The problem is that, especially early on your transition, that type of outfit is not flattering to your figure, and indeed will work very much against you.
It is ultimately your choice, and while no one ever deserves abuse for the way that they are dressed, drawing attention to yourself as trans can lead to problems that you shouldn’t have to deal with..
2. Prepare for Sexism
Congratulations, you pass perfectly. You look like any other natal woman and your voice is silky and soft. Wonderful! Oh, you know that gender divide that the Media claims doesn’t exist and that anti-feminists like Anne Widdecome and Katie Hopkins sneer at? Oh hell, it exists.
People, especially men, speak to you in a more condescending manner. Your opinions are less valid in a professional environment around male colleagues, and the way that you dress is much more of a determining factor in how people treat you. Take your car in for a service one year as a guy, and the next as a girl and you’ll find a big difference in the language they use. Need to pee? Expect to queue. Yes, as Ben Elton rightfully pointed out in the 1980s, there is even sexism in our architecture.
Catcalling from building sites, creepy guys coming on to you in parks, being told you brought it on yourself because you were wearing a skirt that day?
You will never understand the extent of your male privilege until it is gone.
3. Some Men WILL feel entitled to your body
Whether it is guys in pubs, in the street or on dating websites, you will meet guys who feel that a positive response from you over ANYTHING is a sign that you want his junk.
If you’re having a nice chat with a guy in a bar and he offers to buy you a drink, you may think ‘Oh that’s sweet, he wants to keep talking to me’ while he could be thinking ‘I’m in there!’. If you subvert the gender role in this situation and offer to buy him a drink instead he’ll think ‘I am DEFINITELY in here’. That is how the majority of male brains work, and it doesn’t normally get in the way of a nice chat or a burgeoning friendship. Most guys are cool and considerate, even if they put on a a bit of a macho front.
However it is inevitable that you will find a guy who feels he just has the right to touch you. After all, you wouldn’t be wearing ‘that’ if you didn’t want just any guy putting his hand up your skirt, would you? Or, if he is one of those delightful Trans-chasing admirer types, why would you be transitioning if you didn’t want to grabbed and groped and slobbered on? Coz that’s why we do it, right girls?
Be careful. No one deserves that kind of behaviour towards them, but society is very unforgiving and quick to blame the victim in these cases. The best thing to do is to make yourself clear and walk away. Don’t be afraid to call for help if things get out of hand.
4.Breast growth hurts
Seriously, they ache, sting, swell and sometimes it feels like your nipples are going to pop off and take out someone’s eye.
Oh, and people will feel entitled to have a grab and squeeze just to ‘see how you’re coming along’. Make sure your objection is clearly worded between the shouting and the swearing so that they learn.
5. Work on your voice
Forget Little Britain’s Emily Howard with her screechy faux-falsetto. Going up in pitch does not sell your voice as female. Listen to women with deep voices like Cher, Vanessa Redgrave or Maggie Smith. You need to work on the resonance of your voice and the patterns of speech much more than the pitch.
A simple rule of thumb, Men speak from their chest to their sinus, Women speak from the throat. There are plenty of tutorials online to check out, and remember, you can’t go from Brian Blessed to Barbara Windsor without sounding like Charles Hawtrey or Kenneth Williams.
Regardless of your personal beliefs, ‘Religion’ is the set of rules that accompany shared beliefs and these rules rely on a certain status quo. This is to propagate the idea of the divide between the ‘right’ way, and the ‘wrong’ way, which is intrinsic to membership of these groups.
The problem is that for a lot of people who take the ‘rule book’ seriously, there is no room for people with alternative gender identities, sexual orientations or moral codes. There is also a sense of entitlement, whereby these people believe that their beliefs should be protected in law, while you are able to be wholly criticised with no such protections.
Remember this, Gender identity and sexual orientation ARE protected by law from hate speech and abuse, and when the religious get nasty about you, they are not just being dicks in your eyes, but in the eyes of the law and can be prosecuted.
If it is coming from within your own family, however, matters are more complicated. It is down to you how best to deal with the situation, but you cannot let others try and destroy your own happiness so that you fit with their bronze age beliefs.
However, I have friends from many religious and cultural backgrounds, Christian, Wiccan, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim etc. who have been the most kind, loving and supportive friends I could have ever asked for.
7.Changing your name
The Deed Poll or Statutory declaration is straightforward. Just make sure if you do it over the internet that you are using the official site, and not some fraudulent site or some solicitor offering to act as a proxy and charging you extra for the service. You will need several copies of your deed poll as they will have to be sent off, and there is no guarantee that you will get them back. My initial deed poll, plus five additional copies came to about £45.
The real hassle is when it comes to changing your name on everything and some things are quite expensive to change, others cost nothing; Passport, Driving Licence, Bank accounts, tenancy agreements, mortgage agreements, property deeds, Inland revenue, phone bills, utility bills, ISPs, JSA agreements, Council Tax, Housing benefit claims, electoral roll, credit cards, store cards, gym memberships, Employers’ records etc. etc.
And when that is all done, you will find that a good chunk of them just haven’t changed their records and you will still get post and phone calls for your old name. I had instances where they changed my name but not my title. I just went atomic at the NI people for sending me a letter in my old name, nearly a year after I informed them of the change… twice.
Also, to get your Birth Certificate changed, you will need a Gender Recognition Certificate which you can apply for after your Real Life Experience probationary period is up (around two years if I remember correctly). People sometimes whinge and moan at me about how it’s not right to change the records of what you once were, but I ask them how they’d feel if they had show a birth certificate to a potential employer with their sex declared as the opposite of their gender identity.
This costs money too. I don’t know how much, but I’ve heard some say it’s about £60. (It’s all adding up really isn’t it?)
8. Coming out
You may think that coming out is like walking through a door. Indeed the media often portrays it as such. However, unless you are able to organise a massive facebook/text/letter and telephoning campaign, you will not be coming out to everyone at the same time.
In fact my coming out has lasted for two years, with my intention to fully transition expressed to my friends throughout 2012, and to my family throughout 2013. There is still my mother’s side of the family to tell, although my dad’s side is now complete, and many old acquaintances who I occasionally run into who do not know. The big one obviously is telling the immediate family, and they can have a variety of reactions. I told mine with a letter in which I stated clearly how I felt, what I intended and how I love them, whilst addressing every possible question I could think of as I went along. I feel that this was the best way for me, but it is down to you and how you feel the best way to tell your loved ones is.
9. Where to shop
A lot of places sell clothes in larger sizes since we are, on average, taller and broader than natal women (how I envy Transwomen who are under 5’6” and built like sparrows) but while generic things such as underwear and hosiery can be picked up anywhere, finding fashionable clothes for larger frames can be hard. Evans is good for larger sizes and different body shapes, but I often find the clothes to be a little too ‘mid-40s primary school teacher’ to meet my ‘just turned 30-ish bohemian literary hippie/goth’ needs. Most big high street retailers have a token gesture towards anyone over a size 18, with most regular lines going up to a size 16, but unless you’re size 12 or under, stay away from the more ‘upmarket’ boutique, you’ll just be disappointed. Sizes are not standardised however, more a general rule of thumb and so your best bet in finding your fashion feet is the charity shop.
Thankfully the stigma of charity shopping has gone from most of our lives. At school it was ‘haha, your mum shops in oxfam you Gippo’, whereas now it’s actually kinda cool. For the price of one brand new item of clothing in the high street, you can get yourself four or five similar items in a charity shop. You can experiment with different colour and style combinations and build up a day to day wardrobe with relative ease and little expense. You will learn what cut of clothes best suits your figure, and get a good feel for sizing, and for judging clothes by eye if you are not confident enough to take them into a fitting room.
Then, when you are confident that you know what looks good on you and what will fit well, you can go and spend three figure sums on items of of clothing with confidence.
“Who is gonna want you?”
I’ve heard that more times than I feel fair. If one believes those words, it is easy to convince yourself to settle for the first person who’ll have you. Being Trans, you will find that you have no shortage of people who want to have sex with you, but finding someone who’ll hold your hand in public is far more difficult. Being Trans IS a barrier to most ‘normal’ relationships, not because there is something wrong with you, but because of the prejudices of others, and how a potential partner fears they will meet those prejudices. Women are far more accepting of trans partners so if you are attracted to women you are in a better position than if you are attracted to men. It isn’t all doom and gloom though, it just requires persistence and vigilance. Not every guy is an arsehole, some are truly wonderful. Some may need their hands holding through certain parts of the relationship as we all know that deep down every guy is a delicate flower, but all relationships need working at.
Basically, don’t buy into the BS that no one wants you because you are trans. A higher percentage of my Trans friends are in long term, loving relationships, than my Cis friends, and I’m not just talking about with cats.
Peace and love