If you’ve been out for more than a month you’ve probably heard the standard passing tips. They haven’t changed since I came out and I’m pretty sure they were old even then. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if they date back to when the first group of butches figured out that they were actually straight guys.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with these tips really, they’re just not the greatest if you ever want to wear something other than baggy stripped polos and cargo pants. Me, I couldn’t handle that. I figured if I was going to come out I should at least be able to wear what I wanted. Some guys are cool with sacrificing personal style for passing ability until they start T, I’m just not one of them. This is for all the guys who feel the same way.
Original tip: Only go to barber shops.
My tip: Go wherever makes you comfortable, but make sure you ask for square shapes. Insist that they avoid round shapes at all costs. That probably makes no sense to you, but the stylist will know what you’re talking about if they’re even remotely good.
Original tip: Keep your hair short in back and on the sides, but avoid crew cuts and punk styles often chosen by butch lesbians.
My tip: Remember that square shape thing? Repeat it. Play with styles until you figure out which one works best for your passing ability. For me that meant shaggier looks, more along the lines of mid-90s California surfer styles. Don’t know why, but I always pass best with long hair.
Original tip: Never comb your hair forward, always back or to the side. Use gel if you have to.
My tip: Do what works best for you. I found that not combing my hair worked best. If I just rolled out of bed or jumped out of the shower and ruffled it up with some mousse I’d be great, if I actually spent any time on it people would decide I was a girl.
Original tip: Work out, especially your arms and chest.
My tip: Be healthy, put on muscle if it makes you feel better, but don’t worry about it if you’re not the type to care. Actually, be wary of building up your pecs too much, sometimes it can make your chesticles stick out more and therefore hinder your passing ability.
Original tip: Use light mascara to make your body hair look darker and more coarse.
My tip: Ok, I’ve actually only seen this one once. Still, it’s pretty ridiculous. First of all, your arm hair is not going to be what keeps you from passing. Second, what if you get wet?
Original tip: Use binders so that you have a perfectly flat chest.
My tip: Guys aren’t board flat. If you look at guys past puberty you’ll notice that most vary based on weight and muscle tone. Broader/heavier guys are more likely to have a bit more slant, leaner/skinnier guys tend to be pretty plank-like. Go for what fits your build rather than assuming you should bind to the point of damaging yourself.
Original tip: Wear white undershirts under striped polo shirts.
My tip: If the frat boy look is what you’re going for then by all means, get the stripped polo. If not, I suggest plain polos in colours that suit your skintone or the look you’re going for. Skip the undershirt, even most straight guys stop wearing them around high school. And for the love of god, don’t get it three sizes too big. Try on a few sizes (just ask for directions to the changing rooms and go in whichever one they point you to) going from largest to smallest. When you get to the one that makes it look like you have boobs/a uniboob stop and get the next size up.
Original tip: Dress conservatively to avoid being mistaken for a lesbian.
My tip: Pick a look and cultivate it. I started off with Abercrombie metro-gay which meant a lot of casual, fitted button front shirts and artistically bleached jeans in the cooler months and bright, layered polos with crumpled cargo shorts when it was warm. It was similar to the butch lesbians in my area, but because my clothes were far more fitted I rarely got mixed in with them. When I lived in London and Paris I played up looking young and went for a schoolboy thing with rich toned sweaters and striped ties (hey, it got me laid). Right now I’m having fun with bright button shirts, mixed patterns, and a million hats and scarves for a sort of Marc St. James meets later-seasons Emmett Honeycutt look. They’re all different, but they’re all me and that’s what’s important.
Original tip: Wear loose fitting trousers low on your hips.
My tip: Follow your own shape. I know guys with naturally large hips and asses who have to wear baggy cargo jeans if they’re ever going to pass. Other guys are more like me with nice bums, but almost no hips to speak of. Pick out a bunch of styles, try them on, see how they look. I’ve met guys who pass best in skinny jeans so it really is very individual. Keep in mind that different brands fit their trousers differently so you may end up with relaxed fit at one store and straight leg at another.
Original tip: Chunky boots look more masculine and give you a male swagger.
My tip: Wear chunky boots with a suit one more time and I will take you out back and beat you with a stiletto. I don’t care what Chris Colfer is wearing, bondage boots are not appropriate for all occasions. Wear them with jeans, fine, whatever, but for anything involving a khaki or dress trouser you need a pair of dress shoes. Oxfords are a classic choice, as are loafers and even wingtips if you think you can pull them off.
Original tip: Men take up more space, sit with your arms and legs wide apart.
My tip: Yes, then scratch your crotch and demand the nearest woman bring you a beer. You’re a man, not a Neanderthal. Act like it. Be polite. Be well spoken. Be nice to little old ladies and respect little old men. Say ‘please’, ‘thank you’, ‘you’re welcome’, and ‘excuse me’. Know how to give a firm handshake without intimidating people smaller, weaker, or less confident than you. Ignore everyone trying to turn you into a jackass and become a gentleman instead. It may not help you pass immediately, but when you do people will value you more.
Original tip: Don’t talk with your hands/pitch your voice down at the end of sentences.
My tip: Go to the nearest place you can watch guys you want to be like without seeming creepy. For me this was a coffee shop on Castro Street, but not everyone’s lucky enough to live in San Francisco. Sit there for a while and figure out what they have in common. Maybe they’re animated, maybe they’re subdued, maybe they all like to wear neon striped hats. Whatever it is, try it out for a bit. See how it feels. If you like it, keep it. If not, ditch it. Do this until you figure out what’s comfortable for you and who you are. Everyone else can go fuck themselves.
Really the point of all this is that there’s more than one way to be a man. The ‘classic’ passing tips give one way and there’s nothing wrong with that way. It’s just not the only way. You have to decide what kind of man you want to be, no one else can tell you.
Once you figure that out it’s just a matter of knowing how to pull it off. Generally, as long as you’re consistent people won’t even blink. It’s when you try looking like a frat boy while speaking and acting like a queen that you run into problems. The incongruence is what tends to get us read as women, not necessarily the mannerisms or even appearance. Luckily, most of us are pretty consistent when allowed to dress and behave how we want.