Effeminate FtM Passing Tips

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.

Hair:
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.

Body:
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.

Clothing:
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.

Mannerisms:
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.

37 thoughts on “Effeminate FtM Passing Tips

  1. Amen to all this, but especially to that:
    “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.”

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  2. One of your best posts.

    “It’s when you try looking like a frat boy while speaking and acting like a queen that you run into problems. ” Lol. Sometimes that’s how I feel I come across – it generally confuses a lot of people. I totally get why though. Remember Michael D from Project Runway this season – he’s me except his clothes cost a lot more than mine.

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    • Lol, I had a serious problem with that when I was first coming out and then again when I had to live in a VERY conservative area for a while. It’s always way too stressful for me to keep up though, I feel like I’m more likely to get harassed if I look one way and act another than if people know I’m a bit camp just by looking at me.

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  3. ““It’s when you try looking like a frat boy while speaking and acting like a queen that you run into problems. ” Lol. Sometimes that’s how I feel I come across – it generally confuses a lot of people.”
    Me too 😀
    I mean I come across like that, I’m not confused 😉

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  4. Abercrombie metro-gay…I love that look 🙂 But I’ve found Calvin Klein classic-bland works best for me right now.

    Many props for all the “find what’s right for you” tips. There are so many sites (Hudsons, I’m looking at you) that seem to have the idea that we all have exactly the same body, face, and mannerisms that need to be corrected for in exactly the same way.

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    • Ugh, Hudson’s was what I found when I first came out and it’s still what most guys go to. I’m sure it’s fine for some people, but for me it was just so stifling. Didn’t work either, I ended up passing best in tight pink shirts and hip hugger jeans than anything else.

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    • I actually really love Calvin Klein. They were one of the few brands that had professional clothes in my size when I was coming out so I developed quite a bit of loyalty. Still use them as a base to build on, helps keep me from becoming so trendy that I have to get a brand new wardrobe every year.

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  5. I’m gonna third “It’s when you try looking like a frat boy while speaking and acting like a queen that you run into problems. ” 🙂

    I just can’t do polos and cargo pants. I hate polos, and I’m 5’2″ and extremely pear shaped, cargo pants just make my ass and hips look huge and I could fit my waist into one of the pants legs. Ridiculous. I wish I could pass in skinny jeans, but pre-t there’s zero percent chance of that happening.

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  6. Really, really good post.

    I’ve only ever been challenged by people on my identity as trans (read: “I don’t think you’ve got it right, you can’t be a man”) when I’m trying to fit into the wrong Man Standard (Mandard). When I’m myself, people tell me they’ve seen it in me all along.

    My fashion tip for fashionable trans men of some size who want to pass:

    Sweater vests. They are teh awesom. They also camo the meeting of pants and shirt, where, if you’re not wearing cargo pants, female bodies look quite different especially pre-t.

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  7. Hey there, Not Aiden.

    Stumbled across your blog, and just wanted to say that as a stealth, effeminate yet non-genderqueer identifying, gay transman in the fashion design industry (isn’t that a mouthful?) I want to commend you on your tips. Especially following your own shape in regards to pants. Fit and sihloette! Don’t get me started on clothes, I digress—

    I’ve read a few of your other posts, and I’m glad there’s a gentleman such as yourself out there to provide the internet with a perspective that’s often overlooked, looked down upon, and (in my case, at least) openly ridiculed in the ftm community (of which I am not a part of, especially after hearing that my decision to follow my passion and leave medical school for fashion design was, and I quote, “the same as de-transitioning, which you might as well do anyway if you’re going to parade around in women’s clothes”. A falsity, because I don’t wear women’s clothes, just design them).

    I’m rambling, I’ll cut myself off now. Excellent post, so sorry about the TLDR and about replying to something so old.

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    • …Are you my long lost twin or something? I left a combined BA/MD programme for cosmetology school and got told about the same thing. Honestly, wtf is with macho trans guys? It’s like they all have the same soundtrack embedded in their brains.

      (Don’t worry about replying to old entries, btw, I get all comments e-mailed to me just for that reason.)

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      • I’ve got no idea, they’ve got hive-mind syndrome. Its ridiculous that a marginalized group of trans guys can belittle an even more marginalized group. A vast majority of the community is quite intolerant of anyone who doesn’t subscribe to their out-dated standards of masculinity.

        That said, fashion and cosmotology are both fields full of successful, well adjusted gay males. Some of the most masc men I’m friends with are successful stylists/colorists/etc. I won’t say where/for what shows, that’d totally out my location.

        Also, get out about the BS/MD. Talk about separated at birth. It would be even weirder, although not an impossibility, if we’re in the same city. There’s only a few mecas where most gay stylish young men choose to live, assuming you’re in the US.

        Well, you’ve got my email address.

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    • Hey I just left my psychology program to persue a degree in fashion as well after denying myself that dream for so long. I’m struggling a little bit with people questioning not only my gender identity but also my sexuality. I am a straight transman, and I’m used to being able to ignore what people think, but I can’t help but think that maybe that’s the reason for the recent dry spell, if you catch my drift, so I guess what I’m wondering is how do you deal with people questioning your transition when they consider your career choice?

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  8. I totally agree with you, sir.
    Im not gay, but im a fem guy and I hate when like 90% of all transguys say you don’t/will never/can’t “pass” if you’re thr slightlest bit feminine or give off any type of non-manly vibe. I mean just be you, wear what you like, do your hair how you like, act how you like.. You may not be read as male until T but your confidence will help you.

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    • Purposely behaving in a rude, misogynistic fashion simply because you believe that’s how a “real man” is meant to be is being a neanderthal. Sorry.

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        • …Do you really want me to go on about how words like “butthole” as insults reinforce the view of gay men as dirty and inferior? Because I can, I’m just as capable of making hyper-sensitive assertions about the colloquial use of language as anyone, but I’m sure we both have far more interesting things to do.

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    • Maybe I’m biased, but I don’t see how offering a different perspective on passing is “dumping” on other trans men. Have you ever seen a teenaged boy trying to act manly and beyond their age? Well, that’s what trans men tend to do as well when they first come out. It doesn’t mean they suck as people, it just means that it’s a tendency that you don’t have to follow just because every other trans guy does. Pointing this out doesn’t make Not Aiden a jerk or anti-macho.

      If you have a problem seeming gay and/or effeminate, well, then that’s your problem you have to work through. Meanwhile, us sissies over here will continue to encourage other trans guys to be their own person and not try to fit into some narrow mold of what a man should be.

      Oh, and most trans people who are killed every year are trans women, not trans men. Trans men have it comparativly easy and masculine trans men have it the easiest, just like masculine cis men have it the easiest. It doesn’t mean that your life doesn’t suck sometimes, but really, did you have to come here to throw up on a post that needs to be heard by the small minority of trans men who aren’t just like you? We get it, we’re different. We don’t need you coming here to remind us how much you don’t want to be like us. And yes, that’s how you come across, despite your pleas for us to confront the isms and whatnot.

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    • Yes, cis men tend to take up more space. They’re also usually BIGGER. Acting like you have to take up the whole damned sofa by yourself even though you’re 5’4″ instead of 6’2″ is rude. I don’t give a damn who you are, it’s still rude.

      Also, standard FtM passing tips only perpetuate a misogynistic, sissyphobic “ideal”. I’m going to call that out. If you don’t like it you don’t have to be here.

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    • I know I am super late to the party here, but please forgive as I just discovered this blog a few days ago.

      Just had to add my two cents about the arm hair thing because it actually made me lol. My father who is, by anyone’s definition, pretty damn masculine has literally HALF the arm hair I have. Always has. I am 5’3 and pre T. Just sayin’.

      Also, in regards to the author of this blog giving flack to people about how they interpret or portray their own masculinity I don’t see it. I have read every single post in this blog, most of them multiple times. You know what message I came away with?
      Be yourself. Do things your way. Be the man that YOU want to be.

      Personally I don’t see a damn thing wrong with that.

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    • I’m not blaming everything on trans guys, I’m saying that many of the current passing tips encourage trans guys to perpetuate the very things that hurt us. It’s stupid.

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  12. I don’t disagree that sexist stereotypes hurt everyone. That being said, some of us transpeople still live in parts of the country and/or world that are inhabited by your so-called neanderthals. Some of us transfolks still have to play those rules or risk being killed. While we still live in a world in which a transperson is killed (literally) every other day, we cannot afford to shit on anyone in our family. In some parts of the country/world, being an effeminate transguy is ok…in other parts, it will get you killed. These types of ‘passing tips and hints’ wouldn’t be necessary for anyone (straight/gay/effeminate/macho/whatever) if we lived in a world, country, or even just a state…hell, even just a city…in which transpeople didn’t have to ‘pass’.

    We live in a country and world in which sexism, homophobia, and transphobia run rampant (as you well know)…it’s not transpeople’s faults that these isms exist. Some transpeople HAVE to abide by these ‘rules’ just to survive…literally (I’m sure you’re aware of the statistics that now say transpeople have a 1 in 2 chance of being murdered). So, if you want to blame someone for this sexist bullshit and these sexist, homophobic gender norms, blame the people who started them…because lots of people are upset with them including cis, straight men and women. But definitely don’t blame transmen who are just trying to get by doing what they need to do to be seen as ‘real’ enough. Because trust me…transpeople didn’t make up these ridiculous gender norms…and they’re not the one’s ‘monitoring’ the size of someone’s arms (which again, DO give transguys away), or ‘haircuts’ or any other damned thing…we’d all like to be comfortable and safe just the way we are.

    And I’m sorry, but I’ll continue to read your blog, because i like your viewpoint, and I like most of what you have to say. We need more trans-blogs on the internet…especially from transguys.

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    • Refusing to confront sexism, homophobia, transphobia, etc. isn’t going to make it better. I say this as someone who got their ass kicked quite literally every day for a year and was hospitalised multiple times — in what is one of the most liberal cities in the US. Saying “oh, I have to act this way to survive” is accepting behaviours even when you know they’re wrong. I have no patience for it.

      Yes, there is a risk in confronting prejudice. If there wasn’t people would do it more often. If you’re not willing to take that risk then you are part of the problem, oppressed group or not.

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  13. There is a way to confront, and there’s a way to oppress already oppressed groups. Do you treat butch, masculine cis gay men with the same disdain? You say you don’t like when people say, “Gay men hate women,” yet you then make sweeping generalizations of transmen who don’t abide by your guidelines. I would love to know how many transmen you’ve actually, in real time…not the illusions of some internet rant, seen sprawl out on a couch, so no one else could sit down.

    Again, you do your masculinity any way you please…I’m certainly not going to judge you for that…I am saying though, allow others to do their masculinity any way they choose also…even if that means acting like a frat boy. I, personally, don’t care for, nor do I have a use for frat boys, but if there’s a transguy out there who believes that type of masculinity is for him, I’m certainly not going to attack him for that.

    Yes, I agree, confronting prejudice is something anyone in a place of privilege should do. The problem with your idea that “you are part of the problem, oppressed group or not” is it puts the burden back on the oppressed group to ‘fix’ the problems…and that doesn’t work in real life. That’s just Social Justice/Privilege and Oppression Dynamics 101. We’ve all gotten our asses kicked, and we continue to get our asses kicked everyday in one way or another. However, blaming the victim of the oppression, is still blaming the victim, and some would say, it’s even an internalized form of the ism (in this case, transphobia). Sitting with one’s legs/arms outstretched is not the same as ‘sprawling out on a couch, so no one else can sit down’, or treating women like crap. The original poster of that tip didn’t say any of the follow up you added.

    We don’t all aspire to ‘pass’ as effeminate or gay men. It’s not ‘less mannerly’ to sit a certain way.

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  14. Also, by your logic (“If you’re not willing to take that risk then you are part of the problem, oppressed group or not.”), that would mean women under the Taliban are responsible for their own oppression…among a slew of other examples I could give.

    I agree with the big picture of what you’re saying (yes, oppression should be called out by those in a privileged position)…however, holding the oppressed accountable for and responsible for their own oppression is a tired argument. YES, I hate when ANYONE thinks it’s ok to be a sexist pig. I don’t think it’s ‘worse’ when it comes from transmen, nor do I hold them accountable for the oppression that keeps us all locked in this stupid mindset of gender roles. I hate it when it comes from cis men, I hate it when it comes from butch lesbians, I hate it when it comes from cis, straight women.

    It’s more than simplistic to say, “If you’re not willing to take that risk then you are part of the problem, oppressed group or not.” without looking at risk factors, the safety of the oppressed person, the fact that the oppressed are usually ignored, silenced, etc by the privileged group. I mean, if you’re logic worked, racism would be over, and we all know that’s not the case. Because, by your logic, POC having been calling out racism for hundreds of years. I mean, sexism would be over too, being that women have been calling it out for thousands of years…but it’s not. If you’re going to hold transfolks accountable and responsible for their own oppression, you’d best start holding everyone accountable for their own oppression also…including women, POC, and differently-abled folks.

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  15. YES. Thank you for posting this. I’ve only ever seen passing tips for the hypermasculine, but…

    -I get my hair cut at a salon. And I straighten it into something resembling John Barrowman’s haircut from Torchwood (except longer). I look really girly if I follow any of the usual passing tips.
    -I do wear my jeans low on my hip, but they fit and they’re MEANT TO be there. Not too baggy, not too slim.
    -I am not a prep. Polo shirts are not my friend. I once had a gender therapist who happened to be FTM suggest I ditch my slim fit band t-shirts for patterned button up shirts. Yeah, not going to happen. I’m a college kid.
    -I don’t speak in a monotone. I have a sort of gravelly but nasal voice. This makes it nearly impossible to speak in a monotone.
    -I don’t even own boots other than horseback riding boots which are impractical and uncomfortable to wear for anything other than sitting on a horse. I swear my Converse give me the same amount of swagger. Although it probably helps that I walk with a slight limp.
    -I don’t take up much space when I sit. I’m not a large person, it just looks ridiculous for me to act like one.

    Passing tips I’ve heard make it sound like all of the above will make me be read as a girl 100% of the time. However, I’m pre-T and pass 100% of the time. So, thanks for speaking for those of us that retain our own styles while passing.

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  16. Thanks very much for these. Not in the US, but I reckon the tips will be useful all the same. And I have to say that as long as we’re fighting with each other within our own community, nothing is getting accomplished and the only thing it’s doing is hurting people further. Its fine if you want to offer advice for people, because probably the only ones who will take your advice are the ones who want to take it. It’s when you start enforcing “rules” on “how to be a proper transguy” and saying s**t like people aren’t really trans unless they act a certain way and follow the rules and all aim to have the same, monolithic “trans experience” (which is a myth in itself). I think people should just let others get on with their own lives the way they want to without feeling entitled to butt in and say “you’re doing it wrong” or invalidate that person’s identity because they don’t ascribe to what that person thinks is a “real” trans person.

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  17. hey some of that is really good advise for anybody. America has its own culture, telling a boy to grow up to become “a real man” you must wear, act, say, like…example:be John Wayne. Heck, he wasn’t even like the movie cowboy image! spit, wear stained tshirts until they are so holey they look like a hobos, drink only beer, watch sports on tv, drive a real truck or fast car, and don’t cry or eat a salad.

    teen girls sure fall into media and peer pressure to fit in. cookie cutter. brand names and emulate pop stars: be blond, paint long fake nails, wear a shade of pink, wear makeup, don’t burp or eat much.

    a confident adult does not really have to copy everything a book or another person tells them. a real person likes what they like. i never liked trying to fit in, why obey now?

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  18. Seriously, thank you. Thank you for this whole site and for this article that gives me permission to keep doing things my way so that I can feel comfortable in my own skin.

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  19. I read this because I wanted to see what it was. It doesn’t apply to me because I lean way masculine, always have, always will. (That’s part of why people piss me off when they are like, “but you’re a girl”? I’ve never acted that way, or dressed that way, except for when I was really little, aka I had no choice. but I digress) I just wanted to thank you for writing something uncommon because I have only seen the kind of tips you were talking about, pretty much. They kind of help me, but I’m a larger guy so there’s different problems.
    I may not be a feminine guy, but I don’t get how people think that the only trans guy is a super masculine guy. That’s not how cis guys are, so why the crap should trans guys be like that.
    so that’s my two cents…

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  20. I really like this! I never passed in baggy jeans or baggy shirts, even though my family is famous for 34 width waists (So far I’ve gotten done to 33, might be able to reach 32) and I’ve been trying to find jeans that would fit me, but never touched skinny jeans because people told me that “Baggy is your friend” baggy just makes me look wimpy and the common style I see is hip hop or gangster wannabe when Im a fancy kind bartender kind of guy. Yeah people sort of question me, (plus Im homeless right now with my mother and her *I assume* transphobic boyfriend who both call me she) yeah some stuff might work, some stuff might not, but confidence in yourself helps you pass quite a bit, I noticed I passed quite a bit if I was around people who built it up instead of near those who belittle me. Im always so shot down in some way with my mother and her boyfriend who sell meout imeaditaly, but on my own with supportive family and friends and I pass considerably much more, because they help build confidence (Honestly I was just joking with a friend about me hitting friends on the head with a packer XD ) So yeah looks do help and work, but if your not confident that’ll have a chance of selling you out, people have a weird sixth sense and they have a way to tell. So honestly look the way that makes you confident, and surround yourself with supportive people/friends yeah it’ll be hard to lose important people, but it’ll kill you more to be around them. If you enjoy the sterotypical masculine tips, then hey go for it. If not, go with what makes you feel happy and you. This planet would be oh so boring if everyone was the exact same, but yeah it does suck having transphobic, homophobic and sexist assholes amongst us, but there are some of those who have those veiws can actually be quite kind and respectful to those who dont agree with the before mentioned people.

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