What kind of man do you want to be: a guide for trans men

One of the advantages we, as trans men, have is the opportunity to almost completely remake ourselves.  No one is too surprised if we undergo a few personality shifts as we come out and transition and they’re not likely to say much unless those shifts are negative.  It’s a great time to experiment and figure out not only who you are, but who you want to grow into.

I didn’t take advantage of this opportunity.  It’s the kind of thing you have to be in the right mental place to do and not knowing where your next meal is coming from is not conducive to that place.  Lucky for me, this isn’t something that it’s ever too late to think about.  It’s like having sex: the right time is when you’re ready.

How does one go about becoming the man they want to be?  I’m not sure anyone has an answer to that.  I do know what I did (and am still doing, being the person you want to be is a lifelong process), but that may not be the process for you.  Like everything on here from wardrobe to T effects, take it as a jumping off point and customise until you get what works.

  1. What are your values?  In order to know who you want to be you have to know what you value.  I am a major fanboy geek and always have been so for me this was easiest when I thought of it as belonging to a particular Hogwarts House or Faerie Court (yes, I’m that kind of geek).  I like logic and reason and restraint and originality and curiosity and self discipline and compassion and ambition and thoughtful loyalty.  I like people who know what they want and will do almost anything to get it, but I don’t like people who wilfully hurt others for no reason other than that they can.  I like people who can argue for things they disagree with because they understand the reasoning even if they think it’s flawed.  I like people who are curious about the world around them.  I believe morality and ethics are most often grey areas with no clear right or wrong.  I believe there is a time for friendship and a time for competition.  I believe that winning by cheating isn’t winning at all.  I believe that taking advantage of loopholes in rules isn’t cheating, it’s being intelligent.  I believe that some things can only be obtained by hard work while others require natural talent.  All of these things shape who I am and want to be.
  2. Do you live up to your values?  Not everyone does.  Everyone slips up from time to time.  I place a very high value on self-discipline, but I am honestly complete crap at it myself.  I admire hard work, but I get frustrated more easily than most anyone I know.  Make a list of the areas you are managing and those you need to work on.  Then pick one area each month or quarter or year to put a conscious effort into.  At the moment I’m trying to work on my self-discipline.  This is an ongoing project for me.  The ADHD means that it’s harder than it is for the average person and I’ve had to learn to be a bit easier on myself when I screw up.  I know that I can do it though because I was incredibly good at it when I was in a highly structured environment as a teenager.  So I work at it.  And work at it.  And work at it.  And slowly I’m improving.
  3. What image do you want to present to the world?  Anyone who says appearance doesn’t matter is either naive or lying.  Appearance doesn’t matter in terms of your value as a person.  It certainly makes a difference in the way the world treats you.  If you dress like a dudebro people will assume you are a dudebro.  Maybe that’s not fair, but it’s still reality.Who do you want the world to see when they look at you?  Even if you can’t present that way yet, it’s a good thing to know.  Try to picture it in your head so you know what you’re working toward.
  4. Is your desired image realistic?  This is important.  If I had my choice I’d present as a 5’10”, gorgeously toned, effeminate-leaning-dapper man with perfect hair, striking eyes, and a larger than average cock.  I’d be James Bond’s gay cousin.  (Ideally Pierce Brosnan Bond, definitely not Daniel Craig Bond.)  I am 5’0″, have almost no ability to build muscle mass, and hair that has to be forced into submission.  (You can guess how the cock issue is going.)  My ideal image is not going to happen unless someone invents body swapping technology.What I can do is go for the effeminate-leaning-dapper part.  I can cultivate the confidence and grace that I admire.  I can work toward particular qualities rather than physical attributes.  (And I can spend three hours beating my hair into submission every morning.)
  5. What might need to change in order to meet your desired image?  I am going to be 100% honest here: I am not remotely like the moderately effeminate, dapper gentleman I would ideally like to be.  I am klutzy.  I am awkward.  I am constantly putting my foot in my mouth.  I could use some work on the “calm and collected” thing.  These are not things that necessarily need to change.  They don’t hurt me.  I could accept them and move on.  I just don’t want to.  Much like how I don’t feel comfortable with breasts, I don’t feel like certain aspects of myself are me.  Those parts I work on changing.  I take ballet, I consciously correct my posture, I try to think before I speak (that one’s hardest).  Like with the self-discipline, slowly these things are changing.
  6. What parts don’t fit your desired image, but you like them anyway?  This is not about changing who you are.  It’s about learning how to make who you are show through to other people.  It’s about consciously being who you are instead of subconsciously being someone else because of your socialisation and what’s easy.  I am kind of a sarcastic ass.  I’m ok with that.  I will never be the kind of person who is considered “nice”.  I am cynical and often derisive and I don’t have patience for stupidity.  Those things don’t fit with the “dapper gay gentleman” image and I am not remotely willing to change them.  They’re a core part of who I am right along with being attracted to men.  I am willing to learn to suppress those things when necessary to get what I want, but that’s as far as I’ll go.  My friends and family will always have to accept my less than nice side.
  7. How much effort are you willing/able to put in?  Not everyone has the same emotional, physical, or financial resources to do everything they’d like.  Not everyone wants to put in all the resources they can.  If I was rich I’d hire myself a team of tutors and trainers and stylists and wardrobe consultants and tailors and personal assistants so I didn’t have to think of all the details myself.  I am not rich.  Wish I was, but I most definitely am not.  I also have depression and ADHD and a few chronic illnesses that mean I don’t always have the energy to do more than get out of bed and take care of my dogs.  On those days I have to simultaneously try to remember that the phase will pass, avoid beating myself up, and attempt to do at least one thing more than I think I’m capable of.  Managing to wash my hair is a big deal.  You have to decide how much you can put in, sometimes on a daily basis.  Maybe that means learning to stand up straight and look people in the eye, maybe it means buying a brand new wardrobe and taking classes at night for a new degree.  It depends on your resources and desires.
  8. Do you have a way of keeping track of progress?  If you don’t try to keep track there’s a better than even chance that you won’t notice change.  It’s like with T where the changes are small enough and slow enough that you don’t tend to realise how much is different until you see someone after time apart or you look at old pictures.  I keep a journal.  It’s not much, just random things I write down throughout the day, but I can look back and see that a month ago I didn’t mark a single thing off my ‘to do’ list while now I’m getting through at least half.  Part of that is getting better at putting down things that need to get done and avoiding things that I know aren’t likely to happen and part of it is a slow improvement in self discipline.  The actual journal parts show that I’ve become much better at articulating what might have triggered a depressive episode and help provide a few clues as to things I should avoid.  (Watching Criminal Minds alone is a sure way to give me nightmares.)
  9. Is it time to re-evaluate?  Once you’ve started this should be asked periodically.  Maybe once a month, maybe once a year, whatever works for you.  This is particularly true if you’re also early in transition or a teen to young adult.  (Not because you’re flaky or anything, adolescence and young adulthood are just natural times of personal growth and experimentation.  You’re most likely going to be a different person at 40 than you were at 22.)Transition is an awkward time for most people.  If you look around at early transition guys you’ll notice that we seem to revert back to adolescence even if we’re well past it.  It’s not surprising when you think about it, we’re learning to be men as much as a thirteen year old is.  It just means that we tend to do a lot of exploring.  Things we think fit us when we first transition might not six months down the line.  After being read as male regularly for a few years we tend to settle down.  If you’re in a space where you’re testing things out it’s a good idea to check in once and a while and make sure that the testing is working for you.  I know that for me the early months of transition meant a lot of tossing out traditional trans concepts and trying to create my own.  Later on I had to work at removing all of the misogynistic attitudes I’d picked up early in transition (I’m still working on that one).  More recently I realised that trying to be polite and nice all of the time was making me nearly as uncomfortable as being a girl did.  As you try things out you’ll find that some work and some don’t.  Don’t be afraid to toss out the things that don’t work.
  10. Are you done?  I don’t actually think a person can ever really be done with this because no one will ever be perfect, but I needed a tenth point or it was going to drive me mad.  In any event, if you reach a point where you’re happy with who you are and don’t think you need or want to change anything else then stay there.  Check in once and a while to make sure you’re living up to your values and enjoy the person you are.

“But you have female socialisation!”

I cannot begin to explain how much I loathe statements like that.  They’re most often said by women trying to explain why they prefer trans guys to cis guys so I don’t really have to deal with them, but when I do…very little pisses me off faster.

Why?  Because there is so much wrong in that one simple sentence that I’m not entirely sure where to start.  It assumes that all women have some magical girlhood experience.  It assumes that the little girl in a rich, white New York family is socialised the same way as a Latina in the LA ghetto.  It ignores that socialisation differs based on time, location, socio-economic class, race, religion, and a whole host of other factors.  It implies that trans women will never be “real” women because they’re missing this mystical childhood socialisation.

Beyond that, it gives trans guys way too much credit.  It says that we must instinctively understand and agree with issues like rape culture because we were raised as girls.  I’m trans and I gotta say, half of what people talk about when they mention rape culture never once occurred to me.  I’m not automatically a better feminist because of my genitalia.

It could be said that I missed everything because I socially transitioned myself so young.  I can believe that.  I’m not the only one with these problems though.  Ask a group of trans guys about their upbringings and you’ll get a mixed bag of answers.  Some will say they 100% were socialised as girls and they understand what that means.  Others will say gender wasn’t an issue in their upbringing because they were treated the same way as cis guy relatives.  Others will say they were socialised largely as a boy by accident.  Still others will have a range of answers somewhere in between.

Being trans does not make me a more enlightened breed of guy.  In fact, being trans has often worked against my ability to understand feminism.  It took a very long time for me to be able to understand that just because I didn’t experience a certain aspect of being seen as a girl doesn’t mean no woman has.  It took even longer for me to recognise my own internalised misogyny and start to work through it.  I’m sure I still have issues I haven’t noticed yet.  So please stop acting like I’m magic.  I’m not.  I’m just as capable of being a jerk as any other guy.

Guest Post: How I Figured Out I Was Trans, the short version

When people ask me how I knew I was trans, I often don’t know where to start.  There were all sorts of signs that I was trans throughout my childhood, but being as this was before the internet, I had no idea that transitioning was a possibility.  Like many trans people, it wasn’t one thing that let me know I was trans, it was a thousand tiny things that piled up into a narrative.  Eight years after transitioning, I still have moments when I remember tidbits from my life that confirm my transness.  These tiny moments didn’t make sense at the time, but in hindsight I can see what they meant.

Some trans people talk about being in the wrong body and some talk about not liking their social role.  For me, it was a strange combination that led me to transition.  The biggest thing, the one that trans people don’t like to talk about, is sex.  Yes, sex – I figured out that I was trans through having sex.  It started in the summer of 2000.  I was a junior in college and had just started dating a older man (lol, he was only 26, but it felt like a huge difference at the time).  The sex was great in the beginning, as I had gone a long time without any sexual contact due to my extreme studiousness and shyness.  After a month though, the sex turned bad; I felt locked up, stoic and frigid.

Being the perfectionist that I was, I spent days poring over sex books to figure out what I was doing wrong.  Convinced that I just wasn’t doing it right, I made it my goal to explore sex like I never had before.  I watched porn, bought toys, went to the strip club, read erotica, subscribed to Abercrombie & Fitch’s catalogue (my first softcore gay porn!), but nothing helped consistently.  I started to think it was physical, so I went to the doctor’s – nothing wrong there.  I practiced kegels, read up on kama sutra and tantric sex, tried the positions with my boyfriend, all to no avail.  Slowly sex became a chore that I loathed doing – a fact that is depressing as hell when you’re horny.  The only thing that helped was having sex right after waking up.  Curious, I started a dream journal.

One afternoon, I was waking up from a short nap in which I hazily remember having sex with a man.  Normally, this would have just been considered a good use of daylight hours, but this time I had a penis and I was the one penetrating him.  The dream was so vivid, so electric, that I thought about it for months, totally confused as to why I would have a dream like this.  It didn’t make any sense.  I tried to put it out of my mind, but a big part of me liked it so much, I started to have this dream every night.

After a few months of this, I furiously started researching the internets.  I came across a picture of a masculine presenting female-assigned trans person.  Floored, intrigued, excited and scared, I slowly I came to accept that my dream was telling me something important and that the only way I would figure it out was to break up with my boyfriend and explore my sexuality with other people.  Three months later, I chopped my hair off, graduated from college and somehow became convinced that I should start my experiments with women.

When graduate school started in the fall, I started dating another grad student – a woman.  My goal was to somehow embody my dream, to somehow feel male, so dating a woman seemed like the natural thing to do and I went with it.  At first it was new and exciting, just like my last relationship, but after a month of sex in which I never took off my clothes, I got bored and anxious.   I also felt like a fraud cause she thought I was a lesbian, but making her come did absolutely nothing for me.  After five months of exploring sex (including BDSM lite) with her, I took to the internet once more.

This time, thankfully, I came across a message board full of queer and trans people.  I spent months reading the archives, searching for some truth that mirrored my own.  I stopped having sex again, started to obsessively study myself in the mirror and make myself as masculine-looking as possible.  I lifted weights every day, starved myself, started shopping in the men’s side of the store and, most importantly, I started having the special dreams again, except this time they were more explicit and longer.  Jolting energy spilt through my penis, like I’d imagine a cis guy would feel and it was very unlike the orgasms and feel of vaginal sex.  I had a masculine chest, fur, fuzz on my face and I found myself furiously sucking my imaginary partner’s cock like I never had in real life.

Up until this point, it had never occurred to me that gay trans men existed.  In my dreams, I was a man having sex with a man, but acknowledging this out loud to other people scared the shit out of me.  So I continued on my quest to look more masculine while entertaining the possibility of sex with lesbians who digged people like me.   Convinced that I was disgusting, not worth dating and certainly not sexy, the attention and ego boost were nice.   I had some odd encounters with lesbians, but the spark wasn’t there.  I felt mostly dead down there when it came to having sex with women.

Slowly my dreams became more elaborate and I started wondering what else was possible.  Just going to a gay porn website was enough to make me start shaking and sweating at this point.  It felt forbidden and wrong.  It took me a full year of thinking before I finally downloaded some gay porn.  At first, I was confused.  I mean, I had sex with plenty guys growing up and I’d seen plenty of penises, but seeing gay porn for the first time made me feel completely ignorant of male sexuality.  I watched the twinks giving each other blowjobs, examining their bodies and noticing how skinny and smooth they looked.  Then one of them starting topping the other and my mouth literally gaped open – I thought “that’s exactly what my dream was like!!!”.  A part of me didn’t want to watch anymore (they weren’t my type and they looked rather sickly), but I couldn’t look away – it was calling my name.   Scared to death that I was really a gay man, I told myself that it wasn’t my cup of tea and that perhaps I was into the type of sex that has never existed in real life.

Meanwhile, I took steps to start testosterone therapy for my physical transition and graduated from college.  I moved to a new town and met some gay men for the first time in my life at age 23.  This is when my life started – I’m not exaggerating.  My new role as a man was being accepted rather easily with the help of testosterone-induced masculinization, a very trans-friendly community and top surgery, but making that step into gayhood became some sort of looming monster.  The closer I became with one of my gay friends, the more apparent my sexuality became to others, the more I couldn’t ignore the truth.  I finally came out, which surprised no one (apparently I make a rather fey man).  In less than a week after coming out, I was making my privates hurt from the constant masturbation from just the release of finally accepting myself.  Soon, I went after the real thing and for the first time in my life, my sexuality felt easy, not forced.  I no longer had to get in the perfect position, think of England, or imagine I was somewhere else.  I could be in my body and feel the electricity and most importantly I could share it with someone else, like humans were meant to do.

This isn’t to say that my sex life is easy and that I have no issues.  When I’m with a cis guy, I immediately feel less than a man – how do you come to terms that someone ran off with your penis before you born and not feel inadequate?  A lot of times, men aren’t interested in having sex with me once they know I’m trans.  On the street, if you saw me you’d never know that my package was manufactured at some plant in China.  Naked, well, you’d be really dense not to notice that my penis is quite small, much like an overgrown clit (testosterone makes it grow, a lot) and that I can’t fuck you with it.   Some don’t care that I have a vagina and some really like it.  I try to tell myself that being trans is like being short – it’s much harder to find people that are into you, but it’s not impossible.  Sometimes, my lack of a penis keeps me from cruising for a date.

Those times I’ve had sex with men who didn’t care, who fucked me all night (yes, I’m a bottom), who either didn’t notice or didn’t care that they had the only penis in the room when there were usually two, have given me years of contentment.  I was a gay man with them, just like any other guy and we enjoyed each other’s bodies like gay men tend to do.  I’ll never forget those times when I could forget that I was born female.  Like the dreams that started it all, they are seared into my brain and they make me feel alive even when I’m alone for yet another saturday night.

I may not make sense to you.  That’s alright.  It took me years for me to make sense of myself.  But I do exist – I’m not weird, or disgusting…. I’m just gay and male and trans.  For a few years I lived my life as a straight women, but not since my first gay sexual experience have I felt any longing for my former life or like I could just turn back.

You’ll never know what it’s like to be trans (unless you are actually trans) and that you’ll never know what it’s like to be a gay trans man (unless you are one), but that doesn’t mean you can’t accept it.   This is me.  I am gay and I am a man.  Take my word for it, otherwise I’ll have to bore you with more details of my mostly uninteresting life and then you’ll be really sorry you asked because you couldn’t understand.

Kian currently lives in NH with his two cats. He would be wicked excited if he didn’t have to move to a ginormous city to the south in order to have a fulfulling sex life (he’ll miss the snow and the ice-skating too much.) He can be reached at kian217 at gmail dot com if you’re interested in conversation, an argument or in sending a nicely worded hate letter.

Requisite disclaimer: All opinions expressed in guest posts are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of NotAiden.

Seriously boys, not everyone who turns you down is transphobic

So I went out last night.  It’s not something I do very often these days, work has me busy and I did not inherit the Latino dance gene, but a friend was visiting from out of town so I figured why not.

Apparently pushy little hipster queens were why not.  Don’t get me wrong, the kid was cute, I just wasn’t really looking for a hook up even if he had been my type.  After about 20 minutes of rejecting the guy (I have to admit, that takes decent balls) he shouts “why don’t you fags ever like trannies?!”

Now, I’ve had some interesting things shouted at me over the course of my life.  That was quite possibly the most amusing.  I feel kind of bad because I started laughing and probably turned what was already embarrassing into one of those horror stories we all have from early transition, but it was just so funny.

Let that be a lesson to all of you newly passing guys: don’t assume you’re being rejected for being trans.  Actually, let’s start with don’t insist on pursuing a guy after he explicitly says ‘no’.  Remember high school and “no means no”?  It applies to gay guys too.  I know, there’s all that talk about gay guys being promiscuous and constantly horny.  Often I am horny, that doesn’t mean I want to sleep with everything that moves.  At least, not anymore.  Trust me, you don’t want to be lumped in with the guys I slept with during the early-T days.  They were often unwashed.

As for the trans thing, sometimes a guy just isn’t interested.  We’re allowed to not be interested, you don’t get a free pass on fucking everyone you want just because you’re trans.  Sure, sometimes it is transphobia.  Sometimes guys are assholes.  However, when you’ve been ignored even before you’ve come out you need to assume that it’s something other than transphobia.  Kid could’ve had the world’s biggest penis and I still wouldn’t have been interested.  Why?  Because hipsters aren’t really my type, I like my guys to at least pretend they’re legal, and I was going home with a good friend who also happens to be an amazingly talented bottom.  No guy was getting my attention that night, trans, cis, or otherwise.  Maybe Chris Colfer or Nicky Byrne — and even they would have had to have wanted to join in.

Downsides to being seen as a man

I’m sure everyone knows the problems associated with being trans. We’ve all heard horror stories, I don’t think there’s a trans person out there who’s managed to transition without some sort of crap being thrown their way, and even if by some miracle you do, there’s always someone else who can share their trauma.

What’s not often talked about are the problems associated with being seen as a man in society. With apologies to the non-US readers, I’m going to focus on society here because it’s what I have the most experience with.

  1. There are no organisations that specifically work to protect men’s rights. In most ways I have no problems with this, the organisations that exist to protect women and minority rights were formed because society at the time was walking all over them. However, I do think it’s important for guys to realise that they’re no longer going to have access to political and legal teams designed especially for them unless their issues are GLBT or race related.
  2. Very few people believe that domestic abuse, rape, or sexual assault can be perpetrated against men. I see this far more often than I like to think about, a man will call the police because his partner (male or female, I’ve witnessed both) is assaulting him and the police act like nothing is wrong. Men can be victims, there’s not some magical bubble that protects us.
  3. If a man is abused there are virtually no areas for him to seek support. Men are not allowed in the vast majority of rape/sexual assault survivor support groups. There are no shelters specifically for battered men. Programmes for survivors of domestic abuse almost universally do not accept men. If a man does seek help for abuse or rape he is generally considered to be weak and something less than a “real” man. Prison rape is considered a joke rather than a real problem that needs to be solved. Gay men in particular have to deal with society believing they somehow “asked” to be raped.
  4. There are no men-only academic/professional organisations. Like the first one, I don’t consider this to be much of a real problem. I just wanted to make sure people recognised that once they start passing there aren’t going to be any more bonding experiences like at the Society of Women Physicians conference. Brotherhood experiences are largely limited to fraternities, G/B/FtM groups, some religious organisations, and more conservative orders like the Elks Lodge. Even those can be hard to find depending on your area.
  5. Men — particularly gay men — are seen as potential paedophiles. I like kids, before I came out I was an active volunteer for local youth groups and a very popular babysitter. That stopped as soon as I started passing. I can no longer smile at a child without people glaring at me as if I were fondling myself. Every single one of my father friends has at least one story of how random women will try to stop their children from going to them. Men cannot volunteer with children (even if they have one) without having people question their motives.
  6. Men are considered automatic threats. This is one I know of more from other people than myself. I’m not a threatening person, too small and flaming. Other people, however, have expressed concern about women and children assuming they’re someone to be afraid of. For god only knows what reason, we have it drilled into us that men always have the potential to explode. I hear this far more often from my (visibly) non-white friends and guys who dress in punk, goth, or hip hop styles so there are likely racial and cultural tones to it as well. I’d say definitely, but that whole anecdata =/= data thing has been drilled into me pretty well.
  7. Brotherhood experiences are generally seen as unimportant and anti-feminist. I like all-male areas. I enjoy being part of a group of guys without all the hassle that comes with adding women to a group. I grew up in male-centric circles, it’s just something that I got used to. Unfortunately, any time an event tries to exclude women without some religious or sexual-orientation related reason it’s seen as a threat. Women can have women-only events all the time without many problems, but we haven’t quite figured out the men’s side to that yet.
  8. Everyone expects you to be able to lift heavy things. I am a very small person. Most women are larger than I am. Yet for some reason when I was working retail everyone thought I could lift giant, heavy boxes. It was amazing, people who thought I was a girl would help me lift boxes of tissue paper, but if they thought I was a guy they’d expect me to be able to carry entertainment systems that weighed more than me. Even now in salons, I’m expected to move around boxes of product far more often than any of the women. I don’t know why people assume that all men can lift things regardless of how big they are, but they do.
  9. There has not been a men’s-lib movement. Like a lot of other things on this list, I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing. We’ve never needed a men’s liberation movement, men are already pretty well set. However, there are some social changes that came out of the women’s lib movement that guys could still use. Increased gender expression options, ability to be a stay-at-home dad without being seen as a freak, that sort of thing. More and more women are trying to tie issues like that into the feminist movement and while I appreciate the effort, it has the rather nasty implication that all men’s problems centre around women’s problems. Not really the “we’re all equal” message that I prefer.
  10. There’s a small subset of people who will insist on trying to make you feel bad for being a guy. This is a particular brand of radical feminist that I absolutely cannot stand. They’re rare, but fucking loud. These are the women who gave rise to the term “man-hating lesbian”. They think all trans men are traitors, all trans women are infiltrators, all straight women are pawns, all straight men are violent beasts, and all gay men are rabid misogynists. They are not happy people to be around. If you encounter one I suggest quickly heading for the nearest exit. Do NOT try to engage them in debate, it will only hurt your head.

Really being a guy isn’t so bad. You don’t get random guys catcalling you as you walk down the street, no one cares if you’re having a bad hair day, you can be grumpy without everyone insisting you’re PMSing, it’s a pretty sweet deal. There are just a few things that can take a bit of adjusting to if you’re not used to them.

Creating a grown up wardrobe

Hi, my name is NotAiden and I am a shopaholic.

I.  Love.  Clothes.  Always have, I just love matching textures and colours and creating a unique outfit.  However, when I came out I had no idea about how to build a professional man’s wardrobe.  Professional woman sure, but man?  Don’t you just throw on a button shirt and coat and be done with it?  Besides, I could never wear any of that tailored stuff, my boobs would show!  For years I stuck with a slightly modified version of the traditional transman uniform: polo shirt, jeans, sneakers.  My polo was plain coloured and worn tighter than any self-respecting straight boy would consider, my jeans were hip huggers, and my sneakers had never seen athletic work of any kind, but I still dressed like a college kid.  Just a gay college kid.

Then I started working in a place that absolutely, 100% required dress shirt and slacks.  I cannot begin to tell you how bad I looked.  Bright shirts in a way that screamed “send me back to the 80s!” instead of the “yeah, I’m gay, so what?” look I was going for.  A couple of years after that and I’m suddenly giving presentations to new grads about how to dress professionally.  How on earth did I get here?  I have no idea, but while I was talking to all these guys who aren’t that much younger than me I realised that a lot of what I was saying would be useful to trans guys — particularly those of us who are in professional environments or about to be.  College kids and those of you in more creative fields can ignore this, your dress rules are different.

Let’s start with the basics.  All of these are a bit boring and will probably make most of you go “but I want to express myself!”  Don’t worry, they’re just the foundation.  Once you have these taken care of you can start adding pieces that are trendy or unique.

First up: a basic white dress shirt.  Yes, it’s dull.  It’s also classic.  Every guy needs a white cotton dress shirt in his closet.  Why?  So that when the great guy your best friend set you up with says he’s made reservations at a restaurant that has a dress code (and is WAY out of your price range) you don’t have to run out and hope you find one at 3AM.

Details: Plain white cotton.  No polyester or silk, no peaking, no button down collars, no stripes, nothing.  You want this to be so basic that you barely even notice it.  That way it goes with everything.  Cuff type is up to you, but I recommend standard button because that way it can be paired with a sweater.  I love French cuffs (cuff links = more accessories) so I have two versions of this with different cuffs.  The button cuff is for sweaters and slightly more traditional events, the French cuff is for everything else.

Fit: See this picture?  It’s perfect.  If you’re slim and post-top or really small chested, go ahead and get yours a bit tighter.  Just be aware that you may need to replace it more quickly than you’d like, especially if you’re currently pre-T.  Do NOT buy a shirt that you can “grow into”.  We’re not children any more, our clothes should fit properly.  There is very little that looks more sloppy than a grown man in a dress shirt a size too large for him.  Other major don’t: NEVER wear this shirt untucked.  Jeans, khakis, dress slacks, doesn’t matter.  Tuck in your shirt.

What are you wearing with that shirt?  A pair of flat front grey trousers.  Not jeans (not for that expensive restaurant anyway), not black trousers, certainly not shorts.  Why not black?  It’s not versatile enough and too formal for many occasions.  Grey can go from business casual to formal and be paired with brown and navy, you can’t do that with black.

Details: Flat front.  Slate to charcoal (yes, those are different colours).  Lightweight wool.  No cuff unless you’re tall.  This is another item that you barely notice.  If after you’ve been on T a few years (or if you’re not planning on starting T in the near future) you find a brand that fits well and comes in several different shades of grey I suggest snatching them all up at once.  A good pair of dress trousers is worth gold, especially in the pre-T years when you’re trying to mask a female body type.

Fit: Again, look at the picture.  They’re not falling off his ass, but they’re also not so snug you can see his balls.  You want a pair that will just rest where they need to be without a belt.  Notice that this man does have a bit of hip and butt.  Not a huge amount, most of us probably have more pre-T, but he’s not a perfectly straight line either.  It’s not until you get down past his butt that his trousers shift to hanging straight down.  They’ll continue to go until they hit his ankle where they will make ONE clean crease as they connect to the top of his shoe.  If you’re not sure about length err on the side of long and find a good tailor.

Ok, you’ve got your shirt and trousers picked out, now what?  It’s spring and a bit chilly outside?  Well that’s why you have a selection of sweaters in your closet.  I like cashmere, but if you can’t afford that (I can’t always) there’s also your standard acrylic, wool, and poly-cotton blend.

Details: Single colour.  Lightweight.  Crewneck.  Have at least one grey, one black, one navy, and one brown, the other colours are up to you.  I have a HUGE selection of sweaters because they’re an easy way to change the tone of an outfit.  Spring Pride planning?  Baby pink.  Christmas dinner?  Cranberry red.  Shabbat service?  Sky blue.  Ribbing, different neck styles, and a rainbow of colours are all fine here, that’s why we’re wearing neutrals for our slacks and shirt.

Fit: Loose enough to not show odd creases over your dress shirt, but tight enough to fit nicely under a blazer.  Once again, the picture is about right (are we sensing a pattern here?).  Sleeves should still comfortably reach your wrists when your arms are extended, but not go past the crease where your thumb meets your hand.  Wear your nice shirt when you go try these on, that way you don’t come home with a bunch of wrong sizes.  (Oh, and don’t wash your cashmere sweaters, their lifespan increases drastically if you dry clean them.)

Alright, second date time.  This time you’re going somewhere a bit more casual first, maybe to a movie or nice little cafe in the arts district.  You don’t want to be too dressy, but you want to look nice.  This is where your jeans come in.

Details: Semi-dark wash.  Boot cut.  Bit of fading and whiskering at the hips and thighs.  Why boot cut?  It looks good on just about everyone without being too casual.  It’s classic, but also trendy, if you look at older celebrities (and by ‘older’ I mean above 25-30) you’ll notice that they mostly wear medium to dark boot cut jeans.  The fading and whiskering make them look comfortable with a t-shirt, but still dressy enough to be paired with your nice shirt.

Fit: Snug around the hips and butt, slim through the knee, loose from knee down.  There’s also a style called “relaxed boot cut” or “casual boot cut” that works very well for guys who are either thick (muscular, heavy, or big boned, doesn’t much make a difference in jeans) or gangly because it allows for a bit more room in the seat.  Should rest just below your navel, touch lower if you’re pre-T and need to mask womanly hips.  Other than that, just make sure the bottoms don’t drag on the ground when you walk.  If you’re short (like me) you can take longer jeans into your tailor and ask that that they keep the bottom seam when they’re adjusting the length.  This is another where I suggest snatching up every pair you can afford once you find a brand and size that fits well.  Jeans change so often that it can be difficult to find the right ones even a year later.

Between the jeans and white shirt you’re all set for a cafe, but what if after that you guys are going to see a bit of community theatre?  Jeans are a bit casual so you’ll need to dress them up with more than a shirt and sweater.  Luckily, you own a black blazer.

Details: Black.  Three button.  Lightweight wool.  Single breasted.  No pattern, stripes, obvious buttons, or other accenting.  If you want to go crazy with your other blazers go right ahead, but you should have at least one boring type in your closet.  I suggest also having a navy and a grey for different occasions, but black will dress up jeans better.  Three buttons help with that and also look good on just about everyone.

Fit: Slim, but loose enough to go over a sweater.  You want there to be just the tiniest bit of shirt peeking past the cuffs when you bend your arm.  See the picture for an idea and if you’re not sure go to a good suit/tuxedo store for a fitting.  If you’re pre-T and get funny looks pretend you’re 12 and being sent to a fancy boarding school.  (No, seriously, the conversations alone are worth it.)  Never button the bottom button, always do the middle one (when standing, when seated you unbutton it), and do the top if you like the way it looks.  Never put your coat on the back of your chair unless you plan on never resting against it.  Majority of people won’t notice, but the most posh will see it as a sign of poor breeding and it’ll put horrible wrinkles in the fabric.  If you’re warm there are coat checks for just this reason.

You’ve gone on two dates with this guy, but now you have to go away for a weekend (sorry) to see your brother get married.  Obviously you’re going to need a suit.  You don’t want black because that’s usually for funerals, it’s a spring wedding so navy is a bit dark, but tan is a bit light, and you’re certainly not going to wear white.  In comes the classic grey suit.

Details: Single breasted.  Two or three button.  Lightweight wool.  Plain as you can get.  This is the least offensive, easiest to forget suit you can find.  Presidents and Prime Ministers wear various shades of grey for a reason.  You want to look like your suit could just as easily be worn today or in 1912.  If you don’t have many reasons to wear a suit you can get a coat in the same fabric as your grey trousers instead.  If you’re going to wear suits often I suggest having at least a light and dark grey in addition to your pinstripes, blacks, navies, etc.  If you really like the dressed up look get three piece suits so you can opt for or against the vest (waistcoat to the non-Americans).

Fit: Tailored.  Go and get fitted, it’s worth the money and you usually get a discount on whatever you buy that day.  Scope out a few places first though, you want to see well dressed businessmen making up most of the clientele.  American or Euro cut is up to you, I opt for three-piece Italian because I’m a snob and American cuts make me look bulky.  Once again, never do up the last button on your coat.  On a vest it’s optional, but most people skip it so they have a bit more moving room.

These next few are largely US-centric, though I’ve seen an Englishman here and there wear them as well.  Not so much with the French and Danish guys so if you live outside the US check out your local men before buying anything.

First we have the classic khaki/light coloured chino.  These are for casual office days, family picnics, and any other time you want to be dressier than jeans, but more casual than wool.

Details: Flat front.  Light to dark tan.  I suggest a colour darker than this and closer to what you’d find at Old Navy if you’re only going to have one pair.  This light and you really don’t want to wear them pre-Easter or post-Labour Day, it looks a bit silly.

Fit: Same as your grey trousers.  You can wear these a teeny tiny bit longer than dress trousers, but I prefer to err on the side of dressy just in case I need to wear them somewhere I need to be impressive.  Just make sure they’re not too tight, khakis show off an overly-large bulge much easier than jeans and usually a bit easier than dress trousers.  You don’t want to look like you’ve got an erection at the company picnic.

A good pair of knee-length shorts are essential for most US summers and many US springs.  Hell, I needed these for a few winters in California.  Khaki is a good colour that goes with everything and can be either “dressy” (for those company picnics you don’t have an erection at) or casual.  Just please don’t wear them on your European tour, you make the rest of us look frumpy.

Details: Flat front.  Khaki, olive, or tan.  Knee-length.  The rest is all about personal preference.  I know guys who love these shorts, but I wouldn’t buy them because I like mine to look good even when they’re all crumpled because I left them in the dryer for three days.

Fit: As long as they cover your ass and come to your knees (no lower!) you’re fine.  One of the advantages to shorts is that they’re considered casual wear so there aren’t as many rules to follow.

Yes, that is the dreaded polo shirt.  I want you to notice a few things though.  It’s plain.  It’s worn without an under-shirt.  It’s well fitted.  It’s tucked in.  This is how well-dressed adult men wear their polo shirts.  The only time this rule is not applied is when the shirt is worn with casual shorts (like my rumpled ones).  You don’t wear a polo shirt with jeans therefore you never have to worry about whether or not to tuck it in.

Details: Get a black one and then pick your favourite colours.  I have a baby pink and a turquoise blue.  If you wear polo shirts more often you’ll want to get more, but my job requires dress shirt and slacks so I don’t have need for many.

Fit: Like the picture, generally.  Sleeves shouldn’t go past the elbow, stomach and chest shouldn’t stretch, and it should be long enough to tuck in.  The major exception to this is if you never need to wear one with slacks.  The only time I wear my polo shirts are when I’m also wearing shorts so mine are all fit to rest just below my belt line.

Now we move on to the finishing details: coats, shoes, belts, and one more sweater.  We’ll start with what you’re wearing with your nice grey trousers and suit: black dress shoes.

Details: Black.  Slip on.  Leather (or faux-leather if you’re vegan).  Why black?  They can be both dressy and semi-casual so you don’t have to worry about whether to wear black or brown to that dinner with your boyfriend’s boss.  The slip on is for the same reason.  These are actually a bit more formal than I would recommend for a foundation pair, but they’re just so pretty.

Fit: …You do know how to buy shoes, right?  This is one of those things that doesn’t really change based on sex.  They either fit or they don’t.  Snug enough to stay on, but loose enough that they don’t hurt your feet.  There are charts and weird measuring thingies.

Obviously you need something to keep up your trousers and suspenders/bracers went out in the 50s.  This is why you will own a basic black, leather (or faux-leather), silver buckled belt.

Details: This exact belt.  It’s so classic that you can find one at about every clothing store in the world.  I don’t care what your other belts look like, you should have at least one like this.  Why?  Because it goes with everything from your suit to your khaki shorts.  If you want one with a hidden buckle or braided leather you can get that too, but make sure you have this first.  Otherwise you’ll be trying to find a belt that doesn’t dress down your suit or dress up your jeans and end up having to make a midnight trip to Target.

Fit: It should.

If you live in a warm climate you can ignore this one.  For the rest of us, this is an example of an appropriate coat to go with your suit and/or dress trousers.   It’s warm, it’s classy, it goes with jeans as well as slacks, it won’t be out of style by next winter.

Details: Black.  Wool.  No embellishments, fancy buttons, or anything else that would make it stand out.  You want a coat that’s easy to mistake for someone else’s when you’re grabbing it off the rack.  I always opt for a pea coat because I think they look cool and I have the long arms and legs to pull it off.  Most shorter guys will want to go with a single breasted option, same with wider guys.  If you’re tall and lean you can get away with most anything.

Fit: Large enough to go over a suit coat, but slim enough so you don’t look like you stole it from a 300 pound sailor.  Like everything else, the picture is a great example.

For the times when you want to dress down your jeans and khakis or dress up your shorts you’ll want a pair of brown athletic oxfords.  They’re nicer than sneakers, but more casual than your dress shoes.  And if you need to you can run a heck of a lot faster in them.

Details: Brown.  Versatile.  Lace-up.  You want these to be able to go from a Saturday morning meeting to your niece’s soccer game without looking out of place.  I just bought myself this exact pair, but if you want to go even more versatile you could get something more like these.  Still casual enough for jeans, khakis, and most shorts, but you could also wear them to dress down your grey trousers (but not your suit!) which isn’t something you could easily do with the shoes pictured.

Fit: They’re shoes.  They should fit like shoes.  One special note though: if you’re wearing these with a belt the belt should be brown.  Always match your shoes and belt.  It’s one of those stupid little rules that people notice subconsciously.

Other things you should have, but lack real “rules”:

– Sandals to wear with your shorts.  Not Birkenstocks or the cheap, plastic and foam things you get at the dollar store.  Grown man sandals.  Leather/faux-leather, brown, and dressy enough to wear to company barbeque.  I opt for a more closed style because I always manage to lose them if there’s not a strap in the back, but go with what makes you comfortable.

– Swim trunks.  If you’re pre-top add a rash guard as well.  If you just want a classic type that blends in go with a solid coloured pair that hits near the knee.  If you’re me and you like freaking out the HRC crowd you can get a hot pink, glittery booty short style.

– Casual sweaters.  Note that I said sweaters, not hoodies.  You want something that’ll look appropriate with your dress slacks and khakis.  No, college and/or team sweatshirts do not count.  I prefer military styles in grey and navy, other guys like cable knits and fisherman sweaters.

– Whatever it is you want to wear for lounging around your house on the weekends.  I am a complete and total slob when I don’t have to leave my apartment.  I will spend all weekend in my underwear if I can get away with it.

And the final rule: break the rules.  These are just basics, they should take up a teeny tiny portion of your closet.  I have pinstripe suits, button shirts with graphic designs, belts made from silk ties, and a million other things that wouldn’t be put on here because they’re trendy and artistic instead of timeless and classic.  I rarely wear my polo shirts or shorts and I don’t even own a pair of khakis because my job and home life don’t give me reasons to.  However, I wear black dress shirts with some sort of embellishment almost every day for work.  Use this as a barometer instead of checklist.

Guest Post: Advice to newly out gay trans men

Three gay FTM old-timers have gathered the following tips that might help you to become part of the gay community.

Personality and Dress

  • While you may feel the need to play with your masculinity and put on personas while you figure things out, please use an editing eye. For instance, say you like having a big bulge. Instead of going for the biggest one in the store, take it back a notch and get a medium-sized one to start. Same goes with other things like mannerisms. Perhaps you still sing-song like a typical woman and you’d like to start “speaking like a man”. Well, you could make your voice super monotonous and lacking of any emotion (how boring!), or you could find a balance between expressing yourself and embodying a stereotype of a man. You get to choose, so do it wisely.
  • If you must wear baggy clothes to feel comfortable during the early stages of transition, please do not continue after starting T. Your body shape will change, the hips will disappear (for the most part) and guys pants will start to fit well. This is when you need to update your wardrobe. This ties into learning to feel right in your body after so many years of hating it, so you must unlearn your old habits of dress. Start watching how men wear their clothes – you’ll start to see that looking like a 15 year old boy isn’t really that attractive. Find your own style.
  • Don’t use gay men as something of a guinea pig for your experiments with masculinity. While it is ok to be adventurous and curious about sex, it is not ok to be so while looking down on or being disgusted by the people that you date.
  • Don’t become a caricature of a gay man. You are not required to swish, squeal, giggle and wiggle but if you do, just make it your own and not copy your mannerisms from other people. Be natural and let the gay man inside come out but don’t force it.
  • You will try things on that don’t fit and some that do. If you’ve tried X and you find you don’t like it, then don’t do it, regardless of how many trans men have told you that you must do X in order to pass. If you like Y and every trans man you’ve met has told you to never do Y in order to pass, then keep doing it. Courage of conviction is a must when you are in the early stages – you must stick to your guns and believe you are who you say you are despite many others trying to convince you otherwise. And whenever someone says that you will only pass if you do X, Y, or Z is simplifying the entire process and leaving out the most important part – your happiness.
  • It doesn’t hurt to be creative in dress and hairstyle. Be delicious.

Social Aspects

  • Forget what you learned about gay men from the media and start learning from actual gay men.
  • Recognize the diversity of gay men, because they’re not all the same, just as not all trans men are the same.
  • Don’t throw slurs around until you know which ones are being reclaimed/used in your particular area.
  • Do not mock gay men and/or gay culture.  Most guys don’t mean to do this, but it’s the one that’s likely to piss people off the most — and alienate you from any stealth trans guys who may be watching. Do NOT make fun of anyone until you are close enough that everyone knows it’s friendly. Don’t make gay jokes, don’t whine about Peter Pan syndrome or immature queens, don’t suddenly start acting like Kurt from Glee when really you’re more like Artie. It’s a vastly annoying phase that many guys (cis or trans) go through and the more you can avoid it the better.
  • When you go to a new gay male place, just stay in the background for a while, and learn how people are behaving.  There are lots of rituals, the way people flirt and make contact. Make friends, get to know people.  If you behave well and people know and like you, gay men will approach you easily, often even when you are not passing yet. Men are easy to understand and easy to have, not like with women.
  • Remember that gay men are independent and much less group-oriented than women/lesbians are.  Men don’t control each other the way women do.  They don’t do the telepathy/empathy thing.   When a man says something, it is implied that he says it only about himself.  Never expect that he will check in if he might somehow hurt you with what he says, because he is only speaking about himself.
  • Be entertaining and friendly. Many gay guys make an art of being a good conversationalist, and good manners are certainly something that will endear you to people. Be funny, or if you can’t, be kind.
  • Gay men actually like men. As in, really like them – not just men’s bodies, but men’s culture, men’s ways of relating to each other, the way men smell and taste and sound. A certain amount of misandry is tolerated among lesbians and the genderqueer types, and even among straight women, and it’s easy to soak that up, but gay men can smell it and it turns them off (even as potential friends) before you even open your mouth.
  • Don’t act like you’ve figured out how to be a man that is somehow how better than the versions you see from cis men. You’re not going to earn any friends that way and you certainly won’t get laid if you complain about all the misogyny and sexism you see. Cis gays are real people and they deserve respect, even if that means biting your tongue at times. Pick your battles. If you must call someone out for misogyny or sexism, do it in a funny or polite manner – they are your potential friends and mates, not pawns of the enemy.
  • If you have trouble finding your place, don’t fret, you just haven’t met the right people yet.


  • Know yourself and know what you want/don’t want. When you want something, you have to take care of it yourself.  Don’t expect that your partner will somehow think for you.  You have to be outspoken at all times.  Say no and say yes immediately.  A guy will never sense that something is wrong with you, because he expects that you take responsibility for your boundaries and needs, just as he is taking for his own.  Be outspoken about it without being bitchy.
  • Socialize with cis men as friends before you try to date or sleep with them. If you can’t get along as one of the guys, figure out the problem before you start trying to bring a sexual element into it. Straight women can get laid with guys they don’t like and can’t relate to (usually with guys who similarly don’t like and can’t relate to girls), but gay men expect at least a little bit of common ground, even the ones looking for NSA (no strings attached) stuff.
  • Don’t be too aggressive and not take no for an answer. Shrug the rejection off and move on to the next guy.  There will be guys that don’t feel comfortable sleeping with trans man and you must accept this.
  • Don’t cry transphobia for everything – no one likes to be called a douchebag for no reason. This is especially true when getting turned down for sex, it’s not always because we’re trans. “Not my type” encompasses everything from clothes to hair to height to genitals to sexual interests. I know I’ve turned down trans guys for reasons unrelated to their crotch, cis gay guys should have that option too.
  • Don’t be grossed out by stuff. If it isn’t your piece of cake, just leave. There are other places. Don’t give people the feeling that they are perverted or something.
  • Don’t go into a gay male back room with a group of early transition FTM, (esp. when the guys who are in there have known you as a lesbian for years) and demand that they have sex with you. If the guys feel uneasy about it, don’t call them transphobic – that won’t enhance your chances to fuck them.

Bonus material:

Norah Vincent talks about her experiences with passing in straight male communities:


Written by ShipofFools, Kian and Not Aiden.

Requisite disclaimer: All opinions expressed in guest posts are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of NotAiden.  (Except where they do…gotta love group efforts.)

Guest Post: Sexism Exists!!!! Thoughts and solace from a gay trans man.

Ever since I was a little trans boy living as a girl, I’ve felt the need to protect the girls and women in my life from those who are abusive.  Perhaps it was my childhood environment that led to this – I grew up in a dirt-poor, “white-trash” household with a distant mother, a sister who was sexually abused, and an estranged father.  I didn’t know love, affection, respect, boundaries, discipline, and feminism.  Life was hard and women were treated the worst.

Lucky for me, I was a very strong “girl” – I could beat any boy in the class at arm wrestling, sprinting or basically anything to do with strength.  I was very rough and tumble and was often referred to as a tomboy because I was so dominant and refused to wear dresses.  I don’t bring this up to brag, in fact, I hated standing out that much, regardless of how much I actually used my talents.  You see, I am a gentle soul – I am very sensitive, highly anxious, and slightly autistic.  I’m also extremely protective of what I hold dear – perhaps a reaction to my childhood – which directs my attention toward people who get treated unfairly, usually women  I’ve never fit in myself, so when I see injustice, I feel the need to stop it.

When I was young, my version of stopping injustice involved beating the perpetrator up.  Sure, I wouldn’t recommend it, but at the time, it seemed appropriate.  If the boys decided it was “Friday Flip Up Day”, in which they hassled the girls who were wearing skirts, I patrolled the area where my friends were hanging out at recess.  This is not an exaggeration.  My first fight involved me punching a boy who tried to kiss my friend on the cheek and then chased her when she refused – this was in 1st grade.  At recess I stood guard always making sure that my friends didn’t have to worry about what they boys were up to.  For my work, I was rewarded with loyal friends and boys who hated me for humiliating them.  To me, it was a fair trade-off and I continued until I could no longer fend the boys off (about sixth grade).  [I would like to point out that I was never officially punished. In fact, many of my teachers thought it was awesome.]

To this day, I abhor sexism and the insidious ways that it keeps women and girls in their place and elevates men who don’t deserve the praise.  I became an official feminist in college, although it never became my field of study (I prefer math and science), but I definitely dabbled and had friends who were also ardent feminists.  They taught me a lot of what they learned in classes and I appreciated the knowledge.  This knowledge led me to all sorts of places and perhaps the most important – accepting my transsexuality.  When I came out to my friends, I was under the erroneous assumption that they would accept it as well, but I was wrong.  They didn’t understand, they refused to talk about feminism anymore, they called me a traitor, they stopped calling.  I felt betrayed, cast away, discarded.    Often I wondered how much is due to the underlying anti-trans sentiments of some feminist arguments or to the ingrained transphobia in our culture.  Most of me, though, no longer cared, as I had lost everything that was dear to me for speaking my truth.  My world felt twisted and upside-down – it didn’t make any sense.  How could something that felt so right for so long, suddenly make me feel like a monster when I had done nothing wrong?

What I can see now that I couldn’t see then is that both sides felt betrayed.  We all lost innocence about feminism that day or at-least were faced with the limitations of feminism.  As someone who was assigned female and was forced to live the life of a straight woman for 20 years, I do have insight into how women are treated.  But I maintain that I will never know what its like to actually *be* a woman.  I never was one.  I just looked like one – an impostor, a fake, a doppelganger.  My friends believed that I was a woman, so when I told them that I really wasn’t one, they thought I was denying my womanhood and implying that manhood was much better.  They thought I was buying into the patriarchy and believed that to be a woman was one of the worst things you could be.  This is very far from the actual truth of why I transitioned and their assumption that my motivation was flawed led to all sorts of recriminations.  I transitioned because my mind says male and my body said female.  I wanted them to match and for that I have been called a traitor, an impostor, a liar, a chauvinist pig, a tool of the patriarchy, etc.  It took me a long time to come to terms with the accusations I faced from my feminist friends.  A part of me agreed with them and felt extreme guilt that my decision to transition could make me just as bad as the boys who harassed my friends as a child.  I didn’t want to be like them.  I didn’t want to be that guy who thinks they are better than women solely because they’ve been trained to think that way.  I was also aware that gaining male privilege can make trans men become sexist jerks.  I vowed to not become that kind of man.

I’ve been living my life as I’d always wished for 8 years now.  I am an effeminate gay trans men who loves the company of women.  It took me a long time, but I have finally come to terms with the limitations of feminism and understand that my former friends did the best they could do with the information they had, as did I.  Neither side won or lost.  I still fight against sexism and believe that women need their spaces away from men.  I’m somewhat of an outsider now, but I like to look in to see how strong and powerful women can be and just happy that slowly things are getting better.  I know that I can’t give them the male privilege that I’ve gained, but I can still watch out for their safety.  I can still stand up for them when they need it.  I can still be their friend and listen when they need an ear.  I still care and no matter how hard they push me away, I will always be there.

In closing, If you’re a trans man reading this, please take this to heart.  Let your former life guide you, but know that you are not betraying anyone by transitioning and living your life to the fullest.  By the power vested in me you are now absolved of all guilt you are feeling.  Just one thing before you to take the plunge — don’t forget about the sisters you left behind.

Kian has been living as a gay transman for most of his 20s.  Nerdy, quirky and fey, he often spends his time thinking and writing about gay and trans politics.  He loves to learn and cook and looks for hairy men who do the same.

Requisite disclaimer: All opinions expressed in guest posts are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of NotAiden.

Stealth vs Out: Decision Making

Last time I recounted my story of going from 100% out to 98% stealth.  This time I’d like to go through some basics to help people make a conscious decision about how open they want to be.  I’m of the mindset that it’s better to know where you stand on these things so you know what to do if an awkward situation ever comes up.

Let’s start by asking some basic questions.  First off, where are you in terms of your personal transition?  I’m about as far as I’m gonna get for a few years.  I’m on T and just waiting for it to kick in, but top is being put off because I have no money.  There’s not much more I can do at this point so it’s just a matter of waiting and saving.  Socially, I’m accepted as a member of the local gay male community and no longer have to explain that whole trans thing to most people.  Occasionally I’ll meet someone who’s had experience with other FtMs, but they’re always discreet enough to let themselves be known in very discreet ways rather than asking outright.

Why do we ask this?  Because different phases in transition require different levels of disclosure.  I don’t have to be out anymore, but that’s recent.  A year ago I couldn’t have gotten away with introducing myself as a guy and having people accept it without question.  A no-op, no-ho guy who never passes probably isn’t going to get the luxury of being stealth.  Sometimes we have to be out even when we don’t want to be.

Next question: Where do you see yourself five years from now in terms of transition? I always  had a hard time with this one which is probably part of why I was so open early on.  It didn’t occur to me that five years (or less) in the future I wouldn’t need to explain myself, let alone want to.  It’s a good question to try to answer though, especially if you’re still very early in things.  Personally, I see myself post-top and 100% passing (as opposed to the 80ish% I have now).  I’ll be close to 30 then (dear god…) and hopefully to a point where even guys who are used to FtMs no longer ask questions.

Now’s where it starts to get tricky.  In five years, if all goes according to plan, how comfortable do you think you’ll be disclosing your trans status? This is a hard one just because it kind of requires seeing into the future.  The only reason I know I won’t be comfortable disclosing in the future is that I’ve been on both ends of the spectrum and know what they feel like.  Still, it’s worth at least attempting to answer questions like these early on.

All three of these questions were pretty general.  They weren’t designed to tell us which particular individuals to come out to, that’s something that takes a lot more in depth thought.  Instead they show us where we are now and where we may be in the future.  That helps us figure out how to prepare.  I know I won’t want to be out in five years so I make an effort to keep my trans-related life separate from everything else.

That’s why I don’t post photos, I don’t use my real name, and I try to keep identifying details limited.  I asked a friend to host this blog so it’s on a different webspace from all of my other online activities and I don’t list it anywhere in connection with my real name (so no Facebook, LJ, MySpace, etc.).  When I come out to people I make it very clear that this is private information.  I’m careful to only come out to people I trust to keep it to themselves.  This means no anonymous sex, but that’s not really my thing anyway.  If it was I’d have to find a way around that.

Now, this doesn’t mean that I completely distance myself from the trans community.  There are a couple of local trans support groups I go to occasionally, mostly because I feel like SOMEONE should show that we’re not all the same.  I avoid the online trans community because I tend to get into fights, but obviously I keep this blog.  I spoke at a trans symposium in June, but I made sure to use a nickname because speakers were listed online.  I use the same nickname for any news articles or medical studies I agree to participate in.  There is a way to keep a balance, it just requires some extra thought.

Stealth vs Out: The Neverending Dilema

One of the things all transguys have to deal with eventually is how open they want to be about their trans* status.  Unfortunately, most of us don’t start thinking about this until it becomes a problem — whether because we didn’t realise we weren’t out already or because suddenly people we don’t want knowing have found out.  I actually had both problems at the same time which is at least amusing, if also a little frustrating.

The first thing to realise is that there are more options than simply “no one knows, ever” and “everyone in the world knows, from my mom to the mailman.”  We just looked at the spectra for sex, sexuality, gender, and gender expression, look at disclosure as another spectrum.  On the one end you have deep stealth and on the other there’s 100% out.  Some people are on the ends, but most fall somewhere in the middle.  Where you fall can also shift as you transition and figure out your own comfort levels.

I fall closer to the stealth end simply because I hated being the token tranny.  Could not stand it, felt more uncomfortable then than when people considered me a weird little tomboy.  So I tend to not tell anyone.  If I’m likely to try getting in someone’s pants then they get to know, but other than that I avoid the topic entirely.

That said, it wasn’t always like this.  When I first came out I was all gung-ho “yay, trans pride!” and figured I’d be out to all of my friends, regardless of whether they saw me as a girl or a guy when we met.  For a while this worked out simply because early in transition it’s nearly impossible to get the right name and pronouns out of people unless you’re open about things.  Being stealth wasn’t even an option at that point, it was either out myself or deal with people thinking I was a girl.  So I blogged and told people and participated in studies and even was in a few news articles (this was back when transguys were THE hot news topic).

Then I moved.  All of a sudden I didn’t have to be out.  People assumed I had some sort of glandular problem, but they weren’t questioning what was in my pants.  It took me a while to realise this, but once I did I was thrilled.  No more having to explain gender theory, no more awkward questions to avoid, all I had to do was be myself.  Until they started Googling my name.  One person found out and told another person who told another person and it all went to hell.

That was when I realised that I don’t really like being out as trans.  It was a great option when I was starting, but as I grew into myself it started being more and more uncomfortable.  Problem was, it’s ridiculously difficult to take things off the internet.  Eventually I managed to change over all my old blogs and convinced the people who’d found out to keep it to themselves.  That still left all the studies and news articles I was in.  The studies weren’t as big of a deal simply because they all had their own privacy plans in place so even I can barely tell that I’m Patient X.  The news articles on the other hand…well, let’s just say that six months of calls only showed me that reporters are rarely (if ever) willing to change even a word of something that’s already been published.

I lived with just about everyone in my world knowing about my status for a little over a year.  Any time I met someone knew I wondered if I should tell them myself or wait for them to find the articles online.  Most of the time I waited.  About 3/4 of the people I didn’t tell eventually asked me directly after trying to find my Facebook or MySpace or the articles I was starting to write for the local gay press.  There was always a bit of a shift after people found out, I was no longer just another one of the guys.  That irritated me more than anything else, I had been more accepted as just another flamingly gay teen long before I ever even came out!

That was when I found out I’d be moving again.  I had applied for a study abroad programme with no real hope of getting in, but ended up being more qualified than I had expected.  With four months to prepare, I had plenty of time to decide what I wanted to be different.  I knew that I absolutely, 100% did not want to be out unless I was the one telling people.  I still hadn’t fully figured out when to tell, but I knew that I didn’t want them to find out via Google.  The only way I could even begin to do this was to change my name a second time and even that wasn’t a guarantee as name changes are public record.  Still, I didn’t figure people would be interested enough to look through stacks of records in a different country.

So let’s recap.  I came out, figured I’d always be out, was very public about being trans, moved, realised I didn’t have to be out, tried to be somewhat stealth, had people find out via internet, and went through a second name change in order to be given my preferred level of privacy.  It all worked out in the end, but it was kind of a pain in the ass and not how I’d do things if given a second chance.

Which is why I’m always a little concerned when newly out guys start posting things online without any concern for their anonymity.  It’s easy to assume that you’ll always be out, the early days of transition are intense.  There’s an immense pride in discovering yourself, particularly once you find a community of people who understand.  Few of us consider that there may come a time when we don’t want to be out to everyone, something that is exacerbated by the fact that most trans* support groups (both on and offline) are predominantly populated by the newly out/early in transition.  It’s the downside to so many transmen going the exact opposite route and never speaking to other transguys again, but that’s a topic for another day.