Dear Lil Sis,
You are yet to begin transition and I am on the same road, a few years ahead of you. And I thought it might be a good idea to pass along a few things I’ve learned while trying to live as a girl this last few years. I cannot put all of them in a neat logical order but, hey! This is not an exam, right ?
Transition clothing tips
In the matter of dressing as a girl, stick to the basics first. You know, master the simple stuff before you move on to more advanced dresses. A skirt or Salwar-kameez is much easier to wear compared to let’s say a Sari. It’s ok to try them out once in a while, even have one in your closet. But just because you’ve learned how to put on a Sari does not mean you can wear it in public all the time. Women move and hold their bodies in a different way. You need to learn that beforehand and it takes time.
For every day wear, look at what girls around you are wearing.The idea is to pass seamlessly; be just another woman in the crowd. Of course you should not ape the girls around mindlessly. You have to account for three things viz. age, body type and profession/occasion. Let us address the sticky one first: body type.
If one transitions later in life, some degree of dissatisfaction with one’s figure should be expected. Wider shoulders, narrower hips, greater height, size of limbs etc. Some people will be lucky and get away as a cis-girl in one aspect, only to lament perceived deficiencies in another area. Now, the bad news is, there are some things you cannot change; even with the most radical surgery. But the good news is, there are a lot of cloths that girls get to wear and many of them will help you hide or even complement those features and flaunt them if you choose to do so. Being Indian, we are particularly lucky in this matter as there are a lot of dresses which are, for lack of a better term, less revealing. And last but not the least, do not forget that our bodies are malleable provided you have enough will power. The right diet and workout regime can do wonders.
Fashion is an ever changing and what might be considered suicidal now was probably considered chic is the past and will be in the not too distant future. For example, you probably hate your wide shoulders but in the 1980s, girls actually used to wear cloths with padded shoulders. Skinny jeans have been “in” for some time and it’s only a matter of time before the tide swings to boot cut designs. Resist the temptation to start wearing pretty/sexy dresses immediately. To pull that off, the girl has to be pretty/sexy; else, to put it rather crudely, it is downright creepy. Some trans-girls try to compensation for their self-perceived presence of male features by wearing revealing dresses and/or overdoing their make-up. This is like putting a sign board on your forehead that says you are trans. Better pass as a plain girl than broadcast being a trashy trans slut.
Transition health tips
I will not go into hormones and dosage; you doctor will take care of that. Even if you want to go the DIY route, a lot of info is out there on the net. But I want to tell you that there are certain good habits you ought to inculcate when you are on HRT. One, do not starve yourself trying to get to a size zero. Make sure you are getting plenty of macro and micro nutrients. Two, exercise regularly, about five times a week, for an hour each. Third, Get 6-8 hours of sleep every day, no matter at what hour you go to sleep. Because your body grows when it is asleep. I would say it is best to go to sleep early but you know better what works for you. You see, your body is going to grow like it did in puberty and you have to provide it with ideal conditions.
Make up and appearance
Let me say a few words about makeup too. It is a powerful tool if used properly; almost magical in front of a camera. But unless you are taking photographs, remember, “Less is More”. Avoid using foundation and powder if you getting ready to go to work or if you are going out in the day. The most important item of make-up for you is an eye-liner and mascara. Girls have bigger eyes w.r.t. the skull and these two can help you emulate just that. Experiment a lot before you settle on lipstick colors. You have to take your complexion into account and this holds true for cis-girls as well. These and a good sunscreen are all the make-up you should be wearing on most days. Look around you at the average woman on the street; most will have a very little makeup on. You do not want to stick out like a sore thumb.
It is extremely inconvenient to have facial hair and live as a girl. You will always be self-conscious, wondering if the person in front of you can see the five o’clock shadow. And the no foundation/powder thing goes right out the window. So, you better get permanent hair removal before you consider living full time. The same applies for voice. It is best to learn how to modulate your voice beforehand. There are research findings that suggest that as much as 97% of people’s impressions are formed not on the basis of what they see but hear, feel, smell and other such perceptions. If you sound female, passing becomes feasible. Just like our bodies, our voices are also malleable, again, provided you have enough will power. Use a voice recorder app on the phone because feedback is critical. Record your voice as you speak to other people or read a book aloud in a feminine fashion.
Be kind on yourself
Don’t be over critical about yourself during transition. Keep your goals realistic. You goal is to pass as a women next door and not to win beauty contests. Women come in all shapes, sizes and colors, so be kind on yourself. Do not force yourself to meet the extreme standards of beauty created by the cosmetic industries or Bollywood. Don’t dishearten yourself with the extreme portrayals of the transgender community by Bollywood or advertisement Industry. There is a reason they call it reel life.
Build yourself a nice little bank balance before you go full time. It’s expensive, this living like a girl thing. Dresses, makeup, hormones, shoes, gym… all add up to a substantial outflow every month. We cannot afford cash flow problems during transition. The thing is, the initial days of transition are pretty stressful by itself and I do not want you worrying about facial hair or voice or money. If your experience in those critical days are traumatic, it will colour your whole life ahead. Whether you succeed as a woman or not may very well hinge on this.
About surgery, do not be in undue haste to get it done but do it as soon as possible. If they allow it, even before HRT. Do not worry so much about the money. If you look around hard enough, you’ll find plenty of “cheap” surgeons. And if you cannot even afford that, be resourceful; pull some strings; beg borrow or deal. Do not get hung up over the aesthetics of the result .A womenhood at age 24 is worth much more than a better looking one at 32. You would have years of post-operative life; more chances of loving and living with someone.
Romance and dating
On the matter of love and sex, exercise caution. Anal sex is sex but it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. Better wait till you are post-op if you are squeamish. In the digital age, a lot of flirting happens online. Never forget to edit/crop your pictures if they are compromising. Someday, you may be someone’s mother, a wife, a daughter-in-law. And/or you could be in a highly respected position in your career. You do not want things to explode on your face. But at the same time, do not be uptight and a prude. Be open to new ideas, ready to do new things. A blow job may be as pleasurable for you as it is for him. As to love and marriage, do not be in a hurry. Never seem desperate. It is better to live your life alone than be in a demeaning and toxic relationship. Never sell yourself short. You have every right to expect what a cis-girl expects.
This about sums it up. I am sure there are a lot of things you will encounter and which I’ve not mentioned. Everyone’s experience is unique and obviously my own experience has coloured my opinion. These are more like general guidelines than the gospels. What I want to say last is, “Enjoy the Journey”. Do not be in a hurry to finish. Very few people on earth ever get to do this. But do not get stuck in the transition phase. Eventually, you have to leave it behind one day; you have to “quit” being a transsexual woman and become “just a woman”. Lose yourself in the sea of women that came before you, are around now and will come in the future.