How To Pass
In 10 not-so-easy steps
When I was a middle-aged cross-dresser, I didn't think I could ever pass undetected as a woman. The very idea was absurd! Just check out the "before" picture on the left, from 1997. Yet today I pass flawlessly in every circumstance, in a dress, jeans, or a bikini. Even naked! Check out the "after" picture to the right, that I took today on my way to the gym for a swim, no makeup and totally au natural.
How can this be? How can a tall, middle-aged man become a beautiful woman? Sex changes really do work, that's how. Here are the ten most important components of my sex change that enabled me to pass as the woman I am. If you want to pass as a woman, you don't necessarily need all of these things; in fact, only the first two are mandatory. Indeed, many cisgender women lack some of them-but overall these are the things that make the biggest difference. They are listed more or less in order of importance, starting with the most important.
- Remove your facial hair. The five o-clock shadow is a dead giveaway. However, a mere 300 hours of painful electrolysis, or ten laser sessions and 100 hours of electrolysis, takes care of this problem in a snap.
- Develop a female voice. A resonant male voice is another dead giveaway. 'Nuff said.
- Wear your natural hair. Wearing my natural hair made a huge difference, even when it was short and thin. I think the reason why has something to do with authenticity; people seem to have a sense for whether I'm being genuine. If your hair simply isn't going to make it, invest in a very good wig: human hair and possibly custom fitted. Wash it often (your natural hair, too!) and get a new one before the old one starts looking ratty.
- Use feminine mannerisms and posture. Yes, this means learning the walk, hand gestures, body language, and minding your manners. And stand up tall, girl! Shoulders back, boobs out! Pretend there is a string attached to the middle of your head and it's pulling you up, like an ornament hanging on the Christmas tree. Visit DenaŽ Doyle to get kick-started in this area.
- Project self-confidence, a positive attitude, and a big smile. These simple elements are the magic keys to passing, and anyone can master them. People want to be with you when you project a happy, positive attitude, and they're less judgmental of you. It's a funny thing about self-confidence: More than one trans person has said, "As soon as I stopped caring about passing, I passed all the time!"
- Dress to merge. I had to get through my Cinderella stage, that time when I loved wearing clothes that would be appropriate for a high school prom. Or a streetwalking prostitute. Go ahead and enjoy our Cinderella years (I certainly did), but understand that it does hurt your ability to pass. By the way, this does NOT mean that you need to go around looking dowdy all the time, even if 95 per cent of the women you see in public are frumps. Keep you eye out for the 3 per cent that dress really well: classy, and sometimes sexy. You can in fact get away with wearing quite extreme outfits, but you will attract attention (I love attention!) so you'd better be passable in a bunch of the other categories.
- Makeup to merge. Perhaps even more important than your clothes is your makeup. If you still have facial hair, you're pretty much stuck on this one. You have to wear heavy foundation and beard cover. I myself was the Dermablend queen during my RLE. Heavy makeup (by which we usually mean foundation) is give; most women wear no foundation at all, or very light foundation. Young Asian women seem to be an exception to this rule, so if you're a young Asian, you're set. Otherwise, all you can do is make sure your foundation and power is a very close match with your natural face coloration, so you don't look like a mime on the one hand, or George Hamilton on the other. And go easy on the eye makeup, blush, and lips, too. My daily makeup these days is black eyeliner on the inside of my upper eyelids, black mascara, and I fix my eyebrow shape with an eyebrow pencil. And oh yes, tweeze those eyebrows thin. Only Brooke Shields is able to wear caterpillar eyebrows and still look feminine. (And she's six feet tall, too, God bless her!)
- Take hormones. Hormones, of course, are the magic ingredient that separates the transsexuals from the cross-dressers. They will give you boobs and hips, soften your skin, make your body hair sparser and more vellus, and soften the lines of your face. They work slowly and subtly (except sometimes those boobies pop right out).
- Have facial feminization surgery. If the hormones don't feminize your face enough, or if you have particularly heavily male facial features, you may want to pay Dr. O a king's ransom to take his belt sander to your skull. Personally, I think most girls can get by without serious facial feminization surgery. On the other hand, almost everybody's nose can stand improvement. I got my nose straightened and made a little smaller. I didn't feel I really needed to, but I looked at it as warm-up surgery before the big one.
- Undergo sex reassignment surgery. Finally, of course, is the big one. If you want to pass naked in bed, you probably need SRS. (Though that's not why I got the surgery; I got it to feel good about my body in my female identity.) However, this is the least important component of passability as long as you have some clothes on.
So there you have it, ten not-so-easy steps to become a passable woman. As hard as most of these steps are, passing is probably easier than you think, because people are on your side; they want to see you as a "normal" woman. They don't want their gender presumptions challenged. So dress, go out, and have some fun. You don't need to get an A in this class—it's graded pass or no pass!
(On the other hand, maybe you shouldn't be worring about passing at all.)
óLannie Rose, 5/2006