FTM passing tips
This is primarily for people who want to be taken as male by strangers. Plenty of people don't want that and that's FINE! Don't let people pressure you into passing unless it's really a safety issue. Be YOU, first and foremost.
Remember, above all else: We are all our own worst critic! If you're doubting yourself, ask some friends you trust to tell you honestly how it's going. And then believe them.
Please keep in mind that these tips are just guidelines based on what has worked for some of us - with experimentation, you can find out what works best for you and fits your personal style. The listing of a product here is not intended as a positive or negative endorsement that product.
Please note: if you save the Passing Tips as text, the file is best viewed and printed in a monospaced font such as Courier in order for the ASCII drawings to appear correctly.
A masculine haircut is a must. Since so many women wear their hair short these days, having a really short haircut is no longer enough. Unless you're doing it yourself at home, getting your hair cut at a barber shop will work better than getting it done at a beauty shop most of the time. Some 65 year old barber is more likely to give you a masculine cut than a 23 year old beautician just out of Sally's School of Hair Design. Just go in, wait your turn, sit down and ask for what you want. If you're not sure, just ask for a short guy's cut. They'll probably ask you some questions about how you want it; don't freak out. You have just as much of a right to be in there as ANYONE else does.
Ask for a "traditional men's cut" or, if you're younger, a "traditional boy's cut." If you're worried someone will stop you, go alone. If you're worried about reactions from your barber, go to a new barber. Bring plenty of cash—like $40 (£20). There's nothing worse than being $1.50 short and having to call someone for cash. If people ask you why you got it cut like that, don't blame the barber for screwing it up. They'll just keep bugging you to get it fixed. If you don't feel like outing yourself on the spot, just say you like it better this way.
Something that goes a LONG way (believe it or not), if you're not quite willing to chop off all your hair, is to just cut your sideburns. Men have them shaved off, straight across, usually where their ear connects to their head. Women have them grown out, either cut into those little points or just grown as long as they'll go and tucked back behind the ear. If you shave the sideburns off, people are considerably more likely to read you as a guy. It's weird but true—one of those gender indicators that we really don't think about.
If you don't feel comfortable going to a barber, find a gay or gay-friendly hair stylist who's willing to help you look as masculine as possible. A lot of guys keep going to the person who cut their hair "before"—don't, especially if they perceived you as a lesbian. Even if you're not passing yet, get a new barber or stylist who'll help you to look male.
Go for a short-back-n'-sides cut, but avoid getting an all-over crewcut or "punk" style, as these are often sported by the butch lesbians who you are trying to distinguish yourself from. All-over crewcuts are also problematic because they emphasize the shape and size of one's skull and are therefore feminizing (look at Sinead O' Connor)—you've got to leave something on top. Ask for a "traditional men's cut" or a "traditional boys' cut," or tell them that you're in a play or going to a costume party and you need to look like a guy. You can take in a photo of a haircut you like, or you can browse the Buzztown Barber Shop and ask for a haircut by name.
Comb the top of your hair back or to the side. As any trans woman can tell you, bangs are feminizing—women and kids tend to have them, but men don't. Use gel or mousse if your hair won't stay in place.
Sideburns: You know those Liza Minnelli-esque "points" which grow just in front of the ears of women with short hair? Men don't have them, so cut them off straight across with a good pair of scissors. Then use a razor to square off your sideburns—start from the upper point where your ear meets your head and then go straight down.
Fake Stubble/Facial Hair: Although really convincing fake facial hair from a theatre or costume supplier might help you pass, it is not recommended. It's very difficult to explain where that full moustache suddenly sprouted from and even more difficult to remember who's seen you wearing it and who hasn't. If you still want to give it a try, click here for a reader's instructions for creating fake stubble.
Rogaine, supplements, herbals, etc.: Do NOT use Rogaine on your face—it won't work, and there could be serious side effects. It's designed to work only on peoples' heads. Supplements and herbal hormones are also potentially dangerous and could even give you liver damage. The only safe and effective way to lower your voice, masculinise your body, and grow facial hair is to take testosterone under the care of a doctor. Any other way is ineffective and potentially hazardous to your health.
So, you want to shave but have no facial hair. Well, here's some interesting news for you—you don't have to have any facial hair growth to shave. In fact, if you're 15 or older, it's a good idea to shave even if you're not on T (testosterone—male hormone that most trans men take in injection form) and have no real facial hair. The reason is simple: women and pre-pubescent (before puberty) children have peach fuzz, men don't. So shave it off.
So what should I use?
Gel is far better than cream or foam, and it's best to get something for sensitive skin to cut down on irritation. Twin blades are better than triple blades for the same reason. Gillette is your best bet—both Sensor and Atra are good. Mach 3 is used by some, but that can cause ingrown hairs if you're not on T. The gel costs a few dollars and will last you a good six months, since when you first shaving you should only be doing it about every four days. My razor came with two blades (for about six bucks) and you can buy replacement blades in packs of five, ten or fifteen. (The more razors in a pack, the cheaper it is—i.e., buying a pack of 15 is cheaper than buying three packs of 5.) You should replace your razor after it's been used about nine times, 'cause after that it'll be too dull. Even with just peach fuzz.
Okay, I've got this stuff—now how do I do it?
First off, your face should be warm and wet. The easiest way to do this is to shave right after you shower, but if that's not convenient, put a hot washcloth on your face for about five minutes beforehand.
Anyone who remembers the old Cosby Show will remember when Theo, the family's only son, started shaving. His father told him to lather up and he'd talk him through it, and Theo came out of the bathroom with his face covered in gobs of shaving foam. He asked his father if he had used too much, and his father replied, "No, I use three, four cans a day, myself."
You need very little gel. There should actually be instructions on the back of the can as to how to use it, but I'll tell you anyway. Leave your face wet, squirt a little glob of gel onto your fingertip, and rub it onto the skin. It should lather a little on its own when you rub it. Paint a beard on with the gel. It shouldn't cover your cheeks or go down to your collarbone. About one inch below the jawline should have gel, but no more.
Use DOWNWARD STROKES ONLY. This means you start up near your sideburns and drag the razor lightly over the skin towards your jaw. (Some cisguys use upward strokes, but if you're not growing in real facial hair, you're likely to get ingrown hairs if you do that.) When doing the moustache area, don't pull the razor over your lip. You should be using minimal pressure—more than that and you risk cutting yourself. (Cuts really aren't that bad, but they sting at first and are annoying to shave around while they scab over and heal.) Even on your throat, use downward strokes. Don't worry about slashing your throat open. It would take a lot of pressure—and a significantly bigger blade—to do that, and you should be using almost no pressure. It'll feel right if you're doing it correctly. (Plus, if you use too much pressure, odds are you'll end up with razor burn—your skin will turn pink and get sore, like when you have a sunburn.)
If you're on T and have actual facial hair growing in and are just starting to shave, one cis guy offers this advice: "Always shave down first...THEN lather up again and then shave UP. Much closer shave that way and no ingrown hairs (yes, even we bioguys get them). I learned this one when I saw the former Royal Barber of England interviewed on TV."
After you shave for the first time, your skin will feel really weird and almost rubbery. That's normal. As the months go by, that will go away.
As for aftershave, the same cis guy says: "I use Aqua Velva and I swear by it. Yes, it stings at first, but it basically sterilises your face after you drag a blade across it (reducing infections/acne) and it makes your face hurt much less the rest of the day. Also, it cures razor burn almost instantly (well, within a few hours, anyways)."
Once again, from the same friendly cis guy: "One more thing. Styptic pencils. You can get them at the drug store. They make a shaving cut stop bleeding instantly. Beware, however, that you have never felt such intense pain before in your life. Goes away in 30 seconds, though. Never share them with anyone else since it's touched your blood."
Will shaving really make my facial hair grow in thicker, darker, etc.?
In a word, no. It will make the hair that's already on your face (peach fuzz) grow in faster, and the hair will seem slightly thicker at first, but you're not getting a beard or even convincing stubble out of it. The reason is this: When hair sits on you for a long time, it wears down and becomes softer. But when you shave it off and it grows back in, it's just a blunt end, and will seem a little prickly. If you shave once and let it grow back in and that's it, it'll seem a little prickly at first but will wear down and just feel like peach fuzz again. And it will start growing in faster, though not right away. One person says:
- "When I started shaving (August 1999), I shaved once every four days in order to avoid razor burn. After a few months (I forget how long exactly), I started shaving every two days and had no trouble. About a year (maybe a little less, I forget) after I started shaving, I started doing it every day, which I still do now. And I don't get razor burn. Thus, the hair is growing back faster and I'm still shaving hair each day, not just irritating the bare skin."
What's razor burn?
If you have razor burn, you'll know. It's not just a pink tinge in your cheeks. It hurts. It feels basically like a bad sunburn. If you get it, put aloe or something on it and (duh) don't shave until it goes away. Razor burn typically comes from applying too much pressure or from shaving when there's no hair there (or attempting to shave without using any gel), and thus (either way) irritating the skin with a blade. But if you're careful, there's no reason for you to get it. Don't worry about it.
Another way to limit or prevent razor burn is to sterilise the blade on your razor before use. After each use your razor will still have on it a small amount of skin/hair, and in the time before you use it next, bacteria will move in. Sterilising the blade removes this before you use it so doesn't let bacteria back onto your skin to irritate it, especially if you shave quite close.
A trans woman writes: "In a former regeneration I suffered immensely with razor burn on my face after shaving. I tried everything from the most expensive razors to exfoliation soaps to moisturisers and nothing seemed to work. Then I tried sterilising the blades after noticing that brand new out of the sealed box blades caused less to no razor burn than blades I had used before did. I sterilised the blades by pouring a measure of Dettol (UK brand name—may have a different brand name in other countries) into the bottle's cap, then dipping the blades in and leaving them for about 30 seconds before rinsing them. It certainly helped a lot and I subsequently suffered a lot less with razor burn."
Even if you are not on hormones, body-building either in a gym or at home can make a difference in getting your body to take on a more male shape. Before beginning any workout program, make sure you are healthy enough to do so, and make sure that you learn the correct way to do the exercises so as to avoid injury. Trans-Health.com has helpful articles on fitness.
Binding your chest
While a flatter chest is an important part of presenting as male, it is important to know that binding too tightly and too long is not good for you. Make sure you give yourself breaks from binding, and try to avoid methods which cause back or rib pain, restrict breathing, or cause skin problems. For further discussions on the effects of binding, see http://community.livejournal.com/ftm/tag/.
You don't need to bind perfectly flat to pass, since how tightly you need to bind depends partly on what you're planning to wear. Also, please remember that five year old children are pancake flat, but adult men are usually not. If you are wearing layers (T-shirt with woven shirt on top) and/or woven, baggy fabrics such as button-down shirts, you will need to bind less tightly in order to appear flat than you would under tighter, knit clothing such as T-shirts. If you need a break from tighter binding methods, you might want to consider wearing woven shirts more often than knit ones.
If you're short on money, you can always go to either The Big Brothers Binder Program or Stealth Binders, which provide second-hand binders for little to no cost to those who can't afford to buy them retail.
No matter what you use, be sure to read The Ten Binding Commandments and follow them strictly. Your body will thank you.
The Ten Binding Commandments
- Never wear a binder so tight that you have a hard time breathing in it.
- Never wear a binder or binding device that doesn't have a form of elastic within the fibers. Your binder must allow you to breathe in and out without any trouble.
- Never wear a binder for more than 12 hours in a single day. Optimum wearing time is between 8 to 10 hours, and less is always better. Bind as little as you can stand to.
- Never wear a binder when you sleep. Your breathing slows when you sleep and your muscles relax. The binder could become too tight and cause apnea symptoms (you could stop breathing in your sleep) and could cause fluid to build up, resulting in a form of pneumonia.
- If you hear a rattling or wheezing in your lungs when you breathe in or out, take off your binder NOW and cough hard a few times to loosen up fluid. This means you have been wearing your binder too long or too tight.
- If you continue to hear rattling of fluid in your lungs for more than 24 hours, see your doctor. Do not ignore this; you could be heading toward pneumonia.
- Always cough hard a few times when you take off your binder for the day. This will loosen any fluid that has built up in your lungs or the pleura of your lungs. Be sure to follow with a few deep breathing exercises to open the lungs.
- If your muscles under your binder twitch or spasm, take off your binder and give them a rest. Muscle spasms are likely due to a diet poor in magnesium. Many people using testosterone have reported muscle spasm problems, which are helped with a good magnesium supplement. Always consult your doctor before starting any supplement!
- In the long term (over months and years), binding can make the breast tissue less dense, which causes the breasts to sag/droop. This may or may not bother you, but it's something to be aware of. It is permanent. The less dense the breast tissue is, though, the less it will resist and try to stick out when you bind.
- Buy a binder that compresses the breasts just enough to hide them, but does not compress your rib cage.
If you have an Underworks 997 (Double Front Compression Shirt) or 983 (Tri-top) and cannot get it over your head, step into the neck and pull up over the legs and torso then adjust breast tissue once it is in place.
Do NOT use tape to bind! Tape over a shirt won't take your skin off, but it will restrict breathing and it won't give the way a cloth binder does, which makes it much more dangerous. Also, ACE bandages are a bad idea. They are inherently dangerous. The nature of an ace bandage is to get tighter whenever it's stretched; every time you inhale you're stretching it, and when you exhale it tightens around your ribcage. Do that all day and it's quite unsafe, even if you're not bound excruciatingly tightly the way so many folks do. Breathing problems are par for the course with ACE bandages; coughing up blood is common; broken ribs are not unheard of. They can also cut your skin. Just a bad idea all the way around.
There are a number of better binding options available, and what will work best for you depends on your size and build. Keep in mind that commercial products designed for cisgender men may not come in sizes small enough to accommodate smaller guys. Finally, many binding options are more comfortable if you apply talc or Gold Bond Medicated Powder before putting them on.
For those wishing to avoid binding during the summer comes this suggestion from the Netherlands:
- "Wear a muscle-shirt or a T-shirt (a muscle-shirt, leaving your biceps and deltoids uncovered, looks nicer IMO), preferably not too loose, tucked in. Over that, wear a singlet (which I think [Americans] call a vest or tank top); make sure it's way way way oversized and not made from a stretchy material, preferably with a print or application at the front. It doesn't really bind, but for those of us who are not too large it sure beats hot sweaty tight uncomfortable binders! Also, if the vest has large armholes and is made from a loosely-knit or mesh-like material it's not much warmer than one layer of clothes."
You can make a homemade binder made using Lycra cycling shorts or control top nylons (yes, nylons). The following method can be used by itself or to help keep a neoprene or elastic binder in place. Cut both legs off the shorts or nylons, and then carefully cut the crotch area out of the middle, making sure you leave the fabric around it intact. Cut the waist-band off too if you find that it cuts into you too much (it will ride up more without the waistband, though). Then turn the whole thing upside down. Your arms should go through the leg holes, your head should go though the hole in the crotch area, and the rest (the waist area) should go down over your chest. Position your breasts down and out as much as possible. Hand-wash the nylons with mild soap, line dry.
Another good option is a tight sports bra, available at any athletic wear store. These are very comfortable and work well if you're a "B" or smaller. Champion make good ones.
While the average sports bra doesn't have enough Lycra (about 11%) to hold in larger chests, Title Nine Sports offers a product called The Frog Bra (Item #310900) which is made of 32% Lycra and promises "maximum support and compression." It costs $29 (2 for $56), and from what I've heard it works very well:
- Title 9 Sports
- 1800 342 4448
The custom-made, $75 ENELL Male Support Vest is especially designed to provide maximum compression for men with gynecomastia (enlarged breasts).
Under Armour's "Heatgear" undershirts are designed to wear under football and hockey pads, but they also make good binders. Their products are available in most sporting goods stores, so you can try them on first.
Underworks offer a variety of products. They are trans-friendly, and if you call and let them know that you're trans (as opposed to a cis guy with gynecomastia), they will help you decide which one would work best for you. Calling first is important, since they tend to change their sizing occasionally. Underworks products include the new Tri-Top Chest Binder, which has been getting positive reviews from trans men. Please note that the Tri-Top Binder does not look at all like the illustration on the web page but is more like a half-length version of the Double Front Compression Shirt.
Note: Some longer binders tend to "roll up" on some guys. To prevent this from happening, either fold the bottom half back so it "doubles up" (which also provides extra compression), or sew a wide enough strip of fabric to the bottom edge of the binder to make it long enough to tuck into your trousers (see illustration).
- Voice: 1800 242 4224, 12-6 PM EST
- International: 1305 668 5151
The Loving Comfort Breast Binder from CMO Incorporated costs about $19 and comes highly-recommended by some larger guys. This product was originally made to stop milk production in nursing mothers, but trans men report that it also does a great job of binding and is very breathable and comfortable.
International Male's Undergear catalog lists two products for out-of-shape cis men: the cotton/poly/Lycra Body Trimmer ($24), and the nylon and spandex Body Shaper ($22). Because these products are designed for gut control, however, they may not be substantial enough up top for some guys.
- International Male
- Call 1800 293 9333 for print catalogue
Taiwan's T Kingdom™ offers binders which are designed to be "comfortable" and "as easy to put on as any shirt" and to "look good under other clothes." There are eight different models (a reader describes the 1700 as "fab"), and prices range from about $23 US dollars to about $61 US dollars. See their first time buyer's guide to determine which model will work for you. Please note that their products tend to be sized small, so you may need to go up several sizes from what you normally wear. (Note—prices are listed in Taiwan Dollars and will look alarming if you don't convert them.)
Japan's Love Piece Club offers a range of "Cool and easy to wear FTM clothes," including swimwear, stating that "Breathes well and flexiblity is the key point." Prices range from 9800¥ (around $80/£40) to 18000¥ (around $148/£75).
For highly effective (they can be even be worn with T-shirts) latex undershirts, try Mr S Leather. Always remember to apply talc or Gold Bond Medicated Powder underneath these.
- Mr S Leather
- 1800 746 7677
- http://www.mr-s-leather-fetters.com /
Morris Designs offers several products, which I hear are very comfortable and effective. The male Gynecomastia Vest, Gynecomastia Vest—No Velcro, Gynecomastia Tee Shirt Vest, and Zippered Male Vest all come in sizes SX, S, M, L, and XL and cost $52.
Again, some longer binders tend to "roll up" on some guys. To prevent this from happening, either fold the bottom half back so it "doubles up" (which also provides extra compression), or sew a wide enough strip of fabric to the bottom edge of the binder to make it long enough to tuck into your trousers ([http://www.geocities.com/ftmpass/binders.html see illustration).
- Morris Designs
- 1800 766 5578 (toll free)
- 1757 463 9400 (direct and international)
- http://www.morrisdesigns.com /
Some guys report success with Neoprene back braces and waist trimmers, which they trim to the appropriate size. They are available online and at sporting good stores and are less sweaty if worn over a T-shirt. For more information on modifying and using neoprene back braces as effective binders, see Sam's "Binding Suggestions" on the "Writings from Others" page of Bear's FTM Resources.
Many drugstores and medical supply stores sell abdominal binders, which some guys have had great success with. Elastic rib belts are also available, but they tend to be less comfortable and effective than abdominal binders. For more on abdominal binders, click here. To order abdominal binders, try:
- Alpha Medical Products Inc. ($27.99)
- Morris Designs Dale Binder ($34-$44, depending on size)
- Tetra Medical Supply (don't list prices)
But I'm too big to bind!
See here for an excellent set of pictures by a guy who has a DDD (or F, if you prefer) chest, demonstrating various ways to bind.
On the other hand, if you're in the bra cup range of G or H or bigger, binding passably may be far more dangerous than usual and could result in rib fractures from compressing the tissue much more quickly than on smaller guys; on the good side, at that size, most NHS plans and Medicare may cover the surgery if the surgeon's office bills it as a basic breast reduction due to size.
You don't necessarily have to give up swimming prior to chest surgery. Many guys have been able to swim successfully by wearing a rash guard shirt (used for surfing) over a binder. Rash guards are available online and from surf shops such as Quiksilver. If you're concerned about sunlight, Coolibar makes rash shirts which block 98% of UV rays and come sizes XS to XXL.
Some guys also report similar success swimming in a sleeveless Under Armour Heat Gear shirt worn over a binder. It's said that they dry quickly and hide binders well.
One reader reports swimming while wearing a "football jersey (mesh shirt with holes) over a binder top that didn't bind too tight." Daniel recommends taking some cycling shorts, cutting the crotch out, and then turning them upside-down and putting your arms through the legs holes, your head through the cut-out crotch, and then the main part around your chest before covering it with a rash guard shirt (see above).
Once you've bound, you need the right shirt. In the cooler months, a plain white crew neck undershirt over your binder and beneath your shirt will help hide your chest, and that triangle of white showing beneath an open collar looks very masculine. For other shirts, knit fabrics often tend to cling too much, while woven ones (such as cotton and cotton blend button-down shirts) "bag" out better and hence help you look flatter. If you send your shirts to the cleaners, a good way to keep them from clinging is to ask for extra starch. Always try silk shirts on first—depending on the cut of the silk, it can either work well for you or cling too much.
As for patterns, busy prints, checks, plaids, or horizontal stripes are good because they distract the eye from the topography beneath them. A waistcoat (vest to Americans) over your shirt can also help hide your chest.
If you live in a cosmopolitan area where there are a lot of butch lesbians then it's going to be much more difficult for you to pass. One way to help distinguish yourself from them is to dress more conservatively—you might want to leave the leather motorcycle jacket at home for a while.
Start with an ironed button-down shirt (loose, to help hide your chest), worn with pressed khakis, dress slacks, or neat-looking blue or black jeans. I've also heard that Dickies brand, 100% cotton casual wear shirts work well, especially in hot weather. Eddie Bauer 100% cotton wrinkle resistant shirts are also recommended. In the summer, you can avoid the androgyny of T-shirts and cut-offs by pairing short-sleeved button-down shirts with khaki shorts.
Ties are of course a great way to pass, though there are many situations where you'll look too out-of-place in one. Also, when buying shirts to wear with ties, keep in mind that your neck size will increase once you're on hormones. Here's how to tie a tie.
Make sure your trousers fit low and aren't tight—this helps to hide both your hips and your waist. Pleats can either help hide your hips or emphasise them, so use your judgement. If you do decide to wear pleated trousers, make sure that the pleats lie flat. A dark brown or black leather belt is also a nice, masculine touch. If you're short, avoid double-breasted suits. Don't spend a lot of money on new suits and jackets at this point—you'll bulk out of them once you're on hormones. Instead, find a good used clothing shop to buy them at. In the Boston, MA area in the US, try:
- 140 River St. (near Central Square)
- Cambridge, MA
- 1617 547 2455
If you're looking for new clothes in smaller sizes or boys' size suits, try:
- Jockey Club Ltd. (online and Santa Ana, CA) - http://www.shortmenssizes.com
- Napoleon's Tailor (online, Chicago & Milwaukee) - http://www.napoleonstailor.com
- Short Sizes, Inc. (online and Cleveland, OH) - http://www.shortsizesinc.com
- Heritage House (mail order) - http://www.boyssuits.com/
- Boys' Italian Suits - http://boysitaliansuits.com/
You can order jeans and khakis with shorter inseams from the following merchants:
- Land's End - http://www.landsend.com (down to 26" inseam)
- J Crew - http://www.jcrew.com (down to 26" inseam for khakis only.)
- NOTE: J. Crew waist sizes tend to run big, so your usual size trousers may be loose on you.
- Eddie Bauer - http://www.eddiebauer.com (down to 20" inseam)
- The Gap - http://www.gap.com (down to 28 " inseam)
There's also a web site which lists good sources of clothing and shoes for shorter men, including mail order and specialty shops: http://www.frugalcorner.com/short.html
Jewellery: If you're very small-boned, try a 3/4 size men's watch—it looks substantial and masculine without emphasizing how thin your wrists are.
Shoes, socks, and slippers
Footwear can be a real problem if you have small feet, although you do save money if you can wear boys' athletic shoes. The best place I've found to look for shoes and slippers is Zappos.com, which allows you to search by size, style, colour, and price. If you wear a US size 6 or smaller, you'd do well to search in both their Men's collection and their Youth Boys collection.
Other places to look include Famous Footwear and the boys' sections of department stores. If you're vegan, Payless shoes are usually made from all man-made materials. Boots from Army/Navy stores often go down to small sizes, and Doc Martens come in sizes as small as a UK 3 (US boys' 4 & 1/2) and also add about an inch to your height. PacSun sell sneakers/trainers down to a boys' size five, and Bostonian makes really nice dress shoes in smaller sizes.
If you're interested appearing taller, the Richlee Shoe Company makes smaller shoes with built-in lifts, and Airsole Elevator Insoles can be placed in any shoe. Don't spend too much money on shoes, though—your feet will grow at least a size once you're on hormones.
Socks: Men tend to wear white socks only with athletic shoes, so stick to dark socks with other shoes. If your feet are too small for mens' dress socks, wear boys' size 9-11 socks, and, if you can't find any boys' dress socks you like, the women's ribbed trouser socks at Banana Republic made good dress socks (don't worry, no one will know you're cross-dressed :-) ). For smaller athletic socks, discount stores sell very inexpensive 10-packs of boys' white socks.
First, be realistic when you pack! The vast majority of non-porn star men are "grow-ers" rather than "show-ers," which means that their penises get up to twice as big when erect as they are when flaccid. The average guy is about 2-4 inches long when he's not aroused, and the goal of packing is to look natural, not like you're walking around with an erection.
There are a number of products available to simulate the look and feel of non-trans male equipment in your trousers, including one you can make yourself using unlubricated condoms, hair gel (always use no-alcohol hair gel and "double-bag" the condoms to prevent leakage), and nylons.
There are many comfortable, realistic, inexpensive cyberskin packers on the market, as outlined on the following chart. Please note, these products are not all the same, so investigate them carefully before deciding which one to get.
One issue with cyberskin packers, however, is that they're built in a way that makes the smaller-sized dicks stick outwards significantly. As a results, some guys feel that such packers them look conspicuously excited/over-endowed. To counteract this problem, you can wear it with the dick hanging to one side instead of directly in front of the balls. Non-trans guys often do this—it's what the tailor means when he asks you if you dress "right" or "left." It might also help to order your cyberksin packer in a darker color, since apparently packers made from darker material lay flatter after you've had them a while. You can also make a cyberskin packer stick out less by modifying it (see below).
Source: Mango Products
Colours: Pink, Coffee, Chocolate
Sizes and Prices: 3 1/2" - $11.95; 5 1/2" - $16.95
Name: Soft Pack
Source: Toys in Babeland - Seattle and New York (both in the US); 1800 658 9119; http://babeland.com/ (look under Dildos > Realistic Dildos)
Colours: Vanilla, Mocha, Chocolate, Blue
Sizes and Prices: 3 1/2" - $12.00; 4 1/2" - $14.00; 5 3/4" - $16.00; 7" - $18.00
Source: Early to Bed - Chicago (US); 1773 271 1219; http://early2bed.com/ (look under Shop Online > Dildos > Packing Dildos)
Colours: Brown, Pink, Blue
Sizes and Prices: 3 1/2" - $12.00; 5 1/2" - $14.00; 6 1/2" - $16.00
Name: Soft Pack
Source: Good Vibrations - San Francisco, CA, Berkeley, CA and Brookline, MA (all in the US); 1800 289 8423; http://goodvibes.com/ (look under Toys > Dildos and Harnesses > Softskin Dildos)
Colours: Chocolate, Peach
Sizes and Prices: 3 1/2" - $15.00; 5 1/4" - $16.00; 6" - $18.00
Mr Right is a packer from Vixen which is made of soft, non-porous, hypoallergenic silicone that doesn't get sticky or require corn starch. Unfortunately, the fact that it's made of silicone also means that Mr Right is also not flexible and feels completely unrealistic as it's so hard. Mr Right is available from the following sources:
- ASLAN Leather - in vanilla, chocolate, and caramel for $55 (look under Dildos)
- ASLAN also sells the Mr Right Packing Strap in sizes XS to XXL for $15 (look under Dildo Harnesses)
- Toys in Babeland - in mocha, chocolate, and vanilla for $55 (look under Dildos > Dildos Top Picks)
- The Smitten Kitten - in Vanilla, Caramel, and Chocolate for $56 (look under Online Shopping > Dildos > Packing Dildos).
Made by a professional prosthesis maker, The FTM Prosthesis comes in 15 skin tones and can be held in place (apparently for several days) with a special glue so that you can wear it without underwear. It is said to look great and feel fairly realistic, comes in three sizes, and costs $480. The newest model is the Dual Prosthesis, which costs $1260 (without scrotum) or $1400 (with scrotum) and can be used for both daily wear and sex.
You can save money on adhesive for your FTM Prosthesis if you buy BT-401 Secure Medical Adhesive from Factor II, Inc. If you need to remove your FTM Prosthesis, make sure that you use Factor II's B-208 Pros-Aide Adhesive Remover to avoid accidentally tearing it. You might also be able to find medical grade adhesive and remover at your local costume or theatrical supply store.
The custom-made De Nijs Prosthesis from the Netherlands is made from the silicone gel material used in surgical implants plus silicone covering, which give it a very natural feel and weight that produces a realistic looking and feeling bulge. It comes with a button on the base of the penis for attachment to the outside of the underwear, but one can modify one's underwear to include an elastic buttonhole for attachment on the inside. The prosthesis adjusts to body temperature, and can be worn for swimming. Its $550 price ($350 excluding scrotum) includes a two year warranty, and if softening occurs within that period it can be sent back for injection of additional silicone without charge. Send Ms De Nijs your specifications in cm, also including your height, chest size, hip size, and waist size, as well as colouring. If you are in a hurry, you can fax her your letter to her phone number.
- De Nijs prothesen
- Johannes Verhulststraat 10
- 1071 NC Amsterdam The Netherlands
- Telephone/fax (+31) 20 6622549
- Bank: ABN-AMRO nr 220.127.116.111 (ABNANL 2A)
- Chamber of Commerce Amsterdam 33181477
To modify a cyberskin packer to keep it from sticking out too much (see above): Use a scissors to cut the dick part off at a 45 degree angle, starting from the top (see illustration). Then tie the dick in an unlubed condom to keep it from gathering lint and drop it in your briefs—the underside cut will make it "hang" realistically. I recommend using a medium-sized cyberskin packer for this, as the increased girth makes up for the discarded balls as long as you're not wearing something skin-tight like spandex or a Speedo.
Modifying a cyberskin packer:
*******\ Top - Around 4" * ***************************** * * * * - Cut at 45 * * degree angle * * * ************************ * ********/
To modify a cyberskin packer to wear on a strap under swim trunks or boxers: Use scissors to cut the dick part off at a 45 degree angle, starting from the bottom (see illustration). Tie the dick in an unlubed condom to keep lint off. Place dick in a knee-high nylon, sewing the ends of the nylon's "toe" together so that the line encircles the head (see illustration). Then sew the nylon to an elastic waistband (you can buy elastic at a fabric store, or just use the band from an old pair of underwear). The topside cut will make it "hang" realistically. Again, no one will notice the discarded balls if you're not wearing something skin-tight.
Modifying a cyberskin packer to use on a strap:
*******\ * ************************* * | * - Cut at 45 * | * degree angle * | * * | * * ****************************** - Sew strap to * ********/ | Bottom - Around 4" nylon here | Sew ends of nylon's toe together to encircle head.
From Tucker comes the following suggestion for putting a foreskin on your modified cyberskin packer:
- "Drop the head of the penis into the nylon's 'toe' as usual. Fit it snugly. Twist and/or sew closed at the base of the penis, but do not cut off the excess nylon. Instead, roll the nylon back down to the head of the penis so it functions as a second, looser skin. Cut it off an inch or two beneath the head of the penis (keep in mind that the nylon foreskin may shrink). If you want a non-retractable foreskin, sew it closed, or partially closed, around the head."
If you want to add balls to a modified cyberskin packer, try the following suggestion from a Passing Tips reader:
- "With your modified softie, you do not have to sacrifice balls. After dropping your softie into the condom, just tie on a pair of jelly balls (also in a condom) to the end. Drop the whole thing into a nylon, dick first. Wrap nylon around dick base, separate balls, and pull through your wrap around base, then you can slide the whole thing back into what is left of the nylon, (I use the kneehighs). This makes a nice tidy package."
Some guys find that a cyberskin packer can be irritating to wear against their skin. A reader offers the following solution:
- "... keep the balls in a sock, with just the shaft and medicine spoon sticking out. The sock tucks between [your] legs ... and the tip still looks right when [you] pull it out to pee. The cotton against [your] parts keeps everything dry and clean."
If you're having trouble getting your packer to stay put in your briefs or you want to wear boxers or swim trunks with it, there are products available for keeping it in place:
|World's Simplest Pack Harness||Invented by Passing Tips readers. Made from Lastin (also called 'clear elastic'), which is available from The Rain Shed.||Download instructions (196k PDF file - Requires Acrobat Reader)||Cost of materials|
|Homemade packing methods||Methods suggested on LiveJournal's FTM Community Forum.||http://www.livejournal.com/community/ftm/1353009.html||Cost of materials|
|Bunn-G||Designed as a cock ring/thong for cis guys; looks like it might help keep packers in place.||http://store.yahoo.com/bebrief/bunng.html||$15.95|
|The Packy Pocket™||"Put and keep your bulge where you want it with this excellent packer accessory." Comes in black and white.||http://www.goodvibes.com/ (look under Toys > Dildos and Harnesses > Dildo Accessories)||$20|
|The Mango Harness||"Made of soft cotton webbing with elastic in the waist band ... attaches with velcro tabs to a clear silicone ring that goes around the base of the Mango's scrotum."||Mango Products||$29.95|
|The Pac Sac||"... a light and comfortable harness created to hold your soft packer. The jock type design has an all elastic waist and elastic leg straps that will keep your package in place during everyday wear."||ASLAN Leather (look under Dildo Harnesses)||$30.00|
|Mr Right Packing Strap||"... this simple leather backed device will hold Mr. Right securely in just the right spot while protecting your skin."||ASLAN Leather (look under Dildo Harnesses)||$15.00|
Women tend to use an upward inflection at the end of their sentences, while men tend to speak in more of a monotone.
Try to speak more from your chest rather than your head. This will help you project your voice a bit more and will make it a bit deeper. You want to feel it resonate in your chest, not your head. This can take some practice. If you're not sure how to do it, talk to anyone you know who sings or does theatre. They'll likely know the difference between speaking from your chest and speaking from your head, and if they don't, they should be able to connect you with someone who does.
Deepening your voice on the phone is fine and may be a good idea if you're on the high side, but don't try to deepen it when having a conversation in person. You can see it in a person's face when they're trying to change their voice.
An interesting factoid: If you drink milk before going to bed, you'll wake up with a really good "morning voice" the next day. That should last you for a chunk of the morning, so make all your phone calls (and record your outgoing message on your answering machine, voicemail, or mobile phone) then.
Women tend to be less obtrusive, while men tend to take up more space. If you watch commuters on a bus, women tend to sit with their legs crossed and their arms drawn in, and men tend to sit with their legs apart and their arms out.
Observe, observe, observe. Go to the mall or a park, sit on a bench, and watch the male world go by. Take notes. Later at home, practice in front of a mirror. Try not to be too exaggerated in your movements. Once you're comfortable with your movements, go out in public and try them. They should become second nature after a while.
Be sure, when observing, to observe a wide range of guys, of all races, shapes and sizes. If you're tall and thin, feel free to pay closer attention to tall thin guys, but watch everyone. Otherwise, you'll just be doing an impression of the one or two tall thin guys you saw. Get an average and go with that.
Handshakes: Make them firm, not like a dead fish. Lock your thumb into the other person's hand, and look them in the eye. Don't pump excessively.
Dealing with women: Be yourself, but be less social than you used to be. Women tend to gossip more than men, particularly when they're by themselves. Even if you're sitting there with them. Don't let yourself get sucked in. This may sound sexist, but it's easy to sort of feminise the way you talk when you're in that situation. Caveat emptor.
Dealing with men: Again, be yourself. Be social, but be aware of the difference in tone. When men gossip (they don't call it gossip, though, it's "discussing"), there is often a sexual undertone and some raucous laughter. Feel free to join in, but beware of the intense one-upmanship that is often present in these situations. Be ready to take 'em all on. If you can win a one-upmanship match with all of the guys you're with, you'll probably be accepted into their circle immediately.
At the same time, please don't turn into some kind of macho jerk. Other guys don't appreciate that unless they're all macho jerks too, and I'd hope you can find better company than that. Being hyper-masculine just makes you look weird. Guys will know if you're trying too hard. Be conscious, but above all just relax, and you'll be fine.
Trans men are actually fairly fortunate in this area because, in bathrooms, most men are far less observant and social than women—they usually just go in, do their business, and leave. Just march calmly in, use the stall, and march calmly out—if you rush around nervously you'll be far more likely to attract attention. Don't talk to anyone, don't make eye contact, and whatever you do, don't try to look at anyone's dick. No one cares if you use the stall and no one will notice or care if you sit. Remember, even cis men have to sit down sometimes.
You do not need to be able to stand and pee in order to pass, but here are some ways to do so (it's best to practice naked in the shower until you get the hang of them).
If you use the urinal, always use the one that's farthest from everyone else at the urinals. Stare straight at the wall in front of you. Recite a poem or something in your head to entertain yourself. Don't look down at anybody or they'll look at you, and you don't want that if you're using a peeing device. If you recite a poem or a song, don't move your lips or say anything out loud, or the other guys will think you're wacky.
If you're not in a gay male cruising space, no one is looking to see what you're using to pee. Relax. I use a bright blue medicine spoon at the urinal and no one has ever noticed or cared. This is one time where male homophobia works solidly in your favour. No one will look down at you for fear of being called gay. If they do look down at you, they will never say a word to anyone about what they see, for fear of being called gay because they looked in the first place.
Don't touch anything you don't have to. This should probably go without saying for any and all public bathrooms, but you'll find that most men's rooms are far worse than most women's rooms, and the rule applies even more.
FLUSH! Some guys get so nervous that they forget to do the most obvious things.
And for God's sake, please do us all a favour and wash your hands. We all grew up thinking, "Boys like gross things," but men are just as grossed out as women when you don't wash your hands in the bathroom—particularly if you used the stall (figure it out). Don't dawdle at the sink, but be thorough and USE SOAP.
The following is very tongue-in-cheek, but does give some illustration of some of the 'unwritten toilet etiquette'.
STP (Stand-to-pee) devices
Whatever you use, practice naked in the shower first, then at home for a while until you're confident you won't make a mess.
Disk: Take a large coffee can lid and trim the edges off (you can keep it in your back pocket or wear it beneath your underwear band next to the skin if you like). Roll the disk into a funnel shape for use. Be sure to get it far enough back, behind the urethral opening, and hold the tip downward. Don't press it against yourself, as this can cause spraying.
Hollow Plastic Measuring Spoon: These are used for giving medication to babies and are available at pharmacies for a few dollars. Cut the top of the handle off at a 45 degree angle, so that the tip points downwards when the spoon end is up against you. Hold the spoon end against you, making sure you get a good seal around the urethral opening, but don't press too firmly, as this is unsanitary and can cause spraying.
Shampoo Bottle: Take a Head & Shoulders-type bottle and cut the bottom off at a 45 degree angle. Use the top as an STP device.
There are also some commercially available urinary devices:
|Freshette||Plastic device designed for camping||International Sani-fem, Inc.; 1800 542 5580||$22.95 or 2 for $41.00, comes with 6" retractable extension tube|
|Snee-Kee||Very thin plastic device||Pee-Zees; firstname.lastname@example.org||$17 in the US, $16.50 in Canada, $19 elsewhere. Prices include shipping.|
|Lady J||Plastic device designed for camping||Campmor (look under Personal Care > Lady J); 1800 CAMPMOR||$6.99, does not come with extension tube|
|Sani-Fem Freshette||Plastic device designed for camping||REI (look under Travel > Personal Care > Sanitation Items); 1800 426 4840||$19.95, comes with 6" retractable extension tube.|
|TravelMate||A commercial version of the medicine spoon method||TravelMate Personal Hygiene Products; 1208 641 7631||Single $4.59, 3-pack $12.95|
|Uri-Mate urination funnel||Can be flushed down the toilet after use. Takes a lot of practice to use properly without leakage because of its lack of rigidity, but it does work. Advantages are its compact size and more sanitary flushability, the lack of which is the main problem with the plastic devices on the market.||Magellan's International (look under Health & Hygiene > Sanitation); 1800 962 4943 or 1805 568 5400 (International)||$6.85 for pack of 8|
|The U-Tube™||"a two piece devise made from store bought, pre-made materials for the purpose of standing to urinate!"||FTM Products™||$11, two for $20|
STP (Stand-to-pee)-enabled packers
There are also pee-enabled cyberskin packers available:
|Product||Notes||Source||Colours||Sizes and prices|
|The Pissin' Passin' Packer||Made from "three readily-available commercial parts ... a lot of know-how, and a fair amount of time and fiddling to get it right"||http://www.djknowsdicks.com/||Dinky Pink, CinnaMAN Brown, COCKasian Beige||$35|
|The Mango||"Only the Mango features a receptacle tube that is designed specifically for the FTM anatomy for maximum comfort and leak proof fit."||http://www.mangoproducts.net/||pink, coffee||3 1/2" - $59.95; 5 1/2" - $64.95|
|The Mango 2||"Designed for men who have had a metoidioplasty with urethral lengthening and want to enhance their appearance and/or need greater length for urination."||http://www.mangoproducts.net/||pink, coffee||3 1/2" - $59.95; 5 1/2" - $64.95|
What sort of stuff will happen to me if/when I go on T (testosterone), and how can I help things along?
You will go through male puberty; it really is that simple. Consult a sex ed textbook if you don't remember what you learnt in health class. Negative stuff includes increased sweating, mood swings and acne. Your appetite will increase and you will gain weight (both muscle and fat, and muscle weighs more than fat does), you will build muscle more easily if you work out, body fat on your hips/thighs/butt will shift to your stomach, hair will increase and darken on your arms and legs, your sex drive and phallic (clitoris) size will increase, your jaw will become more defined (which will make your face look squarer), your voice will deepen (with some Adam's apple growth, since they're related), your shoulders will get a bit broader. Menstruation will cease, usually within 1-3 months; if it hasn't completely gone away after 6 months on T, see your doctor about adjusting your dose. The cessation is not permanent; if you go off of T, it will start up again, unless you've had a hysto.
Everyone's pace is different. Don't get the idea that at three weeks this will happen, and at two months that will happen, and so forth ... everyone goes through puberty (because that's really all it is) at their own rate. It depends on your dose, the method you use (injections, patches or gel), and—above all—your genetic predispositions.
I have acne! What can I do?
One person says:
- I used to go to a dermatologist and was on two prescription creams (one in the morning, one before bed)—Triaz 10% gel, and Retin-A micro (coupled with Cetaphil, which is a moisturiser, cause Retin-A really dries out your skin), plus I took Tetracycline for a while, which is an oral antibiotic (pill) that I took twice a day. If you can't get prescription meds for your acne, feel free to try the various stuff they sell over the counter ... I have no recommendations 'cause I've never used any of it. Just make sure that you get stuff that's labelled "for sensitive skin" if you're at all worried about it. I used to use a face wipe thing that make me feel like I was getting a face full of diluted ammonia ... my eyes teared up, etc., etc.
In addition, if most of your acne is red (not whiteheads or blackheads), there's a handy little trick. You know that stuff you can buy to make red eyes not be red? (Visene is one brand, but it's expensive; just get the generic stuff.) If you put it on your acne, it'll take the red out of that, too. No kidding. Just don't let the tip of the little dropper touch anything, or it'll contaminate it. You can drip several drops into the palm of one hand, then dab a finger into that and apply it from your finger. Give it a shot; it's pretty cool that it works.
Finally, a very large part of passing is sheer confidence and bravado. If you really believe you're a man (which you are) and project this belief to the rest of the world, it will go a long way towards also convincing others. Any difficult feature you might have (high voice, smooth face, small shoulders, wide hips, lack of height, etc.) is one that some cismen have also—there are even cis men with enlarged chests (male gynecomastia).
The FTM newsletter is available by subscription for $45.00/year (4 full colour issues) or $10.00/year (4 newsletter downloads). Send your name, mailing address, e-mail address, and check or money order to:
- FTM International, Inc.
- 740A-14th St. #216
- San Francisco, CA 94114
- 1877 267 1440 (Toll Free)
Lou Sullivan's Information for the Female to Male Crossdresser and Transsexual has helpful information on everything from passing to. It is currently out of print, but a revised version should be some day be available from:
- Ingersoll Gender Centre
- 1812 E MADISON ST STE 106
- SEATTLE WA 98122
- UNITED STATES
The book Dagger contains a chapter on FTMs and a useful chapter called "Packing, Pissing and Passing." It should be available used from Amazon.
Many more helpful books and other publications are available at the International Foundation for Gender Education's Synchronicity bookstore:
- PO Box 540229
- Waltham, MA 02454-0229
- United States
- Ph. 781-899-2212
- Fax 781-899-5703
http://ftmguide.org/ - a tremendous resource!