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Trans woman passing tips

The first thing you have to do is decide what your goal is. Do you want to pass as a cisgender (non-Trans) woman, or do you want to “look” passable? If you want to pass as a cis woman, evaluate your physical assets, as it were. How tall are you? If you’re much over 6′ then things become difficult (but by no means impossible!) as there are not many women over 6’2″. Are you a heavy build (not necessarily fat, just large framed and shouldered)? That also makes things a bit more difficult (but, again, not impossible!). Other than those two factors, everything else can be modified or disguised.

If you fairly evaluate your physical status (remember that we’re all our own worst critic – you need to be as objective as possible with yourself, and if you can’t be, ask someone who can) and find that it can reasonably be modified to look female, then you have to start learning.

Please note: this article assumes a trans female transition, however some of the tips can be used by trans male transitioners looking for tips on what not to do if wishing to avoid typical female traits. Trans masculine people may prefer our Transmasculine Passing Tips page.

Effects of pubertal testosterone

Testosterone is a very strong hormone, and women who have gone through a testosterone-dominant puberty may share physical features that are more common to cis men — for example:

  • Broad shoulders
  • A lower voice than that of the majority of women
  • A larger height than that of the majority of women
  • Thicker, darker body hair, and larger quantities of it
  • Prominent brow ridge
  • Squared-off jaw
  • More obvious Adam’s apple
  • Stockier, more muscular build

Many women, cis and trans, display one or more of these traits and yet are never misgendered as male. However, the effects of testosterone can be minimised when certain steps are taken; this will increase the chance of passing as the correct sex, as female.

Head hair

Women’s hairstyles tend to be longer, looser, fuller, and overall more rounded than men’s. Admittedly this is not true of all styles, but as a general rule it works.

Wispy, voluminous layers, as opposed to a blunt cut, will soften the lines of a square face with a large forehead. Gentle bangs (“fringe”) are also feminizing, particularly when they are swept off to the side a little.

People with feminine features often still pass as female with short, closely cropped hair. However, a bit of wave or curl to the texture — as well as more length, past the chin at least — will more effectively conceal the strong effects of testosterone.

Men’s and women’s hairlines are different: men’s hairlines have a sort of “M” shape, thinning out at the temples, whereas the hairlines of women are lower and have a simpler oval-shaped curve. A high hairline is most effectively masked by long bangs, but also by not pulling the hair back too severely.

Body and facial hair

Eyebrows

Women’s eyebrows are thinner and more arched than men’s. Although people typically don’t examine eyebrows consciously, they can be very strong gender markers, and shaping them is a good way to dramatically feminize the face.

Artificially shaping the eyebrows can be done through several methods, all of which sound like torture methods:

  • Waxing
  • Plucking/tweezing
  • Threading

At least one or two of these services can be purchased from most beauty salons.

Facial hair

This may thin a little on HRT but will not disappear on its own. Usually hair removal techniques such as laser or electrolysis will need to be used depending on the colour of the person’s skin and hair. It is not recommended to wax or epilate facial hair as scarring could occur.

Body hair

This will usually thin over time. As per facial hair, methods can be used to perminantly remove hair though effectiveness can vary between person to person.

Remember: many cisgender women find that they have body hair that they want to deal with. Likewise there are men who have zero or little natural body hair growth.

Clothes

The colour casts of people’s bodies — the qualities of their complexions, their hair and eyes — can be important in determining which colours will suit them best in clothing.

A bluish undertone to the skin, with stark tones like black and dark brown in the eyes and hair, is best flattered by wearing clear, crisp colours. If the colouring is subtler but still cool, soft dusky or dusty tints can be better-looking still.

Warm-coloured skin and features, in various lights and darks from golden to ruddy to reddish-brown, appears nicer when it is offset by warm-coloured fabrics.

Chest

Chest or cleavage enhancement encompasses a range of techniques used temporarily to improve the appearance of a person’s breast cleavage or to create the illusion of breast cleavage on a person who has no such cleavage. This ranges from brassieres (bras) that lightly push the breasts together without any padding through a range of increasingly padded bras to techniques where chest skin is pulled towards the centre to generate cleavage and completely artificial breasts, such as breast prostheses are added to cover the materials used to pull the skin.

Cleavage enhancement may also include the use of makeup to deepen the appearance of the cleavage and make the breasts either side of the cleavage appear more prominent.

Padding

This can be done either with proprietary products (such as ‘chicken fillets’/falsies), with tissues, cotton wool or even socks

Falsies are small pads similar to the removable pads sold with some push-up bras. Falsies made from silicone gel are also sometimes referred to colloquially as chicken fillets.

Makeup techniques

Making cleavage appear deeper and the breasts look fuller alongside the cleavage using makeup is achieved using shading effects. The middle of the cleavage is made to look deeper by using a darker makeup colour than the base colour of the skin, while the most prominent areas of the breasts (either side of the cleavage) are made to look larger or more protruding by the use of a paler colour. Sometimes, the darker shade is extended in a Y shape to add further emphasis to the roundness of the top of the breasts.

Potential issues

Cleavage enhancement techniques may not always give the desired results.

Using a skin pulling technique and pulling the skin too tightly or wearing a bra that is too small in the cup size will create excessive bulges either side of the cleavage, which will look obviously pushed out of shape.

Either pulling the skin too little or showing too much of the peaks of the bulges created by a skin pulling technique may cause the curvature of the cleavage to be visibly different from the curve that would exist for real breasts of the same size. The parts of the breasts visible in the cleavage will appear to curve away in a manner that does not line up with the rest of the breasts.

Excessive or poorly applied makeup may look obviously false and may detract from an otherwise effective cleavage illusion.

Tucking

Tucking refers to the practice of hiding the male genitalia so that they are not visible through tight clothing. The most effective way of tucking involves pushing of the testicles up into the Inguinal canal; most males can do this without any pain. Once this is done the penis is pulled back between the person’s legs and a tight pair of panties or a gaff is then worn over the top to hold every thing in place.

Voice

See main article at Speech therapy. You may also find our early Podcast episodes useful, as these cover speech therapy in some detail.

Gait and movement

The best thing is to learn how to walk and move a little slower and smoother. You may wish to practice the hip movement until you can do it on command, and maintain that all day long. Arm and hand movements also make a big difference. There are many websites, videos and books that can help with this.

See also

  • Passing