Preface to this Page:
Most Western (Caucasian) women transitioning after age 17 struggle to pass as female in daily life, and this becomes almost universal by age 40. The march of Father Time is particularly brutal for transwomen, and it's vital that anyone considering transitioning takes a long and hard look at the problems they are going to face.
For male-to-female transsexuals (MTF) - transitioning is the period when you stop living your every-day life as man and begin living it as a woman. It sounds short and easy - what more can be said? Actually, a quick search of the Internet reveals that a lot of girls have a lot to say! For example, Calpernia Addams:
For the vast majority of MTF's, transitioning is in fact an enormous challenge, and probably the most stressful time of their life. The former professional cyclist Robert Millar - a married man with a son - is an example of the real-world problems that transitioners face. Friends became suspicious when the then 40-year old was seen in pigtails with a suggestion of breasts under his top. One said, "Every time we meet him he seems to have a bigger chest, but he won't talk about it". Two years later he - now she - moved town and changed her name to Phillippa York, leaving friends, family and son behind.
The first approach helps avoid the embarrassing situation of someone calling you by your new name repeatedly, but you not reacting. A very possible scenario after a few glasses of wine late at night in the first few months after transition!
The second approach has the additional advantage that it aids stealth. For example, someone searching for you on Google using the name is unlikely to get relevant hits.
A third option is to adopt an unusual or exotic name that you like - Antoinette, Aoife, Eibhleann, Maya, Naimh, Orlaith, Talia ... . But the challenge can then be to remember how to spell and pronounce it!
I've included in a separate page here some information (mostly derived and updated from Adele's original and now off-line work) about how to change your name and documentation during the transition in the UK and Ireland. However much of the information is became out of date in 2004 with passing of the Gender Recognition Act. This established a Gender Recognition Panel which makes it immensely easier to get documents changed and re-issued to reflect a legally adopted female name and a change of sex, also the level of evidence and representation required has become less onerous and pre-SRS women are also often accepted.
In the UK, if granted a full gender recognition certificate by the Gender Recognition Panel, it is now even possible for transsexuals to get a new birth certificate reflecting their gender. In a UK context the next item that you should change is your passport, including as flattering a photo as you can get away with! Armed with this it's then much easier to get other key documents and records quickly changed.
When I married my partner in a church in Ireland, this was nearly a decade before the Marriage Act 2015 legalised what the press like to call "same-sex marriage". Thankfully I was able to show the Priest my UK passport stated that my sex was female. It would have delayed the marriage but I could have eventually have produced an acceptable Birth Certificate. But if he had insisted on seeing my Baptism Certificate - well it has the wrong forename on it and there is still no way to get that changed.
If for some reason a document cannot be re-issued, it is now relatively easy to obtain or even produce for yourself a very authentic looking "corrected" version - and this is a risk some transwomen choose to take. However the same march of technology also means that increasingly official records and archives (including Births, Deaths and Marriages) are readily available on both government computer systems and the internet, and even the most convincing "original" document may be only a few key strokes away from suddenly becoming suspicious. Embedded digital signatures are also now used to prevent the manipulation of documents issued in an electronic format.
If you don't pass convincingly as a woman then the likelyhood is that responsible staff/officials will check out even the most authentic looking documents that state that you are Female. If there has been misrepresentation or forgery, this could lead to possible criminal charges.
Pass as A Woman
If six months after transitioning you are still constantly getting strange stares when shopping, and your "friends" and even family obviously don't like going out in public with you, a very hard re-assessment is appropriate before proceeding further and undergoing irreversible actions such as surgery. The often lambasted one-year real life test prior to SRS does have a very serious purpose.
The challenges involved with transitioning are immense, just one small example is that girls practice their make-up from as young as age 2. By age 16, most girls will have spent many hundreds of hours on this, a male-to-female transsexual transitioning as an adult will probably have only spent a tiny fraction of that time. This presents an immense challenge, although most transwomen will have vastly improved their make-up a year after transition.
But the good news is that you can stack the odds in your favour. Just fifty years ago only a very small percentage of adult men could in truth live and pass convincingly as a woman; nowadays a transitioning MTF transsexual woman can improve her percentages considerably. Some physical characteristics (height, hands, feet, ...) remain almost impossible to change, but the modern transsexual woman has an enormous battery of weapons that allow her to feminise many of her other characteristics. For example, good quality silicone breast forms and mastectomy bras are available for as little as £200 ($300) which bestow on a [clothed!] transwoman breasts whose appearance and movement are totally indistinguishable from a natal woman.
In general, my own advice is if that you can afford them and need them, then use them:- hormones, breast augmentation surgery, a 'nose job', additional facial feminisation surgery, hair transplants, electrolysis, skin peels, liposuction, etc, etc. But a very serious proviso is to always seek good quality professional medical advice, care and treatment - you get what you pay for and skimping is big mistake. To the physical changes you can add valuable aids such as voice training, deportment lessons, grooming tuition... even cookery lessons (really, they were a great laugh!).
Assuming that physically you are reasonably feminine in appearance, then passing then often becomes all about the small things - things that are second nature for someone brought up as girl but entirely strange for a man - and things that Hollywood often has a field day over when a man impersonates a woman in a comedy.
For example, personally I physically have too many "male" appearing characteristics for comfort - I'm quite tall (5ft 9in), have broad shoulders, large feet (size 8 UK), a thick neck, and a boyish waist. I will for the rest of my life be slightly worried about people (particularly strangers) instinctively classifying as a man based upon a first impression of physical characteristics. For me, maximising my chances of making an immediate female impression means that I've learnt to emphasise some factors of my appearance: staying slim, a substantial bust, figure flattering clothes, suitable hair style, a good and very fair complexion with relatively light make-up, and an appropriately female (but not exaggerated) posture and manners.
In Between Two
While as a woman (pre or post-transition) I faced new problems like:
It's a real "chicken or the egg" situation - you can't successfully pass as a woman until you've lived as a woman, but you can't successfully live as a woman until you can pass as a woman! It's also very hard to go to work and be accepted there as a woman until "being a woman" - with all its many downsides as well as upsides - becomes at least second nature.
Before I transitioned I always worked as a man and largely socialised as a man. However there were increasing periods between age 21 and 33 when I also socialised as a woman - Toni, later Annie.
I found that it was much easier for people who had only met me as "Annie" to accept me as a woman (even if they knew that I was a transsexual) than people who previously known me as a man. When I came out to my family it was obvious that while trying to be supportive they had problems adjusting, although the passage of time helped a lot and my mother was always generally supportive.
When I transitioned I was reasonably confident about my appearance and dress, but was also very aware that my instinctive reactions and manner might differ from those expected of a woman. Initially, every time I appeared in public or had to interact with someone, I felt that I was still "acting" a female role.
However, when under pressure the human being is an amazingly quick learner. As the months passed my instincts become automatically 'female'. I still caused slight puzzlement occasionally, usually due to a strange ignorance, but it was getting rarer and more trivial.
surgery (FFS) is often the next priority. Prior to
about 1995 this really just meant a nose job (rhinoplasty), but
progress since then has been extraordinary. For transwomen
with deep pockets, and willing to stand the pain, an acceptably
female - even attractive - face is often only a large cheque
Sex reassignment surgery (SRS) is surprisingly sometimes one of the last item on the surgery list. There are several reasons for this, e.g.:
Cost of Transition
Rodrigo Lopes is one example. Age 23 he stared in the 2009 UK edition of the TV reality show Big Brother. A few years later she transitioned to Rebekah Shelton but found it very difficult to earn a living. Allegedly she resorted to prostitution to fund her breast augmentation (2012), SRS (2014) and facial feminisation surgery (2015). Although "sugar daddies" often took her on expensive holidays around the world, she apparently still struggled to make ends meet when back home A report in 2019 claimed that she had "died unexpectedly" (implying suicide) was initially widely believed, thankfully Rebekah immediately refuted this on social media.
For me, transition had a devastating financial cost - my income dropped enormously. In the year 2000 - just before my transition - I was working as a man as a consultant on a tax-free salary of roughly £50,000/$75,000 at the contemporary exchange rate. I then had two short terms jobs of ever decreasing wages, before hitting a low point when thirteen months later I briefly worked as a Teacher's Assistant for what would have been just €10,000/$10,000 in a full year. There has since been a slight improvement as I rebuilt my CV, and in 2004 I was delighted to accept a full-time job as a Sales Assistant at €22,000/$25,000 a year. Thanks to several promotions this increased to €32,000/$40,000 (before tax) by 2010, although still less than half what I had been earning a decade earlier allowing for inflation.
Although my income collapsed, some outgoings increased massively during and after my transition. Between December 2000 and July 2004 I spent £11,000 / $17,000 on doctors, hormones, laser hair removal, breast augmentation, orchiectomy (not SRS!) and a few other bits (blood tests, skin peel, dermatology). That excludes other associated costs such taking as days off work and travel expenses. Also the added financial cost of simply living as a woman was extraordinary. By 2002 I was totally broke and to help identify potential savings I kept detailed records of all my expenditure. I found that I was spending at least €200 / $240 a month on clothes, make-up, hairdresser, etc, and that really was an absolute minimum.
The exact financial cost of my transition is impossible to calculate but from rough calculations I expect that if I had continued to endure living as man, my bank account would be least £20,000 / €25,000 / $30,000 better off every year due to higher earnings and lower essential expensiture.
The term "cost" can have other meanings as well. Almost all women instinctively make a huge investment in both time and money on their appearance (i.e. improving their beauty and attractiveness to men) because that's what society expects and that's how they've been brought up. As a man I guess I used to spend about 20-30 minutes a day showering, shaving, dressing, etc. When I first transitioned I had to get up (in England in January!) at 5:00 am so that I had two hours to get myself ready for work. I'm considerably more efficient and practiced now (standard mascara and lipstick in a minute), but I still spend at least one hour a day on my grooming, and on top of that there's the gym, the dieting, the shaving, the Hair Salon ... while preparing for a big night out can dominate my life for days. Personally I don't like some of these aspects of womanhood, although I know that many women enjoy their daily beauty routines. However the constant worry over my appearance is something that I've had to learn to live with and cope with.
Shopping is yet another gobbler of time and money, half days off work and late night shopping trips with friends dissolve in to over stretched credit cards and aching feet. But the compensation is a unique relationship that no men [want to] experience, and long and insightful chats over a tea or even a glass of wine.
March of Time
Transgirls who begin hormones and transition as a teenager have a good chance of passing as female without any surgery; transwomen who transition in their 20's can often pass after some medical treatment; whilst sadly those who transition in their 40's or later are rarely able to pass even after very extensive plastic surgery - Caitlyn Jenner being a high profile example - her facial feminisation surgery alone is reported to have cost cost $70,000.
Transwomen in their late 20's and early 30's face an agonising "if only" situation. When I transitioned, the first year was very very tough. But to a limited degree, time then actually starts to work in favour of the transitioned woman who sticks with it. Actions, responses, motions, stories, even feelings, that start off requiring conscious thought eventually become automatic. with experience. I'm also certain that the effects of many years of hormones and later an orchiectomy slowly worked on my mind and body in many subtle ways: fat thighs and cellulite, an inability to do simple DIY tasks, crying for days when a hamster died, ... a growing obsession with my nails. Looking at old photo's has become like looking at a stranger.
For older women in particular there seems to be a divergence between intention and hopes at transition, and the reality a few years afterwards.
Some transwomen would prefer having a natural looking vulva area or a sensitive clitoris over good vaginal depth, for sexual reasons that include lesbianism and masturbation desires.
Transition is not a brief event. I first posted this page in early 2001 - a few months after I had begun living and working as woman. However, I was still far from comfortable with my new life and it took over two years before I stopped wondering if I had made a terrible mistake.
I consider that my transition spanned over 10 years - from beginning to take (with interruptions) oestrogen hormones in May 1994 to having sex reassignment surgery (SRS) in October 2004. I could shorten the period by using numerous alternative key dates, for example the first day I lived full-time as a woman, the day I received a female passport, the day I had an orchiectomy, the day I applied for a Gender Recognition Certificate ... but none are really a better start or end point.
The term SRS has also become less significant with its replacement by Gender Confirmation Surgery (GCS) I have no strong feelings about either - SRS definitely didn't change my sex, as I'm still genetically XY and can't get pregnant baring a miracle. However GCS hasn't confirmed a female gender. As a teenager I knew that I was a boy and fancied girls, but also envied girls. After many difficult years I accepted that I needed to live as a woman - and to be successful this required hormones and surgery.
An important acknowledgment at this point - when I was transitioning I found Adele May's excellent The Bird Cage website to be a wonderful source of information and inspiration. Sadly, this and a short-lived successor, Altered States, have long gone. But I've taken the liberty of repeating here some sage words of advice that I gained from Adele's hard work.
A Girl's Education
A few months prior to my transition, I went on holiday to the USA intending to pass as a woman most of the time. I didn't really expect any major problems so it it was a traumatic surprise to discover that my ability to pass as a woman in a night club did not translate to 7x24 full-time passability.
The trip showed that I had serious issues with my appearance and voice. In addition I was simply not automatically thinking and behaving like a woman. Without the immersive experiences of a female childhood and up-bringing, I was lacking essential instinctive traits and habits.
When I got home I asked my [girl]friend for help. Despite many problems we had lived together for nearly three years, but I was asking for her help on matters she had found difficult to accept. When I started copying aspects of her dress and behaviour [half in fun but half seriously] she really disliked it.
After I transitioned, my "top" was actually the least worrying aspect of my appearance As a teenager I had resorted to padding my bra with home-made foam inserts but 20 years later it was all much easier. After years on hormones I had reasonable breast development (small B cup) whilst the advent of cheap silicone bra inserts (aka breast enhancers) meant that I could wear a C cup bra which was both appropriate for my build and very realistic in appearance. When I needed to show some cleavage a "push-up", a Wonderbra worked well. Nevertheless - and like the vast majority of transwomen - I ultimately had breast augmentation which just made life so much simpler.
Perhaps surprisingly, my "bottom" was only a bit more problematic. I wore a tight elastic G-string (aka gaff) under my panties. This pulled back my hormone shrunken penis and contained my similarly reduced testes. The overall external appearance was quite acceptable, particularly after my orchiectomy. It also allowed me to go to the toilet for a pee without the challenges of a tucking procedure, avoiding the painful UTI problems I often suffered from after tucking.
However I could still not pass nude as woman, be it in a women's changing room or being attacked by a rapist (sadly many transwomen have been killed in such circumstances). Having SRS was like moving from night to day in this regard.
A particularly bad problem during my early months after transition was beard growth and a beard rash. I undoubtedly should have sought laser treatment for this before I transitioned, rather than after. I also had a small nose reduction procedure (rhinoplasty) but otherwise have been quite comfortable with my facial appearance.
But the biggest problem was my voice. Whilst not deep and husky, the reality was that when answering a phone call I would pre-transition be 99 times out of a 100 identified as a man. I worked hard to train my voice to a naturally sounding higher pitch and slowly noticed an increasing hesitancy from callers. It took two years after my transition before I arrived at a feminine voice that I'm reasonably happy with - and which probably represents the limit of what I can achieve without vocal cord surgery. On the phone call test, I'm now identified as a woman perhaps 90% of the time, and most of the other 10% of callers are uncertain.
Transitioning and passing successfully is hard hard hard ... It's rather like sitting on large scales. You start off with the male side the heavier and dominant, you keep adding weight to the female side but it doesn't seem to make much difference - the male side is still "heavier" and people still identify you sooner or later as a man. 12 months after transitioning, I was close to despair; I had been out'ed in three jobs, the last of which was a particularly bad experience. I began to seriously wonder if I was doing the right thing
But if you keep adding weight to the female side of male-female scales, eventually adding just another a small feather will make that side the heavier and the balance suddenly swings to female. It took nearly two years, thousands of hormone pills, two operations, three moves and four jobs for the scales to finally tip for me, but suddenly people were consistently identifying me as a woman. In my latest job I was amazed to realise that I was comfortably "passing as a woman" [a truly horrid term] day after day in a largely female work environment. The feathers falling on the scales of my passability were individually light, but cumulatively they had finally reached a critical weight: my beard was gone; my appearance was unremarkable; my voice was acceptable; and I could confidently chat about babies, boyfriends and women's problems.
Two year after transition, thanks to necessity and experience, I finally reached the point where I was confident that I would be perceived as a woman by a new acquaintance. That made me start to dream about going "stealth", I hated the feeling of being constantly under examination by everyone (even family) as a transsexual woman. My body, hair, appearance, manners, make-up, voice, movements ... I knew that they were all up for discussion when I was not about.
Although I'm far less rigorous than I used to be (my 6:00 am workout is ancient history), on weekdays I do alternate between a jog on my running machine and a video based fat burning session. Saturday is my off day, but every Sunday morning I go swimming for an hour. Minding what I eat is also important, although I'm now just habitually careful rather than rigorously dieting.
Keeping my weight down will never be easy but ironically a very helpful factor is the much-maligned social pressure on women (from my fiancée, other women, the media, ...) to stay slim. Also, I know from bitter experience that I only need to slip for a few weeks (aka when on holiday) and my weight soars again.
Gossip and Maintaining a Consistent Story
One of my biggest problems I still have (like many transsexuals) is that some people know my background while others don't. Having the two groups mixing invites a public disaster, so when my darling arranged a surprise birthday party for me I nearly killed him! It was the worst party of my life as a I could never relax in case those "in the know" accidentally gave something away to those who didn't.
Another nightmare is that over many months I've often have had to make up things on the fly to tell people who don't know of my transsexuality (particularly my colleagues at work) which I've since forgotten, and thus I may contradict myself in another spur of the moment situation. Lacking "Total Recall", there's always the chance of later being caught on one small point that someone thought strange or remarkable at the time and remembered. One or two minor gaffes can be laughed off or the other person made to doubt his/her memory, but eventually people may start to wonder what's going on.
A significant problem as a transsexual woman is that you may eventually get caught out contradicting yourself on some small point. That risk will always be there, but transwomen going deep stealth undoubtedly slightly adjust their childhood memories, e.g. recollections of their first "boyfriend" become totally ingrained in your memory after a while, and the responses and comments are automatic and very convincing.
I have many stories about my transition that are very easily adapted to a late and slightly drunken night with the girls... the Arab in the Night Club who simply wouldn't give up telling me how beautiful I was; the mysterious disappearance of my bikini top; the night when I started to walk home as I couldn't get a taxi and a guy in a BMW stopped and give me a lift; my first mammogram ...
you have any questions, or perhaps just want to know more about me,
please feel free to email me.
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Copyright (c) 2012, Annie Richards
Last updated: 17 January, 2012