coming out as ftm
April 28, 2012 9:32 AM   Subscribe

I think I might want to change gender (ftm)... now what?

In many ways, mine is the stereotypical transgender story: I've been dressing in boy's clothes since I was old enough to take off a dress and throw it on the floor, when I was five and my grandmother asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I said Batman, I played little league instead of softball, in high school I didn't date and slouched to hide my growing breasts (still do) and tried to ignore the rumors that I was gay... you get the picture, I've been gender non-conforming my whole life.

This worked fine when I was a kid, but it's starting to become awkward as I've gone from the tomboy in sweatpants to a 20-something woman who has never worn makeup or heels and doesn't own a single piece of jewelry. I can't shop for women's clothing without getting upset and panicky in the fitting room and I've gotten to a point where being unable to dress up for an interview or for day to day work is going to negatively affect my career. Also, I've never had a serious romantic partner of either gender because, well, I can't describe it, but the idea of being a woman that someone else finds attractive is somehow upsetting.

Long story short, I want to start acting like a grown up, but I don't want that grown up to be a woman. What now? How do I tell my parents, my friends, my sister, my coworkers, etc? I'm worried that even with hormones and surgery, my height (5'3") and bone structure (small hands in particular) will mean that I'll never be convincing as a man and I'll always stick out as an "it" and I'll have to deal with all kinds of discrimination and harassment. This is a pretty long post, without an actual question yet... I guess what I'm looking for is some (online?) resources to help me with the process of coming out to people I know or some other form of reassurance that I'm not totally alone. As far as location dependent advice goes, I'll be in a small, rural town in the southwest until the end of the summer when I'll move to a suburb of Boston.
Ugh. On preview I can see a million run-on sentences but I've started and deleted this question so many times I'm giving up on trying to fix them
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (30 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
For what it's worth, I am a woman and I sometimes get panicky at all the girly stuff. Is it that you don't want to adhere to societal roles for women, or that you actually feel like you are a man? I see those as two different things.
posted by yarly at 9:35 AM on April 28, 2012 [18 favorites]

In Boston there are several LGBT resources that include support groups for people in just your situation. You can air your concerns with people that have had similar worries and got through them.
posted by munchingzombie at 9:38 AM on April 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

One of my good friends is ftm, and for my circle of friends, he told us at one of our annual get-togethers over beers. It was one of things things that while it was super-surprising at the time wasn't surprising at all once we'd had a chance to process it. He too is short, and I knew him for about 5 years as a woman, but some 6 years later, it's really hard to recall what he looked like then. His voice is deeper, he has facial hair, and he presents as very male. He *is* male. It was a process, though; it took some time.

I think moving to a big city is a good start. A quick Google brought up the following for Boston: a whole lot of MA-based support groups for both transfolk and their families. A lot of the universities around here have groups as well. I'd talk to them; they know best. There are also therapists that specialize in helping people through gender reassignment and the resulting issues. Best of luck.
posted by smirkette at 9:48 AM on April 28, 2012

I'm Genderqueer and have struggled with the clothing-and-makeup thing as well.

I have a good friend online that's FTM, and I found this on his Tumblr feed:
posted by luckynerd at 9:51 AM on April 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

20-something woman who has never worn makeup or heels and doesn't own a single piece of jewelry. I can't shop for women's clothing without getting upset and panicky in the fitting room and I've gotten to a point where being unable to dress up for an interview or for day to day work is going to negatively affect my career.

Other people will give you really good advice on other aspects of your question. I just want to address this because interviewing for a job sounds like something you may have to do soon whereas you will be in the process of resolving all of the other parts of your question for a while.

You do not need to wear makeup, heels, or jewelry to look very put together and professional and interview for a job. I have never worn heels or jewelry to an interview, and I have a typical female gender identity and presentation. If you have well-cut and groomed hair, and you are wearing clean and appropriate clothes, that will be more than enough. You do not have to wear "women's" clothes. Go to Macy's or J. Crew, and get a pair of fitted men's slacks in a neutral color. Do the same with a button-down shirt. You may have to shop in the boys' department, that is fine. Depending on how large your chest is you might have to go a size or two up in the shirt. That is trickier because you will need enough room in the chest while at the same time not going so large that the shirt is otherwise baggy or shapeless on you. But I am confident that you will be able to find a shirt and a pair of pants that look perfectly professional on you.
posted by cairdeas at 9:56 AM on April 28, 2012 [7 favorites]

These guys, located in Bisbee, AZ, have a fairly sizable support network. Tell 'em grumblewart sent you.
posted by Ardiril at 9:56 AM on April 28, 2012

Seconding the idea of getting involved in LGBTQQIA groups in Boston. There's a "Boston Area Trans Support Group" which might be of particular interest to you. Creating a sense of safety and support for yourself is important, especially if/when you decide to come out to others.

You said that you "slouch to hide your breasts" and I just wanted to point out that it's possible to bind your breasts .

Check out the Youtube channel The Beaver Bunch. The group talks about a variety of LGBTQQIA related topics and one of the wonderful members is FTM.

In regards to clothing, what I'd recommend is dress in a way that makes you feel good about yourself regardless of whether or not the clothing is in the male or female section of a store. This is of course easier said than done. Shopping can be overwhelming for a lot of people. Maybe online shopping would be easier for you to do at this point.

If you are unsure about where to shop then find androgynous clothing blogs. You said that you "think" you want to change your gender. I may be wrong, but if you are in a questioning stage then take your time and don't feel the need to immediately figure out how to identify. You can be male or female, but you can also be many other things such as genderqueer or a person that's not into labels.
posted by livinglearning at 10:20 AM on April 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

I notice that you say you "think" you "might" want to change your gender, and your post is fairly open-ended. So I assume you're not just looking for practical advice on how to make the change, but thoughts about whether to make the change at all. (If I'm wrong, feel free to flag this as a derail.)

I've gotten to a point where being unable to dress up for an interview or for day to day work is going to negatively affect my career.

I would recommend reconsidering whether this is a reason to change your gender. Job interviews are a big deal, but they're a limited part of life. Everyone gets nervous and feels not-quite-themselves at job interviews. If you become a 5'3" man, your height will seriously disadvantage you. There been studies on the effect of height on men's and women's career and income, and men suffer more from being short than women do. As a woman, you're just an inch or two shorter than average, which would not even register with a lot of people; as a man, your height would be the first thing everyone will notice about you, and it will color their view of you. The reason someone like Dennis Kucinich could not be taken seriously as a presidential candidate wasn't just because of his left-of-mainstream politics; it was because he was so short as to seem like an insignificant person. By contrast, while women who run for president might have their own hurdles which I'm not trying to minimize, their height usually isn't one of them.

Consider too that in the year 2012, there are almost no limitations about what kind of clothing is considered unacceptably male for a woman to wear. Sure, you wouldn't wear a suit and tie to a job interview, but you could get away with wearing a suit and tie (for instance) in other situations, and it might strike a lot of people as simply a cool style.

More generally: is the solution to the fact that you're not that comfortable with female stereotypes to radically change things about yourself so that you conform more to other people's ideas of how men and women are supposed to be? Could a different solution be to stay a woman, but still be yourself, and maybe challenge someone's idea of how a woman has to be? I'm just throwing these out there as suggestions; obviously, you'll have to decide for yourself.
posted by John Cohen at 10:41 AM on April 28, 2012 [5 favorites]

If you can get your hands on it, there's a Channel 4 (UK) show that was out called something like "My transsexual summer" about MTF and FTM adults (age 18 to 50-ish).

Only slightly related, I'm not a FTM, but I'm another woman who has never really worn make up. I don't have heels, nor do I own a single skirt nor dress (and I hope to never, ever wear either ever again). I hate lingerie shopping and 1/4 of my clothing are men's clothes.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 10:43 AM on April 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

I do not conform to stereotypes. i can and occasionally do, but all clothes are drag to me. I dress for the occasion and I live in hick towns and red states. No one questions my right to exist to my face. And if I hear it, and my hearing is spectacular, I will say something, but I never have to.

Be who you want. If other people can't take it it is not your job to make them comfortable unless you want to.
posted by provoliminal at 10:48 AM on April 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

Also, if you want to surgically transition, email me.
posted by provoliminal at 10:50 AM on April 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

There are a lot of trans men's groups and genderqueer people's groups in the Boston area. Here's one good roundup of resources.

Some good memoirs about ftm transition: Nina Here Nor There, by Nick Krieger; Becoming a Visible Man, by Jamison Green; Both Sides Now, by Dhillon Khosla; and The Testosterone Files by Max Wolf Valerio.

I also love everything by the non-binary-gendered writer, activist, and performer
S. Bear Bergman.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:52 AM on April 28, 2012

Sorry for the bad html. I also meant to include The Last Time I Wore A Dress, by Daphne Scholinski (who is now Dylan Scholinski, but the book was published under his previous legal name).
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:53 AM on April 28, 2012

You may find this Genderqueer FAQ useful.
posted by flex at 10:54 AM on April 28, 2012

Completely seconding cairdeas. I cannot wear makeup, and girl clothes look horrible on me. Honestly, you could be describing me, really, with your history. However, I just sort of stick with the slightly gender-queer but still physically aware of my femaleness (despite so many male brain bits).

This is not saying you are like that. If you really want to do ftm, start with the clothes. Do exactly what cairdeas said. Get some good mens' slacks, be sure you know how to care for them (a trouser press is a godsend, and I wish I still owned one). Also get some mens' dress shirts (I MUCH prefer them to womens' shirts because of how broad my shoulders are, and honestly my beer pudge fits into mens' shirt sizes better), and know how to iron them to perfection.

Shoes are the hard part. I generally go with some mens's dress shoes that, thanks to the trouser cuffs, can't be identified as mens's or womens'. Thanks to bad ankles, I usually go with a high top oxford or wingtip boot. Buy two good pairs of these - one in black and one in brown. They will cost, but they are worth it, and last forever if properly cared for.

I also tend to love mens' sweater vests, as they tend to distract from my boobs.

Also, invest in two very sturdy leather dress belts - one black, one brown - that are mens', that match the tones of black and brown of the boots.

Finally, on days when I'm feeling particularly uncomfortable in my own skin (oh god why do I have all these curves and boobs and GAH!) something that acts to compress down under the clothes is really good. I've owned a few things like this and I'm actually considering buying that one and a few others like it. But remember to wear the right color under the shirt you are wearing that day, so you'll want at least a white, black, and skin-tone one.

I have yet to have a single person comment on my dress when wearing any of these, and it is the sort of thing I've worn to job interviews (including my current tutoring position) and academic events (dinners with well known authors/historians/philosophers and job talks).

I hope all of this helps. And good luck.
posted by strixus at 10:56 AM on April 28, 2012

I'm a cis male who is short (5'6") and has hands smaller than almost all other men I've compared them with. No one would ever describe me as stereotypically feminine.

It's very easy to look at yourself and think "oh my god there is a list of specific things that other people will notice for sure!" (and this is true for a lot of stuff besides gender) but that's usually not how it works. For the most part, people give you a look, put you in one of two boxes based on some rough cues, and that's that. No one's putting your hands under a magnifying glass. =)

Butch lesbians frequently look like attractive men to me (even asked one out once, woops!), and they're not even trying to transition! Dress, hair, and posture make a huge, huge difference.

Lots of good stuff in this thread! I think it's really important for you to be true to yourself. Keep yourself happy.
posted by kavasa at 11:07 AM on April 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm a butch dyke who hasn't worn makeup since high school (for a play) or heels or a skirt since college (for glee club performances). I'm in my 40s. I wear "men's" clothes - to work, for interviews, just hanging around the house. I've known a lot of women like me, some queer and many not. It's completely doable to be female and dress professionally without having to shop in the women's department, is what I'm saying. So there's that.

But! While I sometimes identify as genderqueer, and apparently pass well enough sometimes that strangers call me sir (and I am not lacking in the boob department - people see what they want to see, I guess), I've never been alienated from my female body. I was a tomboy as a kid, and although I sometimes wanted to be a boy, I never felt not-girl.

You may or may not be trans; you may be somewhere else on the spectrum ("genderqueer" is a great catchall for those of us like this, and you can use the term or not in whatever circumstances feel right). What sounds like a really good idea is to reach out to whatever lgbtq organization is in your area to see if they have or can steer you to a support group and/or therapist.

One other thing I want to address: the idea of being a woman that someone else finds attractive is somehow upsetting.

You may be operating from a fairly narrow view of what "woman" is. There's "woman" like, I don't know, one of the Kardashians, and there's "woman" like Rachel Maddow, and there's a million other kinds of "woman." It's really an open-ended performance, which you can interpret any way you like. You really can! You can be a woman who is attractive to someone without being stereotypically female. Both men and women are attracted to non-stereotypically female women - at least, from what I see in my friends, and just random people on the street. I've been hit on by male and female people of various orientations and gender identities, and I'm not exactly magazine cover material. But I feel comfortable in my body and my clothes; getting to the point where you feel that too, whether it involves surgery or hormones or not, will take some work but it isn't at all impossible, I promise.

Good luck. Feel free to get in touch via memail if you want.
posted by rtha at 11:12 AM on April 28, 2012 [19 favorites]

John Cohen, your thoughts on height disadvantages are interesting, but studies have shown that FTMs actually get a (tiny) salary bump after transitioning. Apparently, being a short man is better than being a woman, salary-wise.

My partner is going through this right now. Ze's come out to a limited circle as genderqueer, and is debating changing hir name from a very female one to a nickname that is more traditionally male. Ze's story is a lot like yours. Ze had been using male nicknames for years before it ever occurred to ze that maybe there was something to that. LGBTQ centers deal with this a lot, and is probably a good starting point. A therapist dealing with trans* issues is another good starting point, since you sound uncertain.

For what it's worth, my childhood was a lot like yours, with the ripping dresses off and denying any female-ness, and denying being gay. In my teenage years and early 20's, wearing women's clothes for any reason made me intensely uncomfortable. As I became more comfortable in my skin, those feelings faded, and from where I stand today I am decidedly not trans*. Those feelings were definitely being uncomfortable with the female role in society. I've pretty much stopped caring how I present, and I'm a lot happier. I can wear female clothing when I have to, although typically I'm found in jeans and a t-shirt.

I'm not trying to say that the only place this is coming from is discomfort with traditional clothing, I'm sure there's a lot more going on, but not liking women's clothes in and of themselves doesn't necessarily equal trans*.
posted by zug at 11:30 AM on April 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

Also, with the clothes... I think you will find that when you try on enough men's work slacks, and women's work slacks... you may not feel as much that you are being forced into being a "woman" and looking like a "woman" by wearing work slacks made for women. You may just find, okay, these are the ones I can wear that are big enough in my hips and at the same time don't fall off of me in the waist. Or whatever. They are just cut for proportions of people who have bigger butts/hips/thighs relative to the waist. Men and women can have those proportions which is why hipsters have been wearing "women's" pants the past 15 years.

Anyway if you have trouble finding "men's" pants where you are satisfied with the fit and how the lines look on your body, as you get a bit further into your comfort zone I would recommend finding a unisex fitting room, and gathering up a whole heap of men's and women's pants, mixing them up and just trying one after the other. Forget who the manufacturer says they are for, the important thing is that you feel good in them.
posted by cairdeas at 12:19 PM on April 28, 2012

"Also, I've never had a serious romantic partner of either gender because, well, I can't describe it, but the idea of being a woman that someone else finds attractive is somehow upsetting. "

If you are describing what I think you are, this is not at all uncommon. I was once involved with an FTM guy who I was totally gay for, with what I think is a similar aversion to most people's attraction to him.

I just wanted to mention that, particularly in queer communities, there will be an abundance of folks who would be overjoyed to be attracted to you as a dude with great diversity of feelings about your physically feminine qualities while naked. There are folks who would naturally not really notice, folks who are just attracted to bodies regardless of gender/sex, folks who are attracted to biologically feminine features but only really in dudes, and folks who are just traditionally attracted to women and cool with gender bending, as well as of course the creepy folks who are everywhere.
posted by Blasdelb at 1:24 PM on April 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also, I've never had a serious romantic partner of either gender because, well, I can't describe it, but the idea of being a woman that someone else finds attractive is somehow upsetting.

Just as a data point -- there are many many people are attracted to butch women precisely *because* they are butch/"masculine" women with a female body. So if you are feeling that you are not "woman" enough to be attractive in your current body, seriously, fear not -- there are many (you would not believe how many!) people who are looking for exactly what you (currently) are -- and who are decidedly not looking for a girly girl -- or a man -- as a romantic partner. If this is irrelevant to your consideration, please disregard. Also -- it sounds like maybe you don't hang around with queer people very much. There is a huge spectrum in terms of how people express gender in the queer community; it is perhaps not as binary as you think. Best of luck!
posted by Wordwoman at 1:32 PM on April 28, 2012

If you MeMail me or get the mods to post a throw-away email, I can put you in touch with some people in Boston who are active online. And some people not in Boston, too, if you want.

Most of them are involved in Compass in some way.

The Massachusetts Trans Political Coalition (that's a clumsy name) has a wiki with a list of therapists and advice on picking one and so on. You are not obligated to phone them and say "Hi, I want to transition now." Saying "I don't think I'm ready." or "I'm not sure I want to do this at all." is totally acceptable.

I read your question as you being pretty sure you're trans, but are a bit scared and overwhelmed and not sure what to do. (I'm understanding the things others are understanding as questioning as you not knowing how to express what's in your head. And by 'not knowing' I mean in the sense that I think we'd all be pretty bad at explaining how we know our genders without resorting to stereotypes.)

What's some small thing that would make you more comfortable? The obvious seems buy some item of men's clothing (if you haven't already). Hair cut if you haven't already. Men's shampoo/deodorant, which is the same as women's but with a different set of noxious smells. (Or, opt out of ridiculous gendered smells altogether and buy the Mitchum unscented, which is only marketed to men, for whatever reason.) Bam!, you've started transitioning and you've not committed to anything beyond spending a couple bucks. Chip away until the idea of coming out isn't so intimidating. Or, you know, phone someone up and blurt it. (Or skirt round the issue until they guess.) We don't know who you are, but you've managed to come out to a hundred thousand people (or the entire internet, depending on your perspective), which has to count for something. Or send your best friend a link to this question. You're not obligated to come out right this second, but you can if you want.
posted by hoyland at 2:19 PM on April 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

Also, I've never had a serious romantic partner of either gender because, well, I can't describe it, but the idea of being a woman that someone else finds attractive is somehow upsetting.

This reminds me of certain people's FTM narratives--particularly, folks who dated women before physical/hormonal transition, and then transitioned and found themselves primarily into men. One person expressed that he'd always been attracted to men but didn't feel OK that any men he dated would most likely see him as a woman or at least as feminine because of his breasts, voice, etc. The implication is that dating women was easier because (gay) women more easily saw and acknowledged him (at the time still "her") as masculine, albeit a masculine woman rather than a man.

And there are a lot of people in my world (in the San Francisco Bay Area) who dress in stereotypically male clothing (buttondown shirt, men's dress pants, lace-up oxford shoes, sometimes a tie) for formal wear rather than stereotypically female clothing without intending to pass as male. It's just the formal look that works for them. That's also an option for you if you don't feel or particularly want to pass as male, or something to try while you're figuring things out. .
posted by needs more cowbell at 3:58 PM on April 28, 2012 [6 favorites]

5'3" is a fine height for a man.
posted by slidell at 5:11 PM on April 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

I know you're a little older than their target demographic, but you might get some useful answers from; there's a subforum for gender identity issues where a lot of people share their experiences.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:49 PM on April 28, 2012

I've been gender non-conforming my whole life

I would not take gender non-conformance as a definitive signal about your gender identity. Though it's a complex landscape, to be sure, and I similarly don't want to tell you what your identity is. That's something only you can reflect on; there are good resources linked here for exploring your feelings about that. I just mean to point out that many of my closest friends (and exes) are not particularly gender-conforming, without it deeply affecting their belief about their gender identity. There are lots of ways of being a woman, if that's still what you think you are.
posted by ead at 8:14 PM on April 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

As far as coming out, remember to do it at your pace and not to let anyone push you to do it any faster. It's okay to just come out to one or two close friends for now. It's a good idea to have a few trusted friends who you've come out to early on so that they can be around to support and encourage you if/when you choose to tell more people. When I came out as ftm, I only told my (then) girlfriend at first. Having her as a source of support as I moved on to telling my family, friends, and classmates made the entire process much easier and more comfortable for me.

Are you trans? I don't know. It seems like maybe you don't know for sure right now, and that's okay. It's normal. Don't feel like your gender identity and presentation are an all-or-nothing type scenario. Gender comes in shades of grey and full comfort with and personal acceptance of your gender identity, whatever that may be, is a process. For now, like several others have mentioned, get yourself some clothing that you feel comfortable in. If that means shopping in male-oriented clothing stores, go for it. You are a bit smaller than the average target demographic for such stores, but you'll certainly be able to find things that fit you, look awesome on you, and make you feel fantastic once you figure out which brands work best for smaller, masculine-dressing people.

Regarding being 5'3", don't worry about that! I'm a 5'2", 110 lb (trans) man with fairly small hands and a stereotypically feminine bone structure. I've been out for about 10 years (I'm 25) and an not on hormones or anything, and I pass just fine in most situations. My height is certainly something that is noted when someone is describing my appearance, but aside from needing to reach things on top shelves, it has not been an obstacle for me.

If you want someone to talk things through with, advice on smaller clothing, or anything else, feel free to memail me.
posted by cheerwine at 8:20 PM on April 28, 2012

Some resources:

Genderfork has a lot of people talking about gender and identity and advice for coming out to your parents and friends.
The whole point of My Gender Workbook is to help you out with figuring out your gender identity, so you might want to take a look at that.
Hudson's FTM Resource guide has lots of good stuff

you are SO SO SO not totally alone. there are millions of resources on the internet (forums! and livejournal communities! and tumblr blogs!
for example there is this super awesome webcomic

Also w.r.t. your concerns about not being an "acceptable" guy -- this is WAY EASIER for ftms than for mtfs -- testosterone is amazing stuff, and if you look at before/after pictures of people who took testosterone i think your concerns should be alleviated. My understanding is people pretty much look like male versions of themselves.

Since you say that you feel uncomfortable about women's clothing, you could some experimenting with finding clothes that you *do* feel comfortable in (nobody else has to see you wearing them!). Go to men's clothing stores or thrift stores and try on suits or shirts or ties or men's pants and see how it feels! Try looking at pictures of trans men (on tumblr or whatever), and see if that fits what you feel like you'd like to look like.

If you have $30 or so to spare, buy a binder and see how it feels to wear it and if you like the way it looks.

And definitely definitely definitely find support groups to talk to about this stuff! it will be so great to talk to people who have the same experience.

My experience: I'm also female-bodied and have never worn makeup or jewelery and felt uncomfortable about a lot of this stuff growing up. I tried out lots of this stuff (reading books about being trans / joining trans support groups / wearing binders & men's clothes and seeing how it felt). I probably spent a few years on this. Right now I've decided that I'm actually pretty happy being a woman, and am currently dating a (super awesome) straight guy who likes that i am a woman and i feel pretty comfortable with it. And lots of people try this stuff out and find it is for them and they transition and that works awesome for them. Or they decide to identify permanently as genderqueer and not pick any particular mainstream gender identity. So all you can do is try some things out and see how it feels, really. I still do not wear makeup or jewelery or shave my legs or wear perfume or wear dresses or skirts or any of that shit.
(I still have a binder in my closet, and I like it somehow! things do not have to be black and white either)

feel free to memail me if you want also.
posted by oranger at 8:08 AM on April 29, 2012

A year after my partner started on testosterone, he went to the DMV to change his last inappropriately-gendered bit of documentation, awkwardly clutching his doctor's letter and amended birth certificate. Before he had a chance to explain anything or show his papers, the counter guy looked at his license, started to laugh and said "Hahaha it says you're a woman! Wow that's awkward, I guess you want me to change that for you. It'll just take a minute, don't worry." And that was that.

My fiancé transitioned (FtM) two years ago. Don't worry about the physical cues, at all. Hormones are amazing things. If you think your delicate bone structure makes your face look feminine, hormones would redistribute the fat on your face in a more masculine way, thicken your jawline a bit etc. My partner is 5 foot 2, has small hands, and always passes because there are now a thousand little cues about his appearance which make him read male. And yes, it sucks to be a short dude, but he's overall much happier than he was before transition (and more confident, which has professional benefits).

Trans men are often in a much better position re. discrimination and harassment than trans women. Your anxiety about little cues tipping people off is unfortunately sometimes more applicable to trans women, since if they transition later in life they have to go to a LOT more trouble to reverse all the pubertal processes of masculinization. Trans men are mostly invisible to the general public; it's a very mixed blessing but does mean that your average lager-swilling queer-basher may not even know that it's possible for someone to transition male to female. I don't want to minimize the danger if you get outed by other means, especially in a small town. But if you currently read as a genderqueer female, and people assume you're a lesbian, the risks are comparable.

Re telling family and friends, my partner had the benefit of being able to go away for some months to New York and start transitioning. By the time he saw people he knew again he was so visibly altered that it was easier for him and them to adjust to the change. This may not be possible, but you can replicate some of the effects so that people find it harder to remember your old appearance. For example, take down all facebook pics of you looking feminine, and put up a couple of well-chosen masculine shots.

All of this response has taken as read that you may continue to want to transition, and I'm not going to second-guess you. That said if you've spent a substantial portion of your life in rural areas, you'll probably enjoy exposure to other genderqueer people of all stripes once you get to Boston, and that may give you more ideas about how you want to live. Feel free to memail me!
posted by pickingupsticks at 9:02 AM on April 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm not going to try to diagnose you. That's something only you can do.

There's a lot to unpack here so let me preface this by saying feel free to memail me if you want to talk to someone who is undergoing transition (ftm) and had a very similar experience (I was in my early 20s when I started this). I promise I won't force you to do anything or attempt to diagnose you, I just found it helped me a lot to have someone to bounce ideas off of when I was questioning.

I have friends who are 5'1", have tiny hands, tiny feet (6.5 women's) and who are seen as completely cis even by people who are surrounded by trans guys undergoing transition. Small physical stature is really not as much of a barrier as people make it out to be. Yeah, ok, some people will be shitty about it... but that's likely for anything. Do not let this stop you. (Hell, one of my friends was a stripper before he transitioned and he passes 100%.)

A lot of us (my FTM friends and I) have struggled with "am I just struggling with sexism and social norms about women or am I trans?". You are not alone in that respect either. This isn't really something I can explain concisely in a comment but if you want to, again, feel free to memail me.

For what it's worth, your comments about not wanting to be considered attractive as a woman and not wanting to be a grown up woman resonate with me.

Anyway, for coming out to people... there's no 100% fullproof way. I used a variety of methods: email, in person, telephone, blurted run-on sentence in the car, awkward grapevine exploitation... None of them were anxiety-free but I did not have anyone really flip out (well, my brother, but he's since come around). Tailor your coming out method to who you're talking to and don't feel obligated to do things a certain way ever - your comfort and safety is what counts.
posted by buteo at 8:10 PM on April 29, 2012

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