Gender Expression is Yours To Make
We love to say it: There’s NO ONE WAY to be trans. There’s no one way to experience gender or to express your gender. There’s also no one way to transition. There’s no one way to be masculine or feminine – and these are some of the reasons we use terminology like “Gettin’ Square” and “Gettin’ Curvy” rather than “masculinizing” or “feminizing.” Some patients include exogenous (taken, not makin’) hormones in their transition, and some don’t. Some include surgeries; some don’t. Your journey is valid, and we’re here to help source tips on ways to build your gender expression toolkit that helps you be the most fantastic, euphoric, essential, fabulous YOU.
We also want to recognize that there may be overlapping, and not always positive, reasons why any one person might not take hormones or get surgery. And importantly, we want to recognize that “masculinity” as portrayed and embodied in much of current media in the United States, where we are based, is patriarchal, colonial, and racist. We strive to understand what masculinity means to each of our patients who embrace it and to support their exploration and alignment of their outward selves with their inner sense of self.
This article is about some of the tools available to help you achieve a more angular, squarer body or appearance.
Check out Jessie Rard’s guest blog for workout strategies to build a broader and more V-shaped torso.
We’re proud members of team Makeup is For Anyone Who Wants To, but many people still associate makeup with femme presentations. It doesn’t have to be, and it can be a fabulous tool for changing your appearance.
Contouring can enhance angles and broaden or lengthen the appearance of facial features. Brow products can change the shape and fullness of your brows. Also! If you don’t want the world to see dark circles, acne, or other skin issues that can pop up, concealer is gender-neutral!
We searched out tutorials from trans folk. We found these useful and/or fun, with tips for contouring cheekbones, jawlines, nose, browbones and temples for a more angular looks, and altering the appearance of eyebrows and hairlines:
MXMorphing’s base face and a little extra on the eyes.
Travis Fiero’s daily face.
GreenT’s stop where you want to face.
Clothing for a more angular look widens the shoulders, flattens the chest, de-emphasizes the waist, and narrows the hips.
Binders and Tape (Trans Tape and K Tape) flatten the chest.
Trans LifeLine’s Binding Guide is an excellent intro to binding, and Fenway Health’s Binding Resources Guide provides links to resources and a binding FAQ. We also link to several providers and resources on our Gender Expression Resource page.
Binders are undergarments, often made out of synthetic materials, that compresses tissue to provide a flatter appearance. Binders should not be worn overnight and may limit the range of motion or be uncomfortable.
TransTape and kinesthesiology tape can also flatten the appearance of chest tissue. It’s essential to only use tape intended for application on the body (avoid duct tape and ACE bandages.) Some benefits of tape are that it can be worn for several days in a row, in the shower and pool, is not an added layer of clothing, and may be less noticeable than a binder. The adhesive may irritate sensitive skin, however. Check out TransTape’s video gallery for application instructions.
If binders or tape are not accessible, wearing layered sports bras can also flatten the chest. Pay attention to the elastic bands to ensure they are not too tight so as to cause indentations or constrict blood flow or range of motion. Wearing too small of a size may draw attention to the chest rather than minimizing it. There are several funds and programs out there that provide binders to folx who can’t otherwise access them.
Packers add volume to the crotch. Options range from suggestive bulges to realistic phalluses and from DIY to silicone models hand-painted to match your skin tone. We published some guest reviews of prosthetics for sexual activity a few months ago and some models that can be used for both packing and play. UrBasics has a good packing essentials guide and flattening tape application videos. More links to providers can be found on our Gender Expression Resources page.
Finding your unique style may take time and trying on a lot of outfits. Some tips for a squarer, more angular appearance:
Opt for “structured” styles of clothing. Structured generally means that the garment can hold its shape – this is often accomplished by a combination of pattern construction and fabric weight. Seams can create angular forms and instruct the eyes to look along the lines. Often more structured clothing is also made of thicker and firmer fabric, making it less drapey and less likely to accentuate curves. The difference between structured and unstructured can be as simple as a button-down shirt vs. a well-loved band tee shirt.
Natural fabrics are often more suited to structured looks. Bonus: they are often more breathable and may help you keep cooler during summer months, especially if you’re wearing multiple layers.
Consider a closer fit rather than a baggy one. To emphasize the broadness of your shoulders, look for shirts that are tighter on the shoulder and looser at the waist. Rolling up long sleeves can also highlight your shoulders. Darker colors and patterns can also pull the eye towards the edges of the garment.
Aim for not-tight but not-too loose pants. Form-fitting pants emphasize curves. Pants that are too big may lead to an impression that you are younger and shorter than you are, which may not be the impact you’re looking for. Straight-leg jeans and trousers are a good choice – they may be called “classic,” “regular,” or “original” fit. Men’s pants sizes are waist measurement X inseam measurement. Your inseam is the distance between your crotch and your ankle.
- A professional tailor can help alter clothes to suit your frame. Many major department stores will tailor for a small fee, but your local LGBTQ+ community may also have accomplished sewists. We love keeping queer money in the queer community.
- Detailed instructions on how to hem jeans.
- Tips for what to look for in formal wear and your first suit. (We’ve heard many good things about Men’s Wearhouse’s affirming professionalism, too.)
- Aaron Ansuini’s personal reflections on combating dysphoria with his clothing choices warmed our hearts with his honesty and charisma: Tops and Bottoms.
- Underwear: a handy compilation of options from TransgenderMap.
There’s nothing like your first affirming cut. If you’re still looking for your signature look, we’re fond of Queerty’s guide to hairstyles.
Where Do You Go For A Cut?
Strands For Trans is a directory of affirming stylists.
Check with your local LGBTQ Community Center or queer social group for recommendations.
We recently wrote a series of blogs about voice training. Check them out:
Surgeries and Procedures
Facial masculinization surgery can involve changing the shape of the face through bone and cartilage contouring, adding or removing fat deposits, adding implants, and hair transplantation.
There are options for non-surgical changes to your face. Botox can lower and flatten the brow. Fillers can add volume to the nose, chin, and jaw.
Aedit.com offers an overview of both surgical and non-surgical procedures for body and face.
Pumping, or injection of free silicon, is a more common procedure among transgender folx who want to be curvier, but you may hear about it. It is often very cost-effective as it is not provided in medical facilities. Medical providers generally do not offer this option due to short- and long-term potentially severe health consequences or utilize only very minute quantities of free silicone. We recommend you speak with a knowledgeable healthcare professional before participating in a pumping procedure. This way, you can weigh the potential benefits and risks and make an informed decision about what works for you.
We won’t write in detail about gender affirming surgeries or top and bottom surgeries in this blog, because we’ll be publishing that blog next week!
Got suggestions for retailers and services to add to our Gender Expression resource page? Please let us know!