Appearance Hair

Three Tips for Choosing Your MtF Wig

If you are transitioning from male to female, you have probably considered getting a wig. Whether you have short hair or have male pattern baldness, a wig can be an important part of creating an authentic feminine look and make you immediately feel better about your appearance.

Unfortunately, it’s really hard to find good information on wigs for trans folks, and it can feel overwhelming, especially if you’ve never had any exposure or experience with them before.

I wore a wig for the first year of my transition, and I still occasionally wear one to this day. They’re great if you know what to look for, and can be a fun way to try a new color or hairstyle without any regrets!

There are lots of good options for wigs that won’t break the bank; but like most things, you get what you pay for, and I think its worth spending a bit more on a good quality wig since your hair is such an important part of your appearance.

Tip 1: Get a Lace Wig

First things first, you need to decide what kind of wig to buy. Their all different kinds, but I recommend a lace wig, either front or full lace. These will give you the most realistic look, and can be left on for days at a time with only minimal touch up – you can even shower and swim in them if you like!

A lace wig is one where the hair is tied onto a very thin mesh or tulle fabric (called a lace). The hairs at the edge of the lace are usually hand tied and plucked to give you a realistic looking hairline. A front-lace wig only has lace at the front and is meant to be worn down, while a full lace wig will have lace all around the circumference and can be styled and worn anyway you choose.

The downside of lace wigs is that they’re more expensive than other types, and they take a bit longer to apply. In order for the lace to adhere to your skin, you need to use a wig glue and apply it all around the edge of the wig. This can take some time, but the upside is you can then wear the wig for an extended period, and even sleep in it if you like!

There are two front-lace wigs on Amazon that I’ve tried and recommend, a 12” and a 22”. Both are relatively low-cot and worth giving a try if you want to see how it looks.

After you get your lace wig, you’ll need to trim the lace to match your desired hairline.

Last note: if you can, get a lace that matches your skin tone. It can be hard to blend a darker lace into your makeup if you have lighter skin.

Tip 2: Pay More for a Human Hair Wig

Cheaper wigs are usually made of synthetic fibers, and are hard to make look realistic. If you’re interested in looking your best, nothing is better than a real human hair wig:

  1. They last longer than synthetics.
  2. They’re easier to wash and style since you can use any normal hair product and heat.
  3. They feel better.

The downside is cost; human hair wigs can be more expensive than synthetics (but still quite reasonable). Some people prefer virgin hair wigs (meaning they’ve never been dyed or treated) but those are really expensive and don’t provide much benefit. A Remy hair wig still has the cuticle attached and is collected in bunches, so the hair all runs in one direction and looks shiny and natural.

If you’re looking for a good source of full or front-lace human hair wigs, I recommend LaceWigsBuy – they have a pretty wide selection in stock (and a hug selection custom made to order) with fast shipping.

Tip 3: Get a Shorter Wig

As appealing as long flowing locks might seem, long hair can be frustrating. If you’ve never had long hair before, I recommend going with a 12” or 14” wig first. You’ll need to learn how to handle, wash and style your hair (its a lot!) and it can be overwhelming if you’re trying to figure it out with almost 2 feet of hair.

A 12” wig will go down to your shoulders and you can still put up in a pony-tail or behind your ears.

Some Final Tips

A few other things I learned wearing a wig.

  1. When you first get your wig (or put it on after storing it) you’ll want to make sure it lays down on the top of your head. Use a hot comb for a few minutes to help the hair lay down, avoiding that ‘poofy’ unkempt look.
  2. Be liberal with hair and anti-friz spray. Wigs can collect static and be hard to get ‘down’ than your natural hair, and again, you want to avoid the poofy look.
  3. If you want an extra realistic hairline, don’t be afraid to pluck some of the hairs in the lace so the pattern is more realistic. Especially with cheaper wigs that have been made by machine, the hair is in exact rows which doesn’t look natural (but you can only tell if you look really closely).
  4. Don’t be afraid to trim around the ears, especially if you have a smaller forehead. Most wigs are made to standard sizes, and can hang over your ears if you don’t trim them up (or make your ears stick out).

I hope this helps! Let me know if you have any other wig questions in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer!

Body Care Transition Support

Does the Tria work for beards?

Why yes, yes it does! I was able to basically eliminate the dark beard hairs on my face in about 6 months. But, you have to use it a bit differently than for other types of body hair. I’ll walk you through the process I used.

Lots of people, both cis and trans, would rather do without their beard. There are many options for dealing with facial hair, but laser removal or electrolysis can be expensive (a few thousand dollars) and time consuming (months).

One appealing solution is to use an at home hair removal product, of which there are two types: IPL (or intensely pulsed light) or Laser. Both are similar, in that they use light to kill the cells that build the hair follicle, but Laser removal is much more effective for beards. These products usually run in the low hundreds of dollars, rather than thousands for professional laser treatments.

Besides being cheaper, at home treatment is also a lot more convenient and potentially faster to see results, since you can do more treatment in smaller chunks.

The best at home laser product is the Tria 4x. Unlike other products, this is actually a class 1 laser, similar to what a professional laser hair removal machine will use. But, because it is for home use, it is lower powered in order to improve safety; commercial machines usually run 30-40 joules/cm2, while the Tria maxes out at 20 joules/cm2. Because of this, you need to do a few special things for it to work effectively.

How Laser Hair Removal Works

Laser hair removal works by turning light into heat, which then kills the cells that grow your hair. The laser is specially designed to emit light that is only absorbed by the darker pigment in your hair follicles (the light is around 810 nm, or in the infrared range that is invisible to the eyes). Once it is absorbed, the hair follicle heats up and this heat then spreads to the cells around it, killing them. If you reach a high enough temperature then the hair is prevented from growing back, but too high and you burn the skin around the hair follicle.

This is why laser hair removal generally works best for people with brown or black hair and fair skin; if the skin is too dark, then the laser will heat up skin cells, causing burns. If the hair is too light, the laser light passes right through without being absorbed.

You actually have two types of hair on your body.

  • Vellus hairs: the soft, ‘peach fuzz’ hairs on your arms, legs and rest of your body.
  • Terminal hairs: the thicker, darker hairs on your head, pubic area, armpits and face (in men).

Because Vellus hairs are smaller, and usually grow closer to the surface of the skin, it takes less energy to permanently remove them. Terminal hairs are thicker and grow farther down in the skin, meaning it takes more laser energy to generate the heat necessary to kill the growing cells.

Regardless of the type, you body hairs generally grow for 2-3 weeks then go dormant for 6-8 weeks. They’ll repeat this cycle until they die and fall out, to be replaced by a new follicle. This is why laser treatments usually are staggered over months: you need to do it multiple times to catch the hairs in the process of growth in order to kill them. Each time you do a laser treatment, you’re only catching 10-20% of the hairs in their growth phase.

Using the Tria on Your Face

As mentioned above, the Tria is primarily recommended for Vellus hair removal. But you certainly can use it on your face (or any other part of your body to remove terminal hairs) if you use it slightly differently than recommended for body hair.

To start, you’re going to pick a few square inches of your face to start with. When I started, I focused on the upper lip and chin of the left side of my face so I could see if it was working.

Each day, you will slowly increase the intensity of the laser until you get to the max ‘5’ setting. At that point, you’ll do up to five pulses in the same place in order to get enough energy deep to the hair follicle to kill the cells. Remember, terminal hairs grow deeper than vellus hairs, so require more laser energy.

I generally do 5-10 minutes up to 100 pulses every day until the area is hair free, then move on to another area. You can also rotate each week, but you want to make sure you hit the same area with the highest power pulses for a few days in order to permanently remove the hair.

One thing to note: this hurts. If you’re doing it right, it will feel like a hot needle poking your skin (but only for a fraction of a second). The pain goes away immediately, but I recommend focusing on shorter sessions more frequently in order to reduce discomfort. When the pain at a particular setting decreases, you’ll want to increase the power. If the pain is too intense, you can use a lidocaine spray to help numb the skin. It doesn’t eliminate the pain, but certainly makes it more bearable.

  • Week 1: Setting 2-3, 50-100 pulses per day. Move the laser slightly between each pulse.
  • Week 2: Setting 3-4, 50-100 pulses per day. Move the laser slightly between each pulse.
  • Week 3: Setting 4-5, 50-100 pulses per day. Move the laser slightly between each pulse.
  • Week 4: Setting 5, 50-100 pulses per day. Keep the laser on the same spot for 3-5 consecutive pulses. Each pulse should feel ‘hotter’ than the last and deeper under the skin; it hurts, but means the intensity is high enough to remove the hair.

You’ll want to make sure to come back to areas you’ve already treated every few months, until all the desired hairs are gone.


Here is a picture after the first month or so of my upper lip. I focused more on the right side of the picture, and there is a noticeable reduction in the number of whiskers.

After about 6 months, I was mostly hair free of any dark hairs on my face. I had a naturally splotchy beard though, so if you have more full facial hair, it will take longer.

I can go out in the morning without makeup and have no visible 5 o’clock shadow!

Though the dark hairs are gone, I still have a fair number of lighter colored hairs on my face. Someday, I may get electrolysis to remove those, but since they aren’t really visible I use an electric razor to remove them every few days.

Let me know what you think in the comments!

Transition Support

How to Start Your MtF Transition

Welcome, and congratulations! If you’ve landed here, you’re at least curious about what it might take to transition to female, and that in itself is a big step. Or you may already be on your way, and looking for tips and guides for how to improve things.

Every person’s journey is different, and there is no right or wrong way to transition; but there are things you can do to make the process easier on yourself and those you choose to bring along with you on this adventure. The goal of this post, and this site in general, is to provide the basics and more advanced topics for those who are looking to transition from male to female, and to take some of the mystery out of the process. Think of this as a roadmap – I’ll help you understand the landmarks, and what to look for, but ultimately it’s up to you to take the steps and explore all there is to see and enjoy.

Before we get too far, its worth acknowledging that this journey isn’t without its risks, and will be a very stressful, embarrassing, emotional and anxious process. You are creating a new you, and asking everyone in your life (or at least those you choose), to undergo the process of creation along with you, whether they want to or not. This is a complicated process that is hard for everyone, and even the most supportive, loving family and friends will struggle at some points, just as you will.

But that said, if you’re seriously exploring transitioning genders, it means that you are driven by a deeper need to explore the unknown and to find your true self. The wonderful thing is that the destination is whatever you choose it to be, wherever you find your sense of happiness and acceptance.

Preparing for your MtF journey

Which leads us to the starting point. Like any good journey, the first, and most important step of any MtF transition is the planning. In the same way you wouldn’t set off into the jungle without some basic equipment and skills, you’ll want to spend some time preparing the things you’ll need, and need to know, in order to make your transition as comfortable and gratifying as possible.

There are 5 things you’ll need to assemble, learn and decide on before you begin.

  1. An end goal. Transition means different things to everyone, so clearly, and specifically outlining your goal is the most important step.
  2. The basic skills. Depending on your goal, you’ll need to learn how to change your hair, makeup, clothes, voice and anything else necessary for reflecting your vision.
  3. A strategy. You have a few of different options for how you want to approach your transition – do you need to go fast, or can you take it slow? Do you want to transition gradually as your body changes, or all at once and let the physical changes catch up?
  4. Your transition support team. You need a team of people who can support you during and after your transition. You don’t have to go it alone. I’ve written more about this in another blog post.
  5. A timeline. Once you’ve figured out your route and prepared, its time to pick a starting point and the major milestones you’d like to reach along the way.

The Goal: Where do you want to go?

Transitioning is really hard. That said, we are living in a world where there is more support, knowledge and understanding of fluid gender identity than ever before. This means that there are a range of transition options that are available and supported. For many people, the goal is full transition to female, up to and including gender confirmation surgery (GRS/SRS).

For many though, the journey is one of exploration, where the goal is more uncertain. Perhaps you are simply interested in exploring your feminine side during specific times, but largely continuing to live as a male. Or you might be considering how to integrate your feminine attributes into a non-binary or gender fluid presentation. Or maybe you just want to have feminine breasts and keep everything else the same. These are all completely valid and viable end goals, unique to each individual.

Whatever you choose, you will want to have a visual or emotional picture of what the end of the journey is. This might be a picture of a woman you feel a specific connection to. Or it might be a painting, or a poem, or a word. Whatever it is, you’ll want to choose something that is both inspiring and also specific enough to help you find your way along your journey.

It’s important to remember you can change your goal at any point; most people do. Transition is a process of learning, and you’ll be happier if you allow yourself to update what your end goal is based on what you’ve learned you like or don’t like. I know plenty of trans women who start out with a very femme vision of themselves in their new gender identity, but after a few years trend towards something a bit less over-the-top girly.

The Basic Skills: What do you need to learn and buy?

Regardless of what your goal is, you have a lot to learn! On my own journey, I’ve made a running list of all the things I’ve had to learn, many of which I only discovered when I was well on my way.

This will usually include hair, makeup and clothes. For most trans women, voice training is also a key requirement for passing as a woman. For more information on where to go to learn these skills (there are people much better than me!) check out the resources page.

In addition to the skills, you’ll also want to plan a budget for all the things you need to buy. A basic budget might look like:

  • Bras/Underwear: $400
  • Work Clothes: $1,500
  • Casual Clothes: $1,000
  • Hair Products: $100
  • Wig: $300
  • Makeup: $300
  • Miscellaneous: $500

In addition to the one-time costs, you’ll also want to plan on ongoing expenses like hair appointments, nails/waxing, and hair removal treatments.

This obviously doesn’t include any surgery costs, which can be tens of thousands of dollars. Some of that may be covered by your insurance, but for most trans women, things like Facial Feminization Surgery (FFS) still aren’t.

The Strategy

There is no wrong way to transition, but there are strategies that can ensure you have the time and space to take care of yourself and those you love as you transition.

A lot of people assume that once they have made the decision to transition, they immediately have to tell everyone and change their appearance, pronouns and name. Though this may seem appealing at first, it also puts you under a lot of stress. Not only does that mean you have to do and manage a lot of complicated, emotional things at once, it also means you have less time to learn along the way. Transitions are a journey, not a race, and though it might feel desperately urgent to transition, planning to give yourself some time and space is important so you don’t get overwhelmed.

Generally, I encourage people to first practice the skills necessary to successfully transition, then once they are comfortable, slowly engage the people in their lives in the process of transition.

Some questions you’ll want to think about are:

  • Who do you need to tell? Who do you want to tell first? Who do you trust to open up to about your journey and goals?
  • How do you want to handle rejection? Do you want to engage with people who don’t support you, or move on immediately?
  • How will you answer the inevitable questions like ‘why?’ and ‘are you sure?’
  • When do you want to change your name? Are you comfortable living under your old name while you transition, or do you want to assume a new name immediately?
  • How will you handle your professional relationships? Do you want to continue in your current job or find a new one?
  • What are the barriers unique to your life? If you are going to change your name, what needs to be changed as well (like loans, legal documents, etc).
  • If you have a significant other, what do you hope and expect from them during the transition? Do you have contingency plans if they can’t or won’t provide those things?

Having at least considered these questions before you transition can provide a helpful set of inputs to your process. Sometimes the downside risks are very real, and should be considered carefully even though they may not change your ultimate decision.

Your Transition Support Team

As I wrote about separately, you will benefit immensely by having a team of professionals who can support you in your journey. At minimum, I suggest seeking out the following types of people:

  • A therapist: you’ll need someone who you trust and can help you understand and heal from a lifetime of trauma.
  • A primary care physician: a good doctor who can help you to navigate the long-term health implications of a gender transition.
  • A professional coach: someone who can help you to navigate the professional challenges unique to trans people.

Be sure to give yourself plenty of time to find these people; building a solid relationship that you trust takes time.

A Timeline: When do you want to reach certain goals?

A transition is actually a lot of small milestones. As you set out, its helpful to set some goals for when you want to reach those points, and how long you want to take to get there. Some people want to move as quickly as possible, while others may have larger life events they’d like to plan around. There is no right answer, just the process that works for you.

Some key milestones in my own transition (and timelines)

  • Learning the basics: 3-4 months
    • Hair and makeup took about 2 months
    • Clothes took 2 months
  • Voice training: 6 months of daily 30-60 minutes of practice before I felt like my voice was passable.
  • Transitioning to my closest personal relationships: 4 months
  • Transitioning my professional relationships: 12 months

All total, my transition took about 2 years. In the first year, I focused on the core skills and the people closest to me. In year 2, I focused on my extended personal and professional network. By that point, I was a passable woman, which helped me to move beyond some of the doubt and uncertainty that comes with the early transition phases.

I hope this helps you have a big picture view of what a transition can require. As the old saying goes, the devil is in the details, but you’ll never make progress unless you take the first step and start your own journey.

Best of luck and let me know how its going in the comments.

Health Mental Health Transition Support

Building A Team to Support Your Gender Transition

Transitions are hard, but you don’t have to do it alone. Though it is largely a personal journey, it can be extremely helpful to find the right people who can help you navigate the physical, emotional and social challenges required by a transition.

One theme I keep coming back to is how much there is to learn when transitioning genders. Even after a couple of years, I was still finding out how little I knew about certain subjects, and how much I was still learning about myself. Having a group of people I can rely on as new challenges arise helps to keep me emotionally and physically healthy.

These professional roles are in no particular order, but I’ve found each to be a really important and ongoing part of my life. The upside of COVID is that it is now easier than ever to build a support network of people who may not live in the same city as you; especially if you are in a part of the US that is increasingly transphobic, you can find and work with people who are accepting of you.

A Therapist

I know of many people who have transitioned without the help of a therapist, but this is one of those supporting relationships that I can’t imagine doing without. More than anything, gender transition is about integrating a lifetime of traumas and fundamentally changing the way you look at yourself and your place in the world. Doing this alone is incredibly difficult.

A good therapist is someone who can help us reach a new perspective on our lived experience which has so often been warped by the negative influences of the people in our lives. On my own journey, the hardest part of transition has been dealing with the constant sense of shame and failure that I’d lived with for a lifetime. For example, having someone who could tell me, from the outside, “that makes sense why you would want to grow breasts” was a shockingly validating experience; I had lived for so long thinking I was crazy.

Finding a therapist is more than making an appointment; you need to build a relationship with someone you can trust and work with long-term. It took me almost three years of seeing my therapist once a week before I felt like I could talk about my gender identity.

I would recommend searching for someone who is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT), even if you’re not married or in a relationship. They typically have more experience dealing with the types of family trauma common to trans people, as well as training that you will find helpful when navigating your own interpersonal relationships during transition.

A Primary Care Physician

Transitions take a toll on your body, and in some cases can lead to unexpected health consequences. Finding a good primary care physician who can help you make informed decisions about your health is a long-term win. You’ll want to find someone who has direct experience working with trans patients, and can to tailor your hormone regimen along with other lifestyle changes to help you meet your goals.

I know many trans people who have worked exclusively with an endocrinologist during their transition, but I think there is great value in finding a primary care doc with a wider range of knowledge and experience beyond the effects of estrogen and progesterone.

Transitions involve more than your hormones; for example, do you know when to start and how often you should get a mammogram? There is actually a lot of conflicting advice on this, with some doctors saying trans women don’t need mammograms as the breast tissue is different, more typically gynocomastic, than cis women. Other doctors will advise you to get a mammogram as often as cis women (yearly depending on age) as the breast tissue actually is similar and includes the ducts and lobules where breast cancer tends to start.

Obviously, the consequences of getting bad advice here are obvious. Questions like these can and should be answered with the advice of a good primary care doc well versed in the standards of care for trans patients.

A Professional Coach

Managing a career is a tough prospect for anyone, and those transitioning genders face some unique challenges. Having a dedicated career or professional coach can be an important source of support and advice as you attempt to navigate your professional and personal relationships.

I frequently encounter people frustrated that they have to spend a lot of time managing others’ feelings when they decide to transition. This is absolutely true, but honestly, is not really different than what any successful person has to be doing constantly in their career. Managing other people and their emotional reactions (either formally as a boss, or informally as a peer or subordinate) is just part of the game.

What can help is having someone you can vent to and brainstorm with on how to handle those particularly tough relationships that require the most care. At the end of the day, there will always be people who control your success to some degree, and avoiding the conflicts and finding the opportunities within those relationships is what long-term success is built on. A practiced career coach is the person to help you do this, and help you hold yourself accountable to your own goals.

Your Informal Support Network

Last, but certainly not least, is your informal support network. Each person has their own version of this: it is your spouse, children, family, co-workers and friends. These are the people you can rely on for support in challenging times, or just to make you feel good on a Saturday afternoon.

Having and strengthening these relationships during your transition can be immensely gratifying, and is an opportunity to invite the people you love to grow with you on your journey.

Some Practical Challenges

I’m sure reading this, a lot of people will be thinking “sure, sounds great, but how do I find and pay for all these supportive people?” Transgender men and women are often struggling to just make ends meat, and these additional supports probably don’t feel like they’re in the budget.

As I mentioned above, COVID has dramatically changed how we connect with the people in our lives. Finding your support network is a lot easier today, where most therapists, doctors and coaches have been seeing clients remotely for the last year. This opens up a lot of opportunities to seek out those who you may not have considered prior to COVID.

The key thing about finding the right person who can support you is knowing what you are looking for. By far, the most important thing is finding people who you can be open and honest with, and who you feel respect you and your experiences. At the same time, you want people who have different areas of expertise and will challenge you, and not always in ways that are comfortable. The point of building a support team is to expand your source of knowledge and experience, and you can only do that with people who know more than you do about certain things and who you trust to tell you uncomfortable truths.

So how to pay for it? In my experience, most professionals in these positions are willing to be flexible with rates depending on your ability to pay. There is nothing wrong with seeking them out, building a connection, and being honest about your ability to pay. Some may decline, but most will be able to provide fees that work for your unique situation.

I’d love to hear what relationships you’ve found most helpful in supporting your transition.

Health Mental Health

Where are you on the transition spectrum?

Anyone who has worked to change their gender identity has gone through periods of self doubt. There are very few, if any, people who undergo a gender transition and feel immediately and completely sure of their decision 100% of the time. One of the hardest and most insidious forms of doubt comes from comparing the self you are and want to be with an external ideal of the gender you are moving towards. Sometimes, this is from being unable to change the parts of you that you want to leave behind; other times, its feeling like a fraud because you want to keep some of the ‘guy’ or ‘girl’ attributes you like.

As a trans person in my 30s, I struggled with this a lot (and still do from time to time). There was a tension between the ‘male’ parts of me I had grown to love and the external ideal of what it meant to be a ‘woman’ or ‘feminine’. Sometimes, it felt like a binary choice – either completely change everything about me to match a ‘feminine’ ideal, or I was a fraud.

I love trucks, woodworking and building things; not traditionally feminine activities (at least as I was raised). Emotionally, I am warm but a bit a reserved (thanks dysfunctional Aspergers family!) For a long time I felt torn; in order to be a real woman did I need to give these things up? Did keeping them as a part of my life somehow make me less of a woman?

Are you struggling with doubt? First, let me tell you that doubt is ok, and doesn’t mean you are on the wrong track. Second, whatever you decide is right for you, you’ve still ‘transitioned’. Third, you are a beautiful, whole person just the way you are. Any changes, however small, you choose to make to yourself in order to improve your mental health are significant and important.

There are many types of transition

Transition is complex, unique and individual, just like genders. In the same way we now recognize that people integrate different parts of gender into their identity, we also can accept that transitions fall into a broad range of experiences.

Why is this important? As you progress on your own gender transition, it is easy to get caught up in the same pattern of comparing yourself to an external ideal, just a differently gendered one. There is no ‘perfect’ female you have to be, just like there is no perfect ‘male’ ideal that you probably felt unfairly judged against.

I believe in a very broad definition of a gender transition: changing any part of your external appearance or actions to better align with your internal identity.

This can mean a lot of things. Some people embrace transition as an opportunity to completely change who they appear to be on the outside, including their names and gender pronouns. Others take a less aggressive approach, changing some parts of their appearance but ultimately keeping the majority of their current identity. Whatever you decide to do, there really is no wrong answer: transition simply means bringing your outward self into better alignment with your inner self.

It’s the journey, not the destination

The most important benefit from transitioning, I believe, is the process rather than then end result. In order to begin a transition, you first have to acknowledge to yourself and others that who you feel like on the inside is different than the person perceive you on the outside. Next, you have to have an affirmative picture of what you want to be to better reflect that person on the inside. Finally, you have to put it into action, and actually go through the process of evolution and change.

Each of these steps requires an enormous amount of self-reflection and growth. Regardless of where you end up, you’ll have done a lot of hard work engaging with and accepting who you are.

Its important to discover what is driving you from the inside. What is it you like, what is it you want? What attributes are you looking for, what makes you happy?

Finding an answer, any answer, that works for you is what matters, not meeting some external ideal. Ultimately, gender transition on its own isn’t going to make you happier; the hard work of identifying, accepting and embracing who you are as a person is what leads to happiness.

The gender transition spectrum

In my work as a coach, I find there are generally 3 motivations driving people who are exploring a transition.

  • Gender curiosity: wanting to explore alternative aspects of gender, primarily to decide what you like and don’t like.
  • Gender affinity: already identified aspects of a different gender you like and want to move towards. Think of the things about your identity (or desired identity) that give you pleasure and make you happy.
  • Gender dysphoria: specific aspects of your current gender identity or body that you want to move away from. These are the things that cause you distress that you want to change or remove.

Rather than isolated categories, you can think of these as different parts of a broad spectrum of motivations. Some people feel dysphoria much more strongly, but without affinity for a different gender; these people tend to move in the non-binary/androgynous direction. Others feel a strong sense of affinity without overwhelming dysphoria; they tend to transition later in life. Finally, those that feel strong dysphoria and affinity to another gender make a full transition earlier in life.

Each one of these is valid, and many people experience different aspects of these motivations at some point, or all together.

Practical implications for your transition

Though theory is nice, I’ve found there are a few tangible benefits this approach can have for making sense of, and peace with, your transition experience.

  • Name it to tame it – the old therapist saying actually has some value. Having a framework through which to view and structure the blob that is ‘transition’ can be really helpful in both understanding which motivations are affirming/positive vs dysphoric/negative.
  • Be free to be creative – because every transition is different, and every person’s collection of dysphorias and affinities is unique, transition can mean whatever you want it to.
  • Take it slow – figuring all this stuff out takes a lot of time. In my own experience, over time some things I though were dysphorias turned out to be more subtle. Likewise, affinities turned out to be short-term preferences rather than long-term needs.
  • Do what makes you happy – do and be the things you love, regardless of how you think others will categorize them, and whether or not they fit into a particular ideal. The goal is to be happy, not confined.

Lastly, you are perfect just the way you are today, and you will be perfect no matter what you decide to be in the future.

I’d love to hear, does this map to your experience of transition?


Natural Options for MtF Hormone Replacement Therapy

For any number of reasons, there are people who are looking for alternatives to the traditional prescribed synthetic HRT drugs. Maybe you have ethical concerns with using synthetic hormones, or maybe you simply have very bad side-effects from the specific pharmaceuticals. Whatever the reason, its worth understanding that there are natural supplements that can help you achieve similar results, though usually over longer time periods and with milder side-effects.

As a personal aside, I actually started my MtF transition using natural hormonal supplements rather than synthetic HRT. At the time, I was still exploring what types of changes I wanted to see in my body, specifically growing small breasts. Since I was older (35), had a family and career, I wasn’t yet comfortable with the idea of transitioning full-time, and wanted to see whether the mental and physical changes were actually good for me before I committed to longer, more permanent changes to my appearance. This approach allowed me to dip a ‘toe in the water’ and find out whether it was right for me, while saving a lot of money and removing the barrier of seeing a physician for a prescription.

I’ll be honest, I was pretty skeptical that over-the-counter supplements could have any effect on my body, let alone large impacts like growing breasts. But seriously, in about 6 months I went from nothing to almost AA cup breasts. This gave me the confidence that transitioning was the right thing for me, and I then started on HRT.

Longer term, you should always include a physician and a mental health professional as part of your support team helping you along the way. But for some, especially early on, these natural approaches may be a good way to start your MtF journey.

The Science of HRT

Prescribed HRT is the standard of care for trans women seeking to transition. HRT is usually a combination of two different drugs; an anti-androgen to block the production and effects of Testosterone, and an estrogen replacement. This combination provides a hormonal makeup similar to cis women, and usually lead to profound mental and physical changes.

Generally, the specific drugs used are Finasteride or Spirolactone as the anti-androgen; Estradiol as the estrogen replacement. Incidentally, Finasteride is a drug often prescribed to cis males and used to treat male-pattern baldness, which is also caused by Testosterone. The anti-androgens prevent the body from using Testosterone, by limiting production (in the case of the testes) and blocking other testosterone receptors throughout the body. Estradiol is metabolized by the body into estrogen, and circulates at levels normally seen in cis women.

Spirolactone has a growing negative reputation in the trans community because of its side-effects, including significant mental impacts like depression. Its not clear how necessary a large dose of anti-androgen is to begin with, and alternative protocols, like that developed by William Powers are starting to replace anti-androgens with high doses of intramuscular injected or transdermal estrogen, which inhibits testosterone production.

While all of these drugs are produced by pharmaceutical companies, there are natural alternatives to each that can have similar effects. Let’s take a look at each.


There are a whole class of supplements which have anti-androgenic effects. Probably the most effective among them is the Red Reishi mushroom, followed by White Peony. These two plants have been used for centuries for their anti-aging properties, but more recently have been studied for their ability to limit Testosterone production, and block testosterone receptors in tissues like your testes.

Anti-androgens will have an immediate impact on your sex-drive and other male functions like spontaneous erections. This is not necessarily a bad thing; I found profound relief being free of the constant sexual urges caused by Testosterone. Any impacts usually resolve themselves in a few weeks after you stop taking the supplements.


Estrogens exist in almost all plants and animals. This means that there are some plants that create phytoestrogens (plant estrogens) that are functionally similar or identical to the human hormone. These phytoestrogens can have many of the same effects as human derived estrogen, including tissue growth.

One of the best phytoestrogens sources is the plant Pueraria Mirifica (or PM). Long used for its anti-aging and skin softening properties, PM has a powerful estrogenic effect, and is used primarily by cis women for increased breast growth.

There are also other sources of estrogens, including those derived from wild yams and isolated from bovine ovaries. I have less experience with these, so make sure to do your research and consult a health care provider.

Like any oral estrogen, PM can increase the risk of blood clots and Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) because of the impacts on the liver. So, if you are older or have a history of blood clots, its definitely best to consult your physician first.

Other supplements

If taking any of these supplements, you’ll want to add in a calcium and magnesium supplement to your daily regimen, as well as a D3 and Omega 3.


There is a lot of great information online, and some really smart people who are using supplements to start their transition or improve results from traditional HRT (breast growth is a particular focus). Check out the forums at BreastNexum for great resources and stories from folks who have used different types of natural hormones for feminization.

Have you had any experience using natural supplements to support HRT? Let me know in the comments.

Body Care Hygiene Makeup

MtF Transition: Three Options for Facial Hair

Facial hair is a pain. Unfortunately, as a trans woman, you’ll have to deal with whiskers, in some shape or fashion, for a while. You’ll want to learn how to remove or camouflage your beard soon after you begin your transition.

Unfortunately, shaving isn’t enough. The whiskers under the skin cause a dark discoloration (even with lighter beards) that is a major determinative cue for gender. Even if you are on anti-androgens like spirolactone, your whiskers will still grow, albeit more slowly.

You have two choices for facial hair: removal or camouflage. For most trans women, you’ll need to do both at some point. Removal takes a while, and so hiding your beard hairs with makeup is a key skill to learn while you are in the process of permanently removal.

Let’s walk through the different options.

Option 1: Camouflage with Makeup

The easiest, safest and most pain free way to deal with your beard is makeup. A heavy foundation and concealer can hide the discoloration (5 o’clock shadow) that whiskers cause on the face.

One key thing you’ll need, especially if you have darker facial hair, is a color corrector. This is a specially colored primer (usually orange) you put on before your foundation to cancel out the darker pigments. This is especially important for maintaining coverage as the day wears on – the more beard hair grows the darker the color will get.

I like the LA Girl Pro Concealer from Amazon.

One downside of makeup only is that you’ll have to apply it any time you want to hide your facial hair. Especially if you like a more natural look to your face, you’ll want to consider more permanent removal options.

Option 2: Laser Hair Removal

If you want a more permanent solution, consider laser hair removal. This works by using a special laser to zap the hair follicle, heating it up and permanently killing the cells at the base of the hair. This prevents the hair from regrowing.

Laser hair removal is usually done at a doctor’s office, and can be quite expensive. Expect to pay a few thousand dollars for a full treatment; usually it takes 3-6 visits spread over a year to completely remove facial hair. There are home options for laser hair removal, like the Tria, but these usually aren’t approved for use on your face.

Though it used to be true that laser only worked on people with fair skin and darker hair, new laser technology is also effective on blonde and gray hairs.

One last note; laser treatments hurt. Its not excruciating, but the zap of the laser feels like a hot needle poking into your skin. On sensitive areas like your upper lip, this can be quite painful.

Option 3: Electrolysis

Electrolysis is the most reliable and most proven method of permanent hair loss. Electrolysis works by inserting a small needle into the base of the hair follicle and then using a zap of electricity to kill the cells that generate the hair. This permanently removes the hair.

Electrolysis works for all skin and hair types, but can be very time consuming because each hair needs to be treated individually. Expect many sessions over months in order to remove all the hair on your face. Electrolysis can also be very painful. Some describe it as similar to laser hair removal, or even more painful.

Treatments are done at a doctor’s office, and will typically run a few thousand dollars for a full treatment package.

Have you had success with other hair removal options? Let me know if the comments.

Mental Health

The benefits of transitioning genders later in life

I started my transition when I was 35, after having two kids and an established career. Though this certainly added some complexity to my journey, it also gave me experiences that I wouldn’t trade for anything. I think the benefits of later transitions are often overlooked, as people focus on the downsides of aging rather than the benefits.

Gender dysphoria is really hard, and for some, transitioning as early as possible can have dramatic mental health benefits. But for many who don’t have the option or opportunity to transition as a teen, a later life transition is full of unexpected benefits and upsides.

A different kind of beauty

We all want to have the youthful glow and energy of a pretty 20-something girl. And that’s just not possible if you transition later in life. On the other hand, and I hear this a lot, a later transition doesn’t mean you will always look like a man in women’s clothes.

Certainly, aging has its downsides. Once you hit your thirties or fourties, you’ll have to deal with things younger trans women won’t, like male-pattern baldness and a generally slower metabolism. But estrogen has a powerful impact on your body no matter what age you are, and generally, if you’re body transitions well as a twenty-something, you’ll look great transitioning as a forty-something too.

Femininity and youthful appearance are tied in our culture to an unhealthy degree. Many trans women assume that the only way to be a beautiful woman is to look like the pictures of young female models; this is exactly the same negative body image stereotypes that cause cis women and teens so much emotional trauma.

Looking great and feeling great at any age is possible, regardless of when you started your transition.

Coming to terms with yourself, not your gender

Because I transitioned later, I had a couple of decades to spend coming to terms with who I was outside of my gender identity. This made my eventually transition a lot easier, because I had a much better and healthier relationship with myself.

One of the hardest parts of transitioning is how damn awkward it is. Because you have so much to learn and re-learn, you are constantly making mistakes and not meeting your own expectations and desires. If you struggle with self-doubt and insecurity, this can be a really awful process. When I finally did transition, I was able to be much kinder and gentler with myself than when I was in my twenties.

You are not your gender, and affirming your gender identify doesn’t magically solve all your problems. If you transition early, you still have a lifetime of work ahead of you; learning to love yourself, building a family, navigating professional life, and finding how to be happy.

Transitioning later just means you’ve changed up the order in which you can address some of those things, and ultimately make your transition a little easier than it otherwise would have been.

A powerful support network

One of the benefits of getting older is having a strong network of friends and loved ones who you can rely on for support. I can’t imagine going through my transition without these people; my family and friends have been a constant source of support and validation. Certainly, there are those people who fell out of my life after transitioning, but generally my strongest relationships only got stronger.

The thing is, as you get older, you realize that nobody stays the same. We’re all changing all the time, and one of the great joys of life is growing together with the people you love. By the time I was 35, I was a very different person than when I was 20. I think in some ways, this made my gender transition easier for my friends and family; they had already seen me at my best and worst, and this was just a new chapter on my journey.

A sense of perspective

As I said above, gender isn’t everything. It took a lot of years, but finding out how to love myself, regardless of what I looked like on the outside, was key to my eventual transition. And when I finally did transition, I was confident in the things I wanted to keep and the things I wanted to change.

To put it another way, transitioning for me was about making the life I already had better. Through years of work and self-discovery, I was actually happy, even with the body of a man. I had, and have, a loving wife and two great kids. My choice to finally live life as a woman was about finally removing one of the last barriers that was keeping me from truly enjoying and being present for the great things in my life.

If you transitioned later in life, I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments.

Exercise Lists Mental Health

How To Cope with the Lows of Your MtF Transition

Some days suck. For a variety of reasons, or no reason at all, you’ll feel lonely, inadequate, ugly, fearful, listless, or unmotivated. You won’t have the energy to practice anything, and it will feel hopeless anyway. The worst days are when you question yourself or your choices, and wonder if it all would have been easier if you’d continued repressing your true gender identity.

Sound familiar? Don’t worry, you’re in good company. Every woman who has transitioned has had these days. Transitioning is an incredibly hard process, and there are bound to be some days where you just don’t feel up to the task.

And that is perfectly ok. Some days you don’t have to be up to the task. Some days, it is perfectly ok to dress in your old clothes, forget about bras and makeup, and just watch TV.

Generally when I’m feeling this way, it is for some common reasons:

  1. Lack of sleep: whenever I don’t get enough sleep, my mood and motivation take a nose dive. Everything feels hard, even simple things that I usually enjoy doing. Even an hour less a day can have this impact, and it usually takes a few days to fully recover.
  2. Over-exercise: when I exercise too much and don’t rest enough, I feel really anxious and, obviously, tired. Over-exercise raises cortisol levels and creates that sense of overwhelming fatigue that makes regular things feel impossible.
  3. Hormone changes: I notice that any changes to my HRT regimen can cause a few weeks of pretty bad moods. Spikes, or dips, in testosterone or estrogen can cause both euphoria or depressive feelings.
  4. Alcohol and unhealthy food: I notice that my mood can be materially impacted by what I ate, particularly if I’ve been drinking alcohol and eating really fatty foods. Both can have a really profound impact on my mood, and this seems to be getting worse the older I get. A few drinks and I don’t sleep very well, leading to a rough morning.

And then, sometimes, I’m just having a bad day for no reason I can identify.

If you are feeling overwhelmed, here are a few things you can do.

  1. Take a nap: if you really are exhausted, a nap can do wonders. Especially if I’m in a really bad mood, I find an hour long nap can really make me feel a whole lot better. Don’t sleep too much though, or it might affect your sleep cycle, which can lead to more fatigue.
  2. Take a sick day: mental health is just as important as your physical health. In the same way you shouldn’t hesitate to take a sick day if you can physically function, you shouldn’t hesitate to take a sick day if you can’t mentally function. It is totally ok, and in fact, demonstrates that you care for your whole self, not just your body. Sleep, watch tv, go out to eat, visit a museum; do whatever you need to do to recharge and build up your mental reserves again.
  3. Do some light exercise: it may seem counter-intuitive, but light exercise can actually make you feel more energized. Take a walk, or do some stretching or light yoga; anything that gets your heart rate up.
  4. Lean on your support network: nothing can make a bad day better than a hug from someone you love. Your friends and family are there to help you in times like these, so lean on them. Even if you are estranged from those you love the most, there is someone in your life who thinks you are great just the way you are and will be happy to tell you that if you ask.

And lastly, don’t forget: you are wonderful, brave, capable and beautiful. No matter what you feel in this moment, it will pass, and you will feel better. Until you do, be gentle with yourself, and know that its ok to be whoever you are in this moment.

Mental Health

Take it slow: the importance of pacing your MtF transition

Transitioning from male to female can be a complex, strange, exhilarating and terrifying experience. Especially if you’ve been living with gender dysphoria for a long time, moving quickly may feel like the only thing you can do to save yourself from the constant, daily trauma you live in.

But a slow, measured pace can often lead to better results in the long term than trying to move through the process as quickly as possible (or even quicker). And in the short term, harassment and abuse as a new trans woman is a real and potentially traumatic experience in of itself.

Taking things slow gives you a chance to acclimate to your new external gender, while also building a sense of self-confidence in your emerging identity and capabilities.

Physical Changes Take Time

When you start HRT, your body begins reshaping itself based on the influence of estrogen. But, just like a normal puberty, it takes years to see the full impact of the changes. At first, you’ll notice some obvious growth (like bigger nipples and breasts), but other changes take a lot more time; the facial softening associated with a feminine look is caused by fat redistribution in the face, which takes a few years to really be obvious.

There really isn’t much you can do to rush this process, and in fact many trans women seek surgery, either FFS or breast augmentation, early on to ‘fix’ issues which may resolve themselves with more time.

In my own transition, I didn’t notice many changes for the first 6 months. By month 12, I looked a bit more feminine and had small AA cup breasts, but still had a lot of masculine features. By month 24, I noticed a big difference in my facial structure and body composition; a smaller jaw line, less defined muscles, and fuller cheeks.

You Have a Lot to Learn

Being a woman in the real world takes a lot of new skills. If your goal is to pass as a female, you’ll need to master a number of new skills, like hair, makeup, clothes, hygiene, and speech (I have a running list of all the things I’ve had to, and continue to learn.)

There simply isn’t enough time in the day to learn all these things in a few short weeks or months. Mastery takes even longer; the difference between a passable makeup job and a good one is the product of lots of trial and error.

Rushing the process can lead to awkward results. In of itself, these aren’t bad and everyone goes through them, but they are hard emotionally. Subjecting yourself to constant criticism (whether internal or external) is really painful and can lead to negative impacts on your overall mental health and happiness.

Taking a slower approach gives you time to focus on one, or a few, things, work through them until you are comfortable and confident. Then you can move onto the next set of skills.

Your Interests and Likes Change Too

As you transition, you learn a ton about yourself. What you thought you liked when you were presenting as a man can, and will, change as you begin to explore living as a woman.

For example, I imagined myself wearing super feminine clothes (lots of dresses and skirts). Once I began to transition, I found I was a lot more comfortable wearing pants and the super feminine clothes didn’t appeal to me in the same way. The only way I could figure that out was by trying lots and lots of different clothes and styles.

Rushing through the process is going to mean you’ll spend a lot of money on things you may not like at all. I made that mistake with makeup – rather than go slow and focus on different parts of my makeup one by one, I went out and bought everything I thought I would need. Turns out, I had to replace most of the products as I learned what works with my skin and face; a little more time and research probably would have saved me hundreds of dollars.

You Don’t Have To Do It All At Once

Coming to terms with your gender identity, sharing that with the people you love, and changing how you appear are all different and distinct parts of the transition process.

I think a lot of trans women feel like all three have to be done at the same time; the minute you decide you want to transition, you have come out to your family and start wearing women’s clothes and makeup. While that certainly is a good path for many, its not the only way.

I was older when I started my transition, and I had a family and career I wanted to do everything I could to maintain. It took me a few years of therapy to really come to terms with my gender identity, and all that time I was still dressing and living as a man. Even after I came out to my wife and family, I continued to outwardly present as a man, while practicing those skills I needed to know to live as a woman.

Finally, once I was comfortable with myself and my ability to be the woman I wanted to be, I slowly started to shift my appearance. For months, I was a bit more feminine each day, until I reached the point where I was seen as a woman more than a man.

This slow transition gave me a chance to feel comfortable and confident in myself. It also gave those I love time to process my changes and have confidence that the emerging me was a better version of the me they had always known.

Even though I urgently and immediately wanted to be a woman, taking it slow was better for my own mental health and those that I care about.

Fast or slow, I’d love to hear your experiences in the comments.