Friends & Family Mental Health Transition Support

How to Support a New Trans Person

If you enjoyed this post, please consider supporting the Handbook by becoming a Patron. Just $1 helps to support the site and ensure we can keep adding new resources for trans women. Thank you!

Transitioning genders is complex, emotional process, especially at the beginning. Most trans people have a circle of friends and family that want to support them, but struggle to understand what and how to do it best. Certainly, transitioning is growing more common, but most people still don’t have direct experience supporting a trans person. And that’s ok – we’re all in this process together.

So I wanted to write a post for everyone who is looking for advice, particularly someone at the start of their journey. I’ll talk about both the “Dos” and the “Don’ts”, as often times meaningful support is as much about what you do not do as it is about affirmative actions or words.

Things you can say and do

Tell them you love them. This is the first and most important thing you can do. Specifically, tell them you love the person they have been, and you’ll love the person they are becoming.

Someone sharing their true gender identity with you is an amazing act of trust and vulnerability. This person, who has gone through a lifetime of shame, trauma and general unhappiness, is opening up to those they love, and your first job is to love them back. They are likely terrified of the response and rejection they’ll get from you and everyone they know, so affirming this first is the most important thing you can do.

Ask how you can help to support them. Transitioning genders is a really complicated, expensive and challenging process. There are a thousand things that need to be done, learned, processed and shared. Asking how you can help is a powerful act in of itself; even if there is nothing specific you can do, the simple act of asking means you embrace and support their decision. This is incredibly affirming, and there may be some specific things that you can help with.

Ask questions about their experience. Trans people have spent a lifetime hiding a large part of who they are. Taking the time to ask questions about how they’ve felt, what their hopes and goals are, and what they’re feeling right now is a powerful form of love and connection. This is your chance to learn about a whole new part of someone you care about, so take the time to explore with them.

Offer to guide them. Being newly trans means having to learn and do almost everything in a new way. From buying clothes, to getting a haircut, to going to the doctor; almost every single day-to-day experience is new and can be really stressful to have to figure out on your own. Just like a native guide in a foreign country, you can help navigate the unknowns and provide a sense of comfort.

Educate yourself. Last, and not least, you can take the time to read about trans experience and learn about things like pronouns, dysphoria and the process (HRT, FFS, GRS, so many terms to learn!) This will help you to understand and connect with, at least a little bit, the trans journey, and will probably help to allay some of the fears and concerns you have.

Things not to say or do

Don’t assume and apply a trans stereotype. Being trans means different things to different people. Unfortunately, we don’t have a lot of great examples in society right now of what a happy, successful trans person looks like. Most cis people assume that transition means turning into a drag-queen, or at best an awkward mess of a person. Don’t assume you know what the end goal of transition will look like, or mean, because you are probably wrong. Most trans people don’t even know themselves – transitioning is as much about exploring as it is about reaching a particular destination.

Don’t ask whether they’ve thought about the impacts (to life, family, career, etc). This is such a demeaning question. Especially for someone coming out in adulthood, the obvious answer is: “yes, of course I have”. We’ve spent a lifetime thinking about the impacts, and being afraid to be our true selves precisely because of those imagined fears. The fact that this person has decided to be open with you about their gender identify means that they have already decided the pain of hiding themselves far outweighs any transient negative impact on the rest of their life.

Don’t talk about your own fears. Right now, this is not about you. You may be feeling a lot of things, maybe its fear for their safety, or fear that they’ll be unhappy, or fear that it will reflect badly on you as a parent, spouse, etc. These are all real feelings, but you need to recognize that sharing them, at this moment with this person, is not appropriate. Trans people have spent a lifetime being defined by other people’s fear, and there is nothing more frustrating than having a conversation about their experience and goals be turned into one about you. I highly recommend you seek out a therapist or counselor if you’re feeling like your fear is overwhelming.

Don’t compare them to a gender ideal. Look, transitioning genders is awkward. We know that better than you ever can. It takes years and can require hormones, surgeries and lots of practice with new skills. Sometimes, the most well-meaning compliment can actually be really demoralizing, like the dreaded “Wow! You look like a real woman!” Or “You’ve made so much progress, you hardly look like a man anymore!” Instead, try a simple “You look great!”

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but I hope it helps to provide some general tips you find helpful. And finally, please remember that the most important thing a trans person wants to be seen and loved for who they are, and who they will become.

I’d love to hear if you have your own suggestions in the comments.

Appearance Body Modifications Exercise Health

Basics of MtF Weight Cycling

If you enjoyed this post, please consider supporting the Handbook by becoming a Patron. Just $1 helps to support the site and ensure we can keep adding new resources for trans women. Thank you!

As I’ve posted before, there is a lot more to creating a feminine figure than just growing boobs. Breast growth is one of the fastest and most prominent changes you’ll notice when you’ve been on HRT for a few months, but other changes are also working through your body. After the first year on HRT, you’ll notice that your figure is a little different. Your tummy might start to get smaller, and your hips a little wider. Though a slow process, the fat in your body is slowly shifting to a more feminine pattern.

Though fat distribution can’t change your underlying bone structure, it plays a much bigger role in feminization than most people think. Though women do have wider pelvises, much of the width in their hips actually comes from fat, not bone structure. Men on the other hand, store fat primarily on their trunk above the waist (stomach, back and chest), which makes the chest, ribcage and waist appear larger.

Where fat is on your body can be one of the biggest and best feminizing changes you can make, and you don’t have to wait years for results. You can speed this up with a concept called ‘weight cycling’.

The Physiology of Fat

Your hormones are the main determinant of how your fat is distributed around your body. So as your hormones change under HRT, your body’s fat stores will slowly go from what’s called ‘android’ to ‘gynoid’.

But how does it work? First, a little detour into the physiology of fat. Fat cells, or adipocytes, store and release lipids into the blood stream based on the complex signals of your endocrine system. But generally, if you eat fewer calories than your body uses, your adipocytes will shrink; if you eat more than you use, your adipocytes will grow. So when your weight changes, this is adipocytes growing and shrinking the amount of lipids they contain; you don’t actually lose or gain fat cells (unless you gain a lot of weight).

Also surprising? The number and location of cells in men and women isn’t really that different – men have the about the same number of fat cells in their thighs and hips that women do. But the fat cells in men and women are activated by different hormones. Estrogen causes the cells in women’s thighs and hips be much more active, and store a lot more fat, than in men. The inverse is true for men – testosterone causes fat cells in the trunk to be a lot more active than elsewhere in the body.

Over time, as you naturally gain and lose weight, you’ll notice you slowly put on fat in new places, and start to slim down in other places. But because fat cells like to stay fat, it is a very, very slow process.

The Theory of Weight Cycling

The concept of weight cycling has been around in the fitness/body building world for a long time. The idea is that you intentionally increase calorie intake to gain weight (or ‘bulk’) to trigger and support cell growth, and then decrease calorie intake to lose weight (the ‘cut’) to reduce the size of fat cells and decrease overall body fat percentage. A great book that covers the basics, if you’re interested, is Thinner, Leaner, Stronger by Michael Matthews

We can use this same concept to speed up the process of fat re-distribution in our bodies. When we cycle weight in this way, we dramatically speed up the process; each time we cut, we lose fat more quickly in the android areas, and each time we gain weight, we add more fat in the gynoid regions.

What You’ll Need To Get Started

First things first, you need a way to count calories. The best way to do this these days is with an app. There are a lot of great ones out there, but I’ve used Lose It!; it has a great built in library of common foods and makes adding your daily intake a breeze.

You’ll also want a scale in order to monitor your weight. I also recommend a good old fashioned tape measure and caliper to monitor body composition as well – a lot of people will forget to exercise (see below) and will end up losing most of their weight in muscle mass rather than fat; measuring your body composition (body fat percentage) is a good way to ensure you’re losing the right type of weight.

A Basic Weight Cycling Routine

A weight cycle is made up of a period of calorie restriction and weight loss, the ‘cut’, combined with a period of calorie increase and weight gain, called the ‘bulk’. The length of these cycles depends on how much weight you want to lose and how quickly, but typically you’ll be able to lose between one and two pounds per week. Gaining weight can happen faster, but its usually good to try and keep the weekly increase in the same one to two pounds per week ballpark.

Unless you are unusually fit, you’ll want to start your cycle with a cut in order to lose weight. This means reducing the amount you eat until you reach a target weight, typically 5 or 10% of your total body weight. Then, you’ll do the opposite, and increase the amount you eat until you gain 5-10%.

So here’s what my latest weight cycle plan looks like:

Starting Weight: 137 pounds, around 2000 daily calories.

Cut Phase

  • Target weight: 125 pounds
  • 1450 calories per day, 1 1/2 pounds per week
  • Length is 7-8 weeks

Bulk Phase

  • Target weight: 135 pounds
  • 2400 calories per day, 2 pounds per week
  • Length is 5 weeks

One of the key aspect of your cut will be integrating some frequent exercise routine. The reason for this is you want your body to maintain muscle mass as much as possible, and only make up for the calorie deficit with fat. If you restrict your calories, but don’t exercise, your body will lose a lot of weight by consuming muscle instead of fat; exercise helps to maintain muscle.

I hope this helps get you started! If you have any questions, leave them in the comments and I’ll try to help.

Body Care Clothes Hygiene Lists

MtF: The Complete List of Everything You Need to Learn

When I first decided to transition from male to female, I (naively) thought that it was as easy as growing hair, getting some boobs and wearing different clothes. I’ve got a lot more coming on how (and why) I was so wrong, but today I wanted to share my rough and evolving list of everything you’ll need to learn and be able to do in order to successfully pass as a woman.

This list isn’t exhaustive, and not meant to be intimidating. But there is a lot to learn. And while you certainly don’t need to be the best at each of these things, but you’ll generally need to be as capable as a cis-woman. Realistically, you have to learn a set of skills that every genetic woman has had a lifetime to work on.

There is no timeline for how long it takes, but the more time you put in, the faster you’ll be able to successfully pass as a woman in most situations. Think years not weeks or months.


Looks are a primary, but not exclusive, way that people identify gender.


  • How to prep your skin for makeup
  • How and what makeup to buy (there’s a ton!)
  • How to pick the right color makeup
  • How to apply color corrector
  • How to apply foundation
  • How to apply concealer
  • How to blend colors
  • How to accent/contour your face
  • How to create eyebrows
  • How to do your eyes
  • How to do your lips
  • How and when to touch up your makeup
  • How to do subtle makeup (you can’t look like you’re going out to a club all the time!)
  • How to go about your day without touching your face (this is really hard!)
  • How to eat and drink with makeup on
  • How to take your makeup off
  • The hardest part? How to make your makeup look natural, instead of a looking like a guy wearing makeup 😜


  • How to wash your hair
  • How to prep your hair
  • What tools and products you need to buy for your hair
  • How to brush your hair
  • How to blow dry your hair
  • How to curl your hair
  • How to make your hair look like you didn’t do anything to your hair
  • How to keep your hair out of your face
  • How to keep your hair out of your face but also as close as possible to your face
  • How to not tangle your hair
  • How to keep your hair looking decent throughout the day
  • How to find a hair stylist
  • How to afford a hair stylist


  • What jewelry to buy
  • How to wear earrings
  • How to wear necklaces
  • How to wear simple jewelry
  • How to wear fancy jewelry


Hahaha, clothes are a baffling ordeal. Good luck to you ma’am!

Bras/Underwear/Comfy Clothes

  • What kinds of bras you need (you need many)
  • What kinds of underwear you need (you need many)
  • How to buy bras, and from where
  • How to find bras that fit
  • How to afford bras and underwear (seriously, why is this shit so expensive?)
  • What to sleep in to keep from smashing your boobs
  • What to wear around the house when no one will see you but you still want to feel cute
  • What to wear around the house when you really don’t give a fuck
  • What is the most comfy thing you can get away wearing in public

Work Clothes

  • How to wear a skirt
  • When to wear a skirt
  • How to wear a dress
  • When to wear a dress
  • What colors to wear, and when
  • How to look professional but feminine
  • How to look feminine but not slutty
  • What to wear to keep from sweating out in the summer
  • What to wear to keep from freezing in the winter

Everyday Clothes

  • What shirts to buy that don’t make you look like you have an enormous _______________ (chest, arms, neck, shoulders, wrists, stomach….)
  • What pants/shorts to buy that don’t make you look like you have an enormous _______________ (ass, waist, thighs, calves, knees, hips….)
  • What jeans to buy
  • How to afford jeans (seriously, why is this shit so expensive?)
  • What to buy when you don’t want to be noticed
  • What to buy when you do want to be noticed
  • What to buy to avoid looking like your mom and/or sister


  • How to buy heels
  • How to buy heels that don’t make you look slutty
  • How to avoid wearing heels
  • How to walk in heels
  • How to find a ‘cute’ shoe
  • How to find shoes that don’t make your calves look enormous
  • How to find shoes that are comfortable and cute
  • How to wear shoes that don’t stay on your feet (monkey toes!)



  • How to shave your legs
  • How to shave your armpits
  • How to shave everything else
  • How to tuck
  • How to untuck when you have to pee
  • How to moisturize
  • How to afford all the moisturizers you need


  • How to sit like a woman
  • How to walk like a woman
  • How to run like a woman
  • How to sleep with breasts
  • How to sleep ‘cute’
  • How to keep your boobs from knocking into things, or things knocking into your boobs
  • How to keep kids from always putting their elbows into your boobs
  • How to do ________ like a woman (use a computer? That looks different when women do it!)

Everything Else


  • How to cope with sucking at everything
  • How to cope with feeling like you’ll never make any progress
  • How to cope with never having enough time to practice all the absolutely necessary things
  • How to cope with being clocked
  • How to cope with looking ugly
  • How to cope with assholes
  • How to cope with hopelessness
  • How to cope with exhaustion from coping all the damn time
  • How to make the feeling last when you finally catch a glimpse of the person you knew you could be


  • How to respond to the person who is trying to figure out if you’re trans in not-so subtle ways
  • How to avoid getting raped/killed
  • How to avoid getting hit on
  • How to get hit on by the person you want to hit on you
  • How to tell your friends
  • How to tell your family
  • How to find a therapist
  • How to find a doctor
  • How to find a career coach
  • How to find new friends

I’m sure I’m missing obvious things, so let me know what things you had to learn in the comments!


Best Bras for MtF Breasts

Breasts come in all different shapes and sizes, regardless of whether you grew them in puberty or more recently. Just like there is no ‘standard’ breast shape for cis women, there is no standard for trans women either.

That said, there are some general anatomical differences between cis and trans women that can effect the shape of the breast and fit of the bra. Generally, trans women will have broader shoulders and a wider rib-cage, leading to different breast-to-band ratios (the metric used to determine cup size). The wider rib cage also means that trans breasts are generally farther apart, with more space in between, than cis women’s breasts.

Trans breast shape can also be different, with most trans women stoping at Tanner Stage 4, while most cis-women get closer to Stage 5. This matters less than overall rib cage size for Bra fit, however, as the breast will generally deform to fit the bra cup.

The last factor for most trans women is breast size. Without breast augmentation, most trans women will see their growth stop somewhere around an A or B cup. Combined with the larger chest diameter, this can make finding an appropriately small cupped bra hard at the larger band sizes, since cis women tend to have proportionally larger breast to band ratios.

How to accurately measure your bra size

I see a lot of confusion out there on how to find your bra size. Since most trans women (especially early on) don’t want to get fitted at a store, it can be a really confusing process, and the bra industry largely assumes you already know your measurements.

Bra sizing is determined based on two measurements, the band and the bust. Band is measured around your chest just under where the breast starts to protrude outwards. Bust is measured around your chest at the nipples (usually the widest part). For both measurements, you’ll want to round up, rather than down (you’ll see why later) to the nearest whole number. Band sizes are generally spaced by 2” increments, e.g. 34”, 36” etc. Again, you’ll want to round up.

Cup size is determined by subtracting the bust size from the band size. The difference between the two is the cup size; 0 or less is an AA/AAA, 1” is an A, 2” is a B cup, etc. BUT, and this is what most people miss, you have to add 4” to the band size in order to get an accurate bra size. So a 36A bra has a true band measurement of 32” with a bust measurement of 37”.

Finding a bra that fits

The problem for trans women is that the increased size of the rib-cage will throw off the cup volume measurement, because the chest itself takes up more space than is assumed in the standard bra sizing tables. So while your measurements might show you are a 40B (36” band and 42” bust) your boobs will be swimming in your bra cups, and you might actually find a 42A fits you better.

That said, there are a couple of companies that specialize in bras for small-cupped women, which tend to fit the shape of trans bodies better. Here are a few of my favorites. (Note I’m currently a 36AA, so small cup size is harder to find than band size for me. Many of you ladies will have the opposite problem of struggling to find a larger band size.)

  • Lulalu: This is my go to brand for bras. They have a great selection of small cup bras, both wired and wire free, starting in AAA cups. The band sizes are definitely on the smaller end, but the underwires are generally flatter and farther apart and fit the wider chest of trans women better. The matching panties are great too 😉.
  • Pepper: Also a great choice, and I own a few of their different styles. Bra cups tend to run a bit bigger, starting at AA cups up through B. Band sizes are also a bit bigger, and you can find a 40AA in some styles.
  • Little Women: A British company that caters to small chested women. Lots of great styles, but sometimes hard to find in stock.

Things to look for when bra shopping

Part of the fun of having breasts is wearing all different types of bras. As you build your collection, there are generally some things to think about, especially as you’re trying to find the perfect fit.

  • Look for wire-free. Generally, underwires in bras designed for cis women are going to be less comfortable for most trans women. This is because the underwire is designed for a smaller rib-cage, and you’ll find it digs into the outside of your breast in an uncomfortable way. Wire-free avoids this problem by ditching the wire entirely, with a soft yet firm band of fabric underneath the cup supporting the breast. This will fit your chest shape much more naturally and be a whole lot more comfortable.
  • When in doubt, go bigger band and smaller cup. As mentioned above, if you struggle with the sizing of standard bras, you can move up in band size and down in cup size to get a better fit. The breast volume on a 34B and a 36A is exactly the same, but the ratio of band size to bust size is different. This tends to provide a better fit on the trans female rib cage.
  • Pullover styles are your friend. As sexy as a underwire Demi cup might look, for everyday you may find a pullover style bra more comfortable, as the band will stretch and size won’t be as important. There are plenty of pull overs that are sexy, lacy, and all the things you might look for in a bra, while also being a lot more comfortable and forgiving of trans body shapes.

I’d love to hear what bra brands and styles you find work best for you in the comments!