You’ve heard the expression “practice makes perfect”, which as expected just means that the more you do something the better you get at it. I just could not help myself thinking how important this little phrase is for someone like myself (a little bit square) and in my current circumstances (being in “transition“).
My whole process of changing my male presentation to one of a female has been to a very large extent about behavioural change. From basic things, like my morning routine, to other more complex behaviours, lots has changed as I’ve gotten better at doing them; and it’s all through practice.
The older I get, the harder it is for me to make changes, and more so for behavioural changes. I simply get more encrusted with my conducts. At the tender age when I started my own process I already had more than 45 years reinforcing my male deportment. Since 2011 when I went through what I refer to as my learning explosion, I started practicing a number of changes in the way I act and present myself.
Since I started HRT, I can categorically say that I have gone from learning new behaviours to now unlearning old crusty ways.
Probably if I dig deep and get detailed in the deconstruction of my behaviours I could list lots and lots of details that I have changed, that I’m still changing and that I still need or want to change.
I’ve chosen to make these changes to present what I think is a more “rounded female image”.
A personal objective I have is to be unequivocally perceived as female by anyone that doesn’t know my past. Luckily I have been blessed with good genetics and a position that has allowed my physical presentation to get very close to that goal. Thanks to my height, complexion, family genes, weight loss, and of course a few pivotal surgeries, I am now finally physically perceived female. If I’m standing on a sidewalk and anyone sees me, I’m pretty sure that no one would read me as trans (that means no one would suspect I was not born female). But even the simple act of standing has been a learnt behaviour!
In no particular order here are some of the most important changes I’ve consciously made in my ways to match my female presentation.
Just standing still is very different between men and women. Through my leaning explosion I would take photos doing different poses and then watched those photos. From doing that for tens of thousands of photos I’ve learned a few poses that I like how they work on me.
I’ve gotten better at selecting my outfits. The very first women’s garments I bought for myself were very sexualized as my choices back then were completely influenced by my male behaviour and testosterone driven thinking. Once I decided to seriously move forward with my own process, I had to go back to the drawing board and observe more what women wear out in public. Thanks to that I have tweaked my attire choices and as I settle in and grow older presenting female I know this behaviour will be in constant state of flux.
Manners, Mannerisms and Expressions
These have been probably the most fun collection of behaviour changes I’ve gone, and keep learning and changing. These include little details like the position of my hands and fingers when I get a photo taken, or tilting the head just a tiny bit to be more empathic. When it comes to motion, it’s all about round movements. One of my dance instructors keeps asking us to think as if we are moving through water or some other denser liquid to make movements more graceful.
These have been super rewarding because the observation and self-feedback comes from seeing myself either in a reflection or on a video screen. A personal factor that I really enjoy has always being hyper-aware of my movements. I find it so fascinating that it’s like knowing exactly where most of my muscles are at any point in time. Constantly doing self check-ins and adjusting accordingly. Someone might say “mindfulness”.
There are other changes that have forced me to change a number of manners. Some that come to mind are wearing long fingernails and how that affects actions like grabbing something or using my smartphone or pressing buttons. Wearing long hair and how that affects the way I look or turn my head downwards. Wearing a skirt and bending, or rather, not bending down to pick something up.
Though walking could have been part of the manners point above, I think it deserves it’s own separate bullet. Walking has been yet another incredible experience to relearn. One of the aspects that makes walking ultra different for women than that of men, as you would expect, is footwear. And by some of the aspects of femininity that I personally like, learning to walk in high heels is one of those where practice makes perfect; and it also keeps me safe from twisting an ankle.
My Daily Routine
When I started going to work presenting female and a few days later when I went full time, my daily routine was clunky and slow. Particularly getting ready to leave for work took a lot of trial and error to make sure my timing would not be off. Day by day with week after week of practicing and tweaking I got more efficient and less stressed. Now, getting ready every morning is part of my normal routine.
Opposite to anything else in this short list of behaviours I’ve changed, speaking and verbal communication has been by far the most difficult to tackle. Just analyzing and deconstructing the difference in speech patterns between guys and gals is one of the most complex tasks I’ve taken on. Then, taking those differences to learn the new ones and unlearn the male ones takes the whole behaviour change of how I speak to a higher level.
If you thought that practicing walking on high heels was hard, try changing your speaking pattern from one gender to another, in English and in Spanish! The pure act of weaving words into sentences takes a lot of mental energy and practice. On top of that consider raising the vocal pitch, change the vocal cavity to modify resonance, upgrade the lexicon for a more diverse and expressive language, modify the inflections and intonation of the speaking pattern, and all while trying to be natural to the social context where I find myself. 3 words come to mind: practice, practice, practice.
For forty-odd years having grown male with no effeminate expressions, this business of changing my speech pattern has proven to be a multi-year project of: observe ➔ modify ➔ self-observe ➔ modify ➔ start over. Speech is also a prime example of a very hard to unlearn behaviour.
All these changes in behaviour are tinted through my lens of what I perceive to be feminine and more narrowly, some specific aspects of femininity that I personally like. As an example, if I think of burlesque I think of a very feminine way of expression and art form. But as much as I find it attractive and captivating, it’s not a specific manner I am (currently) interested in acquiring for myself.
After all there are as many ways to present femininity as the number of women in this world.
The most important catalyst of change has been observation. Throughout my life I’ve observed girls and women and how they behave. Apart from a physical attraction my observation has been to learn what constitutes femininity and which of those characteristics I like.
Observation is not enough! An iterative process of external observation (observe others), then trying to replicate what I saw (the actual practice), then internal or self observation (observing myself replicate the external observation) and finally comparing that internal observation to my preferred perception of femininity. As an iterative process, then the whole cycle starts over.
Sometimes the process of changing some, if not all of these behaviours, has been frustrating. But on the other hand the process itself in the long run has been entertaining, fun, and most importantly, very rewarding.
Just like learning to ride a bike, the longer I practice all these behavioural changes, the less I have to think about them to the point they become “natural” or “normal”.
Practice! Practice! Practice!
P.S. The header image is the top right corner of a cropped photo from a friend practicing a feminine pose next to her car. I cropped out the area from the photo that had my friend and her car. I chose the photo because it reminds me of the hard work that it has been to get where I am; practice makes perfect.