Riding the Binary Line As A Trans Woman

A few weeks ago we heard from a FTM trans person who got advice from A.D. on how to dress feminine while still passing.

Right after that post, another anon wrote in, “I kind of want to ask the same question as the ftm person, but in reverse? I’m mtf trans and I’d love to rock some more masculine styles that still allow me to pass, but I’m not really sure how to pull that off.” I forwarded the question to Viv, our butch trans woman in residence, and she had some wonderful things to say. - Sonny

Riding the Binary Line As A Trans Woman

By Guest Blogger Viv Taylor

Friend, you are speaking my language. I too am a trans lady who enjoys her access to a wide range of gender presentations while still identifying strongly as a woman.

I’m not going to sugar coat this: dressing in a more traditionally masculine way, presenting in a more traditionally masculine way, there’s a good possibility that it will occasionally cause people to misgender you. It can be deeply unpleasant, it can be quite insulting, but it happens. The trick, I think, is to find way to ride the line between binary gender presentations, to find ways expressing kinds of strength and beauty and whatever other attributes you find meaningful in ways that work for you.

Have courage friend, we’re going to talk through this. Let’s start out with some easy ways to add some more masculine touches to your wardrobe, then we’ll talk about how to counter the misgendering.

Try to find some nice button-up shirts. It sounds simple, but there are few things as versatile and sharp looking as a good button-up. A well-cut Oxford cloth shirt will take you a long way. For more colorful button downs, I’ve had good luck with H&M (although I also hear questionable things about their labor practices, so think carefully about where you shop.) One of the benefits with H&M is that they sell attractive button downs designed for people with breasts in sizes 12-16, meaning that if you happen to be somebody who’s a little taller or have shoulders that are a little wider (somebody like me for instance), you’ve got access to clothes that still look good on you.


Fitted Shirt, $19.95 at H&M

Speaking of breasts, I find that it’s very important to have a properly sized bra. Weirdly, I have found Macy’s to be a pretty trans-positive place to buy bras and get them fitted. As a company they have a strong trans inclusion policy and in my experience have been polite and helpful. Having the right bra will help both with your comfort and will improve the fit of a lot of cloths. That better fit can go a long way toward ensuring that people read you how you want to be read.

Now, once you have bra and button-up that fit, I find a good place to go next is to an attractive blazer. L.L. Bean sells some of my favorite women’s blazers. I have one in charcoal that I feel brings about the right amount of butch energy to a lot of outfits. I would love to try one of their tweed jackets, but have not yet. These blazers are great because they can work when you’re femmeing it up as well as when you’re playing more traditionally masculine. They’re right at that edge.


Donegal Tweed Blazer, Herringbone, at L.L. Bean for 


Next, get yourself a good pair of black leather boots. Your footwear is your foundation and you want to have a strong one. I’ve recently started wearing a pair of Sivertons from Keen, and I’m a big fan. They’re comfortable enough to walk miles in and they look amazing with minimal care. You can combine them with more traditionally masculine styles for a nice tough look, or with more femme styles for a certain kind of put togetherness.

Once you get a few things that work for you, just try mixing and matching to dial up the masculinity of your look. By playing with it, you can find a good middle place for yourself. I actually like to take more time to do make up and hair when I’m looking overall butcher, sometimes wear a little bit more jewelry just to complicate the picture.

The trick is to have fun, to dance around the boundaries. 

See what Viv has to say about hair