How to Identify Trans Women

A Trans Positive Manifesto

So, you’re out and about, right? Maybe you’re at the gym. And, like any normal person, you’re looking around at the people on the machines around you. After all, you have to do something during the commercials that play every two minutes throughout the Friends reruns you’re watching on TBS. So why not take in the scenery?

Anyway, you’re looking around, waiting for Friends to come back on. Maybe you’re waiting for Monica to say something smart, or for Chandler to get made fun of for being too sensitive, or for Joey to act like a human Labrador Retriever, or for Phoebe to be sensitive and new-agey, or for Ross to be an insufferable turd, or for Rachel to be cute and flirty. Whatever. It doesn’t matter. Because, as you look around, you can’t help but wonder, “Are there any transgender women here?” And then, a moment later, you’re hit by the anxiety that comes from the realization that there very well might be trans women around, and you have no way of knowing.

Photo by Martin Barák on Unsplash

Well, take heart my friend. Because while in the past you had to just sit down and let the existential dread of never knowing if the woman next to you at the gym is trans overwhelm you, that’s about to change. After having been an active instrument of the Trans Agendafor a couple years now, I’ve decided to forgo the general rules of decorum among trans women and teach you how to clock us (identify, or spot us) out in public — starting at the gym.

As I’m sure you’re aware, the easiest starting point in clocking trans women is by way of their physical features. So you will need to analyze the physical features of the women around you, and look for traits that are generally outside the boundaries of your everyday expectations of “normal women.” Even trans women who “pass,” or who are read as cisgender (meaning, they are assumed to have been assigned female at birth), are vulnerable to being clocked when analyzed in this manner. But where to start?

Height

Height is perhaps the easiest thing to look at first. Trans women are generally much taller than their cisgender peers. The shortest trans woman is invariably of “average” to “above-average” height for a woman. So, a trans woman of “average” height compared to other trans women is downright statuesque when compared to her cisgender peers.

Unlike high fashion models, whose height often accentuates their frail frames, the height of trans women speaks only of excellence, and fortitude. It is a height that comes from an unrelenting and undaunted pursuit of freedom and justice. Trans women shine out, like a beacon of this freedom and justice, over the forces that seek to see them bent or broken.

Legs

Now, obviously, height alone won’t get you very far. After all, there are some — not many, but some — statuesque cis women. That’s why, after considering height, you need to move on to a more fine-grained analysis of the women around you. For example, you might take a moment to look at the legs of the women around you.

Trans women have incredibly long legs. In addition to their length, trans women’s legs are often firm and unyielding — particularly when it comes to their quadriceps and calves. Some say this is due to the effects of testosterone. However, those who have been around for a while know that this is not the case. The truth is that trans women have powerful, muscular legs because they carry with them a near immeasurable amount of self-confidence every day — self-confidence that would weigh your average cis woman down.

Laid over this raw power, there is also a softness — a downright sensualness —that amplifies the attractiveness of trans women’s thighs and calves. The legs of trans women are not all harsh angles and strength. They are supple, and smooth, and graceful.

Trans women have the sorts of legs that make you think, “She could snap someone in half with those!” And, if you really want to be certain that you’ve found a trans woman, look for the legs that, regardless of your gender or sexual orientation, make you wonder if the woman in question might snap you in half, if you treated her well and asked nicely.

Shoulders

But of course, these sorts of powerful, beautiful legs are not entirely unique to trans women. Some cis women have rockin’ legs. That’s why you should also look closely at the shoulders of the women around you.

Trans women have broad, elegant shoulders. You know those power-shoulders women often talk about wanting? You know, the kind that say, “If you screw with me, I will flip you over my head into the nearest trash bin?” Trans girls got ‘em in spades. You’ll notice these immaculate, commanding shoulders peeking out from workout tanks, stretching out below elegant necks, and mirroring the width of the owner’s hips.

When facing trans women head on, you’ll likely notice that their shoulders are bridged by strong but delicate collar bones. When looking from behind, you’ll note how smooth the transition is from their latissimus dorsi into their trapezius and deltoid muscles— forming a soft but commanding “v” that accentuates their waist and smooths the contour of their backs to perfection. Backs, which I must say, are likely to be straight, and which are rarely hunched over.

Face

Again, these traits can often be found in some lucky cisgender women as well, so after looking at shoulders, you must move on to looking at the faces of the women around you. The faces of trans women are often different from their cis peers in a variety of ways.

For example, trans and cis chins are often different. The chins of trans women are usually slightly larger than those of cis women. This is no accident. When trans women raise their chins up slightly, they want to be sure that the gesture thoroughly conveys the sense of personal pride that they have. A smaller, more petite chin can convey pride, sure. However, such a diminutive chin often conveys pride of the aristocratic or elitist sort. On the contrary, the pride that trans women have is a wholesome, blue collar sort — the sort of pride earned through a hard day’s, or a hard life’s, work.

Trans women likewise often have a stronger jaw than most cis women. This comes from years of practice in being, and looking, determined. Through the countless occasions in which trans women have to set their jaw and push forward with composure and grace, it inevitably develops a certain width and breadth that says, “I know who and what I am, and what I am is unstoppable.” This sort of determination is hard won, and so trans women wear it for all to see.

Finally, as you may be aware, trans women often have a somewhat more pronounced brow than their cisgender peers. This brow, while not present on all trans women, is related to the intense scrutiny and analysis which trans women often devote to concepts like “womanhood,” “the patriarchy,” “oppression,” and “the gender binary.” If you find a woman with such a brow, you can be sure that she is a highly intelligent, brave, and revolutionary sort of woman — and when combined with the other traits discussed here, she might well be trans too.

Putting It All Together

If by now you are thinking it is nearly impossible for one woman to have all of these privileged traits, you’re not wrong. Most trans women are lucky to have two or three of these traits. This is why you must look at all of these traits in a holistic manner.

However, you can be relatively sure that you have found a trans woman when you have found a woman who stands head and shoulders above her peers; who is powerful and sensual; and who commands respect. You can be sure that you have found a trans woman when you have found a woman who is proud of herself; who is determined; and who is intelligent, brave and revolutionary.

Of course, there are many cisgender women who one might describe in this way, but chances are if you start by looking for the sort of woman described above, you are well on your way to identifying the trans women at your local gym.

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Musician, Writer, Post-Butch Femme. She/her. More at galen-mitchell.com.

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