Thanks for reaching out to AlterHeros! As a felow AMAB (assigned male at birth) non-binary person, I would be delighted to share some tools and information to help with what you’re going through. 🙂
You describe that you “don’t feel right” in your body and would really prefer to look more feminine. You tried some things (makeup, nail polish, etc.), but it doesn’t seem to achieve the results you would want. At this point in time you’re not sure what to do next.
If that’s okay with you, I’d like to start with a few simple definitions so that we’re sure to talk about the same concepts. You might already know them, but since you didn’t mention it in your question I’d like to make sure.
Trans : An umbrella term used to describe people whose gender identity differs from the sex they were assigned at birth.
Non-binary : Used to describe people who experience their gender identity and/or gender expression as outside of the male-female gender binary.
Gender identity : Our internal understanding and experience of our own gender. Each person’s experience with their gender identity is unique and personal.
Gender expression : The way in which we present ourselves, which can include physical appearance, clothing, hairstyles, and behavior.
By the way, if ever you want to learn about gender identities and diversity, the Trevor Project is an amazing website for education and resources about LGBTQ+ topics.
Now, regarding the negative feelings you have about your physical appearance, that sounds a lot like gender dysphoria, which can be described as the discomfort, unease, anxiety or depression we can feel when our gender identity and social perceived gender don’t align. Gender dysphoria can be physical (when physical features don’t match our true gender), but also social (being misgendered or perceived as the wrong gender), mental and emotional (worrying about our gender and transition).
Those feelings are quite common among trans and non-binary people, but it’s important to remember there is an up side. Gender euphoria is a powerful state of happiness, comfort and relief we can feel when our true gender is recognised and visible.
Before going any further, I want to say that gender and femininity can be wildly different depending on who you ask. I’ll give you some options but keep in mind that there is not one single unique way to be feminine, trans or non-binary.
Hair, makeup and nail polish are a great way to express your identity, but there are a lot of other options also available 🙂 For example, some specific makeup techniques, fashion tips, exercises and workout and hair and skin care routines that can help feminize your body and the way you look. Maybe you’d like to look into gender gear? Gender gear are accessories and clothing items, such as gaff underwear or breast forms bras, that can help affirm your gender by changing the appearance of some of your body parts. For more information and to get help to buy affordable gender gear, you can reach Julien (firstname.lastname@example.org) at Project 10 or Matisse (email@example.com) at Jeunesse Lambda.
Hormone remplacement therapy (either by oral medication or injection) is also something many trans and non-binary people consider when trying to reduce their physical gender dysphoria. Here is a quick overview of the changes that can be expected from feminizing hormone therapy :
- Breast development (starts in 3-6 months, takes up to 2-3 years)
Reversible changes (if you stop taking hormones)
- Body fat redistribution (starts in 3-6 months, takes up to 2-5 years)
- Muscle mass and strength reduction (starts in 3-6 months, takes up to 1-2 years)
- Softening of skin (starts in 3-6 months)
- Facial and body hair reduction (starts in 6-12 months, takes up to 3 years)
Hormone therapy can also reduce sex drive and fertility and have an impact on overall emotionnal state and range of emotions, but not always.
Are those the kind of change you would like? Now could be a good opportunity to look into what kind of change you would like and what your transition objectives are. It’s also good to know that some people microdose their hormones, they take a lower dosage to experience more subtle changes or have them happen more gradually.
A trained medical professional could tell you more, answer your question and eventually write you a prescription if you so chose. If you do not feel comfortable with your family doctor, there are doctors working with the informed consent approach in Montreal (Centre Meraki and Centre Louvain, Cliniques La Licorne, L’Actuel and 1851). These professionals will be able to guide you and provide information without judging or assuming what you need. Having a family doctor you trust is important, maybe you can ask one of these doctors if they take new clients. You said your social worker was trying to set up a follow up with a psychiatrist, that’s also a good alternative. If you want to talk more broadly about self-esteem and body issues with either of them it might do some good.
Eventually you might consider gender affirming surgeries. In Quebec, genital surgery (vaginoplasty) is covered by the RAMQ, but breast augmentation and facial feminisation are not. The GrS clinic is where most gender affirmation surgeries take place in Montreal and their website has a lot of information on what’s available. Like I said earlier, those are just options. Medical transition (hormones and surgeries) can help some people alleviate their dysphoria tremendously, but it’s not a requirement or an obligation to feel better.
There are ways to deal with negative feelings about your body when they come up that do not require as much time and effort, or even to change your appearance. You can try to think of the body parts that you actually like about yourself (it can be anything from your eyes to your calves). You can remember that your body is yours and that feminine, trans and non-binary folx can look a multitude of different ways. It might help to surround yourself with diverse models and representations (@alltransbodies on instagram, for instance). Talking about your emotions and experiences with other people in similar situations who will recognise you in the way you want to be seen can provide great comfort. Perhaps you could look into the peer support programs of Project 10, ASST(e)Q or the Center for Gender Advocacy or share in Facebook groups like this one or this one. Remember that you are not alone in this, there’s a whole community out there that will understand and support you.
Not directly gender related, but it is essential to take good care of yourself, especially in moments when you feel distressed or self conscious. What that looks like is different for everybody : making art, writing, journaling, blogging, listening to music, watching tv, reading a book, talking to a friend, eating a snack, taking a nap, a shower or a bath, exercising or meditating. What’s important is that you do things that make you feel good and happy, without being in the mindset of always having to be productive, available and attractive. It’s definitely a challenge but it’s worth the effort.
Alright, well I think that sums up what I wanted to say. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you what you should do or not, but I think if you give yourself some time to think about what you need and what’s available, the answers will come. Let me know if the information and options that I provided helped you or if there’s anything else I can do. Feel free to write to us again if you have more questions or you to give us some news!
Wishing you much warmth, love and compassion,
Maxime, intern at AlterHeros