Category Archives: Reader Questions
One of the most common complaints about attire that I hear from the Trans-masculine community is the inability to find clothes that fit right. When we find a shirt that fits right in the hips, and chest, the shoulders are too big or the sleeves are too long. Pants that fit in the waist are often too long in the legs. The problems are endless, and vary widely, depending on your body type.
True, these problems are highly individualized, depending not only on your body type, but on your decisions or journey in transitioning (pre-T, no-T, 1 year on T, pre-op, non-op, etc) as well. However, there is one word that I think any gentleman, no matter their gender identity or journey, should know: “tailor.”
Over the years, I’ve had a number of garments tailored: button-down shirts, jackets, suits, pants, and more. A well-tailored garment makes a noticeable difference: it appears more fitted, stylized and professional. Often, shirts or pants that are not tailored appear too baggy or tight, and distract the eye. Simply put, a tailored garment can add polish to your wardrobe.
So, I wanted to address the importance of a tailor, including: finding a tailor, what to expect in a tailor, and, as always, considerations for transmen.
Finding a tailor
Obviously, this is the first step in getting your clothing tailored. Like a barber, I would advise you to first talk to the community. If you know transmen in the area, ask if they have a tailor recommendation. If that’s not an option, think about people you trust and/ or those who look like they may know a tailor: friends, co-workers, colleagues, even a teacher or professor.
When asking for a recommendation, don’t just ask for a name/location; ask why this person recommends that tailor. Are they LGBT friendly, do they have good prices, fast turn-around, or is it just someone that this person has been going to for years and never thought to change? If you’re asking someone whom you are out to, ask them if they think this tailor would make you feel comfortable.
If you can’t find a recommendation, I have found that Yelp.com is helpful. The site has a lot of reviews, however there are more reviews in “metropolitan” areas. It’s good to see what people have to say, the good and the bad. Also, try reaching out to your online communities (TQNation.com, Tumblr sites, susans.org, livejournal.com, selfmademen.com, etc), to see if anyone has a recommendation for your area.
Another important note: if you’re going to a tailor for the first time, bring in only one item, preferably a “stand-by” shirt or pair of pants. That way, you don’t risk sacrificing an entire wardrobe to a bad tailor or experience.
If you’re looking to save some money, and looking for something simple (a hem, or other easy fix), see if a family member or friend sews. You might be surprised to learn who can help you with a quick fix! For the more complicated things – a jacket or suit tailored, taking in a shirt, etc – I would say stick to the pros. But, for the “small stuff” a friend or family member may be a cheaper and even quicker help.
What to Do and Expect When Going to a Tailor
Of course, what a tailor does will depend on what you need: having a suit custom made/tailored involves a lot more than a simple hem on a pant leg. For now, I’ll talk about the simple stuff – but I plan to write a more detailed post in the future about suit shopping/tailoring (so stay tuned for that).
Obviously, bring the clothing item to be tailored, and explain, first, what you’re looking for: explain what DOESN’T work about the item of clothing as clearly as possible. A quick note about the garment itself: wash the item before you bring it to the tailor. We all know, washing an item, especially for the first time, changes various elements; so run it through the wash first. Plus, if this is something you’ve had for a little while, do you really want a tailor to handle your dirty laundry?
The tailor will ask you to put the item of clothing on, so they can assess the situation for themselves. Here, it is important to replicate, as accurately as possible, the average way you will wear the garment. For instance, if you plan to wear a pair of pants with dress shoes, don’t try them on with sneakers. Bring in the shoes (or type of shoe) you plan to wear the pants with. Do this with a shirt or jacket, as well. If you plan to wear the shirt under a particular blazer, bring in the blazer; or if you plan to wear the shirt tucked in, tuck it in when the tailor is looking at it (they may ask you to un-tuck it at some point, but you should show them how you plan to wear it). You want this garment to work for you, and how you want, so help the tailor out, by being prepared.
As many of us know, tailors get pretty “up close and personal” in many respects. It can be a little unnerving, but remember, they’re NOT doing this to embarrass you, they’re doing this to make sure you get the best fit possible. Just relax, because, if they’re good at their job, you’re going to look great. The tailor will take a variety of measurements, depending on what you’re having altered. While they’re measuring, stand as naturally as possible. If you “suck in” any gut, for instance, then your garment will fit your “sucked-in” measurements. So stand naturally, and the item will fit you well, all around.
Don’t be afraid to voice your opinion. Just like a haircut, the tailor isn’t doing their job right unless you’re happy. So, if they pin a hem that looks too short or too long, say so. If it feels like they’re trying to make the pants tighter than you want, say something. As I said before, make sure you explain what you want to achieve with the garment: if you want the pants to stay loose in the leg, or the shirt to be tighter in the shoulders, that’s fine, but you need to tell the tailor. They can’t read minds! But also be aware, they may explain something to you that you hadn’t thought about. So be open to their opinion – they are the professional. Have a conversation with them about what you’re looking for, and what they think.
What to bring to your Tailor
Not all garments can benefit from the magic of a tailor. If something is WAY too small, for instance, no tailor will be able to salvage it. Here is a list of things that I generally bring to a tailor, and for what (mind you, there are other options, these are just my most common):
Pants: Generally I look for pants that fit well everywhere else, and go to a tailor for the hem. However, some pants can be boxy in the leg, and so I will have the leg taken in as well. For instance, I had one pair of pants fit great everywhere else, but for some reason, the thighs of the pants were HUGE. I wanted to get that taken care of. It doesn’t help if it looks like your pants have wings. (Take a look at the picture, the pants should look natural from hip to shoe).
Also, if you’re like me, you have that one pair of jeans or pants that you just love: they’re broken in, and they work in every way possible. Sadly, that fateful day comes when a hole appears; but don’t fret! A tailor may be able to patch that! Don’t toss out the perfect pants for just a hole, take it to a tailor and see what can be done!
Shirts: These benefit the most from tailoring. Maybe I have a weird body type, but finding the right fit in shirts, is nearly impossible. The sleeves are always too long, or shoulders too big. Luckily, those are things a tailor can address. I try to err on the side of caution, and get something that fits well, but is maybe a little too big or too long in some areas. Generally, I try to buy shirts that fit well in the neck and collar, but get the sleeves and shoulder tailored.
You can also get the entire body of the shirt tailored, but keep in mind that this will limit any growth (good or bad). I like to keep a shirt relaxed, but not overly loose.
Considerations for Transmen
Remember what I was saying about replicating how you wear the garment for the tailor? This is especially true for us transguys. For instance, if you pack regularly, then pack (with the same packer) when you go to a tailor. If you bind, then make sure you bind the same way, with the same or similar binder, at the tailor.
A note about packing: if you’re getting pants tailored, the tailor will ask you which side you “dress to,” or if you “dress right or left.” This means which side you let it hang. Be prepared to answer this question (preferably without stumbling). Also, personally, I don’t pack on a frequent basis, but I may wear an extra small packer to the tailor just to avoid any confusion. I know this breaks my rule about “replication;” however, it’s personally important to me to avoid any awkward gender situations. Since a tailor will be “up close and personal,” I would rather be extra prepared for any confusion, than caught with my pants down, figuratively speaking. I find that a small packer doesn’t change the fit of the finished product, so it’s worth it for me. You may have a different experience, but this is just my opinion. (and watch out for Joey’s Tailor….)
Also, having recently had top surgery, I have found that I need to take a trip to the tailor, as my shirts are fitting differently, since surgery. So, for those of you who have surgery scheduled in the near future, be aware, a trip to the tailor may, also, be in your future.
Lastly, for those who are just starting T, or still new to T, you may find that your body shape is changing. I know several guys had to go out and buy a new wardrobe, typically in a smaller size, approximately one year (or less) after starting T. If you’re on a tight budget, a tailor may be a better solution to this problem! Getting the waist taken in or shirt body trimmed down will be cheaper than buying all new pants and shirts.
I realize that this is a lengthy post, but I think a good tailor can really give a polished look to your wardrobe. If you have any specific questions or comments, please post them!
Thanks for reading, and, as always…
Cheers – Mason
“Do you have any suggestions about scents? I know it’s mostly a personal choice, but I was wondering if you had any advice. I’m looking to move out of my Axe-scents since I’ll be turning twenty this year, and that tends to be more of a teenager’s scent.”
A great question, and thanks for the submission! First, your instincts to ditch the Axe (or Tag, Bod, and other body sprays) are correct. These scents are not only targeted for the teenage sets, but I’ve also heard a number of people (women and men) complaining about these fragrances. Across the country, young men are using these sprays in over abundance; as if the more spray you use, the more masculine you will be perceived (for more reading on this phenomenon, check out this NY Times article). So, toss out the sprays, and opt for a more mature scent.
Now, there is a right way to do scents, beyond these sprays. As you said, it’s a matter of personal choice, however, I have some tips, to find your personal style. First, it’s important to understand that there are two (typical) ways to do scents: cologne and aftershave. I’ll discuss each of these choices, individually, followed by general rules for wearing scents…
When discussing men’s fragrances, the most common reaction is to reach for the cologne. Colognes are the strongest and most noticeable way to do scents, so I would advise to tread lightly. These fragrances are typically activated by body heat, so be aware of where you put cologne (pulse points, versus spraying it on your shirt). Also, all fragrances smell different on each person: just because your dad has worn Old Spice for as long as anyone can remember, doesn’t mean that this scent will work for you, like it has for him.
When selecting a scent, you’ll need to actually go to a store and see for yourself (sorry, no online buying on this one). If you’re in a relationship, I suggest bringing your significant other (“Sig-O”) along with you. Let’s be honest, their opinion is probably important to you. If you’re not in a relationship, bring a friend. If you’re not out, or only newly out, make sure to bring someone who is understanding about your identity (I’ll speak more about Trans-specific shopping a little later).
So, you’ve got your friend or Sig-O in tow, and you’re facing the cases or shelves of fragrances: now what? First, if you’re at a department store, avoid getting
attacked sprayed directly by the salespeople. How can you identify each individual spray, if you have another scent lingering on your shirt? Typically, department stores will have cards to test out sprays: use those. If this is your first foray into scents, ask yourself what types of scents appeal to you: citrus, woods, spices, flowers, musk, or some combination of these. Once you have a type (or two), narrow things down from there. Personally, I have a very sensitive nose, so I have to take a break when choosing a scent. Take a few minutes, walk around, and come back to the fragrances (a good opportunity to buy your friend or Sig-O a cup of coffee). If you’re at a drug store, there may be less opportunity to test out sprays: sometimes there may be a tester bottle available. Again, avoid spraying it directly on you, at this point in the process.
Once you’ve narrowed things down to a few different scents, try them out on your wrist. Remember, things smell different for each person. Placing cologne on your wrist will give you a correct characterization of how it will smell on a regular basis (remember, pulse points). Also, move around a bit, after applying cologne: the scent will react to your body chemistry, so working up a slight sweat may change it, subtly. You want to make sure your scent works both at rest and while moving around. From there, it’s all a matter of taste. Get your friends or Sig-O’s opinion, and go with it. If, later, you find you don’t care for the scent, try something else. But at least you’ll have a better idea of what you’re looking for.
Be aware, cologne can be expensive. If you want, go to the stores, find what you like, then check out the prices online. Also remember, a bottle of cologne should last you a year or more (if you store it correctly, out of direct light, it can last up to five years).
When choosing a cologne, your age is also something to consider. I know many of my readers are in the 18-24 range, so here are a few “younger” colognes that I’ve heard positive things about:
- Lucky You, for Men (this is my personal choice to wear when going out)
- Davidoff, Cool Water
- Abercrombie & Fitch Colognes (any of them, from what I hear)
- Swiss Army, for Men
- Intimately Beckham (David Beckham’s line)
These are just a few; and remember, these may not work for you, personally. But, it’s a starting point, if you’re at a total loss. If you’re interested in more mature scents, let me know, and I will add those to the list.
Aftershave is, as I’m sure you guessed, what you apply after you shave. It comes in a variety of forms: liquids, lotions, balms and gels are the most common. The purpose of aftershave is to close your pores, after you shave, and leave you smelling good. So, when buying aftershave, you have to consider not only the fragrance, but the feel of it, and your own complexion, as well.
Since aftershave is applied to the face after you shave, the fragrance won’t last as long as cologne. If you’re going for lasting fragrance, go with colognes. That being said, I’ve found aftershaves add enough fragrance for my day, on most occasions. Also, be aware, if you’re applying aftershave liquids or gels, after you shave, it may sting. This is not usually true for lotions or balms.
An important note: depending on your own complexion, aftershave may dry out your face, or aggravate any acne. If this is a factor, look for oil free aftershave balm , particularly from the companies that do acne treatment (Neutrogena, Nivea, Clearasil, etc.).
If you choose to do cologne on a regular basis, but want to use an aftershave to soothe your skin after shaving, make sure to do an unscented aftershave, or one that compliments your cologne (same name/brand).
One rule to remember with scents: less is more. You want your scents to accent your personality, not dominate other’s perception of you. If the first or last thing a person remembers about you is your cologne, you have a problem. Of course, when used effectively, colognes can leave people with a very positive impression of you.
I would advise to never wear cologne for the first time to an important event, such as meeting a Sig-O’s family, interview or first day on the job. Generally, cologne is a “night out” type of accessory, and not something to use on a regular basis at work or school. For everyday wear, I would advise using aftershave as your fragrance, and save cologne for cocktails, dinner parties, or weddings.
When wearing cologne, as I said, it should be applied lightly to your wrists, neck (I do a dab behind each ear, and a dab on the back of my neck), and sometimes chest. Don’t use the “walk-through” method, where you spray it into the air and walk through the mist: this method can give you too much fragrance, and may harm your clothes. You can also apply cologne to the back of the knees. Sounds strange, but applying it there will make the scent rise throughout the day.
Considerations for Transmen
Heading into the cologne department in a large store can be a bit intimidating. However, by bringing a friend or Sig-O along, you can ease some of this tension, as well as get their input. Make sure that your company on this trip validates your identity: having someone who is questioning your gender will make this process more challenging than it needs to be. If, at this point, you don’t have anyone who validates your identity, reach out to the community, and find other Transguys who can help. Ask to meet up at a mall, for instance, and get their advice on colognes.
If you’re on T, just starting T, or about to start T, be aware that your body chemistry is going to change. This means that the way colognes or aftershaves smell on you may change as well. You may find that colognes that used to work very well on you, no longer smell as nice. If you’re about to start T, or in the first year of T, I would suggest getting a small bottle of cologne, first. That way, if you find you need to change things up because of a change in body chemistry, you’re not wasting money.
Also, in the first year of T (or years, for some of us), acne is an inevitability. So, when choosing an aftershave, I would advise something in the “skin care” lines, that is oil-free. These won’t make the acne go away, but it will at least ensure you’re not making the problem worse.
I hope this answered your question! If I missed something, or if you have any other questions, don’t hesitate to ask. Good luck!
Cheers – Mason
I grew up in Southern California, where the most severe winter weather I suffered was a bit of rain, or temperatures dipping to the frigid forties. Imagine the shock my system received when I moved to Northern New England. The first snow-storm I lived through as a resident Yankee was a terrifying experience; I had no idea how to dress, shovel, or drive in the snow. My first winter was plagued with freezing fingers and toes, and so many colds, I think I would have bled DayQuil.
Luckily, after four years of winter weather, I have figured out how to dress to handle the snow and below freezing temperatures. Over the past two years, I have spent considerable time building up a sufficient winter wardrobe. Not only does this call for the informal winter wear (ski jackets, snow-boots, etc), but also a collection of formal/semiformal winter gear as well. Wearing a suit and tie, or other formal/semiformal clothing, is not nearly enough to keep you warm in the winter; so, you’ll need some winter accessories to compliment that suit, or other semiformal wear. I’ll take a “top down” approach to this post, starting with hats…
(I realize, of course, that this post doesn’t apply to everyone: for my readers living in southern states or locations that don’t get snow and ice – well, I envy you. But read up, just in case. You never know when you might take a trip to places where winter is more than rain and above-freezing temperatures).
The winter is a great excuse to break out your hat collection. We all know that the human body loses a majority of its heat through the head: hats conserve this heat, keep your ears warm, and they look sharp, to boot. For semi-formal, business or formal purposes, a fedora is a classy choice. Of course, fedora’s aren’t cheap, and aren’t suitable for every situation. My go-to winter hat is a wool ascot (or “newsboy”) cap. It’s formal enough to compliment a suit, but easier on my budget.
For semi-formal or businesses events, I avoid the beanie or stocking cap. It will mess up your hair, and conveys a more informal appearance. If you need a hat, and only have a beanie, than go with it; but remove it before you go into an interview, event, or any other formal/semiformal gathering.
Moving down the body, to the scarf. In some places scarves are more than just an accessory, they are a necessity. Generally, for choices, I stick with dark or natural colors, to compliment whatever suit I may be wearing. My primary scarves are grey, black, camel, or combinations thereof. My wife knits (beautifully, I might add), so I also have an in-house scarf maker; she has made me several scarves in the past, if I needed something specific.
Contrary to popular belief, there is a right and a wrong way to wear a scarf. If you live in colder climates, you know that simply throwing a scarf around your neck doesn’t do much but act as an accessory: that won’t keep you warm. If you’re from a cold climate, this is probably “old hat” for you. However, I want to provide the most basic overview for everyone, regardless of experience. Here are a few examples, and thoughts on scarf tying:
The Parisian – this is the preferred method for my wife and me. It involves folding the scarf lengthwise, placing it around your neck, doubled, then pulling the loose ends through the looped end, around your neck. Personally, I like this knot because it works with long and short scarves, and keeps me the warmest. (See David Beckham to the right, sporting a Parisian)
Once-Around Knot – This is the basic overhand knot (think about the first knot you tie in your shoes), applied to a scarf. This is the most casual, and well known way to tie a scarf.
Loose Once-Around/Twice Around Knot – This is simply the process of wrapping the scarf around your neck once, or twice (depending on length). This knot is not all that warm, in my experience, but does look nice.
We’ll need something to tuck that scarf into, so let’s look at coats next. This will be the most pricey of your winter wear (followed closely by your boots). For formal/semiformal purposes, I avoid my ski/snowboard jackets or parkas, unless the weather is at its worst – and if the weather’s that bad, chances are someone will cancel. Your best choice, again for formal/semiformal or business purposes, specifically, is a topcoat or longer overcoat. You have a great deal of flexibility here, in length, style, color, weight and cut.
Topcoats and overcoats are tailored and made to wear over a suit. If you live in an area with wetter, rainier winters, rather than snow and ice, I would advise a light topcoat, or a raincoat, over the heavier top/over coats. A raincoat is made to withstand a good soaking, whereas the others are typically made of wool or other materials that don’t handle the wet as well. That’s not to say you can’t get the others wet, but they may loose their shape, and begin to get musty with too much regular soaking.
Cut, shape, and length are largely about your personal style. However, if you are shorter, I would keep your coat short as well: the longer coats may accentuate your height. I prefer a coat that hits below the hip, but above the knee. As for color, I keep things as simple as possible, with grays, browns or blacks.
For those of us on a budget, but still wanting to look put together, a peacoat it a good option, as well. That’s what I have right now (I’m waiting for the top and overcoats to go on sale in the spring). The peacoat can be both informal and semiformal, if put together correctly; whereas top/overcoats are more formal or business attire. If you’re in the business world, and have a budget to do so, I would suggest looking for a good top or overcoat. For those who are not yet at career levels, or don’t wear a suit regularly, than peacoats are a great option. Peacoats are double-breasted, and typically hit at my preferred lengths (between hip and knee). Again, stick to the basic colors of black, brown or grey. Toggle coats, are another option very similar to peacoats. Toggles, however, stand out a bit more, and make a bolder statement.
Leather is another option. The nice thing about a leather jacket is that, similar to a peacoat, it can be both formal and informal. This depends largely on style: personally, my leather jacket is mostly informal, and goes better with jeans than a suit. Be aware, leather jackets require a little extra care and maintenance. Water-repellent sprays, for instance, are important to keep your leather coat moisture free.
What to wear under that dapper coat? Here in the northeast, it’s all about layers. If I’m going semiformal (no suit) I regularly layer a crewneck, v-neck, quarter-zip, or vested sweater, over a collared shirt and tie. This provides enough layers to keep me warm, and keep me looking “put together.” As I said, I stick to crew, quarter-zip, v-neck, or vested sweaters: these are the most classic styles. Also, I try to keep patterns minimal in my sweaters. Maybe a little argyle (if you’ve read my past blogs, you know my love for argyle), or striping, but otherwise stick to solid colors.
Personally, although gloves are arguably the most important gear in winter wear (I’m thinking about frostbite here), it’s one place I choose to save a bit of cash, fashion wise. You could spend a great deal of money on gloves, with options like lambskin or leather. Instead, I choose a basic glove that is function over fashion. That being said, make sure your gloves match your coat in color. Wearing tan gloves with a black topcoat, for instance, is a no-go.
If you’re in the mid-west or northeast, you know the importance of salt and sand during an icy winter. Now, while these materials are important to our safety, they wreck havoc on our footwear. And, if you’re heading to an interview, formal event, or you just want to look nice, you’ll run into a conundrum, in the footwear department: function or fashion. Sure, you may have a great pair of sleek, leather business shoes, but will they keep you warm, comfortable and slip-free on the ice and snow? But do you want to sacrifice that sleek style for something like a clunky, but warm and sturdy snow boot? Here’s my take on the matter:
First, if warmth is the issue, look to your socks, not your shoes. A pair of warm, wool socks will keep your feet warm, and put you in whatever shoes you want: from casual to formal. Plus, socks are a whole lot less expensive than shoes.
Next, if you’re heading into the office, I would advice wearing the snow boots to and from the car, but keeping your business shoes with you, to change in the office. This is a common practice, and gives you the best of both worlds. This also works for events, by keeping your formal shoes in the car, and changing before heading in. It beats walking in with shoes scuffed by snow or salt.
For a classic, comfortable, and warm winter boot, here in the northeast, everyone raves about the L.L. Bean All-Weather boots. I haven’t had the opportunity to try these out yet (if you have, post! I’m still undecided on purchasing some), but from what I hear, they’re ideal for a cold winter, and don’t look too shabby either.
There are some great mens boots out there. However, they vary widely in price-range, style and purpose. Here’s a quick guide, that may help you narrow down your own style, or at least give you an idea of what’s out there.
Considerations for Transmen
For those of us still binding, a cold winter is one of the few times we can at least feel a little better: although uncomfortably painful, those binders do keep us warm. Additionally, if we’re layering with bulky sweaters, some of us may be able to get away without binding at all (depending on comfort level, size, etc.). If you are binding, however, keep in mind that you’re wearing an extra layer at all times. This may mean that layering with a sweater may be too much, especially when you get indoors. Some people keep buildings extra warm in the winter, and, while you may be comfortable outside in the cold, going inside may require you to shed more layers.
As I mentioned earlier, the length of your coat can accentuate your height. If your conscious of your height, or lack thereof, I wouldn’t go any longer than knee length with your coat.
Lastly, with layering, particularly sweaters: another reason to avoid patterns is because patterns can accentuate a larger chest area, or hips. If you are still binding, be aware of this, and consider sticking with muted patterns, or simple solids. This isn’t true of all patterns, or all body types, but it is something to watch out for.
As always, if you have any tips or thoughts you would like to add here, please post! I love to hear about your experiences, thoughts, or questions on these topics. Thanks!
Cheers – Mason
I recently saw this post on tumblr. To sum it up, the poster was asking about submitting resumes and applying for jobs, mid-transition. I happen to be in that situation myself: I am less than a year into T, only recently changed my name (legally), while preparing to graduate from law school, and sending out applications for my first job in the legal profession. I’ve had to juggle the name-change on my resumes and applications, and worry about presentation and disclosure in interviews. So, I thought I would write a bit about my experiences, in case we’re not the only ones in this situation.
Name Changes and Applications
The general rule of thumb here is to apply under the name that is on your legal identification (SS card, license, passport, or anything else you use). You shouldn’t apply under your chosen name until you have a court order, or other legal name change document in hand. There are a number of legal reasons behind this: background checks, tax documents, health insurance, etc.
So, what if you have a court date, or your name change in just around the corner? Personally, I chose to apply under my legal name; then, when the name change was legal, I called or emailed my potential employers and asked to amend my application. This happens more often than you think: some people move, others get married, or some people forget to add jobs on their resume. Nevertheless, amending an application is not unheard of. Often, they will ask you what, specifically, you are changing. Inform them that you need to change your name, as you recently obtained the full, legal, name change. In my cases, the employer just asked for a new resume, indicating my new name; a few asked for a new application.
Another option, to ease the transition to a new name, is to apply as if your chosen name is a nick-name, like this: Jane “Billy” Doe. Put your chosen name in quotes, after your first name. So, when you call to say that you’ve legally changed your name, your potential employer will already have warning. And, if you get the job before the name change, you can request people use your chosen name.
Past Jobs/References after Transition
This is a sticky situation, and no real “one good way” to handle this (in my opinion). For instance, for two years I worked in a police department, which was not the most Trans-friendly place. I can’t exactly call them up and say “hey, I used to work there, and I’m now going by Mason and I’m transitioning to male.” That’s not an option. However, I list them on my resume, and I run the risk of my potential employer reaching out to them for a reference. So, what to do?
First, I don’t list a phone number or address for any of my past jobs on my resume. If they want to reach out, they’re going to work for it – and be less likely to do so. Also, at the bottom of my resume, I explicitly state: references available upon request. This tells employers “I will give you the names and numbers of references, please don’t just call anyone.”
If you feel comfortable, I would tell prior employers about your transition and name change, if you think it will come up. If it’s very awkward, and will cause you more pain or stress to do this, then don’t. But, if you know someone who works there, you left on really friendly terms, or you know that the people with your prior employer are really Trans-friendly, than I would say it’s better to be safe than sorry. Tell them, so that when your potential employer calls, you don’t have to worry (as much).
If your potential employer asks for references, think hard about this: who will give you a good reference? Who is most likely to use the right pronouns/name? Who do you feel comfortable talking to about your transition? Remember this: NEVER list a reference without talking to that person first. It’s just application etiquette. And, when you’re asking to list them as a reference, you may tell them “by the way, I’ve recently changed my name and my pronouns, would you feel comfortable using those?”
Are you having trouble finding a reference you think might work with your gender identity and name change? Start looking at more creative places for references: people you may have pet, house, or babysat for, blogs you wrote for, internships, friendly teachers or professors, etc.
I’ve talked a little about disclosure during an interview in this past post, but you may consider disclosure either before or after the interview, as well. If you have some concerns about references, you may want to disclose about your identity and/or past names. For instance, if your potential employer asks for references, you may say something like “you may want to know, I recently changed my name, and employer XYZ knows me under my former name.” If they asked why you changed your name, you can choose to disclose the reason, or simply state “for personal reasons.” If they push, you can say you’re not comfortable discussing it; although, for the most part, many employers will stop pushing with the “personal reasons” explanation.
Considerations for Transmen
Well, this was a pretty trans*-centric post, so the considerations for transmen is going to be shorter than usual, and more on a personal note:
Remember to always have a positive attitude when discussing your identity with employers. If you decide to disclose your identity at some point in the hiring process, do so positively: you should NEVER be ashamed of your identity, and no employer has any right to make you feel shame or doubt about your identity. Ever.
A lot of disclosure comes with “feeling out the situation.” I can’t explain it, other than to say there is a gut feeling we get with people we meet. Sometimes you can tell when someone will be welcoming about your identity, and when they will not. Go with your gut.
Things aren’t always going to turn out right. That’s true for all job applications, trans* or not. But keep that positive attitude I mentioned, and something will come along. The market (here in the US) is getting better, jobs are coming around: just stay positive, and positive things will happen. Remember, people are always more ready to hire, when you have a smile on your face, and a good attitude.
Cheers – Mason
What is business casual? This always is what people are supposed to wear when I go anywhere to give a speech, and I am always overdressed when my gay friend pulls me aside and fixes my outfit. (Thank the lord for him.) But one day I hope to graduate to dressing myself for events where I am to wear business casual things. I would love to just be able to have one outfit and stick with that, but I am soon going to be speaking two, three times a week, and I don’t think one outfit will cut it. So anything you’ve got on business casual would be much appreciated!
Ah, the mysteries of business casual. Unfortunately, this question can only be answered with an unsatisfying “it depends.” But not all hope is lost, I do have some guidance for you!
Generally, business casual is code for “not a suit, but still look professional.” This can apply to a myriad of situations: professional settings, academic events, social gatherings, etc. How you approach business casual will depend on the situation, as well as your personal knowledge of the people involved.
Professional Business Casual
If it is a professional function (interview, career fair, first day on the job, etc) and I am told to dress business casual, I typically go for the basics: nicely ironed slacks (make sure to get the crease in those), button up shirt (also ironed), tie, and dressier, business-like shoes, with a belt to match. Try not to go too flashy with the tie or shoe selection: the point is not to make a fashion statement, but to be comfortable as well as professional. Depending on your own knowledge of the situation, you can opt to lose the tie. Frequently, if it’s appropriate, I will wear a tie my first day, but, if it looks like no one else does, I will ditch it after the first day or week. Remember: for professional situations, it’s better to be a little over dressed than a little under-dressed.
A helpful tip for a new job: if you have an interview first (typically NOT business casual), take a look around during your interview. Are the other employees wearing a slacks and ties, or going with a more casual polo? Make a note of this during your interview, that way, when you get the job (not if, but when), you can pattern your attire according to what you saw, and not feel more nervous than necessary on your first day. Of course this doesn’t work for every situation, but it can be helpful.
There is an even more casual version of “business casual:” personally, I call it “polo casual.” I had a job several years ago, that fell into this category. The basics for this type of attire are slacks with a tucked in polo shirt, and some kind of leather shoe (avoid sneakers or sandals). I would never assume this kind of attire was appropriate, unless I saw other employees wearing it first. However, I did want to make note of it, in case you’re in this kind of situation.
Academic and Social Business Casual
For the non-professional, but still important, academic or social events, it can be a mixed bag. As a frequent guest lecturer for college classes, I opt for a bit more laid back business casual. Typically, I wear slacks, dress shoes and belt with a button up shirt (top button unbuttoned), and no tie. If it’s cold out, I grab a sports coat on my way out (or tweed jacket, for the real academic look). However, there are some instances where this would be entirely too formal, even for the professor. In those cases, I go with nice jeans, dress shoes, belt and a button up. Not exactly business casual, but more of, what I call, “academic casual.” Gauge whether to go academic casual or business casual on the person hosting the academic event (professor, administrator, moderator, etc). If you know them personally, you may want to ask or send an email saying “what would be appropriate for me to wear?” It’s a pretty common question, so you’re not totally out of line.
For social events (dinners, cocktail mixers, that sort of thing), you can go for a bit more personalized business casual. In these situations I would opt for slacks, dress shoes, belt to match, button up and tie with a sports coat. Unlike the professional business casual, you can chose a more stylized tie: something still tasteful (so no Garfield or other cartoon character tie), with a bit more color, texture or style.
Considerations for Transmen
Depending on where we are in our transitions, the slacks with a tucked in shirt can make us look pretty “hippy” (not from the 60’s, I’m talking about accentuating the hips). If you’re buying slacks for the first time, wear a button up shirt to the store, so you can see how it looks. You don’t want to go too straight leg on the slacks, because that will over accentuate your hips. Go for something more baggy, but still appropriate for business casual, to stay away from the hippy look.
As for button up shirts, if you haven’t had top surgery yet, and you’re bigger in the chest area, button up shirts can be a problem in the chest, with some bulging in the buttons. Try to find a shirt that fits well in the chest, and, if it’s too big everywhere else, take it to a tailor to have it sized to your body. I’m be doing a post a little later about finding a good tailor.
Also, specifically to my dear Anon: keep your fashion forward gay male friends around. If you have the time and money, and they’re Trans-friendly, take them shopping with you! Their advice can be extremely helpful.
Well, Anon, I hope this helps! Good luck!
Cheers – Mason