Social transition is the process by which transgender people publicly affirm their gender identity after coming out to people. This commonly involves changing one’s name and pronouns, as well as dress and other external gender cues such as voice and mannerisms. (This may occasionally be exaggerated or fall prey to stereotypes, not so much due to the belief that that’s how men or women behave, but rather because it allows one to make one’s gender identity clear to others in the absence of medical transition.)
Some transgender people choose to socially transition shortly after they come out to people. Others who plan on medically transitioning may sometimes choose to wait until they look more masculine or feminine. This can ease the process, especially when meeting new people who may just automatically read you as that gender, saving the trouble of coming out to them.
A note on pronouns: Many non-native English speakers in Singapore (even those fluent in English) have problems with gender pronouns, since languages such as Chinese use gender-neutral pronouns in speech. Some constantly use the wrong pronouns even when referring to cis people. They may thus find it difficult to remember to use the right pronouns for you, even if they accept your gender identity.
If you know such people, one option may be for them to avoid pronouns altogether. Alternatively, if you know that they do accept you, it can help to focus on that acceptance and other ways they affirm you as your gender, and brush off any wrong pronouns the same way you would when they misgender cis people.
One upside to this is that Singaporeans are generally used to people who get pronouns wrong, such that being misgendered in public would not necessarily mean being outed as trans.
Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are looking for trans-friendly services, such as hairdressing. If you or your business welcomes trans clients, do also let us know and we’ll add you to our private directory.
Facial Hair Removal
Trans women and other transfeminine individuals often seek facial hair removal. These services are available through the public health system in Singapore, but are not eligible for subsidy and cost about $450 per session. Public providers also tend to be inexperienced with treating transgender patients, and are thus not advisable due to less effective results and an inability to answer transition-specific questions or concerns you may have.
Aestheticians in Singapore are able to provide electrolysis and IPL (intense pulsed light) facial hair removal. They usually do not provide laser hair removal, due to requiring additional licensing to do so.
One trans-friendly provider is Suvins Electrolysis at Orchard Plaza. You can contact them at 9799 0004 to make an appointment.
At some point in your transition you may have to switch restrooms in public; this is almost certainly the case if you go on hormone therapy. Singapore presently does not have any specific laws about sex-specific usage of public restrooms, but you will likely still have to deal with other people’s reactions, and your safety could be at stake.
If you are most often read as of ambiguous sex (especially during the early stages of HRT), your best option is usually to find unisex or handicapped stalls where possible. This is the safest option and least likely to lead to trouble. Unfortunately, some public buildings in Singapore have handicapped stalls inside the two gendered restrooms.
Many trans people who plan to pursue medical transition will wait until the point where they’re visibly standing out before switching to the other. This is rarely a clean process where you go from being completely read as female one day to completely read as male the other day (or vice versa), so you’ll have to take your cue from how most people read your gender. A good way to test this is to see how the hawker stall uncles and aunties address you.
If you are at a point in transition where either gendered bathroom could be dangerous for you and there are no unisex options available, here are several tips that could help:
- Use the toilet before you leave home.
- If you are likely to be out for a long time, have some idea of where the nearest unisex stalls are, even if it is in another building.
- Avoid buying drinks; consuming large quantities of liquid will naturally increase your need for a toilet. At the same time, it is important for your health that you stay hydrated. Trans people suffer disproportionately from kidney stones and UTIs as a result of either dehydration or holding in their pee, and you don’t want this to happen to you. Bring along a water bottle so that you can drink just enough to quench your thirst, rather than finishing a whole cup or bottle.
- Move away from the busy areas to look for empty restrooms.
- Don’t wait until you very urgently need the toilet, just in case you cannot find one that isn’t crowded and scary, or if your go-to toilet is being cleaned, or the only stall is occupied, etc
- Develop the art of passing innocuously by a restroom to check if it’s empty before going in, and then hiding in a cubicle after you’re done and listening to hear if there’s anyone outside before leaving to wash your hands. (Please wash your hands. Don’t be gross.)
- As a general rule, you are much more likely to be stared at or confronted in the women’s restrooms, but more likely to be seriously hurt in the men’s if anyone should figure out you’re trans. Based on that, if you look male enough that there’s a good chance you’ll be read as such on a casual glance, you’ll get much less trouble in the men’s. Men generally don’t stare at each other in the toilet, unless they’re looking for sex or to start a fight. If however you are visibly trans, you will likely be safer in the women’s. In there, you may occasionally get shouted at or told to leave, but these rarely get physical and is unlikely to escalate to assault.
- If you are out with friends or family who are supportive, it always helps to have someone accompany you to the toilet. This both helps to protect you and to put others at ease. For instance, if you are a trans woman who does not pass very well as a cis woman, others are much less likely to notice that if you go into the restroom with a cis female friend. It helps even more if she’s chatting with you (if your voice might out you, you don’t have to reply). Others will take their cue from her. The same can apply for trans men early in transition who are still using the female restrooms; having a cis female friend will help to avert stares and prevent confrontation. This is less effective in the men’s restrooms, where two guys chatting is more likely to attract attention than distract it. The good thing about the men’s restrooms is that they are much less concerned about who is in there, and as long as you don’t visibly stand out as different, you are unlikely to be confronted. However, you may still wish for a cis male friend or family member to go with you or hang around outside the toilet, just so you’re not alone if things get ugly.
- Stare at your phone while you wait for a stall. This will often tempt others to stare at their own phones and not at you. It is also much harder to see someone’s face when they’re staring at a phone.
- It helps to emphasise the gender cues for whichever restroom you enter. If you’re a pre-T trans man who often gets read as male but is still using the female bathrooms, try to find a way to speak so that they can hear your voice – you can pretend to chat with someone on the phone, or cough, or make friendly small talk with other women in the restroom (“wah, this queue so long”, etc). Other things such as adjusting your hairstyle, adding or removing accessories, rolling up/down sleeves, putting on a cardigan, etc can help temporarily tilt others’ assessment of your gender one way or the other.
- Whichever toilet you choose, act like you belong there and people will assume you do. Confidence is key. If you look guilty or scared, people are more likely to think something is wrong and pay more attention to you. Go in with a purpose, use the toilet, wash your hands, and go out, treating it as no big deal and something you do all the time.