I see transgender people shopping at the mall

T-Dar is an uncanny sixth sense we transgender seem to inherit when we embrace our trans-ness. It allows us to spot a potential sister hunting for a perfect skirt in the sale rack. Or an unusually tall woman from across the parking lot, or the otherwise perfect lady whose hands are just a bit large. With a few quick glances to confirm our suspicions (the adams apple and hands are usually the easiest places to tell), we feel a warm – if unspoken – bonding of community. Perhaps even a spark of inspiration at seeing a sister so confidently walking among us.

Staci writes an enjoyable blog called Femulate and recently she asked ‘Got T-Dar‘? Sharing the pitfalls of a T-Dar false positive, and the inherent inspiration. After all, if the six foot tall blond “woman” is actually a woman, doesn’t that give us more hope that we can maneuver our six foot selves around society without always causing a stir?

Over the last few years I’ve found myself getting more and more sensitive. It seems as if every time I visit Nordstrom Rack there are one or two ladies who get my T-Dar ringing. I’m torn between approaching them out of a sense of community, watching them for some tips, or quickly moving on so as not to draw unnecessary attention to them. After all, I imagine that I wouldn’t enjoy a similar amount of attention. I may perhaps even become a bit more disillusioned with any hope of passing in my momentary lapse, forgetting that the transgendered have this uncanny ability.

Stepping Out Secrets

I can’t say that there is any one thing that sets off my T-dar. Height is an obvious factor, but I’ve been wrong more often than not relying just on this. I would say that after height, voice and body movement are the things I notice next. It usually starts as a subtle sense that something is amiss, that makes me pay attention.

Have you seen a transgender sister out and about? Have you approached them, or wish you’d approached them? Have you been approached by a sister while out and about?

Look fabulous!

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  1. Carolyn Ann 11 years ago

    Going down the escalator in Macy’s (34th St), awhile back. The walk was pure “male” and the skewed clothing demonstrated a lack of awareness.

    And at Nordstrom Rack on Long Island.

    I didn’t approach them because (in Macy’s) it would have been difficult, the crowd was considerable. And in Nordstrom, the attitude (body language, mainly) seemed to be “stay away!” So I did.

    I think it was in a Barnes & Noble in Omaha: the barrista was definitely playing with gender; young, hip, thoroughly inked and very polite. The gender was vague, at best, but he or she looked great! It was quite refreshing to see someone so comfortable in themselves. I also spotted a barrista at a Borders’ somewhere in either Virginia, or Maryland who was trying, very hard, to be feminine. I didn’t talk to them beyond “medium coffee, please” because it’s not polite to distract people, or call attention to them – especially when they’re working behind the coffee counter!

    Aside of that, a few times I’ve seen people I’ve suspected of being transgendered, but I’ve not been interested enough to try and confirm or deny my suspicions.

    I’ve never been approached (although once upon a time, I was looking at a pair of heels, and a woman told me I’d look great in them… 🙂 )

    Carolyn Ann

    • Vanessa Law 11 years ago

      Carolyn Ann – it’s funny how those more subtle things are noticed so easily by those of us trying to emulate woman 🙂 I was going to write about how surprising it is that one would go out without more focus on appearance, but then I realized that perhaps this is an overwhelmingly positive sign of self-acceptance. The confidence that despite their imperfections they’re able to go out in public. Though it does make it easier to spot others like us 🙂

      I’ve noticed that in the last few years more people who have ambiguous gender expression. I find this fascinating, and perhaps liberating for society that the youth (gosh, I must be getting old to use that word…) are comfortable expressing themselves across the gender spectrum, not feeling as if their identity is dependent on the clothes they wear.

  2. Lizzie 11 years ago

    About six months ago, I was in the local Target Store shopping for bras. I was in drab, and assumed people would think I was shopping for my wife/girlfriend. I was looking at A cup bras, and an elderly lady – I am 64 and she was about ten years my elder – very quietly and discretely said to me, “Oh no, Dear. You are going to need a B cup, not an A.” I stammered some nonsense about having orders from home, but she just looked me right in the eye and said, “It’s OK. My husband shops here also.” You could have knocked me over with a feather. I said, “Thank you.” “You’re welcome,” she replied, and turned and walked away.

    It was scarey, but at the same time made me very happy to know that I am not alone. But I have wondered ever since that day – How did she know? Ihave gone over and over that scene in my memory, and I am almost certain she was a genetic female. So how could she tell? I keep conming back to that.

    • Vanessa Law 11 years ago

      Lizzie – wow 🙂 I guess woman can tell the difference between a casual, confused glance and the more intimate shopping experience. At least for me I know when I’m ‘engrossed’ in shopping and I’ll bet my body language is different than when I’m just looking for some socks.

  3. Jacky Lucent 9 years ago

    I was shopping at Macy’s at the Benefit cosmetics counter in drab. I asked the SA that was a little taller than average if an eyebrow makeup would work with my complexion. She asked me if I dressed. I said yes. She introduced herself as a TS. We developed a bond and I visit her anytime I’m in Macy’s.

  4. Athena 8 years ago

    I’ve suspected it on a couple of occasions, but recently I met a girl who may be trans in a GLBT meeting (probable right?)  But I don’t know if it would be rude or not to just ask someone who’s obviously trying to be as woman as possible if they are trans or dressing because I noticed something was off.  I have recently been exploring my feelings of dressing, and put on makeup for the first time yesterday.  What’s an appropriate way to breach that type of conversation with someone?  It seems tricky to me without hurting someone’s feelings.  If someone noticed with me, I’d start feeling really insecure that what I was wearing, or how I sound wasn’t convincing enough.

    • Vanessa Law 8 years ago

      Yes, I’d definitely not walk up to them and out them. At best it’ll make them feel awkward and inadequate. If it’s a specific lgtb event, perhaps try engaging them in small talk, and maybe they’ll feel comfortable sharing more about themselves with you.

  5. cuckholddon 6 years ago

    I for 1 WISH “Friendly” people would come up& talk we me(us) often my wife is with me–I’m not good at picking folks out or I would start up conversations!

  6. Adena 4 years ago

    I don’t think my T dar works yet and most likely the places that I live in don’t have many T girls anyway though I wish they did so they could help transform me. I hope that it begins to work someday, even though I am gay and my gaydar has never worked either, lol

  7. Lisa Leona 4 years ago

    Yes this did happen to me. I was dressed very professionally and going shopping at Penny’s. I parked my car, got out and proceeded through the parking lot. Suddenly I was stopped cold in my tracks. About 100 feet in front was another sister standing by her car. She was not very convincing. She stood out obviously. We made eye contact and for a moment I did not know what to do. I froze. My mind raced and I almost was about to return to my car and abandon my trip as I know that I was starting to blush and feel strange. Not because there was another CD in the same location, but that she was plainly not very passable. I actually felt embarrassed for her. My nerve returned and I thought in my head, “hey I look good, and very passable, so what about her. I am going to proceed into the store. ” My only other concern was that if she follows me, people would realize what was going on and perhaps clock me too. The other sister I am sure did not realize that I too was a CD as I eventually walked with confidence past her, gave a smile and small wave. Upon entering the store, I realized that she was not behind me. I made my way to the shoe department. Upon reaching the shoes, I turned toward the store entrance and saw that the other sister had finally entered the store. To my surprise, no one made a commotion or a scene. The other sister lingered in the front of the store, looked at a few items on the rack and left after maybe only a couple of minutes. I don’t know if I should have made greetings with her, or did I play my cards right. I carried on for the rest of the day myself with no personal incidence or being clocked.

  8. Danielle(Dani) 3 years ago

    I’m a member of a service organization, admittedly I’ve been inactive for many years.

    I’d bet there are other members of that organization within this community. That organization is somewhat secretive. So they have an innocuous question that any member would know to ask another suspected member to help identify them. If the other person answers with the correct answer, then they know they are both members and can have a conversation about the organization. The question would seem a little odd to someone who wasn’t familiar with it but not too far out and the answer is very specific. Neither the question nor the answer is overly complex. On the occasion the question is asked of someone who isn’t familiar with it they might look at you and not understand what you said or why you asked that, you just say
    “Oh never mind,” or “I’m sorry, I mistook you for someone I thought I recognized.”

    Perhaps a casual method of identification like this could be developed. It could secondarily be used for people who are out and about and don’t wish to be identified, they would simply not answer the question and the person who had asked would excuse themselves and each would go about their business.

    • Julie Slowinski 2 years ago

      I love this idea!!! I tend to think my T-Dar is quite good and I see trans and CD folks all the time (or at least I think I do). I always want to say something. Not to figure out if my suspicions are correct, but to offer support – the kind of support that can only come from someone in the tg/cd community.

      I know I can’t say “Just in case you were born a guy, I really admire your bravery. And, by the way, you look fabulous.” If it turns out I was wrong, I can just imagine the tears that poor women would shed later that evening. Even if I was right, it would take another uncomfortable exchange to get across that I am actually one of her sisters and know about her bravery first hand.

      Back to that great idea about a secret phrase, it would need to be a question where anyone not in the know would absolutely answer with a no, but not make them think I was crazy.

      My suggestion is “I’m looking for a restaurant called Ziggy’s. Do you know where that’s at?” A nice tribute to Bowie and kind of easy to remember. Since this is not a real restaurant, most everyone will just say no and move on. However, if they are in the know, then the correct reply could be “Yes, I do know that place. But it closed about a year back.” Kind of referencing Bowie’s passing last year. (If you can’t tell, I’m a huge Bowie fan – actually listening him right now.)

      Well that’s my suggestion. I think the bigger problem is to get the word out.

  9. dizzylizzy lawson 2 years ago

    love all the stories tips on things like make up,help etc. all of us girls struggle in one area or another thank you all ladies some of the ideas are realling helping to achieve the look I want

  10. dizzylizzy lawson 2 years ago

    I don’t know if its best to tell a cd that she looks bad or really not like a woman or to just walk the other way I know we try our best to look fem. but some of us unfortunately some of us just have to many male traits to pull it off anyway if someone is really not convincing should I say anything to her or try to help really confussed on this just wish I could give them a makeover or something.

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