Rites of Girlhood: A personal exploration of rites of passage for trans girls

My birthday is coming up quite soon. It’s not the first birthday I’m celebrating knowing that I am trans, but it’s my first where everyone who knows me knows I am; the first since I’ve been out. I’m an adult, have been for a few years, and I’ve finally been able to convince half my family to stop giving me birthday presents. I’m hoping that those who still do will give me clothes I’ll actually wear, and perfumes that won’t just sit on the shelf collecting dust.

I’ve been out as transgender for nearly two years and it’s been a huge journey. I have two younger sisters and I watched them grow up and have seen all the rites of passage they went through; their first bras, first ear piercings, when they started getting teen girl magazines, when they started going through puberty. There are definitely rites of passage that all teenagers go through, first kiss, first sexual experiences, first alcohol, first time smoking weed, and there are also things that other young women go through such as catcalls and unwanted sexualisation.

I’m not ready to call myself a trans woman yet. I totally could, but I’m yet to do a bunch of things other girls and women have. So I call myself a girl as if I’m yet to go through puberty. And that’s quite true in some ways, particularly as I’m on the cusp of a second puberty myself (yep, you heard right, second puberty!).

I’d dabbled in makeup before I ever did a full face of it. I, like a lot of people my age, had a scene phase, and eyeliner was definitely a thing overused. My first makeup kit was a gift from one of my best friends. I still have half the eye shadow palette but everything else is long gone. One of my crowning achievements of late is that my makeup collection is now a sprawling mess on my dresser, like most of my friends’. These days I wear eyeliner more often than not, I’ve always got nail polish on, even if it is chipped, and I’ve always got two different lipsticks in my purse.
I bought my first bra with my girlfriend at the time, a massive 18F cup wearer, and so when we were looking though the bras we had this mutual bond between two people who couldn’t find a really cute bra that would fit. I have wide shoulders and a wide ribcage so I don’t really fit much below a size 16, and would you guess how hard it was to find an A cup bra that is size 16! So I ended up buying a size 14B and using an extender so that it would fit. It was pinkish red, with a hibiscus flower on it and little ribbon bows. I now fill a 16B completely and have almost a dozen of varying colours.

While I was still in high school, one of my younger sisters started moving from young girls magazines to teen girl magazines like Girlfriend and Dolly, and even some women’s magazines like Cleo and Cosmo. I remember sneaking them out of her room to read them; because while a half-naked girl on the bonnet of a car is pretty hot (the kind of magazines my peers at the time read), I’d much rather get tips on how to get the perfect wing on my eyeliner or learn to contour my broken nose into a cute shape. I bought a few for myself recently and was super shocked at the content being entirely different (Youtube vloggers are everywhere now). I think I’ll probably continue to buy trashy magazines cause who doesn’t like reading them just to find out the latest sex tips or the new methods of keeping your foundation from melting off during summer.

I’m pretty experienced with shaving—got to be when I have to shave almost twice a day—but shaving your face is nothing like shaving your legs. I totally understand the feminist agenda against shaving their legs (that’s a joke, I completely understand the reasons for and against shaving). Even today I struggle to get every hair the first go. Often I discover a line all the way up on the back of my leg. I’m such a huge fan of waxing though, which is always a great ‘girls night in’ thing to do (before you get too many bottles of wine in though).

I can count on one hand the girls I know who haven’t had their ears pierced. Its apparently pretty much a cultural thing for girls to get theirs done between the ages of 8 to 12. A quick trip to the hairdressers and a few seconds fumbling with the gun before the quick sharp pain and bam, you can now put little bits of metal in your ears to look prettier. I got mine done a few weeks ago, one of the first rites of passage to girlhood that I’ve been wanting for a while (and you bet I paid a professional piercer to take the time to put a sterile needle through mine instead of a gun). Honestly though, getting my ears pierced hurt more than getting my nose done, and I’d even put it up there alongside some of my tattoos (and I have a lot of them).

Almost every aspect of girlhood/womanhood is dictated to girls/women. Hair especially. And as a trans girl it’s just as bad. In my late teens I had long hair and I loved it. I can’t remember why I cut it off, but I did. And for years I kept my hair pretty short. It’s not too bad now, but for the longest time I was almost forced to wear a wig if I wanted any chance to be seen as a girl. I still have two of them, but they’ve been relegated to the back of my shelves while I’m experimenting with my hair for the first time in a long time.

I am but one trans girl and these experiences are my own. The openness with which I discuss these things is not something you can expect from every trans person either.

Words by Elle Void