About me

Get to know me intimately without interaction! Yeah!

Introduction

My name is Ruby and I'm a 29-year-old transfeminine software developer from the UK who specializes in video games development and QA/test automation. I love working on video games specifically, because it's a great creative outlet and you can do a lot with them. Making something fun and seeing the end result is awesome :)

I have a birth defect which prevents my body from being able to properly balance my hormone levels, causing a wide range of health issues which started manifesting themselves at around the age of 5 years old. The problem is progressive, slowly getting worse over time, and is exacerbated by stressful situations. I spent my childhood, adolescence and early adult life with no clue what was wrong with me, with multiple incorrect diagnoses that didn't explain all the symptoms. In October 2019, I ended up almost dead in hospital suffering from psychosis, and things stopped being ignorable. I started pursuing treatment for gender dysphoria in January 2020 (one of the more annoying side-effects of the imbalance) and the resulting medical diagnostics finally identified the root problem. It turned out that manually balancing my hormone levels using transgender hormone therapy would fix up the vast majority of the health issues I was having, so medical transition at that point effectively became mandatory for me. I consequently started taking feminizing hormone replacement therapy (aka MTF HRT) in March 2020. I've been able to achieve around 90% remission of both the mental and physical health issues this way, which I'm extremely happy about. This therefore technically makes me a transgender woman, as although I was assigned male at birth, I now live with a female hormone balance (which I have to live with permanently), my body is slowly feminizing, and because of the dysphoria I consider my real gender identity to be female.

I now largely live under my affirming name, with my friends and co-workers generally considering me to be a girl. In public I normally present as a feminine-looking dude, mostly out of safety reasons, because I'm not really able to pass as female right now and don't want to look visibly trans in public. I'm sometimes gendered female by strangers anyway regardless (something which is slowly happening with increasing frequency) so I'm not sure how much longer this will keep working. If/when my body gets to the stage where I feel I have a good chance of passing as female, I intend to try to ditch my male presentation completely (which I'm hoping will be around 2022-2023). This is something I'm kinda playing by ear.

I like to play video games as a hobby. As a child, my parents were very reluctant to spend money on video games or consoles, so I was mostly stuck playing hand-me-down games and borrowing things off friends. For consoles we owned a second-hand Atari 2600, SNES, Sega Master System and PS1, but only had a few games for each, and 99% of the time weren't allowed to use them, so I spent most of my time on the computer. A lot of my time there was spent playing Tomb Raider (one of my all time favourite games) along with Grim Fandango, Transport Tycoon, RollerCoaster Tycoon, Total Annihilation, Theme Hospital and Worms. I also played a lot of random game demos from computer magazines. I compensated for the lack of new games by trying to write my own, which is where my love of game development originated from. As an adult, I'm able to buy my own stuff, and I've slowly had to play catch-up and learn about the gaming scene, so there are a lot of modern games I've flat out not played, as my free time is very limited and there are a LOT of games to work through. Despite this, I'm happy to delve into almost any genre of game. I especially enjoy playing multiplayer with my brother and close friends. They tend to be rather partial to real-time strategy, so I spend most of my free social time playing games like Age of Empires and Supreme Commander. We also very regularly play Warcraft III, Worms, Sonic & All Stars Racing Transformed, Sanctum, Call of Duty and Golf With Your Friends. I used to also run a modded Minecraft server, which I loved, because I got to socialize there. When I'm not playing multiplayer, I sometimes delve into single-player experiences and my favourite single player game is currently Saints Row: The Third. I also love Pokémon, something which you can probably tell by the fact that my avatar is a Celebi.

Small bugs in video games really annoy me, and I've spent a lot of time modding and rebalancing games in an attempt to improve them. This led to me creating "community patches" for quite a lot of different video games over the years. I also find that most games don't have a coherent bug tracker, and as a result, most people don't instinctively know how to use them (or even that they might exist), which bothers me a lot. In my opinion it's the obligation of the developer to provide a bug tracker and link to it from within the game, but no developer generally does this.

Between November 2009 and July 2020 I ran my own indie games modding and development team (known as the Ginever Alliance from 2009-2016, and Ginever Entertainment from 2017-2020) which was built on top of an internet forum I'd been running since October 2005. I met a lot of new people this way, and learnt a lot about software engineering, system administration, and various other aspects of computing, but it eventually became too much of a burden on my personal finances and I ended up closing it down.

One of my biggest computer pet peeves is when installers or updaters put icons on the desktop automatically. I hate having a cluttered desktop and I end up just immediately deleting the automatically-created icons. Having to do this all the time is annoying.

I love weird things, and to surround myself with strange and interesting people. Most of my close friends I have 10+ years of friendship with, and all have some unusual oddity about them. I like to think this makes us special, and at least we're not boring! A few of my friends live in California and sometimes I fly out there to spend time with them.

I can play the trombone to around UK grade 6 standard (although I don't play very often so I'm kinda rusty). I used to be part of the local youth bands where I live, and went touring around the world playing jazz, wind and orchestral music. This is most of my exposure to the rest of the world, as my mother doesn't like international travel so I never went on holiday abroad with my parents. Before playing trombone, I used to play the keyboard. I also love to sing, and used to sing as the lead in the school choir as a little kid, but I can't stand to hear my own voice any more, so that makes it really hard for me to sing in front of others nowadays.

I am ambiverted and have a need for both self-isolation and company. Whether I'm in the mood for company or not really depends on my current emotions. I prefer to live alone because other people interfere with my privacy. However, I'd love to live really close to my friends so that I could invite them over for things if I'm up for socializing. I'd love to have a nice large house just so that I have space for all my friends to come round. I'd love to own a place with both an indoor pool and a cinema room. These are all unrealistic fantasties though :)

Sleep architecture interests me a lot and in the past I've dabbled with polyphasic sleeping. I also have interests in endocrinology as a result of my medical situation.

I love to go out walking - this is one of my favourite activities. Helps me get exercise and lose weight too! I also get really queasy travelling in a car nowadays, which doesn't happen if I walk to wherever I'm going. I blame the state of the local roads, which are extremely uneven and full of potholes, largely due to an incompetent local council. The only problem with walking everywhere is I tend to arrive at places being really sweaty :(

My favourite colour is red. My least favourite colour is green.

I'll eat almost anything sweet, but when it comes to savoury I'm way more fussy. My favourite foods are cheese and chicken, and in general I'll eat any kind of meat, but I don't like plain rice, pasta, boiled potato, baked potato or most vegetables, and prefer to avoid curries. This makes it extremely hard to go to a restaurant and order food, as I generally won't eat most things on the menu. When I get takeout I tend to prefer chips, chinese food (I'm very fond of takeaway sweet and sour) or pizza, and I generally find something I like from each takeaway and then stick to it. When I was at uni I frequented the local takeouts and ordered the same things so frequently that I was eventually able to simply walk inside and they'd see me and start preparing my order before I'd even asked what I wanted. It made for a pretty great experience :)

I avoid shopping in ASDA or going in Nando's because I was treated poorly by the staff last time I went there (the staff at ASDA caused me to lose £600 and the staff at Nando's served me cold food late on purpose for making a legitimate complaint). I also avoid KFC because, although I love chicken, for some reason fried chicken just doesn't agree with me. I stay away from Smoky Bacon crisps and Kit-Kats too, because they make me feel nauseous.

I like to bake, although I'm not very good at it and don't get to bake very often. My proudest achievement is a 6-tier rainbow cake which I made for my 29th birthday.

Alcohol-wise, I like to drink cider. I'm also okay with vodka, although it can often be nasty. I generally don't touch anything else.

When it comes to television and films, I have a preference for sci-fi. I'm a fan of TNG-era Star Trek (TNG, DS9, Voyager and Enterprise) as well as Stargate, Firefly, and the reboot of Doctor Who (as far as Peter Capaldi). I also like supernatural stuff at a push, and I'm quite partial to the original Charmed. The most recent show I enjoyed was iZombie, although it went badly downhill in the last season. My friends are also trying to get me into anime, but so far I've only seen Sword Art Online (which had a great start but went downhill fast) and Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid (which was hilarious). I love time travel too - my favourite film trilogy is Back to the Future. I also particularly like Groundhog Day and Inception. I don't really watch that many films though, so there are a lot of classics I've just flat out never seen.

My long-term goals are to pursue full transition, to find a career path I legitimately find enjoyable, and to find someone to settle down with who can tolerate my extremely weird quirks. These all seem like enormous hurdles to overcome right now, but I have confidence I'll figure it all out eventually :)

I think that pretty much covers everything important :)

Questions I'm sometimes asked about boring things

Where does your username come from?

I originally wanted to use 'Celeruby' from combining Celebi + Ruby, but it was already taken in many places. I value having a unique username so it wasn't viable. Then I remembered when I used to play World of Warcraft, all my characters were prefixed with Thel, which is really close to Cel. So then Celeruby became Theleruby. This fit the uniqueness criteria so it's now become my user handle :)

I notice that you wear a Huel hoodie and sometimes drink Huel. What is your opinion of it?

It can be a convenient way to get nutritious food if you're short on time. It tastes OK but not great. I was also only ever able to make it work with sweet tastes. I'm very picky with savoury tastes, so getting something savoury to work was almost impossible for me. (But if they managed to make a Huel that tasted like chicken, I'd probably live off it!)

I noticed your keyboard and the layout looks weird. What the hell is that?

I use a British Dvorak keyboard. I switched to that layout in 2012 as an experiment to see if it would reduce RSI. It did. I kept using it.

I notice you wear sunglasses a lot, even indoors. What gives?

I suffer from migraine headaches and the dark lenses seem to reduce them.

What version control do you prefer and why?

I like the Mercurial version control system the best, and normally I prefer to use this for all projects.

When I switched away from Subversion, I looked into both Git and Mercurial as replacements. At the time, Git's user experience on Windows was total garbage, whereas Mercurial had a great user interface in the form of TortoiseHg. This is still mostly true today - TortoiseHg continues to excel compared to all of the Windows Git user interfaces, so Mercurial continues to be the most noob-friendly DVCS. In the long run, I've also come to appreciate some aspects of Mercurial which simply don't translate well into Git - named branches in particular.

I really like also the easy extensibility of Mercurial. I've been able to write plugins in Python very quickly to do large conversion operations on repositories, which is super awesome.

I generally consider Mercurial to be superior in pretty much every way to Git, which makes me sad that Git won out in the DVCS war. I try to avoid using Git wherever possible. (This doesn't mean I'm incapable of using Git - I just prefer not to.)

Questions related to stuff I've done in the past

Didn't you use a different username online before?

Between 2006 and 2020 my main user handle was Tinytimrob which came from "Tiny Tim" (my first computer) and "Rob" (my birth name / deadname). I don't use this any more given the fact that I'm no longer identifying online under my birth name. You might still see older content of mine listed against this user handle though (especially on websites where you can't change your username).

The library of Ginever work dates back to 2005 and is quite substantial. Do you have any plans to release any of it as open source now that Ginever has closed?

I'd like to, but this poses a rather large challenge. It's not simply the case of dumping the code onto an open source hosting service and relicensing it.

The first issue is with ownership. When I was looking for a new job a few years back, I started seeing power-of-attorney provisions in employment contracts for the purposes of taking ownership of IP. This scared me, because those provisions could theoretically be used to take ownership of everything I've done in my entire life previously, then in theory I could be laid off the day after signing. This is extremely hyper-scummy and immoral, but you have little choice when the alternative is going bankrupt! So we therefore put a shared rights control agreement in place to protect Ginever from any future employers who might want to take ownership of our work. The agreement grants irrevocable lifetime exclusive rights of Ginever projects to the Ginever management panel as a group, then mandates that the group must unanimously agree on what to do with those projects. The whole thing was designed explicitly to try to prevent anyone from doing anything the group didn't jointly approve of, even if one of us technically lost copyright ownership of the work through scummy contract provisions. I decided that, if the choice was between risking a random company I used to work for taking ownership of all my stuff OR the Ginever management panel having guaranteed control of the work, I'd take the latter any day. Therefore, by technicality, I no longer have sole control over anything I've done for Ginever, and I'm not able to open source the work by myself, because it's not technically mine. I'd have to get joint consent from all three of Ginever's main staff and get this jointly signed off. This is definitely possible, but to be honest it's a bit of a hassle.

The second issue is with source control. All the code is currently in Mercurial, and a lot of it relies on the existence of named branches. It also relies on numbered changesets at the publishing source where, once published, a given build will never change revision number. This poses an issue for open sourcing, since the vast majority of people would rather use Git and GitHub, which doesn't support named branches; the open source model also isn't practical to use with guaranteed fixed revision numbers. If I can't get the stuff to work with Git, it's unlikely it would get much interest from anyone. I prefer not to use Git so this is another blocker.

Another issue is that lot of the stuff makes default assumptions that don't work outside of Ginever. For example, there isn't currently any way to publish a GinENGINE game without using the GineverLauncher. It might be possible to rework and refactor all the engine code in order to make an open source release practical, but I think this would be a lot of effort for me, for something nobody really cares much about.

I'd also like to strip out my deadname from any new open source project releases, but this is a fair amount of work, since my deadname is hardcoded in many places, and even in releases since I started transition I've been unable to realistically remove it from everywhere.

There are some additional problems related to open sourcing the Robbit mod pack. These mostly relate to the fact that I built the pack using methods that are considered "unacceptable" by both Mojang and the modding community. The source code to Minecraft versions between 1.3 and 1.7.10 are included within the repo, along with smaller sections of code from versions as new as 1.12.1, and code for several closed-source mods. I don't have any rights to redistribute those components. It's completely unworkable to separate out the Robbit-specific things without what is likely to be months of work, as I never developed the pack with that in mind. It may even be legally impossible. The repo also relies on a large number of Mercurial subrepositories, which would pose a substantial challenge to people who would like to fork it. Still, with regards to Robbit, all the stuff I worked on is released under a license which technically allows you to decompile the stuff and use it for your own purposes as long as you own Minecraft. You can decompile it with a 1.7.10 compatible version of Fernflower or some other equivalent decompiler. So there is that going for it.

I've seen reports of you doing polyphasic sleeping, what happened with that?

I've tried to sleep polyphasically multiple times, and I was one of the major contributors to the scene during 2017. I helped to come up with a lot of hypothetical theory which was later proven truthful. I really wanted to sleep polyphasically to try to give me more time to work on my business. I also wanted to try to experience more regular lucid dreaming, because I spent a lot of my sleeping time dreaming of being a girl. Unfortunately, I'm not able to make it work, because my birth defect causes intermittent obstructive sleep apnea. My depression was also exacerbated by being awake at night, as my intermittent need to spend time with people wasn't being met. I also find the community to be generally toxic. Because of all these factors I ended up permanently quitting and don't intend to try doing it again. I also now recommend people don't even bother making the attempt if I get asked about it. I effectively consider it to be an unrealistic and unsustainable lifestyle choice for most.

Questions I'm sometimes asked related to transition and/or my medical status

Having a weird birth defect must suck. What are the side effects?

Here are the full list of side effects I've experienced:

Unfortunately it's inheritable (autosomal recessive) so any kids I end up with have a good chance of also being afflicted with it. RIP

If the defect caused a hormonal imbalance which affected your development doesn't that arguably make you intersex?

Maybe? This is tough to answer.

The big problem here is that there isn't really any specific definition of what exactly counts as an intersex condition. If you go by the Wikipedia definition (which says Intersex people are individuals born with any of several variations in sex characteristics including chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones or genitals that, according to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, "do not fit the typical definitions for male or female bodies") then I suppose I should be classed as intersex, because my body is incapable of balancing my hormones to either 'typical male' or 'typical female' levels regardless of how I medicate. My hormone levels have arguably NEVER all been in male range, and my body isn't capable of keeping them in that range either. It's also proving pretty much impossible to keep my hormones in a normal female range even with very aggressive doses of HRT.

The medical consultants reviewing my case would probably argue though that I'm not covered under the definition of intersex, because in my 'natural' state I still ended up with something that was very close to male (apart from the dysphoria). But if I'd been assigned female at birth then I'd have ended up over-virilized and it would DEFINITELY count as an intersex condition. So there is kinda bias there.

In short, I don't really know and it's somewhat debatable.

Did you have any alternative medication options for treating the defect besides HRT?

It's possible that glucocorticoids would work, but they have so many side effects that it seemed extremely undesirable. I'd rather avoid them. I may end up having to go on an extremely low dose anyway, but, if so, this will be managed very carefully with extreme caution.

I think that a CYP17A1 inhibitor (aka an androgen synthesis inhibitor) would work too, but it's far more difficult and more expensive to get hold of that sort of medication. Abiraterone acetate seems like a strong candidate, but it requires glucocorticoids to be taken in parallel due to also inhibiting cortisol synthesis, which again I'd rather avoid. Seviteronel also looks good and doesn't have the requirement to take glucocorticoids at the same time, but it's still in clinical trials at this stage, so essentially impossible to get hold of.

In contrast, MTF HRT is very cheap, very safe, easy to get hold of, and proving to be decently effective :)

Why did you pick Ruby as your feminine name?

Sometimes people wonder why I didn't just go for Roberta, but I always hated my birth name, and I think Roberta is really ugly, so I had to consider other options. I made the decision that I wanted to keep my initials the same, so this limited me to names starting with the letter R. I started out considering names like Rachel, Rebecca and Robin. I came to the conclusion that Rachel and Rebecca were too common, and Robin was too gender-ambiguous - I wanted to go for something that was unambiguously feminine, but also fairly uncommon, because I value my name being uniquely identifiable.

So I sat there looking down the list of distinctly-feminine names... and Ruby jumped out at me. My favourite colour has always been red, so to have my name also be a shade of red seemed really fitting. It's also a really cute name, and it's a precious gem, which is cool too. A quick Google search found nobody else with the full name I was considering, so the uniqueness criteria was met and it seemed perfect. I kinda just fell in love with the name and it was at that point I decided it was going to be all mine :)

What is your opinion of transition so far? What are the advantages and disadvantages to you? How do you feel on HRT compared to before?

I probably consider going on MTF HRT to be the single most important and life-changing thing I ever did. I now get to live on a hormone balance which is gender-affirming and it's made me significantly happier. "I really regret making myself look and feel better" said nobody ever :)

In my opinion, starting estrogen has made me a better person, both mentally and physically. I look cuter and more attractive than I used to. I am way less anxious or miserable. I laugh and giggle a lot of the time now when I didn't before. My health is significantly improved, with less blood pressure spikes, less hormone spikes, and my neuropathy symptoms are almost completely gone. In contrast, when I lived on androgens like testosterone, I had a huge stack of random issues and I was a complete wreck.

I should note though that after starting transition, my gender dysphoria actually got worse. This is mostly because I'm now acutely aware of it rather than trying to repress it. It's pretty common for trans people in the early stages of transition to have the severity of their dysphoria increase and I'm hoping it will die down again later.

I have mixed feelings about the fact I came out in public, because I feel like I'm under a lot of pressure to transition successfully and to present femininely which is something I'm not comfortably able to do right now :/

Emotions are far, far more complex and this is taking a lot to get used to (although there is a lot less anger and it's easier to control which is good).

Laser hair removal hurts. Ow.

The biggest disadvantage of the HRT to me has been the fact that I'm forced to stay on a very high estrogen level for adequate birth defect suppression, so my estrogen level is continuously higher than ovulating levels. This has made me feel very broody. The feeling started around 6 months into HRT and seems persistent. I'm not able to carry children but I still feel the biological clock ticking. It can be kinda offputting. I know other trans women have been like this but I don't think this is a particular transition negative in and of itself, it's just really exacerbated by my estrogen level being so high.

What happens if you change your mind later? Would you consider detransitioning?

I don't have that luxury as the medication cocktail I'm on now (which includes a high dose of estrogen) is literally keeping me alive and discontinuing would probably kill me. So I am effectively required to stay hormonally female for the rest of my life, regardless of how I feel. In other words, medical detransition is not realistically possible for me.

I'm a very practical person. Being in the position where I feel like my real gender is female, and I am biologically required to feminize and stay feminized regardless, it seems a lot more sensible just to embrace being female.

Who are you interested in romantically/sexually? (or "I want to hook you up with someone, who should I look for?" or even "Will you go out with me?")

Right now I'm single but I don't know who I'm interested in. I haven't figured it out yet. The fact I am mid-transition makes that an even more awkward question as I'm not comfortable trying to enter into a relationship with anyone while I'm in this state.

Are you going to get "the surgery"?

Firstly, this is a really personal question to ask anyone. Secondly, there isn't just ONE surgery for MTF transition, there are actually up to four. Typical surgeries include Facial Feminization Surgery (FFS) which reshapes your face to look more female, Vocal Feminization Surgery (VFS) which reverses the vocal pitch drop that happened during puberty, Breast Augmentation (BA) which increases the size of the breasts [since hormones don't generally make them grow too much], and Sex Reassignment Surgery (SRS) which alters what's down below. I'm assuming by "the surgery" you meant the last one, but someone doesn't need any particular surgery to be a particular gender. Gender isn't determined by what's down there; if it was, you'd have to ask every new person you meet to pull their pants down so you can take a look. Obviously this doesn't happen :)

As of right now I don't know exactly what surgeries I'm going to get and it depends what happens to me over the next blob years. Surgery is not funded by the NHS and is consequently extremely expensive. I will push for what I can afford if and when I need it. But in general, I expect I will likely go for at least FFS and VFS as long as I can get the funds together and coronavirus doesn't screw things up any more.

What is your opinion of transgender healthcare and equality rights in the UK?

I'm only really able to answer this question from the point of view of a trans woman, but I'll give my opinion anyway.

Trans healthcare in the UK is utterly shambolic, and makes the UK look like a third-world nation. The route you're supposed to go down is via the GICs, but the waiting times for the GICs are extremely long (~4 years), and the GICs themselves are a total utter joke. You might be waiting several more years after you're first seen before you can get HRT prescribed, and even then, the doctors there have no clue on correct dosaging, the blood panels are not frequent enough, and there is very little specialty for unusual cases. The whole system is explicitly designed to try to prevent as many people from transitioning as possible even though for the vast majority of trans people it's an essential life-saving treatment. It comes across as EXTREMELY transphobic. A large number of transgender people are consequently turning to DIY hormone therapy, which is in a legal grey area for trans women, but completely illegal for trans men (testosterone is a controlled substance, whereas estrogen is not).

The available forms of HRT are also extremely limited. For trans women, the best option is realistically injectable estradiol (valerate or enanthate), but that's not available anywhere in the UK and can't be obtained on prescription even if you ARE transitioning through officially sanctioned routes. (It is however available via those grey area DIY routes, making the available medications for DIYers better than those going through the official health service, something which is frankly absurd.)

Surgeries are a joke, with the only surgery available for trans women being SRS, and the surgeons here use an older method that results in a vagina that doesn't self-lubricate. No other surgeries are covered on the NHS, even if they're medically necessary for passing to help alleviate gender dysphoria. You're pretty much therefore left to try to gather the funds to pay for surgery privately (which could be up to £70k total if you get every surgery, an amount that most trans women would be completely incapable of ever paying).

If you manage to transition successfully (and that's a big *IF*) you're still required to get medical signoff to change your passport's sex marker, and if you want to legally be the gender you actually are, you're required to get a gender recognition certificate, the process for which currently pretty much guarantees almost nobody will get one. Without the GRC, you legally remain the gender you were assigned at birth, even if your driving license and passport are updated to match your actual gender. This impacts a few things, including retirement age, and the prison you'll get sent to if you break the law.

In terms of employment rights, the Equality Act 2010 arguably protects trans individuals at every stage of the transition process (even when questioning), but the employer can just obviously make up some other bullshit reason to get rid of you, or they can discriminate against you without directly stating so when looking for a new hire, so in reality the protections do nothing.

As an MTF, how easy/hard is it to hide the fact you're transitioning?

The standard prose seems to be that it's easy to hide an MTF transition, but I found it completely unrealistic to do that. My original plan was to remain closeted as long as possible, but this simply didn't work. The fact I was gender-questioning, and later went on HRT, was almost blatantly obvious to others, even if I didn't really say anything directly about it. One person even worked out I was trans before I'd started HRT, solely because I'd grown my hair out to a very long length and that wasn't very 'normal' for me. Once I started transitioning, I completely lost the ability to authentically present as a heterosexual cisgender male. That's not to say that I was able to authentically present female either - it just became obvious fairly quickly that I wasn't a straight cis dude. I continued to wear my boy-mode clothes, but that didn't make any difference - before I knew it, I was clearly looking androgynous even in my boy-mode clothing.

Hiding my transition from my parents proved pretty much impossible. Breast growth is probably the single biggest giveaway, even if you're not so lucky with how much you get. My parents noticed that my chest was pushing out before I was even two months in, and managed to mostly figure it out from that alone. By the 6 month mark a close friend of mine was begging me to wear a bra because of the indecency of not doing so, and I relented after they ended up ordering me one. I'm pretty sure that breast growth was also the main reason I started male-failing in public around the 8-9 month mark while still in boy-mode, despite the fact I wasn't even filling a AA cup bra. You could probably get away with hiding things for longer with a baggy t-shirt or something, but I'm not sure how realistic that would be for the long term. Some people suggested using sports bras, but I was never able to find one that fit me; I struggled getting a fitting bra at all because I need a large band size that is hardly made anywhere.

On social media I posted pictures of me going around my everyday life, and I talked about how much happier I was feeling etc, and how surprised I was by that, but I did not mention at all that I was transitioning. It was clear I was doing *something*, but I never specified what. I also went out of my way to ensure any shots of myself that I uploaded were of my face only so that my breast growth wasn't visible. By the 4-5 month mark, several people DM'd me directly to ask me whether I was transitioning or not. A few others had also worked it out in private, but were too polite to say anything. When I asked 'did you figure out what I'm doing yet' to some people I wasn't out to, to try to gauge how obvious my transition was, their first guess was transition. Somehow people figured this out from only seeing pictures of my face (which still looked pretty much male) and descriptions of me feeling much less crappy than normal. I ended up outing myself 5.5 months in after I realised that most people who were paying attention to me had already worked it out. This was a lot sooner than I was prepared for.

The vast majority of people who start taking MTF HRT are AMABs who are mentally female. The hormones will not only start to push their body in a female direction, but from my experience, will also subconsciously amplify their natural feminine nature. I'm not sure for the exact reason, but I suspect it's something to do with the fact that the baseline feeling of being on estrogen is noticeably different from that of being on testosterone, and I guess that difference in mental feeling permeates into everything, which reinforces femininity in the brain. This results in some masculine or androgynous behaviours being feminised without the transitioner even noticing, which might also make it hard to keep pretending to be male in the long term. It certainly happened to me. For example, I noticed that my posture and the way I walked slowly changed. I was also doing other little things like playing with my hair or crossing my legs when I was supposed to be boy-moding. I ended up finding it hard to try to mimic male behaviour in this sort of respect, and that also contributed to me male-failing even when my face still looked pretty boyish. This experience isn't too uncommon either - I've read about some closeted MTFs being interpreted as being gay males from accidentally blending subconcious feminine behaviour into their boy-mode. I don't think this is avoidable without significant effort.

While my vocal pitch didn't change at all (unfortunately on MTF HRT it won't un-drop), my natural speaking pitch was already pretty androgynous, being at around 150-160hz before transition. The 'subconscious feminisation' impacted me here as well. Before I went on HRT, I would always get gendered male reliably on the phone. I started male-failing on the phone around 3 months into HRT without doing any vocal training, I guess because I started subconciously putting feminine inflection into my voice or something without intentionally trying to. At around 4 months HRT, I tried to book an appointment over the phone under my deadname, but the receptionist figured out I was trans almost immediately, and asked me for my female name so they could correct the system (it's a good job I'd picked one). This sort of thing kept happening. At around the 9 month HRT mark, I tried to cancel some insurance over the phone, and several people in a row didn't initially believe that I was male, instead asking me what gave me the right to cancel on my male persona's behalf (and then I had to insist that I was myself). This makes absolutely no sense to me, because if I listen to a recording of myself, there is no way I should be perceived as a woman. Weird experience for sure.

When I started my new job at 8 months HRT, I interviewed as male, which was successful mainly because my chest wasn't visible on webcam. I talked with HR about my transition afterwards and was consequently onboarded as female. At this point I wasn't even remotely passing, but it was also blatantly obvious that I wasn't cis male, and I didn't think it was realistic to try to onboard as someone I wasn't. Since then I've basically been living almost exclusively under my female name (although I'm still in my boy-mode clothes because of COVID).

I think if you were still managing to get away without anyone realising you were transitioning by the 12 month mark you'd be lucky, unless you kept yourself completely isolated from everyone, and/or worked really really hard to try to hide and suppress your underlying femininity. I think if you weren't seen as trans by that point, it's likely you'd at least be interpreted as not being straight. Apparently I gave off a very strong asexual vibe before I started transition so I guess being trans was ranked as more likely than being gay. Go figure.

There's also the fact that, by hiding, you live a lie, and are doing yourself a massive disservice - you deserve to live genuinely. I know this isn't possible for everyone though because transphobia is rampant.

Do you have any other suggestions to make life easier to possible closeted trans people?

Changing your online username and e-mail address is a massive faff. Some places won't even let you do it. I would strongly recommend everyone pick a username and e-mail address which is gender neutral, even if they don't think they are trans. You don't know if you'll end up being trans or not, and if you later realise that you were wrong, and that you are trans, and you attempt to pursue transition, your life will be made much easier if your online user handle doesn't have to change.

I was able to find a name that fit the girl version of me perfectly without changing my initials, and I think this was genuinely useful. It gave me an effective 'gender neutral' identity that I'm able to use indefinitely for formal purposes without being wrong either way. I'd therefore strongly advise that, if you're considering transition, picking a new name which matches the initials of your old name might be helpful, since then when you're in early stages of your transition and/or closeted, you can get stuff put under your initials without it being legally wrong and without feeling like you're being deadnamed. This obviously might not suit you, but it was definitely helpful to me, so it's definitely worth considering IMO.