Thoughts on Feminine Movementt

Tamsin Jones, July 2006

You look good, you feel good, and you dress well. Yet, you’re still getting stared at when you walk down the street. What could the matter be? Unfortunately, although you talk like a woman, you walk like a man.

It’s not your fault. You’ve had the misfortune to be brought up as a boy, and you got laughed at by your peers, and admonished by your parents and teachers whenever you did something like a girl. I certainly did: this happened to me whenever I threw a ball, held a boy’s hand or picked up a tennis racquet. It’s not a wonder that you grew up doing a passable imitation of how a boy moves and stands, simply to get through an unbearable life.

How can you correct the way that you move? Well, for starters, you could make the most of a powerful resource that is also free of charge, namely, observation. For sure, there are books and classes that you can take, but that could result in developing a rather self-conscious and unnatural way of using your body, because they focus on the ideals of feminine etiquette rather than on the realities of how girls and women actually do move.

The first thing that I noted about female movement is that it tends to be much more fluid than male movement. A woman flows along, while a man powers along. This is connected with oestrogen, which increases flexibility and suppleness in the joints. Even quite an uncoordinated girl will nevertheless display a kind of effortless looseness in her movements, e.g., the actress Thora Birch in Ghost World. How can you acquire this? Taking HRT will certainly help, but from my own experience I can also say that being post-op made a difference, because lacking testosterone (which promotes muscular development and a certain muscular tension), I found it easy to let my body “hang loose”.  Let your arms hang down loosely, and let them swing loosely if you want to—but remember to let them do this, and not make them.

The second thing is that movement differences can be partly attributed to skeletal differences between the sexes. In general, women have proportionately larger hips and longer legs than do men. Long legs plus broad hips add up to a wiggling walk. You may be fortunate enough to have quite long legs and fairly broad hips for a transsexual woman, but even if you do (like me) you will still be on the masculine end of what would be considered the normal female body spectrum—you will still need to work at your movement in order to make up for what nature neglected to bestow.

How can you achieve a graceful and yet slightly wiggling walk, given that, for a woman, your legs are short and your hips narrow? Observation helps, again. If you watch a typical man walk, you will see that his feet tend to flare outwards, and that he leads with his shoulders. Some very masculine men walk with a very pronounced leading from the shoulders. His steps are large strides, and his feet go before him in a straight line. In contrast, a woman will normally walk with her feet moving slightly inwards, which is the inevitable outcome of possessing broad hips. There is almost a sense of the feet crossing over in front of one another, curving inwards. Her steps will be shorter, too. The danger is to try too hard to copy this, with the result that your feet comically cross over each other in an exaggerated way, and that you mince, rather than walk. It is very difficult, also, consciously to make your hips wiggle. Your aim is to be feminine, and not a caricature of a gay man (think of Mr Humphries from Are you being Served?). My parents used to have a cat called Coriander, who showed me how a graceful female should move. Corrie would always walk slightly “around” the line of direction, and her movement was exquisitely graceful and beautiful. Imagine that you are walking along a line, but try to curve your feet into that line as you go, rather than letting them move parallel to the line. This should produce a slight, but natural-looking jiggle, that should help you to achieve an acceptably feminine gait.

What else is there? Men, tending to be taller and having broad shoulders, often lean down slightly, with the head craned forward. To avoid this, I suggest pulling the shoulders back and holding your head straight. If you look to an imagined point a long way in the distance (I believe I heard this on a makeover show in which fashion experts were helping a six-foot computer geek girl to “fake it” as a model), it should help you to achieve the right upper body posture. Another idea is to do the “double chin exercise” once (don’t keep doing it through the day because it will look like a very strange mannerism), which involves gently pulling your head back so that your chin is slightly compressed for a moment, with the appearance of a double chin. The idea is to correct “forward head”, which is not only unappealing to look at, but also rather dangerous for your long-term health because it means that the considerable weight of your skull is not being properly supported by the spine. To avoid “leading from the shoulders” I suggest imagining that your centre of gravity is way down in your bottom, that you walk with your hips and not with your upper body.

A final note: the clothes that you wear can help to some extent. A skirt that flares out slightly (A-line rather than pencil) can counter-balance proportionately broad shoulders. Likewise, choosing jeans and trousers with a fairly high waist can help to disguise proportionately short legs. Cowboy boots go well with skirts because they obscure having relatively large or broad feet.

Keep your eyes open, and never feel that you have perfected your movement. The woman who is always ready and eager to learn will grow and blossom. Paradoxically, however, remember to be, and not to try (as Yoda says, “There is no try”). You are good enough in yourself, and going through transition displays a substance of character that commands respect, beginning with self-respect. The aim of studying female movement is so that you can come to possess it for yourself, so that is not copying what women do, but rather making it part of your natural being, as it is for other women.

I sincerely hope that you find what I have written useful, and if not, then at least thought-provoking.