To me one of the big measures of “tg-ness” is how much the inner or desired gender can be seen in the current gender. For example if one claims to be “truly female” despite one’s current male body, then one would expect others to experience some sense of “female-ness” when dealing with you. Such expressions may take a variety of forms (other than clothing) and could include how one moves, domestic skills and/or interests, showing empathy and support for others, expressions of emotion, dealings with children, etc.. There are of course others and by listing these I am not suggesting these are characteristics of all genetic women. At the same time, they are characteristics and interests of many genetic women and are assumed by most people to be expressions of the “feminine.”
Now of course I know that many of us may surpress such feminine expressions out of fear or cultural expectations, but it would seem that they should be there to some degree, perhaps just below the surface. Maybe enough to suggest to others that there is something “odd” about us.
In the movie, “A Mighty Wind”, there is a male character who is a member of a folk singing trio. He is a typical guy in most respects except he has a regular skin care regimen and he mentions the importance of it on a regular basis. By the end of the movie it comes out that he a transsexual and is living full time as a woman (a blond folk singer – its a comedy).
Whether one transitions or not, it has always seemed to me that we should encourage ourselves to express the “inner woman (or man)” as part of our current gender, even if one gets some odd reactions along the way. For those of us who choose not to transition, it becomes a way of experiencing our desired gender within the framework of our current gender. For many (including me), it may be the best possible outcome given our life situation.
Now this expression can take lots of forms.
One area for me was domestic things. In our family home I am often the one who takes the lead in getting things cleaned up. There is great satisfaction making clean a kitchen that was a complete mess. Likewise putting everything in its place is also nice. Caring about such things is a typical feminine trait..
Developing listening and emotional support skills was also a focus for me. Learning to just listen and offer support without rushing in with a solution took some work, but it has let me develop better relationships with women in ways I could not imagine. It is a key part to being admitted to the “sisterhood”.
I tried knitting and needlepoint but had no success. While there are lots of male surgeons, that kind of fine motor control is not in my genetics. It was also something that I did not have the patience to do anyway.
Another area is child care. I started working in the nursery of our church taking care of small children. It was very rewarding to be able to take a scared, screaming child and doon have him/her laughing and feeling safe. Sometimes it took a while but I found I had a gift there. It is also a great way to practice your feminine voice in a situation where no one thinks it is weird. People just naturally talk to children using softer, higher pitched voices. It is more calming to them than some gruff guy voice.
Overall I have found that letting the “inner woman” out to be a struggle at times as biology and social expectations work to keep her hidden. But when she comes out she enriches the lives of those around me as well as myself.