Navigating Trans & Gender-diverse Health Care

Guidance about how to connect with the information, support, and health services that are right for you.

Trans Basics

What is social transitioning?

We refer to social transitioning as changing your name and/or pronouns, appearance or expression (such as clothing or hairstyles), the washroom you use, etc.

Many folks also choose to affirm their gender identity through medical means, such as the use of hormones or surgery. Many folks wish to only socially transition but not medically transition. Both types of gender identity and expression affirmation are valid. Social transition is your own journey and something you can initiate without a provider.

Below are a list of some ways you can alter your gender expression to affirm your identity.

Feminizing/Affirming Social Transitioning

Wearing a gaff
A gaff is a garment similar to underwear that gives the wearer the appearance of a flat crotch.
Important safety considerations: Tucking for long periods of time can cut off blood circulation and can also cause skin issues, irritation from friction, and/or fungal infection. There’s not a lot of research on the safety and practice of tucking. Most of the information comes from personal accounts. Talk with your provider about any concerns you have about tucking.

Dornheim, KO. (2017). How Does Tucking Work and Is It Safe?. Healthline. Available from: https://www.healthline.com/health/transgender/tucking#takeaway.

Hair removal
By shaving, waxing, electrolysis, laser or microdermabrasion.

Hair enhancement
Styling your hair differently or making it appear longer using wigs or extensions.

Breast forms
a bra-like device (or bra insert) to simulate (or enhance) breast tissue.

Padding
Wearing padding to enhance hips and buttocks.

Cosmetics
Wearing makeup to emphasize or de-emphasize certain features.

Masculinizing/Affirming Social Transitioning

Wearing a binder/Binding
A binder is a garment shaped similar to a tank top that flattens chest tissue to give the wearer a flatter chest. It is important to bind only with the correct materials (such as a well-fitting binder). Binding with things like ACE™ bandages or duct tape can have serious health risks and can affect your ability to get top surgery later.

Wearing a packer/Packing
A packer is a prosthetic(artificial) penis that can be worn in underwear or in a soft harness. There are several different varieties of packers, including ones that allow the wearer to pee standing up. These are commonly known as STPs or Stand To Pees. There are also options that double as a flaccid penis and as an item that allows the wearer to engage in penetrative sex, known as a Pack and Play Packer.

Cosmetics
You can express your gender through wearing makeup.

Beard and moustache dye
For those that may have some facial hair, they may choose to dye their existing facial hair, giving it a thicker appearance. You can purchase beard dye at most drugstores in the shaving section.

Hair
Many trans masculine people choose to get haircuts that affirm their gender. For some, this can be a very short haircut. For others, it could mean growing their hair out longer.

Additional Resources

Available in Nova Scotia:

Online resource: