Examining my Christmas and New Year photos - quite a lot of them, all showing convivial scenes of the people I see most of - I can't help noticing how good we trans women look nowadays. Something seems to have happened to us in the last year or so. We have got much more female-shaped: we've got prettier; our skin is smoother; the hair is longer and more nicely styled; we've plumped out and rounded off; boney and muscular arms and legs look slender and girly; the voices could be better, but are adequate; posture is better; movements are light and graceful; and behaviour is mostly natural and womanly.
Maybe if any of us especially caught the attention of a natal girl, we'd be read as trans, but clearly we are not attracting especial attention, even if sitting in a group; even if we have a natal woman sitting with us, to provide instant comparison.
How does this come to be? We all have more girly faces: we are all well advanced down the road of facial hair removal, and one or two of us have had surgical tweaks to our noses and lips and chins and brows. We all, however contrived, have a bust. Two of us are naturally slim and willowy, which disguises the effect of height. The rest have heftier builds, but in the way of all women who are perennially fighting a weight problem, and not in the way of male all-in wrestlers or rugby-playing mesomorphs. Yes, the look helps. But also we are all living the female life either full-time or mostly. There is nothing like being a woman every day to turn you into one. It gets to be a habit, and once you don't have to watch every word and gesture, the stiltedness and awkwardness vanish.
Of course, I'm sure we all have private reservations about how good we really are. I do. And yet, while the camera may exaggerate and distort, there's no denying that my own general appearance is changed from what it was a year ago, and in particular two years ago - and all in the direction of femininity, as if I've been pushed along a spectrum somewhat. That's partly down to what I've learned, a gradual accustomising to new circumstances, a conditioning to the female way of doing things, and the place of a female in society. But mostly it's the result of hormones on my brain and my body.
Despite realising this, and despite constant evidence - every day - that I pass unnoticed and unremarked, and can be natural in any situation met so far, I am insecure. But then perhaps every woman is, for one reason or another, but especially as youth fades. I ought to take comfort in the fact that unlike most natal women, trans women have lifelong HRT, which in late middle age, when all natal women are post-menopausal, is an advantage. Women on effective HRT treatment escape the ravages of time for longer. And looking years younger than you really are is quite something.
But are we pretty? Specifically, are we attractive enough to engage and win a special companion? Well, one or two of my younger friends are, most certainly, very pretty things. Both facially and bodily. Combine that with serene (perhaps even sweet) testosterone-free natures, and it wouldn't take much more physical development for them to become indistinguishable from the sort of ordinary girl that people typically find the most attractive. With all that implies.
If you share the view that trans women are simply girls who were born with masculinised bodies, and have every right to change their outward appearance to match how they are inside, then an alluring appearance is a Good Thing, perfectly appropriate. A natural and worthy aim for anybody trapped in that situation. And what is the difference between a woman who was born beautiful, and one who has made herself so?