Crossdress for Success: Passing for Ken when you look like Barbie

Clothes Make the Man

You have two goals when it comes to clothing: 1. Pass, 2. Avoid getting treated like dirt. Probably you have a narrow chin and hairless cheeks. If you pass, you look young. Looking young is fine, but going from being read as a 30 year old woman to a 17 year old boy can entail a starting loss of status. Therefore, you want to convey not only masculinity, but also age and social status. Simply put: life is easier if you look rich.

Therefore, you want to avoid dressing in a sloppy manner. It will drop your status AND you’re less likely to pass. You want to wear clothes that are unambiguously masculine. Nothing too gender neutral.
But if you’re on a budjet, aside from hitting sales and “dress for less” type stores, also check out thrift shops.

Shoes & Socks

Men’s shoes. No sneakers unless they’re very masculine. Clunky high tops will make you look like a teen boy. I recommend men’s dress shoes or wing tips, but working boots and the like are also possible. Argyle socks are casual. Black socks are dressy. White socks go with shorts. I wear argyle almost all the time, cuz I think they’re manly.

Pants (Trousers for you Brits)

Avoid gender neutral pants. This means that jeans are risky, but if you can find some that are manly, then go ahead. Get pants that hang on your hips rather than your waist. Men’s pants are baggier in the crotch and a bit baggier in general. Don’t go overly baggy, though. Get something that fits.


Boxers or briefs? Or boxer briefs? It you’re going to pack (fun!), you probably want boxer briefs or just briefs to keep your sock ball or whatever in place.
Also, go for a wife beater or other loose-fitting tank top. It may be possible for you to avoid binding.


Button up, collar, cotton, vertical strips. That’s the general guideline. Men’s shirts have buttons on the right and button holes on the left. You want cotton or some other non-clingy fabric. Vertical stripes are you friend. Plain colors are ok, but not as good. Same with plaid. Avoid horizontal stripes! Vertical stripes make you appear more box-shaped, which is what you want. Also, the tend to have a horizontal section across the back shoulders. This makes your shoulders look broader. This is also what you want.
Tuck you shirt into your hip-hugging pants. Voilà! Your hips disappear! Do a check in the mirror to see whether you want to bind or not.
Get a shirt that actually fits. Men in the US often wear tents that double as shirts. This looks terrible on scrawny guys and on you might look like you’ve raided the closet of your dad or boyfriend. Get slim fit if you have to.

Sweaters, jackets, etc

I suggest blazers. Button the middle button (and maybe the top button) while standing and unbutton them all when sitting. Never button the bottom button. Blazers are manly and they convey some social status, but, of course, they’re not practical for every event. If you need a sweater, get a men’s one that’s not tight. Avoid sweatshirts as they’re too ambiguous.


I want to give a shout-out to the bow tie. I directs eyes upwards to the collar and away from the chest, while neckties do the opposite. However, neckties are also cool.


Hats are very regional. So, what are the dapper men in your area wearing? Look for what guys dressed like you have on their heads. Don’t wear it if women also wear it. Unless it’s winter and you need to wear a ski cap or something. It’s best to avoid suffering for fashion.
I wear a newsboy type cap (‘casquette’ in French) on cool days and a pork pie on warmer days. Brimmed hats are great, because they double as sun block! I also have a tilley hat, but people tell me it looks silly, alas.
If you live in San Francisco, go get whatever Willy Brown is wearing. That man is a sharp dresser, especially when it comes to hats!

Square Hair


Go find a haircutter that’s trustworthy. This often means a gay man. Other people may try to argue with you about your hair, like it’s not on your own damn head. This can be easier if it’s already really short. If you want to loose longer hair, get your friend to give you a terrible haircut first. (Ok, I’ve never tried this, but it might help.)
You want something boxy. Longer on the top. Short on the back and sides, blended high.
Gell it up and out, to add to the squareness. Move hair away from your temples. If you’re brave, you can take a razor to square up your hairline.
Your sideburns should be square as heck. This is key. If you keep them high, they will probably look better. Trim them so they are a bit above where your hair stops growing like head-hair.


That fuzz that you’re so proud of on your cheeks, chin and upper lip is not actually helping you, unless you’re able to grow a real beard. Shave it off. Shave your cheeks, your chin, your upper lip, and under your chin, to a couple of centimeters on your neck. You might want to get the fuzz below your ears too, but careful of nicking yourself. Don’t shave your lips. (Who would do that?)
Use shaving soap and warm water. Shave with the grain and not against it. Don’t do it too often, or your face will hurt. If you just have fuzz, you can do it every 4 days or so. Change the blade after 2 or 3 weeks or if your face feels scraped.
Don’t put Rogaine on your face. Don’t put fake hair or stubbly makeup on your face, unless you’re doing a drag stage show. Facial hair comes from hormones and that’s it.

Now let’s look at you

My, aren’t you a dapper young fellow!

Subliminals, Timbre and Convolution

Recently, in Boing Boing, there was a post about a company marketing a subliminal message to gamers. They would hear the message 10000 – 20000 times a second. That’s 10 kHz – 20 kHz. Those repetitions are almost too high to be in the audio range! I can’t hear 20 kHz all that well. Also, what about scaling? To keep from peaking, the maximum amplitude of
each message would have to be between 0.00005 – 0.0001 of the total amplitude range. That’s pretty subliminal, all right.

I went to work trying to play a short aiff file over and over at that rate. My processor crapped out really fast. That’s a lot of addition. As I was falling asleep that night, I calculated that on a CD, each new message would start every 4 – 10 bytes! Why at that rate, it’s practically convolution.
Indeed, it is more than “practically” convolution, it is convolution and as such it doesn’t need to be done via real-time additions, but can be done via free software like SoundHack. The first step is getting a series of impulses. To try to create a “subliminal” message, you need a series of positive impulses that vary randomly between 10000 – 20000 times per second. I wrote a short SuperCollider program to produce such impulses.

SynthDef("subliminal-impulse", {arg out = 0;

 var white, ir;
 white =;
 white = white.abs;
 white = white * 10000;
 white = white + 10000;
 ir =;, ir);

The produces random values between -1 and 1. We take the absolute value of that to just get numbers between 0 – 1. Then we multiply, to make them numbers between 0 – 10000 and add to put them in the range 10k – 20k.
Dust makes impulses at random intervals. The impulses are between 0 – 1. The argument is the average number of impulses per second. So Dust makes 10k – 20k impulses per second. Record the output of that to disk and you’ve got some noise, but it’s noise with some important characteristics – all the impulses are positive and they have zeros between them. This is what we need if we’re going to be subliminal at gamers.
Ok, so I’m going to take that file and open it SoundHack and save a copy of it as a 16bit file, rather and a 32 bit file. Then I’ll split the copy into separate mono files. (This is all under the file menu.) then, to save disk space, I’ll throw away the 32 bit file and the silent right channel. So now I have a 16bit mono file full of impulses open in SoundHack
Under the Hack menu, there’s an option called “Convolution.” Pick that. Check the box that says “Normalize” (that will handle the amplitude for you so the result is neither too quiet or too loud) and then hit the button that says “Pick Impulse.” This will be our recording of spoken text that we want made subliminal. (Fortunately, I had such a message at hand.) In actuality, it doesn’t matter which file is the one with the clicks and which is the one with the text. Convolution treats both files as equal partners. Then it asks us to name the output file. Then it goes, then we’re done. Here’s my result.
If you suddenly feel like forming a militia or running in fear, then it worked. If not, well, the sonic result is still kind of interesting. The timbres are all totally present but the actual sound events are unintelligible (at least to the conscious mind). For every one of our little impulses created by, we’ve got a new copy of Jessica plotting revolution. (The text is actually from Lesbian Philosophy: Explorations by Jeffner Allen (Palo Alto: Institute of Lesbian Studies, 1987) and the piece I originally made with it is here.)
This is actually a lot like granular synthesis, if you think about it. Imagine that instead of convolving the whole audio file, we just did 50ms bits of it. Every impulse would start a new copy of the 50 ms grain, but instead of with additions, with FFTs, which are faster – we can have many, many more grains. And they could be smaller and still be meaningful. Heck, they could be the size of the FFT window.
The FFT version of a convolution involves taking a window of the impulse and another of the IR (our subliminal message – normally known as an impulse response). You add the phases together and multiply the amplitudes. The amplitudes multiplications give us the right pitch and the phase addition gives us the right timing – almost. Some additions will be too big for the window and wrap around to the beginning. You can avoid that by adding zero padding. You double the size of the window, but only put input in the first half. Then none of your phases will wrap around.
We can get some very granular like processes, but with nicer sound and better efficiency. For example, time stretching. We could only update the IR half as often as the impulse stream and do window-by window convolutions. There are other applications here. I need to spend time thinking of what to do with this. Aside from sublimating revolution.


Securely Using a Macmini as a remote controlled audio workstation (or media center)

Let’s say you have a mac mini and a laptop and you’re too cheap and/or lazy to buy a screen, keyboard and mouse. You don’t need to! The answer lies with your laptop. It is possible to control a macmini (or any other type of mac) with another computer of nearly any variety. I happen to use a mac, but it is also possible with windows and linux.


To start off, you will need to borrow some peripherals, so you can do the initial setup. After you register and whatnot, You will want to setup VNC. This allows you access to the minimac’s desktop from your laptop. Open the minimac’s system preferences. Open sharing. Click the “Services” tab. Click the checkbox next to Apple Remote Desktop. After that, you want to set Access Privileges. This should open automatically the first time you turn remote desktop on, but if it doesn’t, click the “Access Privileges…” button.
On the left, you will see a list of users. Select yourself. On the right, you see a list of actions. If you want to allow remote control (which you do), select all of them. Below the line, there is a checkbox which says “VNC viewers may control screen with password:” Check that box and then give it a secure password. Click “ok”
You are back on the sharing – Services window. Check the box next to “Remote Login”. Ok, now click on the firewall tab to make sure your firewall is on. While you’re there, also give your computer a name that’s different from your laptop’s name then quit the user prefs.
Ok, now go to your laptop and get a VNC client. If your laptop is a mac, Chicken of the VNC is perhaps the most popular. It’s what I use. If you’re on another kind of computer, just search the internets to find a VNC client. Download and install to your laptop.

SSH Tunnelling

Ok, now it’s time to test this out. First, open a terminal on your laptop (/Applications/Utilities/ Then type:

sudo ssh -X username@macmini.local -L 5900/

(Use your username and the mane of your macmini.) It will prompt you for a password (and may quote Spiderman at you.). Type the password for your account on your laptop. (It may ask you if you’re sure you want to connect, etc. Yes, you’re sure.) Then it will ask you for a password again. Type the password for the account on your macmini. You should see a unix-type prompt. Hooray, you are logged into your macmini.
You are logged in securely, which is even better. Don’t dispair, the graphical connection is coming next, but first an optional, brief explanation of the command you just typed: Ssh is a secure way to connect with another computer. In this case, it’s also doing something called port mapping. This makes a secure connection between a port on your computer and a post on a remote computer. If you connect to that port on your local computer, it will actually, really form a secure connection with the remote port. What this means for you is that nobody can eavesdrop over your connection (an issue if you’re wireless). The reason you type sudo is because you need root privileges to tunnel on important ports.

Back to instructions

Ok, open Chicken of the VNC on your laptop. A login window will open and there will be a list of servers, hopefully with your macmini on the list. However, you are not going to click on it. Instead, click on the + button in the lower left. A new server name will come up. Type in something like “secure minimac”. On the right hand side, type in your password. Don’t change any of the other info. You want it to connect to localhost on the default port. You can tell it to remember the password if you feel like your laptop is not going to be “borrowed” by non-trusted people. Don’t click any other checkboxes. Click connect.
A window should open with a view of the screen of your minimac. If this doesn’t happen, try the following:

  1. Do you see the name of your mac in the list of servers? If not, make sure that you’ve turned on Apple Remote desktop on your minimac.
  2. Can you connect to the remote server directly, not via the secure connection? If so, you’ve got weird problems and will need to ask for help from somebody else, like your network administrator.
  3. If you cannot connect at all, the problem may be a firewall. Make sure that the firewall on your LAN allows connections on port 5900. You may need to talk with your network administrator.

Now that you have a window open onto the remote computer, try doing something. Start itunes. Play a tune! Your minimac can be a remote controlled media center. woot.

X Windows

I like free software. Therefore, I want to use Ardour, which is free. My minimac has a large, external disk. Therefore, I want to run it on the mini, but control it with my wimpier laptop. First, you must install X11, which comes on the operating system CD from Apple. Install it on your laptop AND on your macmini. Also, install the developer kit on both (or at least the mini). Then, install Ardour on the macmini.
Ok,you may have noticed that sometimes VNC has a bit of lag. Because Ardour is an Xwindows application, it’s possible to reduce the lag by not using VNC. Instead, you can tell it to run on the macmini and to display on your local machine. However, this requires a smidgen of additional effort.
Apple has a bunch of information on X. It’s a good thing to read if you’re having a problem or just want to understand what’s going on.
First, you need to tell your macmini what you’re up to. Go back to the terminal ssh connection that you made from the laptop to the macmini. (If you closed the connection, reopen it). Then cut and paste the following commands to the terminal window:

sed 's/#X11Forwarding no/X11Forwarding yes/' /etc/sshd_config > /tmp/sshd_config
sudo mv /tmp/sshd_config /etc/.
sudo chown root /etc/sshd_config

You will need to type the password for your account on the macmini. These commands tell the ssh daemon to allow X forwarding. You may need to restart the sshd (or, if you don’t know how to do that, just reboot the whole computer by typing “sudo shutdown -r now” (without the quotes)). It would also probably be a good idea to repair disk permissions at this time.
Now, reconnect to your computer, using the same ssh command above. The -X flag allows X forwarding. That one typed command enables all your secure communications! Open X-windows on your laptop. Type into the terminal connection to the minimac:


If all is working, a pair of eyeballs should open on your laptop. If all is not working, you’re going to have to look at some apple documents to figure this out.

Remote Ardour

Ardour, by default,opens windows on the machine that launched it. This means that if you launch it on your macmini, you can control if via VNC right away. But this is not efficient. It’s better to close VNC and just use X for this process. There are a few ways to make this happen. The one I’m describing is not the best, but it does work (hopefully). Note that the following assumes that you put in /Applications. If you put it someplace else, you will have to modify the path below
On your macmini, type:

mkdir bin
cd bin
cat > ardour
#/bin/sh -l


type control-D. Then type:

cat >> .profile


export PATH

Type ctrl-d again. What you’ve done is create a tiny executable file that uses the right path to open Ardour and added that path to your shell. You could also do this with an alias.
Logout. (type “exit”). Then log back in (with the long ssh command way above). Open X-windows on your laptop. Type “ardour” (without the quotes) at the terminal prompt. A window should open on your local machine.
Hopefully this all will save somebody else a lot of time.