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Do I Look Okay?

Today one of the newer members of the crossdressers.com forum (a terrific, safe, free forum, by the way) posted a longish essay about going out in public — how to do it well and how to do it badly. I asked her permission to reprint it here, and she graciously said yes. Thanks, Starla!

Here it is, with only a few minor tweaks here and there (hey, I’m a writer, I can’t help myself):

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Though I have not been dressing for many years, I spent a lot of time in public as Starla back in what I like to refer to as my “Pink Period” (about 120 years ago, or so it seems). I hope some of you will find these thoughts of value, especially if you are making your first fledgling steps into public. Whatever you’re considering doing, I’ve been there, and speak from experience. Hopefully, this treatise won’t be TOO long, boring, disjointed, or self-contradictory. (You be the judge…)

Number one rule: be safe. When considering an outing, ask yourself, “Would a genetic female do this?” If the answer is “no,” don’t. I’ve seen many YouTube videos of crossdressers skulking around deserted parking garages, walking past closed shops on a lifeless street at night, etc. – yikes! Why not just wear a neon sign that says, “Victim Available Here?” Use your head. Believe it or not, you will pass better (and be much safer) in a crowded, well-lit, busy environment than anywhere else. This is a lesson most novice girls need to learn when venturing outside the privacy of their home or hotel room — crowds are cover. The more people and bustle and activity and noise going on around you, the more you become just a tiny speck in the overall tableau of society. If you’re just one of the varied multitudes, you are far less likely to be an object of attention and scrutiny (or violence) than you would be in a quiet, dark, isolated setting. The first time I went into public fully dressed, it was to a huge, crowded shopping mall at the height of the annual Christmas shopping madness. People were focused on finding bargains, not on systematically dissecting the perceived gender of that kind of tall, chunky woman-looking-thing with the big hands.

For your first few forays into public, you might benefit by being accompanied by an escort. Having someone with you for support will help calm your nerves. It also helps convey the image and minimizes attention. If you are with someone who is talking to you and relating to you as a female, Continue Reading »

Facets of Personality

Something in my head hates me. This thing in my head wants me to be miserable and scared and confused. It wants me to never have any fun. It wants me to pretend to be someone I’m not. It keeps telling me I’m disgusting. It keeps telling me people won’t like me. It wants me to be paralyzed. It wants me to be an abject failure as a human being. It wants me dead.

No, that’s not quite right. I’ve been dead for years. It wants me to stay dead.

I’m not mentally ill, and I’m not delusional. This is not schizophrenic babbling. I’m describing a real neurological condition, as it appears from the inside.

If I didn’t have this thing in my head, I would have become a woman 40 years ago, in a social, personal, and emotional sense (and maybe with a little surgical help too — at this late date, who knows?). My life would have been a whole lot different, and a whole hell of a lot happier. But I’ve never been able to shut off or get past this thing in my head.

Years of expensive therapy haven’t helped. Being honest with a few friends hasn’t helped. Even getting out of the house wearing my skirt and makeup and cute wig didn’t help. I used to do that sometimes — haven’t done it for years. This thing in my head made me stop.

I don’t know how to shut it off. It isn’t localized, so a surgeon couldn’t snip it out. It’s a self-perpetuating, implacable Continue Reading »

Hello? Hello?

The Internet’s a charming place, but none, I think, do there embrace. (Yes, I’m paraphrasing Andrew Marvell, “To His Coy Mistress.”) Having some online interaction with other TGs is incredibly useful — but an online friend is not a real friend, and an online forum is not a face-to-face support group.

I keep getting stalled out. Instead of moving forward with my gender identity transformation, whatever that turns out to be, I take one step forward and two steps back. This has been going on for a very long time. Today I’m feeling really crazy about this pattern. I need to change it! I don’t know how to do that — but I can’t help feeling that a core component in the change would be face-to-face peer support. Someone to talk to.

I need to talk to somebody who has been where I am and got through it. I need to talk to somebody more than one hour a week, and without having to pay for the privilege. (Today is Monday. I called my therapist Friday morning and suggested an extra meeting this week. I guess maybe she was out of town for the weekend. I’m sure she’ll call today.) And hopefully it would be somebody who lives within 20 or 25 miles, so we can get together for coffee. Driving into San Francisco and facing a room full of strangers at a once-a-month TG-related meeting would be quite a chore, and what could it lead to? I’d be meeting people who live an hour and a half away from me. No spontaneous coffee dates are likely to ensue.

And, you know, I need to talk to somebody today, not develop a new friendship over the course of six months.

Hello? Hello? Is there anybody there?

What’s in a Name?

When you decide you’re really a girl — and that can be because you’re a girl all the time or only some of the time — one of the fun things you get to do is pick a new name for yourself. I’ve known for a long time that I was a Jennifer, but the rest I’ve played around with.

I like Willow because it doesn’t have any hard consonants in it — it’s nice and soft-sounding — and because I kind of adored Alyson Hannigan in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. But tonight, in the midst of a major bout of insomnia, I started feeling that maybe “Willow” is trying just a little too hard. I’m thinking about going out and doing some stuff (maybe I’ll have more to say about that in a few weeks, after I wibble around on it for a while) where I’ll need a full name, not just Jenna or Jennifer or Jennifer Lynne. And somehow I get the feeling that Jennifer Lynne Willow is not a name that people would take too seriously. It’s a roll-your-eyes-and-say-“Yeah-right” kind of name.

I’m absolutely going to keep Willow for this blog, if only because changing URLs is messy. But I think for my own purposes, both on the inside and on the outside, I may be turning into Jennifer Lynne Piper. I like “Piper” a lot. It’s still cute, but it sounds more definite, more grown-up and assured. And that’s how I’m feeling today.

The Flip-Flop

Sometimes I feel like a guy, sometimes I feel like a girl. When I was a teenager, I knew I wanted to wear the cute clothes and the makeup, but I don’t remember ever feeling like a girl. I didn’t get to actually dress up very often, only when nobody was at home and I could raid my mom’s underwear drawer, and when I was doing it I was too excited and terrified to feel anything other than excited and terrified.

Somewhat later (and with a little chemical assistance from alcohol and marijuana that enabled me to shed my worst inhibitions), I was able to experience myself as a girl. Oooh, the freedom of that! I get all tingly just thinking about it.

But alas, the lass lasted not. As soon as I was done satisfying my urges, I was in a hurry to take off the makeup and take off the nail polish. My brain had already reverted to being a guy.

Today, and without chemical assistance, I can feel that I’m a girl while sitting here wearing guy clothes. I can flip out of one mental state and flop over to the other pretty much through an effort of will. It’s easier with the clothes and makeup to get me in the mood, but I know how to transition (if you’ll forgive my using that word in a slightly different sense than usual). It’s an inside job.

I have an avid interest in how the human brain works. Maybe you can see why. I’ve read several of Oliver Sacks’s marvelous books, for instance. So I’m wondering, how does this flip-flop happen?

Today’s observation is that the self-image is exactly that. It’s a visual image, held in the brain, of the self that I imagine myself to be. Now, a skilled male actor could (probably) act the part of a woman without changing his moment-to-moment self-image. He would change his voice and gestures in a sort of skilled mechanical way, while still feeling like a guy underneath it all.

But that’s not what happens in my head. What happens is, I have access to a more or less complete female self-image. My brain knows how to project that self-image back and down onto the Continue Reading »

Wax Lips

When I was a kid, you could buy these red, shiny wax lips in a dimestore. Mostly for Halloween, I guess, but maybe they were in stock all year around. I’m sure I tried wearing them a few times. Hadn’t thought about that in many years.

Watching random transgender-related videos on YouTube, I’m struck by how many MTFs (using that term loosely, to mean just about anybody who was assigned male at birth but is now presenting as female) are so fixated on the big red maxi-lipstick thing. I don’t understand it at all. I mean, lipstick, yes, certainly. Don’t leave home without it! But when it’s a deep, deep red and applied so liberally that it splooshes and squooshes out over your natural lip contour onto the surrounding skin — girl, get a grip. Better still, get some tissue paper and clean it off.

Lip liner is another offender. I’ve tried it, I think I may even own some, but it always seems to draw too much attention to itself. Like, “Look at my great big luscious lips!” Thanks, I’d rather not.

One problem with the big lips, and this is a fashion tip, is that if you have a large head (as many of us do), you don’t want to do anything oversized on your face. If anything, you want your face to look smaller. The other thing is, if you stroll down the street, or through the mall, you can go for days without seeing a single woman who is wearing that much lipstick. Even at a club, most women hold back. They know they’re sexy enough already. They don’t have to wave a flag.

But then, I’ve never been into drag. I’ve never owned a feather boa, never strutted down a runway. I wouldn’t actually mind owning Continue Reading »

Disconnect

So then I took a five-month break. Not just a break from blogging, a break from any sort of trans activity. Not sure why I did that, but it may have had something to do with getting discouraged. I can think of several reasons to be discouraged, and none of them have gone away.

It’s discouraging to have nobody in my life that I can talk to about the issues surrounding my gender identity. I have this one gay friend that I technically can talk to, but it’s not useful. His ability to nurture is stuck somewhere back in the eighth grade (which is also when he formed his political opinions, but that’s a subject for another time).

It’s discouraging to be 62 years old. For anybody, I’m sure. It’s no picnic at all. And I’m healthy as a yearling colt, relatively speaking. Some people have a lot worse problems. Like being inconveniently dead, for example. Still, for people like me, there’s another factor to contend with beyond simply having weak eyesight and stiff joints: Who wants to dress up like a grandmother? How much fun is that? Even if I were Continue Reading »