The Only Cross-dressing guide on the web

Beware what you read on the internet. A spam comment took me to Cross Dressing Guide, which breathlessly promises, Learn how to crossdress — and pass as a genetic female — from the most comprehensive feminization guide on the web…PLUS learn how you can develop your own female voice!

Jamie is probably not your best guide. I almost embarrassed myself in front of others by following the “tuck away” tip I learned off the site — didn’t hold its place. Tucking is very simple. Here is the only guide you need, and if Jamie could not manage it himself, he can’t teach anyone else. I never had a problem.

He thinks passing is very important. Even though he worked really hard to pass, I still looked like a dude in a wig and a dress. Well, of course. You need a great deal of practice. Reading a book or looking at photos is not going to teach you, certainly not in a few short days. If you are a cross-dresser, there is no need to go out in public at all; there are lots of accepting places you can cross-dress. Facebook is full of groups. More seriously, I hate what Jamie writes, I strive to create as near perfect illusion of being a woman as I can. Passing as a woman is one of the most important things as a crossdresser, transgenderist, transvestite or transsexual…Your goal is to be totally accepted as a woman when you go out….you don’t want to embarrass anyone, including yourself…. you want to be treated with respect and dignity by those you encounter. That threefold division, TS, TV, TG is more than ten years out of date. No-one talks like that any more, and the tips may be similarly out of date.

And Jamie cultivates paranoia. I want to be treated with respect and dignity, but if I am not, it is not because I have failed to pass but because the other person is discourteous. Passing is good, but you need a brass neck.

I decided in 1996 that I didn’t want to be a sad, lonely pervert- I wanted to be a happy, gregarious pervert. I went to Stephanie Anne Lloyd’s Transformation shop in Manchester. I see she’s still going, and still promoting her gender clinic- a friend spent vast amounts of money on that, and got nothing. I asked if there was anywhere I could dress in the city, and they said their shop was the only place. I got my first wig there, at a time I would have been too embarrassed to get a wig anywhere else, before I had internet access- so I am grateful- but they do exploit trans folk terribly. The place to go in Manchester is the Northern Concord. Jamie bad-mouths everyone else- small handful of tired tips… just awful!– but could hardly be the only trustworthy person in the business.

You certainly don’t need a garment especially designed for tucking- Jamie’s use of the term “cache-sex” just like Transformation makes me suspicious they are linked. Transformation was terribly exploitative, with low quality clothes at very high prices.

A local gay bar started using my guide to train their drag performers. And many patrons wondered why there were real women working in the establishment. If that were so, they were failures. The point of being a drag artiste is being absolutely fabulous.

What he promises is worthless. You don’t need to figure out how to…use skin products and cosmetic that suit your own skin type. You need help, which a beauty counter will provide, if the shop is quiet. I found beauticians very helpful. Learn to dress as a female by knowing different styles of dresses– well, most women wear separates, and trousers. If you wear dresses, you will stand out. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but does give the lie to the suggestion that he can give fashion tips. Walk like a female using feminine movements that will make you a fashion model. You don’t want to let your masculine movements blow your cover. A sashay might draw attention too. I found walking in a feminine way was more a matter of relaxing than learning tricks.

Keep your $50, but you might go to his site- if you want a good laugh.

ambrogio-lorenzetti-allegory-of-bad-government

Passing

People who don’t pass don’t want to do the work needed to pass. I read that and thought, that’s a bit harsh; but, yes.

It is a lot of work. How do you express yourself with clothes, and also fit into the fashions, when you have an unfeminine body-shape? I know that many women have unfashionable body-shapes, that there is a great deal of body-shaming and that fashions can be at one moment flattering to particular people, the next month not. It is not easy for cis women; I tend to feel it is more difficult for us.

I don’t get my voice right. I have a story for that: the speech therapist told me to practise a little bit throughout the day, and that meant breaching my male presentation. Like carrying a heavy pack: I could just about plod on, grimly, but repeatedly putting the pack down then shouldering it again was unbearable. But then, it is a long time since I transitioned, even if immediately after practise reminded me of that distress. I have practiced my voiced th, which is particularly difficult to get above the break. You start with n and m, easy enough, and go onto more difficult sounds.

This That the Other.
This That the Other.
This That the Other.
This That the Other,

I say, listening to the sound. Then other words with that ð sound. Father. Brother. Thus. Lathe. It is a “voiced dental fricative”. Blogging gets me doing the work, I have broken off to google the sound.

ð and Ð

run in my mind. There is value in practice, and in other sounds, other words. Oh, I could say I like being able to speak baritone, for emphasis, or when I am tired and not thinking about it; singing, my baritone is better able to keep a note, pleasanter, and much stronger than my countertenor/falsetto;

And there are mannerisms, responses and habits- women are less likely to drink pints, or single malts-

It is a great deal of work. Do you have the motivation? Is not-passing bearable? Does it fulfil some need for attention? Right now I don’t pass. I see that passing might have some advantages, in encounters with people uncomfortable with trans folk- certainly in job interviews-

Not just motivation but belief in its possibility. Is it that every marker I shave off makes it longer before people read me, or do I just have so many markers that however much work I do I will never make it? There are markers no work will alter: I am tall for a woman, though not shockingly so… my face does not look that unfeminine, surely? Not to me, not when I am feeling confident… There may be markers I am not aware of, unknown unknowns…

Why is my life so hard? It ought not to be this hard (sense of entitlement)…

For whatever reason, fourteen years on, I have not done the work. Is it worth it? There is another view: trans women suffer gender dysphoria, and the work required to pass is the work required to minimise those male characteristics which make them dysphoric.

thomas-lawrence-caroline-fry

Trying to see me as a woman

A one-time friend, who is not obviously wicked, looks at a trans man. He writes,

I don’t have any issue with this person cross dressing, or going further if they want.
Nor that they want to call themselves a man, use a man’s name…. want to identify themselves as a man, (i.e. if they look in a mirror and say… “that’s a man”)… and want to play being a man. I don’t see any issue.

Unfortuntely this person also wants me to experience them and identify them as a man.

I would dearly love to, as it means much to them, and it (i can see) would make them happy.

Sadly… I just don’t.

It’s not that I can’t experience them as a man (it’s not about ability),

nor that I won’t experience them as a man (it’s not about will)

It’s just that I… don’t.

M shows minimal levels of tolerance. “I don’t have any issue”- you’d better not. Objecting to the trans man using a man’s name, etc, is like objecting to a woman wearing a mini skirt, or flats: imposing his own standard of morality on how the trans man expresses himself. Some trans people like neutral pronouns, but if the man wants to be called “he”, using “them” is below the standard of courtesy I would expect.

However M uses “they”. Why? Both to honour their preference to no longer identify as their birth gender, but also and at the same time honour and validate my own experience (when I don’t experience someone as a gender other than their birth gender). Oh, God. He claims the right to define the other.

I am not sure I understand M’s lines about ability or will. If I look at a black man and see him as different to ordinary people and then feel intensely uncomfortable around my own racism, and seek to treat him reasonably and suppress my seeing him as different- the conscious effort to accept, while better than intolerance, is still racism. I can control how I respond, to an extent. I can avoid voicing objections.

M would accept a black man, I assume. I don’t accuse him of racism, even the smallest internal vestige of it- but he is forced to say this is different. The trans man is not a man, so we should treat him differently from men. Or M suffers some loss: “This has changed the safety of the [men’s] space for” him. Aha. So now we have a conflict of rights, rather than a failure to accept another human being as he is. See the winsome way he expresses that: I’m not threatened by the person. I do feel that the person’s presence in that space has broken the nature of what I had previously gone to that space to find.

You don’t have to like everyone but disapproving of their way of dressing, or not recognising their change of name, is claiming a right to define them in a way they reject. If you want to define another person you had better have good arguments why that is appropriate. I include refusing to accept their choice of pronouns in that right they have to self-define.

Do you want other people to see them in the same way? On Friday night I discussed a man over the phone. I had not met him, but my friend warned he behaved in a disconcerting way around older women, and I take her suspicions seriously and feel she has a right to tell me. If I meet him I will make my own judgment. But again, if you warn others against a person or want them to feel the same way about that person, you should have a good reason for that.

There are times when I DO experience someone as other than their birth gender (usually through error but sometimes because they are more successfully presenting as their transgender’d self than some do and haven’t yet outed their own previous “status”). i.e. I’m convinced and have bought into their presentation. This is passing privilege. We can be accepted as we are as long as we give no clue of our history- so we can never talk of it, never use a male voice for emphasis or provocation, we are constrained into the cliché way of being a woman. Once outed, we trans women are known as men. Then you judge us on the way we look, and feel deceived if you find us out.

M says he wants to see the trans man as a man, but just does not.

This trans man wants to go to a men’s group. What does a men’s group have in common, exactly? If M is happy to have me there, it has to be something which I share: perhaps a Y chromosome, or some experience, or lack of it. Women’s experience of patriarchy might bring them together: what brings men that includes me? And- why do men attend a man’s group? For practice recognising man’s emotions, or expressing in a man’s way- for stretching that expression? Learning how to be a man now, or unlearning old lessons?

Maybe I should try a men’s group. I don’t see, though, how the trans man can alter the group’s nature in a way that I can’t- in the things people say or do, in the arguments or feelings- except that his going changes the definition of “man” from one not recognising the reality or value of trans, to one that does. It changes M’s definition of “man” to a broader one M has not consented to.

I said I would blog about this. We had been messaging back and forth. This surprises him. Well, like everyone else I am trying to navigate the impossibility of “being myself” and “fitting in”. I can’t be certain it is more difficult for me than for anyone else, but I know from experience my own desperation to fit a particular kind of Manliness- it certainly felt taboo to permit myself, as a man, the feelings I felt- then the feeling that my way of being was grudgingly accepted when I call myself by a woman’s name. I got a passport saying “F” when a doctor certified I would probably present female for the rest of my life: if I fitted the State-defined idea of “trans woman” I would be acceptable. But M does not accept that. I feel erased. It feels like we are discussing his right to erase me. It does not make it any better, from my perspective, that he wants to make the trans man happy. I am trying to be reasonable and respectful, but I feel intensely uncomfortable.

It’s all about him- his perceptions, his feelings, his loss. I find it hard to see that he has a loss beyond a slight discomfort at the man’s presence in his man’s group. He has made much of it, but really could just say, “Oh, OK then” and think of something else. Any man in the men’s group may change its dynamic in ways he dislikes. We are never in control, and that might make him more eager to exclude the trans man- just in this moment, when he can make some sort of rational-sounding argument, he can exclude the trans man, exercise some sort of control, and feel better, however bad he makes others feel.

To an extent, I don’t care for myself. I am a man- a woman- both- neither- whatever- Clare. I don’t need you to see me in a particular way to feel good about myself. But others of us do. It can really hurt. And he could behave courteously to trans people. That he does not feel the need enough to actually do it is unpleasant.

Wearing dresses

Trans women dress more femininely than cis women. I have often noticed in a group I am the only woman in a skirt; or been in a group of trans women, all in dresses, where cis women in similar circs would be in trousers. For years I never wore trousers at all- though a man I knew wore trousers three times in five years: he was a hotel manager in the Highlands, and always wore kilts.

I like skirts. I don’t have particularly good dress sense, though it is better than it was. The play Bakkhai represented my experience beautifully: the King appears in a ridiculous skirt suit, out of fashion, ill-fitting, with feminine flounces; and I thought, I have worn that suit, and seen others in it. Dress sense is something cis women learn from childhood, and we have to pick up later.

You pick it up in part from watching other women. I have a problem with that, too: I tended to walk along the street quickly, to get where I was going, rather than looking around at people and things. Friends think I have snubbed them when I have not noticed they are there. Partly this is not noticing others’ attention, which I feared might be hostile.

You work on it slowly, because you have other things to work on. I had a few looks I liked, and I stuck to them, because I had to think about work and friendships. One trans woman I met bought lots of clothes from charity shops and wore something different every day, to find what she liked and what looked good on her, and what other people liked on her.

I found the fashion a few years ago for leggings or black opaque tights, and short flippy skirts, too exposing. I was scared of it. It was the sexy end of feminine, and I don’t want to look sexy. Neck lines go up and down, but I wore high necklines and was roundly mocked for it by one woman in about 2007: no-one would wear a shirt like that, buttoned up to the neck! And with the leggings, a woman in her sixties had been told her long skirts were frumpy, she should show off her legs, and she told me I should show mine. So I do, now and then, I have a shorter skirt and a couple of shorter dresses. I still feel self-conscious. Not everyone is looking at me, and those who are might be appreciative not derisive.

It has never been that I want to appear feminine so I choose clothes which I think look particularly feminine, but that I am feminine, so choose clothes I like- bright warm colours, soft fabrics, floaty shapes. And I wear jeans a lot, because they are practical.

Madame Monet in Japanese Costume

A well-travelled man

I may be passing better. I had not seen Serra for nine weeks, and she thought I looked different. You can’t tell you are passing better because of pleasant conversation with strangers, because people are capable of courtesy, even to an obvious tranny. Imagining that if I am read people will avoid me or be horrible is internalised transphobia; and yet I feel more relaxed, more comfortable in my own skin, and people may be seeing me as a woman. When someone is actually horrible, that is a better guide: would he take the opportunity to insult my gender, if he read me? You can’t be certain.

I got chatting to Faye on the train. She had been to York for a day’s tattooing. She has had three days, now, and expects five more to cover her back with a complex floral design, at £350 a day. It was this, or a car. If the colours fade, she will have them redone. “I have had electrolysis,” I said.  I wanted to show I shared the experience of painful needle insertion. When she asked where, I said, “Upper lip,” which is misleading as I had it all over the face and did not want to say so. We shared experiences of trying to relax. It was lovely. We connected, talking of feelings.

On the other side of the table, Dave was trying to make friends, telling a man of Bangladeshi origin of his trip to India, not put off by the other’s lack of interest. He told how there was nothing like Mumbai, of how Delhi was nothing like Mumbai- “In what way?” asked the man. Delhi is an old city, full of parks and old buildings, Mumbai is just crazy. “What do you mean, crazy?” So fast, such a buzz! Would you like a beer? Dave is on his second Newcastle Brown Ale, and we all decline.

Dave announces that he missed his train by fifty seconds, and now will have to “lie through my teeth” to the ticket inspector. He got the train from Tongue, he could say. I tell him the nearest station is Thurso. Or he could say he just got on at Leicester. Kye is looking up the timetable on his phone so Dave can make a plausible fib.

He wants us to introduce ourselves again. “I have heard your name twice, but still am unsure of it,” I said to the man.
-What is it then?
-Don’t be horrible, says Steve, rebuking him, protecting me, and my skin crawls just a bit more. I don’t need his protection. The name is Rakesh: not a name I am familiar with, so it takes longer to go in. I got it the third time.

Rakesh reverts to silence, and Steve tells me of walking and climbing in the Pennines, then for the third time of his plan to lie- “Don’t tell us, we might shop you,” I said. He did not reply. His father met his mother in an orphanage in Woking, and aged 11 told her he would marry her. He died of a cerebral haemorrhage aged 44, having become a middle to senior manager in BT just before there was that great reduction in the BT management.

-How long was he unemployed?
-Two seconds.

He got himself a better job immediately. Steve’s parents hated each other. His father had a string of affairs.

I don’t know whether to believe any of this, or how Steve has always lived in London except when he lived in Winchester, which is horrible because it is not at all diverse, just self-satisfied unquestioning middle-class.

When we approach my station he wants a hug goodbye, and we have an A-frame hug. Then he wants to take my hands. “Oh, she’s taking off her gloves!” he exclaims. Well, yes. That seems to me merely courteous. I don’t find it threatening only because he is so bizarre. He might have tried to make a connection by telling of “Trans people I have known”, had he noticed.

Rousseau, the Monument to Chopin in the Luxembourg Gardens

Stealth

Stunning-Floor-length-Sleeveless-Sequined-Royal-Blue-Evening-DressSome transsexual people never get “read” as transsexual. This is known as “Stealth”.

Stealth is a particularly poisonous version of the Beauty Myth, that beautiful people are better, and we should all strive to be beautiful- and our beauty is never enough. If “she looks like a man” is a particularly hurtful insult, how much more hurtful when I actually do. A bit. Not everyone reads me, but most people do, fairly quickly. Few comment on it: just as on meeting someone you do not comment on the purple birthmark half-covering her face, so people don’t usually say, “So you’re a tranny, then?”

Some people do not get read. One friend achieved stealth by changing job, city and friends when she transitioned. She retained one friend from Before, apart from her contacts in the “trans community”. She has a perfect right to get on with her life, and no obligation to campaign for other trans people, or to come out, and suffer bad consequences for doing so.

“My value as a human being does not depend on my physical appearance,” I declaim, portentously, and people who are pretty have life easier. Looking weird sucks. And- one gets on, as best one can, I suppose.

Classic-Spaghetti-Straps-Rhinestoned-Bodice-Floral-Evening-DressIt is of more than academic interest to me that in April, Chris Wilson, a trans man, was convicted in Scotland of obtaining sexual intimacy by fraud, because he failed to disclose his trans history. He had casual sex. He had lied about his age, claiming that he was 16 rather than 22- with female bone structure, he looks younger- but the charge was that he had failed to disclose his trans status.

Why should I ask permission to be me? Pick someone up in a pub, go to a nice quiet place- hotel room, her house, the lavs- and then I have to say, by the way I am Trans. Is that OK with you? Some jurisdictions specify that recklessly infecting someone with an STD is a criminal offence, and Wilson’s case makes me equivalent. Someone might be happy to have casual sex with me, who would not be happy to have it with a trans woman.

It means that I am female by consent- not just of the Gender Recognition Panel, but of everyone, and anyone can withdraw that consent. I say I decide what sex I am, I decide how I should express myself, and while I want to be presentable, no-one gets a veto.

Trans women have objected to the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill on the grounds that a person with a Gender Recognition Certificate has to disclose gender history to a prospective spouse, or that spouse can have the marriage declared void, later. However, the Bill will also reveal the person without a GRC. As same sex and opposite sex marriages are slightly different legal institutions, when the trans woman without a GRC marries she must be registered as the “husband”.

Friendship

If we respect each other, does our friendship need any other foundation?

https://i2.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/7b/Marie_Bracquemond_The_Artist%E2%80%99s_Son_and_Sister_in_the_Garden_at_Sevres.jpgIn May 2000, I decided that I had to transition to female, I could not bear not. That was the Saturday. On the Wednesday, I went to the local TV/TS group, and sat with the trans women. None had jobs, one was studying, I thought their lives unbearable. So I decided I could not transition, I would make a go of presenting male. It was the Sibyls who showed me it was possible to live reasonably, transitioned, and especially F.

I saw her transition. She got a posting within her multinational company to another European capital, so when just starting to express herself female full time she was perfecting that other language and learning to drive on the right. We went on holiday together, once before I transitioned, and once after. She took me to Wimbledon, and on the centre court we watched Tim Henman and Pete Sampras. Tennis was her game, and she saw the skill in particular shots which seemed less spectacular to most of the crowd. It is not my game, I have never played and rarely watched it, and she paid me one of three compliments which I treasure: she enjoyed going there with me “because you’re interested in Life”.

I was transitioned, and we kept in touch by https://i2.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/92/Marie_Bracquemond_Woman_with_an_Umbrella.gifphone- but then, it was me phoning, and almost all me talking about my concerns. “How are you?” elicited factual information rather than any real sharing, though she told me she would be seeing her daughter for the first time in years- how we suffer, for this thing which no-one would ever choose! Living with stuff which would be unbearable if you thought about it, we deaden ourselves to these pains.

So I stopped phoning.

I invited her to my ten year anniversary party, and she was having trouble with her emails so did not get the invitation on time. I phoned her, sent her a link to the photos, and just now got a Christmas e-card from her, a hideous saccharine thing of “Santa” coming down the chimney and leaving presents. Oops, I am depressed, I am not seeing clearly. A pretty, joyous animation with some touches of humour of Santa leaving presents, and flying off in his sleigh.

She kept one friend who had known her before transition, and apart from the Personnel department in England, no-one in the new office knew of her past. People do not see her transsexual history as they do mine- she told her best friend, who had not known. So, perhaps, she could not have me as a friend in case her secret came out, and did not want to talk to me to be reminded of her own transsexualism, which was now in her past.

We had respect! It is enough to found a friendship, unless there is something like this to break it. I felt such rage, I wanted to publish her name, photograph and a link to her business website here- a revenge at once mean, puny and misdirected. I wish we could be friends. And- I could resent all sorts of reasons for her to withdraw from friendship, but not that she was frightened and ashamed, for that is not her fault.

Acceptance!

Once more round the spiral….

Once more with the scouring pad, scour, scour away the dirt and detritus. Sandpaper for the blackened wrong and encrusted dirt. A chisel for the hardest bits. Or-
perhaps-
the emollient cream, for dried out, painful, scorched and blackened skin. Soften it, gently, bring it into the sunlight. It was made to be beautiful. That joint has been twisted in that position for a long time. Gently. Yes, it is painful. That is blood flowing down unaccustomed arteries.

Ten- Years!- after I forced my courage as hard as it would go, and gave up the unbearable male persona.

————————————————————————————————————–

Enough self-acceptance to get by. I still do not pass. I do not get insulted in the street, but if someone spends five minutes with me they probably read me. The voice, the height, mannerisms, hip to shoulder ratio, some things I can do something about, some things that I can’t. It matters, just as the beauty myth matters: no, every woman need not aspire to a perfectly toned, expertly fed and exercised body with perfect bone structure and carriage, dressed in the latest fashions to show it to its best advantage, perfectly made up and then photoshopped- and beauty is worth tens of thousands, over a lifetime.

Do I want to pass? I could wear makeup more, do something about my voice, stop taking my wig off for effect. I might not “be me”, but then I am happy with different personae in the office, in the Meeting house, in the pub-
depending on how I judge the social class of the person I am with- no this is not simple-

scour, scour, scour-

Actually I would like for my feelings not to be read on my face all the time, to be so sharp and overwhelming. A month after I went back on the highest dose of hormones, that I was taking before August, I am still “hormonal”. Should I wait a bit to see how it beds down? Should I reduce the dose again?

I get upset. I am still not over that. So I weep and it is not comfortable, and yet as my friend said it is like weather, it passes.

————————————————————————————————————–

So, there is no magical Moment of Self-Acceptance, after which everything is perfect. There are hacks:

I am the meat-eating vegan. No, really. Yes, I know that a vegan eats no meat or dairy produce, and I like vegan food. So labels are possibilities and opportunities rather than limitations.

And there is the continuing experiment. Who is this human being, with whom I am, now? Who am I? What, now I have decided that it is OK for me to want something, do I want?

Aurora Triumphans