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Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Guest Post - Stepping Out Into Public

Laura Ann is a good friend and an excellent writer.  She's a member of the local TG group I belong to, The River City Gems.  I always encourage her, and any of you out there, to submit guest posts to T-Central.  This one has got to be one of her best, and I do believe it could very well apply to me!  Laura is monitoring, so feel free to leave comments here or send me an email (listed at the bottom of this page) if you would like to email her directly.

I recently read a post from one of our River City Gems members that talked about the difficulty that emerging transwomen have, with going out in public dressed in femme mode and presenting as women. An excerpt from this post:

"Stepping out into a public place can be humiliating, just knowing yourself that most people observing you will notice that you are really a man and not a cis woman."

I'd like to contribute my somewhat different opinion on this observation, a point of view derived from having lived as a transwoman full-time, post-transition, since June 2016. It's actually been a little longer than that, as I started shopping for groceries and clothes, and going to movies and restaurants, in full femme mode in March 2016, right after the River City Gems "Femme Friday" dinner that month. I left that event wearing a knit skirt, a very pretty knit blouse, 3" espadrille sandals, and a medium length wig; on the way home, I stopped at a Wal-Mart and spent two hours wandering the store, so deep in the Pink Fog that it's amazing I didn't drown. This was my first time alone in public, en femme, and no one looked askance at me, and the cashier actually complimented my nails, which I had just had done - a full set of acrylics - that afternoon. If you have read my other blog posts here on T-Central, you might know that I am in no way "passable": I'm 6'-2" tall in flats, I weigh 300 pounds, and I have an unmistakably male baritone voice. There's nothing I can do to change any of my physical attributes (except that I could lose the excess weight, of course). But I would still be too tall, too broad-shouldered, and just overall too "bulky" to ever pass as a born-female woman. Yet I have to live every day as I am, and interact with strangers at every turn, every time I go anywhere or do anything in public. I hardly ever get mis-gendered, and when I do, it's usually by someone with an obviously foreign accent, and I assume that they are from a country, or culture, in which gender pronouns are different ot not as clearly defined as they are in American English.  Anyway, when I do get mis-gendered under these circumstances, it usually doesn't feel malicious or trans-phobic.

The point I am trying to make is that I disagree somewhat with the statement quoted above, in that I don't think that most strangers observing me are clocking me as trans, or as a "man in a dress". And even the ones that do seem more likely to simply ignore the fact that I am trans as irrelevant - most people, at least adults, are far too busy with their own concerns to bother with harassing strangers, even transgender ones. In these three years that I have been living full-time as a (trans)woman, every time that I have been clocked, and the person clocking me has actually approached me, it has been to share something nice; often, they have a family member or friend who is trans, or I get complimented on my nails or my outfit, or they ask where I bought my handbag. These are positive interactions in other words, and not sneers, ugly laughs, or trans-phobic insults or threats. Men hold doors open for me all the time, and when I drop in at Lane Bryant or Torrid to look at the latest offerings, I get treated exactly the same as any other customer. In fact, sometimes I get the impression that the sales associates at these stores are in fact clocking me as trans, and they then go out of their way to make me feel extra-welcome in their stores.

I've been saying this for years, but it bears repeating: you don't have to be afraid to go out in public presenting as a woman. At least here, in Sacramento, California, it's safe enough. I wouldn't do something patently stupid like shoving my way into a biker bar and shouting "I'm transgender! Anyone here got an issue with that?". But if you just dress conservatively and in age-appropriate fashion, you can have a wonderful time being trans-femme in public. I do suggest the following steps:
1. You've got to shave off or cover up obvious body hair. You can't go out en femme, in public, your arms and legs looking like you borrowed them from a grizzly bear, and with a dense forest of chest hair peeking up through the neckline of your clothing, and expect this to be ignored. If you have a lot of arm hair, you have to at least wear long sleeves. I'm aware that, for many of you, shaving off body hair is not something you can do, for a variety of reasons, but you have to at least make sure it isn't showing.
2. Go easy on the makeup if you are past age 50. If you look around at random cis-women, for example at a shopping mall or supermarket, you won't see many older women wearing glam makeup to a casual dinner or to go to a movie or grocery shopping.
3. For heaven's sake, if you are past age 30. no mini skirts. If you wear a dress or a skirt, it should at least be knee-length, or mid-calf if you can stand to wear a skirt that long in this hot summer weather.
4. Try for the middle ground on your breast form sizing: a "C" cup. Huge breast forms will draw attention to you, and you want to be as unremarkable as possible if you are trying to avoid being clocked. I rarely wear forms at all anymore, even though I am only an "A" cup and unlikely to ever grow any more at my age, no matter how much estradiol I take. I hardly have any boobs at all, which is not typical for a woman with my body mass index, but I figure I am less noticeable this way than if I wore my size 14 "D" cup forms. And it's a lot more comfortable - breast forms in summer weather are miserably hot and sweaty.
5. Overly long or unnaturally "bright" colored wigs draw attention to you. Most women over 50 wear their hair no more than shoulder length. Save the long, beautiful hair for major holiday events like Christmas parties . If your wig says age "25" but a close look at your face or hands says "60", you're going to get clocked if you haven't already been.
6. Less jewelry is better than a lot. If you should happen to fall into a swimming pool, you probably don't want to be so loaded down with necklaces and bracelets that you get dragged to the bottom and drowned.
7. Most important of all: Attitude. You must believe in yourself, and that you have every right to be out in public en femme. It is my personal belief that, whether you are part-time, as are most of the River City Gems members, or full-time like myself, we are all equally transgender women. I can't figure any other explanation for why we all do what we are doing, i.e., going to Gems events or Trans-Pride festivals in the first place, dressed in women's clothing, and wearing wigs, makeup, and breast forms, and taking up women's names. I submit that there is something in every one of us, an "inner girl" if you will, that has been crying for release since we were kids, or you probably wouldn't be reading this, and I wouldn't have written it in the first place. So own it! Own it fully and be happy with who you are. Put on your girl clothes and go out to lunch at a favorite restaurant, then head for the Mall and browse to your heart's content. Go to Lane Bryant and ask for a bra fitting. The sales associate is going to know you are trans, and SHE WON'T CARE! She will respect that you are in her store asking for help, and she will respect you for having the courage to be there. Go into Torrid and pick out a cute bathing suit and try it on. At 5:00pm, head for a restaurant and have dinner, then a movie. If you are too apprehensive to try this yourself, alone, put together a GNO, and go out with some friends.

Owning yourself is to accept that your identity as a (trans)woman is just as valid as her identity as a cis-women is to any woman born "assigned female". Your womanhood is just as valid even if it's only a few hours a month that you can indulge it. Owning and accepting this will induce the change in attitude I'm taking about here: you will cease to be apprehensive. You'll relax and enjoy your girl time fully. You'll walk tall and proud to be who you are. You'll actively seek out store clerks, and ask for that bra fitting with a sparkle in your eye and a smile of happy anticipation on your face. You will come to regard nail salon appointments as all-too-brief periods of ultimate relaxation and fun, even if you can only indulge in them a couple times a year.

You have absolutely no obligation to feel guilty or like an object of ridicule when you go out in public presenting as a woman. I submit that "Transwomen are women, full stop". A lot of people would argue with me on this point, especially if the disagreement involves part-time vs full-time life, but I believe that whatever it was that led us all to cross-dressing in the first place is the same thing, whether an individual part-time CD does or does not eventually transition. For some of us, gender dysphoria was more severe than for others, and if our circumstances allowed it, we transitioned if that was the only thing we could do to find peace and happiness in our lives. Most part-time CD's won't ever be driven to transition, thanks to having deep emotional support from their spouses and other family members. But that we are all the same in our gender identity as transwomen, or as bi-gender in the case of a few of you, at some level, I have no doubt. Your happiness is important in the end, and it affects every aspect of your life. Unhappy people suffer more illnesses,  are less productive at work, their marriages don't work as well as they might, their kids suffer too, and in this small area of life, I am trying to put it out there that you don't have to be unhappy. You can indulge your inner girl out in public a few hours a month, safely. You've only got this one life, and if for some unknown reason your body anatomy, your spirit, and your gender identity don't all synchronize perfectly, that's nothing to be ashamed of. It isn't "your fault" or "your choice" that you were born transgender, and no one should want you to have to suffer for it. I think that in some ways, being transgender is an extraordinary gift; born as males, we are being given a glimpse into both the external and internal lives of "the other half" (the "better half"?). So be yourself in joy. And by all means, try on a really cute one-piece women's bathing suit sometime, if you haven't already; they feel really nice. If being a transwoman is to have a soul made from a framework of rats and snails and puppy-dog tails, with an admixture of sugar, spice, and everything nice layered on top of it, like sheetrock on 2x4's in the walls of your house,  then so be it. Live in joy however you can, and take pride in being fully who you are, in every aspect of your life.

Laura-Ann Charlot

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