Thursday, September 29, 2005

Sharing My Changes

SHARING MY CHANGES 9/29/05

So much has been happening in my life lately that I have decided to stop for a moment and try to put some things into print, and perspective. Some of you are aware that I'm entering the final stages of transition, if there is such a thing. At least this is the time where a lot of things are crashing together. Funny, I was just saying last night that, at my age I never thought I'd be in a hurry for time to pass. I know that things will be very different in a year, in 6 months, and by Christmas. Big things Have already happened in the last month, and I keep telling myself that The details haven't formed sufficiently for me to write a blog on the subject. If I don't do this now, I'm going to loose the perspective, Final details or no.
In order to cover some ground without flitting aimlessly, I am going to describe things in terms of catagories. First, physical changes. As of last week, I have been on HRT a year and a half. I was very dissapointed for quite a while in my progress. I am taking Bi-weekly shots of Delestrogen, suspended in oil, in the thigh. Also, until about a month ago, there was also 1.25 mg daily of premarin tabs (to keep the "swings" down). At about three months, I started on Spironolactone, 100 mg. daily(50 x2). This was delayed because I was very aprehensive of loosing my ability to perform sexually. At about 4 months I did see big changes in this area. At first, my penis seemed to fight back and I had stronger drive and erections than ever. All of the sudden, things reversed. I shrunk quite a bit and erections became painfull and crooked, which was very alarming. my doctor told me to take vitamin E, 400 iu, daily, as this was a sign that scar tissue was forming. I had my doubts, but The vitamin E works wonders and today I still have "useable" erections, without pain or "abnormalities", however smaller. I need to say here that, in the beginning I was overdosing, or so I thought, on the Delestrogen. My first level check, at about 3 months, showed me in the 450 unit range when my doctor was trying to keep me in the range of a post menapausal woman, around 150. Since I have always been fearful of stroke risks, I heeded his advise and severely cut my doses. my results (mainly breast growth), which had been encouraging at first, began to slow dramatically.
At about a year, I discovered that my doctor, which had been treating the majority of trans people in Indiana, had left the state without any notice to his patients. As I had a good supply of meds left, I continued the reduced dosages until I could locate another doctor experienced in transgendered medicine. His approach is slightly different and is once again producing encouraging results. He has removed me from the Premarin completely and had me resume the 450 unit level (about .4cc), using only the Delestrogen bi-weekly. He also switched me to 100mg of Spiro, once daily. I was fearful of mood swings but my sudden, crashing depressions actually seemed to subside quite a bit. Today, My breasts are a small B. I am just as excited about my other "results".
I have always heard that the meds will do nothing for the voice. Mine has gained almost an octave and my female voice is now somewhere between barely and extremely passable, even on the phone. so much of this, however, is due to study and attempts at genuine inflection and content. another happy effect has been the great reduction in body hair growth. I was afraid of spending huge ammunts on hair removal in places like my back and shoulders. The hair there slowed so much that I hardly ever need to even shave anymore!. The skin in places actually did gain "translucence" and I once feared my legs would never pass but was recently complimented on them by a GG who may have not even known about me. Other changes include some slimming of my waist and growth in the hips and rear. We all have to remember that changes will be different for each of us. Perhaps my favorite changes have been in emotional, Psychosexual areas. This brings me to my next subject.

I won't spend as much time on the spiritual and mental aspects of all this but there are some important points. When I began to transition in ernest, I was warned by some more advanced sisters that if I didn't HAVE to transition, I had better turn around and run. Maybe I'll make some enemies here but, for me personnally, all I have to do is die and pay taxes. I do not have to cut off my penis, although the thought has occured to me. I was born a man. Sorry, but it's true. Born and raised one. But all my life, something was not right. I never fit in to a man's world or way of thinking. One way I explained it to myself is that I liked women so much, I always wanted to be one. My early transvestism always had as it's end result, that one day I would be a woman. By choice. By force. This force has now led me to cause the inevitable destruction of my 25 year marriage. A lot of the details are quite complicated, but my wife has said that she doesn't want a wife, and that's ok by me. I had a real hard time being the husband she wanted. Never quite was, actually.
I am also walking out of my livelyhood, a 25 year career in manufacturing. There has been much examination and soul searching, but There is no way that I can be a happy woman in the factories. I recognize that a lot of this feeling is due to the fact that I have never been happy there anyway. It's more than that. I want rid of all things Male. no dirt, no grime, no Cussing like a sailor and walking like John Wayne, and as little harrassment as possible. I may still fish, I still like cars (hate working on them though) and action flicks. A lot of women do.
I promised I'd be brief on this subject but I have to adress the thought that got me here, the effects of the meds. in the beginning, I was determinedly Non-Op and hetero. I think this was an attempt to deny any bi-sexual tendancies, but I have noticed extreme changes in my libido and my desires. I won't say that the hormones have turned me "queer". Maybe they have given me clarity as to my true self, and changed the way my body reacts to thoughts. Thoughts I wouldn't have allowed before. I always saw sex with a man, as a woman, as the ultimate in feminization. still do! However, there is also a very special woman in my life, cheering me on, calling me by my name and telling me that she can't wait until I can say goodbye to my boy life forever. her love and support is valued way beyond words. I also welcomed the drop in Testosterone (normal male 250 to 650, mine 17, LOL) and the peacefull departure from aggression and conflict. I know that the chemical makeup of a man does not "cause" these things, but part of the allure of feminity for me is seeking the beauty and harmony of life, and I struggled with this as a man. Already, I'm feeling much more balanced and complete. I think that, as I approach full time womanhood, The entire experience is making this happen, not just the meds.

The whole reason for writing this began from a need to cover recent "logistical" events. Last month I applied for my legal name, which will be official in november. Last week I used that name to check into a hotel and enroll and complete a class in decorative painting, my new career. I spent a week in a room with 11 other women, en femme and with some degree of stealth. I walked in the first morning and was told to find A notebook with my name on it. MY NAME! How cool! The instructor said that we could sit anywhere, and I had considered things like hiding in the back of the room, but when I saw that my place was at the front center, I decided to play it like it was dealt. Always was a front of the room type anyway. I think the key to enjoying something like this is not to expect too much, in the way of acceptance. I was, however, treated very well, Never felt embarrased, and learned a ton about painting and even more about interacting as a woman. I spent 9 days without being a boy, the longest stretch yet, and came home elated. just when I thought I couldn't be any happier, Emails started pouring in from a secret admirer that I met on the trip. Even if that goes nowhere, he's already made me feel like a million bucks. Atlanta? where's that?
I probably haven't covered half of what I wanted to talk about, but I wanted to show you all some of my world. I hope you can use some of this information in your journey. I'll try to do this again soon, and I'm sure to find all kinds of other changes to discribe. I have always admired and valued the TransWomen who have gone before, and stopped to reach back to the rest of us. No matter how deep into stealth I go, I hope to be one of them someday. Hold me to this. God bless.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Is this you?

(by Marlena Dahlstrom)

I ran across this article (don't worry it's short) that argues cross-dressers typically share the following traits:


  • Intelligent
  • Creating and making things
  • Intellectual Curiosity and Eclecticism
  • Collectors/Hobbyists/Tinkerers
  • Perfectionism
  • Dreamers/Enjoy flights of fancy
  • Loners (although I suspect this varies depending on how introverted/extroverted you are)

which the author, a CD herself, argues typically has made CDs feel "different" from others and a bit of an outsider even before they put on the dress. It was freakily accurate in describing me. So I posted it as a poll over a Crossdressers.com where the (admittedly self-selected and unscientific) concensus is that it descibes people very well to generally well -- no one so far has thought it didn't really describe them. Interesting one FTM CD also thought it described extremely well, so we're going to post the poll in the FTM section to see if there's similar results.

So what do you think - is this you? The bullet list doesn't do justice to the author's points about these traits, so please read the article first before answering.

We are our own worse enemies

(by Marlena Dahlstrom)

Good news and bad news....

The good news is that a would-be novelist joined one of the online forums I belong to in order to do researching on cross-dressing for a novel where the protagonist happens to be a crossdresser -- someone who was fired when he was outed, but who has the huevos to stay in town and carry on with his life.

The writer, call him Philip, was open about his intentions, when it would have been really easy to fake a profile and present himself as a newbie. He doesn't make crossdressing the centerpiece, rather just an interesting aspect of the protagonist (the focus will be on the character's professional life, and he just happens to cross-dress). Philip had a few misperceptions, which we corrected, and seems genuinely interested and respectful. In fact, he said he's rewriting some things in light what he now understands.

We did let him know that a crossdresser who's out like that is pretty atypical (although Lacey Leigh was recently outted by a business rival and received quite respectfully a conference for her industry, where were her guy self was well known). But I'd rather have an unrealistically open and well-adjusted crossdresser than the unrealistic media protrayals we usually see.

Unfortunately a few members of the forum freaked out at having a non-CD/SO visitor and made some rather immature and prejudiced comments to Philip, insinuating he was a pervy voyeur, which prompted Philip to leave despite the forum owner making it clear he'd been admitted with her blessing and support. *sigh*

He does plan on keeping in touch with those of us who are interested, and even offered to let us read his drafts to see if we have suggestions. I've got no idea is he's any good as a writer, or whether the novel will ever see the light of day, but one can hope.

It just pisses me off that some of the people who bitch and moan the most about how we aren't accepted in general public were the same ones who drove this guy away. If they can't handle posting on an anonmyous forum because there was an invited guest there doing research, they'll never find the door knob to the closet and face the public at-large.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Forgiveness

(by Rhenaiya Jesson)


If I take pause and try to identify the source of my fears and frustrations I am always face to face with prejudice and the perpetuation of stereotypes in society. The harshest realizations are when I see that I am guilty of them myself from time to time. I make a point of being non-judgmental and I curse myself when I make gross generalizations. Even though I abhor this kind of behavior, I slip up on occasion. I guess to err is only human.

I am a trans-gendered person in the early stages of transition. I have yet to make the leap from living as a male to being my true female self and though my conviction is pure I fear the way I will be treated by society at large. If not for this fear I would already be comfortably living as a woman regardless of the fact that my body has yet to evolve into a state of balance with my mind. Instead I dread being the target of mockery, violence and injustice at the hands of the ignorant. I cannot be enslaved by this trepidation.

At the moment I have the ability to conceal that which makes me different which grants me refuge from my fears of persecution. I must acknowledge the other groups that face similar problems as I have, people who fought against oppression in the past and those who still fight for equality now. Those who don’t have the luxury of hiding their skin color and face their struggles without choice. I have such love and the utmost respect for the people brave enough to battle against racism, sexism, bigotry and every other device of social injustice. You are my heroes, you inspire me and I applaud you.

Nobody can undermine the value of love but I think that empathy is one of the single most important abilities humans possess. It makes it so very hard to be cruel or malicious to someone if you know what it would feel like being the victim. It’s possible the people who find it easiest to hurt others are people who ignore their own emotions or even worse, hate themselves. That is where the next most important abilities become obvious. It is the gift of forgiveness, not just of others but of oneself. Guilt is just a form of self punishment and must not be overindulged.

There will inevitably be a day when I step proudly into the scrutinizing light of social acceptance. No matter what happens I will forgive them. To err is human nature. To forgive is mine.

Rhenaiya Jesson

Sunday, September 18, 2005

The Venus Transit Gift

(by Michele Angelique)

Last night I had an epiphany. I now understand "why". I will show you what I discovered, but first I must give you some background on where I am coming from in a spiritual sense.

I have always been a deeply spiritual person, never in the organized religion realm, but just in always "knowing" we are all here for a grand and magnificent purpose. My spiritual training began in my early childhood, around the age of 4-5. Although I was baptized Roman Catholic at the insistence of my grandparents, my parents were hippies, and thus were explorers of many belief systems outside the Christian/Catholic realm. We never practiced any form of ceremonial religion, it was always more in-depth discussions and pondering among ourselves. My early spirituality was more based on Taoism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Paganism and Metaphysics. Our spirituality never had a "label", my parents just borrowed from various schools of thought and applied them to our daily lives.

My dad passed away when I was 10, although his presence in the early formative years of my life made a huge impact. I never stopped seeking, questioning, expanding my consciousness in the spiritual sense. In my life I have studied a brilliant mosaic of spiritual teachings from all areas of the globe. It was only in 1997 at the age of 25 that I discovered a source of spiritual wisdom that originates from a non-human source.

A friend introduced me to the channeled material of an entity known as Kryon. Kryon is not a "god", nor does it represent a "religion"; it does not ask for your "belief" nor your "conversion". Kryon simply speaks of the way of the Universe and humanity's purpose therein. Kryon speaks to humans in pure love and reverence, never condemning, never judging. Kryon is comparable to a genderless angel whose message feels more authentic and divine than anything I've experienced previously. For those who need "proof", Kryon has already told us *in advance* of multitudes of scientific, archaelogical, geographical, astronomical changes and discoveries. Now, governments and the science community are even paying close attention to the Kryon work.

Kryon first touched my life in 1997, and fundamentally changed ME, my understanding, my purpose. It is because of Kryon that my entire outlook on humanity was softened from one of confused distain, inner turmoil and anger, to one of celebration, acceptance and love. A new feeling of peace and belonging filled my essence, and has never left me.

Since 1992 when Kryon began its communication with humans, its teachings have become a paramount force in the New Age community. Kryon is in print worldwide, and has been hosted by the United Nations on four occasions to address the world community. Kryon has become integral to the New Age movement, which has rapidly grown over the past 20 years to now include tens if not hundreds of millions of people.

Kryon has changed millions of lives, and it can be credited as the spiritual source behind my own involvement in GenderEvolve. I have always been what Kryon refers to as a "Lightworker", and upon discovering the transgender community, I am putting down roots and becoming a "Lighthouse". Finding a "cause" didn't surprise me really, but what was still confusing me and my family/friends was "why transgender?", why not "something else?".

Last night I read a Kryon channeling that I had not read before. It speaks of the Venus Transit, which is known to science as Venus retrograde. This is happening for the 8 year period between 2004-2012. Kryon explains the energy of the Venus transit, and after reading this, my involvement with the TG community makes sense to me now... and so will it make sense to the millions of New Age community, just as soon as they make the connection between the following Kryon words, and the TG community. This is something we can hang our hats on, and gain a huge pocket of support in the New Age community! Kryon, which has millions of supporters worldwide, celebrates transgendered people! This is huge!

What this means to US is that the energy of the world is right for tremendous change! Our message will ring true, will be heard loud and clear, and will be both embraced and celebrated. I now understand "why" the transgender cause has compelled me so intensely... it's because the time for change is NOW, this is the WINDOW, and I could instinctively FEEL it. It is no wonder that I as a lightworker heard THE CALLING! Other lightworkers like myself will also feel it! I now know my purpose here among you, and my inspiration has been brought to new heights.

It is in this light which I present to you the following excerpt from a Kryon channeling in regard to the Venus Transit. To visit Kryon on the web, go to www.kryon.org

...

Excerpted from Kryon Summer Light Channeling, June 2004

"... Venus, who's known to have the energy of the Goddess of Love. It's not an accident that those in mythology named it this. In the mythology, the lover [Venus] disappears for a number of days [which you call the retrograde], while it transits between your planet Earth and the sun.

The energy being transmitted to this planet now, and for the next eight years, is a loving feminine balance of love. You're going to see a balance take place that you've never seen in your lifetime. It's a balance of both Gaia and the Human in a new way.

At the moment, your earth isn't balanced. It's masculine-heavy. This has nothing to do with your gender. There is masculine and feminine energy in every Human. No matter what your gender is, the most balanced man reading and hearing this is one who has the balance of the feminine and the masculine, equally. The most balanced woman listening and reading is the one who has the masculine and the feminine equally balanced in their lives.

You've grown up on a planet where the balance hasn't been equal, and where the masculine energy has far outweighed anything else. Now, due to your efforts, the consciousness changes on Earth. The beginning of this was the 11:11, then the 12:12, then the Concordance. Now the new window brings in the best yet! Because of the new path you took, it demanded the energy of the eight. The balance and the responsibility being delivered to this planet, therefore, is energy that will eventually balance this planet, masculine and feminine.

What a change this has the potential to make! Let me tell you, there will be those who will go crazy with this new potential. It doesn't fit them and it doesn't fit what they consider to be their reality. I'll make two statements, and both of them will be of the kind called "unbelievable." (1) Masculine-heavy governments won't be able to exist on the planet. (2) No masculine-heavy religion will be able to exist on this planet. Neither one can be supported, and they won't make sense to a changing consciousness. They'll fall into the ashes of civilization. Remember that. I'll say it again before I'm done. This is the profound time we talked about that was coming.

The new news is that you're rewriting the masculine/feminine balance of this planet with the help of a new energy being delivered through the Venus Transit and the opening of this eight-year window."

...

Fear

(by Rhenaiya Jesson)


Fear has a way of controlling people. There are many levels that it can exist on, such as obvious and identifiable fear. Something understandably scary, like a big mean dog or tornadoes for instance. Also fear can be obscure, the fear of change and the fear of the unknown are both good examples of this. A persons decisions are dictated either consciously or subconsciously by their fears and desires. Although this can be a hindrance, fear can also be useful. If a person understands their fears and can assume control over them, they gain the ability to accomplish almost anything.
Fear can work like a warning signal. Use it as an early detection system, an alert to possible danger then proceed with caution. In any risky endeavor, one must be prepared to deal with even the worst case scenario. It is only by facing them, that we can conquer our fears. People do it every day.
I have, like many of you, a fear of persecution or ridicule. We all know these are not unfounded fears; one only needs to look back in history. Being transgendered, we are outwardly different from most others, and people fear what they do not understand. I worry that I will be the target of violence because of who I am, something I cannot change about myself. This fear causes me to hide my true self, only able to be a female on the outside when nobody is looking or in the clubs that cater to people with alternative lifestyles. Though these establishments are great, allowing a person a space to be free, I can’t help but feel that it’s merely a bigger closet to hide in.
Because I know I cannot proceed in my life suppressing my femininity, I have chosen to transition completely. Everything masculine about me in respect to my appearance and voice causes me anguish and I just want to be happy and live my life being true to myself. Because of the path I am on, I am forced to conquer my fear otherwise I will remain in the closet defeated by myself. I have no other choice if I want to find peace and happiness.
Thus far in my life I have yet to face such a challenge, it is myself that I am at battle with. It is the fear of the unknown dangers that take shape in my imagination. Initially, I was scared to admit to anyone about how I feel I am a female, worried that I would be abandoned by those I love if they knew what I intended to do. I felt that way for 20 years and it took a near death experience to actually give me the will power to come out. During the 3 years leading up to when I began telling people about my true identity and my hidden lifestyle, not a day passed that I didn’t wake up and wish I hadn’t. Almost getting hit by a speeding city bus, in a daze from lack of sleep and my mind in turmoil, death winked at me. It was that moment I realized not only that I wanted to live, but that I really wasn’t allowing myself to live for a long time.
Over the next year I found the courage to come out to my friends, family and coworkers, a process that is still ongoing. With each person I told, my courage grew a little bit more. I was and am still amazed how much everyone in my life supports and loves me, regardless of my decision. I know now that I underestimated my bond with these people and am grateful for the strength they have endowed upon me with their love.
Even more surprising to me is the response I have received from my coworkers. I work in a wood shop with a 90% male staff, most of whom are typical men in such a place, discussing cars and sports and other pastimes of masculinity. I see now that I have stereotyped them myself, assuming they would reject me and ridicule me. I figured since I live in a small city full of hard working “manly” men, I was bound to get harassed. I must give them all credit as they have honored my feelings and gained my trust and respect.
It is important for me to mention that I have begun expressing my identity as a woman in the workplace and have approached the transition in a gradual way, starting with small amounts of makeup and (as of last week) wearing girls clothes. Of course in a wood shop I am obviously not wearing dresses, but my girls’ jeans and tops fit in with my attempt to ease the discomfort others would likely feel if I were to be more drastic in my transformation.
I have been the subject of jokes and comments by my coworkers on occasion and was fully prepared for it. I empathize with the awkwardness they must feel, and typical to male behavior, an awkward situation is made a little more bearable with some humor. I have the ability to laugh at myself and not take everything to heart which serves me well under these circumstances. I have only had a few people make comments that were intentionally hateful or mean. Once again I have to take them in stride as I know that it is simply another coping mechanism. Words may sting a little sometimes but I cannot fret over them, for every harsh word I have been dealt, a dozen kind words have also come my way. It is the threat of violence that I have to pay attention to, fully aware of the statistics of hate crimes against transgendered women.
To sum things up I suppose I can say that by facing my fears I am achieving the things I have always only dreamed of. Though it isn’t always favorable, my experience makes me stronger. The support I have received in respects to my transition has given me a little more faith in people and that is a gift unto itself. Not only to my sisters but to everyone I say this:
Being true to yourselves is scary as hell, be brave. Such courage never goes unnoticed.

Rhenaiya Jesson

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Gender Burnout

(by Annette Brunette)

Hello to all you lovely ladies,

I thought I'd write a personalized little thingy about my own journey through the gender world. Many excellent posts have been written about Gender Euphoria and the need to maintain balance in our lives and I don't have much to add to them at the moment.

I, too, went through my own period of euphoria lasting from 1995 til roughly 2004. Lately, though, the gender world has been a flat line and I've been feeling apathetic about the whole thing. So I'm writing from a different perspective, that of a burnt out CD. I still go out from time to time. But I don't enjoy it as much as I used to.

Burnout? Or maybe it's a gender midlife crisis. I looked in my closet the other day and stared at all my dresses. Shocking but apart from a Pagan transgender wedding that I had attended a few weeks ago (as "space girl") I hadn't worn a dress since January, the annual "First Event" TG convention in Massachusetts. Had my dresses suddenly gone out of style? No. Not really. I just realized that putting on a dress didn't excite me all that much anymore. It didn't make me feel more girly. Less masculine, perhaps, but not more feminine. I wracked my brains trying to think of the last time I got really excited about "dolling up." It was a few years ago and a genetic woman friend and I attended the Boston Symphony Orchestra in our black dinner dresses. After the concert, we had a lovely dinner at the local restaurant. Since then I've been out clubbing many times but it's never been quite the same.

Yesterday: Like most CD's I became interested in women's clothing at an early age. In northern nowheresville, Illinois where I grew up (and was incarcerated there for the first 23 yrs. of my life) you were not allowed to think about such things never mind discuss them openly. College years in Indiana. A move out east to Boston in 1984. Nothing changed. A GG roommate and very close friend began buying me lingerie in the early 90's. I was too embarrassed to buy them myself.

The dam burst in 1995 when I saw a special on CD's on TV...no pun intended. The next day I was at the IFGE (International Foundation for Gender Education) and Vernon's CD boutique. Then the Tiffany Club, a CD support group. Wigs, dresses, spandex, makovers. Many jaunts in public. Because I was short and small I passed very well. The Tiffany gals even took me to Jacques (the "sewer tour") before Jon at Urnotalone hung out there. Let me tell you it was wild seeing female impersonators live for the first time. I was dressed like a librarian but I still had guys hitting on me. I disliked shaving so much I started electrolysis. No more razors. Contac lenses. A trip to Provincetown. Manray, the local pvc fetish/bdsm club. I was in tranny heaven. It all happened in a blur. I met so many CD's I lost count.

Anyone who has never done so should attend a TG convention. My first one was in January 1996. There were over 200 people there. Somehow I got shanghai'd into modeling in the fashion show. Talk about being nervous! As clumsy as I was on the runway, it was enormously gratifying to walk in front of a supportive audience. The saddest part of the whole weekend was disrobing at the end and changing back into a "pumpkin." I didn't want the magic to end. In spite of all that happened in 1995 and '96, I never felt I was a TS and had no desire to transition. I just wanted to see where it would go.

Not much happened between '96 and '99 due to cash flow problems. Still I did go out semi-regularly en femme. By 1999 I had hooked up with some good CD friends and we spent more time clubbing and CD getaways down on the Cape. Manray, the local goth/BDSM club really rocked on Halloween and the B & D Ball. Nurses, cops, school girls, scantily clad women and CD's in PVC and leather. You name it, they had 'em all. Being a CD never felt so good and I was, once again, in Nirvana.

Every CD I know ponders the "next big step." Should I go out in public? Will I pass? Do I care? What about electrolysis? Laser? Makovers? Photo shoots? Maybe I can try a blonde wig instead? Should I tell my significant other? What about the children? Some even ponder transitioning and hormones. My "big step" was growing out my hair. It took a lot of nerve. The guys made fun of me from time to time but in the trades there's not really a dress code. (I told them I was "keeping up with the freaks" at Manray Club.) Along the way I had my ears pierced. January of 2002 was the magic year as I said goodbye to my wigs. It had taken 12-15 months and I remember the ineffible bliss I felt jumping into the pool in a bikini and submerging my head under water. Annette had come full circle! That should have been the high point in my journey into the CD world and it was ... for a while.

I got many compliments on my hair. (the "mop") Cd's said that I had it all. Short. Small boned. Full head of hair. No body hair save my lower legs. Feminine face with a soft jawline and no facial hair due to electrolysis. A Cd's dream? Yes and no. Imagine being cross dressed 24 hours a day 7 days a week. That's what it was like. Over the years I had been using less and less makeup. Even in drab I looked very effeminite. In fact the only difference between Jack and Annette was a pair of breast forms. Passing as a guy became almost comical. At a New England Patriots game last year the ticket taker told me I had to use the lady's line. (It was very very long and I was with 7 other guys) I told him twice that I was a guy. Finally (at his request) I showed him my driver's license and he apologized and let me through. At my boss's birthday party when I walked thru the door his sister in law asked who that "handsome lady" was. "That's Jack" he said. He told me that wasn't the first time I'd been misidentified. Even during my day job when I get hot and dirty outside I've been whistled at by passing cars.

Now none of this means that I'm complaining. Nor do I want to cut my hair short and start looking like a guy full time again. :-( (yech) But it does make me question my own femininity and how much and how often I really feel like a lady. What it has done is taken away the excitement of transformation. Showering. Shaving. Choosing an outfit. Dolling up. Putting on the wig. I've also noticed a lack of interest in "super femme" things like 5" heels and long pointy press on nails.

More pertinently, I've come to feel over time, that the feminine role can be just as restrictive as the masculine role. Amruta Slee, in the book, Dick For A Day: What Would You Do If You Had One? wrote, "I wish men and women, too, had created less cartoonish identities for themselves so we could all relax a bit." What this means for me is that physically I like my soft feminine body but mentally I prefer to slip back and forth between both genders. Sometimes masculine, sometimes feminine, sometimes a little of both and sometimes a lot of neither. Genetic women who I've become close to over the years like my ability to be caustic and verbally abusive one moment and very empathetic and sensitive the next.

I've also come to realize how much I clash with traditional people, both male and female. When I first got involved with the TG community, I idolized women, put them on a pedestal. Now I realize that women, like men have their own likes, dislikes and foibles. And yes, some of them support the binary straightjacket that "men are men and women are women." The man is supposed to be strong, decisive, the knight in shining armor. I read an editorial in a Boston newspaper about why a woman voted for G.W. Bush. He had strong moral convictions and didn't flip flop on issues. So did Hitler.

Today: I used to think I transformed into a different personality when I dressed up but I no longer feel that way. Dresses, PVC, leather skirts, pantyhose, pink spandex, Vickie's Secret lingerie ... it used to put me on cloud nine. But alas, the magic seems to be gone. Have my two personalities merged? Perhaps. I like to think that dressing up helped me to become aware of my softer and more vulnerable (dormant) side ... something I was never encouraged to do in my youth. As for my current lack of interest in feminine clothing, perhaps it's a combination of growing older and a lower sex drive and a realization that it's not necessary to put on a skirt to feel feminine. (A close Cd friend thinks I'm suffering from mild depression but that's another story)

Envying what's taken for granted?

(by Marlena Dahlstrom)

In "My Husband Betty" Helen Boyd makes an asute observation that cross-dressers often are envious of things genetic women take for granted: "They envy the easy friendship between women, the casual way women touch each other when they talk. Imagine a man gently brushing another man's hair out of his eyes while they're chatting! But women do that kind of thing all the time, even ones who aren't especially feminine."

I've always envied the way one my best friends can easily strike up a conversation with another woman she's just met. Obviously, this isn't dependent on gender. My friend is gregarious while I've always been social awkward around strangers. (Yes, despite being raised in California, I'm one of Garrison Keillor's people.) But it does seem like there's a big difference to the way two newly-introduced women interact compared to two guys.

The reverse is also true. I know many genetic women who envy men's freedom to move in safety — something I didn't truly understand until going out en femme.

Maybe this is one reason it's difficult for genetic women to understand why we do it. Partly, I think we're not always able to clearly articulate some of these things precisely because they're so "ordinary." Partly, it's when we do, genetic women have a hard time seeing why these sorts of things might be special to us — I've often heard genetic women express puzzlement about our attraction to make-up. Of course, there's also a big difference wanting to do something — like wearing skirts or make-up — and feeling obligated to do it.

Of course, like any other "grass is greener" feeling, it's envying something that sometimes is illusionary, in part or in whole. My friend can be far cattier about other women — including those she just chatted merrily away with — than I would ever be. Likewise as any guy knows, thugs and bullies will happily beat up on a "weak" guy. And if they really want to prove they're tough, they'll start a fight with the biggest, baddest dude around. Transman Raven Kaldera relates how a fellow transman learned this the hard way. As a butch lesbian, she could get in guys' faces and they'd back off because she was a woman. As a man she got decked immediately.

BTW, I intentionally used the word "envy," which is a complex emotion. It's both a grudging admiration and a painful desire for another's advantages mixed with a simultaneous discontent and resentment at their advantages. In relationships it often involves love/hate. Love for your partner and hate for the power they have over you.

Years ago Nancy Friday wrote in her book "Jealousy" (which really focuses on envy and power relationships): "Today, many women don't need men, either for their money or for their sperm, given society's tolerance of women having children on their own. Men's envy of our new found power may lessen as they get into women's traditional areas of strength, namely beauty and the rearing of the children, but it hasn't happened yet....We don't yet have that new social structure. Returning to Patriarchy is out of the question, but as a new power structure emerges to replace it, we must understand more than ever the furies our dismantling of Patriarchy have released. Our fury at powerlessness — our envy — is stronger than ever, stronger than any feelings of love. The truth is that we cannot love until we understand envy and its relationship to jealousy."

In that light, we crossdressers are at least open about our envies while in other men it often festers beneath the surface unacknowledged, even to themselves. We take those things we envy and make them our own — at least sort of our own, since we're doing them en femme rather than en homme.

Sometimes it's not pretty. As Kaldera says: "Sometimes when you drag out an opposite-sex persona - so to speak - you find that it's been stashed in the same mental closet as all the things that you don't like about the opposite gender, and they've become stuck all over it like barnacles, or growths. They won't flake off until that persona has been exposed to the air for a while, and gotten a chance to rub up against real people and real circumstances. This may mean plowing through years of humiliating stereotypical behavior until that part of you evolves and grows into a fuller human being. I've seen it again and again, especially in people who are just starting to cross-dress or whose CD persona only gets out once in a while. Stereotypes abound: the trashy whore, the catty and manipulative upper-class bitch, the irresponsible little girl, the supported housewife who never has to work or deal with the outside world, the delicately passive - and utterly useless - ornament, and, of course, Mom. In the bedroom, the sexual stereotypes can be even more cartoon-like, from Sweet Gwen the Victim to the Dragon Lady, but is most commonly the passive, receptive do-me-queen that men don't usually get to be. Sometimes their personas are clearly signposts pointing to the issues that they are bravely working through."

"Women are often horrified and offended when men deliberately imitate women, whether it's a female impersonator in a drag performance or a fetishistic cross-dresser in ratty nylons and a bad wig. They feel that these performances of female gender are a bad caricature, and don't actually resemble the real experience of women. While it's true that a performance, or even a persona, is by definition shallower than a person, there's still a grain (or a sackful) of truth to these performances. For every one of these stereotypes being performed by men, I've met the same ones being performed by women, and in larger numbers. I've met the biologically female version of every one of these caricatures, and I'm sure that the women who complain about the guys in dresses probably have, too."

The one silver lining of envy is that by pointing out where we feel inadequate we can choose to address those perceived inadequacies. Instead of coveting the characteristics we wish we had, we can develop them for ourselves. Likewise, we can move from begrudged admiration to respectful appreciation when we see those qualities in others.

So what things taken for granted by the opposite sex do you envy?

Monday, September 12, 2005

Transgenderism in Indian culture

(by Devi)
This post deals with transgenderism specifically in India, but the commonalities between most eastern cultures - Buddhism spread to China, Japan and elsewhere from India, and Hinduism still influences life as far away as in Cambodia and Bali, Indonesia - mean that broadly similar attitudes exist elsewhere in Asia too. For examples, one of China's most celebrated medieval admirals, Zheng He, was a known eunuch.

Transgenderism takes several hues, from heterosexual crossdressers to 'hijras' or eunuchs. Traditionally hijras are the most well known part of the Indian transgender community, and they are culturally 'accepted'. There is no religious stricture against them - they're in fact a definitive part of several religious texts and customs, which date back about a couple of millenia. Traditional dances and plays often involve TGs or at least recognized gender impersonators who hone their skills at expressing the female role openly. There are multiple annual social gatherings for hijras, also involving other TGs, around the country - often conducted under the auspices of Hindu temples. No one asks why a man would choose to dress and express himself as a woman; it is accepted as artistic and/or devotional expression.

All this doesn't mean that there are no lumpen nitwits on the street who will laugh at them, or that there aren't people who wouldn't baulk at hiring one. If a group of hijras were to resort of prostitution, unruly behavior or something of the sort, they most certainly will receive a dim view from the law enforcement and the general public. The point is there's little socially sanctioned discrimination against them for being hijras per se, but more so for what they do. This site itself has explored how TGs have problems due to members of the community misrepresenting everyone.

Understanding what such acceptance constitutes is a difficult task to explain within the constraints of a western viewpoint and it takes at least some degree of familiarity with Indian or eastern culture. There's no specific list of commandments and "thou shalt do/not do XYZ" involved. I cannot simply pluck out the treatment the TG community receives and attempt to convincingly explain it in isolation, without going into how societal mores in general are like, though I'll try in succeeding paragraphs.

In general, descriptions of hijras/TGs on various websites are quite 'crude'; for example, they are not a 'caste' - a much misused term. In modern day India there's no real hierarchical system as caste implies, just a lot of endogamous communities, and even those lines are increasingly blurred by exogamous ties today. Implicit ceilings of various hues exist as with any other society, but none of them are inviolable - even the most sacred roles, that of temple priests, are increasingly held by those not traditionally from the priestly class.

There's a much larger gulf between legal and societal perceptions than in western societies. Take for example our President - in a nation traumatized by centuries of Muslim invasions he is a homosexual Muslim scientist (he led the Indian missile/nuclear weapons program) who is also an expert on Hindu religious texts, and one of the most bipartisanly popular public figures. Officially homosexuality is against the law in India (a law grandfathered from the old British penal code), but both the law and the tabloids stay away from his personal life. A somewhat analogous (and apt, since the social view is basically "laissez faire") western case I recall is that of how the French treated the presence of the late former President Mitterand's mistress at his funeral where his wife was also present, when both of them were allowed to mourn in quiet dignity.

Another thing that is visible everywhere in India, it is diversity. Of religion, culture, ethnicity, opinion, expression, clothing, you name it. A society of such heterogeneity cannot survive and flourish without an inbuilt ability to treat each new or 'different' stimuli not by rejecting it, but making it part of the society at large. In a more homogeneous society, rejection is often a natural reaction, but in a society of massive diversity like India, such a societal reaction to new or exotic influences does not work. It breeds conflict and strains the broad concept of coexistence that holds society together.

From a pedagogical perspective, transgenderism, or for that matter subjects like homosexuality, may not be academically studied and analyzed to the extent it is in the west. The average Indian who sees a hijra in the street or a TG en femme in a traditional dance would not understand gender continuum or the distinction between gender express, biological sex and sexuality. But unlike in the west, acceptance doesn't really follow on the basis of biological, psychological or sociological studies, or for that matter political action. Instead, while there will be grey areas and ignorance, society 'lets it exist' without any broad stricture against it.

Finally, an example that characterizes how Indian society is inclusive - English. India was under the yoke of British imperial rule for a century and a half. Yet, English was uneventfully chosen as one of the official languages and the primary link language of the nation right after independence; about half a billion Indians now speak the language with various degrees of fluency and an even greater diversity of local accents, some of them now lampooned in call center jokes. But no one claims English is an invader's language. With our own idioms, syntactic and semantic constructs, English is now very much an Indian language. Such an attitude is what applies in the case of transgenderism as well.

On trying to find… that ever elusive… BALANCE…

(by Dee Gregory)

Where do I fit in? In a society that is still slowly waking up and trying to come to terms with the concept of transgender, how do protect my family from the unenlightened and still gently move our vision of acceptance and understanding forward?

In every microcosm of society we have yet another microcosm of society. Within our transgender realm we have the good, the bad and the …uh…uh....... those who need a little more practice…. Some of us have the boldness and freedoms to carry the flag and lead the way while others open our closets only to connect the modem or network cable so we can join our sisters and friends through the cyber realm.

We each will eventually have to find our own balance and place where we are comfortable (but, hopefully not too comfortable) and can live our everyday lives. I recently heard of a gal who was ecstatic because she had gone 3-4 days totally in femme and from another whom’s string of 4 straight nights of 4 hours of dressing and picture-taking made her fulfilled (and exhausted) enough to take her usual 6-month sabbatical after the experience.

Balance is the ongoing search that seems to be so difficult to complete. As new facets appear in our lives the balance continually needs to be re-adjusted. Maybe it’s that ‘goal-oriented -vs- enjoying-the-ride’ imbalance in my soul, which wants it all to be fixed, resolved, and done... that makes this my own personal challenge. Life is more about the journey than the destination, anyway, right?

But for me this evolution is possibly most about perspective… where is the fulcrum or center-of-gravity now? Where is that place of balance between sacrifice and selfishness? How can I be true to myself, true to the ‘cause’ and true to my commitments of marriage and family within society’s existing ‘rules,’ even if they may be considered outdated? So for now our perspectives and views come from our place and balance (or imbalance) within our own souls. Are we always right …. yes! … and wrong… yes! Of course there are some simple right/wrong answers, but all to many are based upon perspective and place, in your soul and in society.

Some of us can juggle all of the demands and desires and have more thrown in without constantly bruising our foreheads, while others have our hands full with a single ball….. We continue to evolve, we are forced to search our souls, deep and wide though they may be, and ask where the balance is, what adjustments we need to make to maintain it, and how much of ourselves are we willing to share with others? and at what costs? Or simply……What is the risk/reward ratio?

We will all find different balances of the Yin and Yang in each individual life. Even with our commonality, we are each unique and individual with different talents, interests, skills, viewpoints and priorities. We each will be challenged to find balance in our individual lives with your experiences and views many times having no relevance to helping my life and my experiences and views being of little or no value to your trials. So we all work to find our individual balances in our diverse yet common group, and celebrate what each has to offer from our balanced, or imbalanced, lives. I thank God that life seems to be more balance beam than tightrope……..

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Past meets Present

(by Alexis Rene Jones)

A challenge of sorts was presented to me by a new friend. To present how did Alexis get here? My instant response was "the internet silly"....But have asked myself the same thing daily for years. I still don't have the answer.

So come with me to the early 80's in a rural midwestern U.S. setting far away from mainstream influences of any sort . i.e. Where you have three channels on a television a antenna would pull in and a local newspaper deilvered every Wednesday. It really wasn't as bad as it sounds.

As with other stories I have read about you always see "girls" who have dressed since the post diaper stage in which if you count tromping around in Mom's shoes so be it, but the Freudians will have a fieldtrip with that.

The recollections are as vivid as the monitor is before me. From about the ages of 8-9 that I saw a girl in particular who was a model . This girls hair, her smile, her everything was just so intoxicating to me to the point I was trying to actually cut up old clothes to emulate what she was. She presented to me more than what was "supposed" to be as in selling print, but for me, I saw a sense of happiness within spirit and mind. Also note, at this point most of my friends were girls.

It was after that revelation ( as if 9 year olds can have those) I was watching one of the three channels our antenna would pull in and on a news special dubbed by me "The outing of Caroline Cossey"(From the James Bond movie For Your Eyes Only )http://www.snopes.com/movies/films/bondgirl.php .
I had no idea at the time about the transgendered world, but I was reeled in by this and would NOT let my Parents change the channel, Though they wanted too. As at that time I was too young to be paranoid about anything so they watched it with me. Scary to think of these days.

As I followed the show hanging on Caroline's every word, My Parents weren't taking it seriously and nothing against them, they just didn't understand why a relatively healthy and "normal" person would want to change gender or express it differently. Their thought was sexual dysfunction of sorts .

With that in mind I decided I did not want to be "Dysfunctional" and dropped it consciouisly.
However the plagues subconsciously overcame the conscious and months later was back at the trying to cut clothes this way or that way. Whatever I was doing, it didn't fit typical boyhood.

Though normal other things followed growing up from then on, There was always a cloud over me it felt . Not so much a rainy day cloud but just that things weren't adding up but you push on through them thinking maturity will resolve.

It was finally after the school days were over that I had access to clothes that I didn't have to hack on and were already feminine in manner that I thought Oh-Oh. I was drawn to presenting a feminine image of myself as much as ever...Kind of like a bank robber noticing a vault unlocked ! Just too tempting.

But how could this be ? I was happily dating a girl and was not gay so how could this childhood "mishap" still be haunting me. Note the reason I said gay as it was assumed and understood you had to be gay if you wanted to be a woman, as in what I had learned as a child. So with that in mind, I dropped it completely and closed the door on it forever !

K fast forward another few years later, some mishaps & several wrecked relationships later the urge is still present daily....BUT AGAIN WHY? The beginnings of relationships were varied and different, but the endings were a broken record. Essentially I was a "best friend" but so much that it couldn't be in a masculine to feminine of sort of relationship. I have never told a S.O. to date who I officially was. So I guess you could say I was lying about myself....Or who I was, without knowing it.

So finally the last of ongoing relationships ended in divorce with what I had percieved as marrying my "dream girl". It was after that I knew I had to put a stop to the nonsense and learn what was within.

Now, I had enough motivation to get online and enter a X-dress chat room, To seek out some sort of help or a clarification ! Wow was I ever brave or what? That was 5 years ago, From that point to this day has been a learning process of sorts. A mating of the pieces of a proverbial puzzle if you will that I am thinking only the edges started to come together .

So the purpose of all this is not to rattle about me me me. I want to direct this more towards you, the reader. As your responses may provide another piece to my puzzle and others.

What are some of the alternative effects you have felt ? i.e. relationships, jobs, general mental well being, other...?

What do you feel sculpted your perceptions of yourself and others within the transgendered society ? Do you remember what you felt before you knew there were others just like you ?

If you have found a balance, is it dated? Essentially you are walking on a infinite tight rope.
One of the first compliments I ever recieved was how well I was balancing things. However what I was truly doing was burying one side to let the other breathe all of the fresh air. As we have discussed that does NOT work and a crash of sorts followed soon after, Just months after I got online 5 years ago... There really can't be two of you...As they prescribe "other" meds for that.

I know there are a million more questions to be asked but this should be a nice start.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Yin-Yang GenderEvolution

(by Michele Angelique & Felicia Conti)

Felicia got me to thinking when she recently sent out an email to the group entitled "The Yin and Yang of it all" in which she said:

"I would say that the GenderEvolve group has both qualitative and quantitative mechanisms in place for evolving both the amount and quality of interaction of its members. It seems that quantitative research has more masculine, yang energy and that qualitative research has more feminine, yin energy, but that both are necessary for completeness."

Felicia's perspective mirrors my own. I see importance and benefit in both Yin and Yang energy, and constantly seek to combine them. The time has come to explore the connection between the Yin-Yang symbol and transgenderism.

Feminine energy is attributed to Yin, and masculine attributed to Yang. Yin and Yang are interdependent and symbiotic, and can be used to describe all mutually exclusive set of opposites, including man and woman. One cannot thrive without the other. Neither is greater nor lesser than the other. Yin is attributed to the feminine energy and Yang to the masculine, and the widely accepted interpretation of Yin-Yang (appended below) can be restated as follows:

"Feminine (Yin) and masculine (Yang) are opposite energies, which are interdependent, can be further subdivided, consume and support each other, and continuously transform into one another. Female exists within male and male exists within female."

It sounds pretty simple considering it has only been around a few thousand years. In our use of the Yin-Yang symbol, the suggestion is not that anyone should “convert” to Taoism, but rather, we are "borrowing" from ancient mystical wisdom applying it in a new arena.

The fifth and sixth principle of the traditional Yin-Yang definition are both auspicious for transgendered people:


"Female (Yin) and Male (Yang) can transform into eachother."

and

"There is some Boy (Yang) in every Girl (Yin) and some Girl (Yin) in every Boy (Yang)".

These are a few of the reasons why the Yin-Yang is an appropriate TG symbol. It is a symbol representing the harmony of balanced duality, and the meaning goes further to include all points on the spectrum in between. There is no such thing as "100% pure Yang" or "100% pure Yin", as each side must contain at least a grain or more of the other in order for any balance to exist. The entire spectrum of gender possibilities can be fully described by continual transforming flow of feminine/masculine energies in the Yin-Yang symbol.

Felica further explained the relevance of Yin and Yang to society at large and how it may apply to GenderEvolve. She said, "There has been a long standing debate in the social sciences as to whether quantitative or qualitative research is the preferred method of choice. Similarly, in nature, there has been an historical debate as to whether the masculine (yang) energy or the feminine (yin) energy should govern a society.

Qualitative research is yin. It is exploratory and inductive in nature and involves analysis of data such as words (e.g., from interviews), pictures (e.g., video), or objects (e.g., an article). Quantitative research is yang. It is confirmatory and deductive in nature and involves analysis of numerical data.


Actually, neither type is superior and the thinking style of the researcher or the culture of the group is a key factor in determining preferred choice of research. It is likely be helpful to combine both qualitative (yin) and quantitative (yang) research."

Combining a balanced mix of Yin and Yang energies lends to a more comprehensive perspective. We believe that the ability to understand and experience both sides leads to wholeness and completion. By functioning through both energies we live in the beautiful range in-between, exhibiting the strengths of both feminine and masculine.


GenderEvolve is a benevolent, philanthropic entity which is borne of a special blend of Yin (qualitative) and Yang (quantitative) initiatives and efforts. This approach will promote our rapid acceleration and growth, in a soft and gentle manner which consistently upholds the spirit of light and love.

We embrace the Yin-Yang symbol in celebration of gender duality and all points of the ever transforming flow in-between. Throughout most of history, Yang energy has been over-emphasized at the expense of Yin, leading to masculine domination of societies and lack of compassion among people. While we recognize both Yin and Yang as equally necessary, we seek to personify and manifest Yin more fully in our everyday lives. By upholding the feminine Yin-spirit, we seek to bring greater balance to ourselves and the world around us. Lau Tsu himself said it best: "Know the masculine, keep to the feminine."

A new day is dawning... humans are coming to recognize the truths of ancient wisdoms, the seeds of which have been within us for millennia. It is only in this New Age of transformation and acceptance that we are now discovering how the pieces of ourselves fit together so brilliantly.

*****
Yin and Yang Defined
-
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yin_Yang

1. Yin and yang are opposites.

Everything has its opposite—although this is never absolute, only comparative. No one thing is completely yin or completely yang. Each contains the seed of its opposite. For example, cold can turn into hot; "what goes up must come down".

2. Yin and yang are interdependent.

One cannot exist without the other. For example, day cannot exist without night.

3. Yin and yang can be further subdivided into yin and yang.

Any yin or yang aspect can be further subdivided into yin and yang. For example, temperature can be seen as either hot or cold. However, hot can be further divided into warm or burning; cold into cool or icy.

4. Yin and yang consume and support each other.

Yin and yang are usually held in balance—as one increases, the other decreases. However, imbalances can occur. There are four possible imbalances: Excess yin, excess yang, yin deficiency, yang deficiency.

5. Yin and yang can transform into one another.

At a particular stage, yin can transform into yang and vice versa. For example, night changes into day; warmth cools; life changes to death.

6. Part of yin is in yang and part of yang is in yin.

The dots in each serve as a reminder that there are always traces of one in the other. For example, there is always light within the dark (e.g., the stars at night), these qualities are never completely one or the other.

*****

Thursday, September 08, 2005

A good "evening in the life" article on CDing

(by Marlena Dahlstrom)

I ran across a good (and lengthy) article by a reporter for a gay magazine who went out en femme with a local t-girl group. If you're wondering why we CDs like to go out and what some of the emotional satisfaction of cross-dressing are, this gives a good sense of things. http://www.swervemedia.org/issues/swerve-2002-10.pdf (The story starts on page 12. FYI it's a 3.8 MB PDF file, so it may be easier read by downloading it by right-clicking on the link (option-click for Mac) and then opening it up.)

The reporter gives a blow-by-blow account of the steps needed to look femme (the guy was even willing to shave his goatee, arms and legs) and gets help with a makeover -- although the poor dear did lay on the blush and eye shadow a bit heavy. Not that any of us have done that our first times.

He observes: "A successful transformation involves more than slapping on powder and lipstick, throwing on a dress, and talking in a falsetto. As a creative art form, cross-dressing can be as demanding and expressive as painting or sculpting, singing or acting."

What's more interesting is his reaction to going out en femme -- even dealing with a shocked SO. ("My partner, who had no idea what I'm up to, runs around the apartment with his hands over his face, "I'm dating a drag queen! I'm dating a drag queen!") After calming the boyfriend down, our intrepid reporter heads off to meet up with the rest of the girls for a ladies' night out.

"The bar is quiet and I don't see a familiar face. I'm disappointed. I realize how badly I wanted to show off Dolly." But when he runs into someone he knows and cops out with the excuse that he's researching a story. "Dolly is disappointed. She wants to exist for her own sake, not as background material for work." But pretty soon his inner girl asserts herself. "Monitoring myself stops, and being her kicks in. What felt awkward and strange is swiftly becoming natural…as long as the walk isn't too far.... Around me, [the other CDs] are dancing, posing for the camera, laughing, and talking: a group of friends out for an evening together; nothing more, nothing less."

I liked his observations on why cross-dressing boosts confidence and self-esteem. There's the learning and mastering new skills. (Yes, it's a guy thing.) "Putting on makeup, selecting the right cloths, preparing hair, nails and undergarments, walking gracefully in heels, mastering vocal control...these are all challenging to the newcomer and when competently executed, create a strong sense of satisfaction." Then there's the ability to act out characteristics that often have been laying dormant: "Personality and character, when pushed beyond their comfort zone, respond much in the same way [as muscles], becoming stronger, more flexible and resilent. When the clothes and cosmetics are removed, the strengths remains." There's also the empowerment that comes from overcoming fear "and for many men, loss of masculinity carries some fearful misconception. Dressing up, going out, having a good time, and coming home feeling positive has diminished what fears I held about not being able to maintain a manly image."

He also draws an interesting analogy to value of getting out. "This may also be the easiest for gays and lesbians to understand. It is the joy of sharing and expressing parts of your sexuality and gender that extend out of what mainstream society would call the norm with others who accept and appreciate instead of judging or tolerating. Spending all that time and energy cultivating a look and nuturing your feminine or masculine qualities to new height, only to sit in your living room, shades drawn, watching TV or dancing alone to the stereo does not produces the same elation as sharing the experience with friends, family and lovers. It is a feeling not so different from loving another, but being too afraid of what people might think to share that love."

And at the end of the night, he's reluctant to put his femme self away. "Watching the makeup run down the drain, a human being dissolves and washes away. Dolly was the physical manifestation of my feminine side that until now never had the chance to strut her stuff. Now that we've met, there is no way to banish her to those inner regions again. Two parts of my personality have been integrated in an inventive, gentle way, leaving me more whole, more complete, and better off. Knowing this, the question is no longer 'why do some people crossdress?' The question is 'why don't more people crossdress?'

"It has been a few weeks since my outing with Masquerade....Do I feel any desire to resurrect Dolly? In all honesty, I do at times. In the shower when I am shaving, there is a temptation to move the razor down to my shins and try again. But it passes, and I know that without the dedication and resources to treat Dolly like the lady she is, I probably won't bring her back any time soon. Probably."

Hmmm. ;)