Thursday, December 22, 2005

Why Dress Up and Go Out?

(by Felicia Conti)

Someone recently asked the question as to why transgendered women like to dress up to the 9's to go out on the town. Here is my attempt to answer that question from my vantage point.

Can you imagine having a magic wand and waiving it and entering through a port hole into a whole other existence that is filled with enchantment, glamour, excitement, and admiration from others? Women are such lovely creatures especially when they dress up and amplify their physical attributes. Honestly, I am envious and admiring of my true female sisters for they have been gifted with subtle influences that go beyond the obvious power of domination that males possess.

For me, going out enfem has to do with attaching to the power of the experience, to have a piece of that magic that women possess through their feminine beauty and charms, to morph into a higher essence.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Shades of Pink

(by Devi) A word about the title - 'shades of grey' sounded rather depressing, and not particularly relevant to the vibrancy and excitement of my own transgender expression. I initially considered 'shades of red' but the only red I could picture was the deep crimson of my favourite saree. So pink it had to be.

Shades in the title refers to those that characterize transgender expression in so many ways. The transgender world comprises people with so many different motivations, though, that it is impossible for me to speak for everyone, and I don't claim to do so. Transgenderism is such a wide spectrum that it's easy to narrow one's focus and view a subset as the whole.

Even my choice of the colour pink is an example: a reference to male-to-female, rather than female-to-male transgenderism. Perhaps a more appropriate choice to pink would be 'rainbow'. I speak primarily from the perspective of someone who pursues this part time and has no intention of permanently crossing the fence. The primary capability my transgenderism affords is, in a way, the ability to view each side of the fence from that side as well as the other side.

Shades of Origin

The expression of femininity begins in many ways. For some like me, it began very early, around when I started in elementary school. I found women, their attire and mannerisms mesmerizing. Silk sarees were a particular favourite, and I got to see women in them all around me, all year long. The sight, sound and even the scent of the silk was appealing. I had long wavy hair, and when women playfully used a headband or tied it in a ponytail, I found it pleasurable despite my outward protestations. It wasn't long before I started dressing. I knew even then that it wasn't 'normal', but as in the case of everything else, I chose to do things as I wanted to, as long as no one else was harmed. Ok, so maybe some clothes got a bit more crumpled...

Unlike the traditional sexually derived gender identity that is inculcated from birth, transgenderism can begin to manifest itself at different stages of life. It is a source of wonder to me that those who begin much later - even in their forties - can find it as fulfilling as I have. I suppose those who begin later might wonder how someone could start so much earlier and not be bent out of shape emotionally as a result.

Shades of Self Acceptance

With the development of transgender identity comes conflicting emotions. On one hand is the desire to express the opposite gender identity, either in a physiologically permanent way, or just as a temporary period en femme, depending on the individual. On the other hand is the restrictions imposed by the outside world, and one's own self loathing.

It helped me that I never viewed my dressing as something to be ashamed of. Unnatural, maybe, depending on the social mores. But I liked to enjoy it even within the restrictions. While the need for discretion within a largely unaccepting society is something not much can be done about in person, I believe that individual self acceptance follows when one genuinely treats the gender they are expressing as equal to their biological one. If a man sees the feminine as the 'weaker' or any other similar pejorative, his own en femme expression would reflect that, and affect 'his' ability to accept 'her'.

Shades of Motivation

There are several shades just within this. One tangent is that of the ultimate goal - whether just a continuous expression of the other gender on a regular basis, or permanent desire to change oneself. There's the part-time crossdresser who puts on just a few items, or a full ensemble once in a while, and on the other end a transexual whose change is permanent. Another tangent is frequency, ranging from fulltime to very infrequent.

Yet another issue is the very origin and evolution of motivation - prior to puberty, during the teenage years, or later. My own fascination with the feminine precedes my sexual development. While I can certainly be aroused en femme - something I don't see as any reason for shame anyway - it doesn't take away the joy (and the narcissism) of seeing myself look feminine.

An overtly sexually driven motivation (e.g. the stereotypical image of 'shemales') only makes the argument for the acceptance of transgenderism more difficult, for the simple reason that such a depiction doesn't measure up to reality as far as either gender expression goes. A balanced depiction, whether the motivation is to dress part time or transition fully, helps not just one's own self acceptance, but gradually by society.

Shades of Expression

From motivation follows a diversity of expression. For some, a few feminine, or even arguably unisex, items will suffice. For others, perfection in 'passability' alone will suffice. In between are many shades of, well, pink I suppose. There's (thanks to Marlena for introducing the me to the term) underdressing, where a transgender person is usually content to wear a few items of feminine wear under masculine attire. To some, like me, that doesn't make sense. But equally, I find it acceptable to want to dress partially, where I'd wear something that is outwardly a combination of unisex and feminine, while otherwise being masculine.

There's a tendency in the community to sometimes build a hierarchy around the perfection of expression. Looking good in general is in any case a gender-independent societal desire, a primal instinct with its origins in natural selection. But my own acceptance of overt partial dressing (in an accepting environment) while not wishing to covertly underdress regardless of circumstances makes me aware that while I may be instinctively not always be comfortable with those whose transgender expression isn't similar to mine, I cannot but accept and welcome their desire to do so as they wish.

There is the caveat that if such expression on the part of others negatively affects me, I would wish to redress it. But doing so by denying the other person's transgender identity is futile. It is like denying a common trait of anyone who causes you embarassment - "yes I know he did that and he claims to be from Oregon, where I'm from. But no Oregonian would do that, so he can't be from Oregon!" Redressal can follow by several means - positively portraying oneself, advising those who you feel are painting a negative picture, or both. But there are admittedly times when nothing satisfactory can be done.

Shades of Contentment

Contentment could arguably be interchangeable or treated as a corollary to either or both of motivation and expression. But I'll view it separately from a longer term, continued, perspective. Motivation and expression have their peaks and troughs. For me, there are times when I've felt motivated to dress almost continuously over several days, and periods when I voluntarily (as opposed to because of circumstances) haven't done so for weeks. Too much invariably leads to tedium, and too little to anxiety. Even for someone who dresses fulltime, there would likely be periods of 'girly girl' and more drab dressing.

It takes time to realize when it pushing the upper or lower limits because it affects the contentment of transgender expression. Too much, and sometimes the overwhelming emotions can be traumatic. For some it manifests itself as purging, self-loathing, or both. Too little can lead to a range of issues, both during the period when transgender expression isn't possible, and when it finally is again. Perhaps this gender expression and sexual expression follows similar lines, though there will be those who argue with a degree of justification that there's nothing wrong with a whole lot of sex. For me, I've found it useful to deny my desire to dress for short periods when I'm strongly motivated to, and partly dress during times when I'm not. It doesn't necessarily always help, but it's self assuring.

Epilogue

I probably dwelt on too many areas to be particularly coherent in any of them, but it is a reflection of the shades of gender expression within not just the entire transgender community but a single member as well. For those of you who managed to read this far, you have my genuinely tongue-in-cheeked admiration.

Katharine Hepburn

(by Jenna Taylor)




“Love has nothing to do with what you are expecting to get--only what you are expecting to give--which is everything. What you will receive in return varies. But it really has no connection with what you give. You give because you love and cannot help giving.” – Katharine Hepburn



Katharine Hepburn will long be remembered as Hollywood’s greatest actress. Although many people will not remember she led a rich and interesting life. She was an immensely complicated, intelligent, and driven individual. Additionally, she was the Antichrist.



The daughter of her urologist doctor father Thomas Norval Hepburn and suffragette namesake mother Katharine Houghton, Katharine was an athletic tomboy as a child, and was very shy around girls her age. She was largely schooled at home. She did attend Bryn Mawr College, however, and it was here that she decided to become an actress, appearing in many of their productions. After graduating, she went on to perform in several plays on and off Broadway. She finally broke into stardom with the lead role of the Amazon princess Antiope in "A Warrior's Husband" (1932). Film offers followed. RKO signed her to a contract. She made five films between 1932 and 1934. For her third, Morning Glory (1933) she won her first Academy Award. Her fourth, Little Women (1933) was the most successful picture of its day.

However, stories of her refusal to play the Hollywood Game, always wearing slacks and no makeup, never posing for pictures or giving interviews, soon leaked out. There was even a largely held rumor that she walked around the studio in her underwear in the early 1930s when the costume department stole her slacks from her dressing room. She refused to put anything else on until they were returned.

Many audiences turned their backs on such behavior and accordingly, so did Hollywood. A brief stint back on Broadway, followed by several lackluster films and she was soon labeled “box-office poison”. It was then that she made a pivotal change in her life. Instead of compromising her principles, she took the lead in “The Philadelphia Story” (1938) on Broadway. It was a smash hit. She quickly purchased the film rights and negotiated her way back into the Old Boy’s Network which was Hollywood in the 30s and 40s. It was on her terms. She was her own woman.



The suffragette upbringing in a liberal family environment forged a set of values and standards she lived her life by. When one is asked what memorable qualities of hers they are familiar with, her accent and mannerisms will be high on the list. Yet secondarily, almost no one will forget her crossdressing. Sure, her wearing of slacks in an age when it was not fashionable is hardly crossdressing. However, if her reasons for wearing pants are explored, you will find it stems from a desire of gender equality. Her love of all sports from tennis to archery to golf and skiing, proved to the world, she was comfortable in a man’s woman. For her, equality was genderless.



As the twentieth century’s leading gender bender, Katharine Hepburn is the Antichrist. Hyperbole as it may be, she set the tone for a movement in American culture, aided by Rosie the Riveter in WWII, and the auspicious Gloria Steinem in the 60’s and 70’s. Today’s feminism movement can trace its roots in celluloid back to The Great Kate. Modern lesbians owe a large portion of their acceptance in society to Katharine of Arrogance. Ironically, she accomplished this without destroying the paradigm society’s perception of women. Women were still allowed to be the fairer sex. Soft, warm, loving and nurturing, the female role model was not destroyed, yet remarkably enhanced. It is because life imitates art in our society that Ms Hepburn will always be a hero to me. Her decision to live her life, according to her rules was the true catalyst to today’s current gender expression.



You may feel my labeling of Katharine Hepburn as the Antichrist is a poke at the religious right. This is not quite the case, although no one is safe from lampooning. Her values and positions on gender equality are, by today’s standards, moderate to somewhat conservative. She will live on forever through the little screens of American Movie Classics (AMC) and Turner Classic Movies (TCM). Yet for some of us, her pioneering spirit, grit and perseverance needs no electronic reminders. The “mark of this beast” is on the labels hanging in my closet.


Tuesday, December 06, 2005

M2F2M

(by Annette Brunette)
As I flip through all the pictures from my transgender photo albums dating back from 1995, I sometimes wonder where everyone went. "Where are they now?" my mind seems to be saying. Some of the ladies have gotten married and have kids. Others, divorced. Some have seemingly vanished from the community only to reappear again, years later, down the road.

A small number of gals are/were in the process of transitioning. Some of them lead successful lives as post-ops. Others are struggling. Alcoholism. Divorce. Job termination. As an outsider looking in, I believe the hardest time for the post-op transsexual is between year one and year two. Some of the novelty of being a woman has worn off. Gals who in past years received sterling performance reviews suddenly get fired. Did they forget how to do their jobs? I think not. It's not all gloom and doom, however. I know at least two couples who, even after surgery, remain happily married.

I first met Kimmy at the Tiffany Club, a local tg support group. Kimmy was tall with a very friendly smile and a beautiful melodic voice. At the after hours party of the big tg conventions, she would often pull out her guitar and we would all sing along. Eventually, Kimmy began the difficult process of transitioning. Hormones. Hair removal. Growing out her natural hair. Voice feminization. As so often happens with transsexuals, Kimmy eventually had surgery and disappeared from the community. I never knew what became of her until someone pointed out a letter she wrote that was posted on the Tiffany Club website. To say that I was shocked is putting it mildly. I guess it goes to show that you never know what curves life will throw at you even when you accomplish your innermost needs. Sometimes you find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and it wasn't really what you wanted. But you don't know that until you get there.


************************************************


SEX CHANGES
(This is a true story.)
Three weeks ago, I changed my gender... Again...

Let me start from a more sensible point. In 1986 I first joined the Tiffany Club of New England. At that time it was in a house in a residential section of a Boston suburb. After less than a year of membership I purged all my clothing out of fear and didn't cross dress for about nine years. But in 1995 I went all out with my dressing, to the point that I sought help from a therapist. The more I cross dressed the more comfortable I felt in my female role. I became one of the leaders of TCNE, contributing wherever I could, serving on the Board, attending all the events.

All this time my wife was OK with this, even enjoyed helping me sneak back into the house without waking the children.

In 1998 I felt strongly that I was transsexual, and was diagnosed as such by my therapist. I cheated the system by buying hormones over the internet without a prescription or letter. I got hair replacement through a local office of a nationwide firm. My moods were swinging back & forth such that my family didn't know who would be walking into the door when I came home.
I was hospitalized more than once for depression & bipolar disorder.

My marriage imploded in 1999, and I went to live with my girlfriend. I lost my job, my house, many dear possessions, and the woman with whom I had spent twenty-five years. But, things were looking up: I went full-time, my girlfriend and I fell in love, I got a good job with a public utility, and was able to see my wonderful children frequently. A year later, my therapist, endocrinologist, psychiatrist all gave me letters of reference for SRS, which took place in Winter 2001. It was a wonderful experience? A little painful, but the pain subsided.

Fast-forward two and one -half years to today. I am back in my original gender role. Why? I went into it all too fast and convinced myself of something which was not true. Don't get me wrong for a moment: I do not have any regrets. Even though I am unquestionably male on the outside, I have a vagina, which I consider a natural part of me. But, after four years full time, I did not feel comfortable in the female role. I equate the feeling to a left foot in a right shoe. I am six feet tall and I got sick & tired of the "freak" factor. You know, the double-takes and overly accommodating, nervous people. Fortunately, during that four year period I was never assaulted. I was most concerned about when I reached 60 or 70? What then?

So I changed my gender back to male. I guess that makes me a M-to-F-to-M, if labels need to be placed. This discussion was not meant to dissuade anyone, nor to provoke thought. It's merely my story and I chose to tell it to the community that helped me
and supported me through my transition.

Sam

Monday, December 05, 2005

The Change We Wish To See

Article resposted from www.laceyleigh.com.

The Change We Wish To See
By Lacey Leigh, June 3, 2004

One of the more common threads of conversation among crossdressers (CDs) centers around a quest for the reason behind crossdressing. Some speculate about hard science; prenatal "hormone wash" theories, hippocampus or corpus callosum brain structure, and XY-XXY-XX alphabet soup genetics. Others embrace soft science; childhood environmental factors, absent fathers, and withheld affection as the root cause. One individual has even suggested a nutritional precursor, citing infant consumption of cheddar cheese!

As amateur psychiatrists, geneticists, and behaviorists, CDs argue their pet theories with a certain emotional investment. They are seeking an explanation, a reason, or a cause for that which has so negatively impacted their lives. Some pursue a sort of cultural forgiveness; a way of proclaiming, "Don't blame me, it's not my fault. I was born (shaped, influenced) to be this way. I'm a victim! I'm ashamed of what I am but I'm helpless to change."

These folks aren't looking for an answer; they're seeking absolution. Plus, copping a plea to some warm, comfy, and loosely defined "disorder" only serves to further reinforce the notion that we belong in a box of granola - with all the other fruits, nuts, and flakes.

Honest introspection is always a good thing. However, staking one's happiness on stumbling into crossdressing's Prime Directive is a fatally flawed premise.Think about this: If everyone related to crossdressing in the same manner we regard left-handedness (ie: different but no big deal - unless you can put a 98 m.p.h. fast ball over the inside corner of the plate, about knee high) we wouldn't even begin to agonize over all of this.

The roots of our problems are not biological, psychological, nutritional, or behavioral. They are cultural. Period.

Although I'm reluctant to dignify these negative cultural attitudes with a term, the one that fits best is "transphobia" (an irrational fear of transgendered people). Transphobia is, literally, a social disease; a malady of the culture. Until our culture evolves, we can excuse, justify, or self-diagnose until there's ice on the river Styx and it won't make a whit of difference. The malady lingers on...Some activists favor a political attack: "We'll agitate & demonstrate, lobby & march, and huff & puff until we blow down the walls of prejudice. We'll badger legislatures, picket city councils, and pester county boards into passing more laws to make culture accept us!"

Yeah, that'll work.

The problem with any sort of attack is that quite often those who are targeted will reflexively respond with a defense. And who can fault those among the public for resisting, especially when something they yet don't understand "... is being shoved down their throats."?

While I admire the dedication, sacrifice, and vision of those who use politics to advance a transgender agenda, extrapolating their slow and painful progress thus far projects out to full transgender emancipation ... somewhere in the year 2073, give or take a decade or two.

One high-profile transgender lobbyist shared her frustration with me during a chat at last year's Southern Comfort Conference. "We just don't have the numbers yet," she confessed. "The transsexuals - a tiny percentage of the transgender population - get their surgery and dive 'into the woodwork' to disappear from sight, while the crossdressers - the largest and least outspoken group of TGs - won't come out of their closets!"

Setting aside the possibility that most crossdressers may not even consider themselves as transgendered, I suggested to her then and to you now, perhaps we are looking into the wrong end of the telescope.

Cultural change of the sort we're after is rarely a 'top down' process. It's almost always a grass-roots evolution growing from the bottom, up. Rather than waste breath on those hardened walls of social resistance (unresponsive bureaucracies, indifferent legislatures, and butt-covering-finger-in-the-wind politicians) perhaps we might consider another, parallel approach. One that offers enormous potential to accelerate that change.

In order to modify cultural attitudes, it is helpful to be visible within that culture. As long as we allow the public's first impressions to be made by drag movies, slasher flicks, and drive-by observations outside fetish clubs, we have no right to expect the culture to react any differently than now.

One great way to demonstrate to the public at large that crossdressers, transsexuals, and TGs are harmless is by providing more opportunities for the average citizen to interact with harmless open crossdressers, open transsexuals, and open TGs.

Show the public some confident, proud, and self accepting TGs who don't perpetuate the stereotype by whining about dysphoria and I'll show you a public that is beginning to understand.

Give the average citizen a few moments of conversation with a confident, poised TG who doesn't extend the cliché of man-as-bimbo-in-miniskirt and I'll give you another citizen who is beginning to 'get it'.

Such an approach first requires an act of faith on our part. We must be prepared to eschew the comfortable, easy, cop-out, dismissive, excusing, deflecting, and justifying theories, explanations, and diagnoses (that carry with them the corollary expectation of a 'cure' - or worse, the pronouncement of 'incurable'!).

We will be better served by refusing to concede that anything is 'wrong' in the first place! Of course that means unburdening ourselves of the accumulated shame, guilt, angst, and denial that our culture has so generously inculcated within us.

This purge not just desirable, it's critical.

Most individuals will be much more comfortable around an open crossdresser or a non-stealth transsexual who is pleasant, self assured, and levelheaded rather than one who appears to be justifying culturally shameful behavior with pseudoscience and psychobabble.

The simple truth is that others take their cues not so much from what we say but from the manner in which we are seen to regard ourselves. People will mirror our attitudes - whatever they may be. So it's in our best interest to settle our own internal conflicts first.

It's difficult to imagine how we can expect acceptance from others when we haven't yet found it within ourselves. And just in case you're from the "Fake it 'till you make it" school of thought, self acceptance can't be pretended - so don't bother. Inner esteem is built through multiple small successes over time. True self confidence starts to develop as we begin eradicating the residual, internal belief that there is anything in transgender expression about which we should be ashamed. It is helped along by refusing to consider convenient disempowering diagnoses or tempting theories that, if embraced, excuse us as helpless to change, compensate, or adjust.

Both change and charity begin at home.

The change we wish to see?

We must be the change we wish to see.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

For the Love of Dressing

(by Michele Angelique)
One thing we all have in common is our love of feminine dressing. I’d like to share my own girl-woman evolution, and explain how dressing has impacted me. I understand completely why you need this feeling because I need it too. I may well need it so much as to be unhealthy. Yet I’m genetically female, so my excessive dressing habits are “normal”. Upon close introspection, I realize my obsessive compulsive feminine dressing energy was a large factor that drew me to the transgender community. From you I gain a sense of equilibrium and balance. Interacting with you allows me to refocus my energy less on my own dressing and onto yours. We have this common ground, and it’s so comforting to me. With my love of feminine dressing, I know that if I’d have been born male I would be a t-girl.

The joy of feminine dressing runs deep for me. I’ve always been a girly-girl. As a little girl I loved doing fun girlstuff like playing “dolls” or “house” or “dressup”. Every day I would enjoy having my long hair done in french braids, pigtails or half-up half-down, and would always request the ribbons and barrettes. I wore a dress at every possible opportunity, complete with pretty tights, shiny shoes, even cute frilly panties. I remember one of the most important qualities of a dress was its spin factor… the degree to which it would twirl outward. When I would wear a twirly dress, I would spin myself round and round, mesmerized by the fabric of my dress flowing outward. I would insist on demonstrating the twirl of my dress to anyone who would pay mind to me. Of course, in doing this I would invariably become dizzy and fall down on the floor with my cheeks all flushed, giggling hysterically.

In my perfect little world, I would have dressed femme every day. My mom set limits in this area because she wanted me to have a diversity of interests (thankfully!). Plus it was probably a lot more trouble for her to dress me up like the little doll I wanted to be, than on those days when I was resigned to more practical attire. I was always lucky enough to be able to negotiate the dressup at least a few times a week, so I certainly didn’t suffer.

Part of why I was so drawn to dressing girly was the notable positive reaction from those around me. When I would dress up pretty, I would get more attention, and people seemed generally more receptive to me. Before the age of 5, I already had an inkling of the power of feminine beauty and charm. I would work my little girl “cuteness” to the maximum (or so I supposed). Being a girl definitely had its advantages, yet I grew up in an era and place where girls basically had “equal” status to boys. I got to enjoy the fun of being a girl, while having the same opportunities boys had. I know how fortunate I am for having experienced this.

As I moved into my teen years, dressing was still a huge part of my life, although it took on a different form. No longer did I want to be girly. Instead I wanted to be SEXY and BAD. So I experimented with my look, constantly changing styles. At the age of 13 my look was inspired directly by Madonna’s “Like a Virgin”. I got into sexy dresses and mini-skirts, lace nylons and gloves, scarves, ripped up clothing mostly all black, with white, red or hot pink accents. Makeup became my new-found obsession, which I applied to excess, and in every manner of experimentation I could conceive. My hair was always wild and huge, often different colors, punked out in any variant of ways. Jewelry was overdosed upon, earrings, chains, rings, bracelets… and accessories, belts, chains… and footwear, heels always, preferably something saucy and spiky (I still enjoy the dominant power of the heel click factor), rain, snow, whatever, reason and practicality be damned!

By the age of 16, I began to emerge from the wild-child phase, and become more of a young lady. The dressing was still a big part, but again, it took on a different form. I began to have a taste for more elegant styles, subdued yet always quite feminine. Deeply ingrained in my psyche by this time was the daily ritual of styling and curling my long hair and applying full makeup, and I would spend anywhere from 1-3 hours per day on dressing and beautification.

Not much has changed in my 32 years as a female, only the emergence of my different dressing styles. My love for feminine beauty and dressing has remained constant in my life. As you may have noticed from my pictures, I still dress up and experiment with my look often. On a daily basis, I still perform the beauty ritual, even if I’ve no plans to leave the house. It’s something I need, I crave, and I indulge perhaps to a fault. Mirror, mirror on the wall… it has always been my best friend and my worst enemy.

The self-adornment options available to females are endless. Fashion choices are bounded only by imagination, and undergarments alluring and sexy. Proper makeup can conceal almost any “flaw” and hair can be styled in a plethora of ways (with wigs as an alternative). Women’s jewelry is pretty, dainty, sparkly, eye-catching. Shoes and accessories are available in literally millions of different designs. For men, the options are not even 1% of what is available to women. Men have to just accept themselves in a totally natural state, with very little opportunity for improvement beyond a certain point. Women have the opportunity to enhance and maximize our outer appearance, transforming ourselves into whatever image we want to portray. As women, we have available a whole spectrum of identity crafting tools to which men are not permitted.

What is needed on both sides of the equation is balance. Women are fortunate to have all the trappings of beautification available to them, yet it’s a two edge sword. Women who dress to excess may hinge a great degree of self-confidence on outer appearance. I must confess to falling into this category, as for many years I would not leave the house without my “mask”. I have come to realize that I feel like a different person when dressed, partially because of the vastly different outside reaction when dressed vs. drab. Not only must I care far too much about approval from strangers, but I need to also understand that it’s just window dressing, costuming even. The makeup isn’t ME. When dressing must occur before self-confidence kicks in, it can’t be healthy. This is my challenge.

The other side of the coin is men, who are not allowed by society to modify their appearance at all. Even if their outside does not match who they are inside, they must settle for the basics. Men are relegated to a very narrow set of boundaries in terms of self-expression. Society condones men becoming physically fit, smelling good and being well groomed, but that’s about it. Any further measures to improve ones appearance are frowned upon. It seems so inequitable compared to women’s opportunities in this area.

Due to my own love for dressing, my sense of fairness, and my belief in gender equality, I could never condemn a man for (cross)dressing. In fact, I very much enjoy interacting with men who dress. I never imagined there could be men who would bridge this gap, and truly understand what women go through in regard to the beautification ritual. Too many times in my life I have heard from an ordinary man “why does it take you so long to get ready? can’t you just throw on some jeans? hurry up! c’mon lets go!” who upon getting his wish might say something to the effect of “well geez, you’re not really going out looking like THAT are you?” Never again will I hear these words, thankfully.

Men who dress have an appreciation for all the little details that go into the process, and will notice the effort in a positive light. Men who are clueless about dressing assume women roll out of bed looking like this. Men who dress present a most refreshing evolution from the status quo of men. These are the people who are bridging the gender gap, and whose courage will be the foundation for true equality between man and woman.