Having Vivienne time isn't easy. We both have full-time jobs, and between us we have a bunch of kids that have all sorts of things on: school, sports, music, social lives, you name it. However, there has been a series of days where I have managed to get some completely free time. It was time--it was past time--for Vivienne to get out and about.
My partner Missy could see that I had been getting cranky because I was feeling increasingly feminine, but had no opportunities to express it. So she asked me what I wanted to do. The top item on the bucket list was to go dressed to the cinema, so that's what we did.
|Please turn your phone to silent.|
Missy helped me to pick out an outfit which would work. My tendency is to do more. More makeup! More nails! More shoes! She suggested that I tone it down to an outfit which a woman would actually wear, and she had a really good point. I've pointed out before how I tend to become voracious when dressing after a drought.
I am naturally aiming for a compromise with both my outfit and makeup. In one direction, there is too much, and I look like a clown, or a bad drag queen, or a caricature of a woman. In the other direction, there is too little, and I look like a man. Somewhere in the middle is a sweet spot, where I can look, if not exactly like a woman, at least like someone who is trying to make a go of looking like one. Previously I only had my own frame of reference to guide my choices; now I have Missy's sensible viewpoint.
I felt completely comfortable until we got to the mall and I got out of the car. Suddenly I was aware that everyone's eyes would be on me. This wasn't a frightening sensation, but probably the sensation that the meerkat has when out on the Kalahari desert. We walked into the cinema. Missy ordered the tickets, and I stood behind. The attendant (a woman) spotted my nails, and said they were lovely. I was taken aback by this sudden compliment, having been out for a total of about ten minutes. "Thank you!" I responded. Then she looked at me, having not really looked at me at all. She must have clocked my man-voice, and I braced myself for some sign of discomfort, but there was none. (Missy chided me jokingly for my deep manly voice, but I don't have a fem voice, and I was totally unprepared!)
We made our way into the cinema, which of course was dark and quiet. We got the luxury seats and watched the film. I couldn't believe how lovely it felt. I wanted to pinch myself. None of the other people paid us the slightest attention, though I felt as if I had a huge flashing neon sign above my head.
|Still getting used to the handbag thing.|
The following day, Missy was at work. I had the option to dress again--or I could do ordinary stuff (as if!). I decided to dress and go out on my own. I wore the same outfit as I had before, and I went back to the same mall. It was much more crowded than the day before!
I was so nervous at first that I decided to just stroll around. I was extremely self-conscious! There were so many things to remember, including a whole new way to walk and carry myself. I had, of course, been practising, but it's one thing to practise when there is nobody looking, and it's a different kettle of fish if you feel like everyone is looking at you!
At first I jumped at every noise. As I passed a sports store, I heard a burst of male laughter from within. At the time I was sure it was directed at me, but in retrospect, there is no reason at all to think it was. I began to look up and take notice of the people around me more. A woman coming the other way caught my eye, and smiled. I smiled back. Was it because she clocked me, and was being reassuring? Or was it because women sometimes smile at one another when they make brief eye contact in the mall? I was especially fearful of large, muscular men. I fear that, of all people, they are the ones who would express their discomfort most vocally.
I braced myself for strange looks; for weird expressions; for expressions of distaste. Nothing. Nothing at all. Nobody seemed to pay me the slightest notice. Was that, I wonder now, because they were silently sniggering and pointing behind my back? Maybe. Or maybe I just didn't stand out enough for people to notice me (and I am sure most people are wrapped in their own business, so that if you mostly blend in, you become effectively invisible). Or maybe (and here's the kicker) they did actually notice, and clock me, but were not bothered in the slightest?
|Hot as any Hottentot?|
I went into the sunglasses shop, and approached the counter. The assistant, a young woman, said "Can I help you?" I smiled and said "Yes, I'm looking for sunglasses to go with this look," and indicated myself. She didn't seem fazed in the slightest, but asked me how much I wanted to spend, and then showed me lots and lots of frames, several of which I tried on.
Every time--every time--I looked in the mirror, it was a surprise to see Vivienne's face looking back out at me. The assistant was lovely. I told her I wanted large round lenses, but she suggested a few alternate frames. Some of them didn't work at all, but some of them looked really good. Eventually, I settled on a pair, and bought them. She asked me if I had shopped there before, and I laughed and said "Yes, but I didn't look like this!" and she laughed too.
When it came time to pay for my parking ticket, the attendant smiled and asked if I was having a nice day, and I said "Yes, it's lovely, thanks!"
In the afternoon I went for a long stroll round the park. With my sunglasses on, nobody looked at me at all, and I seemed to blend right in. I went into the little cafe next to the park and ordered a drink, and sat writing my journal with my lovely fountain pen and its lovely sparkly ink. Other patrons came and went, and nobody seemed in the least troubled. I once wrote in this blog I considered this simple activity to be pie in the proverbial sky, and here I was, doing it and loving every moment.
You would think that no human being could stand this amount of pink fog, and perhaps you would be right. There is a definite sense in which Vivienne time seems to stand apart from ordinary time; no work, no commitments, no obligations. It's probably the same sense of "getting away from it all" that some men enjoy when golfing or fishing--but surely it's much more pleasurable than either of those activities? In any case, after a couple of days, I had to come back down to Earth.
But my reflections are these. First, going out as Vivienne seems to be OK. That is, nobody seems offended or horrified. The people of my town seem very tolerant, which is extraordinarily gratifying to me. Why should this come as a surprise? Perhaps because I've had about 20 years of being told how disgusting crossdressing is (by my ex-wife), and though I knew that her view was very skewed, some of it had inevitably sunk in. To discover that it isn't right; that people are apparently totally fine with it, has come as a revelation, and a delightful one. My biggest goal, in all of this, is simply acceptance, as I have written before.
Second, I think for me, the key is to not pretend to be a woman: I shall surely fall short. Instead, I can simply be myself, and let people make of me what they will. The woman in the sunglasses shop didn't seem remotely uncomfortable with my attitude or presentation. I am hopeful that with time and practice the anxiety will fade and the pleasure and comfort will grow, but even if it doesn't, where I am right now is fabulous.
So far, everything has been completely wonderful. I fear that there may yet be an event, which in my mind I am calling The Puncture, where I have a truly unpleasant encounter with someone, or some other experience which really puts me off going out like this. The reason I think such a thing will happen is that a part of me thinks that moments of bliss must be balanced out somehow, for the universe to keep turning. But the reason I think it might not, is that very few people (and I've read a lot of stories) mention events like this.
In any case, for each time I go out, and meet smiles and acceptance, it adds to the store of goodwill and optimism in the bank. As these experiences accumulate, it will become harder and harder to demolish the pile, and easier and easier to accept that an occasional uncomfortable encounter represents the exception, not the norm.
You are a wonderful writer and your prose has been missing over the past few years. I hear what you are saying on so many levels and I am so glad that you found Missy and you are now in such a nice place.ReplyDelete
Getting to a place where one can simply be oneself and let people make of you what they will is a very reasonable sweet spot for many of us.
I support the concept that each time we go out and meet smiles and acceptance it adds to the store of goodwill and optimism in the bank.
Please keep on writing
Thank you so much for your kind comments Pat! I fully intend to start writing again.Delete
Vivienne great salute to youDelete
As you come to a complete understanding of what drives your soul you will feel centered as you never have before. You are no longer suppressing plus you are being accepted exactly as you are which has no price. I know your journey has been long but good things take time sometimes.ReplyDelete
Thank you Joanna! Definitely feeling more centred lately!Delete
I’m so pleased you’re back and that you’re happy. I’ve missed you.ReplyDelete
Thanks so much Jayne!Delete
Hi Vivienne, it's so nice to see you've returned to your blog. You always write so clearly and well, I love to read your work.ReplyDelete
This, borrowed from Brene Brown:
"Stop walking through the world looking for confirmation that you don’t belong. You will always find it because you’ve made that your mission. Stop scouring people’s faces for evidence that you’re not enough. You will always find it because you’ve made that your goal. True belonging and self-worth are not goods; we don’t negotiate their value with the world. The truth about who we are lives in our hearts. Our call to courage is to protect our wild heart against constant evaluation, especially our own. No one belongs here more than you."
She also wrote:
"People are hard to hate close up. Move in.
Speak truth to bullshit. Be civil.
Hold hands. With strangers.
Strong back. Soft front. Wild heart."
Powerful words indeed. Many thanks, Emma.Delete
It is so nice to be able to read your blog again! I agree with your thoughts that most people take no notice of us girls when we are out in the world. On the few times I have been out during the day (so far)I have not had any problem and although I think we were 'made' once or twice, no body said anything. So enjoy your trips out and tell us all about it!ReplyDelete
Thank you Andrea! I certainly will!Delete
I read your posts from O2 questions and learned some new things. I also got an appreciation for the technical expertise and education required to understand these processes. Wow.ReplyDelete
I’m a transgender woman by the way. I think you are amazing.
Thanks you very much KellsBells!Delete
Welcome back. I realise I'm a little late to the party. :-) It looks like you had a great time out and suggestions, I think that's just what we need. To stretch our legs, to be out there, and just be, well, us rather than having to bottle everything up.ReplyDelete
"Instead, I can simply be myself..."
If you can be the best version of yourself, I think you've made it. There's probably a fridge magnet with a quote by Oscar Wilde about being yourself. Not that that makes it any less true. :-)
Thanks Lynn. It definitely feels very liberating!Delete
Welcome back. I was struck by one of your comments near the end of the blog. To me it highlights the fundamental between a man who crossdresses and a transgender person. To paraphrase, I think you said you didn't feel the need to pretend to be a woman. Rather you just wanted to be yourself and this presentation is part of your true self. Men who crossdress are trying to emulate some fantasy of a perfect woman (or some fetishized women which is even worse). Those of us who are trans simply want to be ourselves and ourselves has a real element of female regardless of how we present. Generally we don't try to stand out so much as just be accepted as we are. We don't crave attention but neither do we run from it. We are just who we are and with confidence in our sense of self we are confident with how we look, even in those times when we run afoul of boorish behaviour or we take out our super critical eye and find ourselves lacking. Ultimately we can't self-sabotaged nor be undermined by a stranger (although insults and boorish behaviour always hurts) when we hold true to ourselves. Summer is coming, enjoy the sun in a cute sundress whenever the mood strikes. MollyReplyDelete
Thanks Molly! While I describe myself as a cross-dresser, it's definitely true to say that there is far more to my gender expression than just choice of clothing. I definitely feel that the clothing is an outward manifestation of my inner feelings.Delete
I'm really hoping that I don't run across boorish behaviour which is unmanageable!
I found your blog only a few months ago and am very glad to see you’ve updated! I’m curious and I hope you won’t mind me asking…ReplyDelete
I’ve been reading about cross-dressing a lot, partly because I think it’s very illuminating about many trans issues in a way that isn’t present in mainstream progressive circles. (You may have changed your opinion on this since you last touched on it, but I currently lean towards the idea that the difference between most crossdressers and female-attracted MtFs is a difference of degree rather than kind, because I don’t subscribe to any ideas about brains having an innate gender.) I think it’s helped me gain a little bit of understanding of the emotional side of these desires as well as the sexual - there are a lot of vital emotions and behaviours that, as a woman, I wouldn’t even have considered that any man might feel were off-limits to a masculine self.
I’ve seen a lot of writing about how unlikely and difficult it is to suppress cross-dressing on a long-term basis, which makes sense to me - suppressing a part of your personality is always unhealthy in the long run. But I don’t tend to see much talk about integration instead of suppression. By this I mean, discussion of whether it’s possible to break down, even slightly, any segregation of personality traits/emotions/habits/preferences between ‘Brian’ and ‘Sarah’, and instead mentally integrate all of those elements into one persona, whether presenting masculinely or femininely. I wonder why that is? Is there discussion of this I haven’t come across?
I think this is why, out of all these things, the part I can’t quite wrap my head around is the prevalence among crossdressers of choosing a woman’s name for these activities. If this is you being yourself, or simply another side of you, why the need for a name that surely reinforces a separateness? Do you feel you would lose something by doing all these things - wearing the clothes, watching different films, walking a different way than usual - and ascribing them completely to your own name, rather than ‘Vivienne’? (Though of course I understand why you have a nom de plume for the blog itself!) In a hypothetical world that was 100% accepting, would you be able to manage work, commitments, obligations in the same way while presenting femininely?
And, lastly…you’ve implied that you aren’t pretending to be a woman, or considering yourself to be one. So I am really curious as to the need/desire to use the ladies’ toilets? Full disclosure: my feeling is that those toilets do really need to be kept strictly for women, but I am interested in your opinion.
I hope it’s clear that I don’t ask these questions aggressively. I admire a lot of the introspection and open-minded reflectiveness you display on this blog and would be so intrigued to hear more. Very glad you’ve found a partner you can be open with too!
Thanks for dropping by, JJ, and thanks for your interesting questions. I always welcome debate, even if it's challenging. (So please ask anything else which is on your mind!).Delete
"I currently lean towards the idea that the difference between most crossdressers and female-attracted MtFs is a difference of degree rather than kind, because I don’t subscribe to any ideas about brains having an innate gender". I wholly agree, and I have actually used this phrase ("degree, rather than kind") in this blog. I freely admit to being a lumper, rather than a splitter, in this regard.
I definitely take your point about the name. Some crossdressers adopt, not just a feminine name, but a whole different persona while dressed. For me, "Vivienne" is simply a convenient shorthand term which encompasses all that messy confusion about gender under one simple heading. (It's definitely easier at home to talk, for example, about Vivienne's shoes; no confusion is created about exactly what shoes either of us is talking about).
In my very few social occasions dressed, my friends have called me Vivienne, which is very affirming. They have also used feminine pronouns, which is likewise very affirming. But actually, for me these are optional. If my friends preferred to call me my given name, and use male pronouns, I wouldn't mind.
I know that some trans people would have conniptions if this happened to them. It doesn't bother me, because what I am looking for is acceptance, not pronouns. Vivienne isn't someone else; "she" is me, but on a good day. By turning up to my house, eating dinner with me, drinking wine, laughing and telling stories, my friends have given me the acceptance I need, and the rest is (for me, at least) entirely optional.
In your hypothetical world, which is 100% accepting, I would be very happy to lead my life with male pronouns and my birth name. But in that hypothetical world, perhaps I would have been comfortable growing up as an empathic and sensitive boy, who eschewed field sports and rough-and-tumble games. In other words, perhaps in that world, I wouldn't feel the need to express myself as a woman at all; I could just be myself. (And I sincerely believe a lot of people would be more comfortable if they were freed from the societal expectation to conform to their assigned gender at birth).
I've discussed the toilet issue in great detail here on this blog (see https://bluestockingblue.blogspot.com/2014/07/that-whole-bathroom-thing.html), and I have a lot of sympathy for your view about cross-dressers in the ladies' toilets. But in short, there are several reasons why I wanted to go in there.
Men go into the toilets one at a time. You don't talk to the other men in there. You don't even make eye contact. You do your thing, then you leave. Women go into the toilets in twos and threes. While in there they gossip, fix their makeup, and express emotions openly. The women's toilet is a social space; a female sanctuary, and I wanted to experience a tiny bit of that for myself.
I also believed that if I went into the men's toilets wearing a frock and heels, I would likely meet opposition, which could be hostile.
An increasing number of places here have got just individual cubicles which are for everyone, and I would be totally fine with that.
I hope this answers your questions. Please feel free to continue the dialogue!