Sunday 5 February 2023

What a year!

While it's still my intention with this blog to write articles exploring aspects of gender, I still want to write about my personal experiences in 2022, which seems to have been a watershed in my life as Vivienne.

Let me take us back to 2012, when I posted this article, which was about trying to evaluate the place of crossdressing in my life. At that time I was married, closeted, and dreadfully miserable. The article contains this paragraph:
Another symptom of need is that crossdressing haunts my dreams. These are frequent; at least once per week, and for the Freudians among you they are simple, straightforward, wish-fulfilment dreams. I am in some situation where crossdressing is OK: out with my friends, speaking in public, in a job interview, meeting new people. In each case, I am lavishly and wonderfully dressed: I draw compliments and warmth and enthusiasm. People find it interesting and cool. And then I wake up, and that lovely warm rosy glow fades pretty sharply in the face of the alarm.
Fast-forward a few years, and things got a lot better. I started to go out dressed; to interact with people in shops and restaurants, and to express my gender more openly. I started to tell people I'm a doctor rather than hide behind the term "academic", and to blog about medical issues.

Selfie Queen

But things were still a bit slow on the Vivienne front. Dressing was unusual. I know exactly how many times I've dressed, because I take a million selfies every time I do. I'm a complete selfie queen--and now I've become quite the expert on the various photo edits I can do on my phone, my tablet and my laptop, to make the images as flattering as possible.

About 0.00001% of my selfie collection
Part of the selfie thing is to try out various looks and see what works: and there's a lot to think about if you're trying to take a male chassis and turn it into a womanly body! Part of the selfie thing is a long-standing habit: I would use my selfies during those long periods of dressing drought, to soothe my yearnings and remind myself that lovely fem times would reappear. And part of the selfie thing is that I really, really like to look pretty, and seeing nice pictures of myself gives me a real burst of euphoria. (And for the record, while I do adjust the colour balance for the most flattering look, none of my pictures have been enhanced with any image filters, such as FaceApp).

So I know that the number of times I actually dressed enough to take selfies over the last few years is about 4 or 5 times--a year. Part of the problem was that I never quite felt like I had the look together properly. I had to have a huge lead-up to getting dressed: just getting the body hair under control was a mission. And then I didn't feel like my wardrobe was up to much, so I never quite felt the outfit worked. I had one or two go-to outfits, and a whole lot of other garments which just weren't quite right.

Another part of the problem was (and is) that we have busy lives. We both work long hours, including night shifts, and we have a cartload of kids and animals to take care of. So opportunities were quite few.

And what I wanted, most of all, was a social life. I tried to make contact with some trans people, but for various reasons I didn't really get any momentum. The turning point was making contact with the local Pride network.

Out for Coffee

I'd already had the experience of experience of going to a party at a friend's house as Vivienne, and meeting people there. But everyone there was a friend of a friend--this was a bunch of complete strangers I would be meeting.

A car selfie!
The event was called Out for Coffee, and it was a simple enough idea: turn up to a local coffee shop, meet a bunch of Pride people, and make new friends. Although I have been Vivienne my whole adult life, it's a very unusual experience to introduce yourself to someone by your fem name. At first, it felt really powerful and meaningful--I knew this was something new. Vivienne's identity was becoming more real.

On this first occasion, I brought not just Missy but my stepkids, one of whom is quite rainbow themself. It was a family-friendly event (as many Pride events are). At first I was quite nervous and we all just sat and ate together. But after we'd had breakfast, I started to mingle--and everyone was fantastically lovely.

One woman said I should join the local Queer Women group. I was delighted by the invitation--but also cautious. Would they be OK with members like me? I asked. I know that not all women's groups are welcoming to trans people, and I would hate to make anyone else feel uncomfortable--or even encounter hostility.

So I messaged one of the moderators of the Queer Women group expressing my concerns, and this is her response:
Thanks so much for reaching out with your concerns. You will be most definitely welcome in our group and if anyone makes you feel otherwise please let myself or (other moderator) know, we would hate for you to feel unwelcome or uncomfortable. Our group is about diversity and acceptance for all queer women whether you express this full time or not, it doesn't matter to us. If it makes you feel more at ease, we do have other M2F people in the group who regularly come to our events too. I hope we get to meet you at an event soon 😀 PS: that's a great photo! 
Vivienne becomes a Person

And so I started going along to social events with the Queer Women. The moderator was right: everyone is absolutely lovely, and totally welcoming and inclusive. Vivienne's identity has become completely real: I've been to so many events that I get recognised by the regulars, and I now have friends who have literally never seen me dressed as a man. That is an extraordinarily powerful feeling.
I need all the help I can get!

There have been coffee meetups, board game meetups, meals out, drinks out, social events at people's homes, book club, you name it. There have also been some outdoor things I haven't gone along to: walking trips and boating trips and cycling trips. For me, it's unbearably hot just wearing my wig and shapewear, even before there's any exercise involved!

There is a fantastic mix of women in the group--including a few M2F transwomen. There are women of all ages and backgrounds. The thing they (and I) have in common is an enjoyment of good company, and having fun. To be accepted without question and treated just like one of them is extremely affirming. Some of them even work at my hospital!

Meanwhile, as my wardrobe has expanded, and my makeup skills have improved (practice, practice!), getting dressed has become a lot easier. It still takes an hour from a standing start--but it used to take half a day! And having makeup and clothing just there on the shelf or in the drawer makes the access much easier.

I've also come out to lots of other people, including my hairdresser (who has helped with hair) and my lovely beautician. I get a full leg wax every few weeks, and of course I have been telling my beautician about Vivienne from the first day. She's always wanted to meet Vivienne, and this week we finally made it happen! She introduced me to the other staff members as Vivienne, and of course it was lovely to get pampered in a beauty salon. Another bucket list item ticked off!

Up on the Stage

One of the Queer Women events involved an open-mike evening in a local rainbow-friendly venue, where audience members would get up on stage and read some of their own writing. I decided that I had to get up and give that a go.
Is this thing on?

This time, the audience wasn't just Queer Women, but members of the public, although clearly everyone knew what the themes were going to be. I was struck by the material from the other writers. There were agonising coming-out stories. There were unrequited love stories. There was poetry, and prose. It was raw; it was real. And then there was me!

I've written quite a lot of medical stuff under my male name, and this includes a few anecdotes about inspiring patients I've met on the journey. I chose three: an inspiring one, a moral dilemma, and a funny one. They seemed to go down really well, and afterwards lots of people came up to talk to me.

So let's come back to the wording of that first paragraph:

I am in some situation where crossdressing is OK...: check.
...out with my friends...: check.
...speaking in public...: check. a job interview...: we'll let that one slide!
...meeting new people: check.
In each case, I am lavishly and wonderfully dressed: I draw compliments and warmth and enthusiasm. People find it interesting and cool. Check check CHECK!

It was astonishing when I reviewed that article to discover that so many things, which were once completely unthinkable, have not only happened, but have happened joyfully, triumphantly, and there's every likelihood they will continue to happen! It goes without saying that I could never have achieved that without the love and support of the wonderful Missy.

I've already started off this year with more of the same: four outings so far, including the waxing. Who knows what will happen next?!