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I first want to apologize for there being no newsletter in September, my very busy schedule, some personal malaise, and no submissions, all contributed to no newsletter production. I now want to thank Sarah for refilling the ink cartridge, putting some articles together, and going to press.
Some of you know that my son is in his senior year in high school and I promised myself that I would fully support his activities this year which has meant soccer games 2-3 nights a week, plus football games every Friday. Now toss in Miranda's volleyball, time with Karen, the events of everyday living, and some personal time for myself to run and bike - you get the picture of the leftover minutes I had for newsletter work. This girl has only been out twice in the last 10 weeks! With this schedule, I unconsciously placed my gender issues on a shelf, in partial sunlight, with a chance to rest, allowing me to rejuvenate, reset some priorities and discern that other peices of my personality puzzle need to integrated. I have begun this process by doing some research for personal development and interests in three different areas, and am beginning to write a much longer and involved work. I need time to launch this exploration into different facets of my gender issues and how I can positively relate them into my life and culture around me.
I also found that I needed counseling this summer as I was on the verge of destroying my sanity and my relationship with Karen. Be aware that there are choices that we can and do make which affect our well being. Just because we are transgendered or transsexual, does not mean there is only one solution (if it were only so simple). There are compromises available which may allow you to be at peace with yourself and those around you. There are always choices, just be prepared for the consequences. For example, a lady at work hates her job and continually complains (bitches is more acurate). It was pointed out she could quit, but she didn't view that as an option. It is. She just has to prepare for a change or quit bitching and accept her choice. The same applies to us!
We all travel in similar paths that are slightly divergent. Some need to have surgery to make themselves whole; for most, being able to present their alternate gender part of the time, is enough; then there are those of us who realize that we will never fit in completely as men, women, or crossdressers. We truly are twin (or more) spirits, intermeshed in all the genders, unable to be just one. Although I feel a much closer affinity to being female, I acknowledge that I will never wholly fit into the woman's world. But . . . I do have a presence, a power, an insight that others recognize, that I need to learn how to utilize in a healing way. There are many components to this, not exclusively gender issues: there are my "green" concerns, peace desires between cultures-lifestyles-races, reducing materialistic goals (greed). I am talking on a personal, local community scale, not global. Our little corner of the world is enough to deal with. I feel a need to become more politically active, especially on gender issues and education.
[with corrections and additions to the preliminary announcement in the October newsletter]
Be sure to mark your calendar for our Christmas Dinner on Saturday, December 7 at Cooker (5225 E. Main). At 5:30 PM, before dinner, we will open up the Unitarian Universalist Church in Reynoldsburg so that people can gather and get changed. At 7:00, we'll go en mass to Cooker for dinner. Although most people are quite excited about going to a restaurant for dinner, some undoubtedly will be nervous about going. Those not wanting to go can remain at the church and chat. Cooker is open fairly late (11:30), and they say they don't mind our lingering as long as we wish. We will be seated in a non-smoking section, owing to the small size of their smoking section, but anybody wishing to smoke can step into the bar or take a trip outside.
After dinner, we will return to the Unitarian Church to join those who have stayed behind (so we can tell them all about the wonderful time they missed having!). What will be waiting for us back at the church? Dessert! We should all bring something with us for dessert and leave it at the church before going to Cooker. If it's not all gone before we return, we will be able to round out the evening chatting while taking in perhaps a few too many calories. Of course if temptation gets the better of those who remain behind, they can tell us all about the wonderful desserts we missed having! Ha! Well, I for one would like to bake a honey pecan pie (Yum!), and I would hate to think that I wouldn't even get to taste it. Therefore, I'm going to ask anyone planning on remaining behind to bring a side dish for a small pot luck dinner. (Barb and Lisa will bring a meat dish, and I will coordinate with someone to bring drinks.) If all goes as planned, that will stall them just long enough for us to return from Cooker and grab our share of the sweet stuff!
Oh, don't forget to bring a doll to give to Choices!
I thought I might add a few thoughts on our Christmas party since it is going to be at The Cooker on the east side of Columbus, particularly for anyone who might be having some trepidations about attending. I was one of the group who attended a dinner we had here a couple years ago, and it was a good experience. The staff was more than pleasant and courteous, I even sent a thank-you note to their corporate offices so that they might receive some proper kudos. Going out en mass has a certain amount of advantages, particularly for anyone who has not been beyond any "safe" confines. First of all, everyone in the restaurant, parking lot and on I-270 will notice us, we will all be on equal footing as no one will "pass!" My experience is that although we will be noticed as a group, individually you are not as closely scrutinized, unless you have worn something that really stands out from the rest of the group. There is safety in numbers, we are there to support each other, you will be surprised at how relaxed you can become. This is also an excellent opportunity for education. Just by our being there, other people see for real that we exist and are not necessarily outlandish weirdos.
There is a message we will be sending, proclaiming really. So a little advice is in order: If you don't want to stand out from our group, you may want to check with a friend as to what they will be wearing, it is a Christmas party so don't be afraid to dress up. Whatever you wear - keep it tasteful! If your daughter would embarrass you by wearing it, make another selection. Also make sure it fits you properly (both in size and style). Give your makeup extra attention. Ask your partner or a friend for their opinion and/or help. Spend time practicing your walk, gestures, movements - you know, "keep your knees together." Check your feminine etiquette - napkin goes on your lap, cut your portions into small bites, don't lean on the table, raise your food to your mouth; as mom always says, "sit up straight." Use the bathroom immediately before going to the restaurant, that way the issue won't come up to create any problems.
One final point, if we receive good service, tip generously, it will be remembered along with who it came from. The next time you are there with just one other friend, that server will recall how pleasant and generous you/we were and will have also told their fellow workers. I know these things from personal experience.
I think it's unanimous! The Deer Creek weekend in Late October was an unqualified success! I think everyone had a wonderful time there. I gather from others that the very best thing that happened was that they got to be "out" for the first time -- not just driving around town or sneaking down a dark street, but "out" to the public at large. This was the first time they could gauge public reaction to their crossdressing, and I think they discovered that people are far more tolerant than they had always anticipated. Anyway, that's certainly been my experience. Deer Creek wasn't where I made my public "debut", but my first experiences were very similar.
I see this issue of public reactions to be the most important issue we face. Of course it affects how we conduct ourselves en femme, but more importantly, our understanding of public reactions has a crucial impact on how we live our male lives. Almost universally, crossdressers live their lives absolutely terrified that their secret will get out and that their lives will be destroyed as a result. I was no exception. What I and others have found is that being "out" need not be a disaster. While some crossdressers' lives actually do fall apart, most find that their crossdressing is really "no big deal" to the public at large. People may look at them just a bit differently for a while, but families usually stay intact. Jobs and friendships usually aren't lost. Windows aren't smashed by flying bricks. No picketers appear on the front lawn, and there's no front page headline in the next day's newspaper.
People are far more accepting than we think they'll be. Strangely enough, even "normal" people think that somehow the sky will fall on us if our secret gets out, even though they see themselves as society's more tolerant exceptions to the rule. Everyone expects the worst, because this matter just isn't discussed. Nobody really compares notes. Well, I suppose it's about time we discuss this matter. Don't you? This and future editions of the Crystal Chronicle will focus on various issues of being OUT!!
What a great time I had on October's Ladies' Night! It started when Mary Ann, Carrie and I had dinner at the Grapevine on E. Gay St. I dearly wanted to wear my denim mini out and that turned out to be the perfect opportunity (time and place). Normally, I'm very much into the "career woman" look. But I just had the urge to wear something a bit more sexy. Mary Ann said she would wear her leather mini and assured me that all would be "cool" at the Grapvine if I wore my mini there. I did! and WOW! Did I feel deliciously fem! It was a very "liberating" experience. We had a waitress (GG) that was not only cool herself about us but was great fun to kibitz with as she waited on us.
After dinner we drove to the church for our meeting. Diana, Cathy, Lisa and two or three others joined us. I did change into a much more conservative skirt, BTW. I just couldn't see the propriety of wearing a mini on church property. I guess I'm just old fashioned. Mary Ann changed into slacks as well.
We had a good conversation about a multitude of topics, some funzy, like shopping and makeup tips; some more substantive, like the personality implications of CD'ing. We also got to see many of the photos that were snapped at the Deer Creek Park outing. Obviously, both the upcoming Erie Sisters' event at the Riverside and the 12/7 dinner at Cookers were hot topics.
The capstone of the night was our trip to Common Grounds on Indianola after the meeting. Four of us went, Mary Ann, Carrie, Lisa, and myself. As at the Grapevine, everyone at Common Grounds was "cool" with us. It was a great feeling! They had a pretty good musician doing a one-man band shtik. Mostly country and western. He did belt out a great piece about "Grad School Blues." Mary Ann and I could both identify with the sentiments in that song! About 11:30, we called it a night and all drove back to the church where the others had left their cars (we all drove together to Common Grounds).
Bottom line: It was a great night out. It really gave me a lot of confidence about being en femme in public. I'm looking forward to going up to Cambridge Springs the weekend of the 22nd. and spending a full two days (again) as a lady! By the time the dinner on 12/7 rolls around, I should be ready for just about anything!
Just how much can a sales clerk overlook? For that matter, how much can anyone overlook? If you squint really hard in the mirror, you can see that hint of beard shadow showing through your foundation, right? Maybe you have a bit of an Adam's apple? Do these things necessarily give you away? Well, Cathy and I have been talking quite a bit about this subject, and we've come to the conclusion that when people first encounter you, they decide as to whether you're male or female based on the preponderance of information you throw at them. This decision is made quite casually and without great forethought, unless there is some perceived reason to scrutinize the evicence (e.g. if it is known beforehand that crossdressers are in the area). Once people have decided on your gender, they will fit whatever else they see into what they perceive as the "correct" gender pigeon hole. Only after enough gender-inappropriate cues are thrown at them will they reverse their gender decision...... or so our theory goes.
Anyway, I found the opportunity to put this idea to a bit of a test. I went to a store as "Sarah" and picked out a few items of clothing. Of course I did my best to radiate every feminine cue possible. There came a point, though, at which I had to use my voice. (Although I've been told my femme voice is alright, I get read as male, rather than female when I use it on the phone.) This was a discount store with lots of irregular clothing, and sometimes the sizes are a bit strange. Anyway, I asked the sales clerk if she could unlock one of the dressing rooms for me (all of them perfectly private and with no common corridor). I tried on the clothes, and sure enough, two of them were about one size mislabeled. When I emerged from the dressing room, she asked me whether I had any luck, and we chatted for a few seconds. I returned to the dressing room with a different selection that fit this time, and then went to the register to check out.
While she was ringing me up, she commented on the bargains I found. Among them was a suede mini with a busted zipper I picked up for $6.00. We chatted about the zipper for a few seconds and discussed how it could be fixed. I was feeling pretty good, because my femme-male voice apparently wasn't overpowering my female appearance. Anyway, the total for the clothing came to about $40, and although I had about that much cash in my purse, I didn't want to give all of it away. On the other hand, I had my credit cards, both of which carry my male name. Well, the clerk seemed like a sweet girl who wouldn't get all bent out of shape by a crossdresser, so I gave her one of the charge cards. She filled out the charge slip and flipped the card over to get a code off of the back. It was then that she saw my very masculine and very illegible signature. She hesitated as she tried to determine whether it was right-side-up or up-side-down. Then she handed me the charge slip, and I scribbled my Joan Hancock on it. She looked at the card with my male name, compared illegible signatures, and was obviously somewhat confused. Then she shrugged her shoulders and completed the sale without even giving me a second glance. When we were finished, she wished me a "marvelous" day, and we parted. After I had left the store, I turned around to see if she was watching me, and she wasn't.
Thus, with a femme-male voice, a male signature, and even a male name, the perceptual male/female switch just didn't get flipped! Imagine, though, if I had come into the store while she had been working on something at the counter. What if before she had even looked at me I had tossed my male charge card down under her nose and asked with my femme-male voice, "Do you take MasterCard here?" I would likely be read the instant she saw me. The lesson I've learned from this little experiment is that it's OK to have a few masculine traits. Those traits won't necessarily get you read, as long as you present enough feminine traits first. One has only to withold one's more masculine traits until after the male/female decision has been made. Then if the masculine cues aren't too overwhelming (or sometimes even if they are), they will be overlooked. On the subject of credit card purchases, here's a little tip: A friend who used to work for MasterCard tells me that it's quite common for wives to sign on their husbands' cards and vice versa. Nobody thinks anything of it, and it's hardly ever an issue. The credit card companies really only care that you pay the bill. Thus, if your card says "John Doe", you might consider signing as "Jane Doe". You might even add "Jane's" signature to the back for the benifit of those few clerks who actually do compare signatures. By the time of this publication, I've signed on my cards as "Sarah" at least half a dozen times and have not had any problems.
I made it back at least one more month in a row, let's see if I can keep it up. Remember I could use some help, if you know of any news bits or upcoming events of interest to the other members, let me know and I'll include it here. If you have an article in you, please send it to Sarah, it's your chance to be published, and she could use some help.
If you missed the Deer Creek trip, we had a great time! Many of us went to the outlet mall Saturday morning and shopped 'till we nearly dropped. Ok, as a group we were read, but we all knew that was going to happen and it actually was kind of fun. One poor fellow nearly walked into a pole while staring at us as his wife tried in vain to stop him. Dinner at the lodge was a hoot. The hostess crossdressed in her husband's clothes as a tribute to us and he refused to kiss her goodby when she left for work. We were quite a hit with the other diners as well. There was a teen group seated a 1/2 level below us who's heads kept popping up like rabbits in a shooting galley. They had already walked past the cabins quite a few times the night before and they just couldn't seem to get enough of looking at us. Mary Ann and Lisa were approached at the bar after dinner by a gentleman who's wife bet him he wouldn't do it. One fellow turned to his friend as Dianna and I walked into the lodge, pointed at me and said "I think she's your date." His mouth dropped to the floor and stayed there as more of the gals came in. Maybe it was the witch's outfit. Everyone had fun with it all and I didn't hear of anyone having a hurtful comment or hard time. The point is even if we are read while we are out and about, if we set a tone of acceptance and not fear, people tend to react in a positive manner.
I go out as Cathy quite a bit and even what's left of my male presentation isn't really all that male. Most of the time I pass just fine, but even if someone does read me, I almost never get a negative reaction. Why am I talking about this? Well, our next club function is the Christmas party at Cooker's. If you are afraid of being out in the public, going as a group is a great way to start going out en femme. Yes, we'll all be read. Hey, even some of the wives will be "read". The point is that by being out in a group and being read you'll find that people aren't all that cruel. You'll get your worst fear dealt with in the safety of the group and will find that the sky doesn't fall and the world doesn't end. Many of the gals at Deer Creek were out in public for the first time and they told me that they had a great time. When we are together it can be a blast to watch others react to us as we're read. Attitude is everything darling.
Speaking of the Christmas party, don't forget that we collect dolls to donate to the woman's shelter. Any nice dolls you can bring will be appreciated. The UU church in will be available as a changing facility before we go to Cooker's, and we will meet there after dinner to socialize as well. If you can't manage to come to dinner with us, at least come to the church. Someone will be staying there. Just a reminder that there will not be a meeting the 4'th Saturday this month.
Last month I wrote that the club's e-mail address was at firstname.lastname@example.org That's Mary Ann's e-mail address, for the club e-mail should be sent to CC@stargate.com Sorry 'bout that Mary Ann.
Have you checked out our web page yet? If you have access to the web the URL is http://www.geocities.com/WestHollywood/4398 I've put up a web page as well, my URL is http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/c_wood Thanks to Mary Ann you can see my witch's outfit from there. We are working on linking the Crystal Chronicle to the club's page so that those of you with web access can see it there as well. If any of you out there want to let the others in the club know your e-mail address, let me know and I'll put them in the next newsletter.
Ok, you're online, how do you find stuff on transgender? Try a search engine. Type in transgender and you will be shocked to find how much stuff is out there for and about us. If you don't know how to use a search engine, go to my web page and use some of the links there. You can link from those sites to even more sites and so on. I'll bet you'll use up those 15 free hours on AOL in a day or two!
If you are too shy to ask for makeup advice at the store but still need some help, there's good news! Go to http://covergirl.com Yes, covergirl has a web site that you can input info about your eyes, hair, skin shade etc. and they will do a personalized makeup reading for you! They even remember who you are and update the suggestions with the seasons. I'm a warm. The covergirl products are coded so that if you know what you are, you can just look for the products with the right tag at the store or get a list right there from the web site. They even have tips on how to apply makeup. Go Girl! This site can save you a small fortune in not buying the wrong makeup for your coloring. Be sure to mark this one with your bookmarks.
We need ideas for the next few meetings. Some of the thoughts being kicked around are, a makeup/hair/wig care session, self defense for womyn (transgendered and genetic), and another photo session. If you have any thoughts on these or have other ideas, please let Sarah, myself or Kori know about them.
See you at Cooker's! ...Cathy
I remember even 5 or 6 years ago when my favorite shoes had 5" heels, when I wore fishnets and leather minis, when frankly I looked rather reminiscent of a prostitute. My manner of dress was not at all uncommon for a crossdresser. We like these "fetish items" so much that we convince ourselves that others will overlook them when we wear them in public! Well, in reality, people do notice these things, and with experience, the crossdresser comes to realize that she must dress more conservatively to fit in with society in public places. I came to just that realization myself about a couple of years ago and worked on presenting a more passable image. What I eventually discovered I had actually learned from my wife about a decade earlier.
Two years after we were married, my wife and I were finally able to take our honeymoon in San Francisco. Until that time, my wife had been dressing like a little girl, with big, floppy collars and such. Her manner of dress lacked sophistication and was rather uninteresting from my perspective. I would often grumble about her manner of dress and would urge her to wear bolder fashions. Anyway, on our honeymoon, she wanted to dress in a manner that would please me. Late into the honeymoon, something hit me like a brick in the face, and I captured the moment in a photograph as a constant reminder. We were visiting the Muir Woods north of San Francisco, and my wife was wearing a tight red denim skirt with wedge-heeled ankle-strap sandals. These items weren't fetish attire by any means, but they were nevertheless somewhat bold and decidedly out of character for my wife. She didn't look particularly ill at ease wearing them, yet she just didn't look right. Her manner of dress was obviously inconsistent with her character, and the inconsistency was most unattractive. It was there and then that I realized my wife was at her most attractive when allowed to dress in clothes that suited her, rather than clothes I found interesting. Above all else, she looked far more feminine.
This was a lesson that I failed to take home for myself. Of course at the time, Sarah didn't exist. There was only my male side and an occasional flamboyantly cross-dressed image on the other side of a mirror. My feminine side had no depth of character -- no soul. It's been only recently that my true feminine side has come out of hiding. She had never been allowed to surface, apart from her occasional guest-appearances in the mirror, having been imprisoned deep inside my psyche for over 20 years. At long last, my male side had the decency and good sense to acknowledge my female side's importance and to dignify her with a name -- Sarah. He unlocked the dungeon cell and allowed poor Sarah to see the light of day for the first time in her life. She had been born into adulthood, naive and emotionally naked. She knew only one thing. For the first time in her life, she realized that she existed and was therefore important. She began to assert her importance, and soon grew into a woman of depth and worth.
When this fundamental transformation finally took place, something rather surprising happened to me. When I dressed, I was no longer so interested in the "fetish" attire. I was interested in being "Sarah". Like my wife, Sarah just didn't look right when her male counterpart presumed to pick her wardrobe. Poor Sarah had to do something very difficult -- something that lots of genetic women still haven't done. She had to be true to herself, both in comportment and in dress, but to do so, she first had to find herself. After considerable introspection, she slowly came to realize that she and her male counterpart were actually one in the same. Those values and sensibilities that he held, she also held. Among other things, she discovered that being a lady isn't really much different from being a gentleman.
With these changes in self-realization and with the deepening of Sarah's character, my tastes in fashion also changed. I finally realized that those 5" heels, although devastatingly sexy and quite appropriate on the feet of a girl in her twenties trying to get picked up at a bar, were entirely inappropriate on the feet of a lady like Sarah. Of course Sarah didn't have to wear flats either. In fact, flats are somewhat out of character for a lady of Sarah's grooming to wear in public places. When she wore a more appropriate heel height (perhaps 2 - 3 inches) and a more conservative shoe style, she simply looked better. She looked far more feminine.
Sarah's hem line also came down a bit. Like so many transgendered girls, Sarah has fairly nice legs, and they are well displayed under a 15" leather miniskirt and atop 5" heels. Nevertheless, that's just not Sarah, and the inconsistency between the image presented below and above the waist is somewhat unflattering. Sarah discovered that the classic styles work much better for her and make her look much prettier. Does that mean that she never would wear denim? Of course not! Even the most well-heeled women dress casually. It's just that Sarah avoids denim miniskirts. She looks much prettier in a mid-calf length.
So what does all this mean for Sarah's extensive collection of miniskirts, minidresses, spandex garments, and such? Will Sarah never wear these things again? Of course she will. She just won't wear them as frequently, and many items, of course, will be retired permanently. There are always occasions to show a bit of leg without being "cheap". For instance, when I visited my gay cousin in San Francisco recently, he took me on a "date". I dressed very flamboyantly, but I did so in the sense of fun. My self-image certainly wasn't cheapened for having done it. Even the most refined women are allowed to have a bit of fun on odd occasions. Of course they still behave as ladies, no matter how dressed. What most affects my self-image isn't the single infrequent evening. It's the remaining 364 days in the year.
So is everyone better off dressing in refined classic styles or otherwise subdued fashions? Of course not! It's really a matter of character. Some girls are sportier by nature and therefore look far better when dressing sportier. Some girls are more extroverted and "fun-loving", so they look better in more flamboyant attire. My take-home message, especially for those of us who are less experienced, is that we look our best when we dress in a manner consistent with our inner being and our outward behavior. We each look better as a complete person than as a collection of character fragments.
Computer technology is creeping into all sorts of different areas, including electrolysis - all for the better. As Cathy handed me my pole (electrical connection that makes me the completing circuit) I noticed it felt different, then the machine made a different sound - wait a minute. She was trying out a demonstrator of the latest advances, big mistake! She knew within three days that she could never return to the old machine and had to order a new one. Why? Because with the latest technology and computer chips, the pain content is reduced by a third to a half! I will attempt to give a very simplified answer.
To kill a hair follicle, an electrical current of a certain strength is applied over a period of time (there's a mathematical equation in there somewhere) to kill the hair. Both the time and intensity (strength) are variable. What actually causes the most pain is the length of time of the electrical shock, we're talking thousandths of a second here. This new technology allows for an intensity greater than she could achieve with her other machine, but the less time means less pain. It works. That's all I really care about. I don't even need to use the Emla on most places anymore. If this piques your interest call Catherine Houk, C.T. 861-2618.
Cathy also provided me with an update concerning the laser electrolysis that we have heard about over the past year. Apparently the manufacturer/ distributor/operator was supposed to bring this machine to the American Electrolysis Association convention in Minneapolis a month ago, for a demonstration. However, they did not appear as the FDA stepped in, reasserting that this methodology has not been given approval as "permanent" hair removal process and therefore could not give a presentation as such, or even have any representatives present talking about it.
One of the more highly coveted aspects of transgender living which receives a great deal of focus is being able to "pass" while crossdressed or living in a new gender role. Being able to pass has its benefits. For example, people use correct pronouns and terms of reference. Also, a transgender man or woman does not need to worry about receiving second glances and unsolicited comments. Passing simplifies life considerably for the person who only wishes privacy, and it also reduces the risk of being victimized by persons who cannot tolerate difference in others.
There is also, however, a lighter side to the subject of passing. As both a gender specializing counselor and transgender woman, I have the opportunity to hear as well as experience interesting events involving pass or not passing. As a full-time counselor with a primary focus on gender issues, I am also in the unique position of being able to call myself a "transgender spotter." Without any doubts, I can spot the majority of transgender persons, even several blocks away.
This ability introduces a question. What distinguishable characteristics lead me to believe I have spotted a transgender person? First, my ability to do so is greatly assisted by my location. Like other major cities it easy to spot transgender people occasionally as pedestrians. This is particularly so near my office, where within a 4- block radius at least one dozen transgender men and women either reside or work. Transgender persons who live in areas with high numbers of others with gender issues, should note that this makes them more likely to be noticed. For example, in San Francisco I am noticed all the time because people are more aware of transgender issues, yet while visiting New Orleans or Portland people rarely spot my differences.
A combination of a person's physical characteristics, body language, and clothing all play a key role in passing. I call the embodiment of these elements "presentation." One does not simply get dressed, hoping to pass by play- acting a part, one becomes a transgender man or woman. Whether a person lives in the new gender part or full- time, pulling together an consistent presentation greatly increases chances at passing. Furthermore, a consistent presentation is easier for others to understand.
One of the most common concerns transgender persons in the process of coming out have is the concern that one or several physical characteristics may ruin a person's chances of passing. In many cases this fear is unnecessary, particularly since as the individual focuses on pulling together more and more details their presentation will improve. Generally speaking, people do not walk about looking to see if others have big feet, broad shoulders, or are wearing a wig. Thus, if someone's overall presentation is fairly well pulled together, there is a good chance they may pass and not even realize it.
There are a number of details a person can focus on to increase their passibility. This includes learning the art of proportional dressing. For example, it is commonly known that round-shaped women should avoid wearing mini- skirts. However, what may not be known by a person lacking experience dressing as a woman is that wearing a shorter-length skirt may be possible if paired with a longer-length sweater or blazer. Also, remember that large body features can showcase larger-size jewelry.
The art of building a presentation also takes an emotional commitment, which involves self-examination. Does my clothing match my age, social position, and the occasion? Is it OK to dress differently than other transgender men or women? Are my clothing colors conducive to feeling good about myself? If I am spotted, is it OK for others to notice I am a transgender person? Do I always have to dress as others expect me to? Does my appearance match my gender identification?
Making an emotional commitment to one's presentation is a unique and interesting process. It primarily involves giving yourself permission to be who you are and allowing others the right to their own perceptions and beliefs. As a personal example, a few years ago I was approached by a husband and wife from Venezuela. After providing them with directions the husband complimented me in the kindest of tones by stating that I was the most beautiful man he had ever seen. As a transgender woman, I could have overreacted and became offended. However, understanding that this couple may not have ever encountered a transgender person before, I accepted the compliment graciously and explained that I lived as a member of the opposite gender.
Returning to the subject of transgender spotting, what most frequently leads me to believe I have spotted a transgender man or woman is the body language and energy or chemistry a person emits. At times a transgender person may put forth energies which are a mixture of masculine and feminine. This is OK because we are transgendered. I have also noticed that transgender persons put forth a more subtle energy which reflects their experiences. These energies can best be characterized as empowerment, self-confidence, and an ability to survive. Our bodies become the embodiment of our efforts, and our beauty shows when we give it a chance to blossom.
A relatively new dynamic concerning the ability to pass is choosing to be "out" or not making any significant attempts to hide one's transgender identity. This dynamic has become more evident in locations where larger numbers of transgender people live. These people are making a statement of being proud, strong, and transgendered. They welcome people's curiosity, and do not mind answering questions about their apparent differences from others. The nice thing about this approach is that one no longer has to worry about being found out.
In closing, the experience of passing also has a humorous side. Some years ago I was visiting my physician's office and was treated by a substitute doctor. Without warning, this delightful woman suddenly turned into any transsexual's nightmare. She announced that she was immediately stopping my hormone prescription. I gagged! When I calmly asked why, she stated that my medical chart showed no records of having a gynecological exam. Ha-Ha! Keeping my amusement to myself, I gently asked the physician if she could put the chart down and look at me. After she did so, I explained much to her surprise that I was a transgender woman and that a pap smear wasn't necessary. She laughed, and I did as well, since I had assumed that I rarely pass. The lesson is one we all can learn. Sometimes we pass and sometimes we don't.
PASSING PERFECT (#8) Copyright 1996 / Gianna E. Israel
G E N D E R A R T I C L E S This educational column authored by
Gianna E. Israel is regularly featured on the 3rd Monday of each month
in Tg-Forum, the Internet's most up-to-date, weekly Transgender
G I A N N A E. I S R A E L provides nationwide telephone consultation, individual & relationship counseling, evaluations and referrals. She is principal author of the Recommended Guidelines for Transgender Care, writes Transgender Tapestry's "Ask Gianna" column; is an AEGIS board member and HBIGDA member. She can be contacted at (415) 558-8058, at P.O. Box 424447 San Francisco, CA 94142, or via e-mail at Gianna@wco.com.z
Something quite wonderful happened to me the other day. I had been wanting to buy a pair of ladies' glasses for "Sarah" and finally decided just to do it. I walked into my neighborhood Twenty-Twenty (20-20) Vision Center and started looking at frames. A lovely young lady, Dawn, asked me if she could help me, and I told her I was looking for a new pair of frames. She told me about their sale, oriented me to their inventory, and invited me to look around. After trying on lots of frames, I found the ones that seemed to "work" for me. About that time, she returned and asked me if I was having any luck. I modeled the frames for her and asked her what she thought. She said, "Oh, that's cute!"
I decided to buy the glasses, but there was one matter remaining -- the prescription. I asked Dawn if she could just duplicate the prescription in my current (male) glasses, and she said that it was necessary for me to have had an eye exam within the previous two years (which I had) but that they could get the prescription over the phone. She started writing me up, and before I knew it, she was asking my last name, which I gave her, and then my first name. I hesitated and then said sheepishly, "If you're going to find any record of my eye exam, you'll need to look for [my male name]. Without batting an eye, she jotted down the name and completed the form. Then she went to phone the opthamologist's office. They found my record, and she arranged to have my prescription faxed to the optical shop. Meanwhile, she continued writing up the sale. She showed remarkable sensitivity to me when she asked me if I wanted their records to reflect my male name or some other name. I gave her the name "Sarah".
With her matter-of-fact way of handling my business, I was beginning to think that transgendered customers weren't entirely an infrequent occurrence, so I asked her. She responded that she hadn't been aware of any transgendered customers before. Finally, I thanked her for being so nice and went off for lunch. As I was eating lunch, I realized I could have gotten a nonreflective coating on my lenses and paid for it almost entirely with a coupon, so I went back to the optical store. Dawn had just tried calling me. It turns out that my prescription wasn't on file, so she wanted to "read" the refraction of my current lenses. I added the nonreflective coating to the order, and she let me have an extra coupon that she had. What was just a little surprising about my return visit was that I thought after I left that she might have chatted with her coworkers about me and that when I returned, I might get a few odd looks. In fact, either she didn't tell them, or they just didn't care. They probably overheard much of our interchanges anyway, so I imagine they knew. All that mattered was that I was treated quite well by all and accepted for who I am.
I told Dawn again that she was very sweet, thanked her, and told her that I would send my friends her way. Anyway, that's the purpose of this article. The happy fact is that 95% of everyone you encounter will be very accepting and accommodating, and many people like Dawn will show you a bit of extra sensitivity and kindness. (Thanks, Dawn!) We really need to know which businesses we can depend upon for courtesy and respect. That's why I'm starting "Sarah's Pink List". Sarah's Pink List will be published in every newsletter and will contain the names of known T*-friendly establishments that are of particular interest or importance to the crossdressing community. If you have a very good experience with a business, please write me a quick letter about it, and I will add their business name to the Pink List and will include the letter in the newsletter (if you don't mind). Also, I will send a complimentary issue of the newsletter to the business as a token of our appreciation. Anyway, please help me get started. Please tell me of all of the business establishments you know that are T-friendly. I'll start Sarah's Pink List with my own entry:
20-20 Vision Centers, Columbus. (Various locations throughout town. The identity of the specific location I visited withheld by request of the upper management, in fairness to the other locations.)
Copyright © 1996 by the Crystal Club, all rights reserved. Articles and information contained in The Crystal Chronicle may be reprinted by other non-profit organizations without advanced permission, provided the author and source is cited and a copy of the issue containing the reprinted material is sent to the Crystal Club within two months of publication. The opinions or statements contained in the Crystal Chronicle are those of the authors' and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editor or the Crystal Club. Furthermore, neither the Crystal Club nor the Crystal Chronicle editor assume responsibility for any consequences resulting either directly or indirectly either from advice or from any other materials contained in this newsletter. Contributions of articles are encouraged but may be altered with the author's intent retained or may be rejected, whether solicited or not. Absolutely no sexually explicit material will be accepted or printed. Contributions may be emailed directly to the editor (for Crystal Club News Letter) or sent to the postal address below. The Crystal Club is a non-profit support group for transvestites, crossdressers, transsexuals, female impersonators, and other transgendered individuals. Spouses and significant others are welcome and are encouraged to participate. Both male-to-female and female-to-male individuals are welcome. Also, members from related organizations, helpful professionals, and approved guests are welcome when cleared through a Crystal Club elected officer. Club policies, meeting dates, locations, and fees are available on request through our address below. We will exchange newsletters with any other similar group. Send all correspondence to: The Crystal Club, P.O. Box 287, Reynoldsburg, Ohio 43068-0287. (614) 231-1368.