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Early this December, we all enjoyed our traditional Crystal Club Christmas Dinner. As always, it was fun, and of course we enjoyed meeting with friends new and old. What made this year's dinner unusual was that we, as an organization, decided to celebrate this event publically at a local restaurant. I think all would agree that the dinner was a great success. I thought the staff treated us wonderfully. I was touched that they were not only professional but also quite obviously tolerant and accepting of us. Their acceptance was mirrored by the attitudes of those from outside our membership who decided to share in our event -- a few of our wives and our two guests, Meral Crane (our local gender expert) and Natalie (representing Choices, a local shelter for abuse victims). Furthermore we were in clear view of all who visited the restaurant, being seated immediately by the entrance, yet nobody gawked at us, with the almost unavoidable exception of a few teenage girls who although fascinated by us were nevertheless respectful. We were all in splendid form and would have surely earned Emily Post's approval and respect. We were a credit to our community.
After the dinner was over, we all returned to the Unitarian Church, where we nibbled on brownies, watched videos of club events (Thanks, Lisa and Barb!), and chatted until the wee hours. It was a very cozy gathering. When we gave our gifts to Natalie for the children sheltered by Choices, she gave a very short but heart rending acceptance speech. Holding back my tears, I realized that I, Sarah (not Jim), had just done something very positive and meaningful. Not only did I do my small part to brighten a terrified child's Christmas Day, but I had received something very precious in return. I had received affirmation of my (Sarah's) existence and worth as a person. I, Sarah, had taken a very significant step in claiming my rightful place in society. I think we all left the church that night feeling very good about ourselves and about the world in which we live.
Our outing was clearly another of our golden moments. After having lived most of our lives in absolute terror of discovery, we could plainly see that there was never really anything to fear. I suppose it was a bit like overcoming our fear of the dark. We all once had this fear. Still, we all have confronted the dark, only to realize it is nothing more than the absence of light. Fear of the unknown paralyzes us all. It obstructs our personal growth and livelihood. Ultimately, choked within our grim confines, we can only resolve to break free, casting aside our fears and maturing beyond them. I think it most appropriate that Sheila shared with us such a lovely quote, capturing the very essence of our glorious evening. She was even so thoughtful as to offer it to each of us as a gift suitable for framing, that we not forget: "And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom." (Anais Nin)
Dear Sarah and friends at the Crystal Club,
Thank you for sharing your Christmas Party with me, Thanks for your invitation and hospitality. The dinner at the Cooker was an exceptional experience. I was moved enough to write a letter to the Cooker. I felt a special warmth towards all the young people who served us with respect and once again I was impressed with the courage and commitment of all of you. I shared your excitement of being out in public and accepted as ladies. Following the dinner, the intimate atmosphere at the Unitarian Meeting House and the fine company were all special. I was happy for the families who could share openly and support each other. The gracious daughter of Lisa was great to witness. Finally, I was very moved by Sheila's gift to all of us, the quote of Anais Nin:
And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.
At a lecture for the Ohio Department of Health, on gender dysphoria I was invited to give just this past Friday, I took the liberty and shared the quote as well as mentioning the philanthropic nature of your group, the fact that you gave donations and dolls to Choices. I also credited the Cooker for their decent hospitality. I believe in using such opportunities to let people know more about the harmless reality of crossdressing.
The Crystal Club certainly serves a very important purpose, I remember when it was in the dreaming stage and I was asked what I thought of the idea. I hope that all the experiences of your fine group can be at least as gratifying as the Christmas party was for me. Thanks again.
Meral G. Crane, M.A., L.P.C.C.
In response: Meral, we really enjoyed having you at the dinner. You've always been a true friend of the gender community, and your presence added something very special to the event. We especially wish to thank you for your kind donation of $50 to the Crystal Club. As I said before, it wasn't at all necessary, but we're not going to turn it down either! Again, thanks for sharing in our little celebration. It was so lovely seeing you.
Mary Ann and I were chatting at our Christmas Dinner this December about our need as an organization for public outreach. Every time we make an appearance in public, we show observers that we are not the strange characters caught on surveillance cameras robbing convenience stores wearing nothing but lingerie. We are not the characters who parade around in red light districts wearing leather corsets and thigh-high boots. We are not the sort of people one would see on a sleazy talk show such as Geraldo. Those with even marginally open minds can plainly see that we are ordinary people -- real people of intrinsic worth and with real feelings who want simply to coexist with others in our diverse society.
Mary Ann briefly discussed with me an idea of hers that I think is splendid and deserves our full consideration. I merely took the liberty of giving it a name and announcing it here. Her idea is that we of the Crystal Club become more involved with community service by organizing what I would call the Crystal Corps. Those of us who wish to participate would list their names and phone numbers with a Crystal Corps Volunteer Coordinator. Whenever a charitable event would arise in which volunteers would be needed from the community at large, the coordinator would contact the organizers of the event to volunteer the efforts of a Crystal Corps representative. She would then contact Crystal Corps volunteers to see who would be available to volunteer for the event. Of course the idea would be that each Crystal Corps volunteer would attend the event en femme as an official representative of the Crystal Club and crossdressing community at large, identified as such with a Crystal Club name badge. I will be will be happy to print business cards for you to have close at hand. If you are working at a table or booth, they could be placed in a conspicuous but out-of-the-way place, so that those interested in contacting us would see the cards and could discreetly swipe one. You can also carry these cards with you in your purse when you venture out into public. If you meet someone who you think might want to contact us, you could just slip him/her a card.
The point has been raised that a substantial segment of our membership lives outside the Columbus, which would make it difficult for them to commute to Columbus to do volunteer work. Also not surprisingly, however, there are lots of charitable events outside of Columbus. I think a very useful and practical approach to making Corps participation practical to our our-of-towners would be to enlist their aid in identifying charitable events in their communities for which they would like to volunteer. For instance, if Jane Doe from Dayton hears about a local American Lung Association fund raising event and would like to volunteer for it as Jane (not John), she could get the name and number of the volunteer coordinator for that event and pass it to our volunteer coordinator. Our coordinator would then initiate contact and offer the services of the volunteer in that area on behalf of the Crystal Club. The same thing could be done, of course, for smaller charitable events in the Columbus area about which the volunteer coordinator might not be aware. Our more closeted volunteers, incidentally, might be more comfortable electing to work in communities other than their own, so as to avoid being recognized by friends.
The point has also been raised that higher-profile charitable events might get some media coverage, and many of us would not enjoy being seen on the evening news. I think it is still helpful to our cause in such cases for the Corps volunteer to attend the charitable event in male attire. It would of course be helpful if that person identified "himself" as a Crystal Corps volunteer with either a badge or a pile of business cards; however, even an arrangement in which only the organizers of the event are aware of his/her Crystal Corps affiliation would still be helpful. This is a program that can be custom tailored to anybody's comfort level.
The Crystal Corps will provide an extremely effective means of community outreach in which Corps volunteers will be regarded very positively by all those she encounters. Remember that in any charity event, anybody who lends a hand is greatly appreciated, no matter how dressed. These events bring out the best in people, both volunteers and participants. Absolutely nobody would be contemptuous of a crossdressing volunteer. Furthermore, it would be clear for all to see that we of the crossdressing community are people of intrinsic worth and are valuable to the whole of society. Jamie Elizabeth has consistently stressed this point, and I think it is one worth considering very carefully. We transgendered individuals have something special to offer society. We come from a unique perspective and can draw upon this perspective for the betterment of society. Besides benifitting society, the potential benifit to the crossdressing community is immeasurable. I envision being a Corps volunteer as something that will be very satisfying and very fun. While I'm doing something for the betterment of society and simultaneously for the benifit of the transgender community, I will get to spend time openly and publically as Sarah and not have to worry about what anybody will think of me. How could anything be better than that?
The benifits to the crossdressing community extend far beyond the known boundaries of our membership. We of the Crystal Club are only the infinitescimal snow flake on the tip of the transgender iceberg. It is estimated that somewhere between 2% and 50% of all men are crossdressers, depending on how crossdressing is defined. The 2% estimate would pertain to people like us who dress from head to toe and who perhaps appear on occasion in public en femme. The 50% figure would pertain to men who have tried on some item of feminine attire at some time during their lives and who enjoyed the experience. The more reasonable estimate would probably be 10%, which would be that proportion of men who regularly enjoy wearing items of feminine attire. Regardless of the criteria used, that's a lot of people! These invisible millions live like most of us did, in secrecy, terrified of discovery. One thing that binds us together is that we all know what it means to live that life of fear and solitude. Rest assured that these individuals watch the trashy talk shows. They watch the goings-on in the red light districts, if only from afar. They watch the news and see reports of transsexual bandits and such. Is it any wonder that these people are terrified to open the closet door? However, rest assured they also watch us, provided we give them the opportunity to see us. Just think what it would have meant to you during your "former life" to see a crossdresser in person and to observe that nobody was ridiculing her or otherwise giving her a difficult time. Don't you think you might have been spared a lot of pain by that knowledge, either directly or indirectly? Of course you would, if only to realize that your world wouldn't necessarily fall apart if you were discovered! This is the opportunity for you to impact and even to change the life of every 20th person you see. Of course it's also the opportunity for us to build our membership and to become an increasingly influential entity within our area. Our little business cards that we place strategically for our invisible sisters to "swipe" may be our most effective tool.
I would like to throw my name in the hat as the first Crystal Corps volunteer, and I know Mary Ann would be the second, since she thought of it. I've already heard from Cathy and Leslie who are the very enthusiastic third and fourth. Who else would like to volunteer? If you would like to sign up, please call Luann at the main Crystal Club number (or leave a message), email me, or write a letter to the Crystal Corps at the Crystal Club address. If the idea appeals to you but you're uncertain whether you could bring yourself to volunteer en femme, you should still sign up. The worst that could happen would be that you would get a call from the Crystal Corps officer asking you if you might assist and that you would respectfully decline. There's of course no shame in that. There's not a person in the Crystal Club who hasn't been in that position herself and who doesn't sympathize fully with your uneasiness. Anyway, please sign up! Our switchboards are open!
.... from my good friend Barbrajane in the UK
Our Christmas party was a lot of fun just like we knew it would be. It was great to see all of you who came. We had a fairly good number of dolls to donate to Choices! Here's a suggestion for next year. Since we all know that this is an annual thing, how about looking for dolls to donate during the year and saving them up? I know Dianna does this. That way if you are doing garage sales and see a great looking doll while checking out the clothes. (We all know we do this.) You could really add to our contributions next year while not blowing your budget to pieces. If storage is a problem, I'm sure one of us could gather them up at the regular meetings and store them until next year.
Are you constantly looking for better breast forms? Perhaps you're afraid the birdseed will leak out of those knee highs and a flock of starlings will attack? I just read about a company selling silicon-like forms (not silicone but behaves like silicone ???) for $49.95 plus $6.95 shipping and handling. They are 1-size and may be used either for a 2-cup size enhancement of small breasts or apparently over a chest with no breasts resulting in a B-cup. Now I don't know much more about these forms, but the price is much lower than you can usually find for silicone forms, and there's a 30-day satisfaction guarantee. The address is
5315 Lindburgh Ln.
Bell, CA 90201
(213) 269-1101 (8:00 - 5:00 PST)
Editor's note: I called to inquire about the breast forms. I first called the (800) number Cathy provided me and reached a telemarketing firm that apparently handles zillions of products and has little or no familiarity with any of them. I found them rather intimidating, by the way, and I'm not easily intimidated, so I thought it best not to give out the (800) number (editor's perogative). Anyway, I got the phone number of the manufacturer/distributer from them (see above) and gave them a call. I spoke with a woman who answered my questions quite cheerfully and matter-of-fact-ly. She didn't have all the answers, but I was enticed enough to place an order with her. (No, you don't have to order from the telemarketing firm!) I'll let you know how I like their product in the January newsletter. ...Sarah
I know there are at least ten members of the club on line. By now those of you whose e-mail addresses I have will have heard about this. Let's get a mailing list together for the Crystal Club. It will be limited to just club members so you won't have to worry about your privacy. If you are online and I don't have your e-mail address and would like to join, e-mail me at [no longer available] and I'll either sign you up or let you know what progress we've made towards doing it. Mailing lists work this way. You post a message which is resent to all the members of the list. They can answer you on the list or privately as they or you prefer. You don't have to post unless you want to. This can be a great way to keep in touch with some of your sisters in the club even if you can't always go to a meeting. The list can be as fun or as serious as the people on it want it to be. It could be a great form of support for those who need it. Be sure to let me know if you want to be part of CC Online. A note: Most mailer programs can be set not to send your name if you would prefer that others on the list not know your male name.
I think Sarah's idea of forming the Crystal Corps is a good one. One thing I'd like to add. No one is obligated to be out. The reason the club was formed and continues is because many of us simply cannot be out. Please don't feel that we are moving towards a totally out group. That's not the case. These are exciting times for transgendered people. National groups are organizing and joining forces to let people know that we are normal everyday people with a slight difference, not freaks or perverts. Outreach on a national and local level is very important, but so is providing a safe place for those who cannot be out for whatever reason. The Crystal Club will continue to be one of those safe places. For those of us who don't mind being out, the Crystal Corps would provide an excellent way to reach out to other people both transgendered and straight. We all know how lonely it can be to be transgendered and not have contact with others like us, and that's why outreach is vital. We have untold numbers of our sisters out there who don't know how to reach us. If you are comfortable with being out en femme, please join the Corps. If you can't bring yourself to that point, that's OK. That's still why we're here.
The day after our Feb. meeting I'll be talking to the local pflag group. For those of you who don't know about pflag, it stands for parents and friends of lesbians and gays. They are moving towards being transgender inclusive on a national level and it's being done on a chapter by chapter basis. There is an e-mail list that provides support for transgendered friends and family called tgs-pflag. To subscribe to tgs-pflag, send mail to email@example.com with the body saying:
Don't include the parentheses. Just write your name. It can be what ever you wish.
If you have family and/or friends to whom you are "out" and you think would like to be able to write to others in similar situations, please pass this information on to them. This is a very warm and supportive list. If your spouse knows about you but can't bring herself to coming to a meeting, this list provides a way to let her talk to others without exposing herself. This issue can be even more important to spouses than it is to us.
Big hugs to you all! ...Cathy
"Feminism is the radical idea that women are people."
What an unusual experience I had! I recently returned from the Society for Neurosciences conference in Washington DC. It's a very important conference for me. That's where about 20,000 of the world's neuroscientists meet every year to exchange new findings and ideas and to examine the latest research equipment. Neuroscientists manage to attend these meetings almost without fail, and this year I was no exception. What made this trip unusual was that for the first time Sarah made her appearance as one of the 20,000 neuroscientists.
"Am I nuts?" I asked myself as I pondered my trip the day before leaving. I think my estranged wife had the same notions as to what I might do at the conference. She demanded to know whether I would be taking "Sarah" along. I replied, "Now that would be a bit silly, wouldn't it?" That was my way of evading the question, but I meant what I said. After all, it was all getting rather silly. I wouldn't even have to face this unpleasant matter if it were not for the fact that she had outed me to my community where several of my close colleagues live. It would only be a matter of time before news would spread throughout the academic community, and I really didn't want people picturing me as one of those characters appearing regularly on daytime talk shows. I thought it much better to introduce Sarah to my closest circle of friends and colleagues so that they could judge me for who I really am. Then the talk that would circulate throughout the neuroscience community would undoubtedly be much more favorable. Still, it was a big step, there was significant personal risk involved, and I was quite nervous.
I packed up clothing sufficient for both genders to be stocked for the duration, so as to be flexible to any situations that might present themselves. That way, if things went poorly for Sarah, I'd have male clothing to wear for the balance of the conference. I tried not to dwell on that possibility too much, though. I was really planning to spend a significant portion of my time as Sarah, so as to have time to introduce myself to all those who mattered.
I registered for the conference the morning after my arrival in Washington. Although I had already gained a lot of experience and confidence going out in public, and even though I already knew I passed almost flawlessly and was unrecognizable even if read, I felt I still needed to put myself to a test. After all, if I were to have any problems, it would be good to find out about them before facing my closest friends and colleagues. Registration provided just that opportunity. I dressed casually, with jeans, a sweater, my favorite chunky high-heeled loafers (which are extraordinarily comfortable), and rather subdued jewelry. Of course my makeup was overkill. The sad part of having to cover a beard is the necessity of using full foundation, which looks very strange without a complete makeup job. Of course a complete, polished makeup job can also look a bit inappropriate in more casual settings. (Yes, the neuroscience crowd is ordinarily quite casual, even at conferences.) That's not to mention the fact that women in the neurosciences are rarely concerned with such frivolities as makeup and fashion, so any skills I would display in those areas might be conspicuous. Then again, the annual conferences are always an amusing show of contrasts. People present themselves in all different manners of style and dress, and one never knows what to expect. I've seen everything from the Polish leather queen, complete with 5" stiletto pumps, to an extroardinarily tall character with rainbow-dyed clown hair. I didn't think I could stand out too badly, no matter how I presented myself.
After getting myself put together, I went to the subway station. That was actually my first test, since I was staying in a safe but otherwise heavily "ethnic" area of town, in which I, a caucasian woman, was sure to stand out anyway. In my experience, anything that attracts attention can get a person read. Just as I thought would happen, I did attract attention, but it wasn't really any different than the attention I attracted when dressed as a male. There were no hateful expressions, and I heard no chuckling. Nobody pointed fingers. People just looked at me and then went about their business. Good!
At last I got to the station about two blocks from the convention center. As I ascended the escalator to the street, I saw the usual procession of thousands of neuroscientists, filing in and out of the convention center like ants at their mound. I joined the procession. What a curious feeling! As soon as I planted my heels inside the convention center, I felt as though Sarah had just been legitimized as a member of the academic community, having previously only observed from the sidelines.
When I got to the registration area, I started to fill out my registration card. I had to provide the basic information -- my name, degree, institution, department, and membership category. I had already decided to register myself in a unisex manner, using my first and middle initials. Although I couldn't really be "Sarah" that way, at least I wouldn't have a male name on my badge. The department and institution were no problem, as only the people to whom I intended to "come out" would take notice anyway.
Next came the line. The single most time-consuming stage of the on-site registration process is standing in line to pay. One can expect to spend anywhere from 30 min to 2 hr in line. At that time, it was taking about 1 hr. The line snaked back and forth through a maze of ropes, with almost a thousand people slowly shuffling past each other. The interesting thing about this process for me was that the people on opposite sides of each rope shuffled towards each other, passing each other face to face. When they progressed to the next turn of the maze, they met each other again, and so on. Thus, there were about 300 people who would be shuffling past me at close proximity perhaps 5 times each, providing the opportunity for close scrutiny as many as 1500 times. I tried not to think about that. If I had any trouble, I could always leave and return to register in male attire. As I made my way through the first leg of the maze, all was going quite well. It was then that the gentleman behind me joked, "There better be a cheese reward at the end!" I replied, "I guess this would be a Lashley 10 maze." We both chuckled. Unfortunately, my voice still wasn't very well developed (and still isn't), and without the benifit of visual cues, it can be perceived as that of an efeminant male. Three young men in the next row apparently heard me and turned around to look at me. I pretended not to notice, and we filed past one another. Then we slowly shuffled towards each other again at the next turn. They looked me over very carefully. Finally, after the third pass, they lost interest and were just talking among themselves. Nobody else seemed to notice anything. By the time I reached the front of the line, I was confident that I could pass flawlessly as long as I was careful how and when I used my voice.
My next test was the registration itself. I walked up to one of the registrars and handed her my paperwork and MasterCard. She stamped the papers and swiped the card, I signed "Sarah", and I was on my way! I picked up my badge next at the printer. Two young men were so rude as to push their way in front of me en route. I guess chivalry is dead, apparently along with basic good manners. Oh well. Being a lady, I did not raise a fuss. I went on from there to the publications desk where I was handed a stack of books about 4" high. The man asked, "Can you carry all those, Miss?" I said, "I think so." I scooped them up in my arms, held them frailly against my chest, and walked off." What fun! As I left the convention center, I felt triumphant. I still wasn't certain whether I had been read by those three young men, but I decided I probably hadn't. They certainly had their doubts, but I think they finally decided I was a woman.
The next day, I returned to the convention center in male attire. My plan was to arrange dinner with Jack, my advisor, and a few close colleagues (names and institutions changed to protect the innocent!) and then to show up later as Sarah. I was able to find Jack fairly easily. Gosh! He had changed! He looked neat and almost respectable, I suppose because he was now a "big wig" with NSF. I almost didn't recognize him with his new contacts, his smartly starched shirt and tie, and his neatly trimmed hair and beard. Of course I knew I would be changing that day far more than he had. Anyway, we chatted for a while and arranged, as I had hoped, to meet for dinner after the conference. We would be getting together at his apartment (in Washington) with other graduate students from the lab, both current and past, and we would be walking to the Red Sea for some Ethiopian food.
I returned back to my room a bit early to get changed. I showered and shaved oh-so closely, all the while thinking that it wasn't too late just to abort my mission and get dressed in my male attire. I had butterflies in my stomach just thinking about what I was about to do. Still, I continued dressing as Sarah. I suppose I really knew what I had to do, and I wasn't about to blow my opportunity. I was really unsure what to wear. These sorts of things had gone poorly for friends of mine when they underdressed, for instance in jeans, but they had also gone poorly when they had overdressed. I decided I should have a very feminine appearance without dressing to the point that I would stand out as being unusual for the crowd. I decided on a 20" beige suede skirt and a simple cream cable-knit sweater, with a cute Southwestern-styled belt, cream tights and my favorite high-heeled loafers. For courage, I wore the silver heart pendant my mom had given me and complemented it with a pretty silver bracelet and small silver hoop earrings. I was especially careful about my makeup, trying my best to get every detail right. When I finally left my room, I knew there was no turning back.
The subway trip to Jack's apartment was very slow, I suppose because of the rush hour. Add to that that I was already a bit late for having fiddled so long with my makeup. By the time I arrived at the correct station, I knew everyone had to be drumming his or her fingers wondering where on Earth I was. I walked very briskly to my advisor's building, went upstairs and down the hall, and stopped at what seemed in my haste to be apartment 363. I knocked on the door, and a strange man answered, wearing no shirt. When he saw me, he stood up about an inch taller and gave me a confused smile. I asked whether Jack was there, and he pointed me to the next apartment. Sometimes being dyslexic is a real bother. I had apparently knocked at apartment 365!
Finally I knocked on my advisor's door, and Carl, one of the two graduate students with whom I had worked, answered the door. He gave me a slightly confused look, much like the man next door had done. I said, "Hi Carl. I guess this is what's called 'coming out'!" Without batting an eye, he said "Hi Jim" in return. The eight other people in the room slowly fell silent, as they tried to figure out exactly who and what I was. Jack just then came out of his kitchen, and when he saw me, his eyes got enormous. After an aukward minute or so, conversation picked up again, all eyes were replaced back into their sockets, and everyone behaved as though nothing unusual had happened. The nonresponse was actually very disconcerting. It lacked sincerity and left me clueless as to how everyone felt about Sarah. Such are the hazards of associating with politically correct people.
As we were leaving for dinner, Carl asked me what I was to be called. I told him to call me Sarah, at least while I was dressed in feminine attire. As we walked several blocks to the restaurant (I being the only one wearing heels), Julie, one of the graduate students and a friend, chatted with me about my coming out. She said that it was enormously liberating for one of the other graduate students there, a new guy I hadn't met who was apparently bisexual. We had a lovely chat, she smiling all the while. She told me that I looked good, which put me considerably at ease. At least I had one known supporter there. The peculiar thing was that our chat had a somewhat warmer, more intimate character to it than I had ever known with her. Normally Julie was a rather abrupt person.
At the restaurant, I had a chance to socialize with several of the newer graduate students, and they were all very comfortable with me. We chatted for hours before it was time to return to our rooms. Before we parted though, I made an interesting observation. I counted heads. There were 5 men and 5 women among us. Whoever said there aren't enough women in the neurosciences? It's just difficult sometimes to recognize who they are!
The next morning, I was feeling fairly confident about my colleagues' acceptance, so I decided to attend the meetings that day as Sarah. I was very uncharacteristically casual. I wore button-fly jeans, a pretty sweater, tights, and a new pair of flats (which until then had sat conspicuously unworn among my Emelda Marcos wannabe collection of 2 1/2 to 5" heels). My first duty that morning was to visit the exhibitors' booths to examine their new products. I figured this would be a good opportunity to practice my voice. Peoples' reactions were varied. Most simply didn't notice anything or at least pretended not to. Some peoples' ears perked when they first heard my voice, but as soon as I started talking about engineering specifications and machining tolerances, their focus quickly shifted to substantive discussion. A couple of exhibitors kept telling me that the details I needed were rather "complicated" and gave me simplistic answers they thought I could understand. Fortunately that was very rare. Most people on this planet have come to accept that a woman can be every bit as technically minded as a man, especially if she is a technical professional. (If the truth were known, though, I think the simplistic explanations were all they could understand themselves, and their male egos were hurt that a woman could have a more technical understanding of their own product than they!)
As lunch time rolled around, I went to find Jack. He was rather surprised that I had attended the conference en femme, and I joked with him that I was doing my industrial spying that day as Inspector Renard, master of a thousand disguises. I asked him what he was doing for lunch, and he said he was to meet with someone but that he hadn't shown up, so perhaps we could go on and have lunch together. As we walked into neighboring Chinatown, he asked me lots of questions about Sarah in a very sympathetic and supportive way. I guess I should have expected his initial political correctness and subsequent support, knowing his manner of fully absorbing everything that comes his way, pondering it for a day or two, and then responding thoughfully.
Anyway, we had a delightful lunch, and neither one of us was the least bit nervous, even with other neuroscientists around us. Of course I already knew I would pass perfectly well, but I was heartened that Jack felt the same way. After all, when one knows a person for so long as a man, one often has a difficult time ever visualizing that person as a convincing woman. We talked about many things, including the love and support I had gotten from my mom before she had died that year. I pointed out the silver heart pendant I was wearing and told him about how my mom had wanted Sarah to have it. It had great sentimental value to my mom and has even more sentimental value, I think, to me. I often wear it for courage when braving uncharted waters. I also talked about the love I had received from my children and the difficulties with my marriage. For the first time, I think, he was able to view me as a complete person. I seemed to make more sense to him.
After a long chat, we returned to the convention center, and I continued my industrial spying as Inspector Renard (really just checking out the new product lines). During my milling about, I happened upon Katie, a former postdoctoral fellow from our lab. She was a very tiny little thing, sharp as could be, and every bit as easy going. I knew she would be OK with Sarah, so I decided to have some fun with the situation. I walked up to her and said, "Hi, Katie Crompton!" She looked at me, caught rather off guard. Then she looked back and forth between my name badge and my face and finally asked, "Have we met?" (Apparently part of her confusion was that she was aware she was not wearing her name badge, and she had no idea how I knew her name.) I said, "Well, I should hope so. We were once at the same university -- in the same department -- at UCLA!" Then she looked at my name badge again, and a very broad smile came across her face. She shook her finger at me and said, "OK! I know who you are!" We both had a good laugh out of it.
When my afternoon's work was finally done, I thought I would look around for my friends so as to dig up some dinner prospects. The first person I saw was a colleague who was in the same generation as I in graduate school. We were pretty good friends then. I went up to him, called him by name, and said, "My! How you've changed!" He stared at me, then my badge, then me, then my badge, and finally asked, "Do I know you?" I said, "Well, you should. We came from the same graduate school!" Finally his jaw dropped to the floor, and he got very uneasy. He had been taking down his poster when I interrupted him, but he made up some excuse that he had to meet someone and ran off, leaving his poster behind. Oops! I had forgotten that he was a closeted borderline religious fundamentalist. Well, hopefully I can patch that one up.
As the afternoon was coming to a close, I returned to where Kim was presenting her poster. Kim is a real sweetheart who got her Ph.D. shortly after I did. When everyone had left and she was in the process of closing down, I went up to her and said "hi". She looked at me and smiled sweetly, looked back and forth between my name badge and face, grinned, and then said, "Hi, Jim!". I was so used to not being recognized that I was rather surprised at her having "nailed" me. I said, "Someone told you!" She said, "Nope!" I then asked, "You mean you recognized me?" She said, "Nope, at least not at first. I'd have never known without the name badge." We chatted briefly about my "coming out", and she congratulated me, offering me her words of encouragement. Then we chatted about her new job and I commented how stressful it must be for her hair to be turning so gray (at age 34). Apparently it runs in her genes. Anyway, I felt no discomfort telling her, "Kim, you really should color it. You're much too young and pretty to be going gray!" She smiled warmly. I could have never said that as "Jim". The comment would have been misunderstood. It was a nice encounter. We bade each other "goodbye", and I went on my way.
I continued looking around the convention floor and saw my good friend Peter looking at books all by himself. I approached him, smiled, and asked smugly, "So, do you come here often?" His eyes perked up, and he started making small talk with me, at the same time looking back and forth between my badge and my face. He still didn't seem to make the connection but was obviously very interested in small talk. Oops again! I failed to consider that (to be brutally honest) he rarely if ever sees female "opportunities" come his way. I felt very bad and stepped in quickly to say, "No! It's me, Jim!" His look of astonishment was a Kodak moment! I only wish I had my camera with me. He turned about as crimson as my lipstick, poor guy, guffawing for all of a minute or two. Finally Peter "realized" why I was dressed the way I was. He said, "You're doing your 'industrial spying today, right?" I responded, "Well, that's right, but I'm also a crossdresser." He was thrown into yet another round of blushing and guffawing. In attempt to restore Peter to his prior state, I thought I should move on to something else. I grinned and asked him, "So, how do you feel about taking a crossdresser to dinner?" He said, "Great!" and off we went. Along the way, Peter excitedly asked me many questions about Sarah and seemed to have an unusual grasp of crossdressing topics. For all I know, he may be a crossdresser too, but I think it's merely that he's an information sponge and undoubtedly had happened upon the topic before. We had a facinating discussion about research findings concerning masculine and feminine appearance. The only problem was that I had to keep shooshing him when he started to talk too loudly about my crossdressing. I didn't really want to attract a lot of attention from the other restaurant patrons. I guess he just assumed I didn't mind other people knowing about me. I didn't, of course, as long as they were my friends. After dinner, we parted company, and I went back to my room to pack and to get some well deserved rest.
The next morning, I dressed as "Jim" to make a trip to the reception desk and settle my bill (since I had checked in that way and had a single room). My plan was to return to the room, change back into Sarah, load the car, place the key in the room, and leave. Unfortunately the clerk wouldn't check me out without the key, so I would either have to return to the desk as Sarah or attend the last day of the conference as Jim. I opted for the former, of course. The clerk wasn't very busy, and I felt sure he would make the connection, but I figured it was alright to raise an eyebrow or two. When I returned later as Sarah to turn in the key, the clerk told me to wait while he printed out my receipt. He handed it to me and wished me a good day and a safe trip, obviously not the least bit cognisant of my gender.
I caught the next subway into town to attend my last day of the conference. That day a few graduate students in the lab, including Julie, were presenting their posters, and I they had asked me to come. I showed up quite properly dressed, with a pretty, dark wool skirt, a crisp white cotton blouse with a cameo pin at the collar, and a cute navy blazer. Almost everyone from the lab was there. After the posters were up, I asked to be be given the "tour". The first poster concerned sexual differences in dopaminergic projections in the frog brain, so my interest was naturally piqued. We had a short but interesting discussion about various motivational and attentional factors. It was extraordinarily satisfying to engage in a substantive professional discussion with those who know me while dressed as Sarah. It was clear that no matter how I was dressed, they still took me seriously. How ironic though to have been discussing sexual differences in neuroanatomy as one who is transgendered!
As I was saying my goodbyes, I noticed something interesting. Carl, the colleague who had been so unnervingly politically correct and otherwise ill at ease talking with me, was behaving a bit more casually and actually took the time to chat with me. It wasn't until I got home that I realized why that was. I had forgotten that Carl has an eye for anything in a skirt, and the shorter the skirt, the greater his attention. While the suede mini I wore the first night wasn't particularly revealing, I think it probably caught his eye quite well, especially with a cute pair of heels underneath. Combine that with my wavy, layered auburn wig, which I think is his color and style of choice, and I suppose I looked a bit like some of the women he's dated. I guess I may have had the poor guy just a bit too conflicted! On the other hand, I was much easier for him to handle when I was dressed professionally, with a longer skirt, more conservative shoes, and so forth.
All in all, the conference was a great success. I got my work done as planned, and at the same time, I came out to my most important colleagues. Now when they hear about me through the academic grapevine, they won't think of me as someone parading around the red-light district in a leather corset and stiletto thigh-boots. Rather, they can say, "Oh yeah! I saw Jim at the last conference. He came as 'Sarah' and seemed just like any normal woman to me."
Many people have asked me how I do my foundation, as I'm pretty well able to cover up my extraordinarily thick and dark beard stubble without looking as though I took a paint roller to my face. My technique has evolved somewhat since the last time I told about it, so here it is again, revised:
There! If you did it right, your foundation should look clean and natural, and you should find it fairly difficult to smudge away the foundation from your upper face. Even if you're like me, such that your beard hair grows as fast as a werewolf's and your face is one of the last great untapped oil reserves (Nobody tell Exxon, OK?), you should be able to get at least 8 or 10 hours wear out of your makeup before it starts going bad and perhaps another 4 hours before it looks aweful (with a few powderings along the way to freshen up). I bet with the Blemish Control powder you could even last all day.
Two different people found this item on the internet and forwarded it to me! It's fun to see how different people answer the same question. The question posed here was, "Why do so many of us feel more comfortable shopping in used clothing shops than normal retail stores? Is it money? Psychology?" Here are some of the answers:
The smell of woman on used clothing helps to solidify the
emotional connection to my female side. The effect is powerful with a
new purchase, but it wears off after just a couple of washings. Perhaps
this also helps explain the desire to shop frequently, and why a recent
purchase is so much more satisfying.
For my part, I don't normally shop at second-hand shops. It isn't
like I wouldn't, i just don't normally. When I do, it is decause I can
generally get some really nice stuff that I don't have to feel guilty
for altering on my sewing machine when I get home. Personally, though, I
like the styles that are in the malls these days, and so I usualy shop
Most of us are a little larger than some I'm a size 18 most
retail stores cater to the size 7 to 13 crowd we are prone to look for
classier clothes and I seem to be able to find them Easier in some of
the upscale resale shops. And saving a few dollars doesn't hurt. Price
is not the important factor quality is.
I like to shop at used clothing stores, because I love the idea
that what I am wearing was worn by a real woman in real life
circumstances, before I got the chance to wear it. ...
...Leslie (our own)
I don't shop frequently for used clothing, but when I do, it's a
bit of an adventure, whether it's at a thrift store or at a garage sale.
It's a good deal of fun to see just what turns up. One can find
almost anything, including items from many a woman's time-capsule
closet. It's also fun to me, as Leslie also points out, that the
clothing has a history to it -- that it was once used by a genetic
woman. I don't know why that's gratifying, but it is. Lastly, and most
importantly, is the deal itself. If I find a new sweater on clearance
for $15, that's a pretty good deal, but I don't feel that great of a
sense of accomplishment for having found it. A month later, I probably
couldn't tell you where I found it or for how much. But when I find,
for instance, a pretty, pink, satin, drop-waist party dress at the
Salvation Army thrift store for $3, that's something I'll remember and
reflect upon forever! I still remember how beautiful it looked as it
hung there among orange polyester double-knit pants and the like. It
really didn't matter that it was a tad out of style at the time. It was
sensuous, it was pretty, it was my size (as though it had been placed
there just for me), and so I bought it!
Leslie also added:
I shop about evenly divided between thrift shops and regular retail stores. I have been fairly lucky to find clothes that fit well at the thrift shops. If I can't try on (so far only at the Ohio Thrift Stores -- the others Volunteers of America and Salvation Army have fitting rooms open to anyone), I get exactly what I need. If not and I have to guess and I've guessed wrong, no big loss generally, usually less than $5). I just drop it back in one of the deposit boxes for someone else to get some use out of it.
My reason for checking thrift stores first is simply price. I got a great 3/4-length lady's jacket Friday afternoon at the Ohio Thrift Store at Central Point Shopping Center. Price? $5.00. It was perfect to wear with my denin mini when I went out to dinner with a couple of our sisters. It fits great!
Speaking of shopping. The Rainbow store at the Central Point Shopping Center is very TG-friendly. Patrice is the manager and she is super-accommodating. Try-on's? Of course! You can even check your fem outfit in the mirror outside the dressing room (no mirrors in the dressing rooms) in boy-mode. No problem. Prices are very low. Selection, even plus-sizes is generally very good.
Is your wig looking sad and flat? Does it have a part? Try parting it in a different place. Instant rejuvination! Also, when was the last time you washed and conditioned it? Here's how: Add wig shampoo to lukewarm water, soak wig for 10-15 min, squeeze gently (no rubbing), rinse twice in clear water with conditioner added to final rinse. Lay wig on a towel to dry.
Keep your lipstick from bleeding by letting your (powdered )foundation overlap your lips slightly.
Do your shoes cut into your ankles? Try elevating your heels slightly with Dr. Scholl's heel cushions.
Do you have a problem with ingrown hairs? I think that's my biggest problem. I've started using a Buf Puf (about $5) and am doing better already. I also moisturize with baby oil after showering, which makes my skin so sensuously soft! It's cheap, and one bottle goes a long way. Try it! You'll be hooked!
It's fun to pick up an issue of Cosmo or Vogue, but it's a rather expensive way to get occasional bits of makeup and fashion advice. For lots of good tips and information, along with useful product advertisements, coupons, and promotions, pick up a copy of Kmart's Beauty Handbook for only 99¢. You'll find this magazine displayed in the cosmetics section of their store.
One of the topics that rears it's head with great regularity whenever transsexuals gather is our inclusion in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM). Recognizing that the removal of GID (gender identity disorder) could cause financial hardship for gender therapists everywhere not to mention an embarrassing blank section in the next edition of the DSM, I hereby make the following modest proposal. That GID be left in the DSM but it's meaning changed to Golfing Identity Disorder. First of all we know golfers are demented, look at all the weird stuff they buy, spending money that could be supporting their family, spending most of their free time on the links, even putting in their offices when they should be doing constructive work. A truly sick compulsion. All golfers should be required to prove their sanity before being allowed to play. They should have to undergo a long series of psychological evaluations and attempts to cure them. Look at the effect their sick behavior has on their families and friends. Monetary hardships, time not spent in quality interaction with spouses and children, fishing trips not taken with friends. They should have to prove that they _must_ do this antisocial behavior by spending at least one year wearing nothing but those stupid looking golf shoes and provide at least two letters from therapists proving that they never took them off. Then and only then should we allow them on the links. Afterall, if God wanted them to be golfers, the greens wouldn't need cutting every other day!
When Cathy and I were working on her computer, we needed a screw, so I hunted around my office and found a small pill bottle with assorted small screws. She smiled. I then quipped, "One of the big advantages of being depressed is that I have no shortage of these little bottles for screws and such." In the same sense, one of the very nice things that has come out of my marital difficulties and divorce is that I got to meet Marya Kolman, who is now my attorney. Those of you familiar with my case may recall that I had been represented by another attorney, but as time went on, he became increasingly ill at ease with gender issues, to the extent that he was sheepish talking about them. I will still be using his services for various aspects of the case, but for my principal advocate, I wanted someone who was not at all squeemish about the subject -- someone who views crossdressing as unashamedly as I do.
I called the Stonewall Union for a referral, and they provided me two names, Marya's and Carol Fey's. I had talked with Carol Fey before and was very impressed with her, although I thought she was a bit on the expensive side. I didn't know of Marya, though. I gave her office a call, and a woman answered the phone. I assumed I was speaking to a receptionist and asked to speak to Marya Kolman. When the woman responded, "This is she," I was quite pleasantly surprised. I had never known an attorney to answer his or her own phone, but Marya is not the least bit pretentious that way.
Anyway, I chatted with Marya for some time about my case and about my attorney's obvious discomfort with gender issues. She reassured me that he is a very fine attorney (which I already knew) but agreed that his attitudes about my crossdressing might impact negatively on his handling of my case, at least with respect to child custody issues. Marya had a very positive outlook for my case and obviously had no difficulty with the issues we were discussing. We also discussed her legal fees, which are a relatively modest $125/hr.
The next day, I called my family attorney in Texas to get his input. He checked his resources and told me that Marya is rated "good to very good" by her colleagues and would probably only get an "excellent" rating if she were a bit older. She did her undergraduate work at Penn State and got her law degree at Yale, passing the bar in 1978. She's 42 now. That would have made her about 24 at the time. Anyway, I liked what I heard while speaking with her over the phone, and she appeared to be a very solid attorney as rated by her colleagues, so I gave her a call to schedule a consultation. Among other things, I asked her if I could meet with her as Sarah. I felt I needed to see her acceptance in her eyes. Without hesitation, she responded, "Yes! Of course!"
I thought I shoud dress especially conservatively and tastefully for the meeting. I wore an outfit suitable for a court appearance (Heaven forbid I should have to make one as Sarah!). It was the same outfit I wore to the last day of my conference, except with my page-style wig. When I arrived at her office, an old Victorian house, I clanged the front bell, as instructed by the sign on the locked glass door. A rather attractive woman popped out of her office and walked confidently to the door with a cordial smile. As she let me in, she said, "You must be Sarah!" She told me she was just finishing up with another client but to make myself comfortable for a few minutes in her waiting room. While I waited, I admired the incredibly gorgeous interior of the house. I have an eye for these things, as my father was an architect. I know how he could have gotten "lost" in a house like that, just admiring all the beautiful woodwork and moldings. So could I.
Finally, Marya came to get me, taking me to yet another gorgeous room. I joked with her that I was wearing my going-to-court outfit, and she replied that if I ever had to go to court as Sarah, that I was indeed wearing the perfect outfit for it. She told me that in fact I looked very much like an attorney friend of hers, so much so that at first she thought I was she. She then smiled and said, "I'm dying of curiosity to see you as Jim. I wonder if any of your mannerisms are the same." We talked at great length about my case. Mostly I gave her a synopsis of the history of our marriage and of the difficulties I've had in it. She was extremely sympathetic. That was obvious from her demeanor.
As we were talking, various people came and went in the central area outside her office. She occasionally had to step out to speak with someone or sign something. Whenever someone would come to her for something, she and the staff member would apologize and smile sweetly at me. I didn't mind at all. It was rather nice to be there as Sarah and to be treated as such.
Now that we had finally met, I had no doubt that she was the perfect attorney to represent me in my divorce. I wrote out a check for her retainer (male name and male signature, of course). By that time, her secretary had left for the day, off for her vacation, and Marya had to run to another appointment. Still, I needed to provide her with photocopies of all of my paperwork. She said I could leave everything with her and that she could return it after having it photocopied. Instead, I proposed that I could photocopy it on her machine for her. She said that would be fine, and she took me upstairs to her machine. There she introduced me to Lisa, a paralegal, as Sarah, a new client of hers, and we shook hands warmly. She asked the Lisa if she minded me running off some photocopies. Lisa said "not at all" and got me set up. I was slightly apprehensive of the situation, since I had not been introduced as a crossdresser. Still, I got not a single odd glance. When I was finished, I thanked Lisa, and she said, "Wait! I need to run down with you to let you out!" (The door was locked.) I returned to the office to leave the photocopies for Marya and to gather my things. I was sure to place my check on top of the photocopies before I left. Lisa warmly bade me goodbye, and I drove home feeling very good about my first official legal conference as Sarah.
The next day, I called to touch base with Marya over a couple of matters. She told me that Lisa and her secretary had asked whether I was a crossdresser, having noticed my male name on the appointment books, my check by the same name, my male signature, the male name on my documents, and my not too feminine voice. Apparently they were still quite uncertain. She told them I was indeed one, and about the only comment between the three of them was, "Gosh! She was put together much better than any of us!" She said that if she had told them I was a genetic woman, they would have probably believed her. I felt very good about that. Apparently they also referred to me as "she", even after being told I was a crossdresser. That felt very good too. I think when someone knowingly calls a crossdresser "she", it can only be out of acceptance and respect.
A few days later, I finally met with Marya in court as Jim. She hadn't seen Jim before, but she had no difficulty making the gender switch. She was every bit as sweet and accommodating as before. Her work that morning (what little could get accomplished with my wife's beligerant attorney) was very good, and I felt well cared for. As we were leaving, I asked her if she would like to be Pink-Listed, and she said she'd love to, thanking me. I also asked if she would be interested in addressing the Crystal Club sometime about legal issues, and she said she'd be honored. I left the courthouse that morning feeling very good about Marya. She is not only an excellent attorney but also a true friend of the gender community. I am proud to add her name to my pink list. In addition, I am adding Carol Fey's name, as she too is a good friend of the gender community and an excellent attorney. While she doesn't represent me, I would have undoubtedly sought her counsel had I not found Marya.
For perhaps a year now, every time I have traveled Sawmill Road, I have seen Kim's Wig Fashions while passing Target. I always wondered what it would be like for Sarah to walk into a wig shop and try out some styles, but I was never brave enough. Well, I now realize there's less to be brave about, since wig shops are all supposed to be pretty T*-friendly (considering that T*s represent a substantial chunk of their customer base). Anyway, today I was in that neighborhood again, and I decided to pop in. There was a new style of cut I wanted to try out to see if there was any chance it would look flattering on me. My shopping trip wasn't a huge success, since the style I had in mind didn't look right in profile. Oh well! I found another wig that was really cute but also really impractical, as half of the wig to end up stuck to my lips with the slightest breeze! Too bad....
Kim and her employee were both very sweet and didn't bat an eye when advising and assisting me. I was of course nervous about taking off my wig to expose my bald head, which always looks pretty strange when posed against my made-up face. Then again, I figured they had seen multitudes of bald women (chemotherapy patients), so I wouldn't be that different. I was right. No problem. Besides, they were quite happy to direct me to a changing table behind a curtain for privacy. Kim was kind enough to assist me in positioning and "poofing" the wigs I tried. Just how accepting were they? Well, I think it said a lot when they made comments like, "Oh, that's cute on you!" They made me feel quite comfortable. I'm sure even the most timid member of the Crystal Club would feel quite at home there. Anyway, I'm quite happy to add them to my Pink List as an important resource for our community.
I also want to add Ken's name to the Pink List. I haven't had any personal dealings with his shop, but as we all know, he is very sweet and is a true friend of the transgender community. I imagine anyone would be every bit as comfortable in his shop. Could someone please email me his information so that I can contact him?
Anyway, it's nice to know that there are places we can go to try on hair styles before we buy. It's a big improvement over mail order, especially for the trickier and finickier styles (like the one I was trying to get to work for me). The wigs were slightly more expensive than typical mail order merchandise, but I thought they were also quite well made. I would say they offered every bit the same value for the dollar.
What can I say? Meral has always been a true friend of our community. She's a very sweet lady and a caring professional, and she is an excellent person to see for gender-related counseling. She has sent me a list of services she provides. They bear mentioning here. Contact Meral for more details.
Says Leslie, "She altered several skirts for me. I never told her outright that they were mine but I didn't go out of my way to hide it either. She got the message pretty quick and was real cool about it. I asked her if she was interested in my passing her name onto my friends who might want alterations done. She said she'd be glad to have the business. She's not cheap. But I thought her prices were reasonable, and her work is fine."
Marie's Alterations & Gifts is located in a short strip of shops at the extreme northeast corner of the Great Western Shopping Center (Shottenstein's & Value City) at the corner of Wilson Rd. & West Broad.
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.