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by Sarah, Editor in Chief
After Adrianne unofficially stepped down as president and editor, two of us, Cathy Wood and I, took over her duties. While I volunteered officially for the editorship of this paper, Cathy's intent was to help out on a temporary basis as an unofficial president. Well, you know how unofficial duties go! They eventually become "official". Cathy finally got tired of trying not to look like our leader and decided at last to "take her medicine". Early this January, she announced to me over the phone with a sigh, "Oh, what the heck! It might as well be official!" That sounds close enough to a presidential decree to me. Of course neither one of us has actually been elected by the membership. (I guess that means there's some hope. Does anybody else want to throw her name in the hat for either office?) Anyway, according to the Crystal Club bylaws, elections are held in February. Hmmmmm.... I wonder who will win..... Could be close!
I, for one, am quite pleased that Cathy has chosen to lead our group. In the year that we have known her, she has proven to be one of the most active and compassionate women in our organization. Moreover, I think she will lead our group in a very positive direction. I am quite proud to be able to call her both my dear friend and our new president. I think that we as an organization stand on the threshold of national prominence. We seem to enjoy unusually strong name recognition nationwide, and various of our members are quite politically active, myself and Cathy included. Furthermore, many of our members are quite "out" in their communities, serving as models for the rest of the nation's crossdressing community.
I think that we as an organization stand to make a significant impact on American social history. Why? Very simply, the time is right. As much as we hate the sensationalistic images of transgendered people portrayed in the media, including in the "trashy" daytime talk shows, the media have brought gender identity disorders to the forefront of public attention. Our movement for societal tolerance and equal protection under the law follows on the heels of those waged by women, African Americans, and gays. Many of the same battles they have fought and won are the same sorts of battles we will win too. These battles are all the more winnable merely because public attitudes have been softened through their noble efforts. We are enjoying considerable societal tolerance already. The principle battles we must wage are legal, and the time is right, I think, to claim the civil rights due us. The medical and scientific communities are finally starting to establish the biological underpinnings of gender identity disorders (as well as disorders of sexual preference), such that it will soon be easier to justify legally why we should enjoy equal protection under the law.
One last factor may contribute greatly to our success. It is the number 2000. Why is it that large, even numbers grab our attention and fuel our imaginations? Why do these numbers inspire us so? Anyway, everyone is preparing mentally for the 21st century. I'm hoping that emphasis will shift from the "21st century" to the "3rd millennium," as I think that sounds far more exciting. Still, whether it is viewed as a new century or a new millennium, I think the year 2000 will be marked by substantive societal change. It is just a year, true, but January 1 is just a date. Still New Year's Day is marked by most people with fervent optimism for a better year. Most people make New Year's resolutions which they might even follow for a few weeks or months. People by their very nature want to build a better and more principled future, and the start of a new time period is usually when they resolve to start building it -- the larger the time period, the stronger the will to do it.
I believe, therefore, with public attitudes and sympathies slowly favoring those with alternative lifestyles, with enlightenment from the medical and scientific communities, with important precedents having been set by other oppressed minority groups, and with a new millennium upon us, the next several years should be a pivotal period in our history. Will all our problems be solved during this period? Obviously not. There will always be bigots and other idiots in the world. What will be important for us is that we will have the acceptance and sympathy of the overwhelming majority of people in society, and we will ultimately have the protections due us under the law. What of the bigots? Well, there is one good thing about most bigots. Most bigots know they are bigots and usually have some sense of when to hold their hateful views to themselves, lest they be castigated for their intolerance. Ironically, it is the bigots who will find themselves in a detested minority, living in some degree of secrecy, except when in the company of other bigots.
Am I a hopeless optimist? Perhaps. Should I change my name to Pollyanna? No. I may be an optimist, but I'm anything but naive. Remember that I live "in the trenches" now. I know what people's attitudes are towards crossdressers, and I have been treated with nothing but respect by almost all I have encountered. Even those who disapprove of my crossdressing on religious grounds still manage to treat me courteously. Remember that while some people like to hate, most people like to love. Most people prefer having friends to having enemies. Is my vision ambitious? Yes, but I have lived my life ambitiously, and I have almost always found that when I set my sights on an important goal, I can achieve that goal. All I have to do is believe in the goal, believe in myself, and do what I know needs to be done. All else will follow in time. Simply put, if we want to take our rightful place in society, we can do it. This is our time!
I'm facing a bit of a dilemma right now, and I could use a bit of your input. When I put together the first few newsletters, I tried to make them "pretty". Unfortunately, "prettiness" costs money and is perhaps a luxury we can ill afford. Cost-cutting is becoming all the more important as our newsletter expands. I think we've well outgrown 8 pages, which we could send for 32˘ in postage and 35˘ in photoduplicating costs and supplies. I'm trying a new "space-efficient" format that will permit us to send you 50% more newsletter for the money. I've gone to 1/4" margins, 0.2" separating columns. I'm also using a different font, 9 point Times Roman, rather than 10 point Arial. For those of you who don't know, Times Roman was designed by the New York Times for just this purpose -- to be very readable while at the same time being maximally space-efficient. If any of you find this format difficult to read, I would appreciate your letting me know.
Even with the space-saving measures I have taken, I was not able to keep this month's newsletter under 8 pages (which would have saved us 23˘ in postage per mailing), and I anticipate the same every month. Very simply, as our club becomes more active, there is more about which to write. Indeed there is more that must be covered. Now that we have grown past our 8 pages, it is cost-effective for us to apply for nonprofit postal rates. For a mere 13.2˘ per 3.3 oz piece (maximum), we could mail up to 36 pages per newsletter. That leaves the bulk of the cost in photoduplication.
Another cost-cutting measure we can consider would be to distribute our newsletter electronically wherever possible. We are already posting it on our WorldWide Web page at GeoCities. Still, only about half of our membership has access to the web, and we can't really use this means of distribution for our Pink-Listed businesses. Even more people have access to email, and it would be both simple and essentially "free" to email a copy of the newsletter to someone. Of course the only universal format for email would be simple ASCII text, which isn't very pretty or "slick" and often comes out formatted strangely with inappropriate line breaks or skinny text columns.
Many people while not having access to the Internet have access to computers. Thus, another possible means of distribution would be by floppy disk. We can purchase 3.5" floppy disks in bulk for about 25˘ each (the equivalent of about 6 pages of photoduplication) and place on them virtually limitless amounts of text. The advantage of this approach is that we could also put a public-domain viewer on each disk that would enable the recipient to view neatly formatted text, complete with graphics. Unfortunately, I would only be able to support those of you with MS-DOS machines. Perhaps someone else could distribute floppies to the Macintosh users among us?
Of course our last option is simply not to publish so much. I don't know about you, but I rather enjoy reading the newsletter, and the more of it there is, the more I enjoy it. Furthermore, by being too abbreviated in our publication, we would be severely limited in our ability to print major articles, and it is those articles that are most likely to be reprinted nationally. I think the most important reason not to cut back our publication is one of public outreach. We have clearly done something right, as we already have had about as many inquiries this year from prospective members as we had throughout the entirety of 1996. The more we make ourselves visible, and the more "serious" we appear as an organization, the more we stand to expand both our membership base and our sphere of influence. In consideration of what we have to gain from our publication, I think it would be a mistake to let issues of cost dominate our publication policies. Anyway, these are all important things to consider. I would enjoy hearing your thoughts at our January meeting.
I've been out and about quite a lot lately as Sarah, and I've had ample opportunity to discover just what people think of us. I'm glad to say the reactions have all been very positive. I think while we're out in public, concerned with matters of presentation and passing, we often fail to consider that we're being watched very intently by closeted crossdressers all around us. There are lots of them around. They constitute about 10% of the male population, depending on how one defines "crossdressing".
It is common knowledge among survival trainees that before one consumes a berry in the wild, one must first observe whether birds eat the berries, which would indicate that they are not poisonous. The invisible CDers are the trainees, and we are the birds feasting at the berry bush. When the trainees see it is safe to eat the berries, they do so, finding relief for their hunger. What a pity it would be if no birds ever ate the berries, even if they were perfectly fit to be consumed?
Anyway, I ran into a survival trainee the other day when I was fluttering about. As I was shopping in the shoe department of a discount clothing store, a man came up to me and said very quietly and very sheepishly, "I was wondering what size I should buy," repeating himself when I asked for clarification. I then asked, "For whom?" and he responded in almost a whisper, "Well..... you're a guy.... aren't you??" "Yikes," I thought! I had only previously been "read" four times in my life on my own merits (while not in the company of other crossdressers). The fourth, by the way, was also a crossdresser. The first three were teenagers in San Francisco. I swallowed my pride and replied, "yes," asking him if he too had an interest in "this sort of thing". Perhaps that was the wrong thing to ask. He denied it and with considerable agitation asked me, "Why do you DO this?" I retorted with a smile, "because I enjoy it!" He only shook his head and as though denying something to himself or trying to appear "innocent" of crossdressing tendencies said, "weird..." I then told him about the Crystal Club. He became very uneasy and made a hasty exit. I really wish I had been able to give him a card with phone numbers and web addresses. While not admitting to being a crossdresser, he surely would have held onto the card, if only until his next purge.
I can only guess at what was going through his head, but imagine for him not to know his shoe size but to be shopping for ladies' shoes, he must be at a stage of crossdressing at which he is considering dressing more fully, probably just having previously tried on other women's garments occasionally as opportunity permitted. I think when he saw me, he realized that such a thing could be done and done successfully. What shocked him, though, was that someone would actually do it in public. His response was one both of fear and of envy. Anyway, he left the store in a sprint, having learned a few things. (1) There are other crossdressers around him in his community, not just on television, (2) a crossdresser can move about in society without being publicly stoned, and (3) there is a support organization out there somewhere by the name of The Crystal Club. He never did find out his ladies' shoe size though, poor guy.
Only a few days after this incident, I was in communication with Jennileigh Love, the editor of the Tennessee Vals newsletter. She told me of a similar experience. This excerpt comes from one of her columns in the November issue of her newsletter:
An interesting thing happened on the way back home. Myself and Susan B., our Board Chair, drove back together. We stopped in a town in north Georgia at a gas station for munchies. I was dressed en femme and Susan was her usual androgynous self. As I walked out to the car, a man followed me out. He asked me if he could talk to me. I said sure, and he told me he had always been interested in crossdressing but never had anyone to talk to.
I went through the usual explanation about our group and told him about the convention we had just come from. He was obviously VERY nervous. He, Susan and I drove around to a less crowded area and talked for a while, practically having a picnic lunch on the tailgate of his pickup. He got a newsletter and a business card, a brief education about our community and we steered him to the many groups in Atlanta. I hope he uses the information we gave him.
I think this encounter is an example of the good we can do by not "passing", i.e. being openly transgendered in public. If we had passed perfectly, he would have never approached me. I'm really glad he did, though. It really gave me a sense of accomplishment.
I heartily agree with Jennileigh's perspectives here. I naturally felt quite disappointed to have been read and was also rather disappointed not to have been more helpful to the guy, who seemed as naive as myself only fifteen years earlier. Still, I felt good that he had at least had some encounter with me. This is exactly the sort of outreach that we as less closeted crossdressers need to perform and indeed is the express mission of the Crystal Corps. Whether we get out on our own or as part of an organized activity, we should still get out, not only for our own self esteem and affirmation, but for the benefit of crossdressers everywhere and of society as a whole.
Shortly before Christmas, I was in communication with various businesses and organizations concerning my Pink List. Among the organizations I contacted were the two Unitarian Universalist churches where we hold our meetings. I had very nice chats with the reverends at both churches, and they both expressed enthusiasm at our conducting our meetings there and their thoughts that it would be nice if we could participate in still other ways. This morning (Dec 27), I got a call from a very sweet woman, Jackie Herkowitz, on behalf of the church on Weisheimer. She offered to be a contact for anyone wanting to attend their church (in either male or female mode). Most of all, she wanted to be there to introduce any of us around and to help us feel comfortable there. She suggested I publish her home phone number for any of you who wish to contact her, but I advised her against making that so widely available, since our newsletters see a very broad circulation. Instead, you can contact any of the Crystal Club officers, including myself and Luann, and we will put you in touch with her.
What Jackie has offered is not at all surprising. I've long been familiar with the Unitarians, having attended a Unitarian Universalist church as a teenager. They're a very open, liberal, intellectual, and warm group of people more concerned with general issues of spirituality than with Christianity per se. People of all religious faiths (including atheists and agnostics) are welcome there. I can recommend them without hesitation to any transgendered individual whose feminine persona has unfulfilled spiritual needs. Even today, agnostic that I am, I would enjoy going there either as Jim or Sarah (if I weren't already tied by marriage and children to the Catholic Church).
What does it mean to attend a church en femme? Not being too Biblically literate, I offer you Kori's (literalist) words on the subject, edited slightly with a few of my own comments thrown in. (Kori:) According to a literal reading of the Bible, neither crossdressing nor transsexualism is a sin. There is that one famous passage in the Old Testament, Deuteronomy 22:5, ""A woman must not wear men's clothing, nor a man wear women's clothing, for the Lord your God detests anyone who does this." This verse is closely followed by Deuteronomy 22:8, "When you build a new house, make a parapet around your roof so that you may not bring the guilt of bloodshed on your house if someone falls from the roof." (Sarah:) There's also a passage in there saying it's wrong to make clothing of blended fibers. Now I don't know about you, but I don't know of anyone with a parapet around his or her house, and as a natural fiber nut, I can assure you I see a lot more cotton/poly blends on the prim and proper Sunday, go-to-church lot than on either Sarah or Jim. (Kori:) One must understand the context in which the laws were given. Deuteronomy 22:5 was intended to prevent the Jews from getting involved in the pagan religions that were in Canon at the time. They had a fertility goddess to worship. Sometimes men would dress up as a woman, so they could get closer to their goddess in the temple. They would even go to the pagan temple and have sex like a woman, in an attempt to find favor with their goddess. These rules simply have no relevance today. They mainly serve to show us how the Jews related to God, and what God expected from them. Christ came and fulfilled the prophecies of the old testament. He was called the Lamb of God. The Jews had to sacrifice a lamb to gain forgiveness for their sins. Jesus was our sacrificial lamb, who shed His blood on the cross, that we may all find forgiveness for our sins - if only we believe in Him. Because Jesus lived, and died, we no longer have to try to obey the 622 laws of the Old Testament. The Old Testament basically provides a history of Christianity and Judaism, discussing the relationships between (wo)man and God.
(Sarah:) It is the New Testament that pertains to our lives now, and there is nothing in the New Testament that mentions gender identity disorders. Indeed, if one believes God created each and every one of us, one must also believe He made us each the way we are -- transgendered. Surely He wouldn't hate us or condemn us for being the way he made us. Personally, as an agnostic, I would like to think that God (if there is one) would love all his creations, no matter how flawed, as long as they strive to do what they feel in their hearts is good and right.
This all harkens back to my original question, "What does it mean to attend a church en femme?" As far as I'm concerned, it's a question of how and why one does it. First, of course, is the "how" question. One would not meet with the US President wearing cutoffs, flip-flops, and a ripped up T-shirt. That would be disrespectful. Similarly, one would not attend a church wearing a 15" miniskirt and 5" stiletto pumps. That too would be disrespectful, both of God, the Church, and all those attending the service. The question of manner of dress blends into the "why" part of my question. Why would someone dress in a 15" mini? It would probably be in an attempt to be sexually attractive. It would certainly not be something done for spiritual reasons.
So why dress as a woman at all? I can only answer for myself. It has only been recently that I have come to recognize Sarah as a legitimate part of my total being. For most of my life, she had simply been a nameless image in a mirror, never allowed to speak or even to think for herself, not even allowed to dress as she pleased (Jim having made all those decisions). It was only after Jim named his feminine half "Sarah" and allowed her to have an existence of her own that he became aware of what had been happening. Sarah had been like a young girl ("born" at puberty) who matured into a woman while locked up in a dark cellar for 23 years. She was given food and water but little else. Nobody ever talked to her. She had no friends. She had never seen anything or done anything except vicariously through Jim's eyes. She didn't even have the dignity of being Christened with a name.
One day, Jim had some questions about transgendered people -- about the effects that they have on their impressionable children. It was a very practical matter. To find his answers, he sought out other transgendered people on the Information Superhighway. However, he found he had to communicate with these people through his feminine half, who had to be given a name for that purpose. Carefully and thoughtfully, as though somehow he realized it was the right thing to do, he tried to choose a name for her that suited her true character. Unfortunately, to his utter shock, he had no idea what her true character was. After all, she had never been anything but an image in the mirror. With much thought, he chose a name consistent with the character he hoped she would have. That's much like naming a child. We never know how the child will turn out, but we do have hopes and dreams for the child which are usually reflected in the name we choose.
At long last, Jim stepped into the cellar and spoke to Sarah for the first time. He gave her a name, unlocked her cell, and asked her to go talk to those transgendered people upstairs for him. Very nervously, she climbed the stairs, blinded by the glorious light of day, to find before her dozens of people much like herself. It goes without saying that the experience was at the same time very joyous and very traumatic. Sarah had a lot to learn about herself and about her new world. Since that moment, she has blossomed into a person of her own, and Jim has been very happy to see it happen. Interestingly, Sarah came to realize that she was pretty much like Jim. Jim of course was quite surprised that this creature he had locked in the cellar for 23 years was a real person. He ultimately came to appreciate and even love Sarah, and Sarah came to love him and forgive him in return.
What has come of this entire learning process is that Sarah now dresses up for an entirely different purpose. While she once dressed only for Jim's viewing pleasure, she now dresses for herself. She dresses in a manner in which she feels pretty and enjoys interacting with the world. She dresses in such a way as to convey a positive image of herself to others and to communicate something about her inner character. That's pretty much why most people dress the way they do.
The "so what" of this long, rambling discussion is that my motives in dressing have changed. Once I dressed for "Jim's" pleasure only. If I had attended church that way, it would be something done only for "kicks" and would therefore be disrespectful, in my opinion. However, my manner of dress is now simply an expression of my inner being. If I were to attend church as Sarah, I would be attending simply as "myself", and the feminine attire I would wear would be no more than a reflection of that. There would certainly be nothing disrespectful about it. But why not attend as Jim? Well, Jim needs time too, of course, but Sarah is still the one most in need. Not only is she facing more substantive spiritual questions, but she is also testing her wings in the real world, interacting with real people. Thus, there would be purely social and psychological reasons for her to participate in church activities. As far as I'm concerned, one cannot grow spiritually without growing socially and psychologically at the same time, since one's relationship with God would be integral with one's relationship with one's self and with one's fellow human being. I think if I were to attend church as Sarah, my manner of dress would reflect that intent. I would probably dress no differently than any of the other women of the church. I wouldn't try to out-do them or to turn any heads. I would simply want to be "Sarah" at her proper best.
by Cathy Wood, President
Well, it's a new year and things are happening for transgendereds even in Ohio. Cleveland just passed the country's first enforceable nondiscrimination law! It is now a crime for an employer to refuse to hire or promote because of "race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, age, disability, ethnic group or Vietnam-era or disabled veteran status". What makes this law unique is that it carries a punishment of both a fine and a jail term for violation. We've got to be included in that wording somewhere, I just wish they had included gender presentation as well.
GenderPAC National Lobbying day is approaching. This year the lobbying will take place on Monday and Tuesday, May 5-6 in Washington, DC. The day before will be set aside as the first National Conference for Gender Activists. There will be how-to discussions of lobbying 101, how to picket and demonstrate, how to get press coverage for your actions and much much more. The event will be held at the Quality Inn in College Park, Maryland, where rooms are already being reserved for lobbyists attending Lobby Day. GenderPAC's Activist Conference will be a no or low cost, non-profit event. OK, I know it's different than the weekend crossdressing retreats, but this is a worthwhile effort on behalf of the entire gender community. You can contact Riki-Anne Wilchins at Riki@Pipeline.com, or Alison Laing at email@example.com, or Dana Priesing at DPriesing@aol.com for more information or to reserve your place in gender history.
The Gender Identity Center of Colorado is publishing a new book entitled "Trans-scriptions". It's a collection of stories, poems and artwork by, for and about transgendered people. A little bird tells me that our own Adrianne has had a piece included. The price is $9.95 plus $2.00 shipping. You can send your orders to G.I.C. P.O. Box 480085 Denver, CO 80248-0085.
Recently a new book was published called "True Selves" by Mildred Brown and Chloe Ann Rounsley. It's written for the families, friends, co-workers and helping Professionals of transsexuals. It is in my opinion far and away the best book ever written to help others understand more about what it's like to be transsexual. I urge those members of the club who are TS to get a copy and loan it to the people in your lives. Borders bookstore does have it in stock in the Gay/Les section.
A bit closer to home, we did it! The Crystal Club has it's very own e-mail list. To send to the list write to firstname.lastname@example.org All members of the club will be signed on upon request. Anything sent to list goes automatically to the entire list of signed on members. (those of you on list now who are cc:'ing everyone separately please take note) Now anyone can send to the list, but only signed on members will receive anything. Right now we have 12 members signed on. This list is for all of us and it up to us to use it. Thanks to a tremendous effort by Sarah (who now knows a lot more about HTML than she ever planned to), the Crystal Chronicle is also available in an online version. You can check it out by following the link from the club's web page at http://www.geocities.com/WestHollywood/4398 Just click on the "editor girl" logo. I put a counter on the site on the second of Jan, and in just a couple of days there were over 200 "hits". Luann tells me that a lot of the people calling the hotline are now coming from the web site so we are reaching people this way. She has recently cleared more than 40 potential new members, hopefully many of them will join us.
Several of us got together on January 2nd to have dinner with a visiting T* from Greece named Crystal (how appropriate!) We had a wonderful time and Crystal has written me and told me how much she enjoyed her visit. You can meet other transpeople from all over the world through the web, and yes, sometimes you do get to meet them in person (or 3-d for you geekettes out there). It doesn't take a lot of computer. As Sarah can tell you, I cruise the info highway in an old Pinto with bad rings and Firestone 500 tires. (a 386 with only 4 megs of RAM, more geekette talk) You can get as much computer as I have for around $250 from one of the used computer stores. That and about $20 per month for an unlimited ISP account and the world is yours!
See you soon!
Kori and Cathy visited me the other day and shoved the August back-issue of Cross-Talk under my nose. There I saw an article by Virginia Prince entitled, "Hormones and Crossdressing". "Wonderful," I thought. I was very curious to see what one of our gender leaders had to say on the subject, as I myself am both a neurophysiologist and a transvestite, keenly interested in the subject for both for academic and personal reasons. With all due respect to such an important and influential figure in our crossdressing community, I was rather disappointed in Dr. Prince's stance that gender disorders are not caused by perturbations in the hormonal environment of the developing fetus and that crossdressing is simply a matter of choice. I do not claim that it cannot be a matter of choice. Indeed, that may be Dr. Prince's personal experience. I do wish to assert, however, that for many, including myself, crossdressing is not simply a matter of choice. In fact, out of the dozens of transgendered people I know quite well, I would say that only one of them "chose" to crossdress. It was an experimental thing with him, developing well into adulthood, and he soon lost interest in doing it. Personally, I would not really call him transgendered.
Of course like any transvestite, I very much enjoy crossdressing. I get much satisfaction from dressing as a woman, going out in public, and being accepted as female. Furthermore, I am very proud who I am, and I am "out" to my wife and children, as well as most of my family and friends, none of whom have reacted badly. I am also proud of my skills and am perhaps even a bit vain in that regard. I "pass" well, I'm told I'm pretty, and I've enjoyed giving fashion and makeup advice to various genetic women. My point is that I am not at all an unhappy crossdresser, and I have no guilt at all about my lifestyle. I have no reason really to seek out a "cause" for my crossdressing so that I can escape blame, as Dr. Prince might suggest. I would be perfectly contented to accept that crossdressing is indeed a personal choice, except I simply do not believe it to be so. My personal experience, the experiences of my friends, and everything I know academically says otherwise.
I think we all can look back at our first crossdressing experience and identify a moment at which crossdressing first felt very good. Whatever possessed us to crossdress, though? My case isn't much different from that of most transvestites, but it definitely doesn't fit with Dr. Prince's "discovery" scenario. In her article she writes, "The [first] experience was either unplanned or almost accidental but it provided the opportunity for the discovery and the stimulus for the enjoyable effect." My first experience was unambiguously planned. When I was 11 years old (at puberty), I suddenly and unexplainably became compelled to find a pair of heels and try them on. I then searched the house for the heels I so urgently needed and soon found them. They were new and were still in their box beneath my mother's bed. I didn't even know they existed until that moment. I tried them on and became very excited. Thus, my first experience was not a happy accident. It was something that for some reason I knew I had to do, and every bit of it was planned.
My first crossdressing experience was so exciting that it culminated in my first orgasm. Being very naive, I had no idea what had happened. I thought perhaps I had damaged something, as I thought that mucus was coming from a place it had no business being. I felt guilty and horrified. Why didn't I decide not to crossdress again, having learned my lesson? Of course I continued crossdressing and did so with great fear of discovery. At one point, my mother found my only piece of feminine attire, a bikini I had acquired by great luck and at some risk. Although she didn't make the connection to crossdressing, I was nevertheless ashamed, and I threw the bikini away, having decided never to crossdress again. My held to my resolution for all of two days and was back to my routine, regretting terribly having thrown my bikini away. Having decided that crossdressing wasn't worth the guilt and risk of discovery, why did I do it again? Did I change my mind? Was it a rational choice I made? No. I went back to crossdressing because I had to do it. Fortunately, I did recognize and accept that fact, not knowing really why it was true, and I continued crossdressing without guilt and without subsequent purges.
My story is not unusual, of course. So many of us at various times in our lives have wanted to stop crossdressing but have been unable to do so. This is particularly true of transsexuals, whose gender disorder is related to transvestism in my opinion. I have yet to meet a transsexual who transitions happily and willingly. Many kick and scream throughout the entire process, and most transition only after having contemplated or attempted suicide. Clearly "crossdressing" and/or living as women is not a "choice" for these people.
I have the impression that Dr. Prince's view that crossdressing is a choice we make derives from the view she must have that it is an activity that any boy or man would enjoy, such that once discovered, it would of course be continued. Although it is only natural not to understand the dissimilar interests of others, I have little doubt that most men would feel very peculiar and uncomfortable dressed as women, irrespective of societal attitudes. I have only to consider how peculiar I would feel dressed as an infant. I've asked a few of my friends who are transvestite adult babies whether they feel (i.e. not from a rational perspective) as though every man should enjoy crossdressing and similarly as though every man should enjoy dressing as an infant. They responded affirmatively to both, although acknowledging (rationally) that this "feeling" clearly isn't realistic. I feel that I and my more open-minded non-adult-baby, transvestite friends, are truthful when we assert that we would get no pleasure from dressing like babies. Furthermore, we would not make this claim simply to dissociate ourselves from any "freak" image, as we do not think there's anything wrong with infantilism. Just like I and so many of our friends have no interest in infantilism, it seems probable that most men would have no interest in crossdressing. Thus, there is something that makes crossdressers different from most men. We are interested in wearing women's clothing, while most men are not. It is the interest, not the practice, in my opinion, that defines the transvestite. I believe the transvestite's interest in wearing women's clothing is no less a part of her being than a heterosexual man's interest in attractive women. Furthermore, I believe that both interests are biologically determined. The scientific community has discovered much about how these interests develop, and some of their findings merit discussion here. (Note, however, that the material presented here is slightly simplistic.)
It's really no secret that all males have the genetic information required to make them either male or female. It is during (normal) fetal development that either one set of blueprints or the other is selected for our development. Of course many parts of our genetic code are common to both blueprints, while other parts are gender-specific. It is those parts of our genetic code that are activated, as appropriate, according to the presence or absence of a Y chromosome. Let's examine briefly how this works.
When fetuses are first formed, they have both male (Wolffian) and female (Mullerian) duct systems and a single pair of undifferentiated gonads. At that stage, a male fetus differs from a female fetus only by the presence of a Y chromosome. Among other things, the Y chromosome has the genetic code for a peptide called Mullerian-inhibiting hormone (MIH). MIH is manufactured by the male fetus (and never the female fetus) according to this code. This hormone has three important functions: (1) It preserves the Wolffian duct system. (2) It causes the Mullerian duct system to degenerate. And (3) it causes the gonads to differentiate into testes. Without the presence of MIH, the Wolffian duct system would spontaneously degenerate, the Mullerian duct system would continue developing, and the gonads would differentiate into ovaries. For this reason, it is said that the "default sex" is female.
Once our gonads have differentiated into testes or ovaries, they produce either testosterone or estrogen, respectively. Both of these hormones are steroids, which are a fat-soluble class of hormones derived from cholesterol that readily pass through all barriers, including the placenta. The remainder of the fetus differentiates into either a male or a female pattern (or both) according to which steroids are present. As Dr. Prince pointed out in her article, the high levels of estrogen produced by the mother readily cross into the fetal bloodstream. So why then don't all fetuses develop into girls (apart from their ductwork)? In fact, it is not estrogen that feminizes a fetus but testosterone that masculinizes it. Again, the default blueprint is that of a girl. Once testosterone is present, the feminine blueprint is disregarded, and the male blueprint is used. One peculiar problem remains, though. In order for testosterone to achieve its effects, it has to be converted to estrogen after it enters each target cell. It is then the estrogen that binds to receptors inside the cell and the estrogen/receptor complex that activates the genetic codes of the male blueprint. This may seem strange, but it makes sense considering that estrogen and testosterone are very similar and are readily interconverted. Estrogen is ultimately the hormone that achieves either masculinization or feminization of the body and brain after birth, depending on the developmental events that occurred in utero (with the exception of a few target organs that are feminized in both sexes by estrogen and not testosterone -- e.g. the breasts).
If testosterone must be converted to estrogen to achieve its effects anyway, then why have two different hormones? Why not use just estrogen? The answer has to do with the mother. Since the mother's estrogen passes readily to the fetus, and since that estrogen can freely enter the cells of the fetus, it would seem that the mother's estrogen would result in the male blueprint being activated. Furthermore, it would seem that either testosterone or estrogen produced by the fetus would achieve the same effect. In fact, nature has provided a cleaver mechanism for dealing with this problem. Both male and female fetuses produce a substance in large quantity called alpha-feto-protein (AFP). AFP circulates in the fetal bloodstream and binds up the estrogen there, essentially neutralizing it. Thus, regardless of the gender of the fetus, and irrespective of the mother's high circulating estrogen levels, the only sexual steroid that can circulate freely in the fetal bloodstream is testosterone. Testosterone, therefore, is like estrogen traveling in cognito. Once it enters a target cell, it can shed its disguise (i.e. by being converted to estrogen) and do its work. (Does this sound perhaps just a bit too much like crossdressing?) Once fetal development is completed, all of the cells in the body have been made either male or female, depending on the presence or absence of circulating testosterone. After birth, the need for this apparently strange system is gone, as male fetuses no longer have to contend with circulating estrogen. At that point, the child stops manufacturing AFP, and its body becomes responsive to estrogen (converted from testosterone in the case of the male) in a manner consistent with its fetal development.
How then can this system fail? One common failure occurred in the "bad old days" of obstetrics when androgens (testosterone-like hormones) were given to some women to prevent miscarriages and premature labor. These androgens were not bound up by AFP, readily entered fetal cells, were converted to estrogen, and masculinized female fetuses. The primary result wasn't so much the production of male genitalia. Remember that the basic pattern of ductwork has nothing to do with sexual steroids. There was some degree of masculinization of the external genitalia, resulting in an almost penis-like structure. The primary effect, however, was upon the sexual orientation and gender identity of the girl. Most commonly, these girls were quite "tom-boyish" and often were homosexual. A similar effect sometimes occurs when more estrogen enters the female fetal bloodstream than can be bound up by AFP. The estrogen that escapes binding then enters fetal cells and masculinizes them.
Failure of this system is less understood in the male fetus. In the most extreme case, a male fetus (and child or adult) may have a gene defect that results in nonfunctional testosterone receptors. This results in a condition called androgen insensitivity. Males with this disorder have male ductwork and testes; however, their external genitalia are very poorly developed, appearing little different from female genitalia, and their bodies develop essentially a feminine form. These people mature to become essentially normal (but sterile) women. The same sort of effect could occur, naturally, if for some reason testosterone were not produced by the fetus. Thus, the amount of fetal testosterone activity determines whether the fetus develops functionally into a boy or a girl. It is not hard then to recognize that the male fetus would be incompletely or inadequately masculinized if testosterone activity were sufficiently suppressed or impaired.
One possible cause for suppression of fetal testosterone activity could be maternal stress. When a person is under stress his/her adrenal glands secrete high levels of another steroid called corticosterone (or hydrocortisone). This hormone, being a steroid, readily crosses the placenta and travels to the fetal brain, where it suppresses the release of the pituitary hormones FSH and LH, resulting in turn in a reduction of testosterone production. The first demonstration of a linkage between maternal stress and incomplete fetal masculinization came from a study examining males born in NAZI Germany during the latter stages of World War II. Because of the crumbling of the Third Reich and the intense bombing operations, mothers were under extreme stress throughout their pregnancies. The records reveal an extraordinarily high incidence of male homosexuality in this population, compared with control populations, thus supporting the maternal stress hypothesis.
Of course homosexuality is very different from transvestism, but I believe that both disorders have a similar cause. I believe further that transsexualism is related to these two disorders. What then determines the outcome of perturbation of one's hormonal environment in utero? I would say that two factors are critical. First, obviously, is the magnitude of the perturbation. Different brain and body systems may require different levels of testosterone in order to be masculinized, and masculinization may not be an all-or-nothing phenomenon. Thus, different testosterone levels may be associated with different magnitudes of masculinization and with different combinations of masculine and feminine development throughout the brain and body. Perhaps more critical is the timing of the testosterone suppression, as different systems develop and sexually differentiate at different times throughout fetal development. Testosterone suppression very early in pregnancy may result, for instance, in a failure to masculinize the hypothalamus, which arguably could result in female-patterned sexual preference, hence homosexuality. Testosterone insufficiency at later stages could result in failure to masculinize numerous other brain systems, including perhaps the cerebral cortex very late in development. As a result, the adult's cognitive patterns could be very feminine, although socialized artificially into masculine patterns. This condition could underlie gender identity disorders such as transvestism and transsexuality.
Although the maternal stress hypothesis, to my knowledge, has not been applied to gender identity disorders, I see no reason why it would not apply. Of course I am speculating in this regard. Nevertheless, I have taken the opportunity to ask numerous (perhaps 50) transgendered individuals about the possibility that their mothers had stressful pregnancies. The overwhelming majority of those people, including myself, can identify specific events that unquestionably would have caused their mothers great physical or psychological stress. Of course this was not a scientific survey with proper controls and should not be regarded as such. This is certainly an avenue of investigation that needs to be pursued.
Given that there are clear indications of physiological causes of gender identity disorders, why should we care? We are the way we are, after all. I personally no longer have guilt about my crossdressing. Indeed, I regard my "other self" with pride. Nevertheless, I have to deal with the real world, as do other transgendered people. Among other things, we have to deal with the legal system. For instance, transgendered individuals often find themselves in the throws of hostile divorces with child custody at issue. There is a very big difference legally between arguing that one "chooses" to crossdress and that she "must" crossdress. If someone were to believe that a parent's crossdressing is somehow harmful to her children, then her "choosing" to crossdress would indicate that she put her own pleasure higher in importance than the well being of her children. On the other hand, if the courts recognize that it is something she "must" do, that would lead them to conclude she might not be such a bad parent after all. There are also civil rights questions at stake. If crossdressing is something we "choose" to do simply because we enjoy it, then should we have the right to do it when it offends someone else equally? I would of course argue that we do, for reasons of freedom of expression; however, not everyone would agree with me. On the other hand, it is absolutely, unquestionably unconstitutional for a transgendered person to suffer discrimination if her gender disorder is not a "choice" but a "birth defect" of sorts. Transsexuals face still other issues. As long as transsexuality is considered by enough ill informed individuals to be a matter of choice, then there will never be any guarantee of insurance coverage for HRT, electrolysis, and SRS. If transsexuality is a birth defect, however, then it is clearly defensible that these interventions should be covered just like any other birth defect. Thus, irrespective of how we feel about ourselves and how we personally justify our crossdressing or gender identity, it is clearly in the best interest of our legal rights to embrace any physiological explanations that the scientific community has to offer us. To do otherwise would be utterly foolish.
by Cathy Wood, President
First the disclaimers: The following article is my opinion and not that of the Crystal Club or anyone else. Because of the nature of transsexuality, most of us grow up in isolation from others with the same condition. We learn on our own and as a result rarely will any two transsexuals agree about treatment or even terms. This article is not meant to be anything more than my personal insights and thoughts.
Those of us who find ourselves identifying as transsexual have a long and difficult journey to follow. Done right we emerge from the other side knowing more about ourselves than the vast majority of people ever have to. One of the facts of life for most trannies is the Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association's standards of care for transsexual patients. I'll refer to them as HBIGDA, and soc. to save time and space.
A bit of history is in order. The first transsexual to really catch the public's eye was Christine Jorgensen. During the 1950's when her story became public, many people who thought they were the only people in the world to have "those" feelings learned for the first time that there were in fact others like them. Christine went to Dr. Benjamin and started hormone treatments prior to her trip overseas for her sex change operation. As a result of the publicity that surrounded her on her return the the States, Dr. Benjamin received a barrage of inquires about treatment for transsexuality. In 1966 he published a book about the subject.
Very little was known about transsexuality at this time. Dr. Benjamin's book was one of the first to open up the subject and in the next ten years several gender clinics opened their doors. The foremost of these clinics was at Johns Hopkins under the direction of Dr. Money. The great nature vs. nurture debate about the roots of transsexuality was underway. Dr. Benjamin wrote in his book about his feelings that there was a biological reason for the condition stemming from hormonal influences prenatally. Dr. Money was convinced that the main source was early conditioning, with a possible biological predispostion. It is important to remember that at this time the difference between gender identification and sexual orientation was not generally considered or even understood by most "professionals". The clinic at Johns Hopkins set up a standard for judging who should receive treatment for transsexuality based first on sexual orientation and second on if a patient was at risk for suicide. As a result a number of homosexuals, who in those pre-pride days saw anything as better than being gay, applied for and received SRS. Many of them did kill themselves afterwards when they found out that gay men weren't interested in someone with the "wrong" sexual equipment.
Ironically, many true transsexuals were turned away from treatment because of sexual orientation, and many who did get into the program were the ones at the very highest risk for suicide. As a result a quickie follow-up study done at Hopkins conducted with an eye towards shutting down the gender clinic, found that SRS was not much benefit to transsexuals. The high rate of suicides among the "graduates" of their program was predestined by the very criteria they used for treatment but that was not even considered. With the closing of the biggest gender program in the U.S., smaller programs across the country closed their doors as well one after the other.
It was into this void that the Harry Benjamin International Gender Association came about. A group of psychotherapists set out to write standards of treatment for transsexuals with an eye towards preventing the mistakes made at Johns Hopkins and other places. A set of guidelines were written that outlined how a therapist could reasonably be able to tell if a patient was transsexual and to make sure that only people who had some training in understanding GID (Gender Identity Disorder) would make those assessments.
This was and remains a noble goal. The problem is that Harry was right. Almost all the evidence now tells us that transsexuals are born, not made. The problems they have are societal, not personal in their source. We have the tools to "fix" what we now know to be a birth defect but withhold treatment with those tools until a patient can prove that he/she is in fact transsexual. This is done from the desire to prevent a "horrible mistake", such as happened at Johns Hopkins. It results in a system where, in the words of many trannies, they are forced to "jump through the hoops" prior to any medical treatment at all. As we all have heard, the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and the road to treatment for transsexuality can become hell itself.
Let's take a closer look at the situation. Transsexuality makes people nervous. We challenge the basic notions of male and female simply by existing. To a normal male, the idea of losing his sexual equipment is the worst possible thing he can imagine, so how on earth could anyone actively seek this? This is the "horrible mistake" that the system tries to prevent. What seems hard to understand for many is that a transsexual feels that the horrible mistake was being born with the wrong body parts to begin with and they are not "normal" men or women. In todays world of gay and lesbian pride the odds of someone wanting to escape a gay lifestyle through SRS is very unlikely. Most people who say they need hormones or surgery are in fact transsexuals. So what if someone does slip through the system and gets SRS and later regrets it? This is the "big" fear that the soc. is designed to prevent. Well, realistically that person would find him/herself left in the same position from which a true transsexual starts, only having gotten there by choice. The true transsexual never had a choice. How is this any more horrible than that transsexual's position? It may be a radical notion in today's world, but maybe people should be responsible for their own choices if they are adults and in their right minds.
Why do so many transsexuals resent the HBIGDA soc.? A closer look at the premises it starts from reveals the answer. One of the first things mentioned is the probability that someone who feels themselves to be transsexual is in fact delusional. Not a very nice thing to say about someone seeking treatment for a birth defect is it? Unlike a more common birth defect such as an extra finger, for example, transsexuality cannot be seen with the eye. It is felt inside, but that in no way makes it any less real. Because it cannot be seen or tested for, we must "prove" it's existence prior to even being allowed to see a doctor for treatment. The proof consists of extended psychotherapy, which isn't cheap. In the end, all the therapist can do is confirm that the transsexual is in her right mind and doesn't waiver from the conviction that she is a transsexual. There is no other test that means anything at this time. The soc. is designed mainly to prove that if the transsexual is delusional, it's a really strong delusion that withstands all the pressure that the system can bring to bear on it. Nowhere does it acknowledge that the condition is physical and not mental and that's the problem. It assumes a mental illness and not a birth defect.
If the evidence showing that transsexuality is a birth condition is correct, the moral position of withholding medical treatment is simply reprehensible. No one would stand for being treated this way with any other condition. The only reason that we put up with it is the fact that we are told by the very way society treats us that we are not quite human. Once transsexuals get past the shame and guilt that society tries to force on them and develop some pride and self esteem, they find the situation intolerable. Many of us don't want or need therapy. We came to terms with ourselves before we sought out treatment. We looked long and hard inside ourselves and came to the conclusion that we are who we are and that what we now need is medical treatment. We need hormones to bring our bodies more in line with our souls and possibly SRS to complete the journey. We seek that treatment only to find that we cannot get it without proving our sanity.
There is an alternative to the HBIGDA soc. It was written by the International Conference on Transgender Law and Employment Policy, Inc. It starts from the basis that we are suffering from a birth defect and are entitled to the same treatment for our condition as anyone else with a medical problem is. It states that the expression of gender identity is our right and we should be entitled to change our bodies the same as others who seek to change things they don't like about themselves. Not surprisingly it was written by transgendered professionals and not outsiders. I urge you to get a copy of this standard of care before you seek out treatment and present it to your doctor. It provides for safeguards for medical professionals the same as the HBIGDA soc without making us out to be mentally ill.
In conclusion, I have nothing against therapy. The pressures society forces on transgendered people can lead to a host of personal problems and they can be helped with the care of a therapist. A good therapist can act as a guide through the process of finding and dealing with your trangenderedness. I strongly object to the premise that transgendered people are mentally ill and require that therapy before they can receive needed medical help. That is just plain insulting, and it's high time the HBIGDA got that message loud and clear.
by Adrianne Walker
Last year I penned an article before Christmas titled, "The Magic is Me". This year I find I need to do a follow-up. Now that Christmas is over, what I thought was "my" magic seems to have also touched other family members this year.
In case you don't remember or never read my article, Karen and I are enjoying another childhood, much to the chagrin of our children and some of our family who think that our neurons may be short circuiting! This year my family was coming to our house the weekend prior to Christmas for our celebration. (They all live 120 miles north.) Some of you know that I have had a recent, permanent change in my appearance -- my new hair -- and it ain't goin'' nowhere! I had not informed my family about it, the coward that I am, so the night before my mother was to show up, I gave her a call to let her know the good news. Keep in mind that Mom doesn't show much of a liberal side and doesn't know she has a daughter Adrianne, at least on a conscious level, so I was very apprehensive about her reaction.
When I told her about my new coiffure and said that she probably will not approve of the length, Mother replied, "I think that's wonderful. I don't know why you didn't do it years ago!" She may have heard my jaw hit the floor. I wanted to look at the phone and say, "Who's yankin' my chain, and where did you stash mom?" Maybe she had already been into the bourbon slush. I believe I was in a stupor while we finished the conversation, but somehow I managed to describe the color and length before I hung up. When she arrived the next day, she liked it! Not only that, but she told me that evening that she had re-read the (slightly edited) copy of my article from last year. She commented how nice it was and how it made sense to her when she came to visit us. Her present to Adrianne was a plush polar bear, even though she hadn't been introduced. Some recognition of the girl within did exist.
One reason we suggested that we have my family get together at our house was that Mom was wanting to do her snow-bird thing before Christmas this year, and our house is on her way to Florida. So the family showed up, gifts were exchanged and we had a pleasant dinner. Karen an I gave my mother a big teddy, for which Karen made clothes. (My mom didn't have anything like that, and my niece thought she should.) She liked it! Not only that, but normally Mom would have sent everything back with my brother or sister so that she wouldn't have to take it with her to Florida, only to bring it home in May when luggage space in the car is at a premium. This year, it all went south, with the bear safely buckled in the front seat. That's not like my mother. That's something Karen or I would do! One Last bit of mystery in this saga was that I had assembled and decorated our 38 year old, aluminum tree for her in Florida as a surprise. I told no one about this. Included in the presents she took with her were some ornaments, so when she arrived Christmas Eve, there was a place to hang them. I got a phone call Christmas morning telling me how much she appreciated what I had done. Originally I thought she might be a little miffed at having to take it down.
On Christmas Eve, some of friends were once again able to join us for dinner, dessert, and companionship. Miranda returned from her father's house and was not in tears. Then when we left Karen's parents' house on Christmas Day, still no one was in tears. Maybe it doesn't seem like much, but no tears from either hasn't happened in 10 years. All of Karen's family were pleasant to each other. There were no arguments, and all were sober, which she could never recall as having occurred. The funny thing was that during the previous week, Karen had remarked, "It just doesn't feel like Christmas this year." I agreed but added, "You can't have that feeling every year." That shows you what God knows!
[edited somewhat and printed, as per Crystal's request]
After leaving Columbus and driving for some distance, I stopped for the night at place in Pennsylvania called Breezeville. I was just too tired to continue. I'll hate myself in the morning, but, honey, you just wore me out! Thankfully, I don't have to get where I'm going until tomorrow afternoon, so I'll make it easily. I'm too tired to even dress, which for me is exceedingly rare, but I'm just abundantly overdosed and "pooped!".
I loved everything we did and hope you did also. The first night at Damons Bar was ultra special. Kind of an initiation. I know my length of frame was giving us both away, but you were so gracious, always deferring to the "two T types together always being read" excuse. (I do believe that if I were your height we could have passed perfectly! Vanity!) Thank you for enduring so many uncomfortable stares drawn by my elevation from terra firma.
Penny's was an experience. I've been such places dressed before but this time, having someone with me just made all the difference. I never would have spent so much money had you not been along, but I forgive you! Sugar, we walked all over that store, back and forth, a couple of times, and although read, I kidded myself into thinking that we were not read all that much. In fact, Sarah, I know we weren't. More than one lady smiled nicely at us and a few men stepped out of my way (infinitely preferable to stepping right into it with malice!). In other words, we didn't do too badly. And the check out lady, in spite of the monstrous teen brat (whom I would have been just too delighted to "handle") treated us with dignity and compassion. Many roses to that lovely lady!
Then we were off to City Center, the busiest mall I have ever seen in my life! Congratulations on finding someplace which would really be a true test of my courage, and thanks for guarding the car while I changed into a more modest length of skirt! As we walked from the parking garage past the first thousand people we were to encounter within the next few hours, I learned to focus upon you and ignore the passing horde. I think generally we passed, but whenever we were "read" it was clearly my fault and not yours. Certainly interesting that I have recently been to malls and passed quite completely... maybe there is something to your "two together" theory.
After marching us what had to be the equivalent of many miles, around and around each level of the structure, and passing countless millions of people, we arrived at Lazarus. Sarah, the magnificent attention provided to us by the rather limp wristed young clerk at the Dermablend counter was splendid. That chap personally put make-up upon me, removed it, tried another, and removed it as well, and ended up walking all over the department looking for something resembling the initial foundation he had removed in the first place. Finally, he made up little samples of powder for each of us! I'm rather glad that when I suggested that he needed a raise in pay and he responded that he needed "a raise in something!" that you didn't hear him! He was such an obvious admirer!
Lunch was wonderful as well, although the waiting line into the place was 40 minutes. You handled it so well, and Ainsley, our waitress, was as sweet as the pie she served us for dessert. By the way, thanks for splitting both the entree and the dessert with me. That was a new experience. (I think you did eat one of my potato skins, but who's counting? In fact, I offered it too you.) Ainsley was a sweetheart, don't you agree?
After lunch, we experienced more shopping, more shops, more people walking past not noticing a thing (and some who did). What a rush!! Then we were off to the supermarket to secure needed items which I had forgotten at my last motel. Blessings to the chambermaid there. By now, honey, I was about bold enough to enlist in the army, au-femme! Somehow, I think that you and I are probably dangerous together!
The evening was the "piece-de-resistance!" Meeting the girls at Houlians and feasting upon a sumptuous meal was... well, just great. What a lovely bouquet we made! Then we all went to my room for a late night chat. The conversation, the company, the nice chardonnet Well, it just doesn't get much better than that!
Dearest, I'm completely filled with thankfulness as I wearily type these few words in Breezeville. I look into the mirror at a red eyed and red faced "boy chick" (from repeated washings and shavings over the last few days), and I truly wish you and the other girls were here. You're such a special group, adopting this vagabond crossdresser from a foreign land! Thanks ever so much. It was an experience I'll remember forever. So finally darling, to all the flowers in your bouquet I wish the very best and hope that we will meet sometime again. How I wish that I were not going away!
Peace and prosperity to you all! (Please pass the message along for me.)
Crystal (from Greece)
by Adrianne Walker
With the new faces I see at our meetings, I feel the time has come to revisit some old information and add some new that may be helpful to those who step out into the real world in their alternate gender. The suggestions presented here came from my travels in the last two months.
When traveling longer distances, you will eventually need to find restrooms. I've found that medium sized office/commercial buildings (2 - 4 stories) usually are not heavily trafficked, are without security guards and gates, and usually have restrooms near their entrances or stairways. Larger motels that include a restaurant and indoor pool also usually have larger lobby area with restrooms close by. Any business travelers know what I mean. Check some motels out when you go places as your normal self, and you will get a feel for the type of place I'm describing. Finally, gas station/convenience stores usually have single stall restrooms, often with doors opening to the back or side of the building. Many have just one to be used by both sexes, so once you're in, you're safe. Also some of the smaller fast food restaurants will have single stall restrooms. By the way, the time of day you stop can make a lot of difference in your comfort level. Finding restrooms seems to work best from 9:30 - 11:15 AM and then from 1:30 - 4:00 PM.
Whether you're traveling as a driver or a passenger, if you are wearing a skirt or a dress, truckers will honk! Whether they see your face seem to make little difference. It's the legs showing that count. This attention is not always offensive. Plenty of truckers will behave as "knights of the road" and look out for women driving. Just be careful of your response. A friendly wave is OK, but don't hike your skirt, point, or play tag. We don't know the signals of the road and can get into undesirable situations really fast. There are signals that say, "I want picked up."
Dining on the road is much the same as in your usual haunts. If you want more than drive-through, you can find informative dining guides and ads in alternative newspapers (like The Other Paper) in most large cities. Also, the chain restaurants tend to have same policies everywhere, so you can expect the same hospitality from Cooker, for instance, wherever you go. The further up-scale you go, normally the less chance of a hassle. Also plan your meals at off-peak times, and everything will go smoother for you.
Motels are a hit or miss proposition, like restaurants. The higher upscale you go, the less confrontation, but budget can be a real problem. Personal comfort will determine how you handle this. Of course you can always wipe off your face and quick-change in the car or have your wife/partner go in and register.
by Adrianne Walker
Many of you already know I now have wonderful, long, permanent brown hair that I can curl and style, place in a pony-tail, clip with berets, and generally enjoy in all sorts of fun ways! I thought some of you might me interested in one of the options available if you happen to be "hair challenged."
There are a plethora of "treatments" being advertised to combat hair loss, and many are just a sham. Unfortunately medical science is preoccupied with trying to cure things like cancer and heart disease, rather than the really important stuff like not having hair where you want it and being a fur bearing animal where you don't! Rogaine actually only works with reasonable results in 10% of the cases. Hair transplants (plugs, grafts, & stretching) can obtain decent results for some people, a higher percentage than with Rogaine, but the cost goes from about 10 grand and soars higher. If countless herbal creams and secret potions worked, there would only be maybe 6 bald men left in the world.
Open up the yellow pages to hair, and you will see several ads for "permanent hair replacement," which is pretty much what I did initially. There are different systems, but basically all involve some method of attaching real human hair to yours. (The hair is matched to yours.) One system or another may work better depending on the amount of your hair loss. All require routine "servicing." because hair growth affects the positioning of what you have added. This is much more expensive then wigs, but far less so than implants or grafts.
What a difference this has made for me! People assume this is my natural hair. When it is styled for the feminine look, I have hardly been "clocked," and have actually been "read" in the opposite way as my guy self. The folks I went to have several patrons who are from our community, two whom I know well, so they have no qualms about TG people and will work to find a style that you can you use in either gender. Being able actually to see the results and hear the comments of people who already had gone his route helped in my decision. As with any purchase, you should research and evaluate the product first. We are not their primary clientele. They do this for both men and women, and the work I have seen all looks natural. The units are not as heavy as wigs, and are breathable, and you can shampoo and condition them. There are no limits to your activities. You can swim, put your convertible top down, or run a marathon. (I have done those.) There are some instructions given for proper care to get a longer life span. (Yes, eventually you have to get a new unit.)
I can truly say it has improved my self image about both of myselves not to have to remove that feminine look after a night out and to get up in the morning and feel good about looking in the mirror. Do you know how nice it is to feel good about your appearance, knowing that you have done your best and that the reflection is pleasing? Tears of happiness rolled down my cheeks that first night with my new hair. Anyone who would like additional information and more specifics, just let me know.
Our own Mary Ann had some fun lately raising eyebrows among her colleagues in the IEEE, a professional organization for electrical engineers. They ran a column entitled "What are you wearing?" about the increasing trend to "casual Friday" and what that means to different people. They asked for comments via e-mail, and of course Mary Ann had to respond, and naturally they published her response! The following is an excerpt:
"Now, this was good -- we asked IEEE members in November about what they were wearing to work. Not only did we get an avalanche of responses, we also received a "Zippy" comic from Senior Member Charles Bloomquist, a reply from a cross-dressing, telecommuting IEEE member ('I'm probably wearing 'the dreaded business casual', a skirt, nylons, and heels! And I'll bet I'm the happiest guy on the call!') and a few other thought-provoking responses..."
submitted by Leslie
Mobs in Cameroon have hanged three men accused of using evil powers to cause male genitals to disappear merely by shaking hands. Several other "penis-snatchers" were hospitalized after being badly beaten, according to the Cameroon Post. The incidents were reported in the towns of Limbe, Tiko, Muea and Batoke, all on the Atlantic sea route between Cameroon and neighboring Nigeria; most of the alleged snatchers were Nigerian. An 18 year old student said that, when he shook hands with a Nigerian friend, "he felt an electric-like current run through him, and a feeling that his manhood had retreated into his stomach." Doctors said that all the "missing" genitals were unharmed and normal. An earlier wave of missing tackle rumors swept through Nigeria in 1990 and a similar story from Uganda. these rumors bear some resemblance to the shrinking penis panic known as Korea in Malaysia and shook yang in China.
Do you sometimes find yourself in the unfortunate position of having to repair your car or do some other rough, grubby, or otherwise disgusting job? Don't you hate breaking your nice long nails and getting grease and dirt under those beautifully manicured cuticles? Just wear a pair of rubber dishwashing gloves. Not only will they protect your nails from breakage and shield your hands from grease, but they will also prevent skinned knuckles and will help you grip your tools better.
Do your bra straps constantly slide off your shoulders like mine did? Just get two of those little brass safety pins (the ones that are sometimes used to attach tags or spare buttons to clothing in stores) and tie about 9" of string between them (or whatever length is appropriate). Before you put on your bra, pin one of the safety pins to one of the straps, just over where your shoulder blade will be. After you put on your bra, pull the string across the back of your neck, and clip the other pin around the top of the other strap. That is, don't pin it through the strap so that it can slide along it. Finally, slide the pin and string back over your shoulder. Et voilá! Your straps will stay put until you unpin them.
Do you never seem to shave closely enough? Try our visitor Crystal's tip. Soften your beard either by showering or by washing your face and keeping it warm and wet for several minutes. Then apply an ice compress to your beard area. That will cause blood flow to decrease, making your skin effectively thinner. It will also cause your skin to tighten and your piloerector muscles to contract (the ones that make your hairs stand on end). The result is that all your hairs will poke out much farther than they would have if you had just pulled your skin taut. When your skin warms back up, the hairs will recede back into their follicles.
This tip comes from my dear friend Pam Sexton of Manchester, England: "If you wear a short wig such as a bob style and you want to get better use and a new style, try turning it upside down (really). A couple of flicks with the brush and you have a completely new style. If you have a long style, you can also turn the wig sideways and flick everything to the back and side. I actually saw this done at a meeting in Blackpool on the West Coast of England. I don't need a wig but it was so amazing to see that I considered buying one." (Thanks, Pam!)
If someone reads you, what should you do? I've found that the best response is to "have fun" with it. Look the person straight in the eye and smile warmly. If he/she keeps staring, try a wink or a very prissy wave (with "twiddling" fingers). Just be sure not to do this if it could be misinterpreted as a "come-on". Even the most hard-core, stone-faced staring types will eventually get embarrassed and turn away.
Did you get a run in your stockings? If it hasn't spread very far yet, you can stop it by applying clear nail polish to its ends. Better still, try using clear nail primer. Either of these is good "emergency equipment" to carry with you when you go out.
by Mary Ann Harris
Beth and I just spent a wonderful evening at the Grapevine Cafe (3rd and Gay St, downtown.) The Grapevine is a gay restaurant and bar and has always been very accepting of the transgendered as well.
Tonight, for some reason, the place was dead, and we were almost the only ones there. We had a chance to chat with the folks who work there.
Tonight was also special because I did something I've always wanted to do. I wore what I often wear around the house when I don't have to impress anybody: women's clothes, but with no attempt to pass.
Tonight I was just another male wearing unusual clothes. No makeup, no changes to my voice, no differences in body language. I had my hair tied back in a pony tail, with no bangs, and a multicolored scrunchie holding it back. (Not a little rubber band, but a big frufru cloth scrunchie. I've discovered they hold my hair well and are comfortable to lean back on.)
I've been wearing girl-clothes all day anyway. Leggings, long tunic T shirt, canvas flats. No bra, flat chest. As it got colder I added my favorite tunic length sweater. Definitely male, definitely comfortable, but all girl clothes. As it got to be dinner time, I suggested the Grapevine and asked Beth if it would be OK if I added a skirt. She said it didn't matter, and I'm really glad I asked first! I added a long, comfortable denim skirt over the leggings - at least I'm warm!
The Grapevine is the one place I'd feel comfortable going dressed like this. Not as a woman who might be "different" underneath the makeup and clothes, but as a man in a skirt. And I wasn't disappointed.
The staff of the Grapevine went out of their way to make us feel welcome. We had the almost undivided attention of "John the waiter", as he introduced himself. (There are several Johns there.) Alice, one of the owners, came by to say hello.
Tonight I was able to be who I really want to be, an openly transgendered man not trying to pass, referred to as "he". (The staff didn't know what to call me. They were vague all night, and I can't blame them on that one!) I used the men's room, introduced myself by my male name, and used my male credit card (except to tip - when we chatted with John, we found out waiters prefer cash tips because of bizarre tax laws. We made it a point to tip generously, and in cash.)
We were accepted, not just tolerated, and we were welcomed with open arms. The Grapevine is a wonderful place to eat or to get a drink, and you can go as you are. Dress as you feel comfortable. Put on makeup and a wig, and work to pass, or just go as yourself. They'll leave the light on for you.
The Grapevine Cafe is open every day except Monday. They have a big Sunday brunch from 12 to 3. Mary Daniels is there every Sunday night, singing and playing piano. The last Monday each month they open at 7 for Scotch and Cigar night.
Copyright © 1997 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.