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by Sarah, Editor in Chief
Wow! What a meeting we had in January! Poor Luann has been working herself to exhaustion keeping up with all the incoming calls and had cleared seventy new people to come to the last meeting. That's far more than had been cleared in the entirety of 1996. Of course once people are cleared, it usually takes them quite a while to show up to their first meeting, assuming they show up at all. Even though we all know now what a warm, friendly, accepting group of ladies we are, I'm sure we all remember having cold feet initially. The good news is that we had several new attendees in the January meeting, five of whom decided to become full members. That took our membership from 25 to 30 in one month alone! We are anticipating still greater a turnout this February and will likely be expanding our membership by at least by five or ten more. Those of you out there who are still working up the nerve to come to your first meeting will find a great deal of comfort, I think, from the company of other newcomers.
Why are we getting so much attention these days? Very simply, we're making ourselves more visible. Our newsletter is on the web now and has already been accessed by over a thousand visitors. Our Crystal Club homepage, which provides basic information about our organization, is also on the web and has been accessed 1400 times. Our membership is also going more places and doing more things, including speaking to other support organizations. We are making lots of contacts in the outside world, and word is spreading. We are becoming a legitimate part of the community now.
Our increased visibility is a two-edged sword. While the increased exposure draws more members, it might also give some potential members privacy concerns. We must all make it clear during our outreach efforts that the Crystal Club supports all levels of privacy and experience. Some of our members are highly closeted and secretive, and we all respect and support that. Nobody is forced into doing anything beyond her level of comfort. Others of us are very much "out" and politically active, and our organization provides a facilitative structure for their activities. What I like about our diverse mix is that those of us who are more experienced and public are there to guide our less experienced members along if and when they're ready.
The Crystal Club has so much to offer its members, and the isolated, closeted trans-people in the area are finally finding us. I think that throughout 1997 our membership stands to double or even triple.
Stop the presses! Hey, everybody, two services just "opened their doors" to help folks like us out with our various shyness/fashion/makeup/storage/tactical problems and to provide consultation. Their combined services should be quite an asset to our community and should make it possible for lots more transpeople to become active in our fine organization.
The first of these services, Clothed In Illusion, is operated by Cait, a local transsexual with a theatrical background. Her services will concentrate on various personal needs, including purchasing, delivery, and storage of clothing, makeup, breast forms, wigs, and other items. I already know of a few people who will want to contract with her for clothing storage! She has an extensive collection of catalogs from which you can place orders, and she will receive shipment for your privacy. She will also do makeovers, measurements, clothing alterations, and "hand holding" for public outings (including shopping). Furthermore, she will serve as an intermediary for making arrangements with local transgender-friendly professionals, such as for photographic sessions. Do you need something not listed here? Just ask, and she'll probably try to provide for you. I know Cait personally and can tell you that she's very reliable and very sweet. Besides that, she taught me much of what I know about foundation, and I get lots of compliments on my foundation. In short, if you're very closeted, or if you have little or no privacy, Cait can take care of all of your dressing needs. You won't need to come out of the closet for anyone except her if that is your wish. Contact her at 614-759-7353 or email her at Caitlintoo@aol.com.
The second of these services is Miss Erica's Finishing School and Crossdressing Academy, operated by Erica, a genetic woman with 5 years experience in transgender consultation and a strong background in motivational and image consulting. She actually had been running her business here in Columbus since 1991 but had to close her doors recently due to health problems. Anyway, she's better now, and she's back. Both Cait and Erica cater to the entire spectrum of transgender types and levels of experience, but Cait's business is more service oriented, while that of Erica's is more consultation oriented, with considerable overlap in-between. I just had a very long conversation with her and am quite enthused about the services she offers and the philosophy with which she approaches her profession. Erica seeks to provide a safe and comfortable environment for one to explore one's alternate identity. Her services range from helping novices to explore relatively immature crossdressing urges to providing rather sophisticated consultation to the experienced crossdresser or transsexual. Her primary strength, I feel, is with consultation, which seems to be very individualized, very thoughtful, and very thorough. She begins each client with a 1 hour interview at her normal hourly rate of $40 ($25 special introductory rate through the end of March), in which she assesses the clients attitudes and goals and familiarizes herself with her character. I don't think anyone seeking detailing, or "finishing" could go wrong with her services. You may contact her at 443-1696.
I think these two services complement each other nicely. While there is considerable overlap between the two, they clearly have their respective niches. I imagine Cait would be the better choice for those who are comfortable at their current level of growth, who are on a budget, who know what they need, and who simply need help getting it. Miss Erica might be the better choice for those willing to spend a bit more money but who wish to devote attention to personal growth and development of skills and image. Of course there is no rule that says one cannot draw from both of their services, benifiting from their respective strengths. Anyway, I am excited to add both Cait and Miss Erica to my Pink List. I know they will both make many dreams come true for lots of people!
Lisa had a splendid idea that she discussed at our January meeting. She would like to see us organize group support sessions similar to those organized by Alcoholics Anonymous and other similar organizations, where we can openly discuss issues of personal importance and get advice, perspectives, or simply sympathetic hugs in return. Let's face it. Almost all trans-people live pretty stressful lives, and we all have lots of hurtles to jump. We're used to dealing with our issues privately, I think, mostly because of the lives of secrecy we've lived. Well, we're "out" now, at least to each other, and perhaps we should lean on each other more. Anyway, let's give Lisa's excellent idea a try and see how it goes. I've once again taken the liberty of naming someone else's idea, and Cathy and I have made an "executive decision" to start the ball rolling. The first meeting of the Crystal Crisis Crew will meet in the downstairs classroom of the Reynoldsburg church from 6:30 to 7:30, concurrently with the regular social meeting upstairs.
For those of you unfamiliar with the AA support group format (which I presume we'll be following), we will each be given an opportunity to discuss our own personal issues, but if we don't want to talk for any reason, all we have to do is "pass" when it's our turn to speak. Of course this is a time in which we won't all want to pass, but still there's no pressure! Some of us might want to go just to support others. See ya' there!
Since I have been "out" to the world and have been putting together my Pink List, I have been delighted to find that most businesses show transgendered individuals a high degree of warmth, sensitivity, and acceptance. Not a single business has shown us pointed intolerance or has failed to establish official policies which at least in theory would safeguard our dignity and civil rights -- not a single business except for one, J. C. Penney.
The sum of my negative experiences and those of others in our local community concern the J. C. Penney Catalog Outlet Store on 2361 Park Crescent Dr. E. (off Brice Rd. in Reynoldsburg). I had long heard of this store from other transgendered individuals before I ever visited. It is a very good place for us to shop because of the tall and large sizes, as well as the very low prices on the merchandise in the return goods department (items that are "used" but still returned for some reason, such that they can't be sold as "new"). The return goods department has particular appeal to those of us interested in formal gowns, as a large part of the J. C. Penney inventory comes from their Bridal Collection.
Early in November of 1996, I visited the JCP Catalog Outlet Store looking for a leather coat. I was delighted to find several things in their return goods department which I needed (including the coat), and the prices were quite good. However, I found myself very intimidated by the staff, and as most people know, it takes a lot to rattle my nerves. The night that I visited, the department was staffed by two teenage boys. They joked among themselves about many things, and in doing so were rather loud and obnoxious. At one point, they were even bouncing a basketball around rather loudly. Already apprehensive from shopping in the vicinity of two rowdy teenagers, my nerves jumped with every bounce of the ball.
As I was leaving the department, one of the boys called to his friend, pointing to me, and exclaimed, "Is that a man or a woman?" I pretended not to notice, but I was quite offended. I am, after all, a human being. I was a paying customer in their store, and I was presenting myself with dignity, respectful of the sensibilities of society. My presentation, furthermore, was quite tasteful and convincing, in my opinion. I was doing nothing wrong, and I did not deserve to be ridiculed by any of the employees.
The problem I encountered would really affect a larger population still. Even genetic women are intimidated by loud, obnoxious teenage boys, and would rather avoid them. Of course they would not be so fearful of them as a crossdresser, but I would not be surprised if a substantial proportion of women would have found shopping in that department a rather distasteful experience.
In a letter dated November 13, 1996, I brought this matter to the attention of Mr. Ron Kneis, general manager of the store. I pointedly questioned him as to whether he intended to rectify the problem and, if so, how. I received the following response from Mr. Keith Hanson, merchandise manager, dated November 22, 1996:
James Cash Penney founded this retail establishment more than 90 years ago on the principle of The Golden Rule - "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." With this in mind, it is our intent to provide the best customer service possible.
We apologize for any embarrassment our associates may have caused you and appreciate your forthrightness in bringing the matter to our attention. During training, all associates are schooled, not only on the aspects of the retail environment, but also on the diverse customers they may encounter. In the words of James Cash Penney, we hope that "courteous treatment will make a customer a walking advertisement."
We appreciate your business and look forward to serving you in the future.
While this thoughtful and elaborate letter was in the drafting, I had occasion to talk to several others concerning my experiences, and I heard several stories in return. The most interesting of these stories concern two members of the local transsexual community. The first of these people was a former employee of the store who, unannounced, showed up for work one day in female mode, essentially shouting, "Here I am! Deal with me!" Although I don't think there was anything amiss with her intentions, perhaps she could have used better judgment. Understandably, the Penney's management was a bit rattled, and she was soon fired. In the aftermath, she sued them and won. Undoubtedly this incident left a bad taste in their mouths and may underlie much of their "coolness" towards us.
The second individual was a postoperative transsexual (legally female) who wished nothing more than to use the ladies' changing room to try on an outfit. Apparently she presented a less than convincing image. The response of the store security and management was to evacuate the ladies' dressing room and to call the Columbus Police, who greeted her as she exited the changing room. The police were very nice. After all, she wasn't breaking any laws. She had every right to be there. Still, they recommended (as police often do) not to make waves and just to let the matter pass. She agreed and left the store, but as she walked closer and closer to her car, she got increasingly perturbed. She returned with the policeman to demand her rights. The response of the management was that they were within their rights to refuse service to anyone, and they told her to leave the store immediately.
Having heard these and other stories, and having received the official J. C. Penney (non)response, I decided in early December to revisit the store to determine whether conditions had improved and to satisfy myself as to the changing room conditions and policies. First I shopped in the returns department. I was pleased to find that it was not staffed (at least at that time) by the same obnoxious teenagers I had previously encountered. The only young man in the department, an African American gentleman whose name I don't know, was courteous and well mannered then, just as he had been on the night of my ill treatment by his coworkers. I was not at all uncomfortable shopping there.
I then took a dress to their changing room and identified myself to the attendant as a crossdresser, asking permission to use the ladies' changing facilities. Both the attendant and the teenage girls who were sorting clothes in the next room were very sweet; however, they were not in a position of authority to make decisions concerning the appropriateness of my using that changing room. With my permission, they referred the matter to security, who referred the matter to the management. When the noticeably annoyed manager approached, I introduced myself, and he asked me if I had received their letter (such as it was). I responded affirmatively, and he told me I would have to use the gentlemen's changing room, escorting me to the most inconspicuous changing room he could find.
It was clear to any observer that the ladies' changing room was quite private, with separate, well obscured changing stalls for each customer. Even if I had walked freely throughout the entirety of the changing room corridors, it would have been quite impossible for me to get a glimpse of anything but an occasional pair of feet (at least without my crawling underneath one of the locked doors). These things were all clearly visible from outside the changing room as well, so there is nothing I could have seen there that I hadn't clearly seen already. Had privacy still been an issue, I could have used the room nearest the entrance, where the attendant could ensure that I did not attempt to crawl underneath doors to see naked women. While I am not the belligerent type who would insist on using the ladies' changing room, and while I for one do not think that all ladies' changing facilities are appropriate for use by crossdressers, I saw absolutely no reason why my using that particular facility would have been a problem. Of course I had far less claim to that changing room than the transsexual greeted by the police.
On December 15, I wrote a letter to Mr. Hanson concerning these points and pointedly asked, "(1) what exactly and specifically are your official policies concerning transgendered customers of all types, and (2) exactly how might those policies change in the near future" (to address the obvious problems they seem to have with violating people's civil rights and otherwise depriving them of their dignity). I made it clear that I would publish their response, whatever it might be. Almost a month later, I still haven't heard from them and must assume that it is not their intent to reply.
Although it is difficult to know the internal workings of any company from the outside, it seems as though J. C. Penney has a serious upper management problem. I find that the vast majority of the J. C. Penney employees are transgender tolerant and even transgender accepting. I highly suspect that it is the upper management that is transgender intolerant, perhaps due in part to previous bad experiences. It would appear that their approach is to smooth over problems as best they can, in disregard for the personal dignity and civil rights of a small proportion of their customer base. This problem seems to be widespread, as I have heard stories similar to mine from across the country. I would be most interested to find out more about the official company policies of J. C. Penney. Should they ever decide to respond to my letter of inquiry, I shall print their response in the very next newsletter. I have forwarded to them a copy of this newsletter for their perusal. Perhaps we shall know something by March.
by Cathy Wood
Transgendered people are getting more and more exposure these days. Between the now infamous Holiday Inn transsexual ad and the Xena episode a couple of weeks ago we got some positive exposure rather than the usual talk show freak fest. Holiday Inn did decide to pull their ad after getting a few negative responses, but it made the news so even people like myself who don't watch the Super Bowl heard about it. If you missed the Xena episode, shame on you. It was about the world's first beauty pageant and after several plot twists the winner was a transgendered woman! Watch for this one in reruns.
The age old question of transgendered folks everywhere was finally answered this week by none other than Dear Abby. Yes, that bastion of middle class good sense when asked which restroom a pre-op transsexual or a transvestite should use replied that when you are dressed as a lady, you should use the ladies room. This is real progress!
[Editor's Note: I have written to thank Dear Abby for her sensitivity towards our community, and I am placing her on our mailing list, along with Ann Landers. If you are interested, you may write to them at the following addresses: Dear Abby, Universal Press Syndicate, 4900 Main St., 9th Floor, Kansas City, MO 64112. Ann Landers, Creators Syndicate, 5777 W. Century Blvd Suite 700, Los Angeles, CA 90045.]
Several of you came to see Sarah and myself present our talk to the OSU gay/les/bi group. I think it went very well. We got a warm welcome, the people were interested in what we had to say, and I felt that some bridges were made between our groups. After the meeting several of us went back to Crystal's motel room and chatted far too far into the night. I'm getting too old for those evenings that move into morning. Yes, that is the same Crystal who was visiting around the first of the year, she had the chance to come back to Columbus for a couple of days and just couldn't resist. She'll be on her way back to Greece by the time you read this, but she's taking some great memories of her warm welcome here from her transgendered sisters with her.
I'll be bringing a few guests to our next regular meeting. Mitch, a FtM who used to live in Columbus, and his parents will be in town to attend the P-flag meeting the night after ours. I'll be joining them in talking to the group about transgendered inclusion and they accepted my invitation to attend our meeting as well. Mitch's mom, Karen has started a support group in the Cleveland area for transsexuals and their families and she is very active with tgs-pflag, the online mail list for family and friends of transgendereds. They have traveled around and given presentations to several pflag chapters.
Don't forget that at our next meeting we will also be holding our election for club officers. I'd also like to get some feedback from some of you on themes for future meetings. At the OSU meeting a women's self defense instructor offered to talk to us. This could be a single talk or possibly a set of classes if there is enough interest. Let me know what you think so I can get back to the kind lady who made the offer.
Once again, remember that the transgendered lobby days in Washington DC will be on May 5-6. Sarah and I are both going to try to be there, and if any of the rest of you would like to join us it is something very worthwhile. Remember that the day before, May 4th there will be the GenderPac Activist Conference at the Quality Inn in College Park Md. to help us prepare to meet the law makers. For more information and/or to make reservations, you can contact Riki Anne Wilchins at Riki@Pipeline.com, Alison Laing at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Dana Priesing at DPriesing@aol.com. This is your chance to make a difference.
A reminder to those of you just getting web access. The Crystal Club's online e-mail list can be reached at email@example.com Several informal get togethers have already resulted from the list and it's a great way to keep in touch with you sisters between meetings. Also, take a look at The Crystal Chronicle Online. The Chronicle URL is http://www.geocities.com/WestHollywood/4398/Chron.htm We have gotten some great feedback on this venture and several of our articles have also now been added to CompuServe's GenderLine library. I've been reading newsletters from all around the country and although I might be a tad prejudiced, I think we have far and away one of the best. If you would like to help keep it that way, please write that article you've been thinking about and get it to Sarah. Between the circulation of the print version and the world wide availability on the web, you can reach a lot of people.
See you soon,
"Feminism is the radical notion that women are people"
I'm sitting here at my computer, chuckling to myself, trying to decide whether to publish the story about the ill-fated shopping trip Carey and I had on the Thursday prior to our January meeting. Well, I suppose I promised it to you all, if only jokingly. It is indeed quite a story, and although our experiences could have been worse, I think they illustrate how the sky doesn't fall even during the most catastrophic outings en femme. I think they also illustrate what a total jinx Carey can be! (just kidding, Carey.....)
It all started when Carey proposed a shopping trip to look for certain essential items for her new apartment (e.g. a table, chairs, and such). Having found new freedoms here, she was also interested in expanding her wardrobe. Well, Sarah decided to roll out the welcome wagon and welcome her new neighbor, who lives only a few blocks away. Since Carey is new to the Columbus area, I offered to show her around to a few of the good stores. Of course I welcomed the opportunity to get out as Sarah, and I love shopping, even if it's for someone else!
We had decided to get together early and to set out when the stores first opened. I began the morning semicomatose, owing to the previous late night's work, so I didn't exactly spring out of bed when the alarm went off. Add to that my alarm clock had mysteriously reset (?) its time about 20 minutes back, and I was over a half hour behind schedule before I even managed to pry my bloodshot eyes open. Anyway, I hastily showered, shaved, and started throwing on my makeup. Amazing! I, a compulsive makeup fiddler, actually managed to shave my estimated time of makeup completion (ETMC) down to under 30 minutes! Of course I did have an extremely good shave with hardly any nicks. I usually require about 15 minutes for my blood transfusion alone! As I was nearing the end of my makeup, I looked at my watch. I was only 15 minutes late so far, which I felt was really quite an extraordinary achievement on my part. Still, there was no sign of Carey. I've found that she's even worse than I, when it comes to punctuality. I took a bit of extra time to fiddle with a few fine points, not wanting to shave my makeup time down too much. After all, I do have my pride as a crossdresser!
Finally, Carey arrived, and we started chatting as I put on my last touches. Well, anybody who knows me knows how easily distracted I am. I really think Carey and I are soul sisters. She denies being ADD, but I still think she's another one! Anyway, she kept distracting me, and I caught myself forgetting several items. Still, I managed to leave the house without putting on any mascara or setting my foundation. Our first stop was to be at the Discovery Store in the Kenny Shopping Center. It is an upscale resale shop run by the American Cancer Society. I really enjoy shopping there. It's slightly pricey (of course), but it's for a very good cause. We arrived there apparently about 15 minutes before they opened, so we decided to kill a half hour or so at the Revco, getting items we both needed.
After we parked at Revco, Carey shut off the ignition, drew a deep breath, and asked me whether I thought we would be OK in the store, her voice somewhat heavy with anxiety. I had neglected to consider that she was relatively new to going out in public. I told her that she looked just fine and that as long as we smiled, looked as though we belonged there, relaxed, and enjoyed ourselves, nobody would give us a second glance. She took another deep breath, and with the demeanor of a rookie skydiver under the watchful eye of her instructor, she pushed open her hatch and bailed out.
When we both landed in the store, I think she finally began to collect herself. I guess jumping was the hardest part, even for someone with a few jumps already under her belt. We casually collected the things we had gone there to find, checked out, and returned to Carey's truck. Almost immediately, she opened up her purse and pulled out a cigarette. The cab was soon full of smoke, but she seemed to be considerably more relaxed. Transgendered smokers are rather funny creatures that way! Anyway, every bit as urgently as she had yanked the cigarette out of her purse, I tore open packaging and started applying mascara. Crossdressers are rather funny creatures that way! As though to top her billowing clouds of smoke, I prepared to set my foundation. I poured the Johnson & Johnson Clean and Clear into a spray bottle and misted my face. (Shouldn't we be getting money for promoting this product?) Pungent fumes filled the cab. Both of us choking, we opened the windows and let in both the air and the rain. Aaaaah!
Carey having gotten her nicotine fix, and I having completed my makeup and halted (or slowed) facial erosion and foundation stress fractures, we were ready for the Discovery Store. The elderly lady working there was very sweet, orienting us immediately to the 50% off tags. Magic was in the air! What magic? Everyone knows that 50 is a magic number to any self-respecting crossdresser! Well, one never knows what one will find in a resale shop. It would appear as though they had received a few donations from the collections of some rather well dressed women who were just my size! Although this may seem like a blessing, it was really a bit of a curse. Anyone who is familiar with my wardrobe knows just how little I need to expand it. All the clothes were shouting, "Buy me! Buy me!" I had really intended just to go along for the ride and not to have done any substantive shopping. Oh well! I found some beautiful things I really shouldn't have bought, but they were just too pretty to pass up! OK, they weren't exactly frivolous purchases either. I wore my "new" silk blouse to the January meeting, and I'll be wearing my gorgeous Harvé Benard cream wool suit to a talk I'll be giving to the OSU gay, lesbian, and bisexual students' organization. Still, I spent more money than I had intended. Of course the business-savvy volunteer kept goading sweetly me on: "Oh, you would look pretty in anything you put on! Oh, that looks beautiful on you! What are you? A size 6?" I suppose instantly losing 2 or 3 dress sizes is enough to make just about anyone crack! OK, OK, I know. All she really had to say was, "Hey, that looks pretty good on you," and I'd have bought it. She was swatting a fly with a drop forge!
Poor Carey, on the other hand, could hardly find a thing. She claims there wasn't anything there in her size, but I think we found several nice things. She just didn't want any of them. She had clear shopping objectives in mind, and she stuck by them. (Transsexuals! Humph!) "Wait a minute," you say! "The blonde is Carey, the redhead is Sarah, but what has all this to do with a key?" Well, I'm getting to that.
Since one of the things for which Carey was searching was a coat, and since the Discovery Store admittedly didn't have much for her in coats, we decided to hit the J.C. Penney outlet store. When we arrived, it was raining, and we had to park a couple hundred feet from the door. By the way, she actually backed her truck into the parking space and came to rest perfectly positioned. Most unfeminine! After Carey had another nicotine fix, we jumped out, fumbling keys, purses, and umbrellas, and ran inside, the rain hitting us from the side beneath our umbrellas.
Fortunately (?) I didn't find much for myself that trip, but Carey did find her coat. It was a 3/4 length leather coat, nicely tailored, and it looked wonderful on her. Best of all, it only cost $80. Wow! With all of our milling around, we didn't seem to attract any attention, but when we checked out, the cashier gave us an amused glance or two. As we were leaving the store, we paused to get our packages together before braving the rain. It was then I noticed our cashier talking to two of her friends and pointing our way. I looked up at them and smiled, and they nervously looked away. Teenage girls can be pretty funny. Show any fear and they giggle you to death. Give them a big smile and they die of embarrassment.
We left the store feeling pretty good about our shopping trip, ready to go for a late lunch. I kidded Carey, "See, you got all worried for nothing!" When we got to the truck, Carey started digging through her purse for her car keys. She smiled sheepishly and dug still more.... and more ... and more... She practically tore her purse apart, dug through all of her pockets, looked in the ignition, searched around the truck, but still no key! As the expression goes, "all dressed with no place to go!" We returned to the store thinking her keys might have fallen out of her purse there. After checking with the service desk, we split up. While she retraced our steps in the coat department, I returned to the giggling teens to relay to them our sad story. I think they actually felt sorry for us! Unfortunately they hadn't found any keys. Carey and I eventually scoured the whole store. Talk about attracting attention! When we searched Carey's purse, pockets, etc. one more time, I heard what sounded like keys jingling inside Carey's purse. I told Carey to shake her purse, and I heard the snaps on her denim jacket rattling. Obviously it wasn't keys, right? When we had all but given up, a lady from the service desk suggested we leave our name and number with the security office in case someone should turn in the keys. Carey agreed, so we had the pleasure of meeting with the security personnel. They were all rather young and "beefy" characters; however, they were also very courteous. I thought Carey was going to wilt, though, when they asked her for her name and number.
Having given up on finding the keys that day, we had to devise a plan to get home. Carey had a spare key to her truck in her apartment, the keys to which were on the lost key ring. To get into her apartment, she had to go to the manager's office; however, that was rather awkward for her while dressed as "Carey", and her male clothes were in her locked apartment. We finally decided to take a taxi to my place, where she would wash up and borrow my shirt, parka, and snow boots. The parka just covered the pleated top of her ladies' jeans. The snow boots, while being somewhat inappropriate for simple rainy weather, were the only shoes I had that would fit.
During all this planning, I kept trying to remember Lisa's last name, thinking we could call her for help. Giving up, we called a taxi. Carey brought Lisa up while we were waiting outside, and like a flash, her last name came back to me. I went inside and called, and Lisa who, sweet thing, didn't hesitate to come riding in her white pickup to the rescue of two damsels in distress. Just as I hung up the phone, Carey came to tell me the taxi had arrived. However, she went back outside to tell the driver to go away.
While we were waiting for Lisa, both of us rather plainly dressed, a bleach-blonde woman walked by. She had skin-tight jeans with lacing up the sides, a tight top, huge earrings, and spike-heeled bootlets. I thought only a tranny would wear something like that! Finally Lisa rode up en homme with a smirk on her face that seemed to say, "I can't believe you two got into this mess!" We were finally able to laugh a bit about the experience on the trip to my place. Carey changed and got her key. I changed and met up with my family. All was well.
The next day I was talking with a very embarrassed Carey. It seems her keys finally showed. That jingle that we heard really was from the keys! While shuffling purses, keys, and umbrellas in the rain, Carey had inadvertently put her keys inside an interior zipper pocket in her purse that she didn't even know existed. Presto! They were gone! Of course she searched her purse so thoroughly that we were both amazed she didn't she see or feel anything? Well, I have a theory about purses and clothes dryers. It has to do with worm holes and interdimensional travel, but that's another story.
by Cathy Wood
One of the subjects by which almost all transgendered people seem consumed is being able to "pass" as the gender they wish to present. It becomes almost all important to many of us and to our therapists as well. Just how important is it? Well, in some cases, very important. Silly as it may seem to some of us, the bathroom issue is one that many people worry about. One of the first questions many people ask upon finding out someone is transgendered is "which bathroom do you use?" Some states have laws that make it a crime to use the "wrong" bathroom, and even in states that don't have such a law many of the police officers act as if there is one anyway. In Pennsylvania, for example, it is against the law to use the "wrong" bathroom, with sex being determined legally by the F or M on the drivers license, and it's also against the law to use the "right" bathroom if you are dressed as the "wrong" gender. In that state a transitioning transsexual can't legally pee at all! Such a fuss over a simple biological function.
Passing is also highly desirable when you are around bigots and homophobes. If you pass, you aren't a target, at least not any more than any other woman is. Other than that, passing shouldn't be as important to us as acceptance. The two are not the same. Passing means that you are not seen as transgendered. Acceptance means that even if you are seen as transgendered, you still are treated as the gender of your presentation. Of the two, acceptance is my preference. It means that I am not forced to hide from what I am, and that my worth as a human being is still seen and acknowledged.
In the past transsexual women have been advised not to attempt transition if they can't achieve passability. Many therapists refused letters of passage to the medical treatments to patients they felt weren't feminine enough by whatever arbitrary standards the therapist judged proper. Thankfully this unenlightened attitude is fairly rare nowadays, but sometimes you do still run into it. Total passability is still the holy grail of far too many transpeople and it is all to often unrealistic. Those who start hormone treatments after their thirties rarely achieve full passability. In the case of MtF the bone structure is set, the hips will never widen as much as a genetic woman's, our hands and feet will not shrink and those suffering from male pattern baldness will be forever forced to resort to wigs. Someone will always notice.
By placing such a high premium on passing, transpeople set themselves up to be shot down every once in a while. It hurts. There is nothing wrong with striving to present your proper gender to the best of your ability, but one should beware of giving up those things that make us individuals in the process. As a transgendered woman, I find that I'm in a unique position. My brain and thinking patterns are female, but the socialization I had as a child, no matter how much it didn't fit, was male. My brain was influenced by the male hormones my body produced. Like it or not, this means that transgendered women such as myself will never totally fit societies idea of female either. Although the gender role of female is a more fitting one, and there is much more room for the things that come naturally to us, it still is a closet, similar to the one we emerged from. It's less confining to a transwoman than the male role, but it's still confining. As a transsexual I had to conform to a role most of my life that was a very bad fit. I will have to conform for the rest of my life to a role that fits better, but a role that has limitations nonetheless. That chaffs a bit. Maybe by gaining acceptance we will open the roles for people of all genders. Trading one closet for another is not what I hope for. I'm not talking about "genderfu**ing". I'm talking about accepting the fact that occasionally you will be read and rather than getting upset or hurt, being proud enough to say, "Yeah, I'm a transsexual. So what?" Of not feeling that you must give up things you are good at and enjoy simply because some people won't think them very feminine. Of spending your energy on being a good person rather than a good woman or man.
There are two different schools of thought about life after transition among transpeople. Some wish only to fade into the woodwork and totally deny their past. The drawback to this, as many have found out first hand, is that one is always liable to being found out and exposed as transsexual. The reality is often that others know, but in a spirit of acceptance don't bring the subject up, while the transperson still needlessly lives with the fear of discovery, unaware that others already know. Others prefer to be open about their nature. They expect and usually get acceptance. In time they no longer feel the need to tell anyone unless asked, but they still do not need to invent a new past, or deny their transsexuality. The difference boils down to being ashamed or proud of who we are. Shame is what makes transgendered people miserable, feeling like freaks of nature that should be hidden away. It's caused the suicides of far too many of us in the past. We can't help the fact that we were born transgendered. There should be nothing shameful in that fact, but if we act as if it is shameful, others will react that way. As transpeople we have a unique perspective to add to the human experience that we cannot share if we are invisible. Only through a proud and open existence can we hope to achieve true acceptance.
by Michael A. (Miqqi Alicia) Gilbert
Dept. of Philosophy, York University, Toronto, Canada
[This article originally appeared in The MONARCH: Canada's Transgender Reader, issue#44, Jan 1997]
It's the day before my first time ever going to work dressed en femme. This is a major part of my coming out process, not, as you might imagine, as a TS who is going full-time, but as a cross dresser who is public about his pastime. I am, just so you know, quite nervous about the whole thing. I'm also excited. It is going to be a wild, crazy, emotionally tumultuous day that I will remember forever.
I should explain that I am a philosophy professor at York University in Toronto, Canada, and have worked there since 1975. I am 50 years old, and my wife and I have four children in a blended family, the youngest of whom is 23. I began my first comings out shortly after I turned forty by telling a very few very intimate friends. Of course, I have been transgendered since I was small, but only identified myself as a transvestite in my early thirties. Since then I have been involved at various times, and especially recently, in local clubs.
The big change for me came as I approached 50. I found it increasingly difficult to hide such a large and important part of myself from my friends and my family. As a result, I began to tell those close to me, and found mostly that the revelation was well received. The road was not absolutely smooth, but had only a few potholes, and those ended up being repaired.
But why go to work dressed? If I am a CD, and I am, then it is not part of my plan to live full-time as a woman, to go to work daily as a woman, to encounter the world all the time in feminine mode. So, why expose myself to the potential difficulties, darts and stresses liable to come from revealing my transgendered status? I think there are two reasons.
The first reason is selfish, or at least, is for me: It's a question of owning my own soul and taking pride in who and what I am. It's a matter of beating shame and innuendo at its own game by being there first. I call myself a "committed cross dresser," and by that I mean I no longer regret being what I am. I am a cross dresser, will always be one, and, thank you very much, I've reached the point of enjoying it. In fact, I can't imagine how life can be interesting to those who get stuck with only one gender to play with. So my first reason is an assertion of myself and my right to be.
The second reason has to do with a sense of responsibility that comes with being tenured. I have always defended tenure on the grounds that academic freedom is an important foundation of democracy. Being tenured means that a professor can speak her or his mind, be whoever he or she is, without fear of reprisal of loss of income and security. But there is another side to that coin. Tenure also brings with it an obligation to speak out or stand up when your views or behaviour is unpopular or not mainstream.
My belief is that I have an obligation to my students, especially my transgendered students, as well as my colleagues, and others not even in the university environment to expose myself as transgendered in order that others, for whom the risk might be greater, can also do so. I teach a course called the Philosophy of Gender and Sexuality. In that course we talk a great deal about the role the transgendered play in deconstructing the limits of gender; as a tenured academic, I need do more than talk. The best teaching is not from telling, it is from showing. And that is what I must do.
So, I have my perfect professorial outfit chosen (no color at all!) And will spend my office hours on campus, go to lunch with friends, and then teach my afternoon class. And now all I have to do is try and get a decent night's sleep.
The morning began with great butterflies, but there was no time to be nervous. I had to do my makeup, fix my wig, and organize everything I needed to do and take with me. Ninety minutes later, I picked up my usual car pool colleague (who happens to be my chairman,) and off we went.
The first people I met after removing my coat, were our departmental administrative assistants. They were both wonderful. The first touched my arm and patted my hair-the first time she's touched me in 20 years. The other gave me a hug and a great big smile. I couldn't have imagined a better, warmer, response.
I then had two colleagues pass my door, neither of whom recognized me. A few minutes later, one went by again, and I called his name. He stopped and we had a cordial chat about the department's web site and some other business matters without him ever mentioning or, to all intents and purposes, even noticing that I was wearing women's clothes. As far as he was concerned, whatever I wanted to wear was strictly my business.
For the sartorialists out there, I am wearing a matching black jersey skirt and jacket with a gray collarless top with a black flower design. The jacket is loose with folds in the front, and hides a great number of sins. My only bit of colour was a red African multi-strand bead necklace. Once I had decided to dress to work, I spent several weeks very carefully observing the dress code of my female colleagues: women professors, especially those of a certain age, do not wear colour at all. Dark burgundy is as wild as it gets.
Well, by now it's now about 1.15, just about an hour before class. So far, everything has been wonderful. I've encountered many colleagues, all of whom have been a either warm, cordial, supportive, amused, curious, blasé, or nonchalant. Not one iota of hostility. Can't ask for more than that.
One interesting things is how many people say nothing and ask nothing. It's like having a piece of spinach stuck in your teeth or a pimple on your nose. People politely just ignore it and continue on their business. But most have (especially the women, asked what it's all about, and then I've explained that I'm teaching Gender and Sexuality, and I promised the class a TG person would come in, and it's me. Sometimes there's a further query, other times not. (And, of course, all last night and all day long I've been getting great supportive emails from all my friends and family out there in the e-world.)
It's not all marching about explaining myself. Most of the time I've been sitting in my office working. People walk by, and don't notice. They just see what appears to be a woman sitting in an office. Unless they know me or know it's my office, there's no confusion at all. And, sitting and working is for me, more or less the same, except that my posture is somewhat different, and I can feel the hair from my wig on my face (which I can't scratch or I'll ruin my makeup.)
Lunch time came and my good friend Simon who teaches at the Law School and my colleague Les, who happen to be the chair of the department, came and we all went to the Student Centre for Japanese food. Lunch was as it usually is, chatting about university matters, a bit of gossip, and so on. Mostly I wasn't noticed, and when I was, no one was about to make an issue out of it.
Back in my office, I watched the clock as time approached for my lecture. The course, Gender and Sexuality, is in a lecture hall that seats about 130, but only has about 90 in the class. I timed my arrival to be a few minutes after the start so I wouldn't be standing around waiting for the class to begin. I entered, butterflies fluttering away, walked to my table, put down my books and purse, then faced the class. A round of applause started., begun by a wonderful gang of students from the TBLGay club, who had come to offer support and make sure I was all right. These are young people who have come out at a very tender age, and most have suffered as they discovered there own non-mainstream identities early in life, so they know how important support is.
As the applause died down, the class realized that the TG person who was coming in was me, and there was some buzzing and, of course, staring. I decided that they needed some time to take in the bizarre sight of their Prof. completely en femme, so I lectured on the readings for about ten minutes before asking for questions. The readings were all popular press pieces: The New Yorker piece on Neil Cargile, the Esquire article on TG MtFs, and a piece on Dierdre McCloskey from the Chronicle of Higher Education.
When I did ask for questions, I first had only one hand. A female student said, "Can I ask a personal question?" I said, "Let's make a deal. You can all ask me anything you want, and if I don't want to answer it, I'll tell you." And for the next two hours, I answered every question they had, and many were good, interesting questions.
One early comment was from an amazed young woman who said I looked exactly like all her woman professors. My loose, dark cotton jersey clothes were totally recognizable to her as a standard outfit of a female academic. This led to a discussion of the importance of clothing as a statement, and how women in academe need to dress conservatively-dark clothes and no skin showing-in order to be taken seriously. I also had compliments on my legs, a discussion about how my body movements, voice, and gestures were different (but not exaggerated,) inquiries about fear, the TG culture, and even the financial costs of being TG. In all, it was a rich and rewarding pedagogical experience. Many students came up to me at break with private questions. One woman said, "If I look as good as you do at 51, I'll be a very happy woman." That felt nice.
In all the experience was completely positive. Not once did I feel criticized, rejected or threatened. This morning I am expecting a reporter from the school paper who is writing up the story to accompany the photos taken during break. Maybe I'll be a centerfold girl!
Today, I went back to work en homme, all in drab. But it was not really over. First, there was a phone call from a student who explained that she was a psych major, and my session had decided her to specialize in TG issues. Great, I said, we sure need trained counselors. Next, were gifts from two women graduate students in the Philosophy Department, one of flowers and one of candy, both with cards congratulating me on my courage. Then there was a telephone message from a student who had missed the lecture, but had heard from friends how amazing it was. She wanted me to know she thought I was great. Finally, was an email from Tina, a TS undergrad, who said, "You, in one day, have made me feel more comfortable with myself than I have ever been."
As you can imagine, I feel pretty good about the whole experience, and I'm still taking it all in. My thanks go to all my wonderful accepting colleagues and students, and all my supportive and cheering friends and family. As the York motto says, Tentanda Via¸ The Way Must be Tried.
[This article may be reprinted in any TG newsletter or magazine provided that no profit is earned, and the full header and credit are included. The author must be notified and sent a copy of the issue. Gilbert@YorkU.ca .]
Tonight, January 20, Leslie and I got together for dinner with a friend of hers, Donna, from Cleveland. Leslie had met Donna some time ago at an Erie Sisters meeting. Anyway, Donna was buzzing through town, and it made the perfect opportunity to go out. Sadly, the planets were misaligned or something, as there were a few glitches in the evening. For one thing, Leslie's suit wasn't pressed when promised, and she had to wait for it. Then she was late getting to my place to change. Meanwhile, she had tried contacting Donna at her motel, but the desk clerk said she (or he) hadn't checked in. Leslie left a message, but that got screwed up too. In fact, Donna was there waiting for us, but we couldn't reach her because of the incompetence of the desk clerk. Figuring she wasn't in town yet, Leslie and I went to the Grapevine to meet with the others who were coming. When we got there, we discovered the restaurant was closed on Mondays. We waited for others to show up, but nobody came. On a whim, we called the motel again, the clerk's one synapse sputtered into action, and we were connected to Donna's room. From that point onward, everything went smoothly.
We went to pick up Donna and drove to Out on Main, the other restaurant we have Pink Listed. When we were obviously looking for the door (but trying to open the wrong one), a couple of very nice gentlemen said warmly, "Right this way, ladies!" and held the door for us as we entered. Well, they couldn't have made a better first impression on us! We were seated right behind the front window, so that we could see people passing on the sidewalk (and so that they could also see us?). What fun! The streets weren't very busy, but I had the opportunity to smile at a few interested passers-by, and they smiled back.
Our waiter was very sweet, and he provided us with impeccable service. What's more, he really made us feel like ladies. The prices were in the $10 - $15 range, and the food was worth every penny. It was absolutely delicious and very prettily presented! During the course of the meal, I asked to speak with Jack, the general manager. I had spoken with him over the phone earlier to confirm whether he wanted to be Pink Listed. We had a very nice conversation at the time, and I wanted to meet him in person. He came to our table, sat down with us, and introduced himself. I reciprocated in kind, and we had a very lovely chat. During the conversation, Leslie, experiencing the diuretic effects of her wine, asked Jack whether it was alright for her to use the toilet. He said, "Of course!" She then asked which toilet would be more appropriate. Without hesitation, Jack responded, "Why, the ladies' room, of course!" How wonderful it was to be acknowledged in that way! I guess there wasn't a problem anyway, as I gather the ladies' room there is rarely visited! Anyway, Leslie took her trip to the ladies' room, and after she was finished, so did I. I had never visited a ladies' room before, for fear of legal repercussions. The experience was strangely validating.
On Jack's recommendation, we paid a visit to the Clubhouse Cafe, a lesbian-owned bar downstairs. We were quite pleased with what we saw. It was a very cozy and cordial place, and the second we walked through the door, one of the bar tenders perked up, smiled, and told us how lovely we three looked! It turns out he was a drag queen (en homme that night). Both the employees and the patrons were very warm and friendly. We chatted with several of the people there and were comfortable with all. I had a delightful chat with the owner and her partner and offered to Pink List them.
Finally, we bade our new friends farewell and returned to our male lives. What a wonderful evening it was, though! I cannot think of anyone, no matter how severely closeted, who wouldn't have felt perfectly comfortable there, provided she could work up the courage to drive there and back. (For those of you who don't know it, by the way, it is very difficult to make out enough detail through a car window to "read" a driver, particularly at night, and if you should get pulled over, the police are rarely a problem as long as you are 100% truthful with them.) Anyway, we give Out on Main and the Clubhouse Cafe "three thumbs up" for the food/drinks, the service, and the wonderfully cordial atmosphere. It is the perfect place for any transgendered person to go for her first time "Out"!
Here's a quick little excerpt from an email Anne Casebeer (Bluegrass Belles, Lexington, KY) sent me. I think is shows just how important it is to keep your sense of humor!
"Last Thursday in Cincinnati, a couple CrossPort members and I had a 2AM Waffle House encounter with 2 teenage couples; after a few laughs and catcalls from them, they played Aerosmith's "Dude Looks Like a Lady" on the jukebox. I laughed so hard that I popped a contact lens, and damn near cried off my eyeliner and mascara. The teens were soon laughing with us, not at us."
[from Jayne Nicole of Crossroads] Does your mascara come off the brush in small globs? Wipe the extra mascara off the brush onto a paper towel and you won't have any clumping (one or two wipes - you'll get the hang of it!). There will be enough left on the brush to take care of your needs. The mascara will last the 3 or 4 months (recommended for replacing due to hygienic reasons).
More on credit cards from Jayne Nicole of Crossroads: I have several charge cards in my femme name. There was no problem getting them at Winkelman's, Fashion Bug, and Lerner's - all places that I shop. I went in as both Jayne and John and applied for them when making a purchase (and got a discount at the same time *grin*). They don't really care as long as one card is in your real name and they have your address for billing - the other can be in any other name - they will probably ask for a relationship to you. I said self! The salesgirls were great and I had no problems either way. You could apply in male mode and just say the extra card is for your daughter/wife/girlfriend. As long as you pay your bill that is all that matters. If there is ever any doubt as to my gender, it is all removed when I hand over a card with my femme name on it! I also got an extra Master Card in my male name and signed the back with my femme name - all perfectly above board - I asked!!
You just washed off your makeup, and your lips are still crimson! Oh no! You have a bored meeting (sic.) in an hour! Whatever will you do? The problem could be that there are dyes in the lipstick you are using, in which case you should pray that nobody notices and use a different lipstick next time! The more likely cause is the bleeding of lipstick into your pores, cracks, and crevices. This is true especially just around the margin of your lips where you may have lots of very fine hair follicles. Two approaches are useful. The first is preventative. Apply a lip balm, a lipstick primer, or a light coat of foundation (if oil based) underneath your lipstick. These products will fill the pores and crevices before the lipstick. If you don't do that and end up with lobster red lips, don't panic! The trick is to dissolve the lipstick in the pores and work it out to the surface. Many trannies use baby wipes for that purpose. The kind with alcohol work best. A more effective solution is to use baby oil or rubbing alcohol. (Alcohol can dry your lips and should never be used without applying an oil or lip balm afterwards; however, it is the most aggressive solvent you can safely use, and it even helps wash out dyes.) Soak a cotton swab or pad and rub lightly in a circular pattern. The oil or alcohol very quickly penetrates the pores and dissolves out the lipstick, while your cotton pad gets very nice and red! In a pinch, you can get most of the lipstick out with nothing but a terry towel. Just rub, and the "fingers" of the material will "massage" out the lipstick quite effectively.
Can't find any "pretty" clip earrings? Check out the Napier collection, sold at Kohls for around $12 - $15. They have small "clipless" hoops (the kind Dianna always wears), as well as some standard adjustable-tension clips that are refined and delicate and look very convincingly pierced.
To look "pretty" when holding a drinking glass, touch your palm to the glass and let your fingers spiral upwards along the side.
To keep from messing up and/or wearing away your lipstick when eating, take smaller bites of food, and remove the fork from your mouth with it pressed between your upper teeth and your tongue, rather than between your lips. You can still close your lips gently over the fork, so the motion will not look strange. Never eat sandwiches, except perhaps with a knife and fork. Beware of salads. Cut down each bite carefully so that the leaves will not drag across your lips. Also, do not take bites from a whole roll. Rather, break off bite-sized pieces with your fingers. (If done right, it can look very sensuous!) Finally, minimize the use of your napkin, and never rub! Always blot gently, just as though you're blotting to remove excess lipstick. If you're still a hopeless klutz, try using one of the smudge-proof lipsticks. They're pretty good, although they give your lips a very "dry" look.
by Lori Larkin
Anyone who has been involved in a child custody case will tell you that it is probably the most emotionally charged issue they have ever been involved in. Other things being equal, most will agree that the mother generally enjoys a certain advantage, but if the father is a crossdresser his chances are worsened still.
Time and time again I have heard stories from crossdressing fathers that were blackmailed into giving up their parental rights because of the threats of exposure and ridicule. IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE THAT WAY! I have recently been involved in just such a case and won. My ex-wife and her attorney did their best to portray me as some sort of "crazed transvestite" and unfit to have the primary care, custody, and control of my six year old son but we went in very well prepared and overcame. Here is how we did it.
Be comfortable and confident in yourself and your transgendered nature. The fact that you are a crossdresser doesn’t keep you from being a good father. It is just another part of the person you are. Most of the crossdressers that I know are much more nurturing and caring than more traditional males. You must believe in yourself if you expect others to.
Start by looking for the right attorney, one who is experienced and successful representing fathers. Be honest and up front about your crossdressing. He/she needs to know ALL the issues. If you sense he/she is uncomfortable representing you, keep looking. It is imperative that he/she believe in you if he/she is to do his/her best. My attorney not only had the best record in the state at representing fathers but quickly adopted the attitude that my dressing is a form of freedom of expression and did not make me a bad father. It was great seeing him get fired up when we started discussing the issues.
Be prepared. Knowing they would try to portray me as some sort of psychological pervert I went through a whole battery of psychological tests so that we could show that nothing could be farther from the truth. Armed with the new DSM IV and having educated one of the best known local counselors we took the issue head on and presented it exactly as it is.
Remain calm. The opposing attorney will undoubtedly try to get to you. Your confidence and belief in yourself needs to be very apparent without being arrogant.
Looking back it certainly wasn’t a pleasant or easy experience but very well worth it. If you find yourself in a similar situation don’t let them blackmail you, stand up for yourself. Please don't hesitate to contact me if I can be of any help or support.
We just received a letter from Ted Clement (a.k.a. Stacy), a nonoperative TS and doctoral candidate at the Saybrook Institute Graduate School and Research Center, San Francisco, CA, who wishes to investigate the influences, if any, of a father's crossdressing upon the development of her children. Being very interested in this very topic, I called her and discussed the matter. As I've long suspected, this question has never been investigated scientifically! The sum of our knowledge is from anecdotal studies, so many of which concern pathological subjects and family structures. I know several of you have sons or daughters who would be good subjects for this study. Let's lend Ms. Clement our support. It's clear to me that she's 100% legitimate, both in transgendered and professional status, and in accordance with the ethical standards of the American Psychological Association, your confidentiality is 100% assured. You can write to Stacy at Research Project/ 10400 Rio Hondo Parkway, El Monte, CA 91733-1354, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or phone her at (818) 444-4354. For more information, visit her web site at http://www.geocities.com/WestHollywood/5991. Anyway, here is her letter to us:
"What are the effects of disclosure of crossdressing behavior of the male parental figure on the maturational development of children in that family system?" - or - "Should I tell the kids about my crossdressing, should it be kept a secret, or should I abstain from crossdressing until the children have left home?"
This research makes no judgment about the matter but instead will try to learn about the actual experiences of the young people in the family with a crossdressing father. The goal is to talk with adult and adolescent children who have emerged from that special family system to glean what they felt and thought the experience meant to them. The attempt will be made in this manner to help determine what those effects are.
The researcher needs to talk to children of crossdressers of all sorts (TV, TG, TS) who are between the ages of 16 and 25, although younger or older children of crossdressers will be considered. Parents of those children under the age of 18 will be provided with parental consent forms. This study will consist of a few questions, and the child will be asked in an open-ended manner in an in-person interview setting and completing a simple form.
The participant criteria are as follows: Your child is between the ages of 16 and 25, has known about or experienced your crossdressing behavior around the house or in public, and who would be willing (without parental coercion) to share their experiences with me.
It is hoped that individuals and groups will volunteer to assist with this study, so that a foundation for further study may be laid and definitive conclusions arrived at. The pilot study which will require participation of several children of crossdressers is slated to begin in 1997. If you are such a parent or know of one, please contact me.
Ted J. Clement
by Gina Thompson
I think I'll take some time today
To step into some hose
And yes, before you've time to say
I'll admit...I'm one of those.
The time has come for you, my friend
To meet the other me
I'll try to make you comprehend
Just what it's like, being a TV.
I'll tell you of the ups and downs
The buying sprees and purges
I'll mention all the shoes and gowns
And coping with strong urges.
I'll try to make you understand
A life of constant stress
And even though I am a man
The thrill of a new silk dress.
And now you look at me with doubt
For keeping others guessing
But girls are still what it's all about
Even though I'm into dressing.
So please don't shake your head and sigh
And put me down among the damm
Or wish for a cure that i won't try
Cause I'm quite content with who I am..
This month, Gina Thompson, one of our founding mothers, emailed me. She wrote the following and submitted the poem (previous page) entitled "Who I Am."
"Hi Sarah. my name is Gina and I'm brand new to the web. While "surfing" I came across your home page and it was like a breath of Spring. I am originally from Columbus and in fact am one of the founding "mothers" of the Crystal Club. I left Columbus in 1990 for Chicago and now live in frozen Northwest Wisconsin. I receive the newsletter from CLCC in Minneapolis but have not been out in 3 years. Reading the newsletter in your home page brought back a lot of memories of some good people and good times."
In the December issue, Cathy had mentioned a source for $50 silicone-like breast forms, and I had indicated that I ordered a pair and would tell you all what I thought. Well, they finally arrived, and I suppose it's a good-news/bad-news situation. The good news is that as far as I can tell, they are indeed silicone forms, not "silicone-like," and they are a natural flesh color. They appear to have similar construction to other silicone forms I have seen selling for hundreds of dollars. Those of you into nipples might be disappointed, though. The bad news is that the don't do a lot for us flat-chested girls. The claim that they will add up to two cup sizes is rather ambitious. I would say they are quite well suited for those of us on hormones who already have a bit of growth and would like to show about one cup-size more. If you're flat like me, you may be interested in some full silicone breast forms sold locally for about $235/pair at the Heartline Lingerie & Bra Shoppe, which has been pink-listed this month by Susan. Those of you interested in ordering the $50 enhancers can call the transgender-friendly folks at A-Target Direct, (213)-269-1101 (8:00-5:00 PST), or write them at 5315 Lindburgh Ln., Bell, CA 90201. Ask for the IGEA Wonder Forms, priced at $49.95, plus $6.95 shipping and handling.
Suppose you don't have $235 for breast forms. Suppose you don't even have $50. How does $5 sound? Well, that's what it will cost to make your own. They're not as nice as the silicone forms by a long-shot, and they have no shape, except as given them by a full-coverage, full-support, underwire bra. Still, they're cheap, they have weight, and they jiggle. I tried making a pair, and they were fun to wear, although I'm not sure I would use them for the long-term. Our friend Jayne Nicole from Crossroads sends us this basic recipe:
This is a recipe for a poor girl's "silicone" forms. They "feel" like the real thing, warm up to body temperature, and have the same weight and movement. They are cheap and easy to make! The only drawback is a crinkling sound that only you will "hear" from the plastic bag when they are "new".
Thanks need to be given to the gal on the net who gave me her method of making them. This is a modified version that worked for me. You will need:
Take the Freezer gel and cut open the bag. Measure equal amounts into the Baggies. Try and keep it to one corner of the bag. For a 38C cup, try 2 cups for each form.
Squeeze out all the excess air you can. Don't worry if it isn't all out. Tie a knot in the bag using the top and the other corner. (You want to keep the material all in the other corner.) Try to tie the knot along the bottom seam of the bag. Cut off the excess plastic Baggie material close to the knot. This will give you a good approximation/shape of a breast form. Try placing the corner of the bag to the outside of your bra with the knot hidden near your breastbone on the inside. If you can make a small enough knot and place it properly, it can give the effect of a nipple. Don't tie the Baggie too tightly so it can't give/move, but do tie it tight enough to give it some shape (personal trial and error/preference).
This, if done correctly will give you a great form/shape for less than $5 a pair. I bought my freezer gel at ACO/ACE hardware, but it can be purchased at K-mart or Walmart. I have a set that is about 5 months old and still usable. The gel will eventually start to get stale and create some air in the Baggies. Then just make another set! As for what happens if the Baggies leak? Well, I have done that to see what would happen. I intentionally popped one so the seam went. It took a lot to get it to pop! If you got the gel that was thicker, all that happens is you have a bra with gel partly in it and need to use the ladies room. The stuff is non-toxic and non-staining. It won't even make a mess that will show through your clothing if cleaned up right away. You can go back to whatever you were doing without even changing you bra. (just restuffing it *grin*) If you get a pinhole in it, you probably won't even notice !
Oh, one small detail - Do warm them up before using them - nothing like a cold form on a warm chest ! And DON'T leave them out in the car in the winter - they will take a while to thaw ! *GRIN* They can keep you warm too - just don't microwave them!
[Editor's note: I used essentially the same construction, except that I used Queen Helene Sculpturing Gel & Glaze. (It was my good friend Rene from Texas who recommended hair gel.) I was pleased with the results, my only complaint being that the gel is highly perfumed and can get somewhat annoying that way. I also used a different method for bagging the gel. I opted for the thin, high-tensile material from which grocery bags are constructed. It is available in some kitchen trash bags. I used Roughies. I put a large (2 ft x 2 ft) square of the material on a kitchen weighing scale, plopped 9 oz of the gel in the center (for a 34 C), gathered the sides together, squeezed out the air, tied a knot, and cut off the excess plastic. Hint: Crinkling sounds come only from those parts of the bag overlying an air bubble. Less air means less noise. The knot is a bit big to be a nipple, but the bag is strong. I wore mine with the knot turned inward towards the chest. You should have just enough slack in the bag so that it looks like a drop of water just breaking away from a faucet when you hold it up by the knot. When you put it on a flat surface, it should be about four times bigger in diameter than in height (about 6 inches in diameter). When it is worn, there should be no vacant spaces inside the bra cup and no tension on the bag. You'll notice that the hair gel has tiny little bubbles in it (a marketing thing, I guess). Those do get larger with time, and you will need to repackage the gel periodically. One last tip. Before you wear your new forms in public, do some serious jiggling and shaking, just like Charro, and be sure that the forms won't try to migrate out the bottom of your bra. If they do, the problem could be either that the wire on your bra doesn't fit snugly against your chest or that the bag is too big for the amount of gel it holds. Happy jiggling! Coochi coochi coo! ...Sarah]
by Susan Bennett
Hi everyone! I just want to tell you about my experience at the Heartline Lingerie and Bra Shoppe. I finally decided to take the plunge and spend the money for a decent pair of silicone breast forms. Carey had told me that this shop carried them, so I dropped in for a look-see. I spoke to Susan, one of the fitters. I really liked her. She took me right into the fitting room and made me feel very comfortable. She showed me a few different styles of forms, and I ended up picking the Active asymmetrical form. It felt yummy, and it's quite reasonably priced at $225. I asked her if they wanted to be Pink Listed (You're quite welcome, Sarah!), and the answer obviously was "yes". What's more, if you tell her you're with the Crystal Club, she'll give you a small discount! I've heard that the owner of the shop blows hot and cold and might at times not be all smiles, but he was obviously gender-tolerant. If you want to pay them a visit, call and set up an appointment with Susan. She'll need to fit you anyway. By the way, there's a short window of opportunity before Valentine's Day if you're particularly shy and/or closeted and don't want to look out of place in a lingerie shop. It's really not a problem though. You'll have lots of privacy there anyway.
Early this February, I got an email from an Anne Casebeer, editor for the newsletter of the Bluegrass Belles of Lexington, Kentucky. Never heard of them? That's because they're new! Their members come partly from Crossports and partly from the Tennessee Vals. So far, there are 12 of them, and they're growing quickly. The only person I know from the group is Anne, but if she's any reflection of the rest of the membership, I think we can expect to hear a lot from the Belles in the future. They seem to be very active, especially considering they are in their infancy. At least a couple of them (Anne and Dawn) are intensely political and will be lobbying in DC this February. I must say I really fear for those poor CongressCritters. They won't know what hit them! Anne is a real wild woman! Anyway, on behalf of the Crystal Club, I offer congratulations and welcoming hugs to the Belles!
I'd like to commend you on your January articles, "Closeted Millions" especially. I know that closet issues exist for many people, but if they only knew how much easier life is out, they wouldn't wait any longer. Still, all we can do is make the offer, give them the resources; the person has to make the next move. I know I get read , but nobody's given me any grief yet. In fact, public contact has resulted in some very entertaining stories. I'm under no illusions about outreach; it wasn't that long ago for me, and I know what the decision to visit Nashville was like for me that first time out. Jennileigh's story (in "Closeted Millions") is a prime example of why I'm proud to be a open, public CD'er. We have an obligation to help closeted CDers find their gift and a way to express it, and to help them realize they aren't insane freaks. Getting a page on the Web, entries in local newpapers, using my PO Box and pager, and so forth can only do so much; seeing real people like us, crossdressed, shopping in department stores, eating in restaurants, and having a good time is needed to educate the public.
Copyright © 1997 by the Crystal Club, Sarah, editor. 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.