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by Sarah, Editor in Chief
Dawn Wilson, a rather vocal transgender activist of the recently formed Bluegrass Belles in Louisville, KY, and our mutual friend Anne Casebeer, Editor in Chief of The Belleview, will be honoring us with a visit at our April 26 meeting. (and we thought the Dayton people had a long drive!) Dawn is a member of the Transexual Menace and has lobbied our CongressCritters in Washington on three trips, taking Anne along on the most recent trip in February. Their visit was first intended to be just a social one, but with Dawn's lobbying experience and our Lobby Days approaching in early May, it seemed only appropriate that Dawn address our group to tell us something about transgender issues and the lobbying efforts that are being waged to secure our civil rights. I am quite excited to have her speak to us and greatly look forward to meeting and her. I also can't wait to meet Anne, since we've emailed so much. Then again, why do I get the nagging feeling we will never be quite the same again after meeting her? (Just kidding, Anne!) ..... Sarah?
by Sally Oppenheimer
appended by Sarah
child custody laws. While most of the revisions are quite positive and useful, an amendment to paragraph 7 of the bill, introduced by Senators Ehlmann and House, directs that all child custody decisions involving a transsexual parent be made unrestrictedly in favor of the non-transsexual parent, regardless of the wishes of the children or their best interests. The language in the "perfected" bill may be paraphrased as follows: As between parents, no preference shall be given to either parent in awarding physical and/or legal custody because of that parent's age or financial status or because of the age or sex of the child. As between parents, no preference may be given to either parent in awarding physical and/or legal custody because of that parent's sex unless that parent's sex has been changed since the birth of the child, in which case preference is given to the other parent. (We are not allowed to quote the exact wording of the bill, which can be found on the Missouri Senate's Web page, http://www.senate.state.mo.us/billtext/perf/SB051.htm).
Senate Bill 51 has been passed unanimously by the Senate with all senators present and is now under consideration by the House. I (Sarah) emailed all of the 29 online senators to ask them whether they supported the amendment to paragraph 7. (Unfortunately there is no written record of the vote.) As of this publication date, Senators House, Ehlmann, and Klarich are known to have supported it, and Senator Graves reports not being able to recall his vote. I also emailed all of the 133 online representatives to ask them their views on the antitranssexual language, presenting my own case as an example in which a transgendered parent clearly should be allowed interact regularly with her children. Only two representative replied. One is a gender friend and the other a bigoted gender foe. Our friend, Vicky Riback-Wilson, wrote, "I am sympathetic to the arguments you raise. In fact, in the committee on the House bill, I attempted to change "sex" to "gender" and include protection on the basis of sexual orientation, both of which were defeated. I will continue to fight for fairness and equality for all." Our foe, Martin ("Bubs") Hohulin, wrote, "Dear Jim (or Sarah, or whatever you go by), I think you are in serious need of help. You say you are the most stable influence in your kids' lives. How sorry I feel for them. You say you are a model citizen. Model citizens don't have sex changes. If I were you, I would get some help before you permanently scar your innocent children."
The discriminatory language in SB-51 may have been a reaction to the recent publicized St. Charles case (see articles of 3/12/97 and 4/7/97) but has implications for all of us regardless of our state of residence and parental or marital status. Do not for a moment think that this is a small issue for those living in a rural state. Even the Missouri legislation has very wide implications: about our ability to see or care for our children, to adopt, to marry or about our fitness to be seen as a responsible person in any way. An attorney can always argue in court that if transgendered parents are unfit in Missouri, they are unfit elsewhere too. While it's not a strong argument, it is still an argument that can and will be made. It is also conceivable that an unhappy spouse, worried about her treatment in another state, could move to Missouri and obtain a divorce and child custody there.
Perhaps the most dangerous aspect of this legislation is that it is infectious. When one state enacts discriminatory legislation, other states often follow. This sort of legislation also opens the door for further discrimination against other gender minorities, such as gays and lesbians. This is already happening in the Missouri House, where Representatives Chrismer and Akin (573-751-1186) have introduced House Bill 640. To paraphrase (again using unofficial wording): There is a rebuttable presumption that homosexual, bisexual, transvestite and transsexual parents are unfit to be awarded custody of children under eighteen years of age. To rebut this presumption, a homosexual, bisexual, transvestite of transsexual parent must prove fitness for custody by a preponderance of the evidence.
Both of these bills are being considered and could easily be passed because people generally think transgendered people are sexually deviant, are in the "sex trade" or are otherwise unsavory characters. This misunderstanding could also have other consequences, such as denial of life or medical insurance because of a perception that we are at high risk for HIV.
Those who live in Missouri, can take direct action against these bills (especially SB-51) by contacting their legislator and the governor. Those of us outside of Missouri can take action too, and perhaps our actions will be the more powerful by virtue of our greater numbers. We can all put pressure on that state's government by pressing some of the larger Missouri corporations including Monsanto Chemical, Emerson Electric, McDonell Douglas, SouthWestern Bell and TWA to make known to the legislators there that not all transsexuals are marginal unproductive persons and that this law could be counterproductive to their interests in recruiting and retaining qualified employees as well as tarnishing their own public image and further marginalizing some who could be productive, contributing members of society.
Perhaps most importantly, we are all empowered to dump from office the bigoted politicians responsible for these bills. We can do that by making campaign contributions to their opponents in the next elections. Given the connectedness of the transgender, gay, and lesbian networks, and given our unusually heavy participation on the Internet, it would be very easy to publicize this cause widely and to encourage people to mail contributions directly to opposing candidates. While this action would in no way affect the legislation already passed, it would send a clear message to politicians throughout the nation that there will be Hell to pay for anyone trying to take away our children. The appeal of this plan is that it need not be well coordinated and organized. Concerned organizations and individuals can independently publish calls for campaign contributions on their Web sites, in their news groups, on their mailing lists, in their information service fora, in their newsletters, etc. Collectively, the more heavily trafficked Web sites get perhaps hundreds of thousands of visits every single day. Within one or two months, that would add up to more than the total population of Missouri. With most of these visitors being rather "concerned" citizens, I suspect it would not be difficult to rally the support necessary to "out-gun" our foes in the Missouri Legislature.
For right now, we should make our voices heard. Please take a few minutes to write your thoughts on this subject. If you send an E-mail to me, I will forward it for you to each and every senator and/or representative in the Missouri Congress. You may either sign the email or not. I will strip the header information for your anonymity; however, signing your letter with your name will give it more impact. If you wish to get return email from the congresspersons, please include your E-mail address beneath your signature. If you are not online, you may send a printed letter to: Attn: Sarah, Crystal Club, P.O. Box 287, Reynoldsburg, OH 43068-0287. I will scan and "OCR" it for you and will distribute it by email. The letter should be printed, not handwritten, and a monospaced font is preferred, such as from a typewriter (e.g. Pica, Elite, or Courier). You might also take the opportunity to thank Representative Vicky Riback-Wilson for her support. It is encouraging to know that there are still politicians principled enough to stand up for what they know is right, even though their stance may be unpopular. (By contrast, I imagine we have at least a half dozen of our "sisters" in the Missouri Senate who have already betrayed us for political gain.) You may call Ms. Riback-Wilson at (573) 526-3996 or write to her at Room 025-D, State Capitol, 201 West Capitol Ave, Jefferson City, MO 65101. Her E-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Those of you wanting to phone or write to other Congresspersons can find a complete directory of names, snail mail and Email addresses, phone numbers, and more on the House and Senate Web sites at http://www.house.state.mo.us and http://www.senate.state.mo.us, respectively.
Question: What is our connection to March of Dimes? Give up? Answer: We all have a birth defect of sorts. Our brains failed to masculinize completely during fetal development, so we were born with more-or-less female brains within male bodies (and vice versa for F-to-M transpeople). Is this a birth defect about which we should be concerned? Well, I wouldn't change who I am, even if I could, but neither would I wish my life on anyone else. Is anyone concerned? Probably not, even though it's clearly the most common birth defect people have. It's just not a birth defect that is perceived as being very important or common and indeed is perceived by most not to be a birth defect at all. Is it a preventable birth defect? Yes, I'd say so, given a bit more understanding of etiology, along with research on testing and treatment protocols. Once gender identity disorders are better understood both by the public and by the medical community, what organization will be most active in their prevention? Probably the March of Dimes. Therefore, is it appropriate for us to help the March of Dimes in its fundraising efforts? Yes, obviously! What can we do to help? I'm glad you asked that. Read on....
The March of Dimes will be having its annual Walk America this Sunday, April 27, 8:30 AM, starting and finishing at the Ft. Hayes Career Center (near I-670 and I-71). This event will be a 6 mile walk through Downtown Columbus. Before coming to the event, we will raise whatever money we can to contribute to the March of Dimes. I know you're thinking, "Haven't I heard this somewhere before?" Yes, you have, almost. This event is very similar to the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life, in which many of us will also participate. One difference for us is that we don't need to have people on a track for an entire 24 hours. Another difference is that WSYX (Channel 6) is the media sponsor for the event, so it is inevitable that some of the walkers will be on camera. While there will be enough people there that we can probably avoid the cameras quite easily, there is a very small chance one of us may end up on the news. Therefore, don't consider walking in this event unless you're unrecognizable en femme (and most of us are) or you don't mind if you're recognized. If you're really concerned, you can always wear sun glasses. That wouldn't look out of place at an outdoors event, unless of course we all wear sun glasses. We will have pink T-shirts reading "Transgendered and Proud!" as optional (and suggested) attire for all. No reference will be made to the Crystal Club, in keeping with the wishes of many of our members. The name of our "team" will be "Sarah's Friends". We will be there simply as a group of transgendered women raising money for a good cause.
I have already discussed our participation with one of the organizers, Amy, and she is happy to have us. I met Amy the other night at a team captains' meeting and was warmly received by everyone there. Well, there was a transphobic bigot from some insurance company who made it clear to me that he didn't "approve" of me (as though I were asking his approval), but in his words, "All that's important is that you're walking." We will undoubtedly be misunderstood at first. In fact, in a recent conversation with Amy, she expressed to me, somewhat sheepishly, the concern of the organizing committee that we will parade down the street in high heels, elaborate sequin gowns, and boas. (Gee, I don't even know anyone who owns a boa!) I reassured her that we will be wearing T-shirts, shorts, and walking shoes, commenting jokingly, "High heels? Are you kidding? Would you walk 6 miles in high heels?" Amy is a sweet girl, and the event organizers I met are wonderful people, but I'm afraid their understanding of our community is based on daytime talk shows. Let's re-educate them!
We need participation from our community on two levels. We need people to raise and/or donate funds, and we need people to walk. I have sent a letter to our Pink Listed businesses and organizations soliciting donations from them, and I would like to see Crystal Club members donate at least a few dollars each. Ask for donations from those to whom you are "out", particularly businesses. Have checks made out to the March of Dimes, and record the name of each contributor and the amount contributed. Either mail the contributions to Walk America Event, The Crystal Club, P.O. Box 287, Reynoldsburg, OH 43068-0287 prior to the April meeting, or bring them to the April meeting where we will collect them. By the way, while you are soliciting contributions for the March of Dimes event, you might also want to solicit funds for the Relay for Life (American Cancer Society), in which we will also participate (July 11 and 12; see the March Crystal Chronicle, p. 3). That "gets it all over with," and contributions can be split between the two events. Likewise, have contributions for the Relay for life made out to The American Cancer Society.
If you think you can walk, please call Luann at (614)231-1368 or email me. I hope to organize at least 5 walkers, including myself. This should be a fun event, and it's for a very good cause.
With our little newsletter now on the web, we have gotten considerable international exposure, so much so that we have one new member from the Cleveland area and two new members who are nowhere even close to Ohio. Our member from Cleveland, Ari, is an honorary member by virtue of the fact she has become an Angel of the Crystal Chronicle. What's an Angel? An angel is someone who contributes money to the Crystal Club to help with our outreach efforts. In fact, it was Ari and her kind letter who inspired me to start an Angels List. Read more about it in the article, "Angels on the Internet" in this issue.
The nearer of our new long-distance members is a California girl, Bobbie Ann. Bobbie is an acquaintance of mine from CompuServe's GenderLine and now from the new Pride! Trans forum. She and her wife, like Ari, have both been avid readers of the Crystal Chronicle for the past several months and have just become Angels and honorary members. Bobbie is a really sweet person who not very long ago visited our fair city for a golf tournament. Let's hope she'll be back sometime soon so that we can all meet her in person!
Our farthest new member is from the other side of the globe in Indonesia. She is very shy and nervous, so we won't print her name here. She contacted us through our Web site and has sought out our advice on certain issues she faces. Ultimately, she asked Cathy if she could join the Crystal Club. She needs the companionship of some of her sisters, even if we are half way around the world from her. Of course it would be rather unfair to her to pay dues since she can't very well attend meetings. We just declared her an honorary member.
Bobbie and our sister from Indonesia have also joined the CC-Online email list, so hopefully we will be hearing from them soon. (We'd like to add Ari too, but we don't know her email address. Want to send it to us, Ari??) Let's all show them our warmest welcome, as they quietly pull us from regional to statewide, national, and international status, all within the very same month!
by Jacqueline Herkowitz
Leslie Feinberg, a nationally known transgender activist, will be speaking at the First Unitarian Universalist Church, 93 W. Weisheimer Road, Columbus, OH 43214 on Friday, May 9, 1997 at 7:00 p.m. on his recent book, Transgender Warriors, and views regarding transgenderism. The event is sponsored by This Way Out, the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender organization within the First Unitarian Universalist Church. The public is invited. A charge of $5.00 will be assessed at the door. Please contact Jackie Herkowitz by phone at by email at email@example.com or call Luann at (614) 231-1368 for further information.
Leslie Feinberg came of age as a young butch lesbian in the factories and gay bars of Buffalo, N.Y. in the 1960's. Since that time, Feinberg has been a grass-roots activist and a journalist. S/he is nationally known in the lesbian/gay/bi and transgender movements.
Leslie Feinberg opened the Stonewall 25 Rally in New York City on June 26, 1994, that drew one million people from across the country and around the world.
Feinberg's novel, Stone Butch Blues, published on March 1, 1993 by Firebrand Books, has received a wildly popular response. This trade publication went back to press a third time in less than a year. The novel has received the prestigious American Library Association Award for Gay and Lesbian Literature and a LAMBDA Literary Award.
A video about Leslie Feinberg entitled Outlaw premiered at the New York City Gay and Lesbian Film Festival last summer and is being widely distributed nationally and internationally.
Feinberg has toured the country for two years with a slide show on transgender that has played to packed audiences and standing ovations. Since October 1993, s/he has appeared on the Joan Rivers Show and scores of other television and radio programs. Feinberg has been interviewed by virtually every lesbian, gay, transgender and feminist publication in the last two years. S/he has spoken in 40 states since 1993.
by Cathy Wood
Transgendered people continue to make the news around the country. At Michigan State University, students now have three choices for student housing. Male, female and transgendered! Yes, a major university now recognizes that some of us don't readily fit into just male and female. There was some backlash, but not what you'd expect. There were three letters against the new policy published in the student newspaper, but as it turns out two were from female roommates and the third was from the brother of one of those girls. The three also tried to disrupt the transgendered education meeting that was set up to help other students understand transgendered issues. They did not succeed. It is a shame that the "state up north" should beat us to this, maybe someone should approach OSU about this issue?
I'd personally like to see transgendered added as a gender category for driver's licenses and other forms of id that require gender identification. Although I don't think that gender is any more an appropriate question than race is, at least adding a transgendered category would ease some of those problems with transition, or for transvestites who spend much of their time cross dressed. It could also lead to forcing the courts to reconsider past decisions ruling that discrimination against transgendered people not falling under sex discrimination laws. In a related matter, remember Sarah is offering id cards with both your female and male pictures and stats on either side. It's nothing "official" but it does look that way and it could be a good means for showing that you aren't up to something you shouldn't be if stopped by the police en femme.
Not all the national news is good. As you can read in another article in this issue, Missouri has a bill working it's way through the legislature that would automatically find in favor of a spouse in child custody cases involving a transsexual. The governor has indicated that he will sign it if it makes it through. Sally, who wrote the article, is someone both Sarah and I know personally. She's the proverbial T from Texas.(or is that Sarah?)
Don't forget that concurrent with next month's second Friday meeting will be the talk with Leslie Feinberg at the church. This event has gotten some publicity and we can expect a pretty good turnout. It might be worthwhile to dress "up" a bit more than most of us usually do for the Friday meetings. The location for the main meeting for May is still not set yet, so please watch for an announcement with next month's newsletter. Also I hope to have this set before this month's main meeting and will discuss it then as well. It will be separate from the newsletter and only go to those who are active members, so have no concerns about security.
You won't get this in time to see it, but, I'll have a "rebuttal" article on TG Forum running two days only, April 14 and 15. The article is an answer to an article that appeared the week before critical of two of the e-mail lists I'm active on. Cindy Martin, the editor of TG Forum edits pretty drastically (unlike our dear Sarah, who's editorial decisions I almost always find an improvement) so you might only 'just' recognize my writing style.
Don't forget that next month is Lobby Days in Washington DC. Right now it looks like Mary Ann, Sarah and myself. Anyone else want to join us? It should prove interesting and even entertaining to educate our CongressCritters about transgendered people. I still think this is worth a lot more than a weekend retreat, and I would love to see more of us there. Speaking of Mary Ann, she's pretty much "out" at work now and is getting ready to do some outreach in her company. Way to go girl!
It's time to start thinking about June's Pride week. Are any of you interested in (wo)manning a booth for the club? Have you thought about being in the parade? Sarah and I plan to march in this years parade and again would love to have some other club members join us.
Our club is growing with every meeting. We seem to see several new people with almost every meeting now and recently I took the liberty of making a transgendered gal in Indonesia our "Official Indonesian Representative" She contacted me through the web and wanted to join the club. While I hardly think it's fair to collect dues from someone who couldn't ever be able to attend a meeting, she wanted very much to be a part of our group. She's pretty shy and still afraid to be very out, even online, so I won't mention her name here until she tells me it's OK. The Crystal Club is now International! This follows visits this year from Karen from Great Britain and Crystal from Greece. I'm sorry that Kirschen from Singapore via Texas couldn't make our last meeting. She and her friend Sarah (from Italy) were pretty done in from the trip and only arrived in town that night. She may be back some other time and if so, I'll try to get her to the meeting. Sarah is now living in town. Maybe she'll join us sometime. It really is becoming a small, small world.
Hugs to All ....Cathy
We just heard from Ari, the sweetest lady in the Cleveland area. Ari apparently enjoys reading the Crystal Chronicle Online and has sent us a generous contribution of $20 to help us with our expenses! We suggested she take out a subscription ($18), but she declined. Apparently she's deeply closeted, and her mail isn't secure. Anyway, I want her to know how deeply I appreciate her contribution and her kind comments.
Shortly afterwards, I heard from a dear online friend, Bobbie Ann from California. She and her wife are both avid readers of The Crystal Chronicle and wanted to help support our efforts. They too wanted to make a contribution!
Ari was not the first to make an unsolicited donation, by the way. Meral Crane was so kind as to contribute $50 towards our efforts as well. These contributions are very helpful indeed, as about 2/3 of our newsletters go out to our friends, who of course we do not ask to pay. At about $1.65 per mailing, the cost adds up quickly. We could of course have a cheaper (smaller) newsletter, but it wouldn't carry the same impact. We easily make up for the added expense by recruiting more dues-paying members. After all, most new people find us via the Chronicle.
Half of our complimentary subscriptions are exchanged with other support organizations, and the other half are for Pink Listed businesses and professionals, as well as for figures such as Dear Abby and Ann Landers. We also send out perhaps a half dozen complimentary copies per month to prospective members. What is the purpose of these mailings? Very simply, they are important for outreach. Our mailings to other support groups are an important avenue for dissemination of our writings throughout the country and even throughout the world, where they are reprinted in other newsletters. Our mailings to transgender friendly businesses help those businesses to understand more about their transgendered customers, so that they may serve them with more sensitivity and awareness. Our mailings to prospective members are an important tool for educating fearful, closeted transpeople about our community and support organization, thus putting many of their fears and concerns to rest. In the future, abridged versions of The Crystal Chronicle may be sent mostly via email to legislators and other important political figures.
I feel that our "angels" deserve recognition for their help in our outreach efforts. For this reason, I'm starting an Angels list, and the first three names on it will be those of Meral, Ari, and Bobbie Ann. I will not indicate the amounts of their contributions on the list, as that would be tacky. Anyone who contributes money to the Chronicle in any amount will have equal status on our Angels list, and his or her name will appear for a year as an expression of our gratitude. Anonymous donations, of course, are also greatly appreciated and will be indicated on the list as "anonymous". So here it is -- the first ever appearance of the Angels list:
These people have been so thoughtful as to assist us in our outreach efforts, contributing money to offset some of our expenses within the last year. We are very grateful for their consideration and honor them here:
It's amazing how little attention gender identity disorders have gotten in the past. For some reason, this area of research promises to be a hot topic in times to come. We already have heard from Ted (Stacy) Clement of the Saybrook Institute who wishes to interview the adolescent and adult children of transgendered people to learn of their experiences having a crossdressing father. Her objective, as the reader may recall (see the February 1997 issue), is to assess the effects, if any, of the father's disclosure of his crossdressing behavior on the maturational development of his children.
Since the time I ran Stacy's call for help, I have run across three other studies requiring our assistance. As active an organization as the Crystal Club is, I'm certain many of us can lend some support towards these worthy efforts, especially considering the need to defend our worth in society and our fitness as parents. The first of these is a sociological study by Dr. Bob Mendelsohn entitled, "Creating Community Through the Internet: The Transgendered Experience". Dr. Mendelsohn is conducting a survey through the WorldWide Web (http://www.abmall.com/cb/tg/intro.html) to assess, among other things, the impact of the Internet on self acceptance of those in the transgender community. I know that without my first contacts over the Internet, I would have never made it out of the closet, and I might well be dead by my own hand. I know others share my experiences. Let's lend Dr. Mendelsohn our support. The survey is guaranteed completely, absolutely, 100% confidential, or else Dr. Mendelsohn is "toast" professionally.
Another study by Sherryl Heller (Psychology Dept., University of New Orleans) hits a bit closer to home for me. It examines the extent (if any) to which early childhood experiences have impacted our gender development. I consider this a very important subject of inquiry, considering the legal ramifications for people such as myself. I could soon be called upon to defend my fitness as a parent, and there is precious little scientific evidence to which I can point. Even though gender identity disorders are currently accepted to have biological origins, could they also have environmental origins? I don't think so, but there is certainly little evidence one way or the other. Meanwhile, many of the more enlightened legislators of the state of missouri (caps intentionally omitted) are trying to pass a bill that would automatically declare transsexuals to be unfit parents. I hate to think that this piece of legislation could be used as evidence to argue against a transsexual parent's fitness even outside of Missouri. At the very least, other states are certain to follow missouri's lead. This issue will likely end up being tried in the US Supreme Court. I certainly hope the Scientific Community (caps intentionally added) will have more to say on the subject by the time a custody case comes to trial there. Let's help Ms. Heller, please! She is conducting her survey mostly through the WorldWide Web (www.uno.edu/~psyc/research); however, if you don't have Web access, or you don't want to pay line charges while you fill out her form, you can contact her by email (SSHPS@jazz.ucc.uno.edu) or snail mail (Sherryl Heller, University of New Orleans, Dept. of Psychology, New Orleans, LA 70148) to volunteer your support, and she will cheerfully mail you a survey with a stamped, self-addressed return envelope. Again, this survey is 100% confidential. If any information about you gets leaked, Ms. Heller is toast.
Finally, GenderPAC, the organization responsible for the upcoming Lobby Days, is conducting it's 1st National Study of Violence Against TransPeople. By "violence", they mean to include such things as verbal abuse and harassment, threats, blackmail, etc. I think ALL of us have received at least a bit of that. The results of this survey will enable GenderPAC "to learn more about violence against our community and its causes." It is completely anonymous, so you don't need to worry about confidentiality. I consider this a very important effort, so I have enclosed a copy of the survey with each newsletter. I hope you all will take 5 minutes to complete it and mail it to R. Wilchins, 274 W. 11th St., New York, NY 10014.
Editor's Note: In the March issue, I ran a piece on Ann Landers' recent column, which was quite favorable to transpeople. The letter she quoted (leading off her column) was from "Happily Married to One in Ohio". Little did I know at the time that we of the Crystal Club know Ms. Happily Married is one of us. She is none other than Linda, Joyce's wife. Of course Joyce and Linda moved away not too long ago, their membership expiring in March. We miss them dearly but will always consider them a part of the Crystal Club. Joyce sent me a copy of Linda's wonderful letter, along with a photocopy of the Ms. Landers' February column that prompted her to write. The column concerned crossdressers and was basically very positive; however, Ms. Landers quoted from two very negative letters which basically advised the partner of a crossdresser that she should "dump the creep and his padded bra". Of course Linda was outraged. I am reprinting her letter here:
A year ago, I knew nothing about cross-dressing. Today, I know many cross-dressers and regularly socialize with them. They are our neighbors, local business men, doctors, attorneys and possibly, even your own brother, father or husband. They are courageous men who are not afraid of expressing themselves, even the feminine side of themselves the loving, nurturing, sensitive, caring side that often is denied and hidden by societies' standard of what a man "should" be.
All my life I have searched for someone like my husband. The fact that he occasionally enjoys wearing a skirt (and short ones - he has great legs!) has never caused me concern. If he drank, I'd be concerned. If he smoked, I'd be concerned. If he cheated on me - no concern there - he'd be out on his ear! But a skirt? No way will I let outside apparel, makeup and a wig keep me from the most kind, gentle, loving man I have ever met. It's the inside that counts and if he denied this urge, he would not be the man I love. He would be frustrated, anxious and fearful - not great husband material! Why the big deal over a skirt?
And for the skeptics out there, he is heterosexual with a very healthy sex drive, has children, grandchildren and a highly respected job - hardly a "deviant" person.
And for those who claim, "he will never change", I say: Great! I wouldn't want him any other way. I'm greedy - I want all of him; not just the bits and pieces society labels as "average". Who wants "average" anyway?
People who are ignorant make such statements as cross-dressers have homosexual tendencies. It is a known fact in the CD community that fewer cross-dressers are homosexuals than in the general public. There's more a chance your "straight, macho-man" is homosexual than a cross dresser. Although, who cares anyway except for the narrow minded, judgmental people to whom most of us are not attracted in the first place. The letter printed from Oregon stated, "We never married (referring to the cross-dresser), which was lucky for me." I interpreted that far differently: he was the one who was lucky not to have married her.
And the gentleman that was told by his therapist to give up cross-dressing was sadly misinformed He undoubtedly would be a far happier man today had he simply found a better therapist. That must have been years ago when little was known about cross-dressing. MY heart goes out to him. How sad to be asked to hide part of who your are. A big part of the misunderstanding is that this is sexual behavior. It is not. It has to do with gender, not sexual orientation.
The bottom line is let's all live and love peacefully together and let everyone be who they truly are. Acceptance is the key word. The real sin is not being who God made us to be -- denying ourselves. Love yourself, and others, for who you are and who they are. Why do we complicate things so? I can't believe this was God's plan. Nor was it His plan for us to sit in judgment of others just because they're different than we are. Different is not always bad. It may be uncomfortable at first, but it is not bad.
Happily married in Ohio,
Mrs. CD (Cross-Dresser)
Editor's note: Thanks, you two, for having written to Ms. Landers and for having forwarded your letter to me. I hope you two are doing well in your new home. We miss you. Drop in on us sometime, OK?
When I ran Alejandra Sarda's article last month, "Transgender Rights Protest in Buenos Aires", I was perplexed by what appeared to be an error in the English translation of the pamphlet the demonstrators distributed during their February 10 rally. The pamphlet recounted the brutal arrest and beating about a month earlier of Nadia, an Argentinean "transvestite" (the term used in Argentina for transvestites and transsexuals alike). The last sentence in the pamphlet was translated, "Every day most transvestites are arrested, like Nadia was." Because of other minor translational errors, I thought the sentence should have read, "Every day more transvestites are arrested...." I emailed Alejandra for clarification on this point, but she was out of communication until after the newsletter went to press, so I kept the translation as I had received it. About a week later, when Alejandra returned from a conference, she answered my email. She wrote, "Unfortunately, it was not a mistake. Most transvestites are arrested an average of 3 to 5 days every week." I find it sobering that while we worry about matters such as where to relieve our bladders, our sisters in Argentina (and numerous other countries) are trying merely to survive until the next morning without being "disappeared". I imagine they are grateful for every day they do not have to spend in jail, cut, bruised, and humiliated.
As one of the braver, more self-confident members of the Crystal Club, I go just about anywhere and do just about anything as Sarah. I am very comfortable in public, so I carry off a very good presentation and am accepted well, even on the odd occasion that I'm read. That wasn't always the case, however. Getting to this point took a lot of experience. My first time to run with the public was about a year ago, when I had the opportunity to spend two days in San Francisco by myself. I've been threatening to write up this story for ages. Finally, here it is....
It all started during the planning stage for our trip to Singapore for my brother-in-law's wedding. We were trying to schedule flights to get us there early enough to take full advantage of my wife's leave and at the same time arrange a courier flight for me. (For those of you who don't know, air couriers sell air tickets at roughly half price, but seats are very limited -- only one per flight.) Anyway this was a rather difficult task, as a major leg of the trip was between the US and Japan, where it would be Golden Week. Golden Week is like a national Spring Break, so seats are sold out quickly. The best I could arrange was for us to fly to San Francisco together, for my wife and kids to continue on to Japan and Singapore the next day, and for me to follow two days later. The split was absolutely unavoidable! Gee, now how possibly could I keep myself entertained in San Francisco for two entire days? Well, Jim would have had fun, true, but obviously Sarah had much more to gain from the trip! That would be her first opportunity to interact with the public on a prolonged basis in absolute safety. If I would "pass" there, that would be great. If not, so what? It's San Francisco, and nobody would care. Also, nobody would recognize me, so there was no chance of my "secret" getting out. I finally broached the subject with my wife, and she gave me her official "Whatever.....," and so it was.
I planned my wardrobe carefully, putting together five outfits, one for each daytime and evening, plus one extra that could work for either. I put together looks for all levels of bravery, from a conservative every-day-girl, going-around-town look to a rather flashy, going-to-the club look (for when my gay cousin would take me out on the town to see his female impersonator roommate perform). I also planned my wardrobe efficiently so that I wouldn't be packing anything more than I really needed. After all, I knew I would be scrutinized at every turn. As predicted, my wife got rather perturbed with me when she saw how much I had packed. I retorted, "Do you have to pack your breasts? Do you have to pack your hips? Your hair? What about your purse? Should I wear all these things for the flight?" That argument fell flat. It's funny that she still managed to pack far more than Jim and Sarah combined.
After a rather chaotic journey, we reached San Francisco, and the next day I bade my family good-bye. When I arrived at the hotel, the doorman grabbed my luggage and carried it inside. If only he knew what it contained! I went up to my room and began my transformation. First, I had to get rid of the hair on my hands, which I was told was the only thing that might keep me from passing. Fortunately, San Francisco is a chilly place, so my clothing could cover up everything else on my body. Once that was done, I had to shave oh so closely. I'm the sort who has a permanent 5:00 shadow, so the process wasn't without blood letting. I had to be very thorough, though, because this was the very first time I was to step out in broad daylight. I was terrified that someone would see stubble in the harsh sunlight.
For my first day on the town, I decided to wear my most dress-down, every-day-girl look, just to play things safely. I put on a short, khaki swing skirt, cable-knit cotton sweater (which draped over my breasts ever so nicely), off-white tights, and a new pair of chunky 3" high-heeled loafers. The jewelry was also simple -- a solitaire pendant, tasteful pearl earrings, and my watch. Then came the makeup -- the hardest part. After the heavy foundation, I applied brownish tones -- a touch of sangria blush, copper eyeshadow, brown eyeliner, mascara, and a rich burgundy lipstick, which I brushed to an outline that gave me a very slight pout. Finally, I slipped on my brown, medium-length page-style wig. After brushing out my hair and tucking it behind my ears, my transformation was complete. The look was casual, tasteful, clean, and slightly sophisticated. Sarah was ready to see San Francisco.
Nervously, I stepped out of my room and walked down the very long corridor to the elevator. Good! Nobody was there. I would hate to have to ride the elevator with someone else, scrutinized at close range under the fluorescent lighting. I descended to the lobby and the doors opened. There were maybe a dozen people before me, calmly going about their business. I stepped out and the doors closed behind me. There was no turning back now. I took a deep breath and walked across the lobby, heels clicking. Nobody paid any attention to me. Good! As I approached the door, the same doorman who had helped me with my luggage was now holding the door for me, smiling. This would be my first close-range contact. I passed nervously through the door, and nothing happened. Whew!
Now I was faced with quite a larger crowd -- the hundreds of people walking up and down the street. I joined the stream of people, walking nowhere in particular. Nobody paid any attention to me. I was just another woman walking around in San Francisco. What a feeling of freedom, to be walking around in broad daylight as Sarah for the very first time in my life! Then came my first verbal encounter. A transient was standing on a street corner looking people in the eye, one by one, raucously begging for money. Horrors! The light had turned red, and I had to wait for a green light to cross the street. The transient went from person to person, all of us trapped by the light, and almost got to me when the light turned green. As I started off across the street, he asked me, "How's about a quarter, miss? Oooooh, you're a nice miss. Pretty miss." My self confidence was instantly doubled. I'm sure if I weren't so scared, I would have gladly reached into my purse to give him a small contribution. Not a half block later, another transient approached me, this time face-to-face. He asked me in a very gentle and sincere voice, "Please ma'am, could you spare some money to help me out?" I nervously shook my head, but as I walked away, I wished I had been confident enough to help the young man.
My stroll eventually took me to a posh shopping district, where I found Nordstrom's, Macy's, Saks 5th Avenue, Neiman Marcus, and other notables. I of course couldn't resist visiting those establishments. As I strolled from store to store, department to department, rack to rack, I became increasingly relaxed. It was obvious that everybody was accepting me as a woman, so I could just slow down and enjoy the experience. As my walk slowed, it became more feminine, with a bit more sway in the hips. Whenever I touched anything, my hands moved very gently. They were unmistakably the hands of a woman, and they were mine. Minute by minute, I became the role, until it was no longer a role. I felt perfectly natural. It was such a wonderful feeling.
While I was browsing in one department, a sales clerk approached me from behind and asked if she could help me find something. Until that time, I hadn't spoken to anyone, and I was so startled that it didn't occur to me simply to smile and shake my head. I said nervously in as gentle a voice as I could produce, a voice that I had practiced at home, "Just browsing." She said "OK" and went about her business. Whew! Several minutes I saw her watching me with a subtle smile. I think she knew, but it obviously was nothing objectionable to her. That's when I discovered that one can be read without the world crashing down around her. What a relief!
After an afternoon of shopping, it was time to return to my room and change for dinner. I had arranged to meet with a Transexual friend, Julie, an Australian who I had known through CompuServe. By coincidence, she was there on business at the time. As I stepped onto the elevator to my room, a middle aged couple followed. My makeup was getting tired, and I was standing right under a fluorescent light. Oh no! Could I bear up under close inspection? As we climbed, the woman exclaimed, "Oh, look Frank! Isn't that cute?" She was pointing at my hand, which I held out at her urging. "That ring is just darling! Was that an anniversary present?" I replied, "Actually it was a Christmas present." She smiled sweetly at me and told me "good-bye" as I exited the elevator. My heart rate fell back to the double digits again as I returned to my room.
For the evening with Julie, I wanted to be well dressed, but not flashy. I wanted my look to be clean and well tailored, simple and elegant. I wore my red silk suit. The jacket had a nicely fitted waist and a very cute lapel, and the full-length wrap skirt was very wispy and feminine. Inside the jacket I wore a white silk blouse, buttoned to the top, with a cameo pin placed neatly under the collar. I finished the look with opaque off-white hose and red 2 1/2" pumps.
I didn't have long to wait before Julie called from downstairs. When I entered the lobby, the clerk at the reception desk looked up at me and smiled very nicely, as did the doorman later. I felt very pretty and very relaxed. Julie was very easy to find, as she had sent me her picture over the Internet. She was dressed very simply and tastefully in a short, black dress. I thought we looked pretty good together, two girls out on the town.
When we arrived at the restaurant, the parking valet told her, "You and she can get out here." It was fun to be called "she". Inside, we were seated at a table only a few feet away from a middle-aged couple, the woman being seated across from me, so that I was in clear view. I was rather nervous about the arrangement but didn't say anything. Finally Julie started talking with me. Nervously, I talked back in as quiet and feminine a voice as I could produce. Soon, the middle-aged woman started glaring at us. Did she read me, or did she think we were lesbians? Could she tell from my voice? Oh well. I didn't know, and I suppose I really didn't care, so I looked at her, smiled, and went about my business. The waiter was a middle-aged man, obviously very skilled at his profession. He smiled ever so nicely at the two of us and made us feel very comfortable and special. Throughout the course of the meal, he pulled everything out of his bag of tricks to impress us. I had never been treated so specially in a restaurant, and I felt so pretty and wonderful.
When I returned to the hotel, the doorman again smiled and held the door. Inside, the receptionist and his friend, the bellhop, both saw me and smiled broadly and sweetly at me, the bellhop holding in his tummy and pulling back his shoulders at the time. I was flattered. I returned to my room feeling very warm and feminine. After I removed my makeup, I changed into the nightgown I bought earlier that day and had a very nice sleep.
The next morning, I woke up early, wanting to get out and about as soon as possible. My attempts at being stylish went so well the previous day that I thought I would dress yet more stylishly. My outfit would be trendy and "up-town". I wore my natural box-pleated linen miniskirt and a cute natural linen 1960's retro-styled jacket with a large floppy collar and three buttons just under the bust line. The jacket had a long, flaring tail, extending to a few inches above the hem line of the miniskirt, and the sleeves had large floppy cuffs on the end. A white linen blouse with my cameo pin at the collar, off-white tights, and my chunky loafers completed the look.
I stepped out of the elevator this time with confidence and walked out into the daylight knowing I had a right to be there. I didn't really care if I was read that day. What's the worst that could happen? I took along my camera so as to have something by which to remember the trip. My plan was to ask people to snap an occasional picture of me. I considered it somewhat of a challenge. Could I pass with my androgynous voice?
My first stop was Saks 5th Avenue, since I hadn't seen the store the previous day. I again felt very comfortable, very casual, and very feminine as I strolled from department to department. As I passed the fragrance counter, I remembered that I had forgotten my perfume that morning. It seemed the perfect opportunity to experiment with another fragrance. As I was sampling perfumes, the clerk approached me and asked me if he could help me. When I told him I was just looking, he said, "Well here. Let me give you some take-home samples of some of our perfumes." He gave me a small handful of samples, and I thanked him and walked away. Wow! He obviously had no idea I was a transvestite, and I had even used my voice. It was then that I remembered the advice of one of my transgendered friends. She told me that people make up their minds as to your gender when they first see you, and then anything inconsistent with that decision gets ignored, provided it is sufficiently subtle. Thus, I now had a strategy to be seen always before speaking.
I went next to the lingerie department. How fun! The department was beautifully arranged, and there was an interesting display with two mannequins clad in lingerie beside a table with various bath oils, all back-lit by the massive central skylight. Photo opportunity! I approached the sales clerk, a pretty teenage girl, and asked her if she could take my picture, with the lame excuse that a girlfriend of mine asked me to go see their lingerie department while in San Francisco, so I wanted to send her a photo. The clerk cheerfully agreed, we walked over to the display, and she captured the moment for me without thinking anything about it. Sadly, the strong back-light messed up the picture, but at least I passed for female with a teenage girl, using my androgynous voice to request a strange favor, having my first picture taken in San Francisco as Sarah. It felt good.
Having had enough shopping, I decided to stroll about town. I came upon a very nice hotel with a gorgeous lobby. I couldn't resist the opportunity to make myself at home there for a short while. After all, I did look rather well heeled with my "up-town" look. I sat down near several other people and appeared as though I were waiting for someone. I smiled at them, they smiled at me, and so we sat. Never an eyebrow was raised. After several minutes, I left.
As I continued my stroll, I came to the grounds of the Museum of Modern Art. It was a beautiful place with a very large, well manicured courtyard. I sat on a bench for a while and watched the people pass. As I sat there, I spotted a small pavilion that I thought would be wonderful for a photo. I explored the pavilion and was trying to figure out how to snap the picture using the shutter release timer, when a thirtyish man came up and asked, "May I take your picture for you?" I thanked him and handed him the camera. He snapped the picture and said to me with a flirtatious smile, "I got it." I thanked him again, and we parted. As I was walking away, he said to me, "I just gotta' tell you you look so cute in that outfit!" I broke into a broad smile and thanked him again. How sweet!
I made my way to the museum to see the exhibit. When I walked through the door, curiously, nobody was around, and many of the galleries were locked. Still, there was a common area with many works displayed. I perused what bit of the exhibit was open. After perhaps 20 minutes, a man approached me from behind. He asked politely, "Do you have an appointment with someone, ma'am?" I answered that I was just looking at the exhibit, and he told me that the museum would open in another hour. I apologized, explaining that the door was open. He smiled and said "Oops!" As I was leaving, a security guard approached me and asked me how I got in. I explained to her and apologized again. She smiled at me as I walked out the door. Neither of them had a clue!
I continued my stroll, and before long, it was time for lunch. I found a very nice little Italian restaurant. I asked the head waiter for a table for one. How lonely that sounded. I've rarely asked for a table for one. He seated me at a very nice table with a view of the street and brought me the most delicious bread. I ordered the roast chicken and lingered over my dinner for some time, eating it most delicately while watching the world mill by outside the window.
After I had finished my lunch, I decided I should take care of an errand. A friend's son had asked me to bring back a replica of the Golden Gate Bridge for him. I figured that afternoon was as good as any for that mission, and so I set out in search of tourist schlock. It soon became apparent that in order to find anything so corny, I would have to go to the dreaded Fisherman's Wharf. San Francisco is one of the few cities in the world that could never be spoiled by tourists, except for Fisherman's Wharf, where one can find such things as the Ripley's Believe it or Not Museum, the Wax Museum, overpriced pirate-theme seafood restaurants, and so forth. Anyway, I boarded a street car for the Wharf and sat, crammed in with at least a couple dozen miserable, overweight tourists with silly looking shirts and camcorders. I was very concerned about the tight proximity, as flaws in my makeup would be particularly visible with close, prolonged inspection. One stop later, two teenage girls boarded and sat right across from me. One of them smiled at me, I smiled back, and nothing was said. Still, I was glad to get off when the cable car stopped at Fisherman's Wharf.
Fisherman's Wharf was truly an amazing place. I'd never seen so many people, tacky stands, overpriced restaurants, and street performers in my entire life! I only had to look around for a couple of minutes to find it -- an enormous souvenir shop, obviously the Mecca of Bay Area tourist schlock. It was virtually assured I would find the holy bridge there. There was only one problem. Gathered around the entrance was a herd of perhaps 200 or 300 clueless teenagers apparently waiting for someone to lead them somewhere. Well, I had been pretty successful in passing that day, even with teenagers. Even if one of the teenage cattle creatures were to read me, I really wouldn't care that much. By that point, I was too hot and tired to care. Of course my odds of being read were increasing by the hour. My makeup was already 6 hours old, and my beard shadow was just starting to peek through my oil-laden foundation. (I hadn't yet discovered the magic of facial astringents and salicylic acid.) I suppose I talked myself into regarding the situation as an opportunity -- a test. If I could pass with hundreds of teenagers scrutinizing me, I could pass anywhere. I bucked up my courage and marched forth, wading through the squawking, steroid-saturated sea of adolescent commotion, emerging intact and retaining my dignity at the other end. I heard not one foul comment, nor did I catch one critical glance. Still, I entered the calm of Fred's Bay Area Schlock Shop with some degree of relief.
I quickly found my way to the Golden Gate Bridge department, where I could actually choose between several models. After selecting a moderately priced plastic specimen, I was ready to go. Unfortunately, the herd outside had not yet been driven to another pasture. I spent the next twenty minutes perusing the store, hoping the herd would move. All the while, I entertained the idea of walking out and throwing one of them off the wharf into the bay, on the theory that all the others would follow, thereby solving my problem. Of course that wouldn't be very ladylike. Finally, I resigned myself to the idea that I would have to wade back through the adolescent mob, so I went to the cash register and paid for my bridge.
While signing the credit card receipt, I heard a squawky voice from outside the door, "Hey! Sir! Sir! Hey! You in the dress!" I had been read. Of course it only took him a half hour to figure me out! I ignored the squawks, completed the transaction, and waded my way to freedom from Trinket Hell. None of the other kids seemed to pay any attention to me -- only a single squawking brat. As I walked slowly and calmly away, the squawks followed me, albeit at a considerable distance. It was all I could do to resist the urge to turn around, approach him, and say, "Go away, little boy." The tenacious little imp finally gave up after following me an entire city block.
I spent the next hour wandering the Wharf, but there was nothing much of interest there, aside from a couple who danced the Tango for a small audience and then collected "contributions". A girl can only take so much excitement. I figured my day was done. It was time to head back to the hotel and get ready for a night out with my cousin Craig. I made my way back to the cable car stop, and to my astonishment, there was a line of a few hundred people waiting for cable cars. I probably would have had to wait a couple of hours in that line, closely scrutinized by the tourists, tired and stubbly, with makeup melting off my face. No thanks! The obvious solution was to hail a cab. I saw one come to a stop a few hundred feet away, and about three different families pounced on it. I suspect the driver was lucky to escape with his life. I figured my chances of catching a cab there were pretty slim. I decided I would be better off walking back towards my hotel and keeping my eyes open for a cab along the way.
Up the hill I trudged. Climbing a San Francisco hill is rather like scaling a cliff. Still, my 3" loafers had me walking about level. As I hiked, there was not a single cab to be found. Finally I reached the top of the hill and looked down over the other side. That would be the hard part. I had to descend at about the same slope, all the way back to Union Square, which is no small trick in high heels, no matter how comfortable they may be. Every step I took, my big toenails would bang against the vamps of my shoes. About half way down, my feet started throbbing, and my big toes were in agony. Still no cab in sight. I trudged onward seemingly endlessly, until I finally reached the entrance of my hotel near Union Square. I turned around and gazed at the mountain I had scaled in 3" heels. Unbelievable! Insane! As I walked through the door, I knew I was a terrible sight. The doorman and bellhop looked at me half with pity and half with disbelief. I was too exhausted to care. Had anybody commented, I probably would have chewed that person's head off. Everybody was quite nice though.
I returned to my room and collapsed on the bed. I had only a couple of hours to get ready for my outing with Craig. Heavens! I took off my stylish, up-town linen outfit, which was now looking rather sad and wrinkled, and I stepped into the shower. Aaaaaah! It felt so good to wash off the day's dirt and grime. As I was washing my hair, eyes closed, I heard a gurgling sound, and the water level rose around my ankles. I rinsed the shampoo away, opened my eyes, and gazed down in horror. I was standing in about 6" of raw sewage! I jumped out of the tub, washed the filth off of my feet, and called the front desk. Reaching through the phone, I grabbed the clerk firmly by the neck and explained my most unfortunate experience with a coldly trembling voice. "That's amazing!" he said. "We've never had anything like that happen before!" I rolled my eyes, thinking about how many times I had heard that before. I get so tired of always being the odd case, the exception. Now shaking him ever so gently by the neck, I demanded another room, so that I could finish getting ready for that evening. He said he would send up a plumber immediately and would have him let me into a nearby room.
That of course raised another problem. My room was all decked out in "Sarah's" things, and there I was, stark naked, as Jim, with a plumber due to knock on my door any moment. How could my situation be worse? I looked at my hands and remembered that my fingernails were so nicely painted. I hastily put on Jim's pants and threw Sarah's outfit, wigs, makeup, and toiletries into the suitcase. A couple of minutes later, there was a knock at the door. I grabbed a towel and held it as to cover both of my hands. I had considered outing myself to the plumber, as it seemed so unlikely he wouldn't figure me out anyway, but I decided not to do so unless it became absolutely necessary. The plumber took a look at the tub, told me he would have the drain clear in about an hour, and led me down the hall to another temporary room where I showered, changed, and put on my makeup.
For that evening, I had planned to wear something rather flashy, since I understood (or thought I understood) my cousin would be taking me to a night club to see his roommate, a local celebrity female impersonator, perform. I figured there was no chance I would pass, considering the company I was keeping, so I might as well have fun and be "sexy". I dressed in a 15", button-front, 5-pocket, black suede mini, a white cotton blouse with a bright red knit necktie, a black suede jacket with a long lapel, white tights, and the only pair of red pumps I owned (to match the tie). The scary thing was that the pumps had 5" heels. Half crippled from mountain climbing experience, I wasn't sure I could manage such stilty heels. Still, my only alternative shoes just didn't look right with the outfit. Enough said! I put on my red pumps, straightened my long, dark auburn wig and prepared myself to return to my room and surprise the plumber. Just then, there was a knock at the door. It was the plumber! He called through the door that he was finished and that I could return to my room. I thanked him, and he left. Whew! I hauled everything back to my room and stepped out.
As I descended to the lobby, I examined myself in the mirrored elevator walls. My outfit was definitely a traffic stopper. I was starting to get cold feet, for fear of the reactions I might get as I stepped out into the lobby. The elevator came to a halt, the door opened, and there I was. I raised my chin and strutted out. The receptionist and bellhop smiled broadly at me, and a couple of heads turned, but other than that, nobody really paid attention. I walked up to my cousin who was sitting in a chair looking bored. He looked up, never having met "Sarah", and his expression seemed to say, "Oh my God! What have I gotten myself into?" I explained to him that I felt I might as well dress "flashy" but that if he thought my outfit was inappropriate, I could change into something less daring. He said, "No, that will probably fit in quite well."
We stepped out, the doorman staring at my legs, and hurried off to our destination. I hadn't been privy to all the details, as my cousin wanted the evening's events to be a surprise. It turns out that his roommate's performance was at a small theater, where he was doing a spoof on a Bette Davis movie. The audience was at least 95% male, obviously gay, and everyone was dressed nicely but certainly not flamboyantly. And then there was Sarah in her spike heels and 15" mini! One would think that I would have attracted a lot of attention. In fact, nobody was interested. After all, just about everyone there was gay. Words cannot describe how dowdy one can feel in a "Saturday night at the meat market" outfit when absolutely nobody takes notice! I soon got acclimated to the fact though. Shortly after our arrival, the play began. Craig's roommate was really quite good, and the play was very funny. After the play was over, Craig introduced me to some of his friends and took me backstage to meet his roommate. They were a very nice group of people.
Finally we left the theater for a small coffee shop in the heart of the Castro (gay) district. My cousin had lots of friends there and seemed a bit nervous. Apparently he was worried that I would ruin his reputation. He didn't want any of his friends to think that he had gone straight, and he was very careful to introduce me around to everyone as his COUSIN Sarah. We had a very long chat there, interrupted occasionally by his friends' joking around. It was quite nice to see he had established himself so well in such a tight community.
From the coffee shop, we walked back towards his house. It was then that I discovered what a mistake my 5" heels were. Stilty heels are just fine for walking on level ground, but even a slight downhill slope is just about impossible to negotiate. As I hobbled along, Charro-style, Craig was speeding along. I called out, "Craig! Wait!" Apparently he had never been out with anyone in high heels and didn't appreciate that one can hardly sprint along in them, much less so when they are so impossibly high. Amused, he slowed down, and we inched our way along.
When we reached his house, Craig introduced me to another of his roommates who had crossdressed for fun on a few occasions. It was from his roommate that I got my first compliment of the evening, "Great shoes!" Of course he didn't know my great shoes were now the source of great discomfort, but proudly, I said, "Thanks!" Then he pointed to my red tie and said, "I love your androgynous look!" I wasn't trying to be androgynous. I was trying to be cute! Oh well, it was still a compliment, and I do love compliments. At least he had picked up on the red shoe/red tie connection, although not quite in the way I had intended. Craig and I had a very long conversation about so many things. I think a lot of matters came better into perspective for both of us. Finally the time came for me to go back to my room and get some sleep. (I was about dead.) Craig called a cab from a gay-friendly cab company, and soon I was on my way.
The cab driver was wonderful. By that point in the evening, I was so tired that I didn't care whether I passed or not. I'm sure I didn't, especially having come from the Castro district. We had a very nice conversation on the way to my hotel. No mention was made of my presentation or attire. I was just a person. Of course I expected that treatment from him, but it was very nice just the same. When I walked back into the hotel, the doorman was off duty. That was probably a good thing, because I'm not sure I would have born close scrutiny. The receptionist and his bellhop friend again perked up and smiled at me, and I managed to strain out a smile in return. The elevator ride took an eternity. At last, the doors opened, and I trudged down the hall, which seemed to grow in length with every step. Before long, though, I was snug in my bed dreaming of all my adventures.
Not everything had gone perfectly in San Francisco, but I still had the time of my life! When I stepped off the plane two days earlier, I was an experienced crossdresser, nothing more. During my stay, I had discovered much about myself. I had gotten to know my female side and for the first time in my life had viewed myself as a woman, rather than a man dressed as a woman. I also had come to appreciate much of the female experience, both the positive and the negative. It was a most enlightening experience. I had grown more in two short days than during my previous 5 years. As my plane lifted into the air, San Francisco shrank beneath me, a large jewel on the rocky West Coast. A warm smile came over my face. Sarah had just come of age.
[a continuation of Sarah's Trip to San Francisco]
As the plane taxied towards the runway, I knew I was due for a very tiring ordeal. Traveling to the other side of the globe takes a lot of stamina, even without kids to watch. The next night, I would be joining my family in Singapore. I had really missed my boys the previous two days, and I was anxious to see them.
I was flying Japan Airlines. I don't usually do business with the Japanese for economic reasons, but this time it was difficult to book a flight on an American or Singaporean carrier. Even so, I greatly enjoy the company of the Japanese. They are wonderful people, and their attention to detail is so delightful. Because I was flying as a courier, I was given a very good seat in the spacious area just beside one of the exit doors. Two of the flight attendants were strapped in just opposite me in their temporary fold-down seats, one of them a very sweet Chinese girl with a lovely smile.
After we had left San Francisco behind and were rising over the Pacific, I was admiring the blouses the two flight attendants were wearing. They had somewhat oversized, pointed collars that formed a V-neck. A few of the crew were wearing scarves under their collars, which complimented them nicely. Realizing how Eastern and Western fashions can differ markedly, I was wondering whether that style of collar was the fashion in Japan. (I wanted to buy a blouse similar to that for myself.) I was also admiring the Chinese girl's lipstick. It was exactly the shade I had been trying in vain to find for so long. The color was perfect! I wanted to ask her what shade it was, but how could I possibly do that?
As the flight went on, and she was milling about, I observed her carefully. She was a very bubbly sort of person, the sort of person who loves the world and would not seem to be put off by anything. The more I looked at her lipstick, the more I simply had to know what it was. Add to that that she was making a bit of a mistake with her lipstick and foundation application, and I thought that such a pity because she was so darling. I really wanted to offer her a makeup tip or two, provided I could do so without coming across as nosy or critical. For some reason it was apparent she would not be put off by my being a crossdresser, so I resolved to approach her at the first opportune moment.
Hours later, the cabin was dark, and the passengers were either sleeping or watching a movie while wearing their headsets. It was then that the Chinese girl took a break and sat down in her fold-down seat. She obviously wasn't interested in the movie, probably having seen it already a half dozen times or more. I wouldn't have a better opportunity than that! I leaned across and said, "Pardon me, Miss, but could I ask you a strange question?" She smiled sweetly and replied, "Certainly!" I told her that I had been admiring her lipstick and was dying of curiosity as to what shade it was. She smiled more broadly, said "Just a second," walked to the back of the plane, and returned with the lipstick. Gratefully, I jotted down the information on the bottom. Unfortunately, it wasn't a brand name I recognized. I asked her where she got it, and she told me it was a cosmetics line available locally in Vancouver. Moreover, it was fairly expensive (about $15 for that lipstick). I sighed and rolled my eyes. "Too bad!"
Seeing that the lipstick was so important to me, she commented, "I think it's wonderful that you care so much about your wife as to be hunting for the perfect shade of lipstick for her!" I grinned, thinking to myself, "What the heck?" and replied, "Well, actually I was wanting to find it for myself." She was such a sweet thing, I knew she wouldn't take it wrongly. Her eyes grew enormous, and her jaw dropped. Covering her mouth with one hand, and pointing with the other, she exclaimed, "You mean you....?" I nodded. "Yes, I'm a crossdresser," I said. Her expression of astonishment grew five-fold. She looked excitedly about her as though all she wanted was to tell one of her friends. She then cocked her head and asked, "You mean you like to wear lipstick?" "Oh yes," I replied, "In fact I enjoy dressing completely as a woman." Her expression was one of complete fascination. She started asking me so many questions about my crossdressing, all of which I answered openly. She exclaimed, "I've never met a crossdresser before!" I told her that she had, but that she simply didn't know it -- that perhaps 5 or 10% of all the men she knew share my pastime. She was amazed. Finally she asked me if I had a picture of my femme self, explaining that she absolutely couldn't imagine how I would look as a woman. Sadly, I had none to show her, but I gave her my web address. She said she couldn't wait to find a friend with a computer so that she could look up my picture.
Our conversation led into other matters. For one thing, I was still dying to find out where I could find a blouse like hers. She didn't know. It was standard issue, and to her knowledge it wasn't a fashion trend anywhere. We also talked about makeup. She wanted to know how I covered my beard stubble, so I told her. "So much work!" she exclaimed. She then told me how she had just completed a makeup workshop with Japan Airlines and was still learning. I commented that all of her colors worked wonderfully and that her makeup was quite well applied -- that I might have done a couple of things differently but that overall it was a beautiful job. Of course she had to ask me what I would have done differently, and of course I had to tell her. I suggested a slight change in her lip contour and pointed out a couple of streaks in her foundation just behind her jaw.
Pretty soon, the movie was over, and she had to get back to work. About an hour later, she came by again with a big smile on her face. She told me very discretely that she had tried my suggestions and asked me what I thought. I told her that the foundation looked great and that the new lip contour looked good too, although perhaps not as appropriate for her as the original contour after all. It was clearly a different look, conveying a different attitude. I gave her my thoughts on wearing different looks for different moods and suggested that she simply play with contours for a while to find the looks that work for her. She had apparently never considered the allure a woman gains when she introduces variety into her daily presentation. Perhaps that was fortunate. Some poor guy could really get wrapped around her little finger if he wasn't careful.
Throughout the remainder of the flight, we were best buddies. Whenever she walked by, she would give me a knowing smile, and I would chuckle. She was a sweet kid, and the "girl talk" we shared is a very fond memory of mine.
by Cathy Wood
One of the strange things you discover while changing your gender presentation is the ability of people to see only what they expect to see. For several years before finally starting to deal with my gender issues I had noticed to my horror that I had started not to pass as a male reliably. This is one of the worst things that can happen to someone hiding her core identity. I recently learned of an "incident" of my being misread several years ago. While coming home from a hunting trip with friends I stopped by a hospital emergency room to have a rather bad infection on my hand drained. I just found out a month ago that during the examination the doctor wrote under "GU exam" on my form, "deferred, normal female". Also, time after time I was being mistaken for the wife of some friend while we were out together and even more strangely, the friend I'd be with would not notice! I'd tend to ignore what was happening or just shrug it off, not wanting to draw attention to my less than perfect presentation. Remember, at the time I was so deeply in the closet about my gender issues I allowed no light at all to shine on them. Now that I am "out" to these friends, I've asked them if they remember these incidents. None of them recall them at all!
Last June I came out to one of these old friends. We had just spent the entire day together celebrating my birthday. Feeling bold that day and having resolved to tell him, I had worn only one piece of male clothing, the shirt. Jeans, socks, shoes, and even my hair style were all feminine. I had also just had my ears pierced a couple of days before and had a pair of silver studs in them. I got a lot of inquiring looks from others that day and in fact, our waitress at lunch kept coming back over and over and not very subtly was checking me out trying decide if I was male or female. She even managed to put her hand on my back, I assume to see if I was wearing a bra. I told him on the drive back and he had noticed none of this! My revelation was a total shock.
In the past year I have gone out more and more as my true self and have met more and more people as Cathy. Several people have told me, even after seeing my "male" presentation, that they simple cannot image anyone seeing me as male, and in fact, even now when I try to present male on occasion, strangers meeting me more often than not read me female. Still, everyone who has known me for years cannot switch perception of me to female. Only one as even made an effort to do so. What's happening here is the incredible ability we have to stick to our initial pigeonholing of someone's gender. When we meet or see someone for the first time, the very first thing we decide is that person's gender. This happens on a level so basic that we aren't even aware of doing it. Our decisions as to whether people are male or female colors the way we are to them, yet only if we are uncertain of a person's gender do we become even slightly aware of the process. No matter how little we may remember about someone we've met casually, the one thing we always remember is gender.
Even on television we can find an example of this persistence of gender perception in action. On the television show Deep Space Nine, the character of Dax is a symbiote whose previous host was male and was well known to Captain Sisko. The new host is female beyond a doubt, yet Sisko stills refer to her as "old man". He is showing his difficulty in shifting his gender perception of his old friend even in a situation where the gender change is not unexpected.
Gender perception seems become less mutable with time. The longer we know someone as one gender, the harder it becomes to change that perception. This is very rough on transsexuals because it means that the very people we want to see our true selves the most, family and old friends, are the ones who have the hardest time making the mental gear change. The result is that even if we switch our presentation to the point where it is almost impossible for someone meeting us to read us as our birth sex, that may be completely ignored and not even noticed by those closest to us. Without going to the extremes of gender expression, we enable them not to see our gender as others see it and to maintain their persistence of gender vision of us.
This persistence is either good or bad depending on how we are dealing with our gender issues. Those seeking solutions somewhere short of full transition can express their internal gender to an extent that almost defies the imagination without much negative response from those closest to them. For those who are transitioning, however, this persistence can be extremely frustrating. Transgendered people in transition must express themselves at gender extremes in order to force people to make a perceptual shift. Unfortunately, trying to express one's self to gender extremes also means that one's presentation is out of the "norm", thus attracting more attention one's self and increasing the odds of being scrutinized and "read" as transgendered (a true perceptual "Catch 22"). I've found myself expressing my exasperation about one old friend by saying that I didn't think he'd be able to shift his view of my gender unless he saw me in a prom dress!
Many people writing on gender issues of the transgendered have noted that there is a tendency for transpeople to overdress the role at the beginning stages of coming out. While this may be done out of desperation finally to express their true gender, it also may also be done in order to shift the gender perception of their loved ones. Those overly frilly dresses will get one read every time at the mall, but until Mom sees you in one, she's still going to tend to think of you as male. It sometimes takes that jarring overexpression to open the door of gender perception. Once open, the extremes of expression will appear "clownish" or just plain wrong, but they may be needed initially to push that door open. Knowing about a person's change is not the same as perceiving it. Instead of being part of the learning curve of gender role expression, this overexpression of presentation may very well be a necessary part of shifting others' viewpoints. Many transpeople could find themselves needing to wear that prom dress every once in a while when dealing with those who have known them for a long time. Of course they should try not to go shopping in it when they do.
The perception of gender by strangers works on a different level. Kate Bornstein noted in her book "Gender Outlaw" that it takes four strong female cues to override one strong male one. She calls this the presumption of maleness, and there is some truth in this. In our society it is much safer to err on the side of male than female in judging someone's gender. A woman mistaken as a man is much less likely to punch you in the nose than a man mistaken for a woman. The issue is a bit more complicated than this however. Different people focus on different cues when deciding gender. Some rely on gross body configuration. Wide hips and noticeable breasts will overcome a large number of "inappropriate" cues for these people, especially to men. Women, being much more aware of the extremes to which a body type can go, will usually rely on a more complete package of behavior, body language, verbal cues and more subtle expressions of gender.
A man's need to place someone's gender is based on two main elements, power relations and sexual availability. A woman's need to place someone's gender is also based on power relations but more importantly it's based on how to relate socially. What this means is that while a man will react to "reading" a transperson with a sudden shift of perception, a woman can make that shift in small stages and start reacting to a M-to-F initially pegged as male more like she is another woman before this is noticed on a conscious level. I have noticed this effect for several years now. While presenting as a male and talking to women about designing their kitchens there is sometimes a shift that can be seen in their change to feminine pronouns while referring to me, and the manner of conversation takes on a woman-to-woman style, often on an unconscious level. This type of perception shift rarely happens with a man. With men, once the determination is made that someone else is male, it's much harder for him to shift that viewpoint. If they determine someone's gender is female and then read that person as male, they react much more strongly, as they are being cheated of a potential sexual "target" or are finding themselves as having been attracted to someone of the same genetic sex.
It is this same need to categorize others as a potential sex partners or not that makes it harder for a man to shift his view of a transitioning transsexual's gender. Internalized homophobia prevents many men from being able to relate to a MtF as a woman, because it is difficult to consider a person a possible sexual partner who once perceived as male. Moreover, the sad fact is that many men see women as inferior and thus cannot understand someone choosing to adopt that role.
When women have trouble accepting the transition of a MtF transsexual, it seems to be related to how much emotional investment they have in the TS as a male. A spouse would have the most invested, and not surprisingly, it's spouses who have the greatest problem adjusting. A woman who has related to the transsexual in terms of her defining desirable traits to be found in a male will also feel a reluctance to accept the TS's change. Ironically when this is the case, it's often the feminine traits of the TS seen as desirable in a male that lead her to resist the idea that the transsexual is female. In the case of a spouse it very well may have been those same feminine traits that attracted her in the first place. Admitting this to herself would mean she would have to accept that she has an attraction to a feminine partner. Even when a spouse is able to do this, the fear of being seen as lesbian by others can still lead an otherwise accepting spouse to end the relationship once the TS transitions.
The people most likely to "read" a transgendered person after meeting them for the first time, are those who are in some way questioning their own gender roles. It is a well known part of transgendered lore that we can read each other most of the time. Young children and teenage girls are also known to more easily read a transgendered person. This really is not that surprising when you consider that young children are watching for cues on how to act for their own gender identity roles and teenage girls are also very observant of mature women as role models. Both groups will pay much more attention to a middle aged woman than most adults do and anything that does not ring true with them will trigger even closer examination. If an adult male reads a M-to-F transperson who is normally passable, it is a reasonably safe bet that he has some gender issues of his own.
Children, as a rule, don't have trouble dealing with the idea of someone changing gender. We bring them up on tales of transformation of all types. Children's stories are full of frogs turning into princes and even the cartoons they watch are full of characters who routinely change identity or form. They may read you and say something, but it is most likely from a sense of wonder and curiosity rather than an attempt to embarrass you. The best answer I've heard when a child asks a MtF transsexual "Are you a man?" is "I used to be". Your honestly puts them at ease and places the situation in the proper context for them.
The Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies at the University of Michigan is putting together a conference, October 24-26, called "Genders, Bodies, and Borders". This conference will bring together scholars from a range of disciplines and at all stages in their careers (faculty, graduate and undergraduate students) and will involve several forms of discourse, such as paper presentations, round-table discussions, panels, and poster sessions. The goal of the conference is to bring together gender studies and international studies in the discussion of cultural constructions, biological factors, and how these things differ between cultures and geographical regions. Topics will include the following and more: how nationalisms are gendered; crossing borders -- economic, generational, geographical, legal, racial, religious, sexual, and social; the politics of international and national health; explorations of the changing roles of women and men in post-Cold war societies; how religion has shaped women's and men's political participation in various cultures; cultural and/or political constructions of sexualities; how bodies are "made", contested, and experienced; how the representations of genders and bodies have changed over time; artistic representations of genders, bodies, borders in various international and national contexts. Unlike most conferences, this one has no registration fee. Our only expenses will be lodging and meals.
I have contacted the organizers of this conference to inquire whether they would be interested in a panel discussion of a nonacademic nature (not involving original research), which would best be titled, "The Transgender Experience Domestic and Abroad: Societal Pressures and Expectations". My thought is that we, the transgendered community, have a lot of unique perspectives concerning gender roles and societal attitudes. I think that those studying gender issues could learn a great deal from us and get lots of good ideas from the panel discussion. Although such a panel would not be "typical" for an academic conference, the organizers expressed interest in our participation. I myself am an academic, and I have a few transgendered colleagues in the area who might want to get involved. Less towards the academic side, however, we have local gender psychologists who could make important contributions, as well as dozens of non-academic transgendered folks who could offer their personal perspectives. Typical presentation times in these settings are about 15 min per speaker.
The conference organizers have stated that they do not have a problem with our presenting at the conference in our preferred gender. Apart from the time we are presenting our panel discussion, we will be free to discuss substantive gender issues with scholars in several fields in a casual one-to-one manner, and they will likely be very interested in "picking our brains".
We stand to gain two things from our participation in the conference. First, we will raise transgender issues with many of the scholars who are interested in gender issues in general. Thus, we will play some small part in directing future transgender research. Second, we will be interacting with people who teach gender-related courses to college students. Not only will we be giving them material for their lectures, but we will also be showing them that we're essentially "normal" people. When they hold discussions with their students, they will then paint us in a relatively favorable light. Indirectly, we might be "touching" hundreds of thousands of people through our few days of contact. I am excited about this conference and encourage attendance from all who feel they can go. If you would like to be part of the "Transgender Experience" panel, please call Luann (231-1368) or email me before May 5. If you would like to attend but not participate in the panel, please contact either of us before mid October.
About a week after our regular meeting, some of us will hit the road to Washington DC for the National Gender Lobby Days, Monday and Tuesday, May 5th & 6th. The evening of Sunday, May 4th, there will be an informal meeting from about 7-8:30 pm for everyone to meet each other and do a kind of "Intro to Lobbying 101.". This will include coordinating the next 2 days of visits to avoid duplication. We'll buddy-up (so no one has to go it alone), distribute hand-out materials, and discuss policies.
Mary Ann will be flying in directly from the EQUAL conference, and Cathy and I (and perhaps one or two others) will be traveling by car, setting out probably very early Sunday morning. We might take two cars, one for those who must return early, and one for those who wish to linger afterwards (being a DC tourist and such). When we arrive, we will all be sharing a room and splitting expenses. The trip should be important, educational, and even fun! For more information, please call Luann (231-1368) or email me (Sarah).
This month's Quick Tips section seems to have a below-the-waist theme. There's not really any reason for the theme, other than my having concentrated previously on facial/cosmetic and other above-the-waist matters and having run out of tricks to share. I encourage anyone with more above-the-waist tips to send them in. Meanwhile, let's talk legs, feet, shoes, etc.
Warm weather is coming, and it's time to store your tights for next Fall. One of the biggest problems with storage is that elastic tends to dry rot. As a result, when you pull up your tights in the Fall, they'll fall right back down to your knees. Two measures will prevent dry rot quite effectively. First, wash all your tights (by hand!) to remove all oils and salts. Then pack them in Zip-Loc bags or Tupperware, making sure to "burp" out all the air. Why? Not surprisingly, oxidation (rotting) of elastic requires oxygen. Oxygen deprivation therefore prevents rotting.
This Summer when you're showing off your legs, please don't walk like a guy! To walk more femininely, try doing some/most of the following: (1) Lean back a bit, head held high. Men often have a Neanderthal slump. (2) When you step, let your pelvis sag slightly towards the non-weight-bearing side as it sways slightly towards the weight-bearing side. (3) Walk slowly and with moderate-sized steps to allow time for this shifting to occur naturally and easily. (4) Hold your elbows in towards your body with your wrists pointed forward and cocked back slightly. (5) As your arms swing (gently), don't rock and bob your shoulders. (6) Practice these things by watching yourself as you walk towards a mirror. Position the mirror so as to give yourself as much walking distance as possible. (7) Don't overdo! Don't walk like Mae West. Try to carry yourself in a manner befitting your age and station in life.
To look good in heels, you have to practice walking in them. If your heels are too high, you will look clumsy and most unattractive. With the proper heel height, your step will be energetic and confident, improving your image markedly. Your heels are too high if when taking normally sized step you cannot plant your foot squarely on the floor without bending your knee. Maximum heel height depends on foot flexibility. The more you can point your toe, the higher a heel you can wear. You can limber your feet by pointing them occasionally as opportunities permit. You can also limber your feet by walking in a pair of heels that are perhaps an inch too high, so as to "overflex" your foot. [This Quick Tip dedicated to Blinda, who just loves heels -- the higher, the better! (Just kidding, Blinda!)]
Do your shoes seem to wear out just after you've just gotten them broken in? Part of the problem could be that you're buying synthetic shoes. Synthetics such as polyurethane don't "learn" like leather. While both leather and synthetics will stretch slightly, only leather remains stretched so as to stop placing pressure on the various bumps and bulges of your foot, and only leather "learns" the correct creases when your foot is flexed at the ball. Thus, when a synthetic shoe finally seems to be breaking in, it is actually in the process of wearing out. You can expect a leather shoe to last at least twice as long as a synthetic shoe. Moreover, it looks better, feels better, and breathes (so foot odor won't be a problem).
Leather goods can last a very long time with proper care. Good care is especially important for shoes, considering the stresses, strains, bending, and flexing they undergo. Leather must be lubricated. with oils, so that its fibers don't rub, bind, and tear. At least three types of lubricants are available. The most common lubricant is shoe polish, consisting of waxes, solvents, pigments, and stains. When shoe polish dries, the waxes can be polished to a high sheen. While shoe polishes work well for shoes, they are hardly suitable for skirts and jackets, as the coloration can rub off on upholstery. Commercial preparations of mink oil (deodorized grease from mink pelts) are available for waterproofing and preserving leather boots and coats. A product that achieves the same purpose while also cleaning is saddle soap. These products are very tedious to apply, however. For leather goods that do not require a high sheen and are not exposed frequently to water, such as skirts, purses, dress coats, and gloves, the best lubricant I've found is baby oil (mineral oil). It is inexpensive, it applies very quickly, and it cleans. It can also be used on suede, provided it is applied very sparingly with a cloth. Baby oil makes leathers very supple, so it is very good to apply to new leather skirts and jackets that may still be somewhat stiff. It also aids leather in stretching, so it is good for breaking in shoes. However, it leaves no sheen and cannot be polished. Conventional shoe polish may be used about 24 hours after baby oil conditioning. Please note that none of the treatments discussed here can be used on synthetics such as polyurethane and will probably accelerate their decomposition.
You've just gotten dressed, and you're ready to walk out the door. Before you leave, do a final check on yourself. Stand before a full length mirror, pose, display your feminine mannerisms, etc. What do you see? If you see your male self dressed as a woman, that's probably what everybody else will see, even if you can't identify anything that you've done wrong. Don't leave yet! Try on a different wig. Wear a different top. Take off an accessory or two. Experiment around until your immediate perception of that mirror image is one of a woman, not a man dressed as a woman. Now commit that image to memory, gather your things, and go. As you interact in public, keep that image in your mind's eye. That is who you are. If you continue to picture yourself as a woman, you will feel and behave like a woman, and nobody will be the wiser.
modified somewhat from the Guidelines offered by
the International Foundation for Gender Education (IFGE)
It is important never to use a driver's license, Social Security card, or other government issued ID in any name other than your true and legal name, or to misrepresent your true (legal) sex on an application form. Obtaining government identification under false pretenses is illegal.
If you are pulled over on the road by a police officer, roll down the window and wait patiently, keeping both hands in view. Be prepared to provide your license, registration, proof of insurance, or other legal ID. Also show the officer your Crystal Club Membership Card. Besides legitimizing you to some extent, it has on it a statement explaining your gender presentation. At your option (if you provide these things for preparation of your card) it will show both your male and female photos, male and female signatures, and driver license information. This information will be very effective in convincing the officer that you are the same person pictured on your driver license and that you are not trying to conceal your identity to him. Respond: "Yes, officer, that's me." if asked to acknowledge your legal name, legal sex, current address, and photo on the license.
When talking with the police never give a phony name or address! However, you do not have to disclose your sexual preference or information about your job. Try to avoid acting arrogant or intimidated. Remain calm and courteous! Remember that it is appropriate to politely ask to see the officer's ID, particularly if they are not in uniform. If detained for suspicious behavior or for disturbing the peace it may be helpful to produce documentation of your transgender status, such as a letter prepared by either your psychologist or your physician. Similar but less effective documentation is included on your Crystal Club Membership Card.
If you are arrested peacefully go to the station. Never try to argue or resist or otherwise evade arrest and never try to bargain with or bribe the officer. Upon arrival at the station, respectfully insist upon contact with a friend or family member and your own attorney or the public defender. Request a postponement of any court appearance if you are not represented or your attorney is not present. Try to avoid appearing in front of the judge or magistrate in clothing inappropriate to your true and legal sex. If necessary ask someone to bring your clothes (if you're not carrying clothing in your car). Do not sign any confessions or written statement and do not admit or deny any charge or allegation. Never discuss your case with another prisoner. Finally, try to carry sufficient money to post bond for a misdemeanor.
For your reference, I have enclosed with your newsletter a laminated card summarizing these points. Carry it with you in your purse wherever you go. Hopefully you'll never need it, but it will be there if you do.
by Dianna Mills
The Crystal Club is holding it's 3rd annual weekend in the park on October 24th and 25th. You are cordially invited to attend. The price of the cabins and the group losing a small amount of money last year has caused us to slightly raise the price of the weekend to $30.00 per person per night. For both Friday and Saturday nights the total cost will be $60.00. The weekend is replacing our normal meeting on the 4th Saturday, and if you just want to come to the meeting, the normal meeting fee will apply.
We have reserved 2 cabins which will allow a maximum of 12 people to stay in the cabins. If we have enough interest we will try to reserve another cabin. Also if you so choose, you may be able to reserve a room at the Park Lodge. A $30.00 deposit is required to reserve a place in the cabins. All reservations will be on a first come, first served basis. The only problem we have had in the past 2 years has been with members using the ladies rest room at the lodge. The management has asked us to refrain from that practice. Please, if you insist on using the ladies room in spite of their request, do not plan on coming to the event.
To register for this event, send your femme name, male name (optional), phone number (optional), and a $30 deposit to either Dianna Mills or Cathy Wood at The Crystal Club, P. O. Box 287, Reynoldsburg, OH 43068-0287. You may also bring these things to the April meeting. The reason we ask for your male name and phone number is so that we can contact you if for some reason something would cause cancellation of the event.
Thousands of activists nationally are building an April 27 mass protest to challenge the bipartisan attacks on our social services and standard of living. The White House and Congress have united to throw millions of people off welfare; reduce millions of women and children to poverty; attack immigrants; downsize workers, and slash SSI. AIDS funding and public housing subsidies are being gutted, and affirmative action abandoned. Medicaid is on the chopping block, and Wall Street is trying to hijack Social Security. Hundreds of lesbian, gay, bi and trans activists and groups are working hard to build this national march. Although we will eventually all feel the effects of these and upcoming cuts, the most oppressed will be affected first: people of color, people with AIDS, youths, elders, unemployed, students, immigrants, welfare and SSI recipients. It's no accident that this reactionary program is coinciding with a simultaneous rise in racist, transphobic and homophobic attacks, like the bombing of an Atlanta lesbian bar that welcomed gay, bi, trans and straight allies, attacks on women's abortion clinics, Black and interracial churches, and the right of same-sex marriage.
But these attacks have just begun. In Philadelphia on Apr. 27, Clinton will join George Bush, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Gen. Colin Powell, Nancy Reagan, Lady Bird Johnson and other political and economic figures for a "Presidential Summit for American's Future." They plan to propose to replace social services with our unpaid volunteer labor and private charity. Underfunded and understaffed charities are already unable to meet the overwhelming needs of poor people. And replacing wage workers with unpaid volunteers is part of a corporate drive that threatens millions of jobs of federal, state and municipal workers, and public sector unions. Our civil rights and social programs were won by struggles of millions of people over the last six decades--from the 1969 Stonewall Rebellion and almost 3 decades of our liberation struggles, to the great unemployed marches to factory sit-down strikes, to citywide work stoppages. It is time to build a new mass movement! It is time to say no to "lesser evil" politics! We can't wait for "damage control" from the Clinton administration, which did much of the damage in the first place. We must break with the corporate stranglehold on politics in Washington by reviving the spirit of mass struggle. Activists from lesbian, gay, bi and trans communities across the country will join thousands in a massive protest to say NO to racism, bigotry, repression and poverty!
Volunteers and funds needed. For more information, contact:
National Peoples Campaign
National Office: 39 W. 14th St., Rm. 206, NY, NY 10011;
WEB PAGE: http://www.peoplescampaign.org
Philadelphia Office: (215) 724-1618
Partial list of lesbian, gay, bi and trans endorsers include: Kerry Lobel, Exe. Dir., Nat'l Lesbian & Gay Task Force*; Sylvia Rivera, Stonewall Rebellion combatant, co-founder STAR: Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries, former Young Lord; Pride at Work, National Org. for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Labor; GALAEI, National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, Donald Suggs, Writer & Activist; Gay & Lesbian Latino AIDS Education Initiative, Philadelphia, PA; Gay Activist Alliance of Morris County, NJ; Alice Walker, Author; A Slice of Rice-Asian gay/lesbian/bi/trans youth, Boston, MA; Lesbian Avengers of Great Barrington, MA; Queer Nation, Houston, TX; ACT-UP, Philadelphia, PA; Leslie Feinberg, Author, Transgender Activist; Emergency Comm. to Stop Anti-Gay Police Violence, LA; La Sarmiento, Washington, DC; Susan Hollinshead, Whitman-Walker Clinic, WA, DC; Ben Singer, Transgender Health Action Coalition*, Phila.; Judy Greenspan, HIV/AIDS in Prison Project, Oakland; Minnie Bruce Pratt, Lesbian Author, Anti-racist Activist; Mykael Hawley, Boston FTM Conference, Cochair; Letta Neeley, writer, Queer activist, Boston, MA; Wellesley Lesbians, Bisexuals, Transgenders & Friends, Wellesley College, MA; Gary Bowen, Coordinator-in-Chief, The American Boyz; Kira Triea, Intersex Society Of North America*; Johnathon I. Thunderword, By The Way, Norfolk, VA; Drago Renteria, Deaf Queer Resource Center, WA, DC; Jessica Xavier, Transgender Nation, Silver Spr., MD; Robin McCubbin, faculty advisor, Gay, Lesbian, Bi, Transgender Student Union, Southwestern College, Chula Vista, CA; Kevin O'Mallley, Michigan FTM Support, MSU, MI; Jack Bragdon, Co-Founder Maine ACT UP; Gerry Scoppettuolo, AIDS Prevention Activist, Lifeguard project*, Portland ME; Tania Hammidi, University of CA Davis, GLBT Center, CA; National Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Student Caucus, Kevin Horwitz, Trans activist, San Diego, CA, Sarah Schulman, Author & Activist, NYC, Holly Hughes, Lesbian Preformance Artist.
Twice now I've had friends who have needed cosmetics, and twice I've taken them to the City Center Lazarus where we've met up with Mikel Washington, a very nice young gentleman who has made us feel completely at ease. Let's face it. When you put your face in the hands of a cosmetologist, you're going to be read. You need to go to someone who is transgender friendly. Mikel manages two counters, including the Dermablend line, so it goes without saying that he sees lots of transgendered folks on a semiregular basis. Although both of my friends were perfectly comfortable with him applying makeup at the counter, not everyone would want to do that. For those who are too nervous about the public exposure, there are back rooms available.
Both Crystal (my friend from Greece) and Carey consulted with him concerning foundations, and he was wonderful. He has a very critical eye for color and a very casual but professional demeanor. What I like most of all about him is that he doesn't scoff at the less expensive cosmetics you one finds at the drug store. Some of the lower priced cosmetic lines are quite good, and he recognizes that. His approach seems to be to determine how his products can complement what you already have. He won't try to overhaul your entire cosmetics collection.
If and when you decide to pay Mikel a visit, call him first to make sure he will be on duty when you visit. By the way, when you visit him, be sure there's plenty of room in your purse. Both of our visits, he showered us with free samples! (Thanks, Mikel!)
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.