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Monday, 31 May 2021

Back (in black)

So, (she says brightly, as if five years hadn't elapsed since her last post), I have a question for those who, like me, don't or can't live in their preferred gender full time, but have to take those days on a catch-as-catch-can basis when circumstances allow.
When it's time to stand in front of the  mirror for that essential transformation from who you have to be, to who you want to be, does the face come first, or do the clothes come first?

I ask because in the early days - and in my case we are talking about the very early days  of the 1970s and 80s  before trans was an encompassing spectrum covering bi-gender, non-binary, two-spirit and the rest, there seemed to be just two options for who you were: either on the path to full transition, or  a crossdresser (and more usually the loaded term transvestite for the latter), and even then neither seemed to fit comfortably with how I felt -  but in those early days of secrecy (and, yes, a degree of shame) it was very much more about the clothes. 
But in the last few years something has changed. It's become very much more about trying to capture who I want to be seen as. The clothes aspect of the transformation has become a lot more understated and dressed down. Consequently, I find I now pay far more attention getting the face, the makeup  contouring and eyebrows, and (most importantly) the hair to the point where I can see Susie gradually emerge in the mirror, even if she is still (at that stage) flat chested and wearing one of my old raggedy sweaters.
So what changed? Partly the realization that I will never be the late teens to twenties girl who has been inside my head for as long as I can remember, but more importantly because, since the middle of 2019, Susie started to venture outside the house and into the wider world. And with that, a realisation of the importance of blending in, of how women of a certain age (it's impolite to ask, but you can make your own estimation from the pictures below) looked and dressed when out and about. 

 So, yes, five years since the last post, That's not so many. Sorry about that. What on earth  happened?
The short answer is I went into a sort of meltdown and retreat, at least for a large part of 2017-2018. The most immediate cause of that was stupidly leaving my private journal where my partner found and of course read it. And in which I had vented a lot frustration about my feelings of being trapped into pretending to be someone I wasn't happy being. Cue recriminations, accusations and a retreat, on my part, into sullen silence and a period of personal lockdown. That lasted for most of 2018, when, to my surprise, I was invited to go the the States (I'd not been out the country in almost 20 years). "You should go", my partner said. "In fact you need to, and do something to get out of yourself."  So I went, not without some trepidation (the last time I went abroad, in the early 80s, after a similar confrontation about my dressing, I returned to an empty flat). And for the first time in ages, I had fun and enjoyed myself. I came back both rejuvenated and determined that I didn't want to be in  retreat and hiding for the rest of my life. 

The first step  was to re-establish contact with the local trans support group and the second was to come out in public for the first time as Susie at one of the meetings. That first time out was a nervous moment, especially the walk to the pub, but the smiles and hugs (remember them?) were something I'll remember a long time.

Since then, I've been out as Susie a number of times. Those occasions are still on a catch-as-catch-can basis, but we've established a workable arrangement where I can have occasional days to myself, and as Susie, as long as my partner never has to meet her. 

Of course, that last bit of acknowledgement and acceptance is still pretty high on my bucket list, but outside that I've given that bucket a good denting, going out on long walks, shopping, dropping in on a local art exhibition and, still a memorable highlight, attending a church fair in a neighbouring village where the curiosity of my appearance for the ladies of that parish was not that I was unusually tall, or had big hands or a deep voice for a woman, but that I had walked "all the way from K--", a couple of miles away on the other side of the the river, just to get there.

That afternoon, browsing the stalls and  chatting over tea and cake, I almost forgot the way I was dressed, or the unaccustomed feeling of having long hair again, and felt completely comfortable and welcome. (Whether and what was said after I'd waved my goodbyes is something I'll never know, and to honest I'm quite resigned to the fact I may not always 'pass'  on every occasion I'm out, as long as people are happy to take me as I present.)


So, that's it, and where things remained, at least until everything got locked down again, although this time for the covid outbreak and a long period where Susie had to go back to being a fond memory, at least as being able to get out again is concerned. 
Hopefully there will be better times ahead.