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Monday, 20 September 2021

Getting out and about: Belonging and blending in.

Several t-girls, including Lynn and Hannah have written about passing - or more probably not exactly passing, but at least being taken for the way you choose to present when out and about.

You’re good girl. You’re a good tall girl. You’re a good sturdy girl” (Self Esteem, “I Do This All the Time”)

While the above quote may seem a bit of a back-handed compliment to a self-conscious cis-girl, I suspect quite a few of us would gladly take it as an affirmation.)

At a bit over 6 ft I realise that I am unlikely to pass unnoticed, especially in the street or in shops. There’s little you can do about that, except avoid adding to the problem by wearing heels. (I tend not to and elect for flats when I’m out, and on the basis that if I look at what other women are wearing it also tend to be flats, trainers or low-heeled boots. And the few times I’ve been out in even low (one inch) heels I became acutely conscious of the sound of my steps on the pavement, even if heels do force you into taking smaller steps in a more feminine gait - something which you have to remember and concentrate on when walking in flats .It’s a bit of a trade-off, especially for us girls of height.

What’s the answer? Perhaps to slouch a bit to try and minimise your height? Absolutely not. Don’t. Again, take note of other women around you and how they hold themselves. Men often hunch or slouch, usually leading their walk from the upper body or shoulders. Women, with a different weight distribution and centre of gravity, walk from the pelvis with their shoulders straight, and lead with the foot first. It takes conscious practice and it’s often easy to forget, especially if you get to the comfortable point of no longer thinking about how you are dressed and start to fall back into more male mannerisms. (My default look these days tends to be skinny jeans or leggings and a sweater, partly for comfort and partly for anonymity and  not to stand out, although there will always be those occasions when you see someone wearing something particularly stylish and think “I wish…”)

Confidence is a preference” (Blur, ‘Park Life’)

As Stana, Kandi and many others have said when touching on this topic, the main key to not drawing the wrong attention to yourself is to act as if you belong – “nothing to see here-  just another woman going about her business - glance away and carry on.” Getting to that point does take a bit of confidence. I gradually build mine starting with greetings exchanges with early morning joggers and dog walkers in parks or the local nature reserves (again, a reason not to conspicuously over or underdress unless you want to try pulling a 4 in stiletto out of the grass or a muddy path).

 Initially I would try and limit those encounters to a brief “Good morning” to older women out walking their dogs As confidence grew that people seemed happy to take me as I presented I gradually expanded those encounters to the point where a man walking his dog greeted me as “love” and I treasured that for the rest of the day. At point I felt confident enough to take Susie into indoor spaces: a small art exhibition in a village hall, an afternoon at church sale, browsing in charity shops or the sale racks in Sainsburys, or a quick drop in the library.

Actually my first excursion into a public space was my first appearance (and so far only, but more to do with the lack of places to change in central Oxford) as Susie at a meeting of the local trans support group in the upstairs room of a pub in central Oxford. Both scary and exhilarating – especially that first walk along the High Street to the venue, but the reception was worth the first night nerves.

Which brings me to another point. Safety. My first tentative ventures outside were alone and at night. I really don’t recommend this. It can be very scary. Remember how you might look to others and don’t put yourself into unsafe places or situations. (Although I can guarantee that after the first time you feel you are being followed with your keys gripped tightly in one hand you will have a much starker idea of what most women have to deal with every day. You won’t forget that easily) Then there’s the additional issue that if you are identified as trans or a cross-dresser out alone you may make yourself even more subject to abuse or attack.  As a first timer you may think that you may be less likely to be ‘read’ after dark, but it’s not worth the danger. Just don’t. If you really have no other option, make sure there is someone with you.

After that experience I swapped late walks for morning ones. Early enough that I could leave and usually return before the neighbours were up and about, though sometimes a little touch and go on the return, but not so early that it wouldn’t yet be light and that there wouldn’t be a few people around (at bus stops, jogging, or taking dogs for an early walk).

Building confidence in being out is still a work in progress. I would still like to visit a proper tea room rather than a supermarket café, or go shopping in town or visit a museum, and I would love be able go out with a trusted friend (male or female) maybe for a drink or a meal. 

xxx

1 comment:

  1. Great advice, Susie. Thanks for sharing those ideas and your experience.

    ReplyDelete