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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

10 comments:

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

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  2. Hi Susie,
    You look great! 8-)
    I am glad that you have reached some kind of accommodation with your partner.
    I guess we all come from a period when, as someone memorably put it, there was a long alphabetical list of peversions and cross-dressing was just one of them. The programming is hard to get away from and our partners have so many worries and doubts.
    I'm guessing you are a little younger than me - I'm thinking about retirement now - but I had a wig just like yours for a decade and loved it. You should take lots of photos - they keep the good memories alive.
    All that you say in this post rings true with me. Be patient and honest and good things will come.
    Penny Clare

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  3. I'm just past retirement age, though Susie doesn't admit being anywhere near that old (after all Tumblr sent her a 6th year birthday message earlier in the year), but that's a lady's prerogative after all.
    This was probably about the third or fourth wig I bought and the only one I've gone back and bought another in the same style. Always had a thing about redheads, and now I are one. 👩‍🦰 😊

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  4. Hi Susie,
    As you say, a lady's prerogative. Always dress (at least) 10 years younger!
    Yep, my mum was a redhead and I think maybe I was channeling a little of her. 8-)
    Just before lockdown I bought a replacement in very dark chestnut, which probably blends in a bit better. That was a good day, and the first time I have marched into a wig shop in full regalia. The young lady with the pink hair was so nice; I had to restrain myself from buying the £900 long wig in real hair. 8-)
    Not been out much with it, though I did get in a trip to London, which was fine. Can't see me doing that again for a while... what with Covid still about.
    I closed down my blog a few years ago, but the Wayback Machine has captured some of the pages. Maybe a little embarrassing, but it's nice to have a memento.
    http://web.archive.org/web/20150922172247/http://pennys-little-corner.blogspot.com/
    It seems to date from the time I got my first contact lenses. Great improvement over glasses for being Penny. Though they can be irksome, especially in places with dry air, like supermarkets.
    All the best,
    Penny

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    1. Hi Penny,
      I experimented with contact lenses many years ago and they're still in a bottle somewhere although whether they are still safely useable after all this time is another matter. Perhaps I should take advantage of the free trial offered by SpecSavers next time I go in for an eye test. I'm way past due since lockdown. I normally wear glasses, but (vainly) take them off for photos.
      I tried an old blonde bob wig the last time I went out. I don't wear it much because I think it makes me look more the age I really am, while the red wig does seem to shave a decade. OK, doubly vain then.

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    2. Hi Susie,
      I use Accuvue Oasys disposables, because I have astigmatism and they don't slew around nearly as easily as the slightly cheaper ones. Boots will let you buy 30 pairs and then take a 6 month payment holiday, so you can really spread them out if you want to.
      And yes, it is vanity, but then why not? 8-)
      I tend to agree about blonde wigs. Brunette and chestnut are much safer choices. Many years ago I tried a long blonde wig during a disastrous and very rushed trip to Norwich. My wife said it made me look like a truck driver. It did.
      Love, Penny

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  5. well wrritten and I agree. if we are cnfident in who we are people will accept us a swe present even if we dont pass.

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  6. Hi Susie ,
    Love your blog .

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  7. You seem to be starting to put things together, way to go Susie dear.

    I don't know why, but it was easy for me to switch to feminine mode in mannerism, stance, and behaviors. I just found myself doing it without being conscious of it. I would look down and see like I was standing like a girl. I sit properly too, to opening up my thighs. I also catch myself doing girly things, like flipping my hair back with my hand (mostly at home). My voice is still an issue. I had been doing training at a local university with grad students, but they have not set me up for the fall semester. I can do the practices rather good, and short speech like hi, excuse me, thank you, my problem is if I have to think about something like when ask a question, or repeat something louder. But, I am not fussing about. It is funny that I now have less dysphoria over hearing my voice when I am not in training, which makes me focus on it.

    As far as dressing is concern, my policy is that it looks good for me, then that's what I wear. I do dress modestly and do not go overboard on makeup because that's the way I like. It seems to help in passing. I notice that females are much more likely to engage with me, and the opposite with men.

    I love you outfit. Every thing is nicely coordinated.

    All the best, Stephie

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  8. Thanks for the kind comments Stephie.

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