Tuesday, May 19, 2020

By Carollyn Olson

Ooooooooooooh, to wish I knew then what I know now. But, then again, would I have put everything I have learned in near 40 years of crossdressing into practice?

Many of you know, from my earlier articles, I was a late bloomer when it came to crossdressing, starting at age 32. When I began, the internet was non-existent and Payless Shoes, or any major department store for that matter, did not carry women’s shoes above size 10. Now, at age 72, so much has changed and there are so many opportunities for younger crossdressers to develop into “the woman they want to be” at an earlier age. And, for the older crossdressers, we can continue refining ourselves.

A friend of mine once told me “when you go to sleep at night and if you haven’t learned something during the day, the day is not worth living.” I’ve taken my friend’s advice to heart and try to discover something new every day, no matter how small the revelation may be. I’ve learned so much and it has enhanced my ability to age slowly – I feel like I’m 55 and believe I look even younger – and continue to enjoy being out-and-about as an accepted crossdresser.

Even though I have always tried to dress age appropriate, when I was younger I desired to be sexier and show more cleavage than I do now. Unlike many girls, I have never had the sensation that is the sexual component of dressing. However, I do know a number of girls who did, and have related to me, that the feeling has diminished and/or vanished as they grew older. For most, when they were much younger, there was always a sexual tension that went along with dressing, and being sexually aroused when one looked into the mirror. Now, as we all age, one can simply enjoy the look of a pretty woman.

The biggest plus from my early crossdressing days was that I have always been accepted when out in public. I don’t know if I can give credit to my mother, who always looked young, or to my genes. Either way, I have never received negative comments or been treated meanly when dressed as a woman.

For me, there are good physical signs that come with growing older which make me feel even more natural when dressing.

Gravity and old age have helped with creating more natural breasts and a bit of a beer belly. For years I have worn 38C breast forms, but now, I have enough sagging “male boobs” tissue to fill a 38B…and if I want to go larger, I can wear a padded bra or add a little extra cushion. Another friend of mine, who is the same age, has become so natural, she has developed perfectly formed 38C breasts and is often asked if her breasts are real or if she has had implants. She loves to tell the “inquiring fan” that “they are mine.”

A corset has become a necessity to eliminate the stomach bulge. Ten years ago, I would never have thought of wearing a corset in lieu of a body shaper and hip pads. Now, I would not dress without one, as my waist measurements can be reduced from 34 to 28 inches unless I pull the cords even tighter…ouch!!!

When I was younger, I needed to shave the blonde hair on my legs at least once a month. Now, due to aging, the hair on my legs has virtually disappeared. What a pleasure to not have to “lather up” when showering.

What to wear has never been a problem for me. I have always tried to dress appropriately and somewhat conservatively. Short dress hemlines and low-cut sweaters and blouses are still in vogue, but I don’t wear short skirts or expose my breasts as often as I did in the past. Both are still fun, but at my age, I dress more discreetly.

I love wearing dresses, so it is easy to find lovely outfits, many of which I have purchased from my friends at En Femme. I can’t keep track of the compliments I receive when wearing my En Femme dresses. My favorite may be the blue and white checked Hi-Lo dress, which I purchased last year and have worn so many times when visiting my hair salon or out with friends for a movie or dinner or at social gatherings.

There are definitely a number of negatives about getting older, but I try not to worry and compensate the best I can.

The biggest drawbacks are “wrinkles” and a “turkey neck.” One always wants to look their best and as young as possible, so I use anti-aging creams, some temporary enhancers for under the eyes, a bit of taping on my forehead to lift my eyebrows, and taping under my jaw line to get rid of the “turkey neck.”

Applying makeup and getting dressed seem to take longer than in the past, as well. I once could apply my makeup and dress and be out the door in less than an hour, but now it has stretched out an additional 30 minutes or so. However, the older I get, the more of a perfectionist I have become. I will always want to look my best.

Mostly gone are the days of wearing 4-inch heels for almost every occasion, but that doesn’t bother me. What’s an inch less anyway? You can keep your balance and still look stylish. I have to remember I’m not 35-40 any longer.

Confidence remains the key to crossdressing, no matter what age you are. Being older, I have found an even greater desire to be out in public, even though I never was “closeted” or afraid to get out and do things when I was younger. I always felt that “if I worked so hard to get dressed, why wouldn’t I go out and enjoy myself.”

Being an older crossdresser, I have also developed a number of relationships with other “girls” from around the world who have become confidants and dear friends. When I was younger, I felt so alone and prayed to find a few crossdressing friends. Obviously, when and as the internet developed, it played a huge part in opening the world to crossdressers, and thank God it did. I recall the first crossdressing website I discovered was Vicki Rene’s Prettiest of the Pretty. I could not believe the beautiful men-turned-women on the site. It definitely helped me with my desire to look “the best I can be.”

What does the future hold? I know I will never give up my desire to crossdress. It is embedded in me as it is with most “girls.” I figure, if a friend of mine who is in her 90s can continue to enjoy being a woman, why can’t I??? And, so can you!!!

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Online, Ourselves

By Hannah McKnight

Girls like us tend to be resourceful. Although a bad selfie, after an hour of carefully applying our makeup, can send us into a pit of despair and depression (trust me, I've been there, and I am there more often than I would want to admit), we are generally determined to try again. I know girls like me who carefully modify earrings into a clip-on style because she can't get her ears pierced. I know girls who have developed an intricate, and multi-step process in blending different types and different shades of foundation to counter the slight blue-ish tint that a beard line can create. And which of us hasn't spent hours (or years) carefully balancing on five inch stilettos so we can confidently strut through a mall (or living room)?

I am amazed when I look back in my life at how often I dressed or shopped for panties without ever being caught. We have trained ourselves to be aware of our surroundings lest we are seen by someone we know while we shop for a cute bra to match our panties. Growing up I marveled at how quickly I would change as soon as my mom left for the day, and how fast I could change back right before she pulled into the garage. When this side of us is a secret, we do what we can, we do what we must, to acknowledge and, in a way, to care for this side of us.

As mandatory shelter-in-place orders are announced throughout the country, many of us have had our lives turned inside-out in a lot of ways. Basic necessities are hard to find, schools are closed, and events are canceled. We are careful with our hygiene, we watch the news as COVID-19 spreads, and we worry about... well, everything.

I am not minimizing the danger and seriousness of a worldwide pandemic. We all know what it is happening, and what the threat is. I know there are more serious aspects to all of this besides our personal gender identity. Smarter people than I have written about what is occurring out there. In times like this, we need to be aware of the physical impacts a virus can cause, but also the psychological and emotional toll this can create. This side of us is huge. For some of us, it is literally half of who we are. She is just as important as anything else in our lives. Not being able to acknowledge her can cause anxiety and stress. And since things are stressful enough, it is important that we are taking care of ourselves in all matters, and our gender expression and identity is crucial.

Girls like us are used to having a second life, so to speak. Hannah has different friends, clothes, (obviously) and interests than my male side. The internet and social media is a wonderful way for our femme selves to slowly introduce her to the world. We can make friends, learn makeup techniques, start a blog, and best of all, shop. Our online lives can require as much attention and work as our "real" lives. Our online lives are more accessible than ever before. It used to be we would need to be home to check our email, but now Hannah can reply to a tweet while in line at a coffee shop. Like most tools, the internet can be a wonderful and useful resource. In times like these, it's not as easy for me to stay connected to Hannah's life. I am used to going out en femme, I am used to seeing her friends... but until things start going back to normal, the internet is how she stays in touch with the world outside of the house.

As our real life adapts, and as our internet usage increases, it's an appropriate time to think about protecting yourself online. I know, I know... I sound like your mom. But this is a little different... especially if you are not out to everyone in your lives.

The internet is forever. If you post a photo it's there until the end of time, even if you take it down. Someone can easily and quickly download it after you post it and there's nothing you can do about that. If you post something, do so with the mindset that anyone can see it.

Anyone.

Including your mom, your homophobic supervisor, and neighbors.

A photo of you en femme can be used against you. It's not fair and your gender identity is no one else's business (except your partner's). I have had jobs where I know my life would have been a living hell if my boss or coworker saw a picture of Hannah and, well, figured it out. In some states you can be fired for being transgender and although you might identify as a crossdresser, let's face it, most companies don't know, or care, about the difference between those two terms. You might think it's unlikely someone would find your blog, your Flickr account, your Fetlife profile or your femme Facebook page, but it can happen. Assume it will, or at least be prepared for it if it happens.

I have my website, a Flickr account, and of course my partnership with En Femme. For every one photo of me in male mode, there are a hundred of Hannah. I am very much out there when it comes to being online, and although I tend to linger around the more queer parts of the internet, it's not unrealistic to suppose that one could find me. I am at peace with this. That doesn't mean I want everyone to know. Oh no, absolutely not. But I have prepared myself for this. I am secure enough of my gender identity that if I was discovered, I can have that conversation even if I don't want to.

Having a social media life is a wonderful way to connect with others. If you are feeling insecure about your makeup skills, a compliment from a stranger can totally make your day and boost your confidence. Making friends with others like us can help us feel less lonely. It's easy to see how a girl like us can be drawn to this. Not to be pessimistic, but this can be risky. I've written about the Pink Fog before and how the desire to have a connectivity to our femme selves can lead to hasty decisions and choices we should think twice about. Sometimes this can lead to us spending a little more on a stilettos than we probably should, other times it can cause us to post a photo or create a Facebook page for our femme selves when we should probably think about it before doing so.

I was always a little amazed that, as far as I know, I was never "caught". I've never been seen, again, as far as I know, by a friend or family member looking at bras in the lingerie section of a store. But the online world is another way not only for us to be out there, but another way for us to be outed. I tell myself it's unlikely that someone will stumble upon my blog or Flickr accounts unless they are specifically looking for trans-related things. If a friend who doesn't know about Hannah were to find her photos because they were looking for information about how to cover beard shadow or where to buy size 12 red patent heels, I am not worried about being outed by them. If anything, I will have someone new I can introduce Hannah to. But the risk is always there.

Is it possible that I could accidentally post a photo of Hannah to the Twitter account that belongs to my male self instead of Hannah's? Is it possible I could accidentally text a photo of her to someone instead of the picture I intended? Is it possible that Facebook, through their (slightly invasive) algorithms end up suggesting the page you created for your femme self to a coworker?Of course it is. It's happened to many girls I know. For those of us who aren't out to our partners, you run the risk of them seeing your Google history or a private message notification. This is the 21st century's version of your wife finding that box of dresses you have hidden in the garage.

Of course, I do not advocate hiding this side of you to your partner. I am not here to encourage you to hide this, or anything else from your significant other. In my opinion, it is a zillion times better for you to have "the talk" then have your partner find your online activity, a revealing photo, or panties stash.

When I was growing up, everything I had dreamed of is now possible. I can buy dresses online, I can chat with others like us. The virtual world is filled with resources and ways to express myself and websites where I can add to my shoe collection. It's wonderful. There is always a chance of us being caught for those who want or need to keep this side of ourselves a secret and going online opens up as many risks as it does opportunities.

Love, Hannah