Well before transitioning, Maddie took several steps toward cross-dressing. Here is the ironic true story and the lessons I learned from incredibly awkward experiences.
A long time ago, at least in my life story, I had no idea what a transsexual or transvestite was. There wasn't an internet to look these word up with and I didn't even know words anyway! It's suprising to me to meet so many young transsexuals who have so much social support to be themselves. It's beautiful! But even without that support, I was going out in public in girl-form since at least middle school and probably before. By high school I was buying my own girl clothes. My mom mentioned this at her support group (for transsexuals and their SOFFA) and it shocked all of the transsexuals there. When my mom mentioned this to me her interpretation was that I somehow 'wanted' to get caught. Maybe I did. But, at least conciously, I absolutely horrified with the idea that I could get caught. But somehow it never stopped me. A lot of transsexuals are surpised I was this 'brave' (in their words). Now that's it's been years and I thought I would look back on my experiences and try to figure out what I have learned from being so 'brave'.
The first time I tried buying something, I was terrified. Soon after I got my driver's license and had an excuse to go far away, I stopped into a K-mart (cheap US nationwide big chain store) to try and buy some clothes. I figured that was a safe place to start because the men's and women's clothes were just across aisles rather than across 'departments'. It was so incredibly freaky. I jumped back and forth between boy and girl aisles. That probably attracted *way* more attention than anything I was doing on the 'wrong' side of the store. I eventually found things I liked, quickly shuffled through to find a size that would probably fit me, and darted to the register!
Whew! ... out of 'harm's' way.
In line, I tried to keep everything discretely folded so nobody else in line would know what I was carrying. Which, by the way, probably made people care what I was carrying. The two people in front of me left without incident but there was a line of four or five people forming behind me. Oh my gosh, they're going to have to see what I'm buying!! But that's okay because I was almost out of the store. The cashier kept a pretty blank expression as she unfolded my items to find the tags. I couldn't believe what happened next; in my rush to get out of the 'wrong' aisles I took an item that was missing the price tage.
"Price Check on Women's Apparel"
the cashier screamed at the top of her lungs over storewide speaker system. Okay, okay, she probably didn't scream but it felt like that to me! I probably would have just run out of the store (because *obviously* I was doing something 'wrong') but I couldn't move! So I just breathed deeply and kept my eyes towards the cashier so I could somehow pretend there weren't a zillion people staring at me. The cashier actually looked at me sweetly. I wonder what she was thinking? The line backed up, another employee came, went, and called out the price. The cashier rang it up, I paid, and walked out.
And that was it.
The first time I bought make-up, I decided to go into one of those chain pharmacies. That felt like it would be a relatively easy place to blend in as I looked through makeup. I really doubt I passed at that time but I was in girl-form. I mean, I had no idea how to buy makeup or put it on! But it wasn't so bad. Nobody seemed to pay much attention to me. By now I had learned not to freak out and act like I'm doing something wrong. Of course, I still believed I was doing something wrong, but I didn't show it as much. I found a few makeup things to experiment with and made my way to the register. There wasn't a cashier.
"I swear, if one more thing happens today I'm going to kill somebody."
I heard a women saying to a pharmacist as she discussed what a terrible day she was having. She saw me and came up to the front of the store. She was the cashier!!!!! I know, you must be thinking I'm making this story up. It's just so absurd that these things happened to me. But this is what really happened!!! She said "hi" in a very controlled monotone voice. I let out a "hi" squeak in my nervousness. The cashier just kept a steady eye on me as she rang the makup up, took my money, gave me change, and put the makeup in the bag. I tried not to run out the door too fast! :-)
And that was it.
It got easier over the years to buy my own things and go out in public in girl-form. But I still felt like I was doing something wrong. It was so mixed up because intellectually I couldn't see how I wasn't doing anything wrong. Why wouldn't I allow people in my 'regular' life to see me in girl-form or just being myself, no matter how girlish?
I had long hair for years and I always wore dicrete hair rubber bands to hold it back when I was in boy-form. It felt safe. Boys were allowed to have long hair and though I was probably the most preppy boy with long hair in the world, I still didn't look like I was that insane. But it really annoyed me wearing bands in my hair. My hair always got caught and tangled in these little rings. And they weren't very pretty, they were nothing like the cute scrunchies most girls were wearing. So it just kind of hit me. What's wrong with me wearing schrunchies? Nothing really? It really did hurt taking the bands out of my hair and I really liked the solution. There were so many pretty schrunchies I'd seen and I wanted to wear them.
When I first started I kept to very simple schrunchies. But that was kind of boring. I wanted to color coordinate them with my outfits. What's wrong with that? So I gradually started buying big poofy colorful schrunchies. I had at *least* one for each boy outfit!
But on a certain level I still felt I was doing something 'wrong'. I tried preparing truthful explanations in case somebody asked me, but somehow I found myself preparing to answer the inevitable question with an excuse that made it seem 'legitimate'. Nobody asked me about it ... *ever*? Whenever I visited my parents I would put the bands back in my hair. I just wasn't able to let them see how I looked or dressed or acted every day I wasn't around them.
came out of a friends mouth. She blushed and said,"I hope you don't think less of me for doing something so unfeminine."
"Why would I care if you don't follow gender norms; geez, I wear scruchies ..."
You wear schrunchies????? Oh, I never noticed."
Never noticed? I was doing something so "wrong" and she never noticed!!! I was effectively shouting out "notice me violate gender norms!!!" and still nobody noticed. We didn't have a long conversation or anything. That was it.
I think the most important this I learned comes from my experience of allowing myself in my 'normal' life to be me. It's something that sounds so obvious once you say it. But it's still hard, at least is what in my position, to really feel it. The is nobody in the world who is ever judging me more than I'm judging myself. I can sit and analyze my behavior or whatever. I can sit at realize what a horrible gender 'deviant' I'm being. And still nobody else really is paying anywhere near the amount of attention that I'm paying to it!! And let's say somebody was? Let say there was somebody who was really caught up in how I looked like a boy but was wearing big poofy schrunchies? Does that really say something about me or does it say something about them?
And I think back on those experiences by make-up and clothes and just laugh. Obviously I wasn't laughing then but in retrosepct it seems so absurd. Then I can imagine what those cashiers or other people in lines or whatever are thinking about that incident today. And the funny thing is they probably forgot about this *years* ago!!!! It was this one goofy experience. Maybe some of them do still think about it and even joke about it or whatever. Does that really say something about me or does it say something about them? Really it's only about them. I mean, really, GET A LIFE!!!!! What does it mean that someone would consider my life that interesting. Instead they could be living their own.
And this is really an important lesson in life. There's no need to waste our lives away worried about the way others will judge us. Somebody else's opinions, thoughts, and feelings always says more about them than it does about us. And there's no reason for us to waste away our live judging other people because all we're really doing is hurting ourselves because we start to imagine it's normal or even right to judge others. I hope sharing my story can help you get over any fears you might have about being yourself or doing things you need to do. It really is your life and you deserve to live it as yourself.