copyright 2001, D. Glenn Arthur Jr.
Last updated 1993-02-09 (posted on web 1996, cosmetic changes 2001).
I've seen some intros/bios go by here, and thought it might be good to introduce myself to this audience. I've been a reader (and occasional poster) on CDForum and TRANSGEN for a while, I seem to be reasonably well known on alt.sex.bondage, and while I'm not on #Crossdress on IRC as often as I used to be, I was a regular there for a while. So many of you already know me. And I've posted a couple of things here so far. Still, since many of you might not read where I've made my name, here's who I am.
This is long, and I talk at least as much about other people and their reactions, and about being out, as I do about myself. But I'll try to remember to give y'all a clue who I am in here someplace. But this whole thing is kind of disorganized and scattershot.
I'll turn thirty in a couple weeks. I'm a computer programmer and guitarist living in Maryland. I'm male. I usually describe myself as a TV, though I'm no longer certain that it's all that simple. I seem to exhibit some TS traits. If TVism and TSism are distinct phenomena, then I seem to be a little bit of each. If they're endpoints of a continuum, then I seem to be between them. If the classic oversimplification of M->F TSism is "a woman trapped in a man's body," then I feel like I'm both in a man's body. I sometimes wonder whether I should continue as I have been, or make large changes in my life while I'm still young. I should get around to finding professional help in figuring this out soon.
As a TV, I'm "out". Very out. I also seem to be somewhat atypical (though not unique). I go out in public dressed, but I don't try to pass. It's easier to describe when I don't dress than when I do: At work, at medieval events (Markland and SCA), and at my parents' house, I wear boyclothes. If I'm doing something else on my way to/from one of those places, I wear boyclothes. Other than that, I don't wear boyclothes. Skirts and heels all the way. (Well, once in a long while I'll wear my spandex leopard-print pants. Like when I feel a special need to hear flattering remarks.)
When I spent about a year unemployed, I got to spend nearly all of my time dressed as I like. I try to arrange my evening activities so that I'll have a chance to change clothes after work.
Actually, at work and visiting my parents I wear what I consider boyclothes, but it's not all menswear. I wear women's pants because they fit me better (really! That's why! Though I just might switch to more conspicuous styles), women's underwear (of course), and sometimes androgynous or female tops. If I'm going to change without going home first, or if I need an extra layer for warmth, I'll wear stockings under my jeans instead of socks. I can probably get away with more at work than at my parents' house.
So the closest I come to really wearing boyclothes is when I wear medieval or renaissance garb. Then I'm dressing male for real, except for my underwear. (Well, I don't have any male underwear, and if I did, it'd still be modern, so what the heck...)
I don't pass. I don't even come close. I understand that attitude and manner make more of a difference than looks, but my rather bushy beard just can't be hidden with attitude.
So when I'm at the supermarket, or the bank, or the mall, or at a restaurant, it's rather obvious what I am.
I think everyone at work knows -- some have seen pictures, my boss came to my housewarming party, and a few have run into me when I stopped by the office late at night. All of my friends who've seen me in the past several years know, and I'm pretty sure I've mentioned it to the rest by phone or by mail. All of my acquaintances know. This has been the way I've lived for a while now. In the fall of '91 I finally told my parents. This past Christmas I went to my high school's alumni dinner. Per my dad's request, I held off on telling my aunts, uncles, and cousins, but the time has come to drop that last wee vestige of the closet. I'm tired of not being able to hold a conversation with my relatives the few times a year I see them, and I finally realized it's not just because we live in different worlds, but that I can't converse easily with someone from whom I'm hiding. Oh, and I don't think I've told my old teacher from the Montessori school I went to as a kid.
At the extended family Christmas Eve party, I did talk to the SO of one of my cousins. I finally figured out why I felt more comfortable around her: she dresses like I do (though I wear heels to parties and she wore flats). I told her. It opened up a proper conversation. I don't know whether that'll have taken care of my coming out to the family or not. If the great big family reunion didn't keep happening on Pennsic weekend, I'd come out there.
My brothers (both younger) have both known for a long time. One attended science fiction conventions for a little while, and conventions were for some time the most public place I dressed -- a stepping stone to where I am now. I hung out with a bunch of my other brother's high school friends, who also went to conventions. I assumed my sister (also younger) knew, but we never spoke of it until after I came out to my parents. I was right -- she's known for years. She doesn't seem to have any problem with it except concern for my safety. She did mention that she didn't think a lot of her friends would deal well -- she's a police officer and said that a lot of police are macho and not especially enlightened about such things.
In the fall of '91 I was invited to speak about TVism and TSism to a Human Sexuality class at the University of Maryland. It went well, and I've been asked back each term since. This spring I'll be speaking there in April. I've also been asked to speak to a film class at George Mason University in April, an invitation which I accepted.
I'm fairly well known in science fiction fandom from Boston to Washington. If you attend conventions in this area, look for a six-foot (more in heels) guy with a beard (mostly brown, with blond, red, white, and black in it) and long-but-thinning (not quite bald on top) dark brown (used to be black, almost still is) hair, in a skirt and heels, probably carrying an electric guitar with a battery-powered amplifier. Outside of conventions I may or may not be carrying the guitar. It does go a lot of places with me. If it's chilly or raining, or just the right time of year (fall through winter), look for a long, full, red velvet cape. And often a black, "Robin Hood" style hat. Once in a while I'll have an acoustic guitar -- usually a 12-string. Look for the cape and hat even if I'm in boyclothes.
I'm kind of hard to miss, I'm told. :-)
As can be guessed from my mentioning alt.sex.bondage, I'm also into bondage/SM/D&S/etc. I'm a "switch", which means I enjoy tying and being tied, spanking and being spanked, and so on. But that's better discussed over in a.s.b. I'm pretty "out" about that as well, but it doesn't come up as often in "polite conversation". I did decorate my office as a dungeon for the office Christmas party miniature golf course.
Being out is good. Not everyone can afford to be out, I know, and I can't tell anyone whether they can afford to be or not, but I can tell you this: *coming* out is hard. *being* out is easier than being in the closet. And there are some nifty fringe benefits.
In some ways I'm more out than most others who dress publicly, since if one passes, none of those around one knows that they are speaking to a T* person. That only makes sense. It would be stupid to deliberately not pass so that one can make a statement or educate, if what one wants is to be accepted as and treated as one's preferred gender. I can do what I do because I am what I am. If I ever decide to transition, I'll become as invisible in that regard as I can, with only my "fame" to let people know who I was.
There's good to be done educating, but my hierarchy of duty goes God first, then Self, then Family (for various values of "family"), then Community, then the rest of the world. Since that comes from my own religious and moral convictions, I can't hold anyone else to it, but it still follows that if what you need and want is a quiet life being quietly accepted as what you want to be / have become, I can't fault you or lay guilt trips on you for fulfilling your duty to yourself first. When I talk about the good of being out, it is to educate and maybe convince, but not to imply a moral judgement. I can't tell from here what the right thing for you to do is.
That out of the way, for those of us who aren't trying to basically correct a birth defect and get on with our lives putting that behind us (for whom being out would only mean making it harder to put the past in the past), being out means spending a lot less psychic energy hiding and worrying.
Being out means that I can interact with people as myself, that I don't have to try to hide anything that might be a clue, or present a carefully constructed macho mask. It means that I will never have to worry about whether a lover or spouse will leave me or fail to cope when she finds out. By the time we're close enough to start a Relationship, she'll have long known who and what I am and whether she can deal with it. It means that I don't have to worry about how a coworker or friend will react if he or she bumps into me unexpectedly when I'm dressed differently than he or she is used to. It means I don't have to worry about whether my Hallowe'en costume will give anyone "the wrong idea" about me.
Being out means I don't have to be ashamed.
Being out means I get the opportunity to educate people -- some of whom, like those in the classes I speak to, are actually interested in learning the reality and will go away more tolerant and understanding for having met a real person, not a caricature. Each person who's out makes it a little bit more likely that if my great grandchildren turn out to be TV or TS they'll have an easier time of it than I do. Each person who's out makes it a little easier for the closeted friends I have now to someday open the closet door.
Being out means there are a lot of people who love me, and even more who like me or just know me as a decent person, who turn into activists for a second or two when they here someone clueless make some disparaging remark about T* folks based on a stereotype. Since they know me personally, they know better, and since they feel the disparaging stereotype is an attack on someone they love and/or respect, they counter it. So the education value of my being out goes far beyond the people I meet.
Being out, I get the nicest gifts from friends and lovers. It means I can go out to a club or a restaurant wearing something pretty. It means I get compliments from women on the street, about my clothes or my legs. It means I turn some people on -- some of whom I'm *really* happy to have turned on around me. Being out means that occasionally closeted people will come up to me and shyly ask if we can talk, then tell me I'm an inspiration and that I give them hope.
Being out also means that sometimes people sneer, that some people are uncomfortable enough to avoid ever really meeting me. To be honest, I don't notice that as much as I do all the good things, and I don't remember it often.
Being out means my friends know what to forward to me from newsgroups I don't read, or what cartoons to clip out and give me that I'll like.
Little things like that can really add up.
Being out and having the wardrobe I do means GW friends borrow my clothes for job interviews, which for some reason I find amusing. It also means I can compliment women on their clothes and they take my comments as intended. And it means I can actually ask my friends to let me borrow their clothes (though I don't do that often). It means my women friends enjoy going shopping with me. And one in a while, it means a woman will decide she wants to dress me up, spending an afternoon or evening having me try on different outfits.
Being out means my women friends give me fashion and beauty advice. It's also really neat that they ask me for advice.
Being conspicuous (as opposed to merely being out) means that people on the net recognize me in public from my description and introduce themselves. ;-)
I get a variety of reactions from people. I get a lot of the "I don't see you, so don't pretend to be there" reaction, though not as much as I used to. I get insults, I get giggles, I get whispers. I also get smiles, compliments on my clothes, compliments on my body, and compliments on my "courage". (Like I said earlier, coming out is what takes courage. Being out is easy. One gets accustomed to it.) I get confrontational questions. I also get perplexed questions. And merely curious questions. And questions from supportive people who think they understand but want to make sure. I get shocked looks. I get lots of friendly attention from clothing store salespeople. And I run into people who try very hard to pretend there's nothing unusual about me, some who succeed, and some who I'm convinced really aren't pretending. In restaurants where I'm a regular, I've had waitresses get upset at customers who've said derogatory things about me.
The reactions I get from friends seeing me in pants for the first time, especially if they're seeing me in a coat and tie, are often much more extreme, much more shocked, much more confused than any reactions I get from strangers seeing me in a skirt. They often stammer for a bit, slack-jawed, then finally blurt, "Glenn! You're ... you're ... *in*DRAG*! I mean, ... I mean you're not in drag. No, this must be drag. You're in drag!" followed by a marvelous confused look. It's generally agreed that "drag" refers at least to suits, and probably pants in general, when used in reference to me.
One of my girlfriends is always a little confused when she's with me in public and someone says something about the way I'm dressed, because it takes her a few seconds to remember that the way I'm dressed is strange to most people.
While there are certain situations that I go into "on my guard" and a little nervous, I've only felt I was in immediate physical danger once when dressed, and that was easily handled. (I was walking through the Adams Morgan section of Washington, D.C., and a man on the sidewalk was staring at me. Our eyes met, and he immediately lurched forward, saying, "You lookin' at me?". I felt he was looking for an excuse to attack. I broke eye contact, rolled my eyes, and kept walking, keeping an ear out for him behind me.) I've been in much worse neighbourhoods with no problem. I've been in truck stops with no problem.
The time someone actually drew a weapon on me, on the other hand, I was wearing coat & tie. (He drew three feet of aluminum -- a baseball bat. I drew four feet of steel -- a hand-and-a-half sword. But that's a longer story.)
I live with a married couple and their two daughters (ages 4 and 6). Lothie is well known on alt.sex.bondage. I'm not sure which groups her husband, Wildstar, is active in. (I know some of the groups he reads, but I'm not sure where he posts.) My definition of a "high tech household" is one in which it's easier to send one's housemates email than it is to leave a note on the fridge, and where I've used IRC to ask whether to pick up a pizza on my way home from work.
My self-image is still stuck somewhere around nineteen. Several months ago was the first time I looked in the mirror and say an adult looking back. It was a little startling, but I think I'll get used to it. I'm not used to thinking of myself as good looking, either handsome or beautiful (though I don't think of myself as ugly either), but I'm often told I am. I'm very often told I have nice legs, and I finally started trying to look at pictures of myself the way I look at other people, and y'know what? They're right, I do have nice legs. Very interesting to play with my self-perception that way. Still sounds amazingly vain to hear myself say it though.
I'm a born-again Christian. I'm also a mystic. I'm left handed, and a vegetarian. If you ask me what I am out of the blue, with no context, the answer which will most often come to mind (though I'll probably stop before I say it and try to figure out what you meant) is, "I'm a guitarist." That's the answer that comes to mind before "man", "TV", "Christian", "human", "programmer", or anything else, usually.
Because I split my time between several fora on the net, and spend some of my time working and playing music and sleeping, I don't get around to posting here as often as I'd like. A little while back I was trying to drum up support for a RFD and CVF for a soc.* group, and participated in the discussions about that. Though I'd have preferred a soc.* group (and would like to move to that one day), I'm glad alt.transgendered was created. I must say I feel most of my arguments have been shown to be right, based on the number of new faces here, the amount of traffic, and the number of people thanking the participants for simply being there and posting and helping them feel less alone. (The person who created alt.transgendered was not shortcutting the discussion or stealing my thunder. It was done to supersede alt.sex.trans, which was created by someone unaware of the discussions going on about a T* newsgroup. Creating a real newsgroup outside of alt.sex, and doing so early enough that this group would be the one to attract the traffic, was more important than continuing the soc.* vs. alt.* vs. none discussion.)
My childhood memories are somewhat obscure, so I'm really not sure how far back my T* leanings can be traced. (I do remember having fantasies with BDSM elements before I was eleven though.) My mother tells me that when I was only a few years old, I insisted that Susan, the little girl who lived up the street and with whom I played, was the boy and that I was the girl. But I'm told that that sort of confusion, along with mixing up pronouns, is common at that age. Sometime in junior high school, I think, I started being more and more fascinated with women's clothing. I told myself I was merely curious, just wondering what it was like to wear silky, satiny fabrics, how it felt to wear a skirt or pantyhose. And back then I may have been right or I may not have. Looking back, I was rather fascinated for merely a curious boy. I do remember even before I ever tried anything on, being mortified at the thought that someone might even get a clue that I'd contemplated it. I also had no appreciation for boyclothes at all, hated having to get dressed up for formal occasions, just didn't see the point. ("Don't you want to show them that you respect them enough to get dressed up and look nice?" "But Mom, what's the point of dressing up different from me? How is it showing respect to not show them who I am?" Oh, the different spin those words have now, years later.) That didn't change until I started coming out as a TV -- today, though I'm not really into boyclothes, I can see the point now and can feel like I'm "dressed more nicely" when I wear men's formal clothes than when I wear jeans. I still don't do that more often than I have to. Of course, I do see the point to getting all dressed up and looking extra pretty for special occasions, but I feel that I'm showing me when I put on an especially nice or especially formal dress -- I'm wearing clothes that I like, just ones that I tend to save for dressing up a bit. So my old argument with my mother still stands.
I used to grab the sale fliers from the Sunday paper so I could look at the clothing and lingerie ads at my leisure and wish I had the nerve to wear those things, or better, that I could look like the models.
Eventually, I swiped a pair of panties from my sister's room. I put them on. I was excited, and scared. I loved the way they felt. I masturbated. It's the first time I can remember masturbating. That must have been right around puberty, because it wasn't until several times later -- a few weeks or months after the first time -- that any cum came out when I came. And I don't think my pubic hair had grown in yet when I started. I know that it was quite a while before my moustache started coming in (which in turn was a bit before my beard).
So for a time crossdressing and thinking about crossdressing were linked to eroticism for me. Of course, I eventually got "curious", yeah, that's the ticket, about other items of lingerie -- camisoles, slips -- and had to "try" those too. I loved them. Then I had to find out what pantyhose felt like. And then dresses. I guess the first time it should have been obvious that it was more than the feel of the fabrics that was turning me on was when I looked at myself in a mirror, wearing a dress. Oh, the magic of the moment. The butterflies in my stomach. Oh, the confusion. Oh, how I had to go masturbate.
Stealing dresses and skirts from my sister didn't get me into trouble like it might have. She was a bit of a tomboy then, and almost never wore the ones she had in her closet. At first, I would dress in her clothes when nobody else was home (ever scared that someone would come home early). Later, I'd take her clothes and hide them in my room and dress at night.
Often I'd feel guilty, ashamed, and dirty (and a little depressed) after orgasm, and would immediately take everything off and hide it again. Sometimes I'd go through the emotions that lead to a "purge", but for me the purge cycle was somewhat milder than for many people I've read about. I would either put things waaay back in the back of my closet and tell myself I wasn't going to dress again, or I'd actually return them to my sister's room. After a few cycles of this (I must have been in high school by then) I got to the point where I would realize even as I was putting things away that I knew I was going to come back to it sooner or later, and I might as well not beat myself over the head too badly for it. No sense in throwing things away or making them too hard to get to, since in a couple of weeks, I was just going to do it again. Oh, the confusion.
According to what I've read, I should count myself lucky to have realized the inevitability and the cyclic nature so early. That I learned to start to accept myself so early I ascribe only to good fortune. So very little of my energy went into self-loathing or calling myself sick, and most of it went into being scared to death of anyone finding out. Oh, there was some self-doubt in there as well. And longing. Oh, the longing. I longed desperately to be able to go out dressed, to be able to be among people feeling pretty, to be fussed over and given pretty things to wear. I got more depressed.
Somewhen during all of this my sister hit puberty too and was given training bras, which she hated and refused to wear. She resisted wearing a bra quite a while after the point at which she really needed one. (Does the fact that my sister is now rather amply endowed bode well for me if I ever start taking hormones?) So I, of course, swiped the bras she never wore. I got quite a thrill from them, and used to stuff the cups with rolled up socks. I wished I could grow breasts, but only if I could also live in my fantasy world where I could dress as I wanted. Not long after I started stuffing my bra, I stopped again. I still sometimes wore a bra just to feel that I was wearing one more feminine thing. Eventually I stopped wearing bras because I figured that a woman as flat as I am wouldn't bother with one either. I still wish I had breasts, and every so often ponder the merits and risks of hormones or implants. Interestingly, some clothes sufficiently emphasize what little extra flesh there is on my chest that once in a while I'm asked whether I'm padding, and once a description got back to me that included the assumption that I was wearing a padded bra. In most clothes, however, that's not the case, and I really want breasts that are a part of me, not something to shape me only when I'm wearing something. One of my girlfriends insists that mine are larger than hers, but a) I don't think so, and b) hers are shaped right. But I digress again. (Isn't that what this whole essay is about? I guess so.)
Also somewhen during all of this I started raiding my mother's clothes as well. And the clothes that were being sent to Goodwill. My mom had gained a lot of weight over the years, so I grabbed some of her clothes that had been put away for the long term. For a while, I was still small enough to fit those. Now my skeleton alone wouldn't fit some of them.
There weren't, unfortunately, any women's shoes that would fit me in the house.
By then I was not just trying on clothes and masturbating. I was also spending as much time as I could just being around the house doing normal things dressed when nobody was home. I knew I'd lose interest after orgasm, so I'd avoid masturbating until it was almost time for someone to come home anyhow. I was always a bookish sort, spending lots of time alone reading, so it wasn't tooo hard to beg off from various outings because I wanted to "stay home and read".
The thrill was definitely more than sexual by then. The butterflies in my stomach were no longer just the fear that someone would come home too soon -- that felt different. I had a longing to be feminine. I started having transsexual fantasies. Fantasies of being a girl (and having always been). Fantasies of finding a magic item from Dungeons and Dragons which made my sex change. Fantasies of passing for female and living the rest of my life that way. Fantasies of simply showing up at school in a dress one day and insisting that from now on, I was a girl. Fantasies of living in a science fiction universe where I could change my sex back and forth. Fantasies of being under a magical curse which would change my sex back and forth. Fantasies of being captured by a group of women who forced me to live as a woman. Fantasies of being a spy under deep cover, disguised as a woman, and being captured and forced to live out the rest of my life as a woman. (Gee, if I'd known of the historical case that was very similar to that then ...) Fantasies of having suffered some horrible accident which mutilated my genitals so that the doctors "might as well just make me a girl". Fantasies of getting a chromosome test and finding out I was really a hermaphrodite, or getting an X-ray and finding out. (By then I'd read and re-read the encyclopaedia's article on hermaphroditism. I'd also heard of SRS and transsexuals by then, and wondered whether I was a TS or whether I was merely finding fantasies of it erotic.)
I didn't know what I was. I don't remember when I first stumbled across the word "transvestite" -- it was probably after I'd heard the word "transsexual". I was quite confused, partly thanks to an early conversation with my parents after the first time I'd heard the words "homo" and "fag". I asked what those words meant, and was told they were slang for homosexuals. So I asked what a homosexual was, and my mom said, "That's a man who thinks he's a woman." Well, here I was later, dressing like a woman, having fantasies about being a woman, thinking all the time about whether I was really a "woman trapped in a man's body", and that conversation came back. Did that mean I was gay? But didn't homosexuals like fall in love with other men? I didn't think I was attracted to men. Did that mean I was just too scared to admit it to myself? (I didn't learn that homosexuality included lesbians until later, by the way. Lesbians reading this can feel free to curse the dreaded lesbian invisibility yet again.)
When I finally learned about transvestism and got a clue that homosexuality wasn't about dressing up, I started sorting out that no, I wasn't gay, I was a transvestite. Still, phrases like "drag queen" kept going through my head. I don't remember when I finally stumbled across the information that most transvestites are het, but I think I was in college before I finally learned that I wasn't some strange rarity in that regard. Of course, even then, transvestites and transsexuals were something abstract to me. I'd never met one, and my self didn't count. It just wasn't real, in some sense. But I eagerly sought any reference in psychology books I stumbled across. (I also constantly sought references to and help in understanding my ... submissiveness? Masochism? I didn't yet know what label to apply, and a lot of the descriptions of that didn't seem to quite fit, so I was confused on that front as well, but I knew the subject was important, a clue to who I was, and erotic as well.)
[Wow, a lot of details, a lot of feelings and memories I'd put away for a long time are coming back to me as I write this. Some things are becoming more clear, and a little more scary. Now I see why I've been so confused wondering whether I'm a TV or a TS these days.]
When I was very small, I seemed to deal socially reasonably well with other boys and girls. As I got older, it got a little harder to understand the social rules with other boys, but girls were still fun to talk to. (Well, that only made sense, right? Girls were the ones I wanted to kiss, the ones I wanted to spend time with, the ones I wanted to talk to. Of course I was more comfortable around girls, right? Uh, is that normal in the third grade?) When I changed schools at the start of seventh grade, I didn't fit in with the other boys, and I was by that time shy around girls too. Still, I wasn't as much of an outsider as I felt. The people I really opened up to, the ones with whom I had the talks in which I explored who I was, were girls. Boys were for playing chess and basketball with and hanging around. Emotional sharing was with girls. (And soccer was with both on the playground, but only with boys on the team. Not because girls wouldn't have been welcome on the team, but simply because they were busy playing field hockey. Later, the varsity coach was perpetually disappointed that the hockey team got the goalie he wanted.) As time went on, being with girls started being associated with dating them, and that made it a little harder to be as close to some of the girls who I wanted to be with -- I would have loved a romantic relationship, but I was shy and didn't understand the social rules of courtship and dating, and besides most of them weren't interested in me that way. I would also have been happy just feeling close to them and able to talk with them like I had in junior high (we're looking at about ninth grade here), but that was harder in the start-of-dating period in my social group. Even so, there were precious tender times of sharing, when girls were close to me and things felt right. Looking back, I can see similarities to the relationships I have with several women now, who treat me sort of like a guy and sort of like a woman, and sort of like neither.
Somewhere along the way, rather early in fact, I stopped really understanding boys. They just confused me. I could play by the rules on the surface, at least the ones I could figure out, and they were great to talk to and bounce science ideas off of, or to play football or soccer with (I was on the junior varsity soccer team in 7th, 8th, & 9th grades, and the varsity in 12th), and I counted some among my close friends, but I didn't feel I was like them. I didn't understand how men were supposed to interact with men. I guess that made the ones I did manage to feel close to especially precious, and the brief times I felt the others open up to me likewise. Unfortunately, girls made only slightly more sense to me. I kept feeling as though they should accept me into their cliques, their clumps of conversation, but of course, to them, I just looked like a shy, probably a bit geeky, guy. A few did connect with me, and I felt more natural, more comfortable around them than around the boys I connected with. As I said, I felt like more of an outsider than I was, but still, I felt too shy to approach the girls and didn't understand the boys. I think I was closer to more girls than boys, all in all. Girls were a little confusing when I got that close though, because the feeling that I belonged with them casually got tangled up in romantic and sexual feelings as well. Whoops.
I didn't express that last section very well, and I'm not going to any time soon. But now that I'm thinking about it again, perhaps in a few months or a year I'll be better able to explain it.
Y'know, it's kind of interesting that despite my long-standing desire to be close to girls and my ill-defined romantic leanings, I was sexually a late bloomer. I'd had sexual fantasies for a long time, but there was never any sex in them until my senior year of high school, and even then, the sex was implied. (The situation progressed to where sex would have made sense, then there was a fade to the cuddling and afterglow.)
My horizons did get expanded a bit around my senior year. I met my first openly gay man either the summer before or the summer after it. Shortly after that I met a few bisexuals. So that quite nicely wiped out a slew of stereotypes and such. I'm often surprised it isn't that easy for everyone. The summer after my senior year I started dating a bisexual woman. Well, I guess she was still a girl. I was seventeen and she was fifteen I think. She introduced me to some lesbians. I discovered I liked bringing a partner to orgasm, found out (clumsily, at first) what I could do with my fingers and tongue. (The summer before, I'd had my first French kiss.) It was always interesting to be walking down the street with her and have her point out other women, "Oooh, doesn't she have a cute ass? And look at her hair!" I don't know whether that's just how she is (I should call her and ask her) or whether she was reminding me (and herself?) that she was bi.
Having gay friends, and having been confused about the whole homosexuality thing early on, and being frequently mistaken for gay these days, and having had a disproportionate number of lesbian or bisexual lovers, and being intimately concerned with social issues which seem analogous to gay rights and tied to their success, I pay a bit of attention to gay rights, perception of gays and lesbians, gay cartoons and humour, and the bits of gay and lesbian culture I come into contact with. I'm comfortable being around gay men. I feel that we have some some common ground standing against straight society.
So I was thinking not too long ago about whether I identify with gay men. And I realized that I don't, really, but I do seem to identify with them more than I do with het men. I identify with het women more easily than I do with gay men, and I identify most strongly with lesbians and bisexual women. Gee, perhaps the number of lesbian friends and lovers in my life isn't mere coincidence then. Lesbians just seem to make the most sense to me.
One of the sweetest things anyone has ever done, the most honored anyone has made me feel, was when a bunch of my lesbian friends got together and presented me with a button that says "Honorary Lesbian". I'd thought of myself that way for a while, but thought it was hubris to do so, so I had never mentioned it. I think the closest I'd come was muttering that I wished I could become a lesbian.
Going back into history mode, when I went away to college, in Texas, I took along a few items from my lingerie collection. I wasn't sure I could dare risk being caught in a dorm situation, but I figured the urge would get unbearable after a while. I managed to find some times to be alone. Still, it was a painfully scary secret. When for "charity week" some male students raised money by offering to crossdress for a day if enough donations were made, I wished I'd had the nerve to take advantage of such a nifty excuse. I still fantasized about having the balls to say, "This is what I want to wear, so y'all just have to deal with it." But being shy and being in a new social environment and being exposed to some more boisterous examples of male youth and attitudes than I was used to, the times were not conducive to courage. I was seen as kind of strange anyhow, and wound up basically fitting in with the "weirdo" clique (which eventually grew, based on observations in the cafeteria, to be the largest clique on campus. Neat, huh?). I did get picked on a little, but college age kids aren't as cruel as junior high kids. Still, the fact that I flunked Beer didn't help my social standing with the mainstream.
I started growing my beard during my freshman year of College, in October 1980. I loaned someone my electric razor, and he didn't give it back for a couple of days, and I decided that not shaving saved me considerable time in the morning and figured I'd see what I looked like with a beard. I've not shaved since. (I never shaved my moustache -- when that grew in, it came in nice and even, so I left it alone.)
I lost my virginity. Thirty hours or so before finals exams started, my first semester of college. Can you say, "timing," sisters? I knew you could. Messed with my head big time. Lots of "loss of innocence" stuff, and other stuff that still doesn't make sense.
[Gee, maybe I should write/post this in installments...]
One day when I was wasting time in a friend's room, another friend poked his head in and announced that he was organizing a "Christmas tree hunt" (In like March or May or something), and was rounding up fun people to go along and be silly. I said it sounded like fun, but I really ought to go back to my room and study. It was pointed out to me that I was just looking for ways to procrastinate anyhow, and I might as well do so doing something fun. Then another friend poked her head into the room. She was wearing a bright orange hat and dark glasses and announced that we should all wear something strange. I said I wanted to drop off my books and try to think of something sufficiently strange to wear, and that I'd meet everyone in a little while, and went back to my room on the far side of campus. (Fifteen minute walk. Small campus.)
I got halfway to my dorm wondering what on earth I could wear that would be sufficiently imaginative. The other half of the way I spent trying to convince myself I really had the nerve to do the obvious and pray everyone thought it was a cool joke, an attempt to one-up them in strangeness. By that time I had some skirts and dresses in my luggage as well. I put on one of my sister's skirts and the least clunky of my shoes (which still weren't exactly androgynous, much less feminine), and I don't remember what top. Then I spent several minutes on the verge of taking it all off again (I think I actually did a couple of times), trying to convince myself I could actually do this, then convincing myself it as a stupid, unacceptable risk. I agonized about this for a while...
I took the long way around back to the other side of campus where my friends were waiting, keeping to the shadows and seldom-traveled paths. Then I stood outside the door to the lounge where they were, struggling with my fear again there in the shadows, and nearly turned and went all the way back. The thought that I could explain the way I was dressed as part of a lark if I went forward, but would have no good explanation if I met someone going back, was a big help in convincing myself to go in.
The reaction was mixed, but thoroughly startled. One friend said, "Glenn, I think you're a really cool person, and, no offense, but I'm not sure I want to be seen with you tonight." Others convinced him not to worry. Everyone wanted to know where I'd gotten the skirt on such short notice. I made up three stories in quick succession, each deliberately obvious in its falsehood, then settled on, "Oh it was just something I had in my closet, so I threw it on." Which they thought, of course, was the fourth false story. (One person, with whom I'd actually felt comfortable enough a couple months earler to make some crossdressing jokes with (being obvious that I was only being silly, of course), said, "Hmph. I told you I'd loan you my brown A-line skirt if you asked. But this one is nice too.") A couple of people said nice things about the skirt but pointed out that the shoes really didn't go. One woman, who I had a crush on, kept asking what I was wearing underneath. At one point, she lifted my skirt a bit and saw a slip, and kept muttering "I can't believe it, he's actually wearing a slip and everything." She kept asking what I was wearing under that.
Everyone made a fuss over me for a while, then we went off to find a Christmas tree. (In Texas.) Ann kept muttering and asking. A few people kept asking where I'd gotten the skirt. I just smiled.
I was sooo happy. And still nervous.
Afterwards, things mostly died down, though once in a while someone would think of that night and the "life is so strange" look would cross his or her face. And every few weeks someone would ask me where I'd gotten the skirt.
One day one of the more athletic men in our group asked me, and when I gave him one of the stories I'd made up that night, he picked me up, held me against a wall, scowled, and said, "Tell me. I'm not going to get upset at whatever the answer is, but I Have to Know. This mystery is Driving Me Crazy."
So I told him. "It's mine, Paul. I had it in my closet, okay? Never mind why, but I did. I've had it there for months." It was the first time I'd said it without a goofy wouldn't-you-like-the-real-story grin.
Paul looked skeptical. "You mean it? That's the real story?"
"Okay. Thanks, I feel a lot better now." And he let me go. As he dusted me off, he said, "I'm sorry about doing that to you. Uh, no hard feelings?"
"It's okay, Paul, I understand." Which was only half true. If I do understand, it's a lucky guess.
Since this is getting long and I want to get it sent, I'll condense a lot of the next several years. Having dressed up at school once, I got the courage to do so at Hallowe'en, and once more randomly to surprise someone. I worried about doing it so often that people would guess something was up, but I thought I was careful not to go too far. I later found out that at least one or two people had figured there was something there.
I'm prone to depression, apparently chemical, and apparently inherited. Depression can be hell on one's GPA, especially when one starts sleeping through one's 3:00 PM classes. It was suggested that I take a semester off to get my head together. I haven't been back, though I did take a few classes part time in Maryland (at Bowie State, where my mom works). I keep thinking I should go back to school and get my degree one of these days, but I'm not sure my head is quite back together as much as I'd like for that yet.
So I was back at my parents' house, dressing in my room at night, or wandering through the house dressed when nobody else was home. I went to my second science fiction convention and thought hall costumes were a groovy idea, but I didn't have any ideas. So for the second day of the convention (I went with a bunch of my brother's high school friends, and we commuted to the convention instead of crashing there -- it was local) I made a "wizard's staff" that buzzed when I pointed it at someone, and I wore tights and a black miniskirt I'd gotten somewhere. My friends were a little startled, but thought it was cool. (I think I was already out to one of the people in that group.)
After that, I went to conventions in medieval garb and carried my acoustic guitar, or crossdressed (thinking up cute stories for why what I was wearing would be SF-ish was an exercise) and carried my electric guitar after I got that. I tended to wear a lot of shiny fabrics and glitter and claim I was a space-minstrel, making my way across the galaxy by performing in exchange for passage and food. The glittery outfits were of course appropriate to a performer, right? I changed clothes either in my car or at a friend's house. Other folks' parents seemed to deal with me just fine, but I wasn't about to let my own parents know. My friends quickly figured out that there was more to this than a need for quick costume ideas, especially as my outfits got less costumish and more normal twentieth century. My local friends didn't seem to have any problem with this, and the friends I knew only from conventions knew me only in that mode, so they just accepted it as how I am. What got my attention though, was that strangers at conventions mostly had no problem with my dress either, and that the few who did seemed to consider it their problem rather than mine. Eventually I got to be sort of a fixture, part of the background that everyone seemed to know about even if they didn't know me personally.
When I started getting invited to parties with people who knew me only from conventions, I had to stop and think about how to dress. I mean, I didn't have the excuse of a convention and the fact that lots of people dress strangely there, but these were people who'd never seen me in pants. I finally decided that I wanted to wear a skirt anyhow, and the fact that it would be expected was a great excuse to convince myself with. So I was up to dressing for conventions and parties. Times when I had lots of friends around. Lots of friends to go with me on fast-food forays from conventions, too. As time went by, I needed fewer and fewer people around me to feel comfortable venturing into "mundania" dressed. Then only one friend to make me feel safe. Then I got to the point where I could go into a MacDonald's in Washington on a weekend alone, no matter how I was dressed.
I remember one time when someone came into a crowded hotel room at a con and asked if one or two large fellows could come out and help convince a couple of drunk "mundanes" that harassing scantily clad science fiction fans would not be tolerated, at least until con security could get here. The room emptied into the hallway -- one or two dozen fen of all shapes and sizes confronting the two men. At one point one of the men noticed me and said something insulting. While I was phrasing a snappy comeback to put him in his place, someone I didn't know very well looked annoyed and said, "He's more of a man than either of you will ever be."
It wasn't the words that got my attention then. It was the look on his face. The look that told me I was family, dammit, and how dare they talk that way about me in front of him.
Funny that it took that to tell me what the rational part of my mind already knew; that there I was not tolerated, but accepted. No, that deserves a capital A, Accepted. I sat and thought about that a long time.
Along the way, various people asked me why I dressed the way I did. At first I offered a bunch of reasons, speaking about the tyranny of male fashion, how it wasn't fair that women got all the pretty clothes, how I felt it only made sense that if women can wear pants, men can wear skirts, and, for the ones who seemed the most worried by it, I pointed out that wearing skirts got me lots of pleasant attention from women, which was true. None of them thought to ask how I'd found that out, if that was the reason I was dressing. :-)
When my friends started feeling it was okay to ask, I got a bit more serious. I explained that all the other reasons I gave were really how I felt, but that they didn't really explain it. That crossdressing simply felt better to me, that I simply liked it, that it felt like a better reflection of my self than boyclothes, and that I liked to feel pretty, and women's clothing made me feel prettier. They asked whether it was a sexual thing, and I said sort of. I think that's when I noticed that it had stopped being sexual in the same way some time earlier. Oh, I still sometimes dressed up in private and masturbated, but dressing and masturbating were less and less often connected. And I didn't feel as "dirty" afterwards when I did. And that while dressing still often gave me a sexual thrill, it also often didn't. It gave me a different kind of pleasure.
Fast-forward a little ...
When I moved out of my parents' house into an apartment I shared with two women, I realized I really had no reason not to dress as I pleased at home. Both of my apartment-mates were fannish, so they both knew I liked to crossdress, and that it wasn't just for show at conventions.
Ahh, what freedom!
So I started dressing more often. I also enjoyed the convenience of not having to change en-route to a party, but simply dressing at home and going out, like anyone else would. The simple pleasure of lounging around the house in a comfortable skirt watching football, reading, or talking to my apartment-mates. It all felt so .. so ... so Normal.
I got used to going more places dressed. To not having the "excuse" of a party or convention to leave the house dressed. Going to dinner, or to the supermarket, wearing the clothes I'd wanted to wear for so long. I was working for a company staffed mainly by fen, so everyone there knew all about me, so there were no secrets to worry about in the office (though I wore pants to work in case a client should drop in). I did go to work in a skirt a couple of times, but that can wait for another time.
Anyhow, that's more or less where things stand now. I'm living with different people, in a different place, and working for a different company, but you get the idea. And dressing is a pleasure, but it's lost the sexual connotation it had in high school. Oh, I guess the thought of wearing a corset turns me on like the thought of wearing a dress used to, hmm... But in general, when I get dressed, it's normal. It's a bit of a turn on to put on something especially sexy, of course, and think about how others will see me. And it's a completely different kind of turn on to put on a ball gown; it makes me feel ... dreamy, like a character in a fairy tale, special. Wearing panties under my boyclothes when I dress male doesn't seem "naughty" any more -- I threw away all my men's underwear years ago.
Do I feel I've lost anything by not having the vaguely fetishistic component anymore? No, I don't. It's been replaced by a different kind of pleasure, one I actually treasure more. (Sexual arousal is easy to come by.) It's been replaced by a feeling of rightness, the pleasure of feeling pretty, the comfort in my clothes and my look, the ... ease (think: opposite of dis-ease) of having the freedom to feel normal dressing the way I'd wanted to dress for so long.
This is me.
In the autumn of 1991 I came out to my parents. I was talking to my dad and the subject came up in conversation, and I realized I was never going to get a better chance than that moment. He took it calmly. I tried to take it well. I think he felt a little guilty about not taking it better, but I sure as hell give him credit for trying. My mom was in Cyprus, visiting relatives (yeah, I'm half Greek Cypriot -- forgot to mention that). We told her a while after she'd gotten back. She didn't try to take it well. She said some bitter, nasty things. She also said this was "just a phase". Hah. Most of my life, a phase? And that I "need to see a psychiatrist". If she ever says that again, I'll tell her, "Well, Mom, there's only one known cure. Are you ready for another daughter?" I did see a pshrink a couple of years ago for depression. She asked about my crossdressing -- it was clear she wasn't used to dealing with gender issues -- but only long enough to figure out that it wasn't the cause of my depression. She did make a face when she found out I wasn't out to my parents yet at the time. (She treated my depression with drugs, which after a year or two seemed to have done the trick. I stopped taking them oh, a year ago? Year and a half? More?)
Things have mostly gotten back to normal with my family, though once in a while my mom says something that lets me know it still upsets her. Well, perhaps not normal. Things have gotten back to mostly how they were just before I came out to them. The distance that had grown between my parents and myself while I was hiding so much of myself from them has not closed any. In a way I'm still hiding, because they've basically said, okay, you've told us, but please don't show us.
I've been thinking of getting my ears pierced. But don't hold your breath -- I've been thinking of that for ten or twelve years now. I still have forced-crossdressing fantasies, but I have to imagine I'm someone else in them, since forcing me to crossdress would be rather redundant. I still think about life as a woman, wondering just how much it would change my life.
I'm fairly well known in my social group. At conventions I goto there seem to be more people who know me than people I know. I also seem to be fairly well liked. And like I said, I can get some wonderful shocked looks from people seeing me in pants when they don't expect it. The last time I talked a lot about being confused whether I'm TV or TS, a friend pointed out that I seem to have a special, unusual relationship with a lot of the women in my life. Not my lovers, but the various other women I associate with. I like my life and my social position a lot. It's good to be Glenn.
But still, I keep wondering whether I'm really the TV I call myself, or whether I'm a TS, or just what I am. Recent conversations while I've been writing this (over the course of three days) have brought me to the point where I've decided that it's time to see a pshrink again, this time to help me figure out just what I am. If the last chunk of this has seemed a bit rushed, it's because I want to get it sent before I make that phone call, and I want to make that call before I have a chance to procrastinate yet again.
You see, I would like to be a woman. To look down and see a woman's body. To have sex as a woman. To be called "she" instead of "he". To be seen as normal by the world at large (though I'll always be hard to miss). And I want some things I don't think I can ever have ... I want to get pregnant. I want to bear a child.
I want to be a woman, but I'm not sure whether I want to stop being a man, or more to the point, whether I want to give up my seat in the middle. This is going to take some thought.
I've left a lot out of this -- some because it didn't seem relevant at the moment, some because I didn't think of it at the time or because I thought of it while editing but didn't see a good place to stick it in, some because this is just so incredibly long already, and some because I'm rushing it a bit at the end. Still, here's a good picture of me from one side. For the rest, ask me questions or wait for things to bubble forth in response to things others post.
Yeah, I think I should have done it in installments. :-)
D. Glenn Arthur Jr., firstname.lastname@example.org Tuesday, 9 February, in the year of our Lord, 1,993
"Sing with me, sing for the years,
Sing for the laughter 'n sing for the tears.
Sing with me if it's just for today,
Maybe tomorrow the good Lord will take you away.
Dream yourself a dream come true."
(Closing quote from "Dream On" by Aerosmith)