Friday, December 28, 2007

Big Sister is Watching!

First, a short disclaimer: I do have a piece of code through StatCounter that gives me a couple pieces of information about visitors to my blog. First, it tells me where your IP is located (except some that are blocked). Second, it tells me which website you came from to arrive here and which pages you click on while perusing this blog. It does *not* tell me your street address, phone number, credit card numbers, what you're wearing, what you're eating, or what you think of my blog. Whew... don't you feel better? I do this to get a general idea of how people are finding this blog and where they're from. I find this information both fascinating and useful as I find ways to reach more of the tg commuity and world at large.

One thing that also comes through on the click through links is the searches that are used to find this blog. Some are not surprising. "Crossdresser" and "tg/transgender" appear quite often. Many looking for the famous TG prom queen this past summer from Fresno, CA also found me. I didn't mean to steal her thunder as I thought she was fabulous!

However there are some searches where it's quite obvious they were not looking for a transgendered prom queen. One recent search was "special orders at poffie girls." Clearly someone was looking for information about Poffie Girls in Gastonia, NC where I had my wonderful debutante dress experience. I do know this person did not go to any other pages in the blog, but I wonder if she read some of the entry or quickly moved on? My curiosity will have to be just that. I hope she did the first, but who knows?

This is one of the reasons I keep my posts reasonably family friendly. I do like to make a good first impression particularly for those not familiar with our community. Anyone with no interest will indeed move on. However I hope that those with even a hint of interest will stick around a while. I hope my stories are compelling and positive enough to leave a good impression with them. That is just one more way we can continue to affect the hears and minds of the world at large. I hope that person found themselves a nice dress too!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

One Woman, Four Dress Show

... and I think two wigs! Saturday night at the Kappa Beta Christmas party was another fun night. For only the second time in my almost ten year association with the group, I provided what might pass as entertainment. I decided to offer my services as a budding historian in between all the music acts. I also had three dresses in mind I wanted to wear. So I split my monologues into three segments each in a different costume.

The two costumes on the left are both custom made Civil War era gowns. They were done for me by Heather, the Very Merry Seamstress. You have seen the green dress, but the brown dress (inspired by Captain Janeway on the Star Trek Voyager episode, "The Q and the Grey") was making its debut outing even though I have had it a couple years. The dress in the upper right is a replica of a skating dress from the 1890's (thank you Dyana Lea!). Of course, the dress I wore to the party in the lower right is circa 21st century. Thanks also goes to Swooz Glenn for styling my wigs. She is wonderful to work with and was a huge support backstage.

So what did I talk about? The first segment was a crash course history on 19th century women's fashion with emphasis on the invention of the hoop skirt. In the second segment, I highlighted a few famous crossdressers including Achilles, Joan of Arc, and Deborah Sampson. In the final segment, I retold my story of my dream dress and my time at Latta Plantation.

I received so many kind words and othe compliments. The consensus was the green Civil War gown was the favorite. I tend to agree. I ended by saying I hope I have more to share in Christmas 2008. Only time will tell!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

A Wonderful Holiday Weekend

Weekends just don't get much better than this. I spent Friday and Saturday night with a group of wonderful friends. Here is the picture from Friday night at a party graciously hosted by Rhonda. I dug up an old Christmas dress that still fits pretty well. The company was even better than the dress as I consider the group in the picture below some truly good people.

l-r, Trish Valentine, Diane, Pamela Jones, Stephanie Marie, Rhonda Whittington, Rose, Steffanie Carter; sitting, Donna Marie Hess

Monday, December 3, 2007

When I'm Not a Prom Queen

Admittedly I can't wear my long beautiful formal dresses or my big Civil War gowns all the time. I am up to 16 formal dresses with a recent purchase for the Kappa Beta Christmas party at Goodwill. So look out Yvonne! I'm catching up ;) Unfortunately her number of dresses hovers around triple digits. I have thought about planning a special ops mission to raid her closet. Volunteers are always being accepted. ;) Not that I'm jealous or anything. Someone might confuse me with Scrooge or the Grinch. But I digress...

The above picture is much more typical of my everyday dress. Notice it is still nicer than what the average American woman wears to go shopping, and that is part of my dilemma. A big reason that I dress up is that I am not fulltime as a woman. If I were fulltime, I'm sure that I would have my share of jeans and t-shirts in my closet. Going out is still an experience for me. It is something I have to plan most of my day around.

Let me say that I do not like to dress up when in guy mode. I am very much a jeans and t-shirt person then. It is easier plus I absolutely detest the coat and tie look. Yes I can tie a necktie properly. However it is so much work, and it makes me look like every other man in the office. It is the uniform, and you best not deviate from it if you wish to get ahead. I am fortunate to work in a field where I rarely have to dress up. I don't think I could stand myself after a week in a coat and tie. Truly dressing in drab fits the description!

In contrast, the above outfit is simple to put together. I am not saying it is the height of good fashion, but it feels and looks good. The blouse I got from eBay and the skirt from Goodwill. So it is possible to dress nice without blowing the bank account. With a blouse and skirt, I can also mix and match colors and styles. I love finding the right combination of outfit, makeup, jewelry, etc for a particular outing. In fact, I have no idea most times what I am going to wear before I go out. That is why I love finding those versatile pieces that I can wear over and over with other pieces and still have so many different outfits. I can scan my closet, see what strikes my mood at that moment, and put something together. The only time that rule changes is for the formal events. Believe me, I am thinking about the right dress weeks in advance.

That is part of the experience of being feminine... finding your style. Early on, I knew I loved prom dresses, but reality says I can only wear those on occasion. So the blouse and skirt look is the next best thing. It's not only that it makes me feel feminine, but I am completely comfortable wearing it. It just feels right. Find what you like. Don't be afraid to experiment. If you are lucky enough that your style fits the current trend, stock up on it. When the next fad comes along, you will have plenty of what *you* like.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

What I'm Thankful For

I finally have a little time to breathe with the Thanksgiving holiday. I hope everyone has a safe and happy Thanksgiving while keeping the waistline at a reasonable number! All is well on my end... just a lot of work lately. Many like to write columns and blog posts about what they're thankful for. Here is my list:

1) Friends who know the real me especially all the wonderful ladies at Kappa Beta. Special thanks goes to Pamela and Trish for their continual support.
2) My family who don't yet know all of the real me but love me nonetheless.
3) All those beautiful prom, bridesmaid, wedding, Civil War dresses... makes this girl feel soooo feminine.
4) The Internet where I started to discover the real me.
5) My four cats... purrrrrrr.
6) The right time and place that allows me to have the opportunity to explore my true self... hmmmmm, that sounds like a good blog post.
7) Ms. Carmen, my hypnosis therapist.
8) Friends who don't know all of the real me but like me for who I am.
9) Long flowing skirts against smooth nyloned legs... like a touch of heaven.
10) My work which is quite fulfilling and allows me to buy all those wonderful feminine things.
11) Lipstick... every shade under the sun to express every mood.
12) Long hair against my bare shoulders reminds me of how good it feels to be a girl.
13) All the official activists working on our behalf everyday in the legislative halls.
14) All the unofficial activists who slowly are making a difference one heart at a time by being out and about and being themselves.
15) Southern Comfort
16) My razors which rid myself of my nasty body hair.
17) Eye shadow, blush, foundation... it's not just makeup. It's magic!
18) The Moody Blues
19) The Civilization computer game series where women can really rule the world!
20) People from the mainstream who treat you with dignity no matter what is between your legs.
21) Crying
22) The ability to be feminine
23) The future... the best is yet to come!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

A Long Time Ago...

I'll leave the finish to the above to the George Lucas moviemaking machine to avoid potential copyright pitfalls. However, it is quite appropriate to look back from time to time. In my sessions with Ms. Carmen, she makes sure I remember key past events and even helps put me back in that time. Looking back accomplishes several things. It shows me how far I've come as Stephanie and how much I've changed. She also makes sure I recognize key moments of change such as the 2007 SCC where I worked as a video producer en femme for the first time.

At the end of our last chat, Ms. Carmen brought up a memory I shared early in my blog history about a time before I had even chosen a femme name. It was when I was discovered by a college roommate when I was part of a fundamentalist church. That night, several men from the church "intervened" with me about my "sin." I threw away the two dresses I had at the time. It was a time of despair for me. I thought I was evil and perverted. I even thought I was the only one with thoughts of wearing women's clothes. I had no idea of a community. They had caught me, and I had no choice but to acquiesce. That day and the days following were some of the darkest times in my life. Their solution? Pray to God, and beg Him to take this away from me.

The above occurred almost 15 years ago (December 1992). Just over five years later, I would go out for the first time en femme. Now I am fully on the path I was destined for. It took a while to get on that track, but I can truly say that it has been worth it. I know more challenges lie ahead. I will probably face some truly difficult times. However, I know I can never go back if I am to be true to myself.

So why do I use the Star Wars opening line? I think of my time with the church in college as happening in a different universe almost. It may sound ephereal, but very little of that life is familiar to me now. I can look at it now like an image on a monitor and barely recognize it. It's like watching a science fiction film. I can barely believe that was me throwing away those dresses. However, I do understand that day is a big part of who I am now.

So what changed? I started thinking for myself. That may sound like the simplest thing, but it took me so long to figure that out. I accepted everyone's words as gospel and never understood that so many do not have my best interests in mind. I am terrible in political situations, but I am much better at not simply following other's wishes. I choose my own goals. I decide the gameplan and then execute it. I reap the consequences, good, bad, and ugly. I pick myself up, learn from my mistakes and successes, and keep on going. And you know something? I have made more genuine friendships by being true to myself... and yes, you still have to treat others with respect. In doing so, you must respect yourself too. You attract the right people who respect your honestly and dignity.

By the way, none of this involved hypnosis with Ms. Carmen. We were just talking. I wanted to go over my Ghostwalk day. She wanted to encourage me to be happy with how far I've come since that dark December day and to inspire me to continue on the path I'm meant to be on. She is one of many friends who help me be true to myself. I only hope I do the same for them even if they don't always know it.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

A New Adventure Realized

I do apologize for the delay in writing about the ghostwalk at Latta Plantation. While I have been busy with a new job, I have also had difficulties coming to terms with finding a greater meaning in my volunteer job. Finally last night (11/3) at our regular Charlotte Gender Alliance meeting, I had the opportunity to talk about my experience with some of my trans sisters. It is always nice to have good friends as a sounding board of sorts to put things in perspective. They all helped me realize that this was indeed a remarkable thing. I may have forgotten that at some point, but that is part of the learning experience.

I arrived at Latta Plantation about 5pm that Saturday, two hours before the start of the event. I was en femme wearing blue jeans, a light blue sweater, and my favorite black pumps. In speaking with Karen the prior week, I knew I would have my own changing area. That had been my biggest concern.

Walking into the visitor’s center, I was greeted by Nicole, the same young lady that had been so nice to me on my first visit. I talked about my dress of course, and Nicole said she was looking forward to seeing me in it. She suggested I wait for the pizza before changing which was a great idea! I went into the room where the makeup artists were already putting on the white and grey face paint on some of the volunteers. I chatted a bit with everyone until the pizza arrived.

Then it was time to go get the dress from the car and get changed. I can’t explain the feeling carrying the dress inside and upstairs to the changing room. It was like a dream come true. So I starting changing and was finishing buttoning the bodice when I heard a knock at the door. I was looking decent by that point and said to come in. Kristin, the executive director, walked in and immediately complimented me on my dress. She just needed to pick something up and left. I finished buttoning the dress and looked at myself in one of the mirrors. I felt nervousness, excitement, anxiousness… all kinds of emotions including going back to my childhood memories of the lady wearing the dress in the encyclopedia picture. Later I put on the pin brooch which completes the picture you see of me that day.

I took one more walk around the path we would be on that night. I talked with several of the volunteers setting up their scenes. In total, we had 90 dedicated volunteers. I was very proud to be part of that group. Everyone was nice, and I told them I would see them later with some scared visitors.

I talked with Karen, who was in charge of the event planning, when I returned to the building. Karen was the one person the entire time who seemed completely comfortable with me. She called me Stephanie without blinking like it had been my name my entire life. Even though all the staff and volunteers were nice to me, I could see some hesitation when they spoke with me. I did not see that at all with Karen, and that is a credit to her. In all fairness to everyone else, I understand that I am probably one of the more unique volunteers they have seen, and it will take time to develop a greater comfort level.

People started arriving, and the staff began lining everyone up in groups for the first goaround. Being an eager beaver, I volunteered to lead the first group. I opened my mouth, introduced myself, and I could tell that I was being read. I felt my heart drop, and my nervousness reached a level like the first time I tried on women’s clothing. Being somewhat practiced in public speaking, I fell back on what I knew to reach an audience. Where are you from? Is this your first trip here? Oh let me tell you about some of the other events here. That is what composed me more than anything.

Leading that first group, I knew I was a bit of a mess. I held my lantern in one hand and my notes in another. I know my voice was shaking and hand quivering the whole first half of the walk. I even forgot one of the stops (the kitchen where the chefs were serving brains). At some point though, I calmed down enough to start enjoying myself. As I said goodbye to the first group, I could see everyone was smiling in a way that meant they had enjoyed themselves.

For the second group, I decided to ditch my notes to free up a hand. I was given a group to lead again and started to go. “Hi, my name is Stephanie!!” I was quickly held back by a volunteer telling me it wasn’t our turn yet. Oooops. One teenage boy in another group yelled mockingly, “Stephanie.” Not only did I ignore him, but so did everyone else. One minor crisis adverted. The group he was in went on ahead followed by my group. He tried to mock me again a couple of times. Again, he was ignored.

By my third group, I had people asking to take pictures with me. Also some mostly older people were asking politely why I was dressed the way I was. This was one question I had decided ahead of time I would not be offended by. Each time, I answered that I wanted to volunteer in this way, and I had an interest in history and the women’s fashions of the era. If I had time, I would tell the story of the dress too. Everyone seemed to enjoy my stories. I was not confrontational at all. In fact, I felt I was fulfilling my role as a guide and docent by sharing a bit about me and connecting it back to the history of Latta Plantation

A bit about the ghostwalk itself: We started along a wide grassy path which gave me the chance to introduce myself and and prepare the guests for the frights ahead. We then entered a very narrow path through the woods where a Civil War skirmish had flared up yet again. This included soldiers, a burial scene, and a barn scene with a very upset widow. Next was the one room kichen with witches serving brains and asking for donations. We then walked through the lower level of the main house where we witnessed a séance and Mr. Latta’s funeral. That was followed by a walk through the garden with a fake and a living scarecrow. We walked briefly through the slave cabin with some strange noises upstairs. The walk concluded with a trip to the miner’s cabin where we were chased off by a couple of mad miners. Of course, you have to have the fake ending approaching the parking lot. A gun would be shot off, and one more ghost would scare the guests at the end of the line.

One funny note involved going out of the slave cabin. Since the steps were very steep, I used that as a stopping point to warn people to watch their step. I even offered a helpng hand when needed. One about seven year old boy came down and asked, “Why are you dressed like a girl?” I answered sweetly, “Because I want to.” He actually seemed ok with my answer… well as ok as a seven year old could muster.

About 800 people came through the ghostwalk that Saturday night. After two and a half hours and about seven group, my feet gave up the ghost. I sat down with some of the other guides as we recounted our stories. We noted the slight differences on each of our trips which is a tribute to the hard work and ingenuity of the actors. At 10pm, Kristen came out and told everyone to close up shop. I made sure the changing room was clear and went back to my 21st century garb.

Afterwards, I made the rounds thanking everyone especially Nicole and Kristen. I really wanted to thank Karen as well, and I found her closing up the house. I told her how much it meant for me to do this as Stephanie. Karen said she had heard me some throughout the night and thought I did get a good job.

So after all this, what do I take from my trip back to the 19th century? First, I need to be more serious working on my femme voice. I want to be able to go back and forth as I do rely on my male voice for much of my work. Second, I want to do this again, and again, and again. Even with everything that didn’t go quite right, an awful lot went very well. I prefer to look at the positives as a stepping stone to something better while improving where possible on my weaknesses.

The first time doing something is rarely going to be close to perfect. Driving home, I was so focused on the whole experience to the point of becoming overly critical of myself. I felt like I had not done a particular good job despite Karen’s kind words. I was mostly upset at being read consistently. I expected that coming in, but it was still a jolt to my feminine ego. As the week went on, I did begin to realize that I had done well considering everything. I was being the real me in a fully mainstream setting, and I contributed to a very well produced volunteer effort. That is certainly something to hang your heels on.

Last night at my group meeting, everyone was so proud that I had done this. It really was something different and exciting. Jennifer (who is a post-op TS) even told me riding to the club afterwards, “That took some balls.” By doing this in my own way, I can help the community in my own way. And yes… I had fun! I fulfilled a childhood dream. Even better, the future possibilities are as wide as that sunset sky over Tara in Gone With the Wind. Yes, I will return to make more antebellum trips back to Latta Plantation.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Latta Plantation Ghostwalk

Since I've been writing so much about my new adventure, I thought it only fair to give you a live update of sorts. My feet are about to fall off as we had a huge crowd at the Latta Plantation Ghostwalk. Everything went pretty well. I got lots of compliments on my dress along with a lot of questions. I'll write in more detail about those later. Karen had some nice things to say at the end to me, and I thanked her very much for the opportunity. More to come at a later time. Time for beauty sleep here. I'll rest well having lived and done something that has been a long time in coming.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Fashion: Short vs Long

One of my frustrations in fashion for men and women is how we get stuck on certain trends. It is interesting to note in some of those old faded pictures from the 60's and 70's how everyone looks like they are dressed alike. Some of the styles would actually look fine for today. In fact, you can barely tell the era of the photo if not for the fading. Some styles look very dated and never return except for costume parties. I always wonder when fashion designers decide to put a certain style to death (pussy bow blouses for example).

There is a very telling scene early in the movie The Devil Wears Prada where Anne Hathaway's character Andera chuckled at the angst over the choice of a belt for a particular outfit. Merryl Streep's character Miranda then proceeds to figuratively undress Andrea by telling her the blue color of her now unstylish sweater was in reality chosen several years earlier as one of the "in" colors which then trickled its way into the less chic department stores. Miranda gave the very clear impression that they picked what we all would wear.

I many times feel the same way when entering a store. I have a pretty general idea of what I like... long flowing skirts, solid colors, not a lot of frill, no embroidery, and classic styles that will always match well with other outfits. When looking for formal dresses, I almost always go with long and poofy. I want the skirt to have some shape. If I don't find what I'm looking for, I usually will not buy anything. I have tried to get into the habit of trying on at least one piece each trip that I might not have considered. I am sometime surprised which makes it worth the effort.

This brings me to the title of the post. Friday I attended a high school football game that was also a homecoming. It was a great atmosphere with a full crowd and perfect weather. The home team is also having one of its best years ever and won this game as well. I have enjoyed homecomings to watch the styles of the dresses worn by the young ladies. I love the elegance of dresses, and they always look very pretty. I was disappointed this year though that all the ladies, freshman through senior classes, chose a very similar style as displayed above (from David's Bridal): v-neck, knee to tea length skirt. Not a single dress was longer than tea length. Now I know in recent years, some of the homecoming court would wear long ankle or even floor dresses. Not a single girl did this year. As lovely as they looked, I was still somewhat aghast at the sameness. Did everyone shop at the same store?

I even counted about four of the same dresses to the left. I usually don't get hung up if I see two or three women wearing the same dress, but four was a bit much. Even if another lady is wearing the same dress as me, I just think we both have great taste. However I know I am in the minority when it comes to liking the longer dresses. Shorter dresses are considered sexier not to mention easier to walk in. However the longer dresses are more fun to me. You can be sexy up top with a strapless or princess cut and still be a lady with the skirt. Of course, I love the rustle and swish of a skirt with a crinoline and the way it feels against smooth nyloned legs. It's an indescribable feeling. An even better feeling was knowing how unique I was with my favorite dress, and I was completely accepted for my uniqueness above and beyond the dress.

So here's to hoping that the longer dresses make a comeback in 2008. Even looking at the prom styles at websites, there may be hope for us yet.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

A Place to be Southern Belle With Picture

Here is the dress I'll be wearing the night of October 27th at Latta Plantation. I like to dress well when traveling in my time machine!

Friday, October 5, 2007

New Email

Just as the title says, I have a new email now! It is I felt fortunate to keep the promqueen name! I thought I'd wear white for the new marriage.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Employment Non Discrimination Act (ENDA)

I usually try to limit the discussion of politics on this blog. As the name of the blog suggests, I enjoy my prom dresses very much. I also am very thankful for the many friends I have in the community and the opportunities to get out. My belief is that the positive experiences we have in the mainstream world is what will change the hearts and minds of that world. However there are times when legislation written on a piece of paper is necessary to help pave that path. Such is the case with ENDA.

Many in the transgender community subscribe to any number of message boards and are aware of the events of the last eight days. In short, the ENDA legislation would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of federally protected classes. A person could not be denied employment or dismissed from a job based on the above. Such legislation was started way back in 1994 and was finally set to come to a vote in the Houuse of Representatives this month. The liklihood is any ENDA bill passed would be vetoed by President George Bush. However, it would set a precedent for a similar bill with a new president in 2009.

Eight days ago (September 26, 2007), rumors started circulating that the transgender provision in the bill had been removed after a polling indicated ENDA did not have sufficient votes to pass the House. The rumors quickly turned to hard news that Democratic Party leaders lead by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had indeed removed the transgender provision. This lead to a firestorm in which several GLBT groups and leaders crafted a letter strongly opposing ENDA without the transgender protections. The one group noticeably missing from the signees: Human Rights Campaign (HRC).

HRC in 2004 voted to support ENDA with a transgender clause. This has helped them draw from a huge well of transgender support lead by the amazing Donna Rose who was the only TG on the HRC Board of Directors. I along with many local TG sisters felt this unity just a few months ago at the North Carolina HRC Gala in February. I felt like we had found a group to align with that would fight for all of us. Even though HRC had a history of leaving out the T in GLBT, many in the community believed that HRC lead by Joe Solomonese would take care of the entire umbrella. My belief was strongly validated by Solomonese's speech at SCC 2007. Imagine how we all felt when HRC did not immediately jump on board to oppose the newly crafted ENDA. HRC waited until Monday, October 1 (five days later) to hold a board meeting and vote to reaffirm the position they had voted on in 2004. HRC did add its name to a new letter which unfortunately does not adamantly oppose the new ENDA. HRC essentially has said while they will not support ENDA, they will not actively oppose it either. To be fair, HRC has started a last ditch effort to rally support as Speaker Pelosi was convinced to delay the markup of the bill. I fear however it is too little too late.

This fence sitting stance by HRC has forced many in the community to make some difficult decisions. Donna Rose made her resignation letter public. She also has an excellent timeline from her perspective inside the beltway. I know of one friend who made a similar decision on a local level. All I can say is I am very disappointed. I know the decision to step away from HRC is an immensely painful one on many levels. Leaving friends you have worked closely with on key legislation is not easy.

I also believe that HRC is not on solid ground in terms of representing the GLBT community. The outpouring of support at the end of last week from so many groups indicate that the transgender community has earned the respect of ther gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. They understand that equal rights for some are not truly rights as stated so eloquently by Martin Luther King Jr. I wish the spirit felt at the HRC Gala in February could be transmitted to Washington, DC. We felt so genuinely loved and respected. The conversations were amazing. At some point, there is a disconnect between the real world and the "inside the beltway" world. If they would truly come down from their glass toweres, they would get an inkling of what we are about. They would then understand the mistake they have made.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

A Place to be a Southern Belle Part 2

I wanted to share my latest news about my latest upcoming adventure. Most of you know I have a love for prom and formal dresses. This goes back to my earliest memories of knowing that I liked women's clothing. I found I also liked the Civil War era dresses with the big hoop skirts. Of course, its a whole lot easier to find the prom dresses than those big Civil War gowns. Still I have had two custom made for me in recent years. I was left with one problem... where to wear them? I enjoyed the history side of it as well (I am quite the History Channel geek) and decided to start checking out local historical sites.

In late August, I visited en femme a historical site in Charlotte called Latta Plantation. I asked about times I could return in period costume. Their Halloween and Christmas events were recommended to me. I emailed the volunteer coordinator about working at the Halloween event (the Ghost Walk). I was upfront about my desire to be a female character since I am transgendered. She responded saying they could probably use me as a guide and to stay in touch. I offered my services as a guide for one of the nights.

Yesterday I received an email back from her saying I was on the schedule as a guide for Saturday night, October 27th. I will be leading visitors from haunt to haunt telling scary stories along the way. Oh yes, I will be dressed as a Civil War era southern woman. This is exciting for me on so many levels. I do have a genuine interest in the history of the region so it will be more than just the thrill of being en femme. I still live so much of my life in boy mode, but I want the experience of doing something real as Stephanie. Volunteering is one way I can get my feet dirty in the real world. It is a little scary but exciting at the same time knowing I will be in a completely mainstream setting without the safety net of a group. I will get read. There's just no way around it. However, I am understanding more and more that people are fine with me because I am fine with me. They see that growing self assuredness and honesty, and people can accept it.

I would be remiss if I didn't invite everyone! The Ghost Walk at Latta Plantation is 7-10pm Oct. 26th-27th. I will be working the Saturday (Oct 27th) night only. Admission is $7. Latta Plantation is north of Charlotte near Huntersville. You can find more information at We will be having a work session October 14th. I will have more details to post after that.

Monday, September 24, 2007

TG in the Workplace

Some of this is heavy material, but it is worth reading. The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) recently posted its Corporate Equality Index (CEI) for 2008. Unfortunately, activists in the TG community have pointed out (and rightfully so) that it falls far short in covering the "T" in GLBT. My short response is that we still have a long way to go in terms of educating the business and corporate world about us. This is a short list of articles explaining and commentating on this in more detail.

Corporate Support for the Trans by Donna Rose

The Blue and Yellow Stepchild by Marty Abernathy

HRC Corporate Equality Index: Rating Criteria

Transitioning into New Jobs and Genders (Los Angeles Times article on the First Transgender Career Expo at SCC)

Monday, September 17, 2007

Southern Comfort 2007

Whew!! It's over, and I feel like I'm in a period of detox. I'll have more substantial material about SCC 2007 at some point, but suffice to say it is truly a climb to the mountaintop where I can breathe the rarified air of the essence of the transgender community. Unfortunately you do have to come down at some point, but at least I can bottle some of that air to carry me through the real world. Being around an estimated one thousand of your sisters and brothers and especially working with some of the best in the community is truly an experience beyond words.

Here is part of what I wrote in the Kappa Beta Yahoo Group:

It was also my pleasure to work along side Kari and Marilyn as volunteers at SCC even though we were in different departments. My body and mind are still recovering from what is always a life changing week. This week was a big longer as I arrived on Tuesday, worked Wednesday in drab setting up the ballroom, and then spent the next three days en femme as part as the tech crew. As a volunteer, you truly understand that things don't just happen on their own. It requires so much work and planning from a tremendous group of talented and dedicated people to make the conference "just happen."

I was very honored to be part of that group, and it was made even better because I worked as the real me. The wonderful ladies who make up the tech crew were gentle with this newbie as they showed me where to put that wrench, tighten that screw, and move that light. Hopefully I held up my end with some good camera work. The play Saturday night in particular allowed the video crew to shine with some nice close-ups that most in the audience would have missed without the big screens.

Of course, it is always nice to see the old friends and make new ones. I was constantly apologizing for cutting off conversations to hurry to the next tech setup. I renewed acquaintances with at least two people who have known me since the "beginning", i.e. the time in internet chat before Kappa Beta. I also met one young woman named Millie who was at SCC three days. I asked, "Oh, your first Southern Comfort?" "No," she replied. "My first three days out period."

That is the magic of SCC. It is expensive, but it is worth saving up for. I'm already planning for 2008.

It is an emotional experience especially with my volunteer efforts. I now know just a little of what it takes to put such a conference together. Thank you does not seem to be near enough to both the organizers and the attendees. That is part of why I feel moved to continue to give back.

Monday, September 10, 2007

September 11th Reflections

The video of the attacks on the World Trade Center towers in New York City six years ago tomorrow still creates a hollow place in my stomach. The memories of feelings of dread and helplessness from that week seem so real. One of my high school classmates was on one of those planes. I think of the lost dreams and lives from the thousands who are no longer with us, and it gives me the realization that I must live life while it is still with me.

I will try to keep this as unpolitical as possible as the discussions over the American lead wars since that day are totally legitiate and reasonable. The one thought that crowds my mind is that a group of people on the other side of the globe felt like they had the right to impose their way of life on us. They were so strong in their beliefs that they felt (and still feel) fully justified in killing indiscriminately. How does this affect the transgender community? Clearly we are a group that many religious extremists around the world are uncomfortable with. It is safe to say that they look on us with utter contempt. In a country run as a theocracy, the rights of TG people would be the first to go. The good news is more of the mainstream public is being to understand that our rights are worth fighting for. In reality our rights are the same as everyone's rights... to be ourselves in such a way that doesn't take the same right away from others.

So in a way, the spirit of September 11th moves me to discover myself more. That exploration connects me not only with my inner soul but also with the rest of the world. As I understand myself better, I understand the world better. This is part of the gift of a dual gender. I can still cry when watching the towers tumble and rejoice as the phoenix rising from the ashes.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

For Your Listening Pleasure

We've been having a wonderful time at the Community Kink chat room on Wednesday nights at 9pm ET for Fabulous Femme chat. Ms. Carmen is on the radio live, and Ms. Cecilia hosts the chat. Ms. Cecilia always tapes a report for the show, and her last one was on the topic of the differences between men and women and how it relates to transgender folks. It's a free download and well worth the listen.

Ms. Cecilia - The Differences Between Men and Women

Saturday, September 1, 2007

A Place to be a Southern Belle

Another day, another outing, another new thing for Stephanie. Those who read this blog regularly know I have a fledgling interest in Civil War history and of course the big beautiful women's gowns from that era. To recap, I have two custom made Civil War style dresses including one that is based on an encyclopedia picture from my childhood that I recently rediscovered. I even identified myself as a crossdresser to the online seamstress that made this second dress for me, and she was incredibly friendly throughout. The whole story is at My Dream Dress posted in July.

Yesterday, I made a visit to Latta Plantation north of Charlotte, NC. Latta was at it height during the early 19th century and has events based on both the Revolutionary War and Civil War. This was my first such trip en femme, and I dressed fairly casually. I wanted to inquire about which events would be appropriate to dress in period costume. After paying my $6 for the tour, I spoke with one of the ladies dressed in a 21st century tshirt and jeans. She walked me through the events that might work but seemed somewhat non-commital even saying it wasn't illegal for me to come dressed that way. I didn't get the best vibes from her, but at least she had been honest about the possibilities.

Afterwards, I walked with the tour group which included a few small children. One little blonde gal kept looking up at me like she couldn't figure me out. As the site was short of staff for the Labor Day weekend, our tour was lead by the farm manager Ken. He turned out to be very nice and also was a godsend for the young children as he extended the tour to include all the farm animals. We met all the chickens, roosters, sheep, horses, mules, donkeys, and even a pygmey hog named Fat Boy whose days were numbered. While Ken kept the tour fun for all, I was thinking I had fallen short in my quest. I had not seen anyone dressed for the 19th century.

Upon my return to the visitor center, I was greeted by a young blonde named Nicole who was dressed in a lovely simple blue colonial dress. Finally! She said I was welcome back anytime and went on to say that many regular visitors do show up dressed in costume. She went on to recommend a few more events that might work for me. I told her about my two dresses, and she seemed genuinely interested in my stories. So I have a few dates to add to my calendar when I can play southern belle for a day. I might even recruit a few fellow belles to join me.

I will continue to look for similar historical sites. Who knows? One day, I might be the one giving the tour.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

A Woman's Prerogative

It's a woman's prerogative to change her mind. We've heard that saying a million times. As a man, I never really understood it. Men are trained as leaders to make a decision and stick with it no matter the consequences. Never mind the iceberg just up ahead. Stay the course. Don't be indecisive or waffling. Even if that choice leads you and everyone else over a cliff, it doesn't matter. You made the decision, and that makes you a real man.

I had a situation yesterday that made me understand for the briefest of moments that it is ok to change your mind. I went in with one assumption about what was right and came out with something very different. And wouldn't you guess it? It involved buying a formal dress. Now tell me how many of you are really surprised?

Let me preface this by saying Saturday was one of the most full scheduled femme days ever. I started the day by spending a couple of hours at Pride Day in Charlotte with my good friend Pamela Jones. We set up a table for NC TG Unity. The spirit was very strong, and it makes me very hopeful for the Charlotte GLBT community. I finished the day with the Transcarolina group in Greensboro at Warehouse 29. It was fun to see some old friends and make new ones. I have to admit I am not big on clubbing. However I do enjoy people watching, and that part of the show is always fascinating at Warehouse.

In between all that involved some very important shopping. I had a running list in my mind of what I wanted, and I think I checked off my whole list except for some new jewelry. Sorry Ms. Carmen! After checking into my hotel in Greensboro, I was off to my favorite department store Kohls. I love Kohls as I think they have the best combination of prices and clothes. The damage at Kohls was a new cream silky slip (feels so nice) and a couple of eyeshadows.

My next stop was David's Bridal where I wanted to buy a dress for the Saturday night gala at Southern Comfort. This is where I had my mind changing experience. Now you may be asking, "Stephanie, don't you have plenty of dresses?" Yes, but they're all floor length which is the style I love. However, this year at SCC, I'll be working with the video crew at SCC, and I need something I can move around in. I was thinking something knee length and free flowing. Immediately the saleslady found something in blue that I liked. It was cute, and the material felt really luxurious. It seemed to fit the bill.

I asked her if I could look around some more. Shortly I found a black tea length halter top number made of organza that was calling my name. I never even tried on the blue dress as I loved the black dress that much. It occurred to me that the black dress was a better choice as I didn't have any dresses in black. It was much more sophisticated than my first choice. It is also a dress that I can wear a number of places. The important thing is I liked the way I looked in it. So imagine the pic at the top in black, and that is the newest formal in Stephanie's prom closet.

The funny thing is I never would have picked out the dress from a catalog. While the internet and mail order are wonderful things, nothing beats trying clothes in person in front of a mirror. In fact, I was saved one skirt purchase at Kohls after trying on a skirt I thought I would like and having the mirror prove me wrong. It truly is a feminine experience trying on clothes and being surprised (in both good and bad ways) by the results. Many personal shoppers even suggest to try on at least one outfit that you normally wouldn't wear. Pretty good advice I would say.

I finished my shopping spree with a flirty skirt for the night from Fashion Bug and then a manicure. Have I even mentioned I was totally at ease en femme with the thermometer touching the upper 90's? Most of the stores were fairly crowded, but I was just another young woman shopping. I become more comfortable each time. I know how to shop better, and it saves me from making some bad choices. And you know... it is ok to change your mind especially when formal dresses are concerned!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Songs That Make Me Cry

Most people put at least one iPod or iTunes list on their blog. As a guy, I would never consider making this list. The reason is that I couldn't explain why I cry at certain things. However Ms. Carmen told me that one of the great things about being a woman is a release for overwhelming emotions. It has to come out somehow, someway. Even Mr. Darling on Andy Griffith never gave an explanation. He just said, "That one makes me cry," and Andy would pick (literally) another tune. So here are off the top of my head some songs that make me cry.

1. Forever Autumn - Justin Hayward
2. Watching and Waiting - The Moody Blues
3. Will the Circle be Unbroken
4. There is a Time
5. What's the Name of the Game - ABBA
6. It's Too Late - Carole King
7. Good Riddance (Time of Your Life) - Green Day
8. Rainy Days and Mondays - The Carpenters
9. Come Monday - Jimmy Buffett
10. Fly Away - John Denver
11. Who Are You Now - Blue Jays
12. Beth - KISS
13. Amazing Grace (on bagpipes)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Dress Montage

A little dress collage from over the years. I have featured five of the dresses in stories so far. From L-R...

1) Royal blue dress
2) Fuschia dress
3) Wine dress
4) Teal dress
5) Peach dress
6) Debutante dress

Monday, August 13, 2007

Larry King Show Review

I am not disappointed I watched the Larry King Show on CNN Friday night. I was immensely proud of all the guests as they represented themselves and the community quite well. However, I was somewhat disturbed by Mr. King's line of questioning. Larry King is a multiple award winner and has been long been regarded as an important figure in broadcasting. He is someone I admired as I startd my broadcast career a year before he finished his long running syndicated radio show. I must say I have rarely watched his CNN show except when issues of major importance to me were featured. In other words... not very much.

I understand Larry King Live still has good ratings for a cable show. However, in looking back at some of his guest lists, he does rely on somewhat sensationalized topics. Maybe that is how be approached Friday night's show. Mr. King is notorious for his minimal pre-show preparation. I have learned he didn't even talk to any of the guests prior to the show. I understand he wants to come across as unbiased. In this day and age and with his salary, Larry King can stand to adapt to modern expections of good journalistic preparation. On the plus side, he did allow the guests just enough breathing room in their answers to come across as real people. They are the reason the show ultimately succeeded.

The positive in a talk show format is that good articulate guests with interesting stories make for strong television. There is no live interactive audience to shout you down, and a Larry King show will be much more fair to the guests than Jerry Springer. Of course, the types of guests (and therefore the audience) on each show is far different. While Larry King may feature sensational topics, he does allow room for a fair discussion. It could also be argued that he asks questions that the normal American tv viewer might ask. I thought the panelists particularly Jessica handled them all very well.

The one theme from the show was that everyone has a different path in life. Even within the TG community, there is so much diversity. Each of the TG guests was at a different point of transition. Each had experienced difficulties with family and job. Even Jessica who appears to be the most fully realized as a post-op has to deal with an unsupportive mother. We know Susan Stanton has had to turn her life around in a relatively short time and fortunately can live very well on the speaking circuit. That doesn't mean her life is easy. In the end, everyone has to do what works for them. By featuring positive images of the community, we give each other the strength to find our own path. To know you are not alone on your journey is truly a powerful message.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Larry King Tonight at 9pm

Set your DVRs/TIVOs tonight for 9pm ET on CNN for Larry King Live. The tease is:

Men who have surgery to become women, women who become men. Go inside the world of transgender people.

The poll question on the the front page is straight forward: Have you ever wished you could be the opposite sex? At the posting of the blog the answers are running 25% yes/ 75% no. Oh I did vote yes. That doesn't mean I want to have surgery at this very moment or even in the near future or ever. Has the thought crossed my mind at points in my life, and are there times I would have said yes? You better believe it.

Larry King Live website

On another subject, I watched very little of the Democratic presidential candidates debate on Logo, the gay themed cable network although I did see some of the recaps. Part of me is delighted as a transgender person that the candidates gave this serious time. I am also somewhat thrilled that the 2008 election affords citizens of this great nation an opprtunity to cover so many issues with the candidates. However, it is still a long ways until the first primaries and caucuses in January not to mention the fact that the voters of North Carolina rarely have a chance to affect the vote in the primaries. I will be interested how the candidates handle themselves barring some great national crisis once Christmas rolls around. I expect the issues will not change much, but the writing may already be on the wall in regards to a favorite for both parties by that time.

The realistic side of me is still somewhat pessimistic in regards to GLBT causes. If the gay community believes the Democratic Party is their great salvation, they will be in for a rude awakening. Even a large number of Republicans will start supporting us when it becomes politically expedient. So much of politics is about the ability to raise money and then turn that money into votes.

The reverse of that is that the candidates will say whatever we, the people, want to hear. If the vast majority of voters do not support our causes, the candidates will not give it much more than lip service. That is why the real work occurs at the grassroot level in the form of education, and education is something that happens everyday everywhere from the churches to the grocery stores. There will also be a percentage of people that will never change their minds about us. We will never reach them unfortunately. Most who see us simply living our lives and giving to the community have and will over time be more supportive. It does take time, but we have seen positive results. Hopefully the candidates in 2012 and onward will be more aware of the groundswell of tolerance and maybe even admiration for those in the community. Then we will become a true participant in the affairs of the nation.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Story Behind the Dress #5

With the thermometer here in the not so deep south threatening triple digits for the next three days, I thought it was time for another edition of the ever popular dress series. While lemonade and sweet iced tea are acceptable remedies for the hot weather in this part of the country, I also enjoy thinking about the cooler seasons.

This particular dress certainly qualifies as it is what I regard as my Christmas dress. I have worn it many times to Kappa Beta Chrismas parties and other yuletide occasions. I bought it at a consignment shop in Fayetteville in fall 1998. This was a special trip as I got to meet several of the local sisters including the fantastic Kathy Louise. The consignment shop was run by a supportive woman and opened especially for us after hours. A couple of the wives also showed up. This was probably the first time I had gotten a real woman's advice as I tried on outfits which was very much appreciated. I ended up buying this dress along with a fuschia prom dress which I will feature later.

The dress is admittedly a different style from some of my prom dresses. Some would even say it is a bit conservative. I like it for several reasons. The slightly silky cloth material feels wonderful particularly in the skirt. The ankle length skirt also has a good sway to it which always rates high in my book. I love the contrast of the maroon and the ivory lace. Notice the short ivory heels in the pic which match the lace very well. No gloves or fancy jewelry are needed with this frock although I do enjoy the matching lipstick an blush.

Finally, while maybe not appropriate for a more formal outing, the dress is perfect for holidays and semi formals. Its one of my few dressier outfits where I really don't have to worry about walking. Its pretty much a put on and go outfit... not a lot of fuss involved. I don't have to think about a floor length skirt, tons of ruffles, or a strapless outfit. While I love all of the above, there are times when I don't want all the hassle.

I still have this dress in my closet, and it still has a place in my heart. Maybe if I wear it, the mercury will retreat to double digits. Well a girl can dream, can't she?

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Something in the Water

One of the things that amazed me when I started going out over nine years ago is the richness of the transgendered community in the Carolinas. I don't know if this is possible to determine, but it seems this region has a larger than average number of TG folks and therefore a large number of groups. I will try to keep up to date the local list to the right sidebar. I believe there is one or more groups that all of us can find a home. I will explain why below.

For the first several months of 1998, I visited only Kappa Beta as it was convenient for me and provided fantastic support. Kappa Beta will always have a special place in my heart as that is where I came out. KB is a Tri-ess affiliate which means that it is primarily for heterosexual crossdressers and their wives/girlfriends. It is also mainly a social group which is very helpful for the new girls. KB meets once a month in Charlotte, NC and has been my most regular outlet. The one thing I am very proud of concerning KB is their inclusion to not just crossdressers in the TG community. It is vital that even in a social and someone less serious setting that we all mingle. I know I have learned so much about the TG community and also myself.

The other type of group is generally called "open" groups which involve more serious discussion of TG issues. I first visited Phoenix in Asheville in July, 1998 and broadened my horizons immensely. Phoenix is lead by Holly Boswell and Jessica Britton and has been going strong for almost 21 years. Holly and Jessica's involvement with the community on a national level gives Phoenix an amazing depth of experience and knowledge. My first trip was a bit overwhelming to say the least. I'm not sure I was quite ready, but much of what I learned has stayed with me. I'm sure a return trip to Asheville is in the works. Similar groups include Triad Gender Association (TGA) in Greensboro and the newly formed Charlotte Gender Alliance (CGA) in Charlotte. They both meet monthly. If you attend any open group meeting, be prepared to tell a little about yourself, and seriously listen to the concerns of your sisters and brothers in the TG community.

One of the great success stories is Trans-Carolina lead by Janice. They started out as a place for TG girls and supporters simply to meet at various places across the Carolinas and has now grown into a 501(c) non-profit that will soon be donating to worthy causes in the TG community. I have yet to attend one of their soirees, but Trans-Carolina has brought a spirit to the region that has been missing for some time. I will talk more about them once I actually get to the group. Let's just say for now I am quite impressed as Trans-Carolina is the closest thing to a unified Carolinas TG group.

I have not even touched on groups in Chapel Hill, Raleigh, Fayetteville, and Myrtle Beach. All of the above groups have web and Yahoo Group connections. Simply email the contact on the web pages for more info. I am very proud of those involved and their efforts to bring us all together. As I said in the open, there is a place for each of us somewhere in the TG spectrum of groups. Make every effort to find and then to contribute to yours.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

No Limits

I had a wonderful hypnosis session with Carmen Friday afternoon. It had been a while since we had talked due to vacations, moving, family visits, etc. Prior to all this I had her do a custom hypnosis CD for me which served as a wonderful booster in the interim. The CD session reaffirmed my ever growing feminine identity. I truly am Stephanie, and she will not be denied.

While not going into all the details of our session, I do want to share I discussed with Carmen my desire to find a girlfriend that truly appreciates me as a woman. Part of the conversation prior to our session involved me talking about playing the dating game. In that game, I felt pigeonholed into playing the role of the man... i.e. find the girl, go out, get married, get a house, have three kids, etc. Carmen said, "But that's not who you are." I had been approaching the dating game as if I were a man looking for a woman, but I really am a woman looking for a woman. Once again I had let society dictate the rules.

In my hypnosis sessions with Carmen, many of my revelations and insights don't come immediately. This time though, one phrase stood out. One of the final thoughts she gave me was "no obstacles." I knew I had heard something similar in Star Trek. I found it in Gene Roddenberry's closing comments on the original pilot called "The Cage." Roddenberry is talking the potential of mankind. He then steps in the transporter chamber and says, "For us... no limits" before beaming off.

I initially wrote Carmen back seeing it as a challenge to not be satisfied with your current state of affairs. The more I think about it though, it goes far beyond that. I have to stop creating obstacles to my happiness. There are enough legitimate problems in this world without creating more of them. Even with those, there will always be a solution. My happiness and fulfillment is simply too important to let society's rules get in the way. They don't work for everyone particularly when it comes to falling in love. The gay community has known this for a long time that it's the person and not the packaging that you fall in love with. So when I hear the phrase "No Limits," that is one area of my life where I must truly live it. Carmen has said there is someone out there for me, and I have so much to offer. In a sense, I am cheating two people... myself and my future partner. That's why I have my bridal picture above. A girl has to plan ahead, ya know! ;)

I will leave you with a picture of Carmen because I think she is a beautiful person inside and out. Yes, I am one of her hypnosis clients, but we are also friends. I would encourage anyone seeking to learn more about their feminine side to drop her a line. She has challenged me with a mission of sorts to find that special someone. Yes, there will be hurt, but there will be also be tremendous joy and fulfillment that cannot be found any other way. Another reason she is a friend is she knows how to bring out the best in me. I can only hope I do the same for her from time to time.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

New FAQ (cont.) #2 - How often do you go out en femme? What do you do?

I average going out en femme once a week now. I am so blessed that if I wanted to I could go out almost every Saturday to some group in the Carolinas. If it wasn't for my work schedule, I probably would! I love meeting new people and hearing their stories. Depending on the group setup, we usually have some combination of dinner, clubbing, and group discussion. I learn so much and feel so supported by being around the transgendered community. Look to the right sidebar of this blog for links to some of the TG groups in the Carolinas. You will find them all quite supportive.

One thing I have become much more comfortable doing is going out solo. These solo outings involve trips to the nail salon, malls, and restaurants. I love getting my nails done particularly pedicures. I recommend everyone try it at least once! I am also comfortable going to the makeup counter especially MAC. It's nice to have a real woman help make your face pretty. In recent years, I have never had a problem being on my own. I will say I never go out in my hometown, but I do go to nearby Charlotte quite often. I still have to be careful in regards to my male identity. So if you see me around NorthLake , South Park, or Concord Mills, feel free to say hello!

Friday, July 20, 2007

My Dream Dress

I promise I will get to some more meaty material in the future. My clothes are such a big part of me however. Like any woman, they reflect your personality and mood. The choices in color, material, and cut are limitless. From casual to formal, women's fashions really give the wearer a greater opportunity to express themselves.

The ultimate expression in an outfit may be one that is custom made for you. You don't buy it off the rack in a department store or from leftovers at a yard sale. It can be completely unique, and it is made with you in mind. This is the dress I am having custom made for me:

Now you may be asking... isn't this dress a bit impractical? Yes, it is completely impractical! This dress is in the neighbourhood of 150 years old. You don't see women at Wal-Mart wearing these much less at more formal gatherings. In fact, the only place one can see something similar is at Civil War reenactments or other similar historical tours. And I love it!

I've been in love with this dress and this picture since a fairly young age (probably around age eight). This picture is from volume 4 (Ci to Cz) of the World Book Encyclopedia 50th Anniversary Edition in 1967. The entry under "Clothing" had a wonderful color spread of artists renderings of fashions through the ages. My grandparents had a full set of these encyclopedias, and I was in love with this picture.

Even at that young age, I knew I was more intrigued with the women's fashions of yesteryear than the men's. I would sneak this volume up into my bedroom every night. Several dresses caught my attention, but I always came back to the one in the above picture. I had no idea at the time about the parts of the dress or what was underneath like the hoop skirt. I just wanted to wear the dress and know how it felt to wear it. I even started having dreams about meeting this women and begging her to dress me. No, this did not lead to any fantasies of forced feminization, but that was the only way I could picture it at that age.

As I grew into my teen years and older, the thoughts of crossdressing faded away as I tried to repress my feminine thoughts. I would still check out that volume from time to time to keep the image fresh in my mind. At some point, the encyclopedias were taken out for a newer edition. By that time, it didn't seem to matter as I was living on my own and spending less time at my grandparents house. When I started going out in 1998 and finding formal dresses for the first time, I felt like I had found heaven on earth.

Fast forward to 2007. Now a History Channel geek for a few years, I now knew how and why the skirts on Civil War era dresses were shaped that way. Having recently bought several expensive dresses that fulfilled longtime desires (the debutante dress, a wedding dress, and the strapless pink gown), I decided to try to look into finding the Civil War dress once again. Not finding the picture online, I logged onto eBay and was able to order the exact volume of the World Book Encyclopedia for a mere $8. I eagerly awaited its arrival. It was like an old friend returning home, and I didn't have to hide it this time. The picture was there just like I remembered it.

After scanning the page so I would never ever lose it again, it was time to contact someone to make the dress. I wrestled with the thought of presenting myself as a real woman versus a male crossdresser. However, in a moment of either incredible courage or stupidity, I wrote Heather (aka the Very Merry Seamstress) as my male self. Having read her blog, The Daily Stitch, she seemed like an open minded person, and I really liked her work. I was a little bit apprehensive. I wrote the following email:


I am interested in information about having a dress made for myself. I am a male crossdresser with an interest in women's Civil War costumes. I have a picture from an encyclopedia that I have always liked that I need to have scanned. I wanted to see if this would be a good starting point for making the dress.

Thank you, and I enjoy your website very much!

She wrote back:

****, sure! Send us what you have and we'll be happy to do an estimate.

Much like my experience at the bridal shop, I breathed a huge sigh of relief. In future emails, Heather even said she looked forward to working with me. While I know any good business will accept our money, I am still very thankful for the kindness and understanding shown to us special girls. I placed an order with her, and I should have the dress by the end of August. Yes, yes, pictures will follow!

My next goal is to find a way to wear this dress in public at some sort of historical function. I would love to give a tour of some of the old mansions dressed as a beautiful southern belle. I have no idea how this would go over, but I do have a strong interest in all types of history. This is not for the thrill of wearing the dress in public. I want to do a real tour and represent living history for an audience. If it's anything like my past endeavors, I am sure I will find a way.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Prom Queen Wears Jeans

This last weekend at the SCC planning meeting was truly inspirational. If you havn't already, click on the the Southern Comfort link to the right to learn more. Friday night, we listened to an all TG girl band called Jezebel at Stage Door in Tucker, Ga. We liked them so much we invited them to perform at SCC. A good number of the planning committee were there to give their thumbs-up. It wasn't an overly dressy occasion, but I wore a new gray patterned sleeveless top and my long black velvet skirt with my new dark brown open heeled platform shoes.

Everyone woke up somewhat bleary eyed for the planning meeting itself the next morning at the hotel. I wanted to be comfortably dressed but still look nice. I chose a cream knit sleeveless top with a long light green cotton skirt and silver ballet type flats. I seemed to fit in a little better as some still chose casual, but many dressed quite similar to me. I love wearing my long skirts no matter the time or occasion.

I thought that would be my last femme outfit for the trip as I had scheduled some work for my male side filming a race an hour away. At noon, I went up to my room (which I nicknamed the telephone booth) and did the quick change into guy mode. I wore shorts, t-shirt, and comfortable tennis shoes. Yes, I don't go into much detail when describing my guy clothes. Long story short... race was rained out so I returned back to Atlanta. There went six hours of my life.

So now I had a conundrum. I was quite exhausted, but one more social mixer had been planned for that night. In fact, it was no more than 100 feet away on the same floor as my room. My body was aching and ready for bed. I gave in... for fifteen minutes! Something inside of me said it was worth getting back up and heading to the party.

So in the shower I went. Then came the third shave to my sore face in just over 24 hours. Time for the makeup. Ok... passable. Now what to wear? I still had a short skirt and a top left. Looking at my hairy legs said the short skirt would not be a good idea. But I loved the new short sleeved lacy cream top. So... on came the guy jeans, guy tennis shoes, and guy socks and the new top. I even skipped my bra and breast forms due to my sore back. Final touch as always was my long sandy blonde wig. One final check, and I was ready to go.

I was initially a touch dismayed when I arrived at the mixer as most had chosen to dress up. Usually I would feel right at home as I love to wear my dressy outfits too. However everyone was glad to see me although a bit surprised since I had not planned on being there. A further look around the guests, and I noticed I fit right in. I met several new people and furthered many friendships with some wonderful coversations. Thanks goes to Wes, Elaine, Jessica, Chissy, and Phyllis for chatting me up that night. You made this girl feel very welcome and loved.

At this point, you may notice my obsession with my and others choice of clothes. I do try to be very aware of the setting and the appropriate dress. More and more, I am finding it is okay to go my own path. Very much like this past February where I was the only one wearing pink at the HRC Gala, it was perfectly fine for me to dress down a touch Saturday night. I am understanding the feminine side of me goes well beyond the clothes. The coversations touched every aspect of the TG community and then some, and it had nothing to do with the clothes. I was still Stephanie having a great time. Oh, I am still the prom queen! Some things never change.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Back Briefly

Sorry for the lack of posts, but my male side was away on vacation. While I enjoy being away for a bit, my annual getaway does greatly stifle my feminine side. As my family does not know about Stephanie, my feminine side must be repressed temporarily. In a way, I become more conflicted with these trips as I become more comfortable with being Stephanie. Yes, the answer is an obvious one. Give Stephanie a vacation of her own! Well, something to work on...

This weekend is very exciting as I will be attending the final Southern Comfort Conference planning meeting in Atlanta. I missed the first two so I have a bit of catching up to do. I am looking forward to volunteering as part of the tech crew at SCC. This is a wonderful group of people who put SCC together every year. If you haven’t already, visit for more information. SCC runs September 10-16. If you have any interest at all in attending, I suggest you make your reservations *now* before the hotel fills up. I will have more details as the schedule will be finalized at this meeting.

Until then, never fear, dear readers. More FAQs and more dress stories are still to come! I thank each and every one of you who read this fledging blog.

Monday, July 2, 2007

New FAQ - Why Do You Crossdress?

I've decided to take a long and winding road approach to redoing my FAQ and then my biography. This could take a while, dear reader, but never fear! There is light at the end of the tunnel! So here's question #1:

Why do you crossdress?

I crossdress because I prefer women's fashions immeasurably to men's fashions. I find men's clothes quite boring and stiff. There is a logical reason for this. Men's clothes are designed to be functional and practical. When there is an opportunity to dress up, the choices are all taken from the same basic model (at least in western culture). Mix and match from collared shirt, tie, coat, and pants. If a man really wants to dress up, then get a black bow tie, a slightly ruffled white shirt, and a black jacket with something called tails. Booooooring.

However we know that women over the past century have moved towards this model as well in many of their clothing choices. Women have taken on more of what used to be traditionally male roles, and this is a good thing. Women have fought hard for this opportunity. This does mean that much of women's fashions have also become more practical. After all, it is hard to move around in a fully skirted floor length dress. So over the years, everyday women's fashions have a closer fit to everyday men's fashions.

Having said all the above, women still have many more choices particularly on formal occasions. The choices of color, material, cut, accessories, shoes, hairstyles, etc, etc are literally limitless. As I've written before, this is what attracted me to those beautiful long flowing dresses. Each woman looked unique and stylish. Every man looked pretty much the same. Every woman knows the feeling of putting on that new outfit. It really does change you.

I've only talked about the clothes, but the crossdressing is really just an outward sign of an inner desire. Going out en femme allows me to fulfill what is an ever growing feminine side. The question now might be, "Why do I prefer women's clothes over men's clothes?" or "Why would I go against societal norms for gender expectations?" My feminine side and my resolve to express myself have become so strong in recent years that I can now see through society's expectations. They are quite constraining (literally in the case of a coat and tie). Crossdressing goes well beyond the clothes. It has freed me to express my feminine nature. What a wonderful thing!

In short, the answer is wearing women's clothing even with all the male plumbing, the testoterone raging through my body, and society's expectations of men... despite all that, it allows me to simply be true to myself which is what we all should be. In my case, I have a very strong feminine component which I continue to explore.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

FAQ - Dec, 1998

I did this FAQ back in December, 1998, which was less then a year after going out en femme for the first time. I will try to do a rewrite of sorts in the near future, but this still should prove interesting.

Why do you crossdress?

I dress because it is a tremendous amount of fun! I have no other real explanation. I just know when I make myself into Stephanie (which is more than putting on a skirt and bra, btw!), I am completely happy. I love doing even normal things en femme such as shopping, dining out, cleaning the house, etc. Most of all, I enjoy being with the ladies of Kappa Beta and all the other beautiful girls I've met. As I mentioned in the opening, I am on a journey of sorts. I am not sure where this journey will take me as I suspect there may be more to my crossdressing than meets the eye. If that is the case, then I will deal with it as it comes along. Right now though, it is a fun *and* relaxing thing to do.

Where did you get your femme name?

Wil Rogers once said he never met a man he didn't like. Well, I have never met a Stephanie I didn't like. Really! I have known many Stephanie's in my life, and they are all wonderful, beautiful ladies. The name also indicates an attitude of fun and lightheartedness. That doesn't mean Stephanie can't be serious, but as I said above, I crossdress because its fun. I was just Stephanie from early 1996 to December, 1997. I asked a girl name Stephanie Lynn where she got her middle name. She said she just picked it from a list of runner-up names. I picked Marie because it is a very pretty name and combined with Stephanie, I believe it fits beautifully. My big sis, Beverly Barnes, says it makes me special. I tend to agree.

Where did you get fe-mail address?

I have received many compliments on my fe-male address, (*edited from old Hotmail address*). Many have asked where it came from. Before there was Stephanie, there were the dreams of being a prom queen. I remember how I envied the outfits the girls wore to the senior prom, and here I was stuck in a monkey suit! I really wanted to be dressed as the girl at a prom. Ever since, I have had a weakness for prom dresses, bridesmaid dresses, and wedding gowns. I bought several at yard sales before a major purge. I never got to wear any of them out. Finally, after joining Kappa Beta, I bought my most special of prom dresses: a royal blue blue puffy sleeve number that was 3/4 length and showed just a hint of cleavage. It only cost $7 at a Good Will store, but it is special because I wore it to the Kappa Beta Magnolia Ball. I was finally a prom queen! So now, the fe-mail name takes on new meaning. It is no longer a dream waiting to be lived. It is a symbol of dreams fulfilled and more yet to come.

Do you think you are transsexual?

Not at all! I enjoy being a man and all the things that are part of being masculine. However, I realize I have a repressed feminine side that comes out fully when I am Stephanie. Sure, it shows through on the male side, but I am not an overly effeminate person. I guess I'm a bit more sensitive than the average man, but that's about it. I do notice other women's clothes, hairstyles, and other traits more than before, but I obviously do not let on to others. All of the above means that I do not believe I was born in the wrong body, but that my brain and soul has other needs that must be fulfilled. Crossdressing is my way of meeting those needs.

How often do you go out en femme?

Since I came out in February, 1998, it works to about twice a month, but that could increase to about three or four times a month in the near future. I have not missed a Kappa Beta meeting except one since February, and I usually end up doing something else with a chat friend as well. However, as I meet more tg girls, I expect that number to increase. Also, I went shopping solo en femme for the first time in October, 1998, and I want to do more of that. The upshot is, like many crossdressers, I live my life the vast majority of the time as a male.

Why do you call the your web site "Stephanie Marie's Dance Floor?"

It's a bit of a play on the prom queen name, but the truth is I feel like dancing whenever I'm en femme! Dancing is a very creative and personal art form, and this is my chance in life to be really creative. So what you see here is the result of all that dancing (en femme, of course).

You mentioned your religious beliefs in your bio. Don't you think this is sinful and perverted?

If you had asked me this back in 1997, then I would have said yes. I was familiar with the Deuteronomy passage and thought that I was going to hell in a hand basket. However, I knew in my heart of hearts that this was not going to go away no matter how many times I threw away my wardrobe. I finally came to peace sometime in the fall of 1997 with this. It was ok for me to pursue this further. I learned that the Old Testament passage does not apply to us today as it is the Old Law. There are others who have written more eloquently on this subject. Needless to say, it made a lot of sense to me. I have also made a contract with myself: if my crossdressing ever interferes with my family, job, or finances to the point of causing damage, I will quit it in a heartbeat! So far, this has not happened. In fact, since I started gong out, my family life and career have grown immeasurably. I believe this is in no small part due to me being happier then ever before in my life. I can't always tell people why I am so happy, but I know they see it.

As far as being perverted, that is for society to determine. The only thing I can offer is how does this affect others - i.e. am I hurting anyone by doing this? I believe not. Child molesters and rapists are the real perverts. They are the ones doing true harm to society. To throw crossdressers in with that group both hurts the transgendered community and somehow lessens the impact of the real criminals mentioned above. Also, society confuses being different with being perverted. When we vary from the norm society has placed on us (i.e. the gender roles), then society naturally sees us as perverted. It is almost a knee-jerk reaction. Very few think very deeply about it. Those that choose to think about it in a non-biased manner usually discover that we are quite normal. Crossdressers just present themselves in a different, and yes, unusual way from time to time. It is different, a little strange, maybe even a bit eccentric, but certainly not perverted.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Story Behind the Dress #4

The series continues with my first "real" dress. I bought a few formal dresses before this one. However I purged all of them (sad but true) prior to going out en femme for the first time in February 1998. That is a story for another time, but the good news is that I have not purged in all the time I've been going out. I wore this royal blue dress to the Kappa Beta Magnolia Ball in May 1998. As such, it is very special since this is the first formal dress I actually wore in public.

The dress itself is a royal blue polyester satin with puffy short sleeves, longer in back than in fromt, and a little bow on the derrire. The dress is accessorized in white with the short heels, short gloves, and pearl necklace. It is not a style I would go for now, but I still love the dress and the pic.

I had been thinking about getting a dress for the Magnolia Ball (which used to be Kappa Beta's annual formal outing). I wasn't sure how I was going to shop for one since I was nowhere near comfortable shopping en femme at the time. I stopped at a Goodwill in Wilkesboro, NC on a trip back from the mountains. On a whim, I walked over innocently enough to the women's formal section where a few dresses were hanging. There I spotted this size 16 number for only $7. It was more of an 80's style prom dress, but I fell in love with it instantly. I knew my size pretty well so I went ahead and bought it. I tried it on at home, and the fit was near perfect.

Then comes the day of the of the Magnolia Ball, and I still needed some shoes. I went with my good friend Leilla McKenna to Hecht's at South Park Mall in Charlotte. I walked by myself to the shoes section where an older gentlemen found the size I needed. He treated me like a lady the entire time putting on and taking off the shoes for me. This is what I consider my first true feminine shopping experience. Leilla gave me numerous pointers along the way and encouraged me the whole time.

The Magnolia Ball itself was wonderful. Beforehand putting on the dress, I can't say I had a mirror moment. I still wasn't particularly good with my makeup. As such, I still saw a man in a dress. My first real mirror moment would come a few months later. That night it didn't matter. I was Cinderella going to her first ball/prom. I had agreed to be part of a lip-sync act that night. I also did much of the music. I also remember a very nice woman named Theresa helping me with some makeup tips afterward. That is something I still enjoy no matter how long I do this... beauty tips!

The whole night was like living a dream. This was something I had fantasized about since seeing my grandparents at their ballroom dances. I was a young woman wearing a beautiful dress along with many other women. It didn't seem possible. Only a few months earlier, I was still in the closet. Now I was really out.

I wore the dress a few more times over the next year. I gave it away to a chat friend in Portland. The royal blue dress still holds a special place in my heart. Everytime I put on a formal dress for a ball or gala, I think back to this dress and this night. This dress made the prom queen come to life. For that, I will be forever grateful. Pretty good for $7!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

A Magical Night

The following was originally posted in SCCLounge following the 2006 Southern Comfort Conference in September.

Let me add my thanks to all those who made SCC 2006 a possibility. It had been five years since my last SCC, but I hear I picked a good one to come to. It was wonderful seeing some familiar faces and making some new friends.

I put magical night in the heading because Saturday was just that for me (yes, pun intended). In August, I had the chance of visiting the home of performer, Robert Baxt, the Magic Castle in Hollywood, CA. I was visiting with my parents who do not know about Stephanie. The Magic Castle is a private club for magicians. You get in only if you're a member or an invited guest. There is also a dress code: coat and tie for men and dresses or nice pant suit for women. My parents and I had a great time as we rarely get a chance to live it up. However I knew the night would have been perfect if I could have been able to dress by the women's dress code. One group came in very well dressed... men in tuxedoes and women in long formal gowns. I was definitely jealous.

Fast forward to Saturday night at SCC. Those who know me well know I love the formal look. I wore a strapless dress for the first time Saturday night. I was already enjoying the evening particularly after Kristen's speech. Then the performer came on introducing himself as a magician from Hollywood. A light bulb clicked on. He couldn't be? No way he was from the same place. When Robert Baxt said he performed at the Magic Castle, I knew someone upstairs must like me. My wish had come true, and in that instant I was transported back to the Magic Castle. Only this time, it was done right, and the show was perfect.

I told the story to Robert Baxt after the show, and he was very kind in his remarks. It was truly a perfect ending to a great SCC.

I look forward to helping in 2007. Much like when I first started going out, I want to give back. SCC is a great place to give back.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Story Behind the Dress #3

Will the madness never stop? How many dresses does she really have? And does she wear these poofy concoctions to the mall? The answers to these questions and many more, dear readers, coming up... but not today!

The above dress has become my favorite dress by far. I consider it dress perfection on many levels. First, it is my favorite color, pink. Second, the corset strapless bodice keeps all the extra stuff in. Third, the skirt is to die for... four layers, floor length, and plenty of "poof." The swish factor of the skirt is off the scale! Finally, all that room on the neck and arms leaves plenty of room for accessorizing.

The story behind the buying of the dress is almost as lengthy as the times I've worn the dress, and this may be the only one I can show you an actual catalogue picture. The color is slightly different, but it is the same dress:

I saw this dress listed at several online stores in the $250-$300 dollar range. When I saw the pic, I knew I wanted it. However, in thinking about my wardrobe for Southern Comfort, I knew I had plenty of choices in formal wear (as you've already seen). So I reluctantly waited. I then saw the same dress on sale at a place called Sydney's Closet which sold plus sizes at discount rates. With shipping, the cost was $96. You didn't have to ask me twice.

I knew I was taking a chance with this dress as I had never worn a strapless gown before. But for the price, I had to give it a shot. When I got the dress, I was pleasantly surprised at how comfortable it was. However, the length was a little long, and the corset bodice needed some adjusting. I waited too long to get to my usual seamstress in Charlotte so I had to go in cold to someone in Atlanta. I ended up finding a wonderful and accepting place under a mile from the hotel operated by a lady named Gizzelle. She treated me so nicely, and she had my dress fitted perfectly the night before the SCC Gala. I very much enjoyed looking at the mirror and seeing me in that dress. Call that my first mirror moment.

The SCC Gala night was so fantastic as I love seeing everyone in their fanciest dresses. Particularly for us special girls, nothing beats a night of being dressed to the nines. The crew at Transformations did my makeup again, and I am never disappointed by them. They even put on some false eyelashes, a first for me! I got a ton of compliments on the dress. During dinner, I was sitting with my skirt all spread out before me. One of the waitresses walked by, smiled, and did a little sweeping motion with her hands. She didn't say a word, but it was a wonderful gesture. The only thing I hated was that I wasn't smiling in the pic. Something to work on...

I have worn this dress two more times. First was at the Kappa Beta Christmas party in December. Ok, maybe this is a little fancy for a Christmas party, but I wanted to wear the dress out again! When I left my hotel for the short ride to Hartigans in Charlotte, two young black ladies walking in complimented me on the dress. I love these encounters as it gives me more confidence in just being me. Returning to the hotel, the lobby had been invaded by Pittsburgh Steeler fans for the Panthers/Steelers game the next day. Clearly I was the best dressed woman in the hotel that night!

The most recent wearing was at the HRC Gala in February at the Charlotte Convention Center. This is by far the most mainstream formal event I've attended with over 1500 in attendance. It was also the first time the transgendered community had official representation at the event. We were very warmly welcomed and greeted everywhere we went. I had several people (men and women both) just walk up and compliment me on my dress. It was then I looked around at what everyone else was wearing. All the women wore dark colors, mostly black and chocolate with a few silver outfits. I was the only one in pink! But there was nothing wrong with that. In fact, I believe I was being commended for being myself. I dared to be different, and it was ok.

I may be making a bit much of one dress, but you can see why it is so special to me. I wonder if other women get the same kind of memories when going through their closet and looking at their outfits. I know I do, and that makes the dress more than just material and stitching. It becomes part of you and therefore part of your story.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Here Comes the Bride!

Had another nice outing today... this time I found four nice tops at Cornelius (the one in Huntersville that always has some nice clothes) and two shoes at Payless. When I returned, I decided to put on something a little more white and expensive. The above is the result. Never fear though. I'll be looking really good in this white frock before too long with a real photographer!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Kids are Alright

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. When you put yourself out there, things are going to happen. It's just that when I'm dressed as my true self, those things are much more interesting. I had been wanting to get back down to Happy Nails in Charlotte to have my favorite manicurist, pedicurist, all around incredible person Holly do my nails. On a whim, I had a free afternoon and drove on down to the big city. Oh yes... as usual, that involved the usual hour of preperation (makeup, shaving, clothes, etc.). I've gotten my prep time down to half an hour if I don't have any shaving to do. Today it took 45 minutes, and I was ready to go.

When I arrived at Happy Nails, Holly was already working with some customers. So Cindy took care of my nails. It was enjoyable as always, and the gang always treats me very nicely. I went to the drying area across from a couple of ladies. Soon a young blonde who I guessed was in middle school sat down next to me. She looked at the other ladies nails and admired them. Then she looked at mine (now polished in a very feminine fuschia) and said they looked pretty. I looked at hers now in an equally pretty French manicure and complimented her as well.

What ensued was a very light hearted girl talk. She asked me my name, and I found out hers was Cinder, short for Cinderella. We talked about school, nails, her mom (who was sitting nearby having her nails done and didn't seem to mind). I learned she had just finished sixth grade, and yes she looked older than she really was. I brought up my ensuing brow wax once my nails were done drying and how a little pain goes a long ways towards beauty. I then did about as feminine a thing as I can recall doing. I looked at her brows, these beautiful blonde wisps above her eyes, and told her, "You don't need to have your brows waxed. They're really beautiful." That brought a big smile to her face.

Holly was ready to wax my brows. As she was waxing down my second brow, Cinder and her mom walked by. Cinder says to her mom, "Look how pretty her nails are." I hold out my left hand so mom can see, and she agrees wholeheartedly. We chat for a while as well before Holly rips more hair from my brows. Ouch! Mom still had to get her nails finished, and I wished Cinder good luck in school. They both wished me a happy weekend and smiled as I left.

In writing this now that I'm back safe at home away from the hustle and bustle of Charlotte, I am taken back by how normal and nice the conversation was. Was I passing that well? I doubt it. However, Cinder in particular was willing to treat me as a young woman. It didn't matter to her whether I was male or female. She thought my nails were pretty, and that started a beautiful conversation. I think she'll do alright in this world.