Thursday, May 31, 2007

Educating, One Classroom at a Time

This is a reposting of an article I wrote for the the Kappa Beta newsletter, the Pink Slip, in June 2006. I will be posting an update on our last UNCC presentation soon.

For several years, Kappa Beta has been a part of a sociology class at UNC-Charlotte taught by Dr. Lance. Several of our members speak before the class once each semester, and they take questions from the class afterwards. A big thanks goes out to Bobbie Long for starting and heading up the visits for several years. Pamela has recently taken over and has done a great job as well. I had always heard great stories from these classes, but I had never been able to attend until recently. That changed on May 31, 2006.

We had a great group this time around. Along with Pam, we had Jennifer, Trish, Trish's wife Diane, and myself. Trish and Diane were also first timers, and it was one of the few classes where a wife had attended. We met Dr. Lance in his office at 12:30pm and went back down for the 1pm class. Dr. Lance was very kind as he made sure he got to know each of us, particularly the three newcomers.

Dr. Lance had about a 15 minute lecture to start off. He then turned the floor over to Pamela. Pamela did a great job of introducing herself and the group to the class. Some were clearly very interested and seem to warm up to Pamela as she spoke. No surprise, but most of the guys sat near the back. Then it was my turn to speak. Even though I have spoken thousands of times into a radio microphone, I was still a bit nervous. I had a list of things I wanted to cover about my life's experiences. I definitely wanted to cover the difference about my experience as a crossdresser even though that is only a label. I also decided to share my college experience about being caught dressed by some church friends. I, of course, spoke glowingly of Kappa Beta and how getting out has changed and continues to change my life.

Trish and Jennifer spoke after me. I think the class was very intrigued by Jennifer as she is someone who has transitioned successfully at a fairly young age. We then started taking questions, and most came from a group of five young ladies near the front. Jennifer answered some very interesting ones about the difference of certain experiences in living as a man and then a woman. One touching moment was Diane talking about the difficulty in a relationship with a crossdresser. We had not expected Diane to take any questions, but she was a real trooper in talking about a very difficult subject.

One of the questions I answered involved labeling. Even though I say I am a crossdresser, I see that as merely a convenience in describing my experiences and life. I like for people to look beyond the labels to the real person. I also talked about the feeling of seeing myself completely en femme for the first time and many times after that. The word I use is "intoxicating." It is such a rush. Finally, I talked about my closeted situation as none of my family or friends know about Stephanie. As I've been sharing with many people, there is a good chance I will come out to a close friend in the near future. Stay tuned...

We were finished about 2:30pm. A couple of the young ladies stuck around to talk to us some more. One even invited me to her church! Another was kind enough to take our picture. We took more pictures outside. As I left, I had a strong feeling of accomplishment. We had reached out to a small group of college students that may some day be decision makers. Some were clearly more receptive than others. Still, I have always felt once you know the individual, the labels and stereotypes fade away. That is where we can affect true change. Needless to say, I want to do this more. I have already asked Pamela to schedule me for the next class.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

You Never Know - How I Met Ms. Carmen

As we go through life, there are some things that we never consider doing. In many cases, we have very good and valid reasons. For example, I have no desire to go to Afghanistan anytime soon. There's a strong survival instinct that probably makes it wise for me to keep things that way. However, sometimes we keep doors closed that are worth opening or at least putting our foot in.

Such is the case with a phone sex service. I had many times accidently typed in a wrong url or clicked where I shouldn't have and been lead to a porn site. Getting out in many cases proved difficult with the numerous pop-up windows. Such was not the case as I clicked on a call site from URNotAlone. It lead me first to Sissy School which I knew wasn't my cup of tea. Then I found FemPhone which seemed more up my alley. Women who feminize men sometimes even willingly. I was genuinely interested, but I had never called such a site.

I was curious and emailed a few of the mistresses with my debutante fantasy. I wanted to be dressed like a girl going to her debutante ball. Most emailed me back and said they would be willing to work with me. I called one, talked for 30 minutes, but didn't really click. I jumped on their online chat and was recommended Ms. Sarah. She was the one who said I should skip the fantasy and actually buy the dress. It took a few months, but her words came to fruition when I bought that debutante dress. So in a way, Ms. Sarah planted the first seed.

Oddly enough, I decided to call one of the mistresses who had not responded to my initial inquiries - Ms. Carmen. She had posted something in her blog about setting aside thirty minutes, and she would do a magical transformation turning you into a woman. I liked the idea of that and called her cold. I asked Ms. Carmen for a rather vanilla transformation asking her to turn me into a schoolgirl. Thirty minutes later I was one happy girl.

However, it was the second call a month later when we really clicked. This time, I asked to be turned into a debutante. The call went very much like before only this time she had me in sheer ecstasy. I could not believe the very feminine feeling she had awoke in me. So out of my mouth as I was enjoying the moment came, "I feel like a girl." Ms. Carmen softly replied back, "Well you are." I was amazed at how we transitioned so nicely into a conversation about each other. She suggested that I might enjoy hypnosis. I was curious, but I also now trusted Ms. Carmen. She wrote in her blog the next day:

Stephanie. What a delicious time we had while I dressed you and made you feel supremely feminine… in MANY ways! I look forward to much more fun and intimacy with you, and I thank you for the photo you sent me. You are simply lovely.

In January, we had our first hypnosis session. We chatted at length beforehand on Yahoo Messenger. I told Ms. Carmen that I felt like the time to transition between male and female was too lengthy. I could do the actual dressing, makeup, wig, etc, but I felt like the mental switch didn't always occur. In a sense, I was worried about my duality. During the session, Ms. Carmen asked me to treat Stephanie as the real person and my male side as the costume. She doesn't use trigger words with me... just suggestions and feminine affirmations. When she brought me out, I felt quite emotional. Ms. Carmen says this is normal, and she feels the same way working with her clients.

Let me say this about Ms. Carmen's hypnosis sessions. They are very relaxing, and I always come out much more emotionally aware of myself. She instills the words, "strength, confidence, and grace" in each session. And no, I don't make animal sounds or do silly things afterwards. I'm only reinforced in my feminine goals, and it seems to be working. There are times when I get revelations, and I can't explain where it comes from. That is what hypnosis does for me.

In our most recent session, we chatted for a long time before the actual session. It still seems I keep many doors closed. Ms. Carmen has asked that I don't eliminate any good possibilities particularly ones that I am currently doing. She says I shouldn't assume that I can't carry over some of the work I do and enjoy in male mode into a feminine equivalent. Ms. Carmen also helped me put some issues about my past to rest especially my college years. I've had dark thoughts about how I wasted those years and especially about being caught. I understand that part of my life was necessary in order to get to where I am now.

One person asked me in chat if I was "owned" by Ms. Carmen. I said no. I consider her a friend. I have told many of the mistresses and chatters that Ms. Carmen has a love and passion for the tg community. She has even asked me my opinion on how she deals with some of her crossdresser callers who want to come out. She also has a strong intuition, and I enjoy hearing her thoughts about my life circumstances. I understand many of the regular callers have mistress type relationships in their sessions, and that is what they were looking for. As it turns out, I was looking for someone to help me understand myself better. As far as I'm concerned, someone who can do that is truly a friend.

I'm Getting There

I have a bad habit of downplaying compliments sometimes even from the best of friends who have nothing but good thoughts for me. I am getting better at simply saying "thank you" and appreciating kind words from both friends and strangers. I'm not totally sure why I do this except that I'm a fairly analytical person. I like to constantly evaluate myself. It's difficult to let go and accept the nice word from another person.

That leads into the title... "I'm Getting There." I spent a wonderful Saturday evening with some good tg friends discussing life over dinner. I wasn't sure who was going to be at the restaurant that night, but I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of people present. There are some nights when it seems anything is possible. As the conversation flowed amongst each of us, I felt like this was one of those nights.

Each of the women were at what the world might say a different stage of transition. Two were post-op and even admitted that there is no longer a reason to attend support meetings except for the company. I am always thankful for those that choose to maintain their ties to the tg community. It's not an easy decision.

At one point in a conversation with my good friend Pam, she complimented me on how far I've come. Pam to me is one of the wisest people around. If you don't like her, you just don't like people. She is one of those real gems in this world. When she said that, I was still thinking how I am still very much in the closet and living a dual lifestyle. I'm not on hormones, not in therapy, not even doing any hair removal. Physically I am still very much a male. I don't even know how much of the above I will end up doing, but I still see the long road ahead.

So my response was, "I'm getting there." Immediately I felt like I said something wrong, but Pam's response was along the lines of, "We all are." It goes beyond even appreciating the journey. A big part is being happy with where you are now particularly as you're moving on the road. Being thankful is a big part of that. If you're not happy with what you've done and what you are doing, you will not be happy in the future. It is ok to look back and appreciate how far you have come.

So let me be thankful that I've been blessed to discover my true self, and I'm learning more everyday. So to those who pass along a kind word or compliment, "Thank you!" To those who brought this scared girl into the daylight, a very big "Thank you!" And to those who design and make all those wonderful prom and formal dresses, you get a "Thank you" as well. You knew I couldn't go a whole week without mentioning my favorite obsession.

Christine Daniels' Blog

Christine Daniels (formerly Mike Penner) is quite the talented sportswriter for the Los Angeles Times. She announced her transition in a column in the sports section on April 26. The response in the comments section was overwhelmingly positive. I have been yelling "you go girl!" ever since!

Even if you have no interest in sports or even transgender issues, her blog is worth keeping up with. You should start from the beginning as there's still time to catch up.

Christine Daniels' blog

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Article on Susan Stanton

I will try to post links to stories of interest to the TG community. Here is a good story on Susan (formerly Steve) Stanton who was fired as city manager of Largo, FL in February after the local newspaper outed her. The article is pretty balanced as are the comments unfortunately.

St. Peterburg's Times - Introducing Susan Stanton

Saturday, May 19, 2007

The Prom Queen is Born

The first posting on my blog may seem rather trivial or frivolous, but I hope you'll find a deeper meaning in my choice of outfits. Those who know me know I have a love for prom, bridesmaid, and other formal dresses. I think they are the ultimate in feminine expression in terms of clothing. They feel luxurious and look so elegant. When I'm dressed to the nines in a social setting, I feel on top of the world. That feeling goes beyond the dress and the compliments. It is my symbol of a realized goal that I once considered unattainable.

One of my earlest memories of realizing I was different was around eight years old. My parents and I were invited to my grandparents ballroom dance. My grandparents were an elegant and graceful couple to the point where they competed competitively after they both had retired. My parents and I on the other hand rarely dressed up, but we attended wanting to be supportive of them. Of course, this meant I had to wear the monkey suit complete with ruffled shirt and powder blue bowtie. I knew I didn't like the outfit, but I figured it was just me being boyish. Everyone said I looked very handsome. What grabbed me that night though were the beautiful dresses worn by the women that night... long flowing skirts, the different colors and styles, the smiles on their faces. I knew they were all beautiful, but I also knew I wasn't supposed to dress like that. Women wore dresses... not men.

As I grew older, I did not have many opportunities to see women in formal dresses as we lived in a working class community. However, at my senior prom, I was once again mesmerized my the girls in their long dresses. Having the opprtunity to slow dance with many of them that night and feeling the material of their prom dresses against me only heightened my excitment. I wanted to wear one, but how?

College brought much more freedom and opportunities. I bought my first prom dress at a church yard sale for a $1. It was a lacy pink number that really did not fit me. I would drive to the local park late at night and walk around alone wearing it. I was also part of a fundamentalist church and was one day caught with it on. I was forced to throw it away... my first purge.

I graduated from college and also left the church where I had been caught. I scoured yard sales and probably bought about half a dozen dresses at various times. My guilt was so great about my cross dressing that I purged every time. I thought it would go away.

Then came the Internet and then my first call to Sherri Carmichael, the corresponding secretary at Kappa Beta (the local Tri-ess chapter), in January 1998. In our first call, she said they had a formal ball where they all got dressed up in April of each year. I went out for the first time as Stephanie in February 1998. On a trip back from the NC mountains, I stopped at a Good Will in Wilkesboro and bought a size 16 royal blue prom dress for $7. I tried it on at home, and it fit perfectly. I now had a dress for the ball and wore it with a smile that April.

As my collection of prom dresses grew, I ended up trading the royal blue dress with another gal. It will always remain my most special dress as it was the first I wore out as Stephanie. I have graduated to more luxurious dresses like the pink strapless ballgown and a debutante gown. Every time I put one of those gowns on, I think back to the time when I thought this was simply a dream... an impossibility. Each dress is now a sign of a goal realized, and that is the reason behind my smile.

Debutante Dress Addendum

This past Thursday, I had my final fitting for my debutante dress. It went very quickly as the dress fit perfectly. As Jackie did a little adjusting, I had another one of those mirror moments. There I was just like the beautiful debutante girl getting ready to be presented to society. Vickie even came upstairs to give her approval. She was like a proud mother telling me how beautiful I was. It was nice being fussed over so much.

I made a full girl's morning out of it buying some shoes at Nine West. If it wasn't for work commitments, I would have made a day of it! I'm still amazed at how easily I pass through the world as my real self. Only a couple years ago, it would have been a major undertaking. Now, I have truly come out, and maybe the debutante dress has a little something to do with that.

The Debutante Dress

My latest dress that I'm showing in my pics has become very special to me, and I have not even worn it out anywhere! It is a debutante dress which for young ladies in the south is a dress worn at a formal gathering where the ladies are "introduced" to society (usually around age 17). This is funny to some because I came out as Stephanie nine years ago!

One of the things on my long-term "to-do list" was to buy a dress at a full service bridal/formal dress shop. I had always bought my dresses from eBay, online stores, yard sales, or Good Will and then had then altered later. I had never had the experience of having someone pick out some gowns for me and help me try them on. This is something I very much wanted as most women get to do this either for a prom or wedding. I thought it would be a very feminine experience. I also knew I wanted a debutante gown which fit very well with this experience as it would require some extra help.

I chose a place in Gastonia called Poffie Girls which is about a half hour from me. I only called ahead to make sure they had a good selection. I knew from their website that they were fairly well regarded. I did my full feminine routine and wore a blouse and skirt that would be easy to take off. I drove over on a Thursday morning when they were not as busy. I found the place easily enough. The shop is two story self contained building... pretty decent size and nice looking from the outside. I was gripped by fear as I pulled in and sat in my running car with the air conditioning on full blast for five minutes. I convinced myself that I had come this far, and it would be silly to turn back. I knew inside was my perfect dress. The worse they could say was no. I turned off the car, got out, and walked inside.

I was greeted by a middle aged lady at their front counter. She asked if she could help me, and I told her I wanted to buy a debutante dress. At this point, I was fairly certain I did not pass, but she politely asked which club I belonged to. I replied that this was not for a particular club but just for me. She called in another lady who asked me my size and what style and price dress I wanted. I told her what I was looking for (white, long, full skirted), and she had me fill out their order form. She then said, "Ok, sweety, let's get you set up with a dressing room." I felt the weight of the world fall off my shoulders as I knew they would help me out.

The lady's name was Vickie, and she brought out about a dozen white gowns. I was now in heaven with all this white satin. I tried on about six gowns. Each time, Vickie zipped me up in back and showed me how to walk properly in each dress. She treated me like a woman the whole time even complimenting me on my hair. With each dress, I stepped out into a hallway with three mirrors on one end. Vickie and I both agreed on two we like. I chose the one you see in the picture: the white halter top gown.

Vickie told me to call back once I had my shoes for a first fitting. Not one time did anyone refer to me as a man. It was very nice to feel like I could fully be myself and enjoy the experience.

I scheduled my first fitting, and Vickie greeted me again. She sent me upstairs to Jackie, their seamstress. Once I put on the gown, Jackie took me through all the measurements. When she fitted the bodice, I truly felt like I had picked the right gown. It felt wonderful! Jackie also commented that I was probably the nicest girl that had come through recently. She told me they work with about 400 girls during prom season, and most of them acted like spoiled divas! Something struck me when she said that. I actually enjoyed every step of the process. I enjoyed looking in the mirror and seeing myself in that beautiful white dress. It almost brought tears to my eyes. I'm not totally sure why except that I was overwhelmed by the joy of the experience.I will have my dress by the end of May. I am looking forward to setting up a photo shoot with my new debutante dress and hopefully several other dresses.

For those special girls who have a similar goal of going out and enjoying a feminine buying experience, I would say go for it. If a business is smart, they want your money as much as anyone. Long established businesses and well trained staff seem very open to serving us. Once you do it, it is an incredible experience.