By Amanda J.
Okay, so I had to Google what a parapet was (see above).
So, you’ve read part 1 and decided that your inner woman can no longer be ignored. You’ve read part 2 and been on a shopping spree and she’s now popping up in your life on a regular basis. What next?
Now, I’ll say at this point that I’m a bit of a loner in life. I have no siblings and, being quite introverted and shy, am quite happy with my own company and never happier than when I have the freedom to do what I want to do without interruptions from others. But like almost other humans (even the shy ones), I need social contact. I have my family and a collection of very good friends who I see from time to time. I’m semi-retired but enjoy going into our business to have a chat to the people we employ. And so on. But there’s a problem. All of that is focused on one facet of my life – the facet where I look like my chromosomes suggest I should. But that’s not the whole me. There’s another side to me that everyone here knows but absolutely no one in my other life does, not even my wife who is aware of my proclivities for all things feminine but wants nothing to do with them so has no idea of the extent of my feminine side. And that side of me needs to live a life and have human contact just as much.
The obvious answer for people like us is to go and join a local support group. Plenty of like minded people, discussion topics relevant to our situation, support when we need it, social events to attend and so on. That works well for some people but from my point of view, if male me wouldn’t want to join a special interest group of any description, then why should female me be any different?
Many of my co-contributors here have resolved the issue from a different direction. They just go out into society and interact with whoever they want or need to and, it has to be said, seem to get bucketfuls of respect and acceptance in return. These ladies are beacons of inspiration but if you’ve never had any form of human contact in your feminine guise, it can seem like an unattainable fantasy. And here speaks the voice of experience!
To declare that the internet is possibly the greatest gift ever given to the CDing community is an understatement to say the least. For starters, Kandi’s Land wouldn’t be here without it. [Editorial comment: Yes, it would, except no one else would know it.] It’s given us easy access to more information than we will ever need and shows us that far from being unique, we’re part of a widespread community many members of which have embraced this side of themselves to the full and are enjoying a feminine life in ways that we never imagined possible. And there are countless examples to demonstrate that the transformation of a male into a half-decent looking female is not an unrealistic proposition.
But let’s face it, it’s one thing standing on the sidelines looking in but it’s something else entirely to participate. We worry that even typing a comment will ‘out’ us to the world at large. We worry that we’ll be seen as just a ‘bloke in a dress’ by those goddesses who challenge genetic females in the beauty stakes. We doubt that our views will be taken seriously. And we dread being told that we’re not worthy of being a part of the community and will be sent back to the sidelines like some poor kid at school who’s ridiculed and shunned by the cool brigade. And like much of what I write here, I can say that with some authority because, again, I speak from experience of having those anxieties, not supposition.
But if we can overcome our fears, we’ll find that the reality is very different. Because the truth is that every single one of us – even the aforementioned goddesses – had to start somewhere and we all understand the challenges faced by anyone trying to make sense of all of this.
But how did I get to the point where I was happy to share this side of my life online?
Well, as I intimated above, I was never going to get tarted up in my finest and sashay down to the nearest CD support group introducing myself to the assembled masses with a lipstick enhanced permasmile! No, I’m afraid like many others, I spent unhealthy amounts of time on the internet searching for information about people like me and soon found a thriving CDer community. But how to become a part of it?
Trans-themed websites and forums tend to operate in one of two ways. Some, like Kandi’s Land require active participation through sharing of opinions. Anyone can read what others have put but, to actively participate you have to share your thoughts through the comments to a particular post. It’s a similar story with forums where there will be multiple threads which form the basis of discussion between members. For me, the start point was susans.org because I was starting to wonder whether I was a lot further along the trans continuum than I realised at the time.
Submitting my first post was nerve wracking. Will I be thought of as transphobic? Will I be deemed not trans enough? Will I just be ignored? And the biggie – would I be identifiable from what I wrote? The answer to all of those was, of course, a resounding ‘no’, not least because the CD/TG community is a welcoming one and have a far better understand the struggles of those putting their heads above the parapet for the first time than the ‘newbies’ themselves do! And whilst many established forum members use a photo of themselves as their ‘avatar’ (the little thumbnail photo that accompanies each post they make), there’s no imperative to do so and it’s quite acceptable to use a graphic (many forums provide a range that can be used) which makes the chances of identification more or less zero. In other words, forum participation is a completely safe way of participating in this community. As time went on, though, I realised that I neither wanted, nor needed, to transition and looked for somewhere else to frequent.
The second modus operandi for online trans-themed meeting places is photo sharing. Here, the stakes are somewhat higher because there is an inherent risk of being recognised from photos uploaded and judgement is a lot easier for others to pass. Equally, though, for those struggling to shake off the idea that they just look like the archetypal ‘bloke in a dress’, photo based sites provide ample proof that XY chromosomes and a lifetime of testosterone need not be an impediment to looking fabulous and so I signed up to Flickr!
If you are planning on participating in a website where photos are the currency of choice like Flickr or Facebook, then it’s important to take a few basic precautions to minimise the risk of being recognised if that would be a problem for you. Firstly, make sure you are able to achieve a basic level of transformation which normally means a wig and rudimentary makeup. Remember that you have your male face as a point of reference to judge the effectiveness of your transformation; no one else has that luxury so it will be several orders of magnitude harder for them to make the connection with male you than it is for you. If you are still concerned or don’t have easy access to makeup, then apps like FaceApp and YouCam can post-process photographs and give stunning results. Do bear in mind though that whilst the community is forgiving of ‘newbies’ using these sorts of things to improve their image, a far higher level of respect is afforded to those who share unprocessed photos of themselves.
Secondly, avoid taking photographs using recognisable features in your home. Even if your transformational skills are up there with the best of them, a unique artwork or piece of furniture can give the game away.
I really enjoyed my time participating in the fun and discussions on Flickr. I’d post photos and then use the comments to talk about how I was feeling when the photo was taken (usually in a state of complete bliss!) or about some other aspect of my life and it was apparent that some of those who left comments below the photo responded to that sort of thing and didn’t just tell me that they liked my outfit. It was also apparent that I was not alone in the challenges I was facing; far from it in fact and a few who appeared to have the whole transformation thing well and truly nailed down confessed that their wives found the whole thing abhorrent and wanted nothing to do with it.
However, what I didn’t see until it was too late was that whilst sharing photographs and being on the receiving end of compliments and comments about how I was born to be a woman was a real boost to the ego, there is a darker side to photo sharing. First of all, it’s only going to be a matter of time before your photos come to the attention of the ‘admirer’ community. Some of these guys are highly respectful and just want to be involved in the same community that we are but have no desire to transform themselves. Many others, sadly, are anything but respectful and are quite happy to show photographs of their … well, I’m sure you get the picture (and you may well get several pictures!)! Also, as I found out to my cost, on sites like Flickr where stats are available showing the number of views and ‘faves’ a photo has had and keeps a tally on those who follow you, it’s very easy to look on the whole thing as a competition and then feel deeply demoralised if your photos aren’t performing as well as those of other girls.
Whilst I ended up walking away from Flickr, I have much to thank it for both in terms of the amazing people who befriended me and for finding my niche – sharing my views on the various aspects of the life of an emerging CDer with those who seemed interested enough to join the conversation and offer their own thoughts in response. And where better for someone like that than Kandi’s Land? This is the place I can be myself (or to be more exact, that part of me that I keep hidden in the rest of my life) and feel respected in the process. And unlike Flickr, there’s no competition here, just a group of like-minded souls sharing our varied experiences and hoping that someone, somewhere will benefit from reading them.
What I also came to realise is that being active online gave me far more than just companionship. I spend a very small proportion of my life, probably no more than 3%, physically in my feminine persona. But interacting with others through my ‘Amanda’ persona, even when I was dressed in ‘his’ clothes enabled me to live ‘her’ life vicariously when I couldn’t physically. Is a guy passing himself off as a woman inherently fraudulent? For a while, I thought it was but then I came to realise that I’m me however I happen to be dressed and the photos I’ve used as online avatars are as authentically me as any I’ve had taken as ‘him’. I no longer view myself as male or female, I’m just me and some people know me as a bespectacled, grey haired slightly scruffy 63 year old and others as someone far more refined and elegant (or mutton dressed as lamb if you prefer)! If others want to attach male or female labels to those personas, that’s fine but the only pronouns I ever bother with are ‘I’ and ‘me’.
And whilst I’m never going to post ‘before and after’ photos side by side, I’m happy to post the occasional photo here just so that people really do know who I am. I’m 99.9% certain that I’ll never be recognised but if that 0.1% probability does come to fruition, I’ll be proud to admit that it is me and hope that whoever it is that has rumbled me sees not just a bloke in a dress but, rather, someone who presents a positive view of the CDing community with a respectful attitude to what it means to be a woman, if only on a very part time basis.
So the moral of the story is to look around until you find your niche – a place where you feel comfortable living your online life. There are plenty of places to choose from – susans.org, flickr.com, urnotalone.com, tvchix.com & crossdressers.com to name just a few. And let’s not forget the best of all – kandis-land.com, but you already knew that because you’re reading this! Each of the places I’ve mentioned has a different emphasis and it’s just a case of finding somewhere that shares your aims & values and where you feel comfortable. Even places like Reddit, YouTube, Facebook & Instagram, whilst not specifically trans themed, have thriving CD/TG communities but it would be remiss of me to mention them without a word of warning.
The mainstream social media platforms have sophisticated algorithms to drive up engagement. They provide a free platform for users in return for being able to build up detailed profiles of everyone registered with them which, in turn, makes them attractive to advertisers from whom they earn their revenue. Facebook is a place to be particularly careful because one slip up can ‘out’ you – even just looking at your female page while logged in under your male account can result in the Facebook algorithm sending your female account as a suggested friend to your male account contacts. Also, don’t forget that Facebook owns Instagram and data is moved freely between the two to build as full a picture of you as possible. And if you’ve posted photos of yourself in an identifiable area of your home, it won’t take long for anyone who recognises the backdrop to put two and two together even if they don’t immediately recognise you. And if you’re going to use a family computer to access your social media platform of choice, make sure you always log out and ideally use a browser in which you’ve disabled history and close it whenever you walk away.
Even an email can ‘out’ you – I’ve experienced several instances where emails from other CDers have revealed their male identity despite the address being exclusive to their female one, presumably because they have accessed both male and female accounts from the same email client and the software has incorrectly marked the female account. Most of us have enough integrity and understanding to ignore such revelations but could we trust our real world friends to have the same level of discretion if our female name was inadvertently attached to emails from our male email accounts?
The bottom line here is that if you’re going to bring your feminine identity into the online world, you have to take positive steps to maintain separation from your male identity. But take sensible precautions in the way that you manage your feminine presence online and the inherent risks are minimised paving the way for you to enjoy all of the positives that interaction with others via social media and forums has to offer.
So that’s how I came to willingly put my head above the parapet. If you’re reading this and have the same fears that I once had, I hope you can draw inspiration and if you’ve yet to take the first step, there’s a nice comments section below just waiting for you to burst into our wonderful community!
And, as always, here are the five takeaways from this post:
1. The life of a CDer can be lonely. Participating in the online community can be a great source of virtual companionship and help you learn to accept and develop your female persona. It’s also a great way of living the female part of your life when circumstances prevent you from CDing.
2. The vast majority of our community will give you unconditional friendship, advice and encouragement. Very few are so self-obsessed that they will either ignore you or actively block your approaches but if you encounter one of these, just move on, it’s nothing personal, just the way they are.
3. You can participate as much, or as little as you want. Even just joining an online forum and commenting on others’ posts will give you a sense of belonging and help you on your way.
4. Providing you take basic precautions, the chances of you being recognised from your online presence are negligible. Your identity cannot be recognised from words on a forum and even if you do decide to post photos en femme and you have achieved a basic level of transformation, it is nearly impossible for you to be recognised. And if someone you know in your male world does see your photo and recognise you, you’re not the only one about whom questions need to be asked!
5. It is completely possible to keep your online female world and your ‘real’ world life completely separate but, particularly where the online world is concerned, you need to be proactive and not just leave things to chance. Even if your online friends encourage you, or even pressure you, to meet up, you do not have to if you don’t want to. Just because you decide to participate in the online world, it doesn’t mean that you have to relinquish control of your life and you should continue to live it on your terms, not feel compelled to do things outside your comfort zone just because others want you to.
As for me, I’m still as shy & introverted as I always was but nowadays am just as comfortable being seen as ‘her’ to the online community as I am being seen as ‘him’ in the outside world in the rest of my life. But what about being seen as ‘her’ in the outside world? Now that’s taking everything to a whole new level so don’t miss the next two – yes, two! – thrilling instalments….!