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Getting a Sense of Perspective

Food for thought

Byline: Mandy, UK

I recently heard about a positive comment that the wife of an online friend had made about my presentation and that got me thinking about the way that our own perspective differs from those who encounter us.

As regular readers here will know, my uncorrected eyesight isn’t good and I have worn glasses permanently from an early age due to long sightedness – I can see things a few feet away with some degree of clarity but can’t focus on anything close up.  In normal life, this is a complete pain but when Amanda emerges, it’s a positive advantage.  Look in the mirror without them and I see blurry perfection – hair, makeup, outfit and accessories just right.  It’s only when I put the glasses on to take a closer look that everything comes into focus and I realise that things are nowhere near perfect, wig cap showing, brows a mess, false lashes crooked, one earring halfway up the lobe and so on.  Of course, as I’ve learned more tricks & hacks, things have got better but there’s still a long way to go.

At least makeup and wig malfunctions can be fixed but there’s a bigger issue looming.  Because ‘he’ wears glasses and ‘Amanda’ tries not to touch them with a bargepole, if I put my glasses on and look in the mirror, I tend to see ‘him’.  After all, we share the same face and no amount of foundation, lipstick and eyeliner changes that.  And then the fears mount up – if I see myself as a male in a dress, then so will everyone that I encounter.  And to make matters worse, the advice we receive from others often only serves to fuel our fears even more.  Being told that women tend to take smaller steps and walk with one foot more or less in front of the other suggests that we all have a male swagger, whether or not that is the case and paranoia sets in.  And in the end, there are only two possible conclusions we can draw – either we’re a lost cause and should never step outside the house or, if we do step outside the house, everyone will see us for what we are.

When I decide to unleash the inner woman, my start point is the face that I’ve lived with for the past 60+ years.  It’s a face that’s male in every respect and, if I’m honest, not one that I’m particular enamoured with.  Mirrors are a necessary evil for shaving etc. but otherwise steered well clear of and photographs are to be avoided at all costs.  So, to put it bluntly, the transformation is a major undertaking.  Take my eyebrows for example.  On the plus side, they’re not bushy and I don’t have to contend with a monobrow but they’re not at all feminine and there are quite a few wayward hairs that need to be dealt with. So I need to calm them down with a glue stick and then try to draw on something looking vaguely feminine which is hard enough to start with even before factoring in the difficulties of doing it without my glasses on.  And when I’ve finished, they look nothing like the alluring arches that I’m trying to replicate; they just look like my normal brows only flattened down, a bit darker and a lot messier if my aim with the brow pencil wasn’t particularly good.

And, sadly, no amount of makeup is going to make my nose any smaller or more feminine looking, give me chiselled cheekbones or deal with any other of the, apparently, 17 anatomical differences between male and female faces.  Basically, to my eyes, I’m more or less a lost cause.  No matter how hard I try, ‘his’ face will still be there ready to give my secret away to anyone who encounters me.

And that, in a nutshell sums up my perspective.  My start point is male me; everything I do is with the sole purpose of masking that as much as possible and every anxiety I have is firstly whether I’ve done enough in that regard and secondly what will happen if I haven’t.

But what about the rest of society?  What is the default conclusion when they see someone with a female hairstyle, wearing female clothes and makeup?   Well, if we use our own experience when we see humanity in general out and about, we don’t suspect that every woman we see is genetically male and vice versa so why should everyone else be any different.  The ‘duck’ test guides us here – If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck – in other words, if a cursory glance suggests that we are female, then we will be taken as such unless there is good reason not to.  And that realisation can transform our lives.

Of course, there is a sting in the tail and that’s the ‘good reason’ stipulation.  Whilst some may feel that declaration that they identify as female is sufficient to be treated as such, the reality is that it isn’t.  Society will still see an individual dressed from head to toe in female clothing with long hair and makeup but a full beard as a male regardless of how that individual personally identifies.  But shave off that beard and the perspective immediately changes.  In truth, the ‘good reason’ condition just places a responsibility on us to be appropriate in our feminine guise.  That doesn’t mean that we have to outstrip genetic females in the beauty or style stakes but just to act in a way that shows we understand what it means to be a woman and not do anything which overtly labels us as male.

And that’s great news for us.  It means that with a basic level of care and the right attitude, most people who see us won’t have any reason to think that we’re not as we seem.  We are our own worst critics and whilst our reference point is our normal male visage, everyone else’s is their own construct of an average, unremarkable female and that is how they’ll usually see us.

I still remember when the penny dropped for me.  It was on my second proper shopping trip and, taking the lift down from the car park to the shops, I did my best to avoid other shoppers in case someone stared, pointed or muttered ‘that’s a guy’ under their breath to their companion.  But as I walked around I didn’t notice anyone looking in my direction, even when I used the ladies loo in Marks & Spencer which was empty when I entered the cubicle and anything but when I emerged and stood in front of the mirror to top up my lipstick.  Would those who had entered care if they realised that there was a man in their midst?  Almost certainly but whilst I will never ‘pass’ in the truest sense – i.e. be indistinguishable from a genetic female in every respect – I realised I’d done enough not to raise suspicion from those who did not know otherwise.  And rather than feel nervous as I walked back to the lifts, I knew that the time had come to come out of hiding and be proud of who and what I am.  So as I rode in the crowded lift back up to the car park at the end of my trip, I was happy to face the other shoppers and smile when someone made a funny comment about something or other relevant to the situation (but not, I stress, about the bloke in a black coat and high heels trying to look like a woman who was riding with them) to the person they were with.

The sad thing is that we will very rarely be told when we get things right and we usually have to work it out for ourselves.  But what we have to remember is that others don’t see us as we see ourselves.  We tend to see the guy but that’s only natural given that’s who we recognise as ourself but others, without that reference point, will take us at face value and be far more forgiving in the process.  Without direct knowledge of what lies underneath, they only have what they see to go on and, providing what they see is unremarkable, their subconscious will be satisfied and quickly move on to something else.  And even if we do give the game away, perhaps via our voice or some other physical trait, as Jocelyn recently observed in her post ‘Nobody Seems To Care!’, its almost always not going to be an issue providing we uphold the values of what it means to be a woman.

So to all those of you who worry that you’ll be immediately be ‘clocked’ or ‘read’ as soon as you leave the house en femme, cast aside those worries.   Everyone who sees you does so from a different perspective to yours and they almost certainly won’t see what you (and you alone) know to be there. 


17 Responses

  1. HI Amanda – You’ve certainly a knack for addressing exactly what is on my mind at any given time! Of late, I have been very aware of how much my male self shows thru as I take on my female persona. At Keystone many photos were taken, most of them candid or unposed. When viewing them all I could see was my male self with all my flaws and tells – all this at a time when I thought I was in top form. A few weeks later on an outdoor outing with friends the effect was even more dramatic with photos taken in the bright sunlight. I’m trying to adopt a positive attitude from this revelation – taking an artistic approach it helps to be aware of areas you feel need change or improvement. I, and perhaps we, must always remember not to compare ourselves unfairly to anyone else. It is good to be inspired by others, but we must all work within our own “canvas”. The rest of the world does not see us with the same critical eye as we see ourselves, yet allow that critical eye to allow us to refine and constantly improve our presentation.

    1. Kris, thank you for sharing your thoughts. We’re our own harshest critics and it’s quite a revelation to be out & about and realise that others don’t see what we know to be there. Stepping out of the closet is a euphoric experience but, for me, the real buzz has been realising that no one was paying any attention to me! As I said in the post, I’m not deluded enough to think that I’ll ever be mistaken for a genetic female but it’s quite comforting to realise that most people won’t guess the truth either!

  2. Amanda,
    Your second to last paragraph makes the most important point and one we sometimes find it hard to believe oursleves and that is other people do see us differently to how we see oursleves . Sometimes we can be obsessed with male tell tales but as you say others are only seeing skin deep , if the first glance says ” female ” then they will leave it at that , a second glance may not be checking out your gender but possibly your outfit .

    Dealing with eyesight problems can be tricky , my near vision is my problem but my far vision hasn’t changed in years , I hate driving wearing galsses but I can manage without . Applying makeup is a whole different ball game , good lighting is essential , I have an illuminated magnifying mirror which solves the problem of eye makeup , for my lips I slip my glasses on .
    Many years ago I bit the bullet and asked a young sales guy in Specsavers if I could use the offer to buy a second pair of female glasses , he was a little taken back but then realised I was serious . While chosing my frames he came out to me about a party he’d attended dressed as girl and worse he enjoyed it . I told him not to worry , he had taken the first step by talking about his feelings , I promised him some pictures to show how I looked , he was so appeciative .
    Choosing the right female frames is so important not forgetting the colour , they can change the shape of your face and have quite an influence on your gender appearance .

    Take care when using pictures to assess your look , selfies taken with your phone are not flattering because the lens is too wide making noses and chins appear bigger . Take another look at your makeover pictures , they are so much better in many repects , the most impotant is the professional used a better lens/camera combination with good lighting .

    Jocelyn did pose the question of people caring or not ? We have to accept we can’t please all of the people all of the time , if we don’t offend the majority of people they will go about their business and leave us to ours . I accept I’m very confident now as Teresa , I do have fun with people and talk far too much but I have to know where the limits are , on occasions my male brain does take over so I have to bite my tongue to stop me being too male with jokes or too technical with my descriptions .

    1. Teresa, thank you. Ultimately, unless people know what’s beneath the surface, they only have the surface to judge us by and providing we conform to expectations, we’re home and dry most of the time.

      As far as selfies are concerned, I’ve long since given up as far as handheld ones are concerned, not only for the reasons you quoted but also because I couldn’t keep the phone steady enough. Nowadays, if I’m going to take a photo I mount my phone on a tabletop tripod and shoot from a distance of at least 2 metres, ideally nearer 3 and the results have been light years better.

  3. Amanda,
    Thank you for writing a wonderful post. Your thoughts and perspective of how many of us CD/TGs think is so revealing.

    I enjoy reading about your process of getting ready and then about your outings. It brings into focus, for us readers, that a genuine attempt at expressing female will be rewarded through acceptance by the general public we meet.

    Your sentence “And rather than feel nervous as I walked back to the lifts, I knew that the time had come to come out of hiding and be proud of who and what I am” is perfect, and we all should live by it.

    I have seen photos of you with glasses on and glasses off. You look absolutely beautiful either way. As you said, be proud of who you are and what you are.


    1. Jocelyn, thank you as always and particularly for your kind comments about my appearance. I believe that if we want to be accepted, we have to be the absolute best that we can possibly be, whether out and about or alone in the privacy of our home. In the end, if someone looks at me and thinks ‘is she or isn’t she?’, I’ve achieved everything I set out to achieve. I can’t change reality but that ambiguity means that I’ve done enough to sow the seeds of doubt!

      As I said above, we’re our own harshest critics but that’s because we know what we have to contend with. The blissful ignorance of others is often overlooked by those fretting about whether they ‘pass’ or not or paralysed with fear because they know they don’t. We’ve all been there but the day we realise that it’s not an issue can be life changing.

      I also think it’s important that we have a sense of pride in ourselves. The more unkind sectors of society will denounce us as frauds for representing ourselves as something we’re not but, to me, there’s nothing more honest than this representation of ourselves and provided we strive to be the best we can be, we have every right to feel proud of ourselves.

    2. I started to need to wear glasses in my 40s. I also had to start using hearing aids. All part of growing old and exposure to different sounds over the years.
      I buy my glasses now online and feel very comfortable with them.

      1. The growth in online glasses sellers has been a godsend for us! When I bought my last pair, I chose frames that were described as unisex but I would have no qualms about ordering an exclusively female pair next time round. The people processing the order are welcome to jump to whatever conclusion they want as I’ll never have to explain myself to them!

        Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  4. Hi Amanda,
    Was this post written along time ago? The reason I ask is the girl I’ve grown to know and love here on Kandi’s land is not the girl described in your post. And I know that none of your pics here are photo shopped. You know you present as an attractive woman now. I do however agree that we are our harshest critics and I have told that to a lot of girls I’ve helped over time.
    When I started going to Vancouver dressed as Trish in my late teens I was very passable but didn’t realize it. I knew that I was a boy in girls clothes so if anyone even glanced at me I immediately thought I had been clocked. The first few times in Vancouver I was terrified. But thanks to one young man who politely asked if he could take me for a coffee so he could get to know me I finally realized that I had nothing to worry about. And I don’t think you ever did either.

    Trish ❤️

    1. Trish, you flatter me!

      Photos can, of course, be carefully curated and I have taken some absolute shockers! Whilst I’ll concede that some of my more recent ones do paint me in a reasonable light (and, as you say, I don’t touch Photoshop other than to crop them), I know that from certain angles I’m definitely not a pretty sight!

      That said, I’ve come to realise that our overall presentation and its appropriateness to our surroundings can negate any adverse facial signs. In my latter outings I felt far more relaxed because I knew that my outfit was appropriate for the environment I was in. There’s nothing that ‘outs’ a CDer quicker than being dressed to the nines when everyone else is in casual gear.

      Whilst the insecurities are still very much there, they’re less destructive these days as I’ve come to realise that I can do enough to pass the ‘duck’ test and even if I don’t, most people aren’t bothered.

    2. I think many of us worry too much about what complete strangers think of us. Over the years I got braver and braver. Now I will go anywhere that’s not in my local area. I first went shopping in the early 80s. Needless to say the atmosphere was quite different than today.

      1. Terri M,
        We should take care when considering what strangers think , the more we step out the door the wider the net becomes . Now I’m part of two painting groups and the local National Trust group I run into people who know a friend of a friend , my reputation has spread not though being transgender ( in truth many don’t know ) but through my art . OK it’s what I dreamed of and planned but didn’t expect it to become so much of a reality .

  5. Amanda,
    Nice post.
    News flash – Just in: Women wear glasses too. Look into getting Mandy a pair. I fact, the correct frame can enhance our feminine appearance. And there is no reason not with the rise of on-line glasses, you can even ‘try on’ frames in some stores.
    I have been getting my brows cleaned up (trimmed and waxed-define) for about 8 years now. My brows (and lashes) grow very fast as a side effect of eye drops; I can grow 1.5 inch brows in 5 months. However, the multiple waxing’s has helped to define the brows, no need to glue down.
    Mandy, dear, you need to change your perspective on makeup. Instead of using it to mask ‘him’, think of it as a way to enhance ‘her’.

    1. Cali, I’ll let you into a secret! I have three pairs of glasses – my normal guy pair (varifocals) were chosen because they were sold as unisex and I have two other Amanda-only distance-only pairs which are again unisex but a bit more feminine and saved for when I need to drive en femme. The problem I had was that when I put them on, everything came into sharp focus and I saw ‘him’ looking back. Recently, I’ve come to realise that, exactly as you said, women wear glasses too and am starting to feel more comfortable, even when wearing my guy pair.

      And thank you for your final words of wisdom! The ‘masking him’ viewpoint is very much born out of paranoia and dislike of the ‘blank canvas’ but I have to confess that I’m starting to like the end result quite a lot and I’ll take the ‘enhancing viewpoint’ with gratitude!

  6. Amanda, we all have features we do not like. My nose is to big, but it is the nose I have. I am under no illusion I pass as a women, I try to maximize my good features, which I think are my eyes. Makeup can do wonders for us when its applied just right. For me the key is blending in and feeling confident in who I am. It takes a lot of work on our part to look our best. We can’t get away with just a little lipstick and mascara. So we need to compensate for our male features and try our best to achieve as feminine a look as we can. I have done this with losing weight and keeping my skin soft and young looking. Remember all these things, clothing, makeup and hair are just tools we use to achieve the look but our identity as a woman is the most important thing.

    1. Julie, thank you for sharing your thoughts and you’re absolutely right. I think a lot of us over-obsess about our faces where most of us face an uphill struggle but getting the outfit right can compensate for an awful lot of shortcomings elsewhere, as can the hair which needs to be congruous with our age and facial structure. When we get it right, though, something quite wonderful happens to our emotions and those ever-present masculine features just start to melt away.

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