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Putting The ‘I’ In Trans

Choo choo....

By our girl Mandy!

I knew that the time had come to tell my new wife one of my deepest, darkest secrets.  After all, what I was about to tell her was not the sort of thing that normal guys tended to broadcast about themselves.  Well, not if they didn’t want to become the target of ridicule, anyway.  But in a marriage, there should be no secrets and I knew that this was something that was going to have to be revealed sooner or later so I may as well get it over with.  I went and got a box from its hiding place in the wardrobe and took it downstairs to where Mrs A was sitting and, opening it slowly, I took a deep breath.

‘There’s something I need to tell you’ I said slowly.

She looked at me with a mixture of suspicion and puzzlement.  What on earth was her new husband going to disclose?  I continued..

‘I’m into……model trains’

There, I said it!  Whilst that may have sounded like the world’s biggest anticlimax, back in the early 1990s, admitting to any interest in trains, let alone model ones, was like saying that you enjoyed dressing in women’s clothes from time to time.  Instant ridicule and forevermore labelled as some sort of weirdo.

Strange, that!

I have been a CDer, on and off, for nearly five decades.  I started in my mid-teens, although I can trace back my fascination with all things feminine to a time around ten years before that, and since then I’ve ranged from dressing frequently & regularly to hardly dressing, if at all.  It’s a strange thing that another feature of my life not only has followed a similar pattern but also has strong parallels and even connections to this side of me.

It was around 60 years ago that I first pestered my parents for a train set.  Believing that, at 3 years old, I was probably a bit young to play with it for anything more than a couple of minutes, they decided to pass on my father’s old Hornby Dublo set to see how long the obsession was going to last.  Suffice to say, it lasted well beyond two minutes and persists to this day.  I still have that locomotive – now over 75 years old and still working – together with the new train set they bought me the following Christmas when they realised the depth of my love for trains and nearly 50 other locomotives that I’ve acquired since!

‘Very nice’ I hear you say ‘but this is a crossdressing blog so get back on topic please!’.

OK.  The first thing to mention, of course, is that putting an ‘I’ into ‘trans’ makes ‘trains’ but I’m thinking that that is too tenuous and contrived to satisfy you.  How about this then – I visit three or four major train shows in the UK each year and always see at least five MTF trans people at each one.  In fact there’s one I recently visited where I stopped counting after ten.  And it’s a fascinating cross section of the CD/TG community too.  I’ve seen some who literally look like the archetypal ‘bloke in a dress’ complete with facial hair and badly applied makeup at one end of the scale and some who blend in so well that only their voices gave them away at the other end.

Of course, the question of why model trains should attract so many people on the trans spectrum would make a great discussion.  Maybe it doesn’t attract a disproportionately high number and it’s just that with model railways being a male dominated pastime, anyone looking vaguely female tends to stand out more.  Or maybe the numbers are disproportionate and reflect a desire to create an alternative universe for ourselves.  Who knows?  I certainly don’t.

But there’s something far more interesting to dig into here.  As I jokingly suggested above, in the UK, there are a number of pastimes that have historically been inadvisable admissions to make to one’s friends.  One is anything that involves dressing up, be it re-enactment of mediaeval battles, regularly attending Star Trek conventions or being a crossdresser.  Another is being a railway modeler or, indeed, a train enthusiast in general (but, strangely, those who model aircraft or cars aren’t subject to the same derision).  Mention anything about the latter and hilarity at your expense would be certain to ensue.  Jokes about writing down locomotive numbers, Thomas the Tank Engine, ‘playing’ with your ‘train set’ (model railways are ‘operated’ not ‘played with’!) and so on.  Any depiction of a railway modeler in a TV drama almost always portrayed them as a slightly weird, introverted & boring old man, sometimes even a criminal.  In all honesty, in the same way that I avoided mention of my CDing, it was far easier to keep my railway modeling activities to myself.

And then something happened.  Four drunken schoolboys in Market Deeping, a small town in middle England, entered their school one Friday evening and seeing that it was to be used as the venue for a model train show that weekend, decided to vandalise the layouts that had been set up earlier in the day.  Models that had taken years to build were thrown on the floor & destroyed and photographs revealed a scene of devastation.  In fact, even though it was just a local exhibition in a small town, the national media picked it up and, for once, rather than poking fun at those who built the models, they spoke about the hobby in respectful tones, lauding the talent of the modellers and the hours they invested in creating their miniature worlds.

Then Sir Rod Stewart, a noted railway modeler in his own right, got involved.  And the public listened and attitudes changed.  A fundraiser set up with the aim of raising a few thousand pounds to replace the destroyed models raised well over one hundred thousand as, instead of laughing at the modelers, the public started to understand what it was all about and wanted to show their support.

And things have now changed.  My friends now all know that I’m a railway modeler.  Of course they laughed when I told them but then several showed genuine interest.   And visit any of the large train shows here and they’re packed – not only with modelers but also by families who just want to see the marvelous creations.

And that brings me nicely back to CDing.  I honestly don’t know how my friends would react if, emboldened by their interest in my model railway activities, I decided to tell them that I’m never happier than when I’m presenting as my feminine alter ego ‘Amanda’ and, for obvious reasons, it’s not something I plan to find out any time soon.  Let’s face it, there’s plenty of inspiration for a comedic onslaught, an impromptu chorus of The Lumberjack Song perhaps being the most obvious example.

But there’s a serious side too.  Would it irrevocably change or destroy friendships?  There’s certainly plenty of evidence that disclosure of TG status can bring lifelong friendships to a swift end.  Would it be viewed as a sexual kink?  Would showing photos of transformed me result in me being excluded from certain activities because I was no longer viewed as ‘man’ enough or because they were worried that I may turn up dressed in something a little more fabulous than they are used to and draw attention to the group for all the wrong reasons?  One thing that I’m fairly certain about is that there would be no appreciation of what CDers actually go through – the guilt, frustration and anxiety that comes from the need for secrecy and a persistent desire to conform to what society expects of a guy.

Perhaps I’m being overly pessimistic.  But if my suspicions did turn out to be true and my friends did react this way, who could blame them?  We don’t exactly get a easy time in the national media.  Granted, there’s been a significant shift in attitudes to the TG community.  Headlines containing words like ‘sex swop’ and ‘gender bending’ are nowadays largely a thing of the past and, thanks to high profile transitioners like Caitlyn Jenner et al, there’s a lot more public understanding of those who make a permanent change.  But the ‘average Joe’ who is ordinary in every respect other than a persistent desire to transform himself into a woman whenever the mood takes him?  Read the comments section of any article in that vein and the lack of understanding amongst the public at large is laid bare for all to see.

But is it too much to hope for that one day, CDing will be seen in a different light in the same way that railway modeling now is?  Rather than just being treated as an opportunity for disparaging comments or humour, there was widespread appreciation of the struggles that many of us go through as we battle these urges over which we have no control?  Or an appreciation of the lengths we have to go to in order to achieve an acceptable transformation?   Or, most importantly, the complete and utter respect we have for women in our attempts to be accepted into their world?  Cynics may say that it’ll never happen but, let’s face it, they would say that.

But going back to my point about seeing lots of CD/TG people at model train shows, there’s something else to add.  Whether they’re visitors to the show or exhibiting/trading there, they are just treated like anyone else would be.  And with that in mind, maybe the revolution has already started?  And if it has, unlike the shift in public attitude to railway modellers, it hasn’t taken a catastrophic event to kickstart that revolution.

If that is the case, then perhaps all it will take for us to do our bit is to take a deep breath and proudly tell our friends who we really are.  Of course they may laugh, crack a few jokes and do all of the other things that we fear.  But they may also ask questions and listen to the answers to increase their own understanding.  But if the worst comes to the worst and they do strike up a chorus to The Lumberjack Song, at least most of us know the words to join in!

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12 Responses

  1. Amanda,
    Thank you for another extremely thought provoking post. I love the way you bring together examples of issues we can relate to.

    I hope you are right that our world is becoming more and more accepting of modelers and CD/TGs.

    I have thought about telling long time friends about my TG status and showing them how beautiful I look in a skirt, makeup and wig. But I strongly believe that revelation would completely change the dynamic of decades long friendships. They love (and I) the male-male bonding that has developed over many years of friendship. Any change would ruin that. I don’t think I should subject my longtime male friends to a seismic shift in our relationship. It just doesn’t seem like the right thing to do.

    Please keep writing these wonderful posts on Kandi’s Land. You must have written 50 by now.

    Love,
    Jocelyn

    1. Jocelyn, thank you as always.

      I genuinely believe that the world is becoming a more accepting place in general but it’s far harder to unconditionally accept someone when you know what lies underneath than it is when you don’t. That’s not to say that there will be hostility because there almost certainly won’t be but it just reflects the difficulty firstly of getting others to understand something we don’t really understand ourselves and secondly for others to accept ‘Jane’ who they know full well is really ‘Bob’, a guy they’ve known (or thought they’ve known) for decades. And let’s face it, Bob deciding to permanently transition to Jane is a lot easier to get one’s head around than trying to figure out why Bob, seemingly a normal guy in every respect, sometimes feels the need to become his fabulous alter ego for a few hours before packing all of the stuff away and reverting to being Bob once more.

      And if we do decide to confide with a trusted friend but get a less than enthusiastic response, should we interpret that as a lack of support or a reality check?

      All in all, railway modelling seems like a far better deal for now!

      Thanks again – that was post number 47 by the way!

  2. Amanda,
    Confession time I’m into trains !
    Rather than hide it away I took my children to choose certain items from the local model shop in Peterborough ( not that far from Market Deeping ) . My daughter loved Mallard which remained snugly in it’s box for many years . My intention was a layout running aound my loft but more importantly in N gauge , I fell in love with that after a visit to the Peco factory in Devon .
    Now the qusetion of why so many transgender people love model trains , Alexandra talked about dressing being an artform or craft , modelling is a very creative subject . The Hornby series on UK TV has featured various genders with a the love of modelling and of course Eddie Izzard is a keen modeller with an open diplay on the south coast . Pete Waterman has also shown in his TV series that many musicians are also into railway modelling , again showing their creative side .

    So what happened to my good intentions ? I still had my collection when I moved to my new home but it languished in the loft until a conversation with the owner of a local model shop . When I listed all my items I was stunned at the offer he made , N gauge is a very expensive gauge for it’s size , so I snatched his hand off . Everytime I see a lovely layout I do regret it but I have so much else going on I just couldn’t devote the time to it . I bought engine kits and built them myself then airbrushed and handpainted them , my eyesight isn’t so good and my hands not steady enough anymore .

    Openly being transgender with an interest in railway modelling is a great way of gaining acceptance , I have a friend with an interest in model aircraft she often meets a transgender girl on flying days . My art has gained me widespread acceptance , I attend two groups and have recently taken a group on a tour of my old home town . The spinoff from that is the request to do another and also do a demonstration on acrylic painting to anothet art group .

    We should never be afraid to talk about hobbies or interests beause we never know when the other person will admit to having similar interests , doors open doors !!!

    1. Teresa, thank you for sharing your experience. Mrs A would be appalled if she knew how much I’d spent on my trains over the years but, equally, she should be pleasantly surprised when the grim reaper comes a-knocking and the time comes to sell them (sadly, neither she nor my kids share my enthusiasm).

      In the end, whilst there is increasing acceptance of trans issues in the public at large, there are still mountains to climb and bridges to cross, not least at the CDing end of the scale where the easy to understand tropes like ‘woman trapped in a man’s body’ do not really apply and where it’s all too easy to lump us in with drag queens, fetishists and pantomime dames. And whilst Sir Rod’s railway modelling activities have been instrumental in winning over hearts and minds to the cause, a quick google search confirmed that his CDing activities are still seen as fodder for the more sensationalist end of ‘journalism’.

  3. Amanda,
    I admit I did get some odd looks in the model shop , having a blond showing so much knowledege on the subject , well at least I could flutter my eyelashes to get a better price ! ( but did I is the burning question ??? )

    I had to think hard about the statement , ” A woman trapped in a man’s body ” . Over the last six years I’ve possibly drifted into a closer integration , no one questions me so I don’t really question myself . The fact I don’t offend anyone means I’ve gradually become part of other people’s lives , to be honest from the start I didn’t know if it was possible to achieve it . I admit I expected the male part of me to be taking a more active part but I realised that duality wasn’t possible , I needed to assign my gender more clearly hence this year the formal change of name and gender marker .

    I genuinely contribute here to show the mountains can be tamed , the bridges can be crossed and even the grass could be greener .
    You have taken an important step and it’s something you should be proud of , Amanda does exist and she will always be part of you . I’m sure in different circumstances you would be further down my road and possibly more like Kandi but then we must accept Kandi is quiet a trailblazer .

  4. Conductor Mandy,
    I had a train when I was young too. Even with electronic switches, crossing lights….
    My cousin had a very large train set that filled most of a large basement. The set was about 10 M by 10 M with many levels to it and several trains could run at the same time. Sadly, I gave my trains away, lack of space. (I needed the room for my clothes.)
    I am in high heels most of the time with painted toenails and acrylic gel fingernails, so my friends know I at least wear women’s shoes, women’s high heels, and get my nails done. And some have even seen me in a professional women’s outfit on Halloween at work. I get ribbed about it but has mostly disappeared for now. However, sometimes when they see a woman in a certain cute or outrageous outfit, they will try to tease me by saying “you could probably wear that, especially with your heels.” And I’ll respond with, “I know I would rock it.” You have got to remember; most have seen me with exquisite nails and knee high suede stilettos and don’t put anything past me. (What they don’t see is that EVERYTHING I am wearing is “women’s” wear.)
    BUT, I don’t think it would go over too well if I came out as a CD or TG. Maybe it will get better in a decade. At least, I hope.
    CHOO CHOO
    Cali

    1. Cali – I’m now officially envious of your cousin! It’s a wonderful way to while away the hours but sadly getting rather expensive these days (a bit like CDing!!!).

      Interesting that you think it wouldn’t go well if you came out as a CD or TG. Women tend to be particularly perceptive and I wouldn’t mind betting that they have extrapolated the heels & nails and come to a conclusion already. That’s not to say that they have come to the correct conclusion but just that if you did come out in that way, I suspect it would quickly, if not immediately, be business as usual as far as they are concerned. I think that the fact that those close to you accept you for how you are speaks volumes for both your character and their likely attitude if you were to progress further down the path.

      You could always test the water by coming out as a lapsed railway modeller!

  5. I remember having a set of Lionel trains as a child. My father would take me to train store in Manhattan.

    1. Lionel is not a brand that was sold in the UK but I’ve seen the YouTube videos and they look fantastic. It’s nice to have memories from childhood like that – we had Hamleys in London (UK’s largest toy shop spread over six floors) and they used to have a huge model railway that went round the stairs up from the ground floor. It was worth a visit to see that alone.

  6. Hi my friend. Another Amanda special in the books and just for record it holds my attention and at posts end I’m kind of sad ‘cause it’s finished just like always. I, like most boys my age, was given a train set for Christmas and loved it. It held my attention for years ( kind of like your posts). I’m sure you could write a post about your trip to work and it would be as riveting as all your others, lol. Love ya girl!

    Trish ❤️

    1. Trish, thanks and it’s been particularly pleasing to see how this post has prompted a number of you to emerge from the train closet!

      As for a riveting post about a trip to work, I’m going to have to disappoint you. Trust me, a job riveting would be more intellectually stimulating than the mind numbing seven hours I spent there on Wednesday.

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