By Amanda J.
I walked across the room and caught sight of her looking just like I remembered her. I smiled at her and, straight away, she smiled back. Even though I’ve known her for some time, every time I see her seems like the first time. There’s just something about her that makes me feel good every time I see her; perhaps it’s the fact that she always seems blissfully happy or maybe it’s a combination of me being a normal guy and her having the knack of choosing styles that I find attractive. Sometimes it feels like I’m seeing life through her eyes, the sensations of her world spilling over into mine. At other times, she seems somehow distant but fascinating all the same. The only thing I know for certain is that the woman in the mirror really knows how to mess with my mind!
Take a look at these two photos of me taken at my makeover last year. What’s the difference? We can all see that they’re mirror images of each other but that’s not what I mean. There’s actually a huge difference between them. The one on the left is the original photo. If you’d seen me on that day in September 2021, that’s what you would have seen. But that’s not the person I see when I look in the mirror or on a smartphone selfie I take. For obvious reasons, I can never see myself in the same way that the rest of the world can. The only way I can normally see myself is either in a mirror or via a selfie and, as a result, I almost always see a reversed version of myself. In fact, if I see a photo of myself which is not mirrored, it looks strange to me.
And that raises an interesting question. Which of those two women am I really focussed on? The one on the left who is a true representation of me in the world or the one on the right who is the one I see? Or, to put it another way, is the reflection I see in the mirror just a validation of what I’m feeling as I cross the gender divide or the whole reason I do it in the first place? I’ve sometimes wondered out loud about this on forums or when exchanging messages with like-minded girls and the answer is almost always an immediate ‘of course it’s about you, not your reflection’ but, to tell you the truth, I’m still not convinced.
Let’s face it, crossing the gender divide is an amazing feeling for people like us. It’s an assault on our senses – we look in the mirror and see what we believe is our ‘true’ self looking back. Everything feels different, hair caressing our neck, the softness of our clothes and the gentle straining of our leg muscles as they get used to unfamiliar heel heights. Those amazing smells as we open up the cosmetics and then taste the lipstick on our lips. Even our ears are in for a treat as we hear the clicking of heels on hard floors & pavements and the gentle swishing of our skirt as we walk.
And then, as what we’ve just achieved sinks in, the worries and frustrations of life just seem to evaporate as we enter a state of complete happiness. Our mind wanders and we allow ourselves to wonder what life would be like if we didn’t have to pack everything away in a few hours’ time but instead could remain in our acquired persona for ever more. It’s an intoxicating proposition, made all the more so by the frustrations and anxieties we know will return when we cave in to society’s expectations of us and pack our things away. So all of those people who tried to reassure me that how I feel is the real deal and I’m not just fixated on my reflection in the mirror are almost certainly correct.
Or are they?
To tell you the truth, I wish they were. It’s a far easier sell to the conscience if we justify what we do because our brain is wired differently, because something hormonally went awry in utero or because we feel trapped in the wrong body. Justifying it solely on the basis that we like what we see is far harder, not least when we’ve done our best to look as attractive as possible. Let’s face it, women don’t normally spend a quiet day at home in a smart dress & heels and fully made up. And even if they did, they probably wouldn’t keep walking towards the nearest mirror to admire themselves. The truth is that I don’t want to look old and frumpy; if I’m going to go to all this trouble, there has to be some form of reward at the end of it. And if that reward is a woman who, if I met in real life, was the type of woman that I’d date if she wasn’t completely out of my league, all the better!
Perhaps there’s an air of inevitability in that, at least as far as I’m concerned. If I was further along the transgender spectrum, I don’t doubt that I’d spend most of my time with little or no makeup and wearing just the sort of clothes that other women wear on a day to day basis. I’d have my beloved heels, dresses & makeup of course but they’d be saved for special occasions, not for doing the housework. But, as far as the transgender spectrum is concerned, I am where I am. And if I manage, say, six hours per month to indulge my feminine side, that’s still less than 1% of my life. And during that 1%, I’m going to focus on being the type of woman that I admire, or the woman I’ve had a secret workplace crush on, or the woman I saw reading the news on the TV the other night. Because during the other 99% of my life, they are the ones that catch my eye, make me smile and remind me that it’s about time I experienced the important 1%. Furthermore, when I see ‘her’ in the mirror smiling back or look at one of the hundreds of photos I’ve taken, there is a strong element of disbelief – how can that guy in his 60s possibly transform himself into her? In fact it seems almost unreal. Almost impossible, in fact.
But there’s an important word there – ‘almost’. Because in and amongst that disbelief and incredulity is a small spark. The spark of knowing that she is me. It’s a spark fuelled not only by the absolute love of her as someone I see but also by the discomfort I feel when, for whatever reason, she’s not around. I can’t say that her presence in the mirror is irrelevant and unimportant but, equally, I also can’t declare that it’s the sole reason I want her to see the light of day.
So I’m still none the wiser but, in the end, I really don’t think it matters. We all have different reasons for doing this and different priorities when we do. In my case, perhaps the answer to the question of where my priorities lie is ‘it depends’. Sometimes, my need is to feel complete as a person and to resolve my anxieties surrounding my identity. Other times, I’m just happy to look admiringly at her and the warm feeling inside is purely and simply because I’ve found a woman that doesn’t run away when I approach her and smiles back when I smile at her.
And that trait alone makes her a ‘keeper’!