When Do We Know?

Ladies and gentlemen, Crystal Joens!

By Crystal Joens

Years ago, sitting with other parents of children registering for college, I noticed a mother who seemed distraught. When I ask if she was okay, she said, “No I am not. My daughter is 18 years old, and she doesn’t know what she wants to be when she grows up.” I smiled, and said something like, “Well, Ma’am, this may not be of much help, but I am 47 years old, and not only do I not know what I want to be, I don’t even think I want to grow up.” She just walked away. It didn’t help her. It did help me.

To this day, when someone asks where I grew up, I will correct them by saying, “I haven’t grown up yet, but I can tell you where I’ve lived and what I’ve done.” And as I write this, I am closing in on year 74.

That same question comes up when someone learns that we like to dress in societally defined women’s clothing. For years, I said, age 12, my mom’s lingerie drawer. Actually, maybe it was when I was conceived. Perhaps it was the youthful awareness and appreciation of the gender I was “not”. The latest re-awaking and new awareness came to me just 4 months ago. And I am sure with some of you sharing your thoughts, more awareness will surface for me and all of us at our own times.

There is always lots of backstory, and for now let’s stick to today’s story. I dress whenever I can, which isn’t often. Right now, my Wife of 50 years is, as far as I know, unaware of Crystal. When I do get to travel on my own, I look for a makeover artist and schedule a session. And usually, the artist takes a couple of photographs.

So, with a couple of extra days planned in Nashville, TN in mid-January, I began my online search for an LGTBQ-friendly makeover artist. I found a “muse”, a person or force who is an inspiration. Literally, her name is Brittany Muse, Owner-Creative Director-Makeup Artist of Artofficial.

She agreed to take the assignment, on the condition that she wanted to better understand me and my motivation for dressing and the makeover. Dang! That really made me stop and think. And I loved it, because as an Executive Coach in my own world, great questions are vital to self-discover. So, we spent well over an hour with her asking great questions.

We not only booked the makeover, but I also added 4 days to my trip, we booked 4 makeovers and scheduled a professional photo shoot for day four.

While there are no “final answers”, from Muse’s caring inquiry, several significant revelations emerged, that have led me down paths I had never explored before. Here are a few, that are still works or thoughts in progress.

I am happy as a man, very happy.

I am a bit happier, dressed and feeling like a woman. Okay, much happier.

That feminine spirit has been a core part of my being forever, dressed or not. Just smiling readily and often at others is a form of feminine attire.

We all have both genders within us. Feel free to re-write that statement any way you want.

We all realize and express both genders in different ways.

Dressing in feminine attire is a tactile device that re-charges my emotional batteries. Even my gender therapist, when they first saw a photo of me as Crystal, exclaimed how amazed and impressed they were at my look. They also noted how much more joyful I seemed as Crystal.

My core femininity has contributed to my life longevity, my strong personal relationships, my life and career success and my ability to improve the world around me…. for years.

My new gender therapist taught about a word in ancient cultures that revered those who were “complete” people, gender non-specific, who were revered: Two Spirits!

So at age nearly 74 I have just learned how much I embrace my Crystal self and what a wonderful Friend she has been within me.

Next chapter, sharing my joy of having Crystal in my life and hers.

Stay tuned…….


12 Responses

  1. Now, that was my kind of post! So much resonated with my own situation and your points – ‘I am happy as a man, very happy.’ and ‘I am a bit happier, dressed and feeling like a woman. Okay, much happier.’ – summed things up perfectly. Others may try to overlay their own situations onto ours but, in the end, this is about how we feel and what our priorities are and I think you summed it up perfectly.

    Ms Muse sounds amazing. For those of us who are closeted, isolation is probably the biggest challenge we face because necessarily we have to put a barrier between our male and female sides. My wife is aware that I CD (but only knows my male identity) and I have interacted with many both here and on other social media platforms but here only my female identity is known. The feeling I had when that divide was finally bridged in September 2021 – like you, via a makeover – is impossible to put into words but was pivotal in helping me finally coming to terms with everything and accepting that I have a strong feminine side. It’s particularly interesting that Ms Muse wanted to gain an understanding of you as a condition for the assignment and it’s clearly had a transformative effect on you.

    I’m really looking forward to reading your next post!

    1. You, Amanda J, made my day with your response. It is wonderful to share feelings and know that they connect with others in a way that brings strength and growth us us both!

  2. As a group, it seems we share somewhat similar origin stories and probably ask ourselves the same question. I might add a second part to the question: “What do I know?”

    I’m not talking about labels. These seem to mutate into new terms and definitions with each passing year. I’m probably more interested (for myself) in what I know about myself with any degree of confidence and consistency. On any given day I may give a somewhat different answer.

    I have spent more than six decades of feeling different, and at various times, repressing and denying, and for the past two decades gradually embracing that difference, I am not sure what I know about myself.

    1. Kim,
      Word-ology is indeed both helpful and self-limiting!
      My gender therapist recommended a book: “How to Understand Your Gender” by Alex Iantaffi and Meg-John Barker.
      Listening to the audio version, I found it often dense and technical and a bit challenging to follow.
      Yet, the authors did help me understand that the gender spectrum is wide and varied vs clear and specific, adding weight to one work choice: “gender fluid”.
      Thanks for sharing your journey!

      1. I think “gender spectrum” is misleading because I don’t think it is one-dimensional. It’s at least multi-dimensional.
        I’m just a few years younger than you, and I think its about allowing yourself to be YOU.

        1. Good insight, Cali. I may be misunderstanding the difference between spectrum and multi-dimensional. To me it seems both allow us to be us!
          Food for thought! Thank you.

    2. Kim,
      Some get very heated about labels , looking back it’s possibly associated with finding US . I adopted them hoping they might help , the problem was others condemned me for using some of them and then tried to re-label me . It can be a confusing time but for many of us it appears to be par for the course , so many obstacles obscure the person we truly are , believing in who we are isn’t easy . We need our own space to achieve it and for many that space isn’t often available , so many aspects of everyday life satnd in our way . Sometimes we have to put our obligations and commitments to one side and try not to see it as a selfish act , we really must find time for US for our own sanity and peace of mind .

      I agree with your comment about the invention of new names and labels . It’s not only our close family and friends but the general public who we seek acceptance and understanding from , they often struggle with established labels when coming to terms with transgender issues . To keep inventing new ones can only confuse and possibly distract them . When we seek professional help it’s understandable that they need labels to be able to place us in the correct box but it needs care to avoid being placed in the wrong box , if a professional doesn’t give you the correct answers then we must be prepared to move on . I discovered they can’t give you all the answers the best they can do is give you a basic belief in yourself so you can work the truth out for yourself .

      1. Thanks Teresa!

        Yes, labeling is problematic unless it is food ingredients on a package we are buying. In my next blog I use Maya Angelou’s quote about being more that what is said or done, and all about how we feel.

        My gender therapist and Friend recommended a book “How to Understand Your Gender”. I listened on audio, so maybe that made it more challenging, but the long list of labels and terminology options left both my masculine and feminine brains tied in knots. Now I want to resist labels, other than Crystal, when I am. Or maybe I will wear the label that suits me that day like I chose my outfits!


  3. A two spirt identity is something I’ve heard before and I do think it fits well for most of us.
    I’m ok with my male side but my feminine side is much more dominate and didn’t become that way until I really embraced her and let her out.
    Ever since I was divorced I’m rarely in any male clothing now and even if I don’t work as Rachael I’m very fem at work and am grateful my work allows me to be me.
    We are who we are and while my life would have been much less complicated had I not been trans I’ve learned to accept myself

    1. Rachel,
      You seem so in balance and at peace with yourself.
      You are a wonderful example, and possible mentor to others.

  4. I say that there are 360 degrees to my personality and I enjoy all of them. My wife supports my female side for which I am grateful. I cross state lines to Louisville Kentucky where I am totally free to be me. I have found acceptance for myself. I go to church eat Sunday brunch even attend regular yoga classes as my true self.

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