Ed note: This was edited to reflect changes that have occurred between 2000 and 2016.
Many labels and designations are different today but the scope of this article is still relevant.
You’ve found us on the Internet and now you
know that you aren't alone. Tens of thousands of other men, some say hundreds of thousands, regularly try on their wife's bra or panties,
slip on her dress, or jump into that jumper when home alone. They enjoy those nylons, the feeling of that smooth, sensuous lip color
as it covers their lips, or they enjoy the sight of "their" breasts protruding from their own blouse. Even if it is only a pair ofsocks quickly stuffed into a borrowed bra.
You've read all of the various Transgender related Internet Home Pages and you know that you may not be conventional but you sure aren't sick or perverted, just, well, different. You've decided that you want to make contact with others like yourself, to learn more, perhaps even take your first step out the door, perhaps to a local gender support group meeting. So what do you do now?
Privacy and Security
Some Transgender folksmake a decision to take that first step out of the closet, but in a burst of determination and courage, forget the realities of our world. It IS important that many of us take that step cautiously and that we plan it carefully so we don't burn any bridges behind us. After all, once the world knows, they know, and you can't make them forget.
This article is intended to help you take that first step out of the closet without too much risk. If you are the Chief of Staff for the White House, the local State Assemblyman, a CIA Agent, or a priest, you may want to use a bit more caution or discretion than we propose here. But if you are a normal guy subject to normal scrutiny, you may be making too much of those concerns and paranoia we all feel. I remember my first determination to go out of the house "dressed". I called the local support group contact person fully expecting that the number would be a local deputy sheriff staking out the phone for the purpose of catching" perverts". Intellectually, I knew that I was not doing anything wrong but I was scared to death and totally paranoid. Well, forget it. Local law enforcement has more to do than bug gender group phones and raid local TG Support Groupmeetings and actually have receivedtraining on gender issues.
When I arrived at the local group meeting for the first time I came en "drab", that is "Dressed As A Boy", planning to use the group's changing facility. Nevertheless, I circled the motel parking lot several times to make sure no undercover cop was taking down tag numbers. (I had a cover story ready about how I was a freelance writer attending a meeting to gather information for a story.)
After years of attending local and regional gender group meetings I can tell you the real truth. A local county sheriff's deputy may circle the hotel parking lot, but he's making sure that no one is mugged, including us. Hotel management know and support us. They like our money just as much as they like the money from the tourists and others who use their motel. Maybe more since we book our rooms for a year in advance. No one cares who we are and the police are too busy with real problems to even notice us.
I subscribe to the theory that who you really are is no one's business. The group leader will want to know your real identity because members and visitors are screened for the good of the group. I made sure, before giving my real name to the group, that the membership list was private, was never loaned or sold to anyone for any reason even other gender groups, and was under the control of only one or two group leaders who understood the policy on privacy. Who I really am and where I work is my business. The fact that participants at our meetings are screened is to my advantage.
My first phone interview with the local group leader was a mutual interview. I was as much interested in her comments and answers as she was in mine. I realized that nearly every Transgendered person has a similar story. The whole crossdressing "thing" is so similar in all of us. When I hear another TG telling her story, I think she is telling my life story with a minor twist. It takes one to know one and it doesn't take long on the phone to know that you are talking to a fellow Transperson or Crossdresser and for her to know that she is talking to one as well. Use the first phone interview to interview the group leader about how they will protect your identity and privacy.
But First Things First
Before you can get to the interview you should have an identity; a feminine persona. Pick a name, one that you feel comfortable with. Changing your name can be inconvenient, so try to get a good name the first time around. When I began using a femme name, I had difficulty thinking of myself as this other person. Now, I am totally comfortable with my feminine persona and tend to think of my feminine identity more often than my male identity. I wish I could be re-born and re-named all over because I'd pick my femme name! Your best "First Time Out" is through one of these groups or organizations. You can go dressed as a guy, dress as a girl while there, and progress at your own speed. You can refine your look, and as you do, you'll learn to be comfortable going out in the real world should you wish to.
When I first began to participate in CD group activities, I went dressed as a guy and changed there. When you think about it, that's the least secure way since everyone sees you as you really are and you can be identified. But what if you do run into your boss there? Maybe you can borrow his skirt or loan him your earrings! He sure won't tell on you. I once attended a national convention and met a great CD who I found I had a lot in common with. We were both involved in outreach to other CD's so we decided to exchange "real" business cards so we could remain in contact. When "she" handed me "his" business card I was shocked to realize that he is one of my business customers and I had been in his office only a few months before on business! This experience created a greater personal and professional bond.
Ed note: Over the years I have run into people I knew on three occasions including another TG I once worked with and a couple with whom I’d had dinner with only two weeks earlier. At no time was there a glimmer of recognition. People see what they expect to see.
I have become comfortable driving over to the local monthly support group meeting dressed. The greatest risk is getting
out of my driveway, avoiding the old woman across the street who sits on her porch and gathers every bit of information on every neighbor
she sees. I drive with great care and realize that when I'm in the car, I look like any other woman driving. What's the big deal?
I do carry a gym bag in the trunk with what one CD calls "escape clothes", a pair of jeans, a T-shirt, sneakers, a pack of "baby wipes",
some Vaseline, and nail polish remover to quickly remove make-up in an accident or if the car breaks down and I have to deal with
the AAA guy or hitch a ride to the next interchange. I carry my cellular phone. I rarely drink and drive anyway, but I never drink
and drive when dressed. I had a friend who was arrested for DWI while dressed and it ruined his whole day. Jail is bad enough but
when you are the only one in a dress it can be a bitch.
I'm acceptable and today I go anywhere I want. I travel on business weekly and my femme garb is always with me. I've been to restaurants, malls, bars, theaters, concerts, parks, museums, and even Times Square. I've taken cabs, subways, and cable cars. But I'm still discreet. I never go out in my own small town or at my own regional mall. And I never go out half dressed.
Who You Gonna Tell
Once you confide in someone, your secret is out. I'm aware that many
TG’s and CD's feel the need to confide their secret to someone. But I caution you to think carefully about this before taking the
step. Just as important as whether to tell is how and who to tell.
I've heard many people say that they told a special friend at work.
Usually that friend is gay or lesbian. You should be aware that many people simply can't keep secrets and gays and lesbians who are
"out" often feel that you should also be out and that you are hypocritical if you are not. Even major gay publications have "outed"
I'm not going to tell you not to tell others. But I will tell you that you are playing with fire if you tell others at work or if you tell friends of the family. If you tell a friend, expect he will tell his wife. If you tell a sister, expect her to tell your brother. If you tell your teenage daughter, expect her to tell her boyfriend and her next boyfriend and her next boyfriend and expect the boyfriends to tell their friends.
Several CD's told me they felt the need to tell their family doctor. I didn't and I won't. I am friendly with my doctor and thought I knew him until I found out he is highly religious and part of a conservative congregation. I'm certain he would not understand and I would lose the services of the best doctor I've ever had.
If you take hormones, your doctor must know. If he didn't refer you to your specialist, he still has to know your whole medical picture. But to tell a doctor just so he or she knows is foolish in several ways unless you’re transitioning. Everything that your doctor writes into your medical file is protected by HIPPA but could possibly be accessed by your insurance carrier.
Respecting Other's Privacy
You have a responsibility to others as much as they have a responsibility to you. TG’s and CD's who do exchange identities should never share that information with any third party. Never give any information about another sister. "She's a dentist" or "She's a general contractor" or "She's a teacher" is too much information to share. I am uncomfortable if sister introduces me to a new member by saying, "She's from your suburb," or "You and she are both engineers."
Remember that others do not always feel privacy or secrecy are important or necessary. Anyone who knows is a risk. They may be nice people with good intentions but they could still be careless or thoughtless and could cost you a career, a wife, or public embarrassment. I've seen it happen.
If you are in public and happen to recognize a fellow CD inDRAB (Dressed As A Boy) do not approach her if you are Crossdressed unless she invites you to do so. Don't address her by her femme
name when she is not dressed en femme. Don't discuss the subject or give any little "insider" hints if she is with someone. That someone
might already suspect, and that "hint" might be the one that spills the beans.
If you are just coming out as a Crossdresser and you have no way of buying clothing, make-up or other supplies like breast forms and wigs, here are some tips.
The Internet can be a great resource. You can buy make-up (search on "Mary Kay", "lipstick" or any of several other key words), wigs, (search on "wigs"), or visit specialty sites advertised as gender friendly on several of the major crossdressing home pages (search on "Crossdress" for links to gender friendly businesses). Place your order by email or phone (paying by money order), if you prefer. Some companies offer make-up kits with everything you need to get started.
I ordered breast forms through the J.C. Penney catalog (Today it would be online). Who cares what the lady who answers the phone thinks. I told her they were for a woman with cancer the first time and the second time I told her they were for me. She didn't believe me the first time, I'm sure, so why lie. She'll never see me and she doesn't know my mother!
I'm a size 16 so I found mail order catalogs (again, online)that fit most of my needs before I ventured out to the Mall. I ordered by mail using money orders rather than my credit card since some companies won't ship to an address other than that of the card holder. Most good mail order houses allow returns. I've bought wigs, clothing and other items by mail.
Getting An ID
I wanted to stay partially in the closet but I wanted an ID in my femme name with my femme photo, too. I don't carry it in my wallet because my kids sometimes raid the wallet for allowances, but I keep in my purse so that if I'm stopped when out and about while dressed, I have something with my feminine photo on it. I think it's best to show the traffic cop that this is not some impulsive act but a part of my lifestyle. Ed note: In Florida, this is unnecessary.
Going Out For The First Time
OK. You've got your wig, your make-up kit, and your best dress. You have your courage and you're like the dead atheist, all dressed up but with no place to go. Now what? Many of us start by taking a short car ride. This is good. Drive safely. Remember that you are relatively safe. Few can identify Marmaduke in a Dress through a car window--unless you drive a distinctive day glow orange '57 Chevy pick-up truck and everyone knows it belongs to you. A drive through town can help you get rid of the jitters. Ed note: This is what I drove during my first three years with the group.
Many take their next step at the Mall. This can be a mistake. Not going to the Mall, but making it your next step. Going public isn't as easy as it looks. There are two ways you can go out--alone or with a friend. I can guarantee you that your chances of being "read" as a man in drag are excellent if not totally assured if you go in tandem with another. One CD can pass. Two rarely can. I pass 99% of the time. My friend does, too. Together we get read by 25% of the people we pass. Go figure.
Your next step should be to refine your look. I sit for hours in public places studying women--how they dress, how they act, and most important, how they dress and act. The major mistake many CD's make is to try to act too feminine. Women have a way of walking and acting but it isn't stylized feminine. It is natural, and natural is real hard to achieve. It takes practice. Just don't over do it. If you can videotape yourself when dressed as you walk and move and sit, then critique yourself, you'll learn to correct your mistakes.
The next thing many CD's do is to overdress for the occasion. You may feel great in bright red lipstick, long blond hair, or a short dress that will make any teenagers envious, but if you are 6', 280 pounds and age 55, it just isn't going to work. Dress your age. Dress for the Mall if you go to the Mall. Real women don't wear a formal or heels! And 55 year olds don't buy their clothing in the Juniors department. In my opinion, the biggest mistake is a poor selection of a wig. It not only must look natural, it must be appropriate for your age. If you only have one wig, it must be an all occasion style, not high style or glamour style. Sixty year olds don't wear long sexy blonde hair and leather skirts--at least not to the Mall.
I think that picking the right wig is the key to solving most problems. When I am read it is because of my hair (or my voice, of course). I spent a lot of money on a good wig but even a good wig can look like a wig. Choose wisely. Older women wear their hair shorter. Look around you. When you study women, study women your age.
Choose styles that won't get you noticed if you are marginally passable and want to pass. When a very large women enters the room the tendency is to look at her. What we see is a very large women--natural and feminine by birth. When you walk in the room at 6'5" and 280 pounds, people look and see someone who has to play catch up. If you want to look feminine you have to work at it. Sticking out like a sore thumb is not good--if you want to be accepted.
A guy needs every advantage to feminize himself. You probably can't go out au natural--without makeup and in jeans--and look feminine. If you choose to wear your own hair as opposed to a wig, remember that it has to be feminine. Anything that isn't feminine detracts from your illusion. A woman can wear a masculine hairstyle and get by because everything else, from her features to her walk, is naturally feminine.
I take great care with the details. I put on an extra coat of mascara because my short stubby lashes need help. And above all, I shave with great care and have spent a small fortune experimenting with beard covers to find what works for me. A midnight shadow is a dead giveaway.
When shaving, I use a Trac II razor. An electric razor just won't do it for me. I shave many times with great care, pulling the razor in every direction--with the grain, against the grain, etc. I use a fresh razor each time I shave before dressing. If you don't do the shaving right, you won't cover the beard. It takes me about 30 minutes to remove the beard, then I cover it with a very light coat of yellow make-up. It's yellow color neutralizes the bluish color of a beard. You can buy this stuff at the cosmetic counter.
I know that I can almost always pass if I stay groomed. I touch up make-up regularly. I check my hair and overall appearance at every mirror I see. But I know that my voice is a dead giveaway. So when I make a purchase, I try to anticipate the questions and have an answer ready. "Cash or charge" is met with the $20 bill in hand, for example. The one that always gets me is, "Paper or plastic" in the grocery store. I've learned to whisper an answer and point a lot. But what the hell. Since I never go out to my "regular" neighborhood stores, if I have to answer and be read, I figure I've exposed another human being to a reality of life--transgender people exist.
You can control your coming out process. Come out gradually and you will learn a great deal about the next step to take to come out further. Tell others on a need to know basis. Make ground rules for others to follow. If you don't want them to tell others about you, tell them so. When you go to that group meeting and you are planning to run for Mayor next election, you best avoid having your picture taken. Many groups take photos for an album. This can be a problem for some people. Make the photographer aware of your wishes.
And if you take your wife along to a meeting or event, it's a real good idea that she avoid having her picture taken since she's not "in disguise" in any way. The First Lady with the Mayor in Drag! I can see it now. I've been cautious in this article and I hope I've given you a healthy respect for what might be a problem. But I hope I didn't discourage you from exploring your full feminine personality in a way you can only do in public. Life is too short to live in a closet.
Ed. Note: On passing, our group promotes a philosophy of acceptance. Very few of us are truly passable and it’s not necessary. Your goal is to present as a woman who is aware of herself, has confidence in herself, and sets the expectation that she is to be treated as the lady she is. The reality is that if you do this, you’ll almost never be challenged. You may be “read,” but so what? Simply return the puzzled look with a friendly smile and the odds are you’ll receive one in return.
Taking Your First Step Out Of The Closet
by a Central Florida Crossdresser, written around the year 2000