Because I have decided to transition to living as a woman 24/7 before too long, I dress more or less en femme in public everyday, mainly shorts, jeans, blouses, shoes or sandals, jewelry, light make up and nails. Usually, everyone accepts me, especially at work, and never comments beyond a friendly “I love your shoes”. The crossdresser’s code of having confidence in your appearance, and not being too outrageous to fit in (Oh, and don’t forget to smile) has always held true for me. I look and act like a woman and am treated as such, not as a freak or some pervert. Most people don’t take the time or energy to search out the flaws in my appearance. They see what they expect to see. On a very weird day this past week however, all that changed.
Normally, I have a lot of confidence in my appearance and don’t suffer from much anxiety when I am out in public. But there are places where my anxiety level rises, places where I am jammed in tight with other people and open to their close scrutiny, like the train, the subway or waiting in line for something.
The first thing out of the ordinary that I noticed about that day, which should have warned me that it was not to be a normal one, was that there were quite a few more people waiting for the train than usual. I work 7-3 so I take the early train. As a rule there are only a few people that ride it, and they are regulars who do so every day. I feel comfortable in the half empty train cars riding with people I see everyday. But this day was different. When the train came every seat was filled, and they were many unfamiliar faces. I found a seat by myself between two seats full of chattering office ladies, whom I had never seen before. I think the thing which makes me feel the most “naked” to other people is my pink-painted nails, (I really like having pink nails and I refuse to change them for anything.), and in close in situations like this I usually try to keep them hidden. However, when I got up to leave the car, one set of these ladies noticed them, pointed them out to her friend, and they began to twitter disapprovingly and look in my direction. I was so embarrassed. I couldn’t wait for the door to open and let me out of the car.
Things continued to be weird at work. In the elevator people who had never done so before, commented on my shoes (pink Converse sneakers); a contractor passed me in the hall and broke out laughing; A woman colleague came to see me in my office, and was obviously uneasy in dealing with me. I couldn’t figure it out. Why was I sticking out? Why were people noticing me? After all, I wasn’t wearing anything outrageous. I had on a pair of (ex)boyfriend jeans, a black blouse, jewelry, nails, sneakers, bra & panties. Pretty much what I always wear! But the worst was yet to come.
On the subway home, soon after getting on I noticed a man across the car apparently staring at me. He took his sun glasses off, as if for a better look, and it was obvious he was definitely staring at me. It was hard to tell what his intentions were. Since he was a hunk, and I thought maybe he was cruising me, I took my sunglasses off, and gave him a good look at my face. I have never been cruised before, if that was what it was, and I began to feel distinctly uncomfortable. He continued to stare with a look that could have been either predatory or hostile. I wasn’t too pleased with this, whichever it was, and began to feel I was drifting into a dangerous situation. Then to my great relief when the train stopped at the next stop the man got off. But rather than walking for the turnstile or down the passage, he turned and walked directly down the outside of the train car toward where I was standing by the door. My anxiety level went through the roof because I thought he was going to enter and stand right next to me. Instead he fixed me with a piercing glare and literally hissed/spat a deeply offensive gender slur as he passed. I was floored. I had never heard so much hate in someone’s voice before, especially directed at me. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know what I could do. I spent the rest of the ride home as if in a dream, or in shock. What had led him to pick me out from the crowd? I have always prided myself on fitting in. Eventually I came to realize it was the little things, the things that I love, that make me feel like a girl, and that make me feel comfortable everyday– my sneakers, my nails, my rings. If someone notices them and puts them together with the rest of my dress, there is little doubt I am a CD, since I don’t wear a wig and my hair is not quite long enough to pass as a woman. (I’m working on it.) As CDs, we literally live at the mercy of human nature; usually people are too lazy and uninterested to really scrutinize the appearance of those around them. The rule is “What you see is what you get”, thank God. Except for on some weird days, like this one last week, when everyone is alert to the details of everyone else’s appearance for some reason. I for one hope they come only once in a blue moon, and I’m not going to let fear stand in the way of being and dressing like who I am.