Early on a Sunday morning, the neighbours are all still sleeping, I start for a ten-hour-ride from Frankfurt in Germany to Vienna, the capital of Austria.
Without a stirring of astonishment or an odd look the receptionist at the hotel check in counter accepted my male data and my male signature. I handed him my VISA-card with my male name. Again no reaction of astonishment nor any questions, as if it was the most natural thing on earth. By the way, now, ten years later, I always book a hotel and check in with my femme name.
A self-assured appearance and manner and a good passing are unalterable requirements for a crossdresser to be accepted, be it while shopping or standing in the queue of the checkout in the supermarket or the theatre box office or when paying with your credit card or when travelling on the underground, train or bus or when ordering a meal in a restaurant.
In the magnificent Café Central with live piano music I am being treated with overwhelming friendliness. Of course the customer is king, but this is not to be taken for granted. I give the waitress a smile and she smiles back. A smile is the prettiest thing you can wear and it will open the hearts of people. Finally I ask her to take a picture of me. “Of course” she answers and I give her my camera. Everything seems to be so easy going. At the end I thank her for the friendly service. She smiles: “That goes without saying and come back soon.”
I am not a Catholic, but I like attending the service in the big cathedrals. I like the organ music and the echo of the heavenly sounds in the vast cathedral. Sometimes a shiver runs through me. A nice gesture in which I am always included quite naturally is the request of the priest: “Reach out your hands for peace.” Believers around me stretch out their hands, take my hand and I reply: “Peace be with you”. I am included in this ceremony without questioning. As if it is the most natural thing in the world.
As I have lunch in a pizzeria near the cathedral, the waiter serves me in a cool and reserved manner without a smile. Has he got a problem with me as a man in women’s clothing? I observe him quite a time and realize that he treats the other guests in the same objective manner. This is probably one of his characteristics. At the table next to me there are two gentlemen from Vienna with whom the waiter laughs and talks a lot. Evidently they are regular guests. The waiter knows them personally.
The next day I visit the castle of Schoenbrunn: 1400 rooms, among them 40 state rooms, the lively guide and the vividly presented stories of Maria Theresia and Sissi are real highlights. The guide and the other tourists accept me as one of them and I even dare to ask some questions. I feel really at home right from the beginning. The big mirrors in each room tempt me to look into them and the mirrors tell me: “You look good, your makeup and hairdo are perfect”. Isn’t that typical for a crossdresser to always look into a mirror whenever there is an opportunity? Isn’t that an expression of our narcissism?
With the beautiful sunshine all the seats in the garden restaurant are taken. There, an empty table. I hurry to get a free seat. Later a lady asks me: “Do you mind me taking a seat at your table?” For me this request is a sign of acceptance. I am no outsider.
Before the concert in the evening I again go to the pizzeria with the reserved waiter. He recognizes me, smiles at me, leads me to a free table and asks me if I again want a glass of apple juice. The ice has been broken.
The concert was unique: Beethoven, Tchaikovsky and a modern composer. Next to me sits a gentleman with a grim face when I realize that his wife has a separate seat a bit farther away. I offer the gloomily looking man to exchange seats so that he and his wife can sit together. The man’s face brightens and a broad smile appears on his face. He thanks me profusely, while I move to the single seat of his wife.
The trip to Vienna was an experience for me that furthermore strengthened my self-confidence. During these five days I have learnt an important lesson: When you cast off your male macho behaviour or your shyness and timidity and move around with your head up and with self-confidence, when you are dressed decently with decent makeup according to the respective occasion and surroundings (that is why I always observe the ladies how they dress and move around), there will be no odd looks. On the contrary, you will fully be accepted as a ‘real’ lady. Even a small talk will be no problem and will break down barriers. And do not forget to smile. Women smile more often than men.
This encouraging trip now lies ten years back. Up to now I have never had a negative experience when moving around in public.
Have courage and step out of the dark, confining closet into the bright light of freedom. The reward will be an overwhelming experience.