• Stephanie Ashton

Fly

Epik High, Swan Songs, 2005


This blog is all about my various antics in the past six weeks and will hopefully soften the mood for my dear readers in the midst of Covid-19 hysteria. This blog also contains serious advice on dealing with flying as a transgender person, when your passport has not yet progressed to matching the gender you have chosen to present yourself in. A number of readers have commented on my positive attitude in this area and asked that I share my experiences. Well, dear friends, in the course of this blog we will take to the skies, after dealing with airport security and other such matters.

So, what has been going on in my world? Well, as I came to the end of my last job and life abroad, I had the opportunity and freedom to have quite a lot of fun. Even more than normal, you might say. Whilst trying to remain professional in my job to the very end, even I must admit that I switched off and coasted to the end in a spectacular fashion. Of course, I cannot deny that female life occupied a lot of my daily thinking time prior to handing in my notice, but during my resignation period I really went for it and acted with complete impunity. What would they do; sack me? So, as a result I frequently decided to not even attend work opting instead to dress up and go shopping. Did I bunk off? No. I think you will find I was working from home.


The pressure of working my resignation period

Normally this sort of work dodging is the antithesis of my very being, but some light relief was required. What has not been fun in the past two months was moving to a new house, moving country, sorting out tax matters in two countries, things broken in transit and dealing with mindless insurance adjusters. As I live so much of my life as a woman it simply cannot be all parties, shopping and photo-shoots with friends. Yes indeed, even Stephanie must deal with the tedious issues in life and in many respects, it is so important that I do. Why? Well because coming from a different perspective it challenges my true intent to be female and checks that it is not just a fantasy and an escape. I have to deal with real life as a woman as well. But fortunately, I find that whole line of discussion dull and that is the last time you will hear of any of those mundane pains mentioned in this blog.

So, let us rewind to the beginning of February because it was a rather jolly month, ignoring all matters to do with moving country. Now it has been a very wet and windy winter in Denmark, and I know many people will have mixed views about the season. For myself however, I simply love wintertime. There are so many things I love about this season including warm snuggly clothes, wearing faux fur anything, cosy blankets, cuddles, candles everywhere, skiing, roaring open fires (ideally not consuming your entire house) and maybe the odd warming alcoholic drink. What?! One or two drinkies is fine to keep the spirits up!

Now with the end of my time in Denmark approaching, I made a few last visits to favourite haunts to catch up with some friends before leaving the country. This included a night out in Aarhus that was so bad it was the stuff of legends. Yes, despite looking quite nice when I left the house, it was so windy the first weekend in February that I would spend most of my night fighting with my hair, fending off silly admirers and missing my friends for dinner, catching them only for a few drinks late on.

Yes, my last night out in Aarhus was rubbish and the only thing of interest to write about is the underground car park that took my car away on an automatic elevator. As my car disappeared into the ground I thought “goodbye car, thanks for taking me places.” Because I genuinely thought that I might never see my car again. Thankfully life improved from there on. My car was happily returned from the bunker under Aarhus at the end of that night, and I moved onto my next major adventure. And it would prove to be epic amounts of fun.


Yes, it is true that due to the lack of a full length mirror in my apartment I used Bilka to check out how I looked before going out lol

Yes, it is true that due to the lack of a full-length mirror in my apartment I used Bilka to check out how I looked before going out lol

For some time, the lovely Sarah Lewis and myself have been exchanging thoughts on doing a photoshoot together. For many months we have shared many ideas back and forth and let me say, some of them have been really quite outrageous… which if you know Sarah is quite a claim. I cannot quite remember when we first cooked up the idea of doing a shoot together as a couple but during the Christmas period, we seemed to agree that we would meet up for Valentines weekend and have some fun together. This would include Sarah coming to Boys Will be Girls in boy mode and offering herself up as a boy model for a couple’s photoshoot. Afterwards, we could then go out for drinks and dinner and laugh about all the silliness that would just have occurred. Is there a lot of gender confusion is this paragraph by the way? Yes, well welcome to the world of boys being girls, some of the time.

Now it cannot be understated just how incredibly kind and generous it was for another dresser to offer to come to Cindy’s in boy mode and not be even slightly depressed by being constrained. I am still in awe of being indulged in this manner and it speaks volumes about the kind-hearted and generous nature of wonderful Sarah.

Before we get onto the photo-shoot however, there are other exploits to share. Well, I am trying to maintain a sense of suspense and anticipation in my blog. True to fashion, on the day of the photo-shoot I decided to go shopping beforehand. Now I know from experience this is a really bad idea, because I get too involved chatting with people I meet and end up in a rush and/or super late. And did I go to a market nearby? Of course not. I took myself off to Camden to hunt round the market for trinkets. Yes, as many of my dear readers know, I love themed photo-shoots and the shops and market in Camden is a treasure trove for Retro, Vintage, Gothic, and even Futuristic styling. And did I get too involved as always? Absolutely.

Having fun in old London town

Midway through trying on my third dress in Sai two things suddenly came to my attention. The first was that I should really finish my research paper on the traumatic effects and fear that instantly grips the soul when you think you are trapped in a corset dress with no likelihood of escape. The second was that I was due to be at Boys Will Be Girls in less than an hour. Thankfully, the lovely lady in Sai fixed the first issue when she came to my aid, and I managed to wrestle the offending corset dress into submission. Then on finding a taxi outside the shop almost immediately (how lucky was that?) I started to make my way towards South London. Being late due to shopping and having to dash across London is such a stupidly familiar experience it does not even stress me anymore. Fortunately, the taxi driver was a proppa Londoner and got me to the right area with 15 minutes to spare. So, I popped into my favourite coffee shop in Shad Thames for a Latte and piece of Lemon cake. Yummy.

On arriving at Boys Will Be Girls (BWBG) the normal chats, fun and sharing of news and ideas took place and the makeover as always was perfect. As you know from previous blogs, I really love visiting BWBG and the normal level of silliness ensues, heightened somewhat by my new ‘male’ play pal. But Stephanie cut to the chase, how did the shoot go?!

When Cindy completed working her magic on myself, I went and found my male model who had arrived meantime and was going about the place with a look that was a mixture of bewilderment and total shock. Fortunately, Sarah had arrived with appropriate lubrication to help ease us into the occasion and have a good time. I am talking about Champagne of course! What on earth were you thinking about?

I would like to tell you at this point that we had a cunningly worked plan for pictures together but frankly we did not. Or if we did, it did not survive first contact. Instead, we just sort of felt our way through the session *cough* *cough* So, following the fun ideas presented by Cindy we ended up doing four sets that followed the life cycle of a relationship, but in pictures. And what a hoot we had doing the sets. We started with the couple’s first date, before moving onto courting, the proposal, the wedding and finally pictures of myself as a four-month pregnant wife. Yes, it turns out that Boys Will Be Girls really take the name seriously and I cannot deny I quite enjoyed the pregnancy bump, possibly a little more than I should have done. On more than one occasion I thought, has Cindy got me in wife training now? Oh well, if the cap fits…

The First date and Courting Pictures...or the B shots from those sessions

Now you may well be wondering how we both felt about the photo-shoot. For myself, I was in my normal happy place, but I was constantly thinking how odd this must be for Sarah to be standing here in the dressing service she frequently visits, but presenting instead as a boy. The good news is that I was completely right in this assessment of her thoughts. Throughout the shoot Sarah would have frequent WTF looks whilst trying to remember not to pose as a 1950s retro doll, and instead pose as a boy. I could clearly see she was thinking “how do I pose as a boy again? What is that like?”

The good news is that we soon got into the grove and as can be seen from the pictures, the wonderful person behind Sarah is a complete sweetheart who matched me in putting on some really great expressions for the camera. The official set of pictures are in my Gallery under Two's Company, but the pictures here provide a flavour of the fun we had together with Cindy and after hours out on the town. Sarah’s smiles, my shocked looks at his funny quips, and happiness at watching my male model off camera are all quite genuine.

The wedding scene, Four months pregnant, and after hours in Swift Bar Soho

The following day I went for a potter about shopping in the morning before going back to BWBG for a make-over and go. Sarah arrived in boy mode again and we then proceeded to Swift in Soho for cocktails before having a lovely meal at Balans Soho Society in the company of what seemed, every gay man in London. Happily, we set in about cocktails and were shortly very unconcerned about our surrounds. It was a really fun two days with Sarah, and I was ever so grateful for her company and great humour.

And so, we come onto the Sunday and it was time for more socialising before flying home. Checking out of the hotel at 11:00 am, I left my luggage at the hotel and popped back to Balan’s to meet Maya for lunch whereupon I was promptly placed at the table in the window. It felt like being displayed in a shop window, a sort of trans friendly shopping advert for Soho, but it did not bother me in the slightest. A wonderful lunch followed with Maya in which we did our normal trick of pursuing one line of conversation whilst parking a number of side conversations to return to later on! I am not even sure we covered half of the parked side conversations lol. We joke about this behaviour we have developed, but it comes down to Maya being such a lovely and interesting person…there is just so much to discuss.

Sadly, the time with Maya passed too quickly once again and it was time to go and collect my luggage from the hotel and go to London City airport. Now, I had originally planned to fly home in quite a low-key outfit as City is a small but very busy business airport, in which I did not want to attract any more attention than necessary. However, this plan had gone slightly awry as a result of a bizarre experience on the in-bound flight in which I had lost part of my casual outfit. What?! Did I not tell you about this hilarious story earlier?

No, well let’s do that story now. So, on the in-bound flight from Denmark to Standsted, I had been looking for my headphones on the plane and must have left my bag open. Later, as I sat on the Standsted Express to Liverpool Street, I was aghast to discover my backpack was still open and now only had one boot of a pair. One (sad) boot had obviously dropped out somewhere between the plane and the train. I was super fortunate that I had not lost anything else out of my backpack but oh no, my poor boot, lost and all alone somewhere in Standsted airport :(



So, going back to Sunday’s story, the practical consequence of this bizarre loss of footwear was that I now had no casual low key outfit to fly home in. Instead, I opted for my least dressy dress and a pair of black heels. Did this qualify as dressing down so as not to attract attention? Not in the slightest with my long legs on display but it was the best I could do. And so, I arrived at the airport, swung my legs out of the taxi and pulled my case over to the terminal. I had been trying to convince myself that I would get a fairly neutral reaction but not one man outside the airport missed checking out my legs and bum before looking up and being oddly confused. Oh, what fun.

Now I need to write about some serious stuff, so this is the time to get out your notebook and pen if flying en-femme is your next big challenge. Firstly, you should dress down a lot…yes I know, this is definitely a case of do as I say, and not as I did. Secondly, there are no problems presenting as a woman so long as the name of the booked ticket matches the name on the passport. It is vitally important not to book the ticket in a femme name that does not match your passport because in addition to not being allowed through passport control, in some countries it is actually a criminal offence to use a name other than that on your passport. In fact, in general terms, at no time should you ever try to pass under your female name with the police or other law enforcement agencies. I do not recall if it is a criminal offence as such, but I seem to recall it has bad consequences.

So, what else do you need to know about going through an airport en-femme? Well, I am an open and proud transperson and so address the matter head on with the public in a positive manner. I would encourage you to act in the same manner when dealing with people in public and not just in airports. So, I hand over my passport when checking in my luggage and openly inform the lady behind the counter that I am transitioning and that I am in my 2 year ‘trial’ period. Hmm, kind of true and I feel okay about making this statement as I do plan to transition. On this occasion the lady at the counter checks my suitcase weight and tells me it is way over the luggage allowance (bad Camden market...this is all your fault.) However, now comes a beautiful moment of acceptance; the lady smiles and tells me that on this one occasion there will be no problem checking my case in with no additional charges. Yet again, the sisterhood leaps to the defence of another sister in need.

Free of my suitcase, I now proceed through security with only my handbag. Wonderful. Now comes the real fun of security. After standing in a lovely que (I am British so love a good line to wait in) I arrive at the security conveyor and scanner. The attendant says, “please remove your high heeled shoes and place any liquids in the tray madame.” I smile smugly, remove my heels and I pop them in a tray before walking through the scanner. I remind myself that this is definitely not the time for any smart or gushing remarks and on this occasion the scanner does not go off and I go through and collect all my things. Previously I have had the experience of the scanner alarm going off in femme mode and if it does, you have the right to be checked by the female attendant and that normally results in some amusement when they touch down your silicon shape-wear or whatever you have on that is not really you. Again, face any challenge with a smile and it is not a challenge for long.


17:00 Prossecco reward for breezing security

Having popped my shoes back on and collected my handbag, I merrily walk off to the drinks bar and order myself a Prosecco as a reward for having made it through security in one piece. London City is not the most interesting airport in the world and when I am in Heathrow or a bigger international airport, I normally love to talk to the make-up ladies and have a good browse through duty free. However, on this occasion I decided to remain in the bar area minding my own business, partly because I am a bit over dressed for a Sunday night flight home. Finally, the flight board informs me that it is time to board the plane and so off I click along the airport to my gate.


17:45 On my way to the gate

When it comes to boarding and more importantly plane seating, my top tip is to book a seat either as near to the front, or back of the plane if rear entry is possible *cough* The practical reason for this is that you do not want to be in seat 18E and have to expose yourself to more of the plane than necessary. So, unlike my male self who would happily have injured people to be first in his seat (why was that?) my true female self waits until nearly everyone is on-board before gracing them with my presence. The practical value of this approach is that you minimise your exposure and indeed, if you are seated in business, you have the option to be last on and first off meaning very few people on the plane will ever see you, if some level of discretion is what you desire.


18:10 Happily installed in my seat. Okay, can we leave now please?

One of the truly wonderful aspects of flying en-femme is that there is none of the usual envy when observing an attractive air stewardess wearing something we can only dream about. Indeed, on that flight home my skirt was shorter, heels higher and my tights glossier. Eat it bitch. Oh sorry, did I just say that? I do apologise; it must be a result of the many years of pent up anxiety at not being able to dress like them on the plane.

So, as the plane took off from the air strip, I looked down on Central London with a new sense of wonderment at the glittering lights, when seen through the happy and excited eyes of my female self. I removed my faux fur coat and placed it next to the window and had a little snooze so I would be fit to drive home later. Maybe you might think it would be nice to stay awake and enjoy the experience but personally, I prefer waking up on the plane and having the delight of finding myself enfemme and ready for action.


19:00 Its a wonderful world really

And so now we come onto the next serious point about flying as a transgender person, when gender presentation does not match your passport: Getting through passport control at the landing destination. I can honestly say that in all my time flying I have never had any problems on landing, even when arriving into the super officious and busy Bush International or Chicago O’Hare. I do however follow the advice of my mentor and always carry a copy of my rights as detailed on the National Centre for Transgender Equality. These can be found at this site https://transequality.org/know-your-rights/airport-security.


But surely this is only for the US right? Well, the US Transportation Security Authority (TSA) rules are not global however they are often used hand in hand with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) standards, which do set a global standard for aviation practices. And so, it is a reasonable starting point if challenged in the airport about your identify to make a case based on these rules. And why might you need to do that?


Well, if passport control either at point of departure, or point of landing, are unable to ascertain your true identity then they have a right to ask you to remove your wig (assuming you are wearing one) and any other items they believe necessary so they can determine who you are. In response, you have the right to ask that this is done in a private location with female staff (certainly true in EU and with Homeland Security.) Now, as I say above, I have never had to invoke these rules but my mentor has on more than one occasion outside the US and it did work. So, if you are considering flying en-femme for the first time then hopefully my experiences might take some anxiety out of the idea of doing it.

21:30 Accepted back into Denmark once again. Phew!

Fortunately for myself on this occasion, I am once again flying into super relaxed Denmark and the only comment I got from the female Politi officer as she looked at the picture on my passport was “wow that is surprising change.” I simply smiled and responded with “Mange Tak” before happily clicking away along the paved concourse in my heels to collect my luggage. Having retrieved my car, I then had a rather tedious drive home in torrential rain, arriving at my apartment at 10:30 pm. I had promised to tell people various I was home safely (Anna, Sara, Ashlee…) and whilst I started the tedious task of unpacking and getting my washing on, it was lovely to think back on the weekend and all my special friends who I love and who care about me too.


10:30 Back home safely and hair tied back so I can get on with my washing...oh joy

Final Remarks


February proved to be a lot of fun and a big thank you to Cindy and Sarah for a really fun photo-shoot. It was lovely to catch up with Maya and chat with all my friends online constantly as I do. The common theme that this blog has with so many of my tales is that if you approach situations with a positive outlook then you have a fair chance of winning over the public at large. It is always good to remember that when we are pleased for tolerance and kind words towards us, it is important to reflect these back into the world through others. All the wonderful people involved in my many adventures really make life special and it is their kindness and love that gives me the courage to be who I want to be and do silly things like flying home in a midi dress and high heels.

Hang on a minute though? Was that all that happened in February? Well, no it was not but the final weekend with Anna in Copenhagen deserves its own blog. Until then take care my lovely readers and remember to wash your hands xx