• Stephanie Ashton

What You Waiting For?

Gwen Stefani, Love Angel Music Baby, 2004


How did I end up with a cat who resembles the cartoon character from the 1980s UK safety adverts for children “Charlie Says?” If I fail to feed him literally 5 times a day he meows and meows until I either feed him roast chicken, or I put him outside so I don’t have to listen to him...whereupon he glowers at me through the window. Whilst I am unable to speak cat I get the gist of what his meow means, “you are rubbish – where is the chicken.”


Kitty also has a distinct “where have you been?” meow that he reserves for when I have been out for the evening or away on holiday. Well Kitty, you are going to have to get with the script because for Stephanie, the greatest joy in life is to step out as a woman. Whether it is shopping, dining, partying, or just going for a coffee or a walk on the beach - I simply love to get out. I must admit that the feeling of stepping out dressed has changed over the years. In my younger years there was a feeling of excitement and edge at going out dressed, it felt like I was doing something naughty and it was exhilarating. That feeling has now given way to a sense of contentment; when I am dressed now, I feel whole, and my mind is calm and at peace.


So, what thoughts do I have to share on stepping out?


Let’s go outside...


Going out dressed as a woman for the first time requires at least one of three states to be achieved; a feeling of safety, a feeling of confidence and belonging, or not giving a toss what anyone else thinks even if "spotted." There are a number of ways that these states of mind can be achieved and as I described in my blog Atomic, in my case I felt both safe and confident in the care of my cis female friends. For other friends these states have been achieved through a range of options including going out first time in the care of friends or a cross dressing service, or just getting drunk to the point of losing all inhibitions before tottering off to a club.


There are of course a number of factors that erode the positive states of mind required to step outside dressed. For many the fear of being exposed or publicly embarrassed is the number one concern. My advice to dealing with these issues is to go out first time in the care of someone who know what they are doing, and far enough away from home that when you go out there is zero chance of encountering your boss or next door neighbour. My best advice is to go to a cross dressing service that does escorted trips - no safer way.


Another factor that effects how you may feel about going out is whether or not you identify as female. Blue versus Pink wiring. For gurls who identify as female I am strongly of the opinion that it is much easier to step out; we believe we have a right to be in public wearing a dress because we genuinely think in our heads we are female. However, it takes a lot more courage to step out cross-dressed for those folks who still identify as male/don't know. I have a lot of respect for people in this group because as one friend described it to me once; the female fantasy can quickly evaporate when faced with the reality of what they are doing, filling them with anxiety. They can feel like a fraud, waiting for every person they pass to expose them, point, laugh and abuse them. Yes, brave indeed to step out with this fear.


Style and Fashion


As with all fashion and style decisions in life it is a good idea to wear clothes appropriate to the places you are going to be seen. Wearing a librarian outfit to Torture Garden will be only slightly less bizarre than appearing in a high-class restaurant in Paris wearing PVC. Not to say you can't do these things of course - but you will get attention, desired or otherwise. And when it comes to passing, it is a good idea to put outfits together that a real woman would actually wear, as opposed to the sexualised image that may exist in your head. Many tgirls that start later in life have to go through what I describe as missing female puberty years, which can result in them dressing far too young or simply done up to look ridiculous. Think about your age - and what a woman of your age (or a little younger) would actually wear.


How to dress to pass is such a worn-out conversation I just don't want to rehash it. However, I will make two super important comments. No woman goes out on the town without accessories. If you step out looking too bare it will draw attention. I am not suggesting you need to wear the Queens jewels but adorning yourself with a bit of bling does help make the right impression. This includes belts, watches, rings, bracelets, earrings, sunglasses, nice coat, matching scarf or handbag.


The other comment worth making is super obvious but many don't get the memo; it is always a good idea to wear shoes you can actually walk more than 10 paces in without destroying your feet. In the same spirit as the Army, if you don't look after your feet, you are no longer mobile, and you are dead. So, before setting off to go dancing in club XOYO until 2am I suggest you consider if 6" heels are appropriate. I share this advice in good faith as I too made this mistake on countless nights out. I regularly ended up walking home from Manchester city centre in my bare feet whilst carrying the "Stilettos of Despair." As much fun as it was kicking hypodermic needles along the street on the way home, I woke up with my feet destroyed and wondering if I had spent a night in a coal tip given the colour of my feet. Nowadays, I make a point of always having a bag with me that is large enough to carry a pair of ballet shoes or flats. Just like all the other city girls.


Etiquette, Darling


For peeps that want to venture beyond the confines of trans venues and/or just want to pass as a woman, then it is super important to think about etiquette.


The number one give away that a gurl is a guy is not clothes, surprisingly. It is body language. I read a super article on human behaviour development a number of years ago that described the following concept that I will put in layman’s terms: human babies from an early age become programmed to identify face shape and form in order to determine if someone nearby can provide care and nurture or are a threat. In summary, from an early age we become programmed to distinguish male and female forms and body behaviour regardless of direct visual appearance.


So, when a genetic guy is looking to pass as a woman, we now have to modify our behaviour and body language to fool the inbuilt conditioning that others have been programmed with since childhood. This is not easy. Not easy at all. There are many blogs and videos on this subject that are much better than what I could write, but in summary these are my top tips:


1. Legs - always together when walking and sitting please


2. Short steps - Stop striding like a man and take small paces like a woman. This is also the key to walking in heels


3. Hair - Unless you are a 10-year-old girl stop playing with your hair!


4. Shoulders back - Feminine form is shoulders back and please don’t slouch like a man


5. Smile - It will lift your face plus, when spotted you will get a better reaction


6. Use the ladies - Better to talk make-up in the ladies than getting beaten up in the gents


7. Speech - We cannot just turn on a female voice but try not to speak like a Geezer


8. Drinkies - ordering wine or Prosecco is female. Ordering a pint of Ale is not


9. Act like a woman - This is a very broad statement but essentially try and act pleasant and in a manner like you belong in the sisterhood. Act like your wife or a girlfriend when you guys first got together :D


Company


There are some simple facts about stepping out in the company of others. When I was younger and stepped out with my female friends, I reckon my chances of being spotted were about 1/100. I was young, quite androgynous in shape, and in a group of cis girls who provided me with cover. So, lets change the situation. Instead of cis girlfriends you now step out alone. In this situation I reckon I have about a 1/50 chance of being spotted. That's sort of what it feels like when I go shopping in daylight etc.


If we now consider stepping out in the company of another tgirl, the reality is that you start to draw more attention and it is harder to pass. Two girls depending on level of experience have a 1/10 to 1/25 chance of being spotted. And then when you get to three girls and more you have about as much chance of passing as a group, as all three of you simultaneously becoming the Queen of England.


Of course, whether you are spotted or not should not bother you when stepping out in an environment that is LGBTQ+ friendly. However, as much as we like to think the world has changed there are many situations and parts of the world where you need to consider if your "visibility" may lead to risky and unsafe situations.


Heading anywhere nice?


Many peeps in our community experience and grow in their knowledge of dressing hand in hand with little forays out into the open. This may for example start with a walk along a quiet street at night or going somewhere in the car to a quiet secluded spot to see what it feels like to be outside dressed as a woman. It is then often the case that people in this situation think, but what next? They may want to meet others or have darker desires for companionship of various types. As a result, it is common for newbie dresses to then progress to tgirl friendly venues of which there are a number in the UK.


How we progress from this point then depends on a number of factors and feelings in my experience. Some dressers with limited access, resources, freedom or confidence may choose to stick to trans venues and are happy to do so. It is safe and they can be as naughty as they like in the right company, and in a relatively private manner. The desire to stay within the confines of a trans club may also be linked with a dressers realisation that they enjoy dressing but don't really identify female; as a result they simply don't enjoy the experience of going out in public. And that is fair enough.


However, for those who identify female and want to live as a woman, such as myself, the trans venues quickly feel very limited. Little more than a training ground. Also, in my case I want to meet nice guys, not the sort of over sexualised sex pests that tend to frequent trans venues. I should say at this point, I have previously spoken about trans venues in an honest manner and this has made me unpopular by those that love a night at BNO or Way out. I guess the point I am trying to make is that it is important to understand that my perspective and objectives are quite different to those that enjoy such places; I am done with living in the middle as a tgirl and simply want nothing more than to transition to being a normal woman. Having spent many nights in such places they now feel like an odd purgatory for me that I want to leave behind. That said, I do fully appreciate that such clubs provide a safe place for people in our community who have less confidence or just want to have some fun in private.


So, having laid my cards on the table where does Stephanie go out to play? Well, aim high baby, aim high. I frequent nice cocktail bars, nice clubs, lovely restaurants, go to the theatre, go to gigs, take in exhibitions and do all the same stuff that normal women do. And I love it. My personal view as a proud transgendered person is that we will never change the mass view of the populace by hiding in trans ghetto land. We have to get out there and show the world we are normal, decent, and intelligent people who deserve to be in the same places, have the same job opportunities, and enjoy our lives the same way as everyone else in society. I find that people in mainstream situations in most major European cities are always lovely if you smile, are pleasant, and behave appropriately. Maybe the world is changing for the better :D


So final remarks...


When you next step out make sure you smile, are positive and live every moment! For many of us the thrill of being dressed is because we are being authentic to ourselves and frankly, there is no greater joy in life than when our thoughts, words and actions are all aligned. It is called harmony.


Steffie

xx