A Brief Diversion – Going to the Symphony En Femme

I was going to post the next installment of my flying en femme trip but decided instead to post about going to the San Francisco Symphony last week. Going to the symphony en femme is one of my favorite things to do. A big part of it is that I like classical music and enjoy hearing it performed live. Another part is that the symphony (or opera or ballet) is one of the places that encourages getting dressed up. While lots of people wear casual clothes to the symphony, most people get dressed up to some degree. One finds few evening gowns or tuxes (except on certain nights) but there are many men and women who are dressed much nicer than usual. Thus its a great opportunity for escaping from the jeans and cords that I usually wear when I am out.  Another  reason I like the symphony is that it tends to attract more educated and tolerant people. Its unlikely you are going to run into rednecks or bigots at the symphony. More likely you will find folks who have refined taste, good manners, and relative sophistication, just my kind of people.

The SF Symphony occasionally performs at 2pm on Thursdays which makes it much easier to go than an evening performance. Fortunately I have a job with flexible hours and so taking off an afternoon to go to the symphony is  not a big deal. I can leave work at noon and be dressed and there by 2pm.

As I said, the symphony presents an opportunity for getting dressed up, although for afternoon performances more folks tend to be casual or at least in career-wear rather than evening-wear. I tend to wear a skirt suit when I go the symphony although I sometimes where a very nice dress. For evening performances most people wear black or perhaps dark blue (although there is always someone in jeans or in a brightly colored outfit). An afternoon performance allows a bit more color and so I wore my pumpkin blazer over a brown skirt and blouse. Its very “fall” and browns are good colors on me. I added some brown sandals with a moderate heel since I had some walking to do. It was a very “career” outfit and fit right in for an afternoon performance.

I actually arrived a little later than I wanted and so parked in a nearby parking garage. I did not have a ticket and so had to stop at the box office and buy one. I have done this enough times that I am very comfortable with the process. Sometimes I have will call ticket but most of the time I just buy it there. One of the first times I went to the symphony, maybe ten years ago,   a very nice gentleman came up to be and offered me his wife’s ticket! He told me his wife was ill and could not make it and I guess I felt safe offering it to me. I was thrilled both because the ticket was in a great location and it was sitting next to him! It was both a wonderful and awkward experience. I found myself sitting with a bunch of couples as his companion. He obviously knew all of them but was okay with me sitting there next to him. I kept waiting for him to make a pass at me or something like that but he was the perfect gentleman the whole time.  At intermission I got really nervous standing next to him trying to make small talk. Today it would be great fun but back then I was not so confident and just wanted to get away. I excused myself to go the ladies room and did not make it back until right before the performance started again. At the end of the performance I thanked him and left.  It was a great confidence boost in any case.

This time I was on my own to buy my own ticket. I asked the box office person for something in the second tier, which is very high up but relatively inexpensive. For the symphony it matters less where you sit since in Davies Hall one can hear the music very well almost anyplace. In addition all the musical pieces were unknown to me and so I did not want to spend lots of money listening to music I may  not like. I ended up with a $40 ticket on an aisle. I bought the ticket and presented it to the usher and went in. I was late and the performance had already started and so I made a stop in the ladies room to make sure everything was in place and then bought a bottle of water at the refreshment center.

When the first piece was finished I was allowed in and found my seat with the help of an usher.  I soon found myself sitting among almost a hundred little old ladies! I then remembered that the afternoon performances were popular with seniors since it was both in the daytime and less expensive than evening performances. There were rows and rows of them with nearly a man in sight. It was quite amusing. My brown hair really stood out amid all the gray/white hair.  I felt very young!

The rest of the performance, however, was less than thrilling . Like many performances these days, the SF Symphony conductor picked a number of more modern works to play first with older piece(s) being played after the intermission. You must sit through the tedious “modern”
 work in order to get the “good stuff” (your opionion, may of course, differ). The first piece which I missed was something that had been written in 1995. I don’t know what it sounded like but my experience with other such pieces leads me to believe I did not miss much.

The second piece was by Aaron Copeland and called the Organ Symphony. I had not heard it before but I was looking forward to it since I like other works by him such as the Grand Canyon Suite and Fanfare for the Common Man. Unfortunately I was not impressed by this particular piece. It seemed all sound and fury without much significance or melody. I was very disappointed. The audience seemed to agree as the applause was very tepid.

The intermission was after that the Copeland piece and I was ready for a break. The Davies Symphony Hall has multiple levels on which  one can wander about and since I was at the second teir, I went outside on a balconey-like structure that overlooks the streets. It  hold maybe 20-30 people. At night its really very beautiful as you can see the lights of the city and especially the dome of the City Hall. During the day it is less impressive. I went out there for awhile and sipped my water. Lots of people just stand there looking out and so I fit right in. Like most situations, it hard to say what people are thinking when they glance at you. For the most part, I received no reactions whatsoever and so felt just fine.

After the intermission the orchestra played Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony. I have always liked his works but I have recently become a real fan of this symphonies. My favorites are the Third and Fifth but I also like the Sixth. His ballet works are moving beyond words. I had not heard the Fourth and was looking forward to it. After the tedium of the Copeland piece, I was looking forward to something wildly romantic. I moved seats to a better location, closer to the orchestra and a little less crowded. I found a mostly empty box and sat down in a row with only one another person, a woman about the same age as I. She acknowledged me as I sat down but that was about it since the music started almost immediately after I sat down. There were 4-5 people in the row behind me but they were mostly wrapped up in their own conversation and generally ignored me.

The music itself was okay. The Fourth Symphony is not likely to become a favorite but it was mostly pleasant to listen to.  It had enough romantic elements to brighten my spirits and make the trip worthwhile.

Once the music was over I headed out. I made the mistake of taking the stairs and by the time I reached the street the balls of my feet were hurting from the heels. They were mostly comfortable, especially in the arch, but the ball of one foot was really sore. I walked back to the parking garage and got my car. I headed out and soon got stuck in traffic. I stopped on the way home and did some shopping at Marshall’s and Ross but did not find anything I really liked enough to try on. I am looking for a new purse but did not find what I was looking for. From there I stopped at a 7-11 to get a sandwich since I it had been a long time since lunch.  I was wildly overdressed for the place but the clerk twice refered to me as “ma’am” which was nice to hear.

Overall, it was nice afternoon. It was fun to get out and do something I enjoy and doing it in girl mode made it even more pleasant. The music was mostly to my liking. All my encounters with people were good and I appeared to generate no unusual responses from anyone. Life does not get any better.

Flying En Femme – Getting on the Plane

After getting through TSA security, I was feeling really good and added few more feminine touches: a little more makeup and some earrings. I made a stop at the ladies room and used the mirror to brush my hair into a much more feminine style. I felt things were going really well, far better than I had dreamed.

It was going to be a long flight to Atlanta and so I decided to get some food before getting on the plane.  I stopped up at a little sandwich shop and after picking out a sandwich headed for the checkout stand where I was met by a middle aged female clerk who as nicely as possible said:

“Will there be anything else SIR?”

Ouch…..So much for the good feelings…

I smiled at her, asked for a diet Coke, paid her, walked away toward the gate. I was determined not to let myself get rattled. I told myself “one cannot pass all the time, everyone gets read at times”. I sort of believed it and it made me feel better. After a short wait, my zone was called and I got in line. One last test remained.

I handed my ticket to the agent, she scanned it into the machine, gave it back to me, and said “have a nice flight”. The machine displayed my guy name but it seemed a total nonissue (except, perhaps, for the guy behind me in line as my name was clearly evident!).

Once again a big nothing. I was really wondering what I was so concerned about. Why exactly had I not slept the night before? 

I sat down in my seat and finally started to relax a little. I had done it. Here I was on the flight as Robin. Everything had gone better than I could have possibly hoped but my stomach was still in knots. I suspected it was mostly leftover anxiety and lack of sleep but I found it hard to fully relax. The person sitting next to me fell asleep soon after takeoff and so I was mostly left alone in my thoughts. I took a short nap and felt better.

What really got me relaxed was something that occurred a few hours into the flight soon after the flight attendants had finished with meal service. They had, for some odd reason, skipped the entire row I was in. I went back to let them know and was greeted with:

“hello ma’am, can we help you?”  

 I could have kissed them, right then and there.

 Instead I smiled and  told them they had skipped our row and they immediately apologized. I returned to my seat and they appeared shortly there after to provide drinks and snacks. I was felt much better the rest of the flight. I read some, talked to the passenger next to me, and generally enjoyed myself.

Everything had gone so well. Only one test remained.

Flying en Femme – Baggage Check and TSA Security

As I waited at the front of the line for the next agent. I scanned the three agents, trying to figure out which one would be the best one for me. Finally it was my turn and got a middle aged female ticket agent. I figured that was a pretty good option. I walked over to her, lifted my luggage up on the scale, handed her my preprinted boarding pass, my male ID, and waited for her to start laughing.

She took everything, glanced up at me, did some typing, and printed out my luggage tag. She attachéd the luggage tag to my suitcase and had the baggage handler lift it onto the conveyer belt. We exchanged a few simple words, she handed me back my ticket and ID, and said “gate 48, have a nice flight and thank you for flying on Delta.” She even gave me a pass on my 51 pound suitcase (50 pound limit).

No smirk, no comment, no nothing….this might be easier than I thought!

Still, I figured she was just an airline agent and probably really did not care. The real test would be the TSA agents. They are responsible for security and keep dangerous people (like me) off the plane. Still I was flushed with my success at the airline ticket counter and so  I applied some quick lipstick. My appearance was instantly more femme.

The security checkpoint was a short walk from the Delta counter and the line at it was not too bad, about 15 people and it moved quickly. I really did not know what to expect.  I soon approached the ID checking agent, a young woman.  I handed her my ticket and male ID and waited for her to call the police. She looked at them, verified my ID was valid,  wrote something on my ticket,  handed them back and said “have a nice flight”.

Wow, once again…Things are going really well.

 However the TSA still had a few surprises for me. As I put my things on the X-ray belt and moved toward the metal detector I was approached by another TSA agent and who asked me where I was going. The conversation went like this:

  •  (agent) Hello ma’am, may I ask where you are headed?
  • (me) Atlanta
  • (agent) Will that be for business or pleasure?
  • (me) I will be attending a conference there
  • (agent) What is the nature of the conference?
  • (me) It is a conference on gender
  • (agent) What will happen at the conference?
  • (me) There will be seminars and discussions
  • (agent) Thank you, have a nice flight.

It was oddly not upsetting. I was a little surprised at first but remembered to tell the truth and they were okay with what I told them. Looking back I am still surprised I was so calm. In retrospect the interview  sounds a lot worse than it felt at the time.

After that I went through the metal detector and did not set off any alarm but was motioned aside for additional screening (just behind the guy with the turban…). They were not done with me yet.

As I waited in a little roped off area, I heard the male TSA agent speak into his radio and  request an agent for a “female pat down” ( Yeh!!). I suddenly developed a great love for the TSA.  They did exactly what their policy said: patdowns are to be done by an agent of the same “represented” gender. Soon a young female agent showed up and instructed me to stand on the mat and spread my arms and legs. A quick pat down (nothing too private: legs, arms, back, shoulders) and I was free to leave with a “have a nice day.” My purse and notebook bag were not searched (beyond the normal xray).

I had clearly been given a more thorough check than usual but I was really okay with it. The TSA people were all nice and very professional. It was like they encounter TGs everyday (and in SF, they probably do).

I picked up my bags and started to put everything back into them. While I was putting my shoes on I watched the genetic woman who was behind me line getting an even more thorough examination than I. They were running the wand all over her, having her lift her blouse, and undo the waist band on her pants. They were being really sort of abrupt with her. She looked really embarrassed. Watching her treatment made me feel I got off easy.

I walked away from the TSA inspection feeling like I did not need a plane to get to Atlanta, I could just fly there all on my own. I was really feeling good.

Flying En Femme – Getting to the Airport

I live in the San Francisco Bay Area but there are closer airports to my home than the SF Airport. Still I chose I chose to fly out of there for a couple of reasons. The first was that the flight to Atlanta was a direct one and so I would not have to change flights. The second was I thought the staff there probably had seen everything and would not be shocked by me. Indeed years before I ever went out in public I saw a couple of very crossdressed guys waiting in baggage claim without the slightest reaction of security or anyone else. It is SF after all…

Still, in the days before the flight I grew increasingly nervous. My stomach was in knots 2 days before the flight. I imagined all sorts of terrible possibilities. Oddly enough I was not worried about what might happen officially. I figured at the very worst I could be refused entry and would have to convert back to boy mode. Likewise I really did not worry about being recognized by someone I knew. What I did worry most about was the laugh, the snicker, the comment, etc.

I went through the motions at home and work alternating between high anxiety and the calm of the condemned. The long Labor Day weekend gave me endless time to think about all the bad things that could happen. More than once I decided to drop the idea and just go in boy mode. At the same time I kept telling myself that I could do this and rationally the worst that could happen was really not very bad (i.e. be refused entry and have to go in boy mode).

The day before the flight I went to work in a rather nervous state. I barely slept the night before the flight (which left me exhausted and even more rattled). The day of the flight, I left home and changed on the way to the airport (I am really good at changing in my car). I drove to the airport and parked my car. My hands were literally trembling as I got out of my car. I was worried this would make the security types even more concerned.

I got my luggage and got onto the train that runs between the parking garages and the terminals. I frequently fly out of SFO on business and so the process was familiar and a bit comforting. I had often thought about how it would be to fly out in girl mode and now here I was actually doing it. I realized that I could actually do this and felt much calmer but I knew it was the calm before the storm.

Eventually the train reached the terminal and looked around to find the Delta check-in counter. I was pushing a luggage cart and so had to use the elevator to reach the terminal. I ended up sharing it would another passenger and we exchanged pleasantries without incident. It was a nice boost to my confidence.

I found the Delta counter and got into the baggage check line. There were about 10 people in front of me and so I had to wait. As I stood there, I initially was getting more nervous but after about 10 minutes, as I moved closer to the front of the line, I became calmer. Part of it was that I knew I was committed and the rest was the realization that I could deal with whatever came up. I was definitely on an emotional roller coaster. I don’t think I had been that nervous since the first time I went ou during the daylight in girl mode.  At that time I had gone out with a wonderful woman who worked with TG people in SF. She literally held my arm as we walked down a street in her neighborhood. I was so nervous I could hardly walk. Everything had gone fine with her and it opened up a whole new world for me. I hoped this trip would open up even more horizons.

Finally I was at the front of the line. I was next…

Flying En Femme – Getting Ready

Looking over what I wrote in my last post, it sounded  like my decision to fly en femme was one I simply made and then proceeded  to implement. The reality is almost completely different. It was a decision that ebbed and flowed many times. Actually, until the morning of the flight, it could have gone either way. I spent lots of time getting ready (and getting ready to get ready).

 Getting ready really started when I booked the flight a few months before the conference and at the time told myself that I would fly in girl mode.

I decided to do a search of the web to learn about the experiences of other part time TG girls who had flown en femme. There were a few but not a lot, especially in the past few years. Stories about what someone did pre 2001 or even in 2007 seemed ancient history. I found two girls who claimed they had done so recently: Meg at www.callmemeg.com and Kimberly at http://kimberlyhuddle.blogspot.com/.

 I went over their stories carefully and found that they had reported no problems with either the airline or the TSA. That sounded good but one can never be sure on the web whether a story is real or just some one’s fantasy. The TG world, especially, is full of fantasy and I worried that reported airline trips were just one more bit of TG fantasy.

 I also talked to other people of the TG community and several people said they “knew” of other people who had flown en femme (but had not done so themselves). Second hand information is always questionable.

 Then I tracked down and read every bit of TSA information that might have been relevant.While not addressing TG people directly, what I read seemed encouraging.  For example, breast forms for cosmetic or medical reasons are okay, need not be removed,  and not subject to the 3oz, 1 plastic bag rule. They also stated that when a person is to be “patted down”, the gender of the TSA agent doing the search must be the same as the “represented gender” of the person in question. “Represented gender” sounded really good since it suggests that represented gender might be different than actual gender (and that would be okay). Throughout all the TSA literature, they repeatedly stated that each person is to be treated with respect no matter their appearance. While this was probably directed more at religious and ethnic minorities, I figured it also would apply to me.

 All in all, it all sounded okay. A few TG girls had done it and reported no problems and the TSA seemed generally accommodating of “unusual” people.

 Having convinced myself that flying in girl mode was at least conceivable, the next decision was what to wear.  I decided I had three basic options:

 The first option would be to go really femme and present a very feminine look. This would include wig, full makeup, breast and hip pads, jewelry, a dress or skirt outfit, heels/pumps, etc. Leave no doubt that I am presenting as a woman. The TG girls that had flown had gone this route.

 The second option was go sort of a casual femme. It is actually how most generic women travel (and live) . It would include a wig, some padding (perhaps smaller breast forms), a little makeup, a little jewelry, unisex pants (i.e. jeans or cords), cotton top, and casual shoes (tennis shoes or boots). It is clearly a feminine look but sort of unisex at the same time. As I said, it is what you would see on most genetic women when they are not at work.

 The third option was a very androgynous look, a little femme but really sort of ambiguous. It could say female or perhaps effeminate gay male. It would include a wig and female pants/top/shoes but without much makeup or padding. A casual observer would likely conclude “female” while those who looked more carefully might conclude gay male. About the only difference from the picture on my male ID would be the wig.

 After much thought, I decided on the second option. The first seemed like too much of a risk, especially if I was refused entry and had to change back into boy mode to get onto the plane. The third option felt like a cop-out. Traveling in a unisex outfit with a wig hardly seemed like traveling en femme.

 My final outfit was simple: wig, women’s blue jeans, a casual ¾ length sleeve red top, a lightweight blue denin jacket, and low heel brown boots. I wore a little foundation, some colored lip gloss, a little jewelry (watch, bracelet but no ear rings), smaller breast forms that suggested breasts but left a little uncertainty. I also used smaller hip pads that created a slight curve. My wig was brushed in sort of a unisex style. The outfit clearly said “female” but not too strongly.

 I figured that if I need to go back into boy mode, it would be really simple: remove the wig and breast/hip pads and lick off the lip gloss. “Poof” I am a boy!

 I also thought that I could “femme it up” as needed by adding more makeup, jewelry, and brushing the wig into a more feminine style.

 This was an outfit I could fly in.

Flying En Femme – Deciding to do it

I fly a lot on business, sometimes as much as 3-4 times a month. While I often explore my destination as Robin, getting there is always a boy mode experience. I have often thought it would be fun to fly as Robin but its always seemed  like a crazy idea to actually do it given all the security hoops we have to jump through. Before 9/11, when all we had to do was pass through a metal detector and get on the plane it would have been a lot easier (but I did not do it then either).

Earlier this year I got close to as Robin but backed out at the last minute, settling for wearing a woman’s sweater, pants, and boots but otherwise being in boy mode.  However for the trip to SCC this year, I decided it was time to get more adventurous and fly there “en femme” as the expression goes. For most part time TG people, this is really a big scary thing to think about doing. For me, it was both scary and not so scary. Let me explain why, starting with why would was not so scary.

 The simple answer is that I have already gone pretty much everyone in girl mode. As I said above I do a lot of traveling on business and often spend free time at my destination in girl mode. I have been to dozens of cities without incident. I have gone to shopping centers, museums, concerts, trade shows, and gas stations without a single negative experience. Closer to home I regularly go shopping, to the symphony, to Renaissance faires, to dinner, to Church, etc without a second thought and without anything bad every happening. I am pretty much “out” to the world (though not to my family). About the only place I don’t go is to clubs (especially TG clubs) and bars (my reasons are will be a topic for another day). I can truthfully say that I have never had a bad experience while out as Robin. I have found people all over the country to be either completely clueless (usually men) or accepting (usually women). While I would like to attribute this to my wonderful ability to “pass”, a lot of it is more likely a combination of cluelessness and graciousness on the part of others.

 Thus the notion of moving through the airport, interacting with airport personal, even sitting on the plane for hours was pretty much of a nonissue for me. Been there, done that (more or less).

 What made it scary is doing all this while showing my guy ID. I figured I would have to show it (or the ticket with my guy name on it) to at least 3 people: the ticket agent, the TSA security personnel, and the airline boarding agent. Since I needed a car to get to the SCC hotel, there would be the 1-2 people associated with the car rental company. Given that there are probably several people at the security check, there would now be at least 6 people who could connect my boy and girl selves.

 Six people turns out to be about double the number of people in the entire world who can connect my boy self and girl selves. I have been out in the world for decades and only 3 people know both my selves.  All of a sudden, a lot more people would know including some in a very legal capacity. Simply speaking, that is what made it so scary.

 I had all sorts of dreadful fantasies about what would happen when I presented by guy ID to some agent. I had fears of outright laughter, snickering, shock, hostility, etc. I worried about getting strip searched by TSA or perhaps somebody yelling “I got a crossdresser here” across the room (remember the scene in the old Woody Allen movie?). I had even darker fears of somebody getting my name and address and secretly blackmailing me.

 Rationally I figured the very worse they could do was to refuse me access to the plane, but it took lots of effort to be rational.

 At the same time, I felt that it was time to do something “new”. Frankly I have been stuck in a rut for years in terms of my girl mode activities. Its funny, when I was first thinking about going out in girl mode, my grandest fantasy was simply to walk down the street in daylight. If I could just do this, I thought, all would be grand. Years later, getting dressed, going to the symphony, and sitting among hundreds of people for hours are things I can do without a second thought. It has been years since I did anything I considered to be “risky” and clearly flying in girl mode qualified as “risky.”

 So have decided to go, the next step was getting ready to go.

A Little About Me

Let’s start out by telling you a little bit about me. It’s a little complex and eventually I will expand on it but for now I will just cover the basics.  I am a transgendered person  who lives part of my time as a woman (“Robin”) and the rest as a man. For a long time (since I was about 12) I considered transitioning completely and living full time as a woman. At first it seemed an impossible concept (this was in the 60s – yeah I am old), then something I fought against, then something I was too afraid to do, and then something that would disrupt the lives of too many other people. After many hours with a wonderful therapist, I concluded that while I met all the conditions for transitioning, the least stressful thing for all concerned (including me) would be to simply live a quiet part time life as a woman. Its been almost 10 years since that decision and I am still mostly at peace with it, although I often wistfully ponder the road not taken,

 There is lots to cover on that subject as well as various adventures I have had while in girl mode. I also have some lessons and techniques I have learned over the years that may be helpful to others.

My first real topic, though, will be about my recent attendance at the Southern Comfort Conference (SCC). For those of you who don’t know about SCC, it’s the largest convention of TG people in the United States (and maybe the world). SCC is a very interesting event that takes place in Atlanta each year in the fall. It was my fourth time attending.  It always been an emotional time for me since being around so many TG people always bring up issues that I had hoped I had dealt with. This year was no exception.

But what I want to cover first is something that is a lot more exciting and that is how I got to Atlanta. For the first time I flew as Robin and not in boy mode. It a fun tale.

My First Post

This is my first blog. For a long time I did not have one since I did not think anyone would be interested in what I had to say. However various people suggested I start one since they thought that people would be interested, even helped, by what I had to say. I also thought it would be fun to see what I could write and how long I could keep doing it. I have always enjoyed writing but never get much a chance to do so.

 So at long last here it is.

 This is just a short first post to see how it all looks. I have lots more already written and I will start posting it soon.