My encounter with the police

For my first “real” post, I thought I would write about my experience with the California Highway Patrol (CHP). For those of you not in California, the CHP is primarily responsible for law enforcement on the state’s freeways and major highways. They are statewide group and is the closest thing we have to “state police”.

I suspect that an encounter with the police is one of the most frightening situations that most TGs can imagine. Part of the concern is real as one does hear stories of TGs who have been insulted, harrased, arrested, or even injured by police, especially TGs of color. The biggest part of the fear is simply that someone in a position of authority will discover the “real you” and you will be officially “outed”.  I know I always had such a fear and so made sure that I obey every traffic rule when out in girl mode.

Until that day about a year ago.

I was on my way to the home of my BFF who had graciously allowed me to work at her home during the day. I am fortunate in having a job that can be done almost anywhere and so I spent several days a week working at her home while in girl mode. It was a really great time that I will write about another day.

Anyway, I was on the freeway and approaching the exit to her home. There was some stopped traffic up ahead and so I moved to the right in order to get to the exit. There was a solid white line on the right side of the road that I crossed in order to get around a stopped car. I had done such things in the past without a second thought. I noticed a CHP officer standing by his car but did not think much about it (afterall I was not speeding).

As soon as I crossed the line, his flashing lights went on and he waved me to pull over. At that point I was in full casual girl mode (jeans and tshirt) . I thought about a quick change (removing wig, wiping off makeup, removing some padding, etc) but given how close he was it did not seem like a good idea.

He walked up to my car and asked for driver’s license, registration, proof of insurance, etc.. He was very nice about it all. I was also very nice and pleasant. At the time, I had no idea what I had done wrong.

Now just to make things even more interesting, it turns out that I did not have my driver’s license with me. I had lost it about 6 weeks earlier while on a business trip (I think I left it in a rental car). I had made an appt for get a new one but the delay to get an appt was about 8 weeks.

So here I am in girl mode, stopped by a CHP officer for a traffic offense, and I have no driver’s license. I am oddly calm. I feel like I should panic but I sort of figure what is the worse that can happen and so I don’t.

I do have an old expired driver’s license and so hand that to him along with registration and proof of insurance. I make a brief comment about how its an old license and how today I don’t look like the picture.  He takes everything and walks back to his car. He had been totally polite the whole time.

After a few minutes he comes back and explains the nature of my offense and wants me to understand that crossing the white line for any reason, except for car breakdown, is against the law. He also explains that I need to get to the DMV ASAP to get a new license.

At that point, three wonderful things happen.

The first is that he lets me off with a warning about crossing the white line. He says to be careful not to do it again.

The second is that gives me a citation for not having a valid driver’s license. If I get license with 60 days, the fine is only $25.

The third (and best part) is that in the “Gender” field on the citation, he has placed an ‘F’ !!! I have been officially recognized as a woman by a CHP officer (despite having my boy name on the rest of citation) .  This alone was worth the $25 fine. I had to turn in the original when I paid the fine, but made a copy of it. It is one of my prized possessions!

I assume that he thought I had transitioned and that my comment about not looking like I did on the license confirmed that to him.

Overall it turned out to be a good experience. The officer treated me with complete respect the entire time as I did him. Getting stopped by the police is often a stressful situation but in this case, it went much better than expected. It was a great confidence boost.

Of course, it probably helped that it occured in Northern California, about 20 miles south of San Francisco,  and on some back road in Texas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Knock, knock, is anyone there??

It has been about 3 years since I posted anything to this blog, even longer since I did a lot of posting. There are several reasons why I stopped posting.

I got busy at work and at home and did not have a lot of time to post. .

I ran out of things to say. It turns out to be hard to keep coming up with new material. When one starts blogging it seems like there are too many things to say but eventually one runs out of new thoughts. I seemed to be repeating myself.

It all seemed sort of unnecessary and dull. There are lots of interesting YouTube TG posters with videos that are way more accessible than a written blog. There are thousands of TGs on Facebook posting everyday. TGs are now out in public without apology. They even get their own TV shows and appear on the cover of major magazines. I doubted whether  the thoughts and experiences of one semi “out” TG added anything to the conversation.

I was also sort of disappointed with the lack of comments to my postings. I wrote and wrote and seldom got any feedback. I have come to realize that lack of comments means almost nothing. I follow several really great TG (and other) blogs that also seem to get virtually no comments. I also realized that I seldom comment on other blogs, even those I follow daily, and so comments (or the lack thereof) mean almost nothing.

Finally, sloth…I just got lazy

So why do I want to start blogging again?

First, Donald Trump was elected President and his follows want LGBT folks to disappear from public view. By writing this blog I am refusing to disappear. I will be one more voice  that will not go away. I know I am just one person but presenting my thoughts and activities will add to all the LGBT voices and make sure we don’t just go away like they want us to.

Second, it will be a way I can record all the activities and adventures I have experienced as a part-time TG girl. The last 3-4 years have been a wonderful time for me. I have gone out as Robin more than ever before and done things I could have never dreamed of doing (and some I may have  had nightmares about,  such getting stopped by a California Highway Patrol officer for a traffic offense) . I have also gotten much more comfortable in my “femme skin” than ever before. Given my life situation, I am unlikely ever to transition to full time but at this point I am as comfortable in girl mode as I am in boy mode. For a long time I felt oddly limited when in girl mode. I enjoyed it but lacked a certain confidence in being out. I went to lots of places but also avoided others.   I just want to write down what I have been doing and hopefully others will find it interesting and maybe a bit encouraging.

Writing things down will also help me to remember all the wonderful times I have had, both alone as well as with good friends.

Third, it will be a place where I can write about TG (and nonTG) things that interest me. I changed the title of my blog from “part time robin” to just “Robin Elaine’s blog”. In the past I wrote about just TG things but now I want to write about more than that. our new president, the next few years will be challenging for everyone and I want a place where I can write about it. Even if no one reads it, it will feel good to get my thoughts out.

I hope to write something a couple of times a week but we will see how things go. I have lots of “adventures” from the last 3 years that I want to get down in writing and so I may be living in the past for a while but I hope to mix both new and old adventures to keep things interesting.

–Robin

 

 

 

 

Exploring Gender Perceptions on Airplanes, Part 3

Hi

About 6 months ago I took a couple of plane flights in what I called “Semi-femme” mode in order to see what reactions I received from people. By “semi-femme” I mean wearing female but mostly gender neutral clothing and a wig but without any makeup, padding, or other female indicating items. In the case of this trip I wore a long sleeve patterned tshirt from Kohls, dark blue Gloria Vanderbilt jeans from Costco, and black ankle boots that had a very low heel. I also wore a zip up sweatshirt/hoodie that actually came from my boy closet. I wore my normal medium length wig but brushed out so that there was only a hint of a curl to it. My belt also came from my boy closet. I carried my regular work brief case and small suit case.

The flight was from Atlanta to San Francisco. I had previously flown to Atlanta wearing essentially the same outfit(I did change my tshirt) but without the wig. I knew of some coworkers who would be at the airport about the same time as I would and so did not want to risk running into them (I did encounter one and so my caution paid off). On the way back there was no such worry. It was an interesting test case because on that flight all I received was “sirs”.

I went through security at Atlanta wearing everything but the wig. I was feeling a little wary and so felt safer leaving it off for that part. Later I slipped into a “family” restroom, put on the wig, and brushed it out. After a short time, I left. I had quit a wait since my flight was delayed and so wandered around the terminal a bit. I received some odd looks but was mostly ignored. I ordered some food and it was clear the person who took my order was uncertain how to respond especially when I ordered in sort of an inbetween voice (a little higher than my normal male voice but lower than my normal female voice). It was sort of fun to explore gender boundaries without the worry of “am I passing or not”. I was just dressing as me and not trying to be overtly female.

I did not get my upgrade on the way to Dallas and so sat anonymously in coach. The fun began when I got to Dallas.

Due to weather my flight departure was delayed almost 3 hours and so I had lots of time in Dallas. Eventually I got hungry again and so went to one of the many fast food eateries there. Again I ordered in my neutral voice and got my first “ma’am. I just smiled and paid the bill.

I had put into for an upgrade and so eventually went to the gate to check on it. When I got the counter the agent asked if she could see my ticket “ma’am”. When she got the ticket with my male name, she really did not react but also did not respond with either a “sir” or a “ma’am”.

While we were boarding the plan, the agent taking my ticket (a different agent than at the counter) also gave me “thank you ma’am” when I gave her my ticket. I just smiled and went down the ramp to board the plane.

I did not get my upgrade and so I was sitting in coach again. Right before takeoff the agent who took my ticket came up to me to tell me that my upgrade had come through and I could move up to first class. There was some confusion among the the various agents/flight attendants as they alternatively referred to me as “he” or “she”. I ended up in a seat actually assigned to another passenger (he had moved to sit with his girlfriend) and so the flight attendant ended up really confused. She was very friendly and touched me on the arm/hand/shoulder several times during the flight (something that never happens when I am clearly in boy mode).

I eventually arrived at SFO without further incident.

The experience made me feel very good about my feminine presentation. Afterall, if I could get repeatly referred to as “ma’am” without really trying too hard, I should not worry much about it when I add the “extras” (makeup, padding, jewelry, purse, etc). Normally “passing” is not difficult for me but this gives me even more confidence. It is also interesting to think about what are the real female cues that people rely upon. In my case a wig was enough to push me from a clearly male to an ambiguous/female gender presentation.

In some ways doing semi-femme is more fun than full femme since I am not worrying about “passing” (since I am really not trying to pass as anything but me). I get the wear the clothes I like without the worry!!

robin

My Boudoir Photoshoot – Lights, Camera, Action!

Hi,

This is Robin and this is the latest update on my boudoir photo shoot.

After over two months of thinking, planning, worrying, excitement, fear, it was finally time for the photo shoot. I had driven like mad from San Francisco to the Concord Hilton Hotel where Denise was waiting. I carried my garment bag and pulled my suitcase into the lobby where I met Denise and her young (~3 years) son, Billy. I had a momentary sense of panic since the thought of doing the boudoir shoot with a young boy being in the room was really uncomfortable for me.  I quickly relaxed when Denise said that her husband was going to come by the hotel and pick up Billy.

Between Denise with all her photo gear and me with my dress bag and suitcase, we had a lot of things to get to the room. Fortunately a bellman with a cart was there to help and we were quickly in the room. I unpacked my dress bag and showed Denise the different outfits. She agreed to go with the blue skirt suit and silver/blue formal. I hung them up in the closet and sat down to wait for the hair stylist and makeup artist to arrive. The stylist, Cassandra, was the first to arrive and so we started with the hair.  I had worn a slightly longer wig than I normally wear since she could do more with a longer wig. Before starting to work Cassandra asked me about my wig since she was concerned that if it was made with synthetic hair then styling with her curling iron could damage it. I assured her it was all human hair and so she could do anything she wanted with it. She put wrap around me and went to work on my hair. She mostly curled it and fluffed it out a lot. It was fuller than I normally wear but quite suitable for the occasion.

The makeup artist, Natalia, arrived soon and they were both working on me at once. It was quite  a nice experience, Denise has a picture of it on her Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/capuredmomentsbydenise, scroll down to “lucky lady”).  I wanted my makeup to be relatively natural and so Natalia’s  job was easier. I was already wearing my own makeup and so she mostly touched up the foundation to even things out. The eye makeup was likewise pretty simple, just a little color. The new thing (at least to me) was the false eyelashes. In all my years of dressing in the closet and in public, I had never used false eye lashes (I rarely even use mascara!). They mostly seemed like too much work and so hence violate my “20 minutes to get dressed” rule. I was also slightly worried that they would not come off.. (I know it is a silly thing to worry about). Anyway Natalia trimmed them, glued them on, and then applied the mascara. I was surprised how good they looked. I may even try them again sometime.

During this whole process Billy was lying on the bed watching the TV (you can see him on Denise’s Facebook page). At one point he asked his mother what was going on. Denise told him that girls liked to get pretty and Cassandra and Natalia were helping Robin get pretty. He was satisfied with that and returned to the TV. It was really cute. Soon after that Denise’s husband arrived and picked up Billy.

My hair and makeup were nearly complete when I remembered I was wearing a t-shirt that needed to come off before I could put any of my other clothes on. Cassandra said to just take it off and then she would touch up my hair. “Boudoir time” was about to start and after a moment’s hesitation, my t-shirt came off and I was standing there in my bra in the presence of 3 young women, two of which I had just met. To my pleasant surprise none of them missed a beat and continued on as if it was the most natural thing in the world. They were soon touching up my makeup and hair as Denise continued to setup her photo lights and other things.

It was now time to get ready for the first scene. I picked up the skirt suit, underwear, and shoes and went into the bathroom to change. Somehow it seemed safer to change in private even though I was about to take most of it off again. Don’t ask me to explain… I quickly changed into the suit, checked in the mirror that everything looked good, and was ready to go.

I had asked Natalia and Cassandra to leave while the photo shoot went on and so they soon left. I thought I would have a hard enough time relaxing with just Denise without adding two more people I had just met. Denise said they often like to watch the shoot so they can fix up hair and makeup as thing progress. In retrospect it was a silly thing to worry about but at the time it seemed important.

Denise says on her web site that she will not leave you standing around waiting and she is right. From the time I stepped out of the bathroom, there was constant movement and posing. She poses each shot and you have to “hold” it while she positions herself and takes the picture. We started with a picture of me entering through the door, then another of the same scene, then I sat on the table while she snapped a couple more pictures, then to the closet holding up the formal for another shot, then  remove jacket, click, then unbutton blouse, click, then unzip skirt, click, click, click, click until finally I am lying on the bed in my bra, panties, and garter belt trying to look my sexy best. No time to think, to worry, or to be embarrassed. Before I knew it the first scene was over and it was time for the formal dress. I realized I had just undressed in front the camera and nothing bad had happened!! In fact I was feeling rather good about the whole situation.

I gathered up the skirt suit and set it aside and got the formal from the closet. The bra and panties were exchanged for the blue “merry widow” and the formal went over it. I had Denise help me zip the dress up and then the next sequence started. Stand by the closet, click, sit on the sofa, click, click, turn sideways, click, unzip dress click, drop dress to floor,  click, lay on sofa, click, move to bed, click, click, click. Before I knew it that scene was over. By this point I was much more relaxed about the whole process. It was lots of work but also lots of fun. I started to feel a little sad that it would all soon be over.

The Rene Faire scene took the longest to get ready, mostly because there was more to put on:  camisole, chemise, pantaloons, full skirt, and  lace up bodice (with lots of ribbon to lace up). There was also the rough fabric to lay on the bed to make it more “rustic” plus the candles plus some other props like a purse and flowers for my hair (very peasant looking)…

The scene went by quickly as well with Denise posing me for every shot. Sit here, click, lift skirt, click, unlace bodice, click, click, click (it takes a while), lift chemise over my head, click, click,… Before I knew it that scene was done. Only one scene left 😦

The construction worker scene was intended to start out as a very masculine image and then gradually become more feminine with the hard hat, work shirt, and jeans being left behind to reveal a red bra and panties, sort of the “woman within”. In talking about the scene later with Denae, I realized it was sort of a TG metaphor but I was not coImagensciously thinking about it that way. It just seemed like a really different kind of boudoir photo shoot.

I entered the door wearing my hard hat, tool belt, and work clothes, click, click. Then I sat down on the sofa and took off my boots, click, click. Then I laid back and “watched tv”, click, then opened my shirt, click, then I moved to bed with my shirt more open, revealing the red bra, click, click. Then ….the hotel room door opened…

It was Denise’s next appointment, my two hour photo time was nearly over! Cassandra and Natalia walked in the room along with young woman who was to shoot after me. In a typical hotel room, there is not a lot of room for 5 people, including one who is partially undressed! I briefly glanced at her and I suddenly felt very old and ugly. She was young, trim, beautiful, and had long brown hair. She was made for boudoir photos… She was doing the shoot as a gift to her husband on their first wedding anniversary. She and the stylists slipped into the bathroom to start work on her hair and makeup while Denise finished with me. We clicked a few more pictures but my time was done and so I had to pack up and leave. We sort of left the scene unfinished which was okay since I really wanted to get out of there. I  stuffed everything in my suitcase and garment bag  as quickly as I could. I put my shirt back on from the construction worker outfit.  I was ready to go in no time at all.

As I was packing Denise mentioned she had taken over 250 pictures in the 2 hours we were shooting. That works out to a picture nearly every 30 seconds or so and that does not count time spent changing outfits. No wonder I was tired. It is hard work being a model!!

I thanked Denise and slipped out of the room, down the elevator, and headed to my car. I spent the next 15 minutes in the parking lot repacking my clothes into a more orderly arrangement. Despite my rushed exit, I felt really good about the whole time. It was fun, it was relaxed, and I wondered what exactly I had been worried about. I was treated wonderfully by Denise, Natalia and Cassandra. All my fears and worries turned out to be completely groundless.

Next time, getting the pictures and some  final thoughts on the whole experience.

I have included a few more pictures from the shoot.

robinImage

My Boudoir Photoshoot – Getting ready for the shoot and getting there (with pictures)

Hi,

This is Robin with the third installment about my boudoir photoshoot session. When I finished the last installment I thought I would describe the events leading right up to the photoshoot itself (which will be in part four), but since I wrote it it occurred to me that there were a couple of things I wanted to mention first.

The biggest of these was may face to face pre-meeting with Denise Linley, the photographer. Part of the package I bought with the Groupon was a pre-shoot consultation in which I would meet with Denise to see some examples of her work, plan our session, and generally get to know one another before the shoot. I was looking forward to meeting Denise in person since by that point we had exchanged lots of emails and I had grown to really like her. I also wanted to see more of her work although she had posted a lot of it on her website. At the same time I was a little nervous about it since she had little experience with TG people and so I did not know what her reaction to me would be. Its one thing to be pleasant when exchange emails with someone and quite another to meet them in person. Again,  I asked myself what is the worst that could happen and  I realized it was not very bad (she decides not to do the shoot and gives me my money back).

Since I would be doing the photoshoot in femme, it was a forgone conclusion that I would meet her the same way. We planned to meet in a Starbucks near her home in Walnut Creed around 6pm. I was coming from San Jose and given the traffic I allocated a couple of hours to drive up and get settled. I dressed in my “usual” outfit consisting of Gloria Vanderbilt jeans and a patterned t-shirt (usually from Kohls). I picked my purple jeans with a purple and black long sleeve top. I added my favorite black ankle boots. I thought the outfit was suitably casual. I left work early, changed, and drove up to Walnut Creek. I arrived much earlier than I expected and so had over an hour to kill. I did some shopping (at Kohl’s – I know I am in rut) and got some food at a local gas station mini-mart. I arrived at the Starbucks about 10 minutes early, bought some water, and waited. Nobody there paid me much attention but I still sat there a little nervously waiting for Denise. A little sm28after 6, she walked in the front door and I waved at her.  She was easy to spot as she has beautiful long red hair and bright blue eyes. Her glasses were also quite distinctive. She greeted me warmly and we sat down to talk.

She had brought a book of containing photos of previous clients to show me more examples of her work. I really liked all the pictures. She asked me why I was doing it and I responded that it was mostly that I wanted some nice pictures of me. We talked about the shoot and how I wanted it to unfold. All my fears vanished.  She treated me just like any other client. The TG issue never came up. For someone who had never dealt with TGs, she was absolutely fantastic. I left our meeting trying to figure out what I had been worried about.  I had realized that Denise was someone I could trust in such an intimate setting and thus I could really do the photoshoot. I was feeling really good about it now.

At the meeting we had set a date in early May for the photoshoot and I was really starting to look forward to it. I put together a list of all the clothes I would need as well as some props we would need. For the Rene Faire scene, we agreed that the hotel bedspread would not look suitable and so I tracked down some really course  brown fabric (made from recycled soft drink bottles!!) that we could use to cover the bed. I found some candles that would give it some “mood”. For the construction worker I bought a tool belt and brought my “hard hat” that I had acquired years before. I arranged all the clothes in a garment bag and big suitcase. I ended up bringing way too much extra stuff (“is 3 extra sets of stockings too many?  How about 4 robes?” , you get the idea).

I also watched Denae’s video on “Photo Posing” to get ideas on posing (Denae is a former fashion model and so had lots of experience posing for the camera). The video gave me lots  of ideas.

Soon the date drew near, Friday May 5th. I often find that it takes me a little while to get my movement and voice into full “femme” mode and for the shoot I did not want to rush the transition.  I had some business travel that week and decided to the “extend” the trip so that I could spend at least 24 hours prior to the shoot in femme. When I returned from the trip I checked into a hotel near San Francisco airport and unpacked everything. It turned out there was a performance of the SF Symphony that night and, as readers of this blog know, going to the symphony and ballet are some of  my favorite things to do. They were performing pieces from “Early Beethoven” and given I like his work, I thought it was a great way to spend the evening. I had brought both a black and a blue skirt suit for the photo shoot and since I had already decided to wear the blue one for the photoshoot, I wore the black one for the Symphony. I added a cream silk blouse and some dressy sandals and was ready to go. I did not have time to buy a ticket on-line and so had to get one at the ticket window at Davis Hall. I stopped at the bar for a bottle of water and found my seat.

Overall I found the performance disappointing and was relieved when it was over. Evidently Beethoven’s skills developed a great deal over his career and his early works were simply not very inspiring to me. I left feeling like I should have just gone to a movie (it would have been cheaper).  I went back to my hotel and went to bed.

I awoke after a restless night and felt sort of tired. I was still sort of nervous about the shoot. I kept asking myself if I was really going to let Denise take pictures of me in my underwear but figured I was committed at this point. I also felt that it would really go okay and I had nothing to worry about.

The photoshoot was scheduled for 3pm and so I had much of the day free. I had wanted to wear a skirt that day and so brought along a nice brown corduroy one. I added another Kohl’s top and some flats. I checked out of the hotel and spent the morning shopping and having lunch. I needed to be in Walnut Creek (actually Concord since Denise changed hotels) by 3pm. I wanted a chance to shower before the shoot, change into fresh clothes, and redo my makeup . Unfortunately I could not use my hotel since it was after checkout time. I knew there was a shower facility at SF Airport and decided to try it out (in femme of course). I had a small suitcase and so looked like a typical weary traveler looking for a quick cleanup. The young woman at the shower greeted me warmly and showed me to my

private shower/changing area. It was only $15, a great deal for 30 minutes. I took a quick shower, put on clean clothes (crop pants with yet another Kohl’s top – I am truly in a rut), and was out the door. I decided that I was going to become a regular at that place, especially when going to SF for an evening event. It is much nice than changing in my car!!

I got on the freeway towards the Bay Bridge with an hour to spare. It was only 2pm and so I figured traffic would not be too bad….wrong.

I reached the bridge and stopped. I barely moved for 15 minutes. It was now 2:15, then 2:20 with little progress. We started moving a little faster and then stopped again. It was approaching 2:30 and I was barely on the bridge. I was starting to panic and felt all my femme composure slipping away. I figured it would take me at least 30 minutes to get to hotel from the bridge. I was almost ready to call Denise to let her know I would be late when things suddenly opened up and I got across the bridge. Driving slightly crazy I reached the hotel by about 2:55pm. I found a parking place, unloaded my stuff, and headed to the lobby to meet Denise. There was no turning back now…sm13

I have included a couple of pictures from the shoot. More will come in future posts.

Next time: the photoshoot.

robin

My Professional Boudoir Photoshoot – Deciding to do it and finding a photographer

Hi again

This is Robin, a occasional contributor here. I want to write about a recent experience I had doing a “Boudoir” Photoshoot with a professional photographer. It is going to take a while to cover the whole experience and so this is just part one.

Like many TGs I enjoy pictures of myself “en femme” and have taken many over the years. Unfortunately I have found that they are generally terrible. The lighting is off, the skin tone wrong, the angle is unflattering, the makeup either washed out or excessive, the posing awkward, the camera out of focus, some body part is cut off, the camera used  not very good. You get the idea, dozens and dozens of terrible pictures. This experience is not uncommon, you can see thousands of them all over TG sites on the web. For a long time I had no local place to take the photos and could do so only on business trips. I would pack a suitcase full of clothes, drag it through multiple airports, unpack it all in some hotel room, try to fit in a shooting time among business meetings, come up with some lame explanation to a coworker why I had such a large suitcase for a 2 day trip, etc.. I would go through all this work and get lots of terrible pictures. I tried different camera, bought photo lights, switched from film to digital but little changed. They were just awful.

Furthermore when I started doing it I used film and so had both the cost of film and developing to deal with as well as the stress associated with having strangers (the film developers) see me en femme. I had nightmares that some friend had a night job at a film developer and recognized me. Costco once mixed my pictures with those of another customer. Trying to locate them made for an interesting experience….

I pretty much gave up on photography in the last few years.

Recently I decided to try it again with my new zillion pixel digital camera. I lugged a huge suitcase from San Francisco to Boston, took lots of pictures, and had them mostly turn out terrible. I deleted the whole bunch. I decided I had to come up with something else or just give up on photography in general.

I do a lot of Groupon scanning, occasionally actually buying something. One of the regular “specials” are photo shoots from various local photographers. The typical proposal is a hour of shooting, a couple of actual prints, and an opportunity to buy additional prints at some discount. One might pay from $50 to $150 for this service. Different photographers have different specialties: family, individual, outdoors, fashion, and “boudoir”. I looked at the various offers and tried to decide which one to do.  The outdoor ones seemed safest but kind of boring. Studio shots seemed more interesting, boudoir shots seemed the most unlikely of all (I am not exactly a 25 year old model or transition TS with lots of surgical “enhancements”).

I did not do much on this front for a few months, as I tried to decide what to do. I thought that going through all the stress of a real photoshoot and then ending up with a handful of pictures hardly seemed worth the effort. Then in February of this year I noticed a new Groupon from a San Francisco based photographer who specialized in boudoir photography, Denise Linley at http://www.momentsbydenise.com.  She offered a hair stylist, makeup artist, an hour of shooting, and a picture book of 40 pictures for $250. It was an amazing deal compared to what else was available and was too good to pass up.  I figured since she was based out of SF, she had probably experienced everything including all sorts of TGs and well as other assorted San Francisco types. Nothing would surprise her.  I decided to send her an email to see what she thought about the idea. I figured at worst I would get a polite refusal. Even if she said okay, I could still back out. The notion of laying around in lingerie while some total stranger took pictures of me was scary beyond words. At the same I had been playing things “safe” for so long that I felt it was time to do something slightly outlandish. My previous “crazy” action was flying en femme (documented in this blog) which turned out completely okay. Afterall what is worst thing that could happen (other than she is some former coworker who now has a new career).

One night in a rash moment  I sent an email to Denise asking whether she would be okay doing a boudoir session with “CD/TG” types and waited for a response. I received nothing for two days. I figured this might be her way of saying “no” (i.e. “lets just delete the email from the weird TG”) but decided to resend the request just because email problems do occur. She responded quickly time indicating she never go the earlier email. She indicated that she was interested in a shoot  but did not know what “CD/TG types” referred to.

That was unexpected…It goes to show that despite the best efforts of Ru Paul and the Discovery channel, lots of folks don’t know about us. I sent back a short note describing the range of TGs (the two paragraph “your guide to TGs”) to which she responded with “that’s cool, if you want to look like a girl you have come to the right photographer”.

That was also a little unexpected (but very nice). It was now decision time. I had a photographer willing to do a boudoir photoshoot of me, was I really willing to do it? The possibility was now real and really scary. I would have a real hairstylist and makeup artist (not some TG “transformation” specialist) do their best on me so that I could strip down to my underwear, lay around on a bed,  and have a photographer whom I had never met take photos of me. They all assured me they would be fine with it, but I was not sure I was fine with it. I had this odd feeling in my stomach….

After a restless night, I decided to go with it. Afterall, what is the worst that could happen?? I sent Denise the payment and started thinking about what exactly I would wear.. I was committed (or perhaps I should have been committed).

Next time: deciding what to wear and sticking to my decision.

robin

Exploring Gender Perceptions on Airplanes, Part 2

Hi again.

As I mentioned in part one, I took a couple of trips in sort of “semi-femme” mode in which I wore relatively androgynous clothing and a wig but no makeup, padding, or other clearly feminine “indicators.” The clothes were a simple woman’s patterned t-shirt and jeans. The shoes were ankle boots but without much a heel and little overtly feminine about it. I wore my wig in a simple manner, pretty much straight with just a little curl. My goals were to “dress” but without the associated stress of trying to “pass” and also to see how people would react to me, given a somewhat androgynous look. I tried this out on two cross country flights. I wrote about the Miami trip last time, now I will cover the Boston one.

The t-shirt I wore was a “daisy fuentes” brand bought at Kohl’s. I really like the style and colors of this brand and have bought lots of them. They are mostly patterns of one kind or another. This one was blue, black, and white in sort of an abstract pattern. It was long sleeve. The jeans were black Gloria Vanderbilt ones I bought at my other favorite fashion place, Costco. The boots were black with really no heel at all.

The trip from SFO to Boston was generally uneventful. I got one ma’am (again at a food place in SFO), a couple of “sirs”, but mostly genderless responses. The only really interesting test is when I picked up my rental car and had to present my license. My picture had short hair and I had long hair but the Avis counter person did not say anything.

The trip home was a lot more interesting. I was fortunate enough to get an exit row seat with no seats at all in front of us. I was a little late getting on the plane and so I rushed on with my suitcase and computer bag. I knelt in front of my seat and was unpacking things when a flight attendant came up to me and asked “Miss, can I help you with something?” This was a really nice surprise (especially the “miss” part). I looked up and smiled at her and responded in my best femme voice, “thanks, but I think I have everything under control” and then sat down. I figured she would discover her error shortly but I was in for another surprise. There was a woman sitting next to me and soon the same flight attendant came back to give us the “exit row” speech and ask for our agreement that we would help in an emergency. She looks at both of us and says “Are you ladies prepared to help us in an emergency by opening the emergency exit doors?”. I was really, really surprised. How could she not notice??? I could understand making the mistake when I was kneeling and looking down but to do it again while looking straight at me, unbelievable (but really, really nice). I smiled at her and said I agreed and she moved on to the next row. For the rest of the 5 our flight I made sure to demonstrate female body language and voice whenever I interacted with her. I also went in the bathroom and applied a little light foundation to hide whatever stubble might appear during the rest of flight. I did not want to embarrass the nice lady.

The experiences on the two flights really made me wonder what are the cues that people rely on to decide whether whether the person in front of them is male or female. I really thought I was presenting far more male than female. The clothes were slightly feminine, but not overtly so (i.e. no florals, neutral colors, pants not a skirt/dress, etc.). Many guys have longish hair and so that was not a definite signal. My face and body are not very feminine, although my height is within normal bounds for women. My body language was more feminine than male (partly naturally, partly by intent), in particular the way I stood, held my hands, and played with my hair. Maybe there was enough clues suggesting female for people to draw that conclusion. I am still very surprised at the reactions from the various people.

I will try again on my next flight.

Robin

Playing with gender while flying

Hi

This is Robin and I am an occasional poster to Denae’s blog. I have not posted for awhile but Denae asked to post some of my more recent adventures since she thought they might be interesting to others.

I travel a lot on business and its usually to the East Coast, either Boston or Miami. These are long, boring trips and one can only do so much work. As I have written about in the past, I have gone “en femme” on some of these flights and have had no problems with the TSA or with airlines. When I go en femme, I tend to go pretty casual (t-shirts and jeans) but with lots of female “indicators”, such as wig, makeup, breast/hip pads, purse, jewelry, etc.. I want people to take a quick look, see all sorts of things normally associated with women and assume I am one. I have found this all works and so I have no troubles with anyone.

On a couple of recent flights, I wanted to see what would happen if I went with a more androgynous look. I also wanted to have the fun of “dressing” but with a lot less work. My clothes were pretty much my normal t-shirt and jeans with ankle boots. The ankle boots don’t have much of a heel and so are not overtly women’s boots. The t-shirt had a pattern but was also not overtly feminine (e.g. not floral). I wore my normal wig which goes a little beyond the collar and is mostly straight. It has a little wave to it but not much of one. I did not wear any makeup, padding, jewelry, etc.. I carried my normal computer bag but did not have my purse. About the only overtly thing was my wig, but even that was sort of androgynous.

I tried this on two round trip flights, one from SFO to Miami and the other from SFO to Boston.

For the first flight, I went through security without any problem. My hair was longer than my picture ID, but that is probably true for lots of people (I think my picture is 15 years old anyway). I stopped at a lunch place so I could eat before getting on the flight. As I stood in line, the person at counter looked at me and said “I will be with you in a moment, ma’am.”  I was sort of surprised at her remark, so surprised that when she got to me, I ordered in my male voice. She sort of did a double take but took my order without any further ado. I got a “thank you sir”. If I wasn’t so surprised, I would have used my female voice and played along. This was my first indication that things might be more interesting that I thought.

The trip to Miami itself was pretty uneventful. I did notice that the flight attendants and others seemed to avoid using gendered references when speaking to me, but I may have been a little too sensitive about it (though I usually get “sir’ed” from them normally). When I got to Miami, I checked my rental car without incident. For the flight home, I dressed pretty much the same way. The TSA was its normal neutral self. When I ordered food, I got a “ma’am” and this time responded in my female voice. The trip home was without incident although I did get some longer than usual stares along the way.

The trip to Boston was a lot more interesting and I will write about it next time.

Robin

Exploring Gender Perceptions on Airplanes – Part 1

Hi

I travel a lot on business and its usually to the East Coast, either Boston or Miami. These are long, boring trips and one can only do so much work. As I have written about in the past, I have gone “en femme” on some of these flights and have had no problems with the TSA or with airlines. When I go en femme, I tend to go pretty casual (t-shirts and jeans) but with lots of female “indicators”, such as wig, makeup, breast/hip pads, purse, jewelry, etc.. I want people to take a quick look, see all sorts of things normally associated with women and assume I am one. I have found this all works and so I have no troubles with anyone.

On a couple of recent flights, I wanted to see what would happen if I went with a more androgynous look. I also wanted to have the fun of “dressing” but with a lot less work. My clothes were pretty much my normal t-shirt and jeans with ankle boots. The ankle boots don’t have much of a heel and so are not overtly women’s boots. The t-shirt had a pattern but was also not overtly feminine (e.g. not floral). I wore my normal wig which goes a little beyond the collar and is mostly straight. It has a little wave to it but not much of one. I did not wear any makeup, padding, jewelry, etc.. I carried my normal computer bag but did not have my purse. About the only overtly thing was my wig, but even that was sort of androgynous.

I tried this on two round trip flights, one from SFO to Miami and the other from SFO to Boston.

For the first flight, I went through security without any problem. My hair was longer than my picture ID, but that is probably true for lots of people (I think my picture is 15 years old anyway). I stopped at a lunch place so I could eat before getting on the flight. As I stood in line, the person at counter looked at me and said “I will be with you in a moment, ma’am.”  I was sort of surprised at her remark, so surprised that when she got to me, I ordered in my male voice. She sort of did a double take but took my order without any further ado. I got a “thank you sir”. If I wasn’t so surprised, I would have used my female voice and played along. This was my first indication that things might be more interesting that I thought.

The trip to Miami itself was pretty uneventful. I did notice that the flight attendants and others seemed to avoid using gendered references when speaking to me, but I may have been a little too sensitive about it (though I usually get “sir’ed” from them normally). When I got to Miami, I checked my rental car without incident. For the flight home, I dressed pretty much the same way. The TSA was its normal neutral self. When I ordered food, I got a “ma’am” and this time responded in my female voice. The trip home was without incident although I did get some longer than usual stares along the way.

The trip to Boston was a lot more interesting and I will write about it next time.

Robin

Flying En Femme 2012 – The trip home

Hi, this is Robin and this is the final installment of my Flying En Femme 2012 adventure. It is about the trip home from Atlanta.

One of the nice things about SCC are the large number of merchants who show up selling items ranging from clothes to books to jewelry. My favorite wig has been getting rather tired and every time I brushed it I ended up with a brush full of hair. It was clearly time for another one. I had purchased a Jacquelyn human hair wig some years ago on eBay and was saving it for such a time. I really like the human hair wigs as they feel very light and natural. They do require regular care and styling but I feel it is worth it. As I have mentioned in the past I tend toward simplicity and speed in putting together my feminine appearance but the one area I do spend time on is my hair. Another image consultant I visited for a long time said that the most important part of your feminine presentation is your hair and I really believe that. Thus the care and styling of my human hair wigs is worth it to me.

Unfortunately I could not find a wig stylist in the South Bay who would cut and style my wig and so I brought it to SCC hoping one of the merchants would do it. Fortunately I found one who would and she charged me only $50 to cut and style it. She did it just like I wanted. Unfortunately she is in Atlanta otherwise I would become a regular client.

It turned out great, how great I would discover later.

Denae’s second seminar was also at 9am on Saturday and so we got off to another early start. We were done by 10:30 and checked out of the hotel by 11:30. Our flight was at 2pm and so we had time to get to the airport without too much of a rush. The two flights had gone so well that flying en femme on the way home was the obvious thing to do. The drive to the airport did not take long since there was little traffic on a Saturday morning. We checked the rental car back in and it went fine. I assume the agent just assumed I was the wife of the guy on the rental contract. We got our luggage and headed to the terminal.

We approached the luggage check in counter and I gave the agent my boarding pass, luggage, and male id. She took one look at it and handed it back to me saying

“I am sorry but he has to be here to check in his luggage”

I got a big grin on my face and I told her “it is ME and you have just totally made my day”. She looked at me more closely and also grinned. She said she did not realize the picture on my id was me. She then checked me in without a problem. From there we went through TSA security without a hitch. Everything passed through the Xray machine without a problem. Likewise I went through the full body scanner without any further inspections. The screen flashed an “OK” on a green screen and the agent smiled and motioned me to pick up my stuff.

Denae and I made our way to our gate. We had time to get some lunch since it was a long ride home. Before boarding I stopped in the ladies restroom without a second thought. After spending 3 of 4 days en femme and passing through multiple inspection points along the way, I was feeling completely comfortable in my feminine self. Being “me” felt like me.

The trip home was also completely uneventful. I did some reading, Denae did some sleeping, and we arrived back in San Francisco late in the afternoon. We got our luggage, made our way to my car, and drove towards home. We met Denae’s ride back to Santa Cruz in San Jose and I headed home. Of course I had to change back to boy mode before doing so and that was a bit of a downer. In some ways getting back into boy mode was something that took some effort. After spending those few days as a woman, I struggled somewhat to get back to my typical male mannerisms, voice, movement.  Feminine had become new “normal”. It was sort of an odd experience.

In reflecting about it now, the trip home seems uneventful, almost boring, and in many ways it was. I have been on hundreds of plane trips in boy mode and have gone routine many times: leave hotel, drive to airport, drop off rental car, go through security, get on the plane, and fly to my destination. The only difference this time was that I did it all as a woman. It was both very familiar and oddly different. Everyone I met accepted me as such and were polite and friendly.  Overall it was a great time, if for no other reason, than it seemed so commonplace and boring.

I am ready for my next trip en femme. I just need to make sure I don’t bump into any coworkers along the way….

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