So here I am again, ranting as usual… This time, I really have no set topic, so I’m just going to put a few thoughts together.
Going out ever again?
Carnival is approaching. Even though this year, because of the ongoing financial crisis, we’re deprived of the holiday on Tuesday 12th, people who love dressing in a silly way and going out during this special day of the year (similar to Halloween in the English-speaking world) are coping, and most activities will happen during the weekend.
This is the only day of the year where crossdressers can go out without getting raised eyebrows, neither from friends & family, nor from neighbours, nor even from shops and restaurants. Whole towns celebrate the holiday with wild parties, and, as last year, a group of local CDs are planning to go to one restaurant an hour away from Lisbon, on nearby Torres Vedras, which is rather famous for their Carnival celebrations.
Since it’s a relatively safe city, where everyone will be having fun anyway, and I will be surrounded by friendly people, maybe my wife allows me to go out.
Unfortunately, there are two things which might prevent me from going. One is that Carnival is a lunar holiday, meaning that it has no fixed date. It’s a pagan holiday, not a Christian one (even though the Christians have “turned” it into a holiday as well), and, as it happens with most pagan holidays, it’s actually also used by the Eastern cultures: for them, it’s the new year. Although Eastern calendars are a bit odd, this year, Sunday the 10th will be both the Chinese and the Tibetan new year, and that means that my Buddhist group will do a lot of celebrations. Which makes it tricky for me to juggle schedules. I might just be able to make it, but will not be able to enjoy a very long evening.
The other issue, of course, is my wife. She’s in a particularly bad mood these days, since she’s currently suffering from vaginal hemorrages due to her complex medical issues — it’s a clinical condition unrelated to the period, and usually lasts far longer. When she’s in this mood, it’s impossible to reason or even to talk to her; even snoozing in her presence is offensive! So I stick to my silence, knowing fully well that anything I’ll say will trigger World War III, even if I mean well and just speak kind words.
So we’ll see. I’m not very hopeful.
Great source of transgendered resources: Susan’s Place
A couple of months ago or so, I re-visited Susan’s Place. They’re one of the oldest sites with resources for transgendered persons — and they stick to the same look they had in 1997 or so! — and I was checking it up on some technical details. Susan’s Place has an extensive Wiki with lots of information, besides a vast reference library, and — as I found out recently — what must certainly be the largest transgender forum in the world! It has over ten thousand members, with hundreds of very active members. It’s spread among so many categories that I tend to stay around the spirituality forums — just these provide a wealth of discussion and information. It’s so big that it’s truly staggering.
Forums might not be what rocks your boat, but for me, coming from the old USENET News days, I’m a great fan of that style of online discussions. These days people prefer short updates on Twitter or Facebook, which are quickly forgotten after a few hours. I personally prefer long discussion threads — a few on Susan’s are years old, not merely days or months. And, truthfully, everything can be found there. Ironically, Susan started this as merely an online chatroom. It just became bigger and bigger.
A fair word of warning: the forums are heavily moderated. This is mostly to protect the existing members (who are often quite open about themselves) and make sure that spammers, scammers, and predators are kept at bay. New forum users are specially “watched over”. After a few weeks, however, if your intentions are good and you’re a regular participant, the moderators will keep you in peace. This is supposed to be a friendly community — albeit a rather large one! — which is mostly focused on exchanging relevant information, from surgery to beauty tips, from politics and activism to spirituality and support groups.
Emigration on a temporary stand-by
I haven’t confirmed this, but allegedly I cannot simply emigrate to Brazil as my wife wants. I’ve got a signed agreement with the (public) foundation which sends me the meager monthly stipend to allow me to survive and continue my studies: if I start a job, even as a teacher, I have to return all the money. Obviously this would mean working for at least half a decade just to be able to pay back everything — not to mention paying the extra costs for living abroad. Brazil has slighly lower living costs than Portugal, but here I enjoy a tiny flat without a mortgage, and managed to finish to pay for my 1997 car. These would be extra expenses to cover. If I need to repay the whole grant, I would really have to have a “dream job” at a Brazilian university — which usually pay a salary for about the same amounts than here in Portugal. The difference is mostly in lower taxes, slightly lower cost of living, and upwards mobility, even without a finished PhD — and no financial crisis and more job opportunities. Around here, new jobs as a teacher are probably out of the question before 2015 or 2016 — and starting from the bottom, I would actually earn less than what I get with the monthly student grant, and add the cost of renting a flat someplace else, since it’s rather unlikely that I’d get a job at a university near me (everybody wants to live in Lisbon and its suburbs! There are no jobs here). Even so, I would have to add the costs of driving around to work (these days, public transportation is more costly than driving — what crosses our politicians’ minds is unfathomable! — even considering the high parking costs. It’s nuts, but there you have it).
So, while I still need a final evaluation of the contract I have for the grant, it’s likely that they will at least demand a big chunk of money to “let me go”. So far, I got no replies from the scattered contacts in Brazil. They would have to offer me a millionnaire job to make it worthwhile 🙂 And although that’s not completely out of the question — Brazil has some 2,500 universities, but, of course, everybody wants to live in Rio or São Paulo, the two cities where I utterly refuse to move to! — it’s not very likely. In fact, I find it far more likely that my wife allows me to go out with CD friends than believing someone will hand me a well-paid job on a silver platter.
But, we’ll see. Anything can happen. Needless to say, my wife is utterly disappointed and very frustrated. The only good news is that an old customer of our company has started to pay her again. They paid the October 2011 invoice in Januray 2013, and are promising not only to pay every remaining invoices, but also to pay the new ones that are sent regularly to them every month. If they can keep that up as promised, it would double our monthly income — which goes a long, long way to ease my wife’s constant fretting about lack of money.
We’ll have to see how it goes. For now, I’m happy — I wasn’t really that keen to move to a backwater town in the middle of tropical Brazil (which was the only offer I had so far), although the choice of city might persuade me to move. I had my eyes set either on Belo Horizonte — they self-style themselves “the cultural capital of Brazil” — which has a huge transgender community, or go to one of the capitals of the three southernmost states in Brazil, specially Curitiba. These are European-style cities with a mild climate (it snows in the mountains!) and are as much un-Brazilian as you can imagine.
Here’s a picture of what Brazil looks like:
Truly not what you have in mind when thinking about Brazil, right? Here is the same building without snow:
Look at those perfectly trimmed lawns! It seems we’re in Switzerland!
Actually, it shouldn’t be very surprising. This area of southern Brazil has been settled mostly by Germans (and Italians). There are whole towns up the mountains where practically everyone speaks German at home. Remember, Brazil is a huge country, almost as large as the United States and larger than Europe, and it has all sorts of climates, from the deep rainwater forests in the Amazonia jungle, through savannas and deserts, to vast farmland where the average farm is larger in size than my own country (!), to the beaches in the northeast (or in Rio!), to the high, cold mountains, covered with snow of the south. It’s not just heat, samba, and beaches — that’s just in Rio. Although it’s true that everybody loves soccer 🙂
Still drooling with the new wig
Well, this was certainly one of best things I’ve ever bought for me 🙂 Although I’m fond of many of my dresses and accessories — like the Amoena breastforms — I still think that it’s the wig from Pink Lace Wigs that makes the difference. I haven’t yet had it styled as I wish, so I’m stuck — for now — to a “retro” look. Even so, it’s incredibly realistic and absolutely natural. If you’re still hesitating about your next wig, make sure you buy a front lace wig next time. Yes, they’re a bit more expensive than “standard” wigs, but you’ll finally get a wig that doesn’t look or feel like a wig, but like real hair — even on very close inspection. You’d have to pull my wig up and watch the bits where it actually fails to appropriately cover my real hair near the ears to believe it’s not “naturally grown” — even with synthetic fibre.
It also holds a lot of possibilities for styling. I have to admit that I’m terrible at doing that, thus my reason to get it professionally styled. But if you enjoy your hair “raw” and the ability to play a lot with it, there is little you cannot do with it. I’ve tried some braiding, and I was actually astonished at how great it looks. Pulling it to the back instead of a side part also gives awesome results. Remember, I’m mostly used to pre-styled wigs, which have little opportunity to “play” with (they’re intended to be worn “as they are”), so no wonder I’m having fun with this one 🙂
It’s midwinter and always cold in my flat, so the only thing I’m slightly worried about is if the wig is “too warm”. Of course, during the winter, I don’t notice that — it’s actually nice, for a change, to have something to cover one’s head adequately 🙂 But since this wig has a lot of hair — it’s really dense, even though the individual hairs are very thin and realistic — it might be too hot for summer. During heat waves I avoid dressing anyway, but during “normal” summer days, I have no idea how hot this will be. So I have to be patient and wait. I still keep my “old” wig with the bangs around, which is far lighter (and much shorter!), so I might be “forced” to wear it when the temperatures start rising again (and, in this country, one never knows when that happens — it can start in March!).
What I have also noticed recently is that I’m able to pose differently. You know my old motto: smile a lot, and you’ll look more feminine. This is definitely one of the best tricks I’ve ever learned. I still keep a lot of my oldest photos around, where I hardly smiled, but attempted to do some sultry looks. They invariably failed, and just made me look three times more ugly. It was by chance that I had noticed that the rare pictures where I smiled were almost passable. My first smiles were rather shy, or I just tried to do some “sultry smiles” instead — which didn’t work, either. It was just when I learned that my natural smile stands out by itself that it became a feature of pretty much all my pictures.
Well, this new wig has allowed me to explore a little more. Since it’s so incredibly realistic and feminine-looking, it naturally catches the attention. For the past years, I’ve been using bangs — which hide my forehead, giving good results for most CDs — but I realize now that I have two extra features which also catch the attention: my eyebrows (which are neither masculine nor feminine; I keep them trimmed to something in-between) and, naturally, the eyes. On most of my pictures with the bangs you cannot fully appreciate my eye makeup; now you can, so I’ve been working on my skills. What I like most on the pictures you see here is that the makeup looks “natural”, although, in reality, it’s not — it’s a bit dramatic, the camera just tones everything down (well, except for the wrinkles below the eyes, when I’m too tired — nothing can ever hide those, not even the heavy-duty eye concealer I use!).
All this put together draws the attention away from my male features — namely, the horrendous nose and the too-strong jawline, which no amount of shadow and blush can conceal. But when taken from certain angles, I can get away without smiling, and still raise some doubts about my gender. Not all pictures are good enough, of course (the one pictured in this section is definitely not one of the best examples). But on some, I can actually manage a few different facial expressions and still look feminine — just because the viewer’s attention will be mostly drawn to the hair and the eyes.
Not that I dislike smiling 🙂 That’s not the point! The point is, when going out (even on my own), I cannot keep smiling all the time, and, as such, I might easily be spotted as a male in drag. With the new wig and the ability to play more with the eye makeup, I can at least raise doubts when not smiling.
Of course, no illusion is ever perfect. I’m still too tall and too broad-shouldered; my upper arms, even though they have little muscle these days, are still too thick. But I can disguise the broad shoulders and remember to wear styles that will draw the attention away the upper arm region — like, say, drawing the attention to the cleavage instead 🙂 What is simply impossible to disguise is the view from the side. It’s simply too broad; there is nothing I can do about it. With the corset and the padding, my figure from the front or even the back looks acceptably curvy; but not from the side.
It also makes it harder to disguise my age. You see, there are two types of women in my country. The elder generation — the one of my parents! — is all short and overweight. This is the complex mix of Mediterranean, Maghrebin (North African muslims), and gypsy blood. Women generally look great in their teens, but once they marry, they become barrels almost overnight. It’s not just the good food; it’s the genetic makeup. There is little they can do about it.
On the other hand, the newer generation — people ten years younger than me — have completely different genes. For the vast majority, they’re skinny and slim, even though most are still not very tall (on average). And it’s also not food-related: the younger generation, on average, eats much worse than the older generation. Still, they have different genes, and they look completely different from their mothers. They also lost most of the “curviness” of the generation before them. They’re mostly flat and their bodies have uninteresting shapes, which they compensate with appropriate clothing.
So what this means is that I look 10-20 years older from the side, but the curviness in the front and back somehow makes me look my age — if I were a genetic female — or slightly younger (my own wife, five years younger than me, is very curvy indeed, with long legs, although she’s petite in size — however, her own body type is fading out and disappearing). This poses a problem when trying to pass. While the height can be attributed to being a “foreigner” — thanks to my German blood on my mother’s side — the strange body looks awkward.
There is little I can do about that. Lots of CDs who are ten years older than me actually pass rather well in our country. If they don’t use any padding besides the breast forms, they just look like the average women in their 50s: short, stocky, barrel-shaped, overdressed, and with too much makeup. If they keep their hair length shoulder-size, they will completely fit in the average look that you see here. All right, they might not look awesomely sexy, but almost no woman in their 50s, around here, looks sexy anyway. Since they have great tastes in clothing, and dress elegantly, they actually capture the attention of the older male population, who is so used to that type of woman that they can pass very easily.
Of course there are many exceptions. My mother-in-law, turned 60, is relatively tall, and, thanks to cosmetic surgery and a gastric bypass, is rather skinny (which was true, specially in the first year after surgery). This has uplifted her mood and the desire to wear elegant, sexy clothing again; among her group of female friends, she completely stands out as having a dramatically different body type than them, and her exquisite fashion taste also allows her to look even better, even though, as I mentioned before, her face is really not very attractive, and I think that her hair styling doesn’t improve her in the least, but it’s her choice, of course. The point here is that all these people are exceptions around here. So, as exceptions, they draw attention and invite a closer inspection — something that a crossdresser wishing to pass should definitely avoid.
I look particularly awful when wearing my lovely faux fur coat. But in deep winter, that’s all I’ve got to keep the cold away. My usual trick is to get a belt on top of the coat, to at least define the waist again — it’s a bit better, but not perfect. I managed to enjoy myself a few weeks ago, wearing that coat, boots and fishnets, and walking on a posh street near the beach, where I had plenty of places to watch my reflection. Well, in the middle of the night, using a very long holder, I certainly looked like something just out of a fancy brothel 🙂 The irony was that I had been toying with the idea of entering a bar I didn’t know about which was still open at that time (it was past 4 AM already), but I didn’t feel confident enough. I subsequently learned that this bar is actually a fancy striptease club… lol! 😀 I couldn’t have made a better choice!
Anyway, just some random rambling, to keep my memories fresh. It’s highly unlikely that I will be able to be around as Sandra in the next two weeks, because of the Tibetan New Year celebrations. Even if I’m allowed to go out next Saturday, no matter how unlikely that seems right now, I will be rather stressed out to dress quickly before rushing out of the door and meet my friends — time is of the essence, and Saturday will be unusually busy, leaving me just the adequate amount of time to dress and do the makeup. So I won’t be able to be online for sure, and will rely on my friends to take a few pictures. And that is, obviously, the most optimistic scenario: in reality, it’s much more likely that I will be stuck at home and forbidden to go out even on that special day where the streets are safe for crossdressers.