Revisiting 2015, Planning 2016

Wow! What a year this was! Looking back, I can see that almost every wish came true — I guess that my ‘Hobbes’ strategy worked well enough:

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Calvin & Hobbes by Bill Watterson. © 1996 Universal Press Syndicate.

Remember, last year, my argument is that one’s wishes ought to be fulfillable, or else you risk disappointment. On the Calvin & Hobbes strip, Calvin is always wishing for impossible things, while Hobbes, much more reasonably, wishes for things that actually will come true — and as a consequence, he’s always content!

Fighting Depression

2015 will have been the year I actually have been fighting depression, which prevents me from working. My wish, last year, was to ‘get well soon’. Unfortunately, it seems that it’s not so easy as ‘wishing’ the depression away — there is a lot of work to do. According to my psychologist, the toughest thing I had to face were the reasons for the depression: in 2014 and early 2015, I was mostly unaware of those, or, while acknowledging their existence, I didn’t think I could do much about it.

2015 is now over, and what did I learn? Well, mostly that what I always thought to be ‘traits of personality’ are actually the product of a deranged mind. Maybe I should have used another adjective there… let’s say an ‘abnormal mind’. Unfortunately, what I think about ‘normality’ is the by-product of so many philosophies and religions that I find it very, very hard to change the way I think.

Of course there is gender dysphoria to deal with! But unlike some critical cases, I would say that my gender dysphoria is almost bearable, or manageable, and, as a consequence, I would not really require transition or any other ‘radical’ means to deal with it. I might just need a bit of therapy to cope with the idea that I will waste the rest of my life trapped in my body and the gender assigned at birth. This might sound terrible for many transgender individuals, but I would say that the degree of gender dysphoria varies wildly among us transgender persons. One possible coping mechanism is simply to crossdress, to go out in public, to socialize with friends while dressed as a woman, to present myself and interact with others while expressing my inner female image — and that might be enough in my case to deal with the anxiety and the urges.

Notice that as I write this lines I’m not totally convinced of that: I’m just being rational, that’s all. Emotionally, and irrationally if you wish, I crave for some substantial changes, both in my body and my lifestyle, to allow me to feel ‘better’ about myself. I fully believe that a bit of change (or even a lot of change) would go a long way to ‘heal’ my mind. But now, after a year of therapy, I have to be honest and admit that I might be wrong about it: a mind that isn’t working normally creates horrible distortions of reality, but thinks that everything is perfectly fine that way. In fact, one of the reasons for taking so long to diagnose my depression was my firm belief that I was absolutely fine and ‘normal’ — when clearly people around me noticed it wasn’t the case. Such delusions are usual with certain kinds of depression. After a year, I can certainly agree that a lot of what I thought (and still think) was clearly wrong. Therefore, I keep an open mind and question if the rest of my thoughts aren’t wrong, too — especially those about gender dysphoria.

There is, however, more than that. I was raised to be an altruistic person, and I feel a strong affinity with all religions and philosophies that promote altruism. I’m so used to it that it makes perfect sense to me. Nevertheless, only radical fundamentalists will truly accept that what all those people wrote about altruism mean the extreme form of altruism, i.e. totally neglecting oneself and putting all others before us.

Buddhism, in particular, is very clear about that point: all sentient beings are equal; none are ‘worth’ more or less. That means that while Buddhism obviously puts a very strong focus on altruism (especially on the Mahayana schools), it also reminds us constantly that we are not ‘less’ than others. In all texts and practices we are put at exactly the same level as others — family, friends, acquaintances, enemies, etc. Not above them, but most certainly not below them. And all good teachers, while giving examples of extreme forms of altruism — which are as popular in Buddhism as in many other religions — also give ample warning: do not attempt those extreme acts unless you’re really a very advanced practitioner. In other words: yes, it’s true that great masters in the past would sacrifice their lives for the smallest of beings; but those great masters were already at such an advanced stage of their practice that there really was no ‘sacrifice’ at all. They knew exactly that what they were doing wouldn’t really affect them (either in this life or in the next). If you aren’t at their stage, don’t emulate them; just use their example as a goal to attain, but do not copy them if you’re still a long way to reach that level — such an action would be pure stupidity and not ‘altruism’ at all.

Christians are supposed to have the same warning embodied in the Golden Rule. We tend just to look at the bit of ‘doing unto others what you want them to do to you’. Jesus of Nazareth, however, goes beyond the old formulation and presents a much more interesting variation: ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself’. Most people consider both phrases as meaning the same, but there is a twist in the so-called ‘second commandment’ of Jesus: first of all, one has to learn what means ‘loving oneself’. This is not clear, but implicit: it requires a thorough self-analysis and understanding of what makes us happy and unhappy. Once we fully understand that, we can then start to ‘love neighbours’ — i.e. anyone else (usually interpreted as meaning ‘anyone in need’ but Jesus is actually a bit more encompassing than that, it truly means ‘anyone else’ — as given by the example of the Good Samaritan and the many examples of dealing with people ostracized by society, but also not neglecting the rich and the powerful, which Jesus is also quoted as addressing frequently). The meaning of the word ‘love’ is also never quite precisely understood, and in the West we tend to create many different ‘types’ of love, e.g. parental love, fraternal love, romantic love, and so forth. It’s obvious that Jesus didn’t mean that we ought to engage in romantic love with everybody else 🙂 Instead, we have to look at what the word ‘love’ means in this context, and it’s obvious that it merely means ‘the desire, from the bottom of the heart, of making others happy’ — nothing more than that. In such a context, the word ‘love’ can be applied to any kind of relationship or interaction with others. Clearly, however, Jesus gives us fair warning first: unless you learn what truly makes you happy (‘love thyself’) first, you cannot start to ‘love thy neighbours’ (making them happy). You need to self-analyse yourself, become introspective, understand the roots of happiness and unhappiness firstthen you can notice very clearly that all other beings have similar roots of happiness and unhappiness (each individual, of course, being different and having different secondary needs; but the root of their needs and desires is similar) and work to make others happy as well. This is the real meaning of the words of Jesus.

And, of course, almost all religions and philosophies have somewhere at their core a very similar message and a similar understanding (Mahayana Buddhism has dedicated volumes of teachings just on this very point).

So what did I do wrong? For most of my life, I have put the needs and the happiness of others before my own needs and happiness, in the wrong understanding that everybody else had a ‘right’ to that happiness, but that somehow I did not. This is wrong — my motivations were not even the right ones — simply because no philosophy or religion, at its core at least, proposes that level of altruism. Instead, I should work towards a balance, where my own needs and happiness are put at the same level as the needs and happiness of others, and, as I learn better to understand my own needs and happiness, I can understand the needs and happiness of others much better, and work better towards fulfilling their real needs.

Because in so many cases the wrong assumption of what makes others happy will have exactly the opposite effect. A typical example: donating a house to a Mafia boss in order for them to train mobsters is not ‘altruistic generosity’. Neither the Mafia boss will become ‘more happy’, nor his mobsters will — and most certainly the people they kill and extort will not become happier as a consequence of that act. A wiser person will understand the needs of a Mafia boss better — and one of them comes from the wrong thinking that killing others will make you more happy, while this is clearly not the case (especially, of course, if you get jailed or even killed in the process). So when you understand that the Mafia boss is working from a deluded conception of happiness, you will not feel compelled to generously give them your house for a training camp: because that will not make them truly happy. And even if they might become slightly ‘happier’ for a moment (‘gee I got a free house from an idiot!’) this is not happiness everlasting, but merely a moment of euphoria, quickly replaced by a lot of worries and problems that will come next.

A wiser person than me, therefore, will start working on themselves first, and only after truly understanding what makes us really happy, they will engage in altruistic behaviour. In my case, I tend always to do it the other way round: sacrifice my own well-being for the purpose of making others happy, or, more correctly, of what I think that will make them happier. In fact, they will not become happier (because I work from wrong assumptions!), but I will certainly suffer from that worthless sacrifice. This happens to me all the time. And it really took me a long, long time to realize what I was doing wrongly. Self-sacrifice, especially for worthless causes, is not really the root of happiness. Just think of all those jihadist suicide bombers. How ‘happy’ will they be — and those they kill — after blowing themselves up in those acts of self-sacrifice? Clearly they’re not doing things right at all, and no religion — not even Islam! — proposes suicide bombing as a form of making others happy in an everlasting way…

That doesn’t mean that one should neglect small acts of kindness and generosity. Those have their own purposes as well: relieving one’s attachment from worldly goods, step by step; but also interacting with others in order to better understand them — and oneself. So they are also important — some philosophies might say that they are the best form of training! — but they have to be understood in the overall framework of a particular training in ‘loving oneself’. That’s why great teachers of the past — and that certainly includes Jesus of Nazareth, or at least the people who wrote up the stories about Jesus — always give examples of generosity and kindness. They also point the way towards what my own teachers call ‘clever altruism’, i.e. understanding what exactly is best for others (not what they wish, but what is good for them; but that naturally means understanding what is really ‘good’ and what is not) and engaging in those actions.

I have a lot to do on that issue. My ‘natural’ tendency is to go ahead and self-sacrifice myself without a second thought. I don’t know how to say ‘no’. I struggle with the difficulty of understanding that I’m not less worth than anyone else — because I trained myself to truly and actually believe that. Now I have to ‘unbelieve’ it, and understand that my needs and my happiness is as important as anyone else’s. That means, of course, giving myself a bit more room to engage in activities that work towards fulfilling some of my goals and desires, and generate some happiness (even if temporary), before ‘giving in’ to the so-called ‘needs of others’ through sacrificing my own.

A typical example of what I should do: two independent psychologists (they haven’t talked to each other) told me that I should dress as a woman every day and attempt to do as much work as possible (at home). It always baffles me why they insist on that. But the simple truth is that they think I need to put a stop in putting others’ wishes in front of my own and neglecting my own happiness. If I could dress 24h/7, my psychologists tell me, I’d be much happier that way, and that, in turn, would help me getting back to work — and making the depression fade away. Notice that we aren’t talking about ‘transition’ here — merely forgetting the innumerable needs of others for a while, saying ‘no’ to them — a very rational ‘no’, as in: ‘no, sorry, I need to fight my own depression first, and then I can do whatever you want from me’ — and engaging in activities that provide me some form of happiness, instead of constant suffering through self-sacrifice.

Believe me, this is is utterly hard for me to do, and probably the hardest thing I have to face in this fight against depression. But by understanding now what I have to do, I might be able to work faster towards a cure.

Therapy

Happy New Year!My ‘prediction’ last year regarding therapy was a bit fake, since I already had a scheduled appointment. Although my current therapists are careful about evaluating the precise affliction I’ve got, and the level it affects me, they have no doubt that anxiety, depression, and gender dysphoria go hand in hand, and that the major trigger for all that was the work at my PhD. They cannot ‘cure’ gender dysphoria, nor they cannot help to remove the issues with my father which also triggered the depression, but at least they can work with me towards finishing the PhD.

After a year of therapy and medication, the anxiety is completely gone, and it actually feels a little weird of being anxiety-free: no problem feels ‘overwhelming’ any more, and I hardly get angry or irritated. I might write about my frustrations once in a while, but the truth is that they really don’t bother me at all. These new-generation anxiolytics are really phenomenal stuff — and with practically zero side-effects, and no habituation. At some point in time, I expect that the doctors will just give me something for ’emergency’ anxiety episodes, but keep me off continuous medication.

On the depression side, as said, things are not so well — even at twice the dosage, the effects are virtually nil, in the sense that I still can’t work at all. However, I have a much clearer perception of what is wrong with me and how I have to tackle it. Because it implies a huge change of attitude, I’m scared to do any changes. So I guess there is more work for me to do here.

Therapists also haven’t diagnosed a definitive instance of gender dysphoria. They acknowledge it fully, and encourage me to dress as much as I can and go out with friends fully dressed as a woman (something which actually surprised me), but they’re not quite certain about the degree of dysphoria I actually have. Comparing my experience with some of my close friends, it’s clear to me that they are waiting for the depression to disappear. While I’m depressed, they cannot really deal with the gender dysphoria, since the only thing I focus on while depressed is exactly in expressing my feminine side fully in public. The two things are so interconnected that I understand that the therapists and doctors are reluctant to say which causes which.

It’s certain that the ‘urge to crossdress’, whatever actually triggers it, will not ‘go away’ — I was certainly dressing up way before I was depressed, and the urges were as intense back then as they are now — but it’s obvious that, for the doctors, it’s not clear that actual dysphoria is triggered by depression, or if it’s the reverse. As said, they’re pretty certain that both the PhD and the issues with my demented father, as well as other factors, are all contributing to depression. They will eliminate the ones that can be eliminated — e.g. finishing the PhD; becoming more assertive about my own wishes and learning to say ‘no’ to others; stop feeling guilty and behaving in order to please others; and so forth — and see what is left. With luck (or so they hope) there might only remain an ‘urge to crossdress’ but not actual dysphoria. I might be able to learn to cope with those urges without requiring transition.

This conclusion, after a year of therapy, is not merely based on self-introspective observation. I have als observed how they deal with other cases of friends of mine who have started their own therapies at the same place where I go, and in one case with the same doctors. In those cases where depression was absent — just some mild anxiety — they progressed at hypersonic speed through the early stages, got an almost instantaneous diagnosis, and are now scheduled to get a second evaluation in order to start taking hormones immediately. I guess they are classical cases of transexuality, without a shadow of doubt, and without any further mental conditions to cloud the diagnosis. In my case, I have to be patient and wait. Even though I also consulted with an endocrinologist, and asked for advice based on established scientific research showing that hormone therapy, in almost all cases, also helps to reduce dysphoria (most likely due to a placebo effect — it’s the actual knowledge of being actively dealing with dysphoria that will reduce it, not necessarily the hormone therapy by itself, which acts much less on the brain structures than it was thought in the 1950s).

I’m now also starting some therapy with a different, private psychologist (who used to treat my mother when she was alive). This will focus on the depression side of things. The problem is that this psychologist is rather expensive, and I still need to figure out a way to pay him (my insurance might cover the costs partially, but it’s not very easy to get them to pay for it). The advantage is that I would be able to do many more sessions, instead of endlessly waiting for the next session at the national health service (they consider my case to be mostly uninteresting until the depression is gone, and that takes a long time — only afterwards they might be able to ‘speed up’ the process), and this might improve the difficulties I have in working, for example. Interestingly enough, although this particular psychologist has just a smattering of understanding of gender dysphoria, his first reaction was exactly the same as my other psychologist: dress as much as you can, preferably every day, and start doing some work while dressed. I’m actually quite curious to see how these doctors all come to the same conclusion!

Looking more presentable in public

2015 was a fantastic year in several aspects! I went out regularly, in public places, even in places which are not really LGBT-friendly like shopping malls and some restaurants and bars; I drove a 600 km journey fully dressed, using the female toilets; I’ve picked up my wife at university (and other spots) several times; I’ve interacted with a lot of non-LGBT people while dressed. All that would have been utterly impossible just a few years ago!

What changed? For most crossdressers, it’s the fear of going out that makes them hesitate. In my case, there was just one factor preventing me to go out: my wife. However, after I started therapy, she realized that one of the processes that helps with all kinds of depression, including atypical depression, is socialization. Because she’s deeply anti-social, and hates to be with people in general, she truly did not understand why I had this ‘need’ to go out with friends. Although she still doesn’t ‘understand’ it, she at least trusts the doctors when they say it helps to fight depression, so she had no option but to let me go.

Of course she still establishes a lot of rules and limitations, and all of her family (and her own needs) are above my own. But nevertheless, and in spite of all that, it has meant being able to dress 2-3 times per week, and going out on almost all those times — even if it’s just for a cup of espresso and some talk and nothing else.

As a consequence, I had to change my wardrobe 🙂 Well, not much, but at least a bit.

Crossdressers often (but not always) follow a certain path in their lives. They might start with some lingerie, progress to what I call the ‘drag queen’ stage (as they are slowly figuring out how they wish to look, and start exaggerating their overall look at the beginning, mostly from lack of experience), then progress through the ‘slutty’ phase (not unusual with genetic women as well: in our country, many women from formerly Eastern Bloc countries in the late 1990s tended to stick to the ‘slutty’ phase because they really have no references about what to wear in the West. These days, of course, they have learned to wear what is appropriate), and finally come to the ‘passing’ stage, where they desperately seek for a look that allows them not to be ‘read’ in public.

After a year of dressing in public, and being quite comfortable with it, I have learned a few lessons, so, to a degree, I believe I have completed my wish for 2015. I’m quite aware now that I will never pass (not without major surgery and lots of hormones at least), but, for me, ‘passing’ is not that important any more. Instead, I just wish to look ‘normally dressed’ in public. So people will look at me, definitely recognize me as a ‘male in dress’, but I hope that at least they will agree that I’m wearing what’s appropriate for a woman to wear, according to the environment and/or event, and according to my age as well (the great news is that these days clothing for women between 30 and 60 years is basically the same; it all depends on the details).

I’m aware that I’m not there yet, and that there is still a long road to go. But I’m also much more confident these days, and I also get a lot of feedback from my wife. Although she favours the ‘totally casual’ look, she has a lot of role models (including her own mother) to compare with me, and is able to give some advice of what fits me and what doesn’t. I have given a lot of my old stuff away, got some second-hand clothes instead, bought a handful of basics (for summer and winter), and try to mix them with what I’ve got, without going ‘over the board’ while still keeping a touch of sexyness which I enjoy.

Obviously there are special nights, nights to go out and party, and in that regard I follow the current trend (which my wife is not really familiar with): girls, these days, overdress when going out. I believe that I only figured that out a few years ago, when I went to a popular holiday in June, when people go out in the streets by the hundreds of thousands, to eat sardines, drink beer and wine, and dance all night long. In my youth, we’d dress as sloppy as we could, since it was usual for pickpockets to operate in the middle of the crowds, and we would sweat and get dirty from eating and so forth. But nowadays you see the young girls — and the older women emulating them — going to those popular events dressed to the nines, as if they would be present at court and meet the royalty (if we still had kings, of course 😉 ). Further observation of how women dress these days lend some support to a changing aspect in our society, and my wife is really still stuck in the 1980s, when nobody considered ‘dressing up’ for an event, except, of course, for marriages or a very, very elaborate ceremony.

As a consequence, I have been learning a bit more about what’s appropriate and what’s not to dress in public. Sometimes it’s not easy, especially when I go out in groups, because I know that most of the others will invariably overdress — which is typical of us crossdressers — and so I tend to go a bit ‘over the top’ as well. But I’m blessed to be in a ‘mixed’ group, where genetic women and even some non-crossdressing males come with us. In many instances, we will get good examples from the genetic women that come with us. They will dress exquisitely well, but know where to draw the line to still look elegant and classy, while showing off their attributes or the perfection of their makeup and hair. Therefore, I’ve been trying to do what they do, even if often I might look ‘out of place’ in the middle of the remaining crossdressers in their micro-skirts and stiletto heels.

Obviously, some of us are also working hard towards getting a more ‘natural’ image, and I favour going out with those who put the same effort in their self-image, to look presentable as women in public. We still might be immediately ‘read’. But at least we know we’re not dressing ‘wrongly’. At this stage, this is pretty much what I aim to do, and hopefully I will get even better in 2016!

Makeup course

Well… I didn’t get that wish granted, although I certainly looked around for some choices. Some friends of mine did, indeed, register for a makeup course, and their skills certainly improved. Maybe next year!

More realistic boobs

I didn’t quite get that. The vacuum pumping method does get some results, and those are actually permanent, but, in my case, they are nothing special. Yes, there is a lot of new ‘mass’ in my ‘moobs’ (= male boobs), enough perhaps to fill a B cup, which is nothing considering my very wide frame, but I actually think that most of the mass didn’t come from the pumping and the special creams, but merely from… more body fat (a side-effect from one of the medicine I’m taking). Sadly, it’s all in the wrong places (mostly on the belly). But some of it definitely went to the ‘moobs’, perhaps thanks to the pumping.

Actually, I broke my pump (it does quite a good vacuum, but, being made of cheap plastic, I guess sooner or later it would fail), and I thought it would be easy to replace it in my country, but I was absolutely wrong — I guess I need to get a new one from the supplier. In any case, it’s clear that this is not the way to go. I’ve ordered a pueraria mirifica serum, which is supposed to be rather powerful (and I’ve checked with my endocrinologist first — he says it’s pretty safe to use, as a topic lotion which will not enter the bloodstream but just act within the skin and fat layers of the breast area). We’ll see if that works out — in 2016.

In the mean time, my old Amoena prosthesis started to break apart. Since I’ve wearing them so much more than before, I believe that it was one careless long fingernail which finally ripped the exterior protection. They were still usable, so I’ve gave them to a friend instead, and bought a new pair from Amoena — exactly the same size. The technology hasn’t changed much in the past five years — the adhesive bit is supposed to be a bit better, we’ll see — but there is a noticeable difference. Like natural boobs, gravity tends to deform them, so my old prosthesis were starting to sag. The new ones are plump and perky, which is rather satisfying 🙂 And the extra ‘moob’ mass (either from fat or pumping… or both) helps to create incredibly realistic cleavage.

No, I didn’t get any Real Breast™ boobs this year. Maybe in 2016, if things go better, money-wise (we didn’t get the expected customer after all). I found that there is a reseller in the UK, which means getting the breasts cheaper thanks to reduced shipping prices, but, more importantly, it also means totally bypassing customs. So the choices on that front have increased 🙂 No, I haven’t given up on those hyper-realistic boobs yet: there are still many outfits that I simply cannot wear with obvious-looking external prosthesis which may become possible with the realism provided by Real Breast™ forms…

At the same time, the extra fat has also made my old ‘hips & booty enhancement’ from Classic Curves pretty much impossible to wear. I’ve also added some fat to the hips and bottom — not thanks to hormones, just overall fat increase 🙁 — and it means that those fake hips of mine are becoming a little… extreme. My wife was tired of my unrealistic look, so she offered me a new Veronica 5 for Christmas. I’ve still got to order it (it means taking a lot of measurements), but Espy Lopez, the owner of Classic Curves, will soon have a new garment to design for me 🙂

Going out with friends

Well, that wish was granted — at 150% or 200% of what I thought to be possible! I won’t need to write a lot about it, since those of you who have followed me either here on my blog or on my Facebook timeline know that I’ve been going out like crazy to all sorts of events with many different friends. This was definitely way more dramatic than I expected. I was aiming to go out perhaps once per month, if at all; and I hoped just to go out with my wife first, and patiently working it up to be able to go out with my friends as well…

In fact, I’ve been going out as often as 2 or even 3 times per week (it depends on the week!), with up to 20 or 30 different friends and acquaintances (although I tend to favour smaller groups in places quiet enough to talk). I have, indeed, picked up my wife several times at university and other places while fully dressed, but I even went out with her dressed to an esplanade where she met some of my friends as well.

I’ve even fulfilled one of my oldest dreams and fantasies, and that was not even on the wish list for 2015: to have some dinner with friends and go out to see a show at a theatre. I actually managed to do that:

Going to the Guida Scarllaty show with a couple of friends
Going to the Guida Scarllaty show with a couple of friends

That was certainly just something I dreamed about but never thought it would become reality in 2015!

As the year progressed, we slowly changed the places we visited. We started on ‘safe’ places — LGBT restaurants and bars, especially on Lisbon’s LGBT quarter, where people are completely familiar with crossdressers and will allow any of us to enter their establishments. But after a while we got bolder and bolder: to visit non-LGBT places (first by asking permission from the owner), to walk the streets in public, to go to shopping malls. We only had wonderful experiences so far — it’s clear that my fellow citizens care little about the way people dress in public. Of course, I’m quite aware that there is a difference between cities and environments. On restaurants and bars in Lisbon, we rarely, if ever, attract any public attention, and the same seems to be the case in the south of Portugal (Algarve), a very touristic area. However, inside shopping malls we certainly attract some looks — as well as nice kid who just wanted to take a selfie with us 🙂 Once we leave the cosmopolitical environment of Lisbon, and move just a few kilometres westwards towards the place where I live — which is supposed to be a touristic zone as well — we get a lot of raised eyebrows and comments behind our back. Strangely enough, people are a bit more conservative around my neighbourhood than in Lisbon. It’s true that they will not be rude — the Portuguese, as a rule of thumb, tend to be more polite than rude, especially in the south — but they certainly look in a disapproving way towards us.

But these lessons are great to learn. I still feel comfortable in public. Not comfortable enough to be on my own in broad daylight — with some few exceptions — but I have this notion that if I’m not alone, I’m willing to go anywhere. And that is very, very liberating.

Sure, there is some thrill in being in public dressed as a woman. But thanks to the medication, I don’t feel anxious because of that. What is the worst that can happen? Getting stopped by the police? 🙂 That actually happened to me once, and they were extremely polite and friendly with me (well, it was just a routine check, and I didn’t drink enough to register). So the worst is actually to be held up by a group of neonazis and getting spanked — something which unfortunately happens, although it’s way rarer than it used to be just a few years ago. And the trick, of course, is never to be alone, and avoid the nasty neighbourhoods.

I did go on my own to a public esplanade once. The owner, by now, knows us quite well, as do most of the regulars there. The neighbourhood is very well lit and quite safe. I was just waiting for my wife to finish her classes anyway, so I stayed there just until midnight or so — which is ‘early’ for a city like Lisbon 🙂

So, all in all, I would say that this was the wish that became true… in spades 🙂

‘Coming out’ to friends and family

After a year, a lot of people know that I’m transgender — but none of them are friends, much less family. They are mostly shop attendants. Over time, I have lost all pretense to ‘buy things for my wife’ or a female relative. Just like many other crossdressing friends of mine, I just tell the attendants that the things are for me. I’ve shown some of the more friendly attendants some of my pictures. My manicurist, for instance — who also does some things for my wife — is fully aware of my crossdressing, and I guess that most of the salon where she works is aware of it as well. If they’re not, I’m not exactly boasting. Many will notice that I often wear a bra beneath my male clothing, though, and they might ask my manicurist for the reasons why I wear that.

In pretty much all the places where I go regularly, those attendants also know that I’m very happily married, and that my wife is fully aware of my crossdressing. I’ve also brought her to some of my favourite shops. Whatever those people think about me worries me little: they are always polite and professional when dealing with me. And over time I start getting some ‘treats’ from the shop attendants: they inform me when they have a promotion ‘on that lipstick brand you like so much’, or they give me some tickets to attend a trade fair for makeup, and so forth. This is not unusual: they do that for all good customers, after all, and they couldn’t care less if those customers are genetic males or females, so long as they buy their products.

Some of my friends have even gone further: they sometimes bring their favourite attendants or salon stylists with them to our events. We have found out that a lot of them don’t worry in the least to be surrounded by those strange transgender males in their best dresses 🙂 Rather, we do have a lot of fun together. I think that for some women it’s actually a relief to be able to be with people who have been assigned the male gender at birth, but with whom they can talk freely just like they do with any other ‘girlfriend’. And no, we don’t spend endless nights discussing makeup and the latest fashion. In fact, we pretty talk about everything. It’s just that if the subject of makeup and fashion comes up, they know that we don’t mind talking about that as well 🙂 — instead of getting bored, we’re definitely enthusiastic about it, just like they are. That keeps the conversation flowing, even to other topics, without the need to ‘keep some things out of conversation because boys hate those topics’. I’ve always been much more at ease talking to girls than to boys, anyway, but I knew that they made an effort to steer the conversation away from some topics that they feared that guys would hate. In fact, there are some stereotypical ways of starting a conversation with a guy: because guys will really just show some interest in cars, soccer, and girls, and that can quickly exhaust anyone’s topics for conversation, the rule of thumb is to let guys talk about their jobs. This is ‘safer’ than talking about cars and soccer (and other girls…) and any male worthy of their XY chromosomes will spend endless hours boasting and bragging about their jobs, their money, and the things they do with their money. So long as the conversation can be steered away from ‘cars’, you’re safe. It works every time. Guys love to have an audience, especially a female one. But of course it means that the ‘conversation’ easily becomes a monologue that way…

When our group goes out with genetic women, they are aware that they do not need to listen to us crossdressers bragging about our jobs, so they can freely jump into whatever topic that interests them 🙂 I think that makes them very relaxed, and they certainly enjoy themselves a lot more that way 🙂 I’m just guessing, of course; my relationship with my wife would never have worked if she had to listen to me bragging about my job (something I dislike talking about in any case). And I have no interest in cars, bikes, soccer, or any kind of sport. Sure, I have some interest in girls, but I can’t even talk like a guy talks about girls for a long time anyway 🙂

I’m digressing. So… yes, a lot of people know that I’m a crossdresser. Interestingly enough, a lot of people haven’t even seen me in ‘boy mode’, or, like my good friend Joana Salmão says, in ‘ogre mode’ (we’re Shrek fans!).

But with friends (that is, friends of my male image) and family it’s another story. My wife is really anxious about revelations to her family, so I have been silent so far. With a few of my more open-minded friends (most of them are very narrow-minded, unfortunately) I came close to revealing myself, but the truth is that I haven’t. Not yet. It’s not exactly that I fear their reaction: after all, this is a good way to see who is really a friend. It’s more that they can start telling all the world about it — and in these age of Facebook and Twitter, this could easily blow out of proportion. In other words: while I might feel fine about telling a few friends (and family) about my gender issues, I’m not yet comfortable of telling the whole world about it.

Still, I’m dropping some hints. This Christmas I posted to my ‘male’ Facebook profile an image from Face in Hole,  placing a mugshot of myself as Sandra on top of some model’s body — which actually achieves relatively good results (so long as you got a reasonable good image of yourself), better than what I can do with my limited Photoshop skills. It was meant as a Christmas treat, and of course everybody knows immediately that the image is ‘fake’ (after all, it has a watermark from Face in Hole, and I’ve added a link to the site as well). What apparently people failed to see is that I have makeup on my face. My friends and family have probably ‘assumed’ that the Photoshopping included makeup as well 🙂 and so, in this era when nobody can trust an image they see on the Internet, my own image did go mostly unnoticed.

I expect to do a few more of those ‘jokes’ on my ‘male’ profile. At some point I will post an unedited image from myself as Sandra and see what kind of reactions I get 🙂 — but it’s a bit too early for that!

My wish list for 2016

I guess that I was rather lucky in 2015 — one of my best years ever, even taking into account depression and all — so I’m almost scared about what I wish for 2016!

  • At the top of all priorities must be getting rid of the depression. Obviously I can’t go on like this: for the past weeks, I have been tired of being depressed. If a year ago I was anxious about being depressed (anxiety feeds on depression, and vice-versa), nowadays I don’t feel any anxiety whatsoever, but I still feel that I’m somehow ‘wasting’ my time being depressed. Sure, I have been doing wonderful things that I would never imagine to be able to do 🙂 and I have been very, very happy — and very lucky as well. There have been a few bad moments now and then (minor discussions among some members of our group), but, in general, on average, this was an almost perfect year. However… I would have rather preferred to have finished the PhD instead. For 2016, while not expecting miracles, I wish that at least I can start doing some work on the PhD once more, and being able to show some progress, get my grant unfrozen again, and wrap it up…
  • There is still a lot I wish to do as a woman in public. I’ve explored a lot of places with different people, but I wish to do so much more. In particular, I would simply love to be able to go shopping for food fully dressed before picking up my wife at university. I’ve almost done it once, but chickened out at the end: I still don’t feel comfortable enough when I’m alone on my own. But I expect to go to the movies and similar public places with my friends in 2016 (we’ve already been planning something along those lines), as well as going to a studio and getting some pictures professionally taken 🙂  And, of course, I will include in this wish the desire to be more presentable (not worrying about ‘passing’ but merely in ‘looking acceptable’), which might require some makeup courses and so forth.
  • I want to ‘come out’ to at least some people in my family and friends (of my ‘male’ self). This is something I wish to discuss with my psychologist again. There is a need, an urge, of requiring acceptance, and that also means that at least some of the people that mean most to me should know the truth about myself. The timing couldn’t be better: I have the wonderful excuse of ‘depression’ to justify my odd behaviour, and explain to them how it is linked to gender dysphoria. A lot will wonder if I will continue to crossdress after the depression gets ‘cured’, and, at this time, I can be perfectly honest with them and say ‘I don’t know’. When they ask if I’d like to transition and live full time as a woman, again, I can be truthful and explain that one of the nasty bits of depression is that it changes one’s perception of reality, so my wish to transition and live as a woman may be just a side effect, a coping mechanism from a deluded mind that fights with ‘reality’ every day, so, in truth, I cannot say how deep my gender dysphoria really goes — I can only say that I hope to be able to cope with it once the depression is gone, and that it is highly likely that I’ll be looking at gender dysphoria differently once I’m ‘cured’.
  • I would love to do some body modifications. This is the sort of wish that Hobbes would disapprove of, because it is very likely not possible to do 🙂 In other words: I would really like to start working on my body to make it more feminine somehow. I don’t think I can afford surgery — definitely not outside the national health service, where it is free — but I hope to be able to persuade an endocrinologist to allow me to take some hormones. I will have a few discussions with both my psychiatrist and my psychologist about that very soon. I will tell them that I understand that taking hormones while under the deluded perceptions caused by depression is not a good idea (and officially not an approved treatment), but that only makes me wish for the depression to get cured as quickly as possible, so that I can face the ‘next stage’. I have no illusions about what I can accomplish — I simply was born with all the wrong genes, unlike so many of my good CD friends, who have lovely figures, and only need a little nudging in the right direction (one of them already compares her own body to some top models, and she claims that the only difference that sets her apart from them is not having hips and real breasts — which she hopes to get with hormones. And, to be honest, in terms of body, she’s quite right — she is very, very lucky with her genes!). However, that might actually work as an advantage for me — meaning that I might not need to go through a full transition, i.e. get a job as male (which is far easier than getting a job as a transgender female) while still being able to spend all the rest of the time as a woman, without requiring the extensive shapewear that I need when dressing as a woman. There are a lot of difficulties in this plan, and it’s hardly reasonable to expect it to be fulfilled in 2016, but at least I wish to start working towards it 🙂

There we go! I’m curious about what I will write for 2017; maybe there won’t be any wishes left… 😉

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