Another Crazy Thursday… ending in a thunderstorm and confusion

Driving in the carAs I write these lines, two groups of my friends are out and having fun. Some went to a restaurant for a birthday party; some went to the theatre watch a play; and some of each group, afterwards, will get together at an esplanade by the river. That picture of mine to the left ought to be of me joining them. But actually I’m stuck at home, waiting for the right time to leave home in order to visit my mother-in-law with my wife.

You know, a lot of my articles, when I read them after many weeks, sound terribly high-brow and intellectual, and in them I seem to be a rock of confidence and have a high self-esteem and so forth… I think that a lot of it comes from having been ‘forced’ to twist my mind into writing academic stuff; in a way, it’s a ‘new’ way of writing which I have been ‘forced’ to adopt almost a decade ago, and it certainly changed the tone of the way I write… and what I write about.

This time I’ll be more personal and less academic. And re-reading it, some parts seem to me incredibly superficial and shallow… so maybe, once more, my wife is right. But, alas, I’m anticipating my narrative! Let’s get back to the beginning…

Shrinks galore!

It’s been quite a long time since I last had an appointment with my psychiatrist; and due to an unfortunate series of coincidences, my usual psychologist has been absent for at least half a year, and will be away for another year and a half — the institution I go to had to reschedule things, and that really took a long time, until they finally pencilled me in for another appointment. In the mean time, thanks to some advice from friends, I got in touch with a private clinic, which has a few specialists in clinical sexology, and who work closely with some of the best experts in the field. Although I haven’t got money for that, my father-in-law — still believing I’m just wishing to cure my depression (which is also true, of course) — said he was willing to pay for the appointments. They are not overly expensive — health care rarely is, in my country. If I were still working, it would be nothing. But without any sources of income and having to rely on the little that is left from my meagre savings, I was reluctant to spend it in private doctors, when the public health service is for free. But I had finally to be honest with myself: it wasn’t working. I cannot get better if I just have an hour of therapy every six months. It simply won’t work. My wife, when she started therapy for her depression back in 2007, would have therapy every other day, then twice a week, then weekly… and finally, when she really got better, she moved to a once-per-month session, until, after three months, she was pronounced ‘cured’. It’s obvious that so much therapy really worked for her. So, no matter how much it cost, I need the same.

But I’m not willing to give up on the public service yet. You need to build up a relationship with a psychologist until you start to trust them. Sadly, I will have to get used to a whole lot of new doctors. Therefore, when I had finally an appointed scheduled for last Thursday, I decided to go.

Coincidentally, on Friday I had an appointment with my psychiatrist as well — that has been scheduled three months ago. And — guess what? — on Saturday I had an appointment with my new, private psychologist!

Three shrinks in three consecutive days! I found it amusing, after so many months of ‘nothing’ (it’s not true, I had an appointment last month with the ‘chief psychologist’, mostly for her to meet me and provide an excuse and an explanation for her colleague, but also to make sure that my case was not lost and forgotten). And that’s when I got a crazy idea. A very crazy one.

In the past, when the timing was right, I went to all those doctors dressed as Sandra. It was great for my ego, and it showed them that I’m serious enough to go out in public, face all the stares and giggles and comments made on my back, but nevertheless go to the appointments. I made clear to my wife that I intended to go dressed to the appointments. I was not exactly crystal-clear in saying that I would go dressed to all the three appointments, but I let it stand as an implication. And for Saturday evening I had my plans as well — a friend of ours is currently acting on a play, and I intended to go and watch her on stage.

To be completely and absolutely honest, I was pretty much sure that this plan could never work. But this is unfortunately how my mind works: it grasps at dreams and hopes, even when rationally thinking that things would have to go wrong, very often in unexpected ways. Again, I’m getting ahead of myself.

My wife, of course, was not happy with me going out in public in plain daylight with her (I had no choice this time, the appointment was too early for being able to get back home, dress up, and go out again). But at the beginning she didn’t grumble much. She just wanted to know what I would be doing during all those hours after the appointment. I told her that I had brought my laptop with me and intended to stay at a café where I know I’ll be accepted and safe (and my wife knows the spot too, we went there together two or three times with me dressed as Sandra), and I fully intended to do exactly that. Well, perhaps with a short jump to the nearest mall, where I needed to shop for some makeup supplies which are running out 😉 … but I omitted that point.

First appointment: psychologist FAIL!

Ok, so on Thursday morning, I woke up much earlier than usually, believing I’d take three hours to get dressed. If you think that’s way too long, just consider that I usually take one hour and a half to get dressed as a guy — and really, that is just putting on a shirt and wearing a pair of pants, right? Right. However, I know I’m slow. One reason has to do with my, uh, bowel movements. Long story, but the antidepressants tend to make them irregular, so, well, I spend way too much time with that… all right, you get the picture. Anyway, that’s pretty much my timings: 90 minutes as a boy, 180 minutes as a girl, assuming I’m starting from scratch and need to do all my things on the toilet, have a bath, and a close shave.

My timing was not too bad. Sometimes things go wrong because, say, a shirt gets ruined (for being too tight!) or the stupid falsies don’t wish to stay in place… but this time I made it simpler, no falsies, no nails (they’re long enough and have some clear polish with a shine on them), no complex garments, no complex makeup which requires preparation, just my usual routine without any fancy bits. And it worked out ok; I was dropping the last bits of stuff inside my handbag when my wife said that lunch was ready.

My wife and I have a terrible problem when we’re together: we tend to talk too much, no matter over what subject. You might think that’s a good thing, and yes, it is, it’s also what sticks us together, we love to talk to each other so much, that we forget about time… and this was exactly what happened… and suddenly time was running out! I couldn’t believe that so much time had passed when I looked at the clock after lunch — we were not only late, but very late!

Well, I thought, most of my appointments at this particular institution are always delayed. My previous psychologist was very punctual, but she was a notorious exception; all others tend to make me wait for a long, long time. It’s not their fault: they are often doing the emergency shifts at the same time they have their appointments (there is simply not enough staff for doing everything), so sometimes they have to rush out for an emergency across campus, and that means waiting until they come back. I cannot blame them; the national health service is always understaffed, at least since the crisis of 2007/8 begun, and it won’t be changed in the near future: we’re still on austerity budgets, even though things are now much better than before.

I agreed with my wife to drop her close to her university, but in a way that I would be able to reach the institution faster. Still, in spite of everything, I was fifteen minutes too late. Or so I thought.

In reality, they told me that I was forty-five minutes late, and, since I was the last appointment of the day for the psychologist, she already left. I asked them how that was possible — pointing out that I had confirmed the hour of the appointment twice, once in person. Sure, I was late, but not that late! Well, they explained to me that, because this particular psychologist was ‘new’ to the institution (actually, I had met her, over six months ago, when she still was a trainee), they still didn’t have her agenda on the computer system; so clearly she had put a different hour on her paper agenda than what she told her colleagues… anyway, it was a big mess. They tried to call her over the phone, but she said that she had already left the campus… it was clearly way too late.

I was really deeply disappointed, I can tell you. I made sure to check the hours for the psychiatrist’s appointment on Friday — which had been moved around several times — so that I could avoid any misunderstandings and mistakes. Fortunately, though, it seemed that in his case, things were in order. So I left, in really a foul mood, and feeling very, very low.

It was really ‘nobody’s fault’. Sure, my wife and I should have refrained from talking so much over lunch, when we were in a hurry. This has happened a lot in the past, by the way; it was not the first time and I’m sure it wouldn’t be the last on. But even if we had managed to get out at the time I wanted, I would still have been too late, because I couldn’t magically predict that the time of my appointment was wrong anyway. Even the psychologist, very likely, was not to blame; getting the system to recognise her takes time, because, being on a budget, like all other institutions, means that they might not have the computer expert around, 24h/day, as they used to have — but perhaps just once per week. Or per month. Possibly the psychologist had given her instructions correctly, assuming that sooner or later they would pop up in the system. They did; just at the wrong time. So there is really no one to blame: it’s one of those things that happen.

Disappointed, I dragged myself back to the car. There was nothing else I could do. My wife, after an hour or so, texted me to know how the appointment went, and I told her what happened. She was also frustrated… and then she had to go back to her work.

Anyway, I had now a very long day in front of me. And what do girls do when they feel frustrated?

They go to a salon to get pampered.

Walking hours in 10cm stiletto heels…

All right, I told you at the beginning, some parts of the narrative are unusually shallow… and this certainly is one of them. What do women do when they feel down? Go shopping, go to a salon… To be honest, I only know one woman who does that, and that’s my sister-in-law! Whatever… I didn’t have time to do my nails, so I thought, why not, let’s get my nails done! After all, I would be going out three days in succession, so that would mean not needing to clean up before going to bed — yay! — and it would be worth the small extra cost… also, they would be impeccable for Saturday evening.

So, decision time… where to go? I’m not bold enough to go to my ‘usual’ manicurist; it’s not that she’d be bothered to do my nails with me as Sandra; and I’m pretty sure that the rest of the staff wouldn’t care, either. No, the major problem is that I might get seen by my colleagues from work, because the manicurist is at the ground level of our building — and, well, in the back of my mind there was always the warning from my psychologist that it was ‘too early to come out’ to anyone else. Not to mention that my wife doesn’t want me to ‘come out’, either; my best friend, whom I mentioned on a recent article, is the sole exception so far.

The neighbourhood where I work is crammed full of hair and beauty salons with gazillions of manicurists; but, alas, the same thought applies to them as well. And even though I have already gone out to dine with a friend in that neighbourhood last year, it was a bit different, since it was at a time when expectedly all my colleagues would have gone back home. But on Thursday, this was broad daylight during working hours.

I resigned myself to go to downtown Lisbon. It’s a huge shopping district and I was reasonably expecting to find a manicurist somewhere; I mean, I wasn’t exactly asking for anything overly sophisticated, like nail art or gel extensions — just some retouching, cleaning the cuticle skins, and a coat or two of polish. So I drove to a parking lot near a spot where I was pretty sure to find a few salons.

The weather was unusually fine — in fact, it was even rather hot for early November, with some thermometers on the streets showing 27ºC — I’m pretty sure those were wrong (they usually are, especially those who have been facing the sun for hours), but it was clearly around 24 or 25ºC, and that was most definitely not normal for the season. Well, we sometimes get an ‘Indian Summer’ around this time of the year, although it’s usually closer to mid-November. The whole point is that I was most definitely dressed for cooler weather; it was with some relief that I crossed one sunny plaza to a kind of small open-space strip mall close to the parking lot’s exit; there was one salon in sight, and I asked them if they had a free spot for the manicurist.

Tough luck — they had no manicurist! I was a bit surprised, because this is really unusual, but I didn’t give up — I went to the next salon. This one specialised in human hair extensions — and had no manicurist. And the third one, although it was unisex, were specialists in African hairstyles, so… they had no manicurist, either. Ugh! Now that was pretty much unlucky; and I started to wonder where women in this place would get their nails done…

I didn’t give up so easily. In fact, I walked across most of Lisbon’s downtown, as you can see on the Google Earth video below, and on the map below that:

sandra-walk-through-downtown-lisbon
This is roughly what I’ve walked. There is a very thin pink line showing the path I took. I wish it were more visible…

Hmm. At some point, perhaps half an hour down the streets, it started to dawn on me that there are no salons in Lisbon’s downtown. In fact, that shouldn’t be surprised: this is, after all, a prime location, and you might not be able to afford the rents if all you do is cheap manicure.

Oh well, I didn’t waste all the time… I could always do some window shopping… and of course I was enjoying myself tremendously, as you can imagine. Well… or at least as much one can enjoy oneself on 10cm heels walking on top the small, irregular cobblestones that are typical for Portugal’s sidewalks. They are a nightmare when one’s stiletto heels get caught — which happened to me just once, by the way, I guess I was lucky, and the heel was not broken, which would have been a major catastrophe! Nevertheless, as a good Lisbon girl, I’m pretty used to walking on them for a while; also, I was wearing some of my most comfortable heels — as I’m fond of repeating, there are no heels that are too high, there are just comfortable and uncomfortable shoes, and this depends mostly on how they are manufactured, not on how high the heel is.

In any case, the exercise was definitely warming me up. The blouse I had was made of those synthetic fabrics that the Chinese love to use: they are cheap, will rip quickly (so you’ll buy new clothes from them again!), are wonderful to wash — they dry almost instantly and you don’t need to iron them — but, of course, the biggest drawback is that they are hot like crazy, no matter how flimsy they might look. That’s great for deep winter, but not for an unseasonably warm day — and definitely not if you’ve been walking for an hour in the hot sun. I was perspiring profusely (thank goodness my makeup holds!) by the time I decided to give up. There is a LGBT community centre right near the river (but not near enough to have a view), and I always wanted to visit it — and I intended to ask them if I could stay there for a few hours working on the laptop — but a quick check on the smartphone showed that they would only open at 7 PM (being run by volunteers, that means they need to wait until they finish their day job before they are able to show up at the centre)! Bummer! It was way too early for that! So I had no choice but to walk back again…

This time at least I was walking on the shade and not on the direct sun, so the sunglasses — which are large and also cover such a wide surface that they make me sweat even more! — were off. So there — no more excuses to hide myself from anyone on the streets 🙂

Needless to say, my experience was pretty much the same one as always. In spite of standing 1.90m on top of my heels (so perhaps 30 cm taller than the average Portuguese woman…), I did not draw as much attention as you might imagine. Sure, a few people did look at me twice. Most, however, completely ignored me. There might have been some comments behind my back, but I only caught a funny one: two guys were talking about a colleague (I didn’t catch the details), and as I had just passed them, one of them said, loud enough for me to hear, in an appreciative tone of voice: ‘She [that was a reference to the colleague] should wear an uniform like this person [that was referring to me]’. Well! So I was ‘dressing in a uniform’! Oh well. At least I got a compliment, I guess.

But the rest of the people pretty much ignored me. There is an advantage to walking around downtown Lisbon: it’s a notable tourist area, so natives will pretty much ignore any odd person. An interesting fact that I have been noticing recently is how we transgender people attract much more attention among ethnic minorities; I would assume that many come from conservative families which originally came from countries where LGBT people are often ‘outlawed’ (i.e. where homosexuality is a crime and transexuality is so repressed that transexuals either commit suicide early on or quickly emigrate to more tolerant countries). Even more interesting, though, those ethnic minorities living and working in downtown Lisbon most definitely ignored me at the same level than the rest of the people. Clearly we’re talking about acquired social behaviour: when in Rome, act like a Roman; in our case: if you see an odd tourist, don’t gawk; tourists are customers, and you don’t want to drive away customers, no matter how odd they look!

Changing scenarios

Okay, so I might have been a little less impulsive before having driven to downtown Lisbon: I should have imagined that there aren’t many salons on places where actually very few people live — most of the downtown Lisbon was divided among twelve historical civil parishes; a recent administrative change merged them all under a single parish which has… only 13.000 inhabitants. Two hundred years ago, roughly the same area was inhabited by some 200.000 people. Where did they all go? Well… they were replaced by shops, restaurants, bars, offices, malls, a few hotels, banks, and so forth. It’s mostly a commercial area throughout the whole place, so actually very few people live there. And that also means few local services… like salons.

It’s still a bit absurd, because there are many other commercial areas in Lisbon, and they all have plenty of services not only for the residents, but also for those who have to use those services after office hours… or during lunch hours… whatever. Downtown Lisbon is truly a bit unusual, and I suspect that the main reason was that it was emptied so quickly from residents, and replaced by high-rent shops and restaurants, that there was no way small services could survive there. The financial crisis ought to have balanced out the rents a bit more, but either this hasn’t happened, or people simply thought that it was worthless to try… I have no idea.

So I drove to another area of Lisbon that I particularly like. Lisbon is not that huge, when compared to the largest capitals of the Western world, but it still manages to join so many different areas with its intrinsic qualities that it’s like many different cities inside the same city limits. This is mostly because buildings tend to stay around for a long while (unless an earthquake demolishes them!); so, as each area was built in succeeding centuries, it tends to remain pretty much like it was when it was built. Of course there are notable exceptions, but perhaps less than one expects to see on a city which has been around for 3000 years or so; and, before you ask, no, there isn’t any standing building from 3000 years ago, although the foundations of such buildings have often been used and reused over again, especially in the oldest parts of the city…

My choice this time was a neighbourhood known as ‘New Avenues’ (Avenidas Novas) even though they are a century old. This is a grid-like quarter built mostly during the first decades immediately after the last king was murdered and a Republic was founded; the Republicans needed to show their enthusiasm in getting rid of the old and design a modern city instead, so they paved over lots of old farms (all of them inside the city borders!) and drew those ‘new avenues’, vaguely inspired by the works of Haussmann in Paris, half a century before. My emotional connection with this area comes from my late teens/early adulthood when there was a boardgamer club in that area, where I used to hang out all the time (if you don’t know what a ‘board game‘ is, then you can see how old I really am!). Obviously there have been a few changes but it is still seen as one of Lisbon’s commercial and financial hubs — mixing offices for multinationals with local commerce. And, yes, it has plenty of beauty salons!

So after parking I went to the first salon I saw. Well, I cheated: I knew there would be one right at the underground parking’s exit, because they sort of belong to a small network of salons, and I had once asked them about electrolysis — they are one of the very few places that still do electrolysis in Lisbon. However, I didn’t ever go to this one (I tend to always go to the same place, near my office) and it was the first time I went to any salon as Sandra (this is not strictly true: I went to a few, but just to pick up some friends to go out — not to have anything done there).

In most places, you’re expected to call before going to the salon and reserve a free spot. To be honest, I almost never do that — because so often I have no clue if I’ll be able to keep the appointment! (Seriously — that’s how f***ed up my life is) I just walk right in on a day that I’m free and ask if there is a free spot — sometimes I don’t need to wait for long, sometimes I will wait a bit, most often I have enough time to do some shopping for food and have my mid-afternoon snack, and sometimes, inevitably, I must come on a different day.

But I was lucky today; the attendant looked at the reservation book and saw that she herself was free; she could have waited for a colleague to come in for the next shift, which was starting at that time, but instead choose to do the work herself, since her colleague hadn’t returned yet. I didn’t take much time, since I really wanted to keep my nails as long as possible (seven out of ten are at the right length — three are unfortunately shorter than I would like). It was just a question of removing half a pound of cuticle skin (ha!), buff the nails slightly, and apply some polish. As simple as that!

Time for my snack!

magnetic-cafe-near-av-duque-de-avilaWhew! After all that walking, I deserved to get back a few calories 🙂 So I walked across the plaza where the salon is, and peeked around for a place to have something to eat. I should mention that there are tons of cafés and esplanades and restaurants in the area, for all kinds of wallets; after all, being one of the commercial hubs of Lisbon, all those people have to eat. And although there was a time when I pretty much knew every place there (seriously… not joking!), 15 years or so have passed since I truly knew the neighbourhood as well as the back of my hand, and the number of new places has quadrupled. Or more. And, of course, old places get new managements, and so forth — you know how it is. So, these days, I barely know which places are good and which are not…

what-i-ate-at-the-magnetic-cafeOne particular bar/esplanade caught my attention because, unlike many of the places around that particular neighbourhood, it mentioned being open until 2 AM. I marked that down as a potential place to go out during the night, so it was worth exploring. Interestingly enough, reviews on Facebook or Zomato are not outstanding, but I have no complaints — I got a nice service at the esplanade, and because I didn’t ask for anything fancy, I got served in a reasonable time. No silly comments, no giggles, nothing — I just got served with a smile like all the other customers. There were a couple of girls on the table next to me, and, again, they didn’t even look at me twice.

Sure, to be absolutely honest, there are always a few people that do look at me. They register a mix of surprise and unbelief — not trusting their eyes, so to speak — but not really animosity; sometimes, of course, they will smile, laugh, or make a few comments, but usually they reserve that for when I cannot see them (yes, that would be a typical Portuguese behaviour!). I believe that this is due to the uncanny valley effect — a term that comes from aesthetics, robotics, and computer animation, which describes the ability that we have, these days, to create photorealistic illusions of reality — but which, somehow, are just slightly flawed, and our super-pattern-matching brain detects the anomaly and induces in us a sense of ‘creepiness, which tells us: ‘this might look real, but it isn’t’. I believe that this is what I accomplish with my female presentation in public: while some transexual women typically ‘have no hips’ and this will be almost immediately noticeable (even if they are skinny), there is this mental image that people have of trans women who are really just ‘men in a frock’ (in the sense that they have a typically male frame).

I have long time ago learned to at least subvert that with shapewear — false hips, a corset to create a waistline (instead of the typical 40+ years male’s beer belly), and a proportional breast size (neither too small for one’s large, male frame; neither too big to be impossibly-looking), as well as long-ish hair goes a long way to induce a certain sense of ‘confusion’. I also benefit from not really having a prominent Adam’s apple, another typical sign to look for ‘maleness’ in a trans woman. And, yes, my lips are really full and naturally glossy, another advantage I’ve got. The other signs are much more subtle and you need to know what you’re looking for to detect them — like how male eyes are much more sunken and proportionally smaller, the brow ridge, the distance between the nose and the upper lip. You can disguise these with makeup, but it will never be ‘perfect’ — and this is what triggers the uncanny valley effect. I may have a lot of signs that would give me a good chance to look ‘female’ in public, but, at a closer look, it’s easy to see that it’s all illusion and that I’ve really got a male body. But like any good magician, the way the illusion is generated is not obvious. It wasn’t the case on that particular day, but I love to ‘show off’ some cleavage, because that always baffles people — they ‘expect’ me to have rolled-up socks inside the bra, and therefore having real cleavage — which you can even touch to see that it’s really human flesh there, not silicone! — makes people confused, and the same applies to a lot of such small tricks I’ve got. Yes, it means taking another half hour to get everything right every day, but it’s worth it — you cannot imagine how un-female-ish my real body looks like!

So this lead me to think that the reason most people totally ignore me on the streets is that the ‘illusion’ works to an extent. I mean, I have a large frame, and I cannot disguise that. But there are large-framed women around. People just expect them to have a feminine figure — in a large frame. And this is what my shapewear and small tricks definitely accomplish, at least at a distance. Some people, however, will figure out that ‘something is not quite right’ — their brains trigger the uncanny valley effect — and this makes them look twice at me: searching for clues of something that is not correct for a large-framed woman. But my hair looks realistic enough (it is, after all, made of human hair…); I have (almost) no Adam’s apple; my lips are real; and the other small signs (like cleavage) seem to point in the ‘right’ direction. This will only make the uncanny valley effect make those people even more uncomfortable, until, at last, they ‘get’ a detail that is hopelessly ‘wrong’, the effect is dispelled, and they will see me as I am. All this takes perhaps a fraction of a second, of course, although I have noticed a few people who needed a few seconds until they figured out what was wrong…

It’s an interesting analysis. As said so often before, it’s now almost a year since I stopped worrying about if I ‘pass’ or not. And this is because I’ve always been treated with respect in public, no matter what people think about me. That, naturally enough, boosts my self-confidence — who cares who I am or what I am or how I look like, so long as I’m treated as a human being? In fact, I can say with certainty that I’m much better treated when I present myself as a woman than as a man. It might be a coincidence; I believe that, in the back of the minds of some people, they fear that they might offend me somehow, and therefore become extra-nice and super-polite. Could be! Note that, in general, I cannot complain at the way I’m treated when dressing as a male — I’m very easy-going, and when I see someone twice or thrice, I start being playful and make silly jokes and comments, to break the ice, to give them a chance to ‘open up’ and ‘unstiffen’ in my presence. Naturally enough, I do the same when dressed as a woman; in spite of some comments from my wife who insists that I adopt a ‘different persona’ when I dress as a woman, I disagree with her. And a few friends agree with me as well: they saw me in both male and female attire, and they say that ‘I’m exactly the same’. And that’s precisely what I feel, too 🙂

Surely, there are differences. One of them in particular is quite interesting to analyse: when dressed as a woman — and remember, there is all that shapewear beneath my clothing, and a hot wig on top of my head — somehow I feel always much more relaxed and natural. I have exchanged a few comments with some trans friends, and they report the same thing. It’s not the adrenaline kick that we feel; it’s not an ‘erotic’ feeling at all; rather, it’s really a feeling that everything is all right in the world, and so are we, which makes us feel quite happy about it. It’s the warm, cozy feeling that you get in the middle of winter after drinking some hot chocolate; but it lasts for as long as one is dressed as a woman (in public). It’s also a feeling, or sensation, which is quite hard to explain if you have never experienced it. I suppose that perhaps the closest I can describe is that feeling you get when coming from a very formal event and finally slipping into your comfy pajamas, the difference being that this feeling will only last a moment or so — while we, when dressed as women, feel it all the time.

Time to do some work… and relive some nostalgic spots

Well, I had promised (mostly to myself!) to get some work done while dressed, and, up to now, I had just fun, but did nothing productive. I had brought my laptop with me, and it was time to find a calm place to spend several hours and work on something.

I quickly summed up my choices, and they weren’t many. I could go to my favourite bar/esplanade — they are open all afternoon and all night until 2 AM — where not only I would be able to spend as much time as I wished (I would have to wait until midnight for my wife anyway), but I would also have a place with an electric socket to recharge the laptop. The only disadvantage for me, as a smoker, would be the need to go out once in a while 🙂

Then there was the LGBT centre which I had intended to visit anyway. But I thought that perhaps it would be abusive to drop in for the first time and ask for a place to sit for hours and hours and work on the computer; I really need to build up a relationship with those guys, see what kind of facilities they have, and so forth.

I briefly considered some public and private libraries. Most of them, these days, have desks with power sockets, since pretty much everybody brings their laptops and tablets with them. Being inside libraries, those places are nice and quiet. The trouble is that they usually close up very early — most definitely way before midnight! Although a few university libraries might be open until later, the trouble was that I didn’t have any student’s ID card with me. In fact, although technically I am a student, I have some difficulty in legally proving that I’m one — the grant I used to get was wired to me every month and I just got an email (not a receipt) telling me when the money was available. Sure, I do have a legally binding contract with the institution that gives me the grant, but… since my depression made me unable to work, I suspended that grant until I’m treated and well again. So… long story made short… for now, at least, using public libraries is probably not a choice for me. I’m planning to do some things with one university — but I’m really at the very beginning of this planning! — which is related to LGBT studies, and, if that goes ahead, it would mean that I would be able to use their facilities at some point, but… that’s still in the future.

Because my memory of ‘nice places in Lisbon’ is pretty much outdated by two decades, all the places I used to go to when I was younger and also brought my laptop to do some work during the weekends (I would always prefer to be away from home!) have unfortunately closed, long, long ago; some of them are really a pity, because they were truly wonderful places. Alas, sometimes it takes a bit more than having a ‘wonderful’ place to make a business thrive! But not all the places of my misspent youth have closed; one, near the Tagus river, is still doing business, and, having been there before with some friends, dressed as a female, I knew I’d be well-treated.

cafe-inIn fact, I had cunningly noticed on one of the last times I went there that the socket I used, twenty years ago, next to a table near the window, was still at the same place, and was still being used by someone to charge their laptops. So that’s exactly the place I picked — with the added bonus that this was on the smoking session of the bar 😉

At this point I need to open yet another parenthesis and give you another glimpse of my past. You see, so many trans people just wish to change their gender and start their lives afresh, from scratch, leaving all the past behind, and not regretting it a single instant. I’m the total opposite, and that’s one of the many reasons that I will never transition. I do have some attachment to my past, to the places I’ve been where I was happy, or well-treated, or that have some emotional significance to me. I’m really not willing to drop all that and start from zero. One might claim that, as a Buddhist, I ought to be able to get rid of all these attachments to the past, because they will never be able to bring me any happiness — the past is, after all, gone, and there is nothing I can do to bring it back (even if I wished to do so, which I don’t!). To that I usually answer (and that’s mostly to my wife, mind you!): I’m a Buddhist, not a Buddha 🙂 What that means is that I’m working towards leaving all my attachments behind, not that I have already succeeded in doing so!

In more mundane terms: surely that in a large European city like Lisbon there are plenty of new spaces and things to do which can become my new ‘best loved spots’? Obviously that’s true; and it’s twice more true if you take into account that most of those places don’t exist any more!

But there are still a few remaining ones, and this particular bar/esplanade has a special meaning for me. It was there that I spent many passionate hours with a former girlfriend; it was there that I pined, alone, for the time I expected to be with that former girlfriend, but for some reason something prevented me to do so. But more than that: it was also a place where I could go with my laptop, spend several hours in peace, and look at the gorgeous girls that used to come to that place. This was in the late 1990s, when women started to dress up again, abandoning, once and for all, the ‘sloppy’ look that was in vogue during the late 1980s. So the girls here were truly a delight for the eyes. Don’t ask me why — why at this particular spot and not at another one? — but I guess there was a special attraction between a fancy bar/restaurant/esplanade and the romantic view of the river. I don’t know; I’m just wildly speculating, based on what my former girlfriend used to tell me back then.

What was most certainly not obvious was that I didn’t only appreciate the girls at the bar; I actually envied them, because they would be allowed to dress so exquisitely and show themselves off, while I could only look up from my laptop — writing science fiction novels, most likely — and sigh in despair. Of course I also dreamed to be able, one day, to be one of them. But back in the late 1990s this was nothing more than a dream — I did truly not believe it would come true, ever.

Nowadays, this place is still busy with gorgeous girls, from all ages, impeccably dressed, enjoying a drink with their boyfriends and husbands. It’s interesting how somehow that particular bar has kept this amusing characteristic from the olden times. I mean, we’re even less formal in the 2010s than we were in the 1990s; nevertheless, it’s also true that women today, at least in my country, tend to spend a little more time with their appearance. And this is particularly true when going to certain ‘special’ places. Apparently, this is still the case of this spot. So, yes, I was pretty much reliving my early days there, with my laptop, having something nice to drink and eat, and being able to observe all those girls in their lovely dresses.

The difference, of course, is that now I was one of them.

That was actually a very important moment for me. As said, I had been there before, twice I think, with some friends; but in the heat of our conversation I didn’t really register that oddity — one of my silly old dreams actually had become true, and now I truly was enjoying myself ‘from the other side’, so to speak. Instead of being the sloppy male youth ogling shapely women in their dresses, and dribbling from the corner of the mouth with desire (to be one of them), now I was on the flip side of the coin, being one of the shapely women (and although I technically wasn’t wearing a dress, but a blouse and skirt, well, it’s the same thing…). Of course I wasn’t really being ogled — and that was not my point, either — but it really felt wonderful to relive my experience of being at this place, this time dressed as I always had wanted to dress, twenty years ago!

Silent night…

I intended to do some shopping afterwards, but I was having so much fun that time passed too quickly — soon I would have to pick up my wife, and sure enough, I was just in the act of paying when she texted me to pick her up. It was just a question of using the toilet once again, slip into the car, and drive her back home.

The only advantage of getting back home at midnight when dressed as a woman is that I tend to go to sleep much sooner! It might not sound logical, but here is how it goes: we reach home at around half past midnight or so. Then we have what is technically our dinner (it’s always a light dinner). On other days, we would spend some time doing stuff — my wife might have something to work on, or, if not, we might be watching together something from Comedy Central on YouTube. Then it’s time to play some last-night games (for some uncanny reason, they make me very sleepy!), some meditation, night ablutions, and into bed — rarely earlier than 3 AM, sometimes as late as 5 AM…

But when I’m dressed, after dinner, I jump into the bathroom to get un-dressed. I’m getting faster at that, and note that it’s not just ‘undressing’ and removing makeup, but rather store everything neatly away, and that is what takes longest — especially on those days that I’m wearing false lashes and fake nails. Also, I tend to wash my lingerie, and sometimes the shapewear as well, not to mention that the breast forms need to be specially washed every time I use them, air-dried, and meticulously stored in their boxes again. So, yes, this is something that often takes me 90 minutes or so — although currently I’m managing to bring it down to 45 minutes.

One thing that helped a lot was knowing that the next day I would go out dressed as a woman again. And that meant no need to worry about the fingernails — it was my first time, in many years, that I went to sleep with colour polish on my nails 🙂 and it was awesome! Yes, I know, it’s stupid to say so. But I always remember Caitlyn Jenner telling that, now that she was able to present herself full-time as a woman, the first thing that she loved was to be able to keep the polish two weeks on her nails, instead of having to go through the bother of painting them over and over again (and, of course, removing the polish every time she dressed as a woman). The media had a field day with Caitlyn and her nails, but, yes, I can understand her completely — there are some things that take so much time to do (and undo) when you’re a crossdresser, and that are so easy when you’re a woman.

She has become a very shallow, vain woman. Maybe being around his stepdaughters so long has warped her mind of what a real woman is about. Not all about hair, makeup and designer clothing. — ‘HMS2015

Maybe all those women are right and it’s just us who are wrong. I’ve discussed that often enough 🙂

Anyway, although I got a few ‘looks’ from my wife, there were no comments whatsoever, and I went peacefully to sleep, with wonderful memories of the day.

Day 2: Storm and Thunder

Casual old me!So I woke up in a radiant mood, jumped into the bathroom, and dressed up as Sandra once more, just as planned. Today would be the day for the psychiatrist, and because that was set for about half past four (and he is often late), I wasn’t in a rush. I decided to go in a very casual outfit — a very, very simple green top, and a denim skirt (which, for some reason, I always wear backwards!), nothing fancy really, but I know that my wife prefers when I’m dressed casually, so that’s exactly what I did.

She mumbled and grumbled something incomprehensible while I was getting ready and she was cooking lunch, and shortly it was time to eat our meal. The sun was shining, my mood was really good, I was in high spirits and smiling all the way until we sort of finished to eat.

Then my wife started her complaints. Don’t ask me how exactly it started, because I don’t remember. I know that she said something like ‘I knew that when you didn’t remove your nail polish this was going to happen’. ‘This’? I was unsure of what exactly she meant, since she knew perfectly well there were three days in a row with appointments with psychologists and psychiatrists and sexologists, and that I intended to go dressed to them…

Well, things got nasty — I know that it has to do with her anxiety of thinking that some harm will come to me while dressed, and even if that harm is merely psychological (say, a friend, neighbour, or familiar sees me dressed…), she has to deal with it, because my doctors are too far away for that. But the harm can also be physical — because, as a trans woman, I’m so much more exposed to the public at large, and that means that sooner or later a transphobe will have a fair chance to hit me.

At the beginning, I sort of tried to calm her down, at least enough to figure out what was really annoying her, but soon it became obvious to me that the more honest answer would be ‘everything’. She was annoyed because I went out dressed twice in a row; she was annoyed because I was doing that in broad daylight, so the neighbours could see; she was annoyed because I was still stuck to a ‘female stereotype’ which does not become my age and is a parody of ‘real womanhood’, and that she sincerely hated; and this went on and on, until I was put so down, so down, that I even blabbered that I had been at a different place yesterday than the ‘usual’ one, which led her to rant, and complain about ‘going out on my own’, and that she was so tired of handling me (or rather, Sandra) as if I were a reckless teenager, if she wanted to do that she would have had kids, and, on top of that all, she was getting more and more anxious that my stupid depression would not go away, and it was still 18 months in the future until my wife could conceivably get a source of income, and we would need to survive for that long, and all I thought of was if my nail polish matched my outfit or the lipstick colour, and she was so tired of that…

This went on, and on, and on… it’s not that she might not be right, according to her perception of things, and there is little I can do to change that perception — especially if all I do just validates that same perception. At some point, when we were still in a dialogue (until I simply was too devastated to say anything any more…), I sort of raised the notion that for me this was always a ‘lose-lose’ situation: either I tried to conform to her wishes and desires, and that meant suppressing my feelings for a longer period, and that meant an even deeper depression; or I had no choice but to make her miserable all the time, and I most certainly couldn’t do that. To this she replied that she was also in a lose-lose situation, and one that was much worse than mine, because, at least, when I was dressed I usually was having fun — even if just for a brief moment! — while she would fret, and be anxious, and endlessly wondering when I would start doing some real therapy to get rid of my ‘urges’ to crossdress and go out recklessly in public…

Well… time was passing swiftly, and I really didn’t want to lose another appointment, so, with a headache, and feeling like I had been driven over by a 18-wheeler, I managed to say that we really should go now… I don’t know why, but she sort of mentioned that after I came back from the appointment on Saturday, she had something in mind… to which I blabbered that I had agreed to go to the theatre watch that play… which, in turn, made her blew up once more, and yell at me about how I could possibly be so insensible, since we had to go out on Saturday and shop for food, or else we wouldn’t have nothing to eat, etc. and so forth, until I stopped the whole argument saying that I would text my friends and tell them I couldn’t go, to which my wife, at first, just replied that this would just make me miserable, and, in turn, I would blame it all on her and that would make her miserable…

… but I said that it was fine, I was used to that by now, my friends would also understand, and I wouldn’t really mind changing all that. I tried to sound as calm and as controlled as I could… but now time was seriously running out, this took us almost two hours or more of heavy discussion, well, until it turned into a monologue and I was just at the receiving end, hopelessly lost, without anything to say to make amends, and just thinking that I really, really needed help to get rid of my gender dysphoria — even if that meant never being in touch with my ‘female essence’ again.

Much later on that day, I sort of told her that I had spent two decades pretending that I was male, and pretty much everybody was convinced by my performance. During those days, of course I would always dream about myself as a woman, and I would pretty much spend all spare time thinking about it, but it didn’t affect me — neither at work, nor with friends. I would agree with my wife that all this ‘lack of control’ — being unable to keep my urges in check — was very possibly a consequence of the mid-life crisis, of the depression, of something, who knows what, but possibly the psychologists could revert that and put me back to where I was two decades ago. This seemed to ease her mind, and later that day, when I returned from the psychiatrist to drive her back home for dinner, she was pretty much her own calm self again, especially when I undressed — and reluctantly took the polish off my nails.

Waiting at the mental institution...
Waiting at the mental institution…

To be honest, I had given up all hope, and if we hadn’t ‘wasted’ all that time discussing, I would have undressed and go with my usual sloppy and uncomfortable male clothes to the psychiatrist. But it was simply too late for that. So I dropped her off and went to the psychiatrist. Needless to say, when I was checking in, he was just leaving the building — that meant he had something urgent to do, and my appointment would be delayed. And this was confirmed when checking in: my doctor is sort of the boss around there, and today he was on ER duty, so that meant that when an extreme case would be brought in — yes, the kind that comes in a straitjacket and shot with a tranquiliser — my doctor had to attend that. This was neither the first, nor surely the last time that this would happen, so I didn’t really mind. It just meant that I had much more time to review my notes and think about what I wanted to tell the doctor.

When finally it was my turn, I had to unleash my burden to the doctor. I know, he’s the psychiatrist and not a therapist, but he was all I had today, so I had to tell him what had happened. I explained to him that my wife does not really believe that I have ‘gender dysphoria’. Rather, what she ‘believes’ is that ‘gender dysphoria’ is some kind of compulsive-obsessive disorder, which can be controlled and checked, like so many urges we have to do things we shouldn’t. My wife does not deny the existence of transexuals; she just thinks I’m not one of them, and that things like ‘late on-set transexuals’ are really just common crossdressers going through an identity crisis, usually connected to their own mid-life crisis. And she has plenty of arguments for believing that! So, in essence, I was begging the psychiatrist to let his colleagues from psychology teach me some techniques and methods to be able to deal with my crossdressing urges, and allow to learn how to control them again, like I had done so well for so many years.

My psychiatrist is a very calm person. I guess that’s what we expect shrinks to be — an anxious doctor is probably not someone you would trust. So far, he has always been gentle and kind with me, in the sense that he fully understands my situation and how it takes so much time to get rid of the depression, and so forth. But this time he was a bit more sanguine than usual.

He started by stating that I was ‘much better’ from the depression — in fact, if it weren’t for the slight detail of not being able to work, he would consider me ‘cured’. I was actually astonished to hear that, especially on a day when I was anything but feeling well. But of course I liked to hear the good news. But — he said — there was something fundamentally wrong in my wife’s assumptions: because gender dysphoria is not something that ‘goes away’ once the depression disappears. She would have to learn to understand that. Things are correlated, of course; and it’s more than obvious, even to me, that this is the reason why I put so much energy and effort into crossdressing — it’s because it’s the only thing that seems to provide me with some serotonin release and make me feel good. It’s only natural for human beings to seek happiness. Well, the depression was clouding everything, and making it all much, much harder to deal with, but gender dysphoria does not go away. He didn’t actually say that there were no techniques or methods to stop those urges; he just said that the assumption my wife was working on — that is, the depression is pushing me to crossdress more and more — was simply wrong. And at some point I told him again about how my wife dealt with her own depression, and how she expected to see results, since, even though she suffers from fibromyalgia, she managed to overcome the pain and get back to work. My psychiatrist replied to that the commonly held view by his class of doctors that ‘fibromyalgia is just somatized depression; it responds to exactly the same drugs, and when depression is cured, fibromyalgia tends to disappear’. Well, I didn’t want to argue about that, because that opinion is quite polemic and not exactly right — but I’m aware that psychiatrists tend to see it (and treat it!) that way. So I switched tracks, and just said that she would be happier if I learned to control my urges.

Again, the good doctor became much more harsh than usual. He said that my wife would have to learn the difference between gender dysphoria and a somatized disease which can be treated conventionally; gender dysphoria cannot be treated by conventional methods, and it won’t go away, even if depression/anxiety disappear. I might be able to work again, once the depression is eventually cured and treated, and I might learn some techniques to prevent the depression to take hold of me again; but none of that would have any effect whatsoever on my gender dysphoria. So my wife either accepted that — or she would have to rethink her relationship with me.

That truly got me scared!

Now, of course nobody is perfect, and it’s obvious that my wife and I will always disagree at some points. But the truth is that we get along together really, really well — meaning that we agree in way more things than we disagree. When I turn to my blog, or to Facebook, or even to the doctors to grumble and complain about my wife, I’m really just talking about very rare events, which happen so infrequently that I’m usually not even expecting them and are unable to respond quickly enough. But my wife is also often the first one to ask for forgiveness, while I’m still mulling it over and trying to understand what I did so wrong this time. So, to be very blunt, there is really no rational reason to ever put this relationship in question, and, actually, when the doctor told me that, I resented the implication!

Well, I know he meant well. While he probably agrees that it’s important for anyone suffering from gender dysphoria to have active support from a close family member (and who can be closer than one’s wife?), he also made clear that such support really needs to be ‘support’ and not an exchange of favours or something like that. I truly believe that my wife is honest when she says that she wants to help me out through this. But I’m also aware that her diagnosis does not coincide with the views of these doctors, and she can be very stubborn with that.

At the end of the appointment, the psychiatrist just said that the institution is always open to allow my wife to go there and have a talk with the psychologists, so that they can help her deal with my situation. However, it’s unclear if they actually will help her to accept that gender dysphoria cannot be conventionally treated. And, in any case, I don’t ‘need’ to be ‘treated’ of gender dysphoria. I’m fine with the symptoms of gender dysphoria — I had to live with them for ages, and I was able to suppress them. I only need help to do that again, without, however, the side-effects of suppressing them. And, in turn, my wife also doesn’t need for me to ‘stop crossdressing forever’. She’s fine with that so long as I play by the rules, which in essence means staying at home, and, on very special occasions, maybe go out with some friends that she approves off, to designated places and no others.

Oh well. As you can imagine, I was a wreck after that session. I intended at least to have something to drink and eat, relax at some café or so, until it was time to pick up my wife — which was soon enough. But I had had the appointment so late that the institution’s cafeteria had already closed. And this was a ‘risky’ time to be around that particular neighbourhood: it was the time when most people start going home, and that included my colleagues at work.

After texting my friends to tell them I wouldn’t come to the theatre on Saturday, and confirming with my mother-in-law that our usual Saturday dinner was, after all, on — I had texted her earlier in the week to change it to Sunday — I went back to my car, and had already a message from my wife: she was ready from her work at university, and we could drive back again.

She was much calmer by now. I told her about the doctor’s reaction and how he opened the door for her to talk to the psychologists. I also told her that the psychiatrist believed I was much better from the depression, but, of course, there was nothing to do about the gender dysphoria. My wife lead me to understand what she thought about that ‘opinion’, but didn’t grumble much more. And I’m sure that she was quite happy to see that, after undressing at home, I had cleaned my nails. No more crossdressing for me — for a long while.

Day 3: Another psychologist!

Well, if things had worked out according to plan, I would have had a fantastic Saturday, starting early by dressing to the nines and visiting my ‘new’ psychologist, then having lunch at home, change dresses, retouch the makeup, and enjoy a wonderful evening at the theatre with my friends.

Instead, I woke up tired — I did sleep soundly, but the previous day had exhausted me psychologically. I put on the sloppiest male top I could find, and drove to Lisbon; I don’t remember if my wife had already woken up or not, but if she did, she was still in her relaxing phase.

I didn’t know if the psychologist would be late or not, but apparently, he is of the punctual kind. I had a letter for him from the sexologist, to be delivered in hand; he read it with some surprise (I have no idea what was written in it), then looked at me and made a big smile. He is really very easy-going, and his office doesn’t really look like a ‘doctor’s office’ at all. There is no desk, just two chairs, side by side, slightly twisted so that we could face each other if we wanted — but we could just stare ahead at the conversation pieces around the room if we wanted that instead.

I basically tried to condense all my life into one hour (and a few minutes…), while he made notes and encouraged me to go on. I guess we’re starting with the ‘listening’ phase; and it also means starting from scratch again. The good news is that I had already delivered my 200+-page biography, plus notes that I write irregularly (it’s like a diary, but not quite), so I know that he can read the details there if he wants. But it’s easier to at least sketch an overview of what I consider essential, and then he, as the therapist, can ask for details when needed.

I told him that I had been pretty much raised in a ‘gender neutral’ way — even though I didn’t exactly dress in a skirt, but mostly in boyish clothes (which girls would also use, anyway…), my mother expected ‘us boys’ to pretty much do everything that a woman does at home. At that time, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, every young parent was strongly influenced by the pediatric books of Dr. Benjamin Spock, and he recommended that boys and girls should be raised exactly in the same way, each doing exactly what the other does. My mother, who had been a tomboy in her pre-teens, and who wanted to be a pro hockey player during her teens (but unfortunately for her, there was no female pro team back then — the first one was started just a few years later, but, by then, my mother was already working as an assistant/secretary in a medical research lab) — she still taught us how to skate — had no issue whatsoever with that form of education, and my father didn’t interfere, either. As a result, I was never the kind of ‘transgender boy’ who gets scolded — or even hit — for doing ‘feminine things’ at home. And the truth is that I wasn’t overly feminine, either: I would play with dolls and electric trains and Legos and soldiers; I would make my own dresses for the dolls and plushies — but also for the Action Man soldiers. There was no real difference; I had this vague idea that perhaps the dolls were meant for girls, but I was learning to do my own stuff for the Action Men figures, which was rather cool, since because I couldn’t afford to buy new clothes for them, at least I could do them! (Ironically, my first serious use of my meagre sewing skills was during my involuntary conscription — at some point, I had to help out my comrades with sewing their name stickers to their jackets, or fixing some buttons or torn pants, and so forth… I’m not good at sewing, but at least it holds no mystery to me, and I enjoy doing it — it’s a very relaxing activity!)

I told the psychologist all that, and how I felt that it was so odd that I couldn’t play with dolls in kindergarten, but the girls were allowed to play with us with the trains and cars and Lego blocks. Because I really didn’t see much of a difference, I was fine with that — since so many girls were fine with it as well. It was only during grammar school that things became complicated: while we would do the same things in the classroom, outside, during the breaks, boys were expected to play soccer (which I hated) while the girls had their awesome games of pretending and so forth, which we boys weren’t allowed to join. I found that incredibly unfair. Fortunately for me, there was a small group of soccer-hating boys, so we hung around together and enjoyed ourselves in different ways (I wonder, these days, if they were all transgender… which I seriously doubt it… because we were far too many for the statistics to be correct!).

Later on, we were once more allowed to play with the girls, and during the hormone changes of puberty, it was clear to me that I was weird — because I would only have orgasms (since 11 or so) when thinking of myself as a woman. With 15, I got scared of being ‘homosexual’, which was so weird, because I hated men (I still have a slight androphobic reaction to men) and just wanted to get a girlfriend (and, yes, have sex with her too, even though I was not sure if I knew how that worked — the only thing I was sure of was that having sex with a guy was unthinkable, and I would almost vomit merely bythinking about it!).

So it all ended up when I finally got completely insane, ten years later or so, by dressing my eldest female cousin’s lingerie and feeling incredibly excited by that … and yes, that was sexual excitement. But it also gave me a shock — I really thought that I was going insane and needed to see a doctor to get me interned at a mental institution.

Fortunately for me, there was already an Internet back then, and the rest is history: I learned that I was not insane, but ‘merely a crossdresser’, something common to millions and millions of men all over the world, and I could relax and just enjoy myself, because I was neither insane, nor was crossdressing any kind of ‘deviant’ behaviour. There were also very good reasons for crossdressing, like stress relief and so forth. I know now that many of those articles written two decades ago, although their intent was the best, were quite naïve. But they got one thing right: there are many of us, what we do is not abnormal, we’re not insane nor mentally ill, we should enjoy it.

On a previous article I noted the difference between ‘sexual excitement’ (or arousal) and ‘non-sexual excitement’. This is something which I also told the psychologist: yes, it’s true that at the very beginning, when I started to dress, I would easily masturbate and achieve an orgasm. As time passed, however, the sexual component ceased to be so important, although the excitement is still present. It’s just different: I don’t dress up because I wish to masturbate and need to dress to get an orgasm — no, to be honest, all I need is my mind for that — neither do I dress up because of the ‘excitement’ that it gives me. I dress up because I feel good about doing it. The excitement is secondary; because it comes from an adrenaline rush, once the adrenaline gets washed out of the system, the excitement might disappear as well — but the ‘good feeling’, the feeling that it’s right, that never goes away. And that’s pretty much why I feel this compulsion or urge to ‘dress up’ — it’s because, at least at the eyes of everybody (including myself), I can be Sandra in all her glory, even though there is no personality change: Sandra is pretty much the woman I would have been if I had been born female, and that’s it. The ‘urges’ are just some kind of inborn mechanisms, most of which we don’t understand at all, which somehow drive me to correct what is wrong. There is some very deep subconscious thing that tells me that I should stop pretending (at least for a while) and embrace my true self. Sometimes such thoughts bubble up to the conscious; and if the time is right (meaning that I have an opportunity to dress and/or to go out), I can follow those urges, and derive some pleasure, happiness and well-being from that. Because I’m also depressed, it’s needless to say that the more I follow those urges, the happier I am. This, however, is exactly what my wife does not want to happen!

Taken just before I started my test
Taken just before I started my evaluation test for my psychologist

We finished on that note. I was expecting to do the 567-question-test which is supposed to evaluate my degree of gender dysphoria, but this was scheduled for the upcoming session — on Thursday afternoon, which is so much better for me, because I will almost always be able to dress up before going to the appointment. Which I actually did, and now I’m eagerly awaiting the next session to hear about my evaluation — as well as the result from the blood tests, which should also show how imbalanced my hormonal levels are — or not.

Conclusion…

I came back home for lunch, and, as said, my wife was already much calmer and just wanted to know how the appointment had gone, and I told her about it — it was just a session of talking about my life. Indeed, one thing the psychologist immediately said, when I commented that it was pretty easy for me to write 200+ pages of my autobiography, but not a single line of my PhD thesis, was that ‘it was natural, since the biography is about myself. I have no idea if that means I have a narcissistic disorder!…. but it’s possible. Anyway, I’ll know about it better next Thursday.

My wife had totally forgotten that I had the plan of going out to the theatre, and it was actually amusing how she talked to her sister on the phone about what they would do later at their mother’s place — not realising that I had to change the date twice. And most ironical of all was that my wife needed to do some things on the computer, after we had our nap, and, at some point, it was time to go to her mother’s place — and suddenly, after all, there had been no ‘urgency’ whatsoever to go out shopping for food. My wife realised that when we were getting ready to go out — and sort of smiled embarrassingly about it.

It’s all right. At least, my Buddhist training is useful for something, i.e. dealing with disappointment because my schedule was thwarted at the last possible moment. But I’m so used to it by now that I don’t even get surprised by it. Instead, I’m only sorry for my friends — who cannot count on me as a ‘reliable’ person, because, well, I never know what will happen until the last possible moment.

Usually, I would have gone out on Sunday and have some fun with my friends. But I really wasn’t in the mood. That Friday was really, really very tough on me, as I was punched and stabbed by my wife first, and later kicked by my psychiatrist. I was emotionally sore, and with lots of open wounds in my psyche; I needed a few days to somehow recover.

Recovery, for me, means deeply thinking about things, but with my usually frantic schedule, it’s not even easy to be able to stop to think. A Sunday with nothing to do was the perfect occasion for that. And as I write these lines, another week has passed — a week when I had some fun at the psychologist, later going to shop for makeup (the attendant, by now, recognises me as a ‘regular’ customer, either in my male or female clothes…), and finally going to a birthday party of one of my good friends. All in all, that was a nice Thursday, and largely compensated for the nightmares of the previous week. And as I complete another article, I have to keep in mind the words of my sexologist: avoid labeling myself. Who cares if I’m a fetishist, a crossdresser, a transexual; if I’m part of the trans family or not. This should all be irrelevant. All I know is how good I feel when I present myself as Sandra; I should just enjoy those moments without attaching to much significance to them.

But of course it’s not that easy. I eagerly await the results of the tests — physical and psychological. And this week I will also meet the replacement of my former psychologist. Unfortunately it’s at a dreadful time, so I will probably have no time to dress up as I intended. I really don’t want to miss another appointment!

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