Monday, March 25, 2013

Hugging a Stranger


Friday, I attended the True Colors Conference at the campus of my alma mater, the University of Connecticut.

I dressed en femme and thought I looked pretty good for someone who passed the 60-year mile marker two years ago. Usually, I am hypercritical of my presentation and always find something wrong, but Friday I thought I looked as good as I get. (And it always amazes me how much younger I look in girl mode than I do in boy mode!)

I switched to flats to drive to Storrs, parked my car in the parking garage near my old dormitory and kept my flats on to walk to the Student Union.

In past years attending the Conference, I parked in a different garage on the opposite side of the Student Union, so this was the first time since I graduated in 1973 that I walked the walk that I took everyday between my dorm and the classroom buildings. It was nostalgic, but my how things had changed!

Across the street from Memorial Stadium was a huge field, about 12 acres in size that provided a beautiful view of the rolling hills to the east. Most days after classes, my dorm mates and I would play softball or touch football in that field.

Today, that field is occupied by five buildings constructed after I graduated. The view and my old playing field are long gone. I wondered where my old dorm mates have gone and I wondered what they would think if they could see me now.

I entered the Student Union and encountered throngs of GLBT youth, who were enjoying their day. I stopped by the Information table to greet my old friend Robin who was staffing it. A woman, who I did not recognize was also staffing the table, but she recognized me and greeted me like we were old friends.

I played along and said it was great to see her, then I continued on my way to the support group's table which I was scheduled to staff from 10 AM to 2 PM. I was 10 minutes late, but another friend, Kelly was holding down the fort until I arrived.

At the Information table, I encountered Fantasia Fair friend, Liz, who escorted me to the presenter's table where I signed in and received my presentation packet. Then I returned to the support group's table to relieve Kelly, who left to join her parents who were staffing the PFLAG table.

Youths and adults came by the table, but mostly youths who were attracted by our bait - a variety of candy. Since the name of the support group (Connecticut Outreach Society) reveals nothing about the organization, people asked and that gave me a chance to tell them about being trans rather than give them details about the group since it is only open to adults. At one point, I had eight youths surrounding the table listening to me talk about being trans and answering all of their questions on the subject.

The woman behind the curtain at True Colors, Robin McHaelen, stopped by and gave me a big hug (we go back a few years now) and said something to the effect that I looked great. I also received compliments from youths and other adults throughout the day.

Everyone I encountered seemed to accept me, either as a woman or as trans. I was never referred to as a male; it was always “she,” “her,” “Ma’am” or “Miss.”

A number of times, kids and adults came up to the booth and when I began my Transgender 101 spiel, I could see their expression change as they tried to figure me out. It was very interesting.

Karen, another Fantasia Fair friend arrived to staff the table and give me a break. So I took the time to visit the ladies' room. On the way to that room, I passed the Information table and the mystery woman beckoned me to sit down and chat.

It turns out that the mystery woman was Jila, who had given me the works at her spa three years ago. I did not recognize her because I had only seen her that one day in March 2010, but she recognized me, probably because my image was on her spa's website and because she reads this blog.

We caught up on our good times and bad and then I asked her about my voice. I had been using my femme voice from the get-go, but caught myself returning to my boy voice when I stopped concentrating on using my femme voice. 

Jila critiqued my femme voice. Her main complaint was that my voice tended to drop into boy mode as I concluded whatever I was saying. She worked with me on it and suggested that I let myself go especially with regards to gesturing with my hands as I talked.

I practiced with Jila's guidance and in no time, things were clicking and I suddenly felt a wave of femininity flow over me like I never felt before. Wow!

I concentrated on my voice the rest of the day. At times, I fell back into boy mode, but I think I made a lot of progress. Thank you, Jila!

I ran into other friends during the day including Krista, Lee Ann and my life coach, Holly. I chatted with Holly until it was time to get ready for my presentation: "Femulate: The Art of Becoming Womanly."

My presentation was in a conference room in the Women's Center, rather than in a classroom. The room had a lot of comfy chairs as well as folding chairs, so it was a little cozier than classroom. And instead of standing in back of a podium, I was just standing or sitting out in the open, which probably made everything a little more intimate.

A small, but enthusiastic group of about ten showed up and I began. I worked through an updated version of my "top 30 things every crossdressing man needs in his wardrobe to emulate a woman" in about half the session. At the beginning, I told the group to interrupt me at anytime to ask questions and they took me up on my offer.

After my top 30 things, I took more questions related to the top 30 or anything else anyone wanted to ask. I gave long rambling answers that entertained (I got a few laughs) and informed (at least that is what the oral and written comments indicated).

Some of the questions I recall were:

Do you ever dress in men's clothing?

How out are you to your family?

Where can you buy shoes in larger sizes?

Tell us about any negative reactions you have had when out in public?

We ran out of time and I received a round of applause and some thank-you’s.

After the presentation, a woman came up to speak with me. She is involved with two youth groups in Western Massachusetts and wondered if I would be interested in talking to her groups because I would be a "wonderful role model." I indicated that I would be happy to do it and will wait for her to contact me to work something out.

I returned to the support group table to meet up with my friend Diana and we decided to stop at Rein's Deli for dinner. Although her car was in the north garage and mine in the south garage, we managed to show up at the deli 15 miles away at exactly the same time!

It was 5 PM and the deli was busy, but nobody seemed to pay much attention to us except when I waited at the register to pay the bill. Diana noticed a very senior lady who seemed to be awestruck by me. I guess she never saw an Amazon before.

After the long day, I was surprisingly not tired. I was energized by the day.

Mid-afternoon, I was walking through the Student Union and passed by a group of a half-dozen teens, who were dressed rather plainly unlike a lot of the other youths at the conference who wore every color of the rainbow (often all at the same time)!

The biggest male in the group politely stopped me. (I assumed he was male, but I could be in error because there was a lot of gender-blurring at the conference.) Anyway, I asked the boy what he wanted and he replied that he wanted a hug.

I gave him a big hug.

Now I hugged friends and acquaintances throughout the day, but this hug with a stranger was the most important hug of the day.


  1. I can identify with your being flustered by the growth of your old campus! A couple of years ago, I visited my alma mater to participate in some paid psych studies. UCF has grown by leaps and bounds since I graduated way back in '81. At one point, I found myself totally lost among all the new buildings until finally, after 20 minutes of wandering, I spotted the library and got my bearings!

    The "stranger hug" is the best part of your account -- how sweet!

  2. Dear Stana,

    You certainly do look lovely as dressed for your big day at your Alma Mater. But then, you ALWAYS look lovely. You are quite an attractive woman.

    Like you, I look significantly younger when “en femme”. I am 68, and look perhaps 58 as a man, and maybe 50 as a woman. I have never been a drinker, smoker, or drug user, and I'm fortunate to have fairly good and smooth facial skin (especially at age 68).

    I would love to use my feminine voice and speaking style when “en femme”, but I am so often out with a group of T-Girlfriends who almost all talk in their guy voices, that I fall into talking like a guy, too. I think my best chances of speaking and sounding as a woman are if I am out alone, or with just one other person (either a GG [genetic girl] or a T-Girl who speaks in her feminine voice). A funny effect that I and other T-Girls have noticed is that if we start out talking in a feminine manner and then start talking about technical topics or topics more associated with guys, our speaking style automatically shifts to male mode!

    BRAVA to you Stana on your successful day. I enjoyed your writeup of all your experiences and interactions. YOU GO,GIRL!



  3. Like Starla T, I can identify with the changes of the campus you found! Not because I've gone to the school for academics but because I have memories of being asked to go to them, to "display" myself to a class. The fact is, college campuses grow.

    Loved reading about your experiences! I felt the best experience came from the "hug of a stranger" the most. Sadly, I feel the intent of that hug will be long in coming to society! Too bad. IMO, getting that hug would be well worth going through the many negatives.

    Great post from a most lovely lady! Keep up the good works, Stana!

  4. I am jealous, yes you do look great and an absolute cougar, but what really has me envious is your lunch at Reins deli! Putting that aside I do have to thank you for writing up a great account of your day at U Conn. It seems the transgender community has turned the corner and we are finally being understood and have become part of the culture. The generation coming forward will make Trans people an accepted part of society. Of course this comes on the heels (pun intended) of all the hard work you have done to present a positive image and to educate people about our community. Because of this hard work, I as transgender women can now go to Reins Deli and enjoy a Reuben sandwich, I probably won’t fit in my size 16’s any longer but who cares those Reuben’s are delicious. I guess that’s what they mean by “Reubenesque”. Okay I’m laughing at my own joke here. God bless you Stana, and Happy Easter

  5. thanks for the great story i have been following your adventure for a while some friends of mine speak at several collages here in so ca i have been with them on several occasions and the coment's and questions are allways diffrent keep up the good work

    hugs susie