I very much appreciate you dilemma. Our need for self-expression and fulfillment does present quite a challenge especially when positive reinforcement seems to follow us everywhere.
I have always viewed my extra-gender activity as visits into the land of femininity. I guess it started very young viewing travel brochures (catalogues), progressed to quick visits and now I see myself as having a full travel visa. I visit at will and enjoy every blessed moment.
Would I ever want to live full time in the land of femininity? The thought has crossed my mind as extended visits have occurred and with the fact that I actually work full time there. Yes, dreams sometime come true. As with any extended trip, I am usually happy to have the option to return home. There I have family, friends, and obligations. Like you, I have made promises to others and myself.
Gender discovery and the progression as I see it, does not have to be a “either/or.” Why not both? We already know that our internal operating systems (masculine/feminine) are much more flexible than most, so why limit ourselves.
Eery morning I get dressed, put on my makeup, do my hair and go to work as any other woman would. There I interact in the office in a rather mundane way, do my assigned tasks, and enjoy every moment. There I am only known only as “Rhonda” and as an event coordinator and fundraiser. Much public contact is involved - evening dinners, cocktail receptions and private gatherings to mention just a few.
Do my constituents know? Maybe, but with confidence and a friendly attitude, I make it work. There have been weekend events and travel to business conferences that have made my time in the land of femininity seem to be extended stays but still, I return home. It is nice to have that option.
At the end of the day, I shower and comb the hair back into a masculine look. Some time after, I look into the mirror and see a sad man, but secondary comfort levels return. On weekends when I do not have business commitments, I wash the car, have woodworking and repair projects, and relax with my family unencumbered by my other life. I know that his type of integration might not be for everyone. Some see only fulfillment in being “true to yourself,” but I see reality in also being true to my commitments as well as self.
“If you look this good as a woman, why bother being a man?” Because you still enjoy it. You still have a home and family there. Be both, enjoy both, live both.
As a follow-up to her wonderful e-mail, I had to ask, "How does your family (especially your spouse) feel about you working en femme? How did you negotiate that?" Rhonda kindly replied.
I retired in 2001 after many years of IT consulting, traveling and too much general wear and tear on my body. My wife was already retired and the both of us home all day was just not going to work. To have back her quiet day, my wife was at that point to accept (willingly) anything. I started volunteering as Rhonda and from that came many job offers in the non-profit world.
Volunteering led to part time – part time led to full time and thus, a career in fundraising (8+ years now). I love what I do; I feel like I am giving back and “all dressed up and somewhere to go.”
I cannot overstate how understanding and open my wife is. I honestly do not see myself retiring again anytime soon. As long as I am viable, enjoy the work and can make a reasonable presentation, I plan on continuing.