Before telling my girlfriend, of course, I was dressing secretly at home fearing her sudden return, but eventually I took the courage and went to a “closed” meeting of our sisterhood. This was a step up again and I was very nervous.
What was I scared of? I guess I was worried that somebody I knew would see me there. Although the obvious reply is that I would also see them, therefore, we’d both be in the same situation. Anyway, I got there, changed in the room allocated for doing so and went to meet the others. I found it a little uncomfortable and to be honest, a bit of a let-down.
My immediate reaction was to leave (can you imagine that after all the build-up?), but I stuck it out and stayed for most of the evening. In those days, those meetings were the only meeting anywhere closer than London (a two-hour drive each way for me). So despite it being very low key and only held monthly (and not at all in December), I became a regular, gradually meeting friends there.
The next stage were “closed” weekends away, although on my first visit, I only went for the Saturday, coming home in the late afternoon. It was during these events that I left the hotel and for the first time walked out in the general public, first under the cover of darkness and then in broad daylight. What a site I must have been – although I have always not gone too over the top, my skirt was probably a bit too short and my wig was of a poor quality. However, once I was out I walked around for three hours and although I’m sure I was, I was not aware of being read. I walked back into the hotel elated and wanted to tell everyone about it. But that isn’t so easy because everyone else also wanted to talk about their adventures of the day.
These weekends (and they became full weekends as I got there on Friday evening and stayed until Sunday morning) became regulars for me and I became more confident and I hope more presentable. I had various steps up and little victories. The first one I really remember was when a man held a door open for me and smiled sweetly (a man’s never smiled at me in that way when I’ve been in male mode). A second was when I went with my wife and another man held a door for us and said “there you are, ladies” – priceless!
On another day I went with my wife for a girls’ day out clothes shopping and we also went into a pub for lunch. I had never done this before and as always, I was very nervous. I followed my wife into a crowded bar where she was told there were tables available in the next room. Before I knew it she had disappeared into this room leaving me to follow her to a dining area with about 20 tables most of which were full. My heart was in my mouth as I expected everyone to stop and look at me in astonishment. When they didn’t my heartbeat went down to a steady “incredibly fast” and I gathered myself as a waitress, without a hesitation, took us to a table. We had a wonderful spot and I remember looking out at the winter sun as swans swam in the river that flowed past the window. Life just didn’t get better than this. What a long way from guiltily dressing in my mother’s bedroom some 35 years earlier.
In more recent years, I regularly go out shopping on my own and rarely get a second glance (although I usually half expect the world is going to stop and I take a big breath inwards when I get out of my car). If necessary, I even start conversations with others. A few years ago I was walking around the shops when a woman came up to me to ask me directions and she did not hesitate for a second as my none too feminine voice replied. In fact, we continued in a normal conversation as she asked further questions. I have been asked for directions on more than one occasion when en femme.
Considering how little I spend of my life out en femme, this is a high proportion of the time compared with when I am in male mode. It seems that not only do men not ask for directions, they do not get asked for them much either! I guess it’s because a woman you don’t know is very unlikely to give you trouble – a man may be an unknown quantity when approached in this way.
One thing that I do enjoy, although this again can be a very nerve-racking place to be, are conversations that women have whilst waiting in the ladies for a cubicle to become free, and afterwards, whilst waiting for a wash basin or a mirror. If a man spoke to another in this way in the gents room, he may get some funny looks and would definitely be assumed to have the “gay” gene! Often the conversations are on the same subject – how there is such a queue for the women whilst the men don’t have to wait? Partly because they often don’t wash their hands, I would suggest (ugh!)
More recently, I have gone up to another level again and go to a pub on Saturday evenings to enjoy a drink and a dance to the DJ. Admittedly, it is a partly gay pub and there are other sisters there, but it is very liberating to be able to dance without feeling a little inhibited as I might if in male mode. Once again, women start conversations with you, sometimes because they have obviously read you, but occasionally they haven’t, or at least are prepared to treat you as another woman.
On one occasion, I was speaking to a woman whilst her friend (who incidentally was in a wonderful Audrey Hepburn Breakfast at Tiffany’s style LBD) was being chatted up a by a male. The first woman was watching this with a look of contempt for him, leant closer to me and whispered, “That bloke’s a w*****.” I don’t approve of this language, but if ever a situation made me feel accepted by womankind, it was this. Insulting a man by a woman who is expecting my agreement – I thoroughly enjoyable moment. It’s a situation like that, though, that also helps me partly understand some of the difficulties women can experience with men “on the pull” on a Saturday evening. When the two women left later, we hugged and passed compliments to each other.
Being out in a pub on a Saturday night is always a “heart in my mouth” moment as I first enter the door to the bar and there have been occasions when I’ve been a little concerned by someone’s behaviour. Generally though, these nights have been great fun and despite being a very shy person, I have spoken to many women in a “girls together” way, which has been uplifting.
As others have said here, in recent times there does seem to be a gradual increase in acceptance of us and provided we are reasonably convincing and don’t dress inappropriately, we will minimise the risks involved.
Apart from the experiences I have described, I’ve also attended balls, been taken out to lunch by a male friend (both on my “bucket list”) and even attempted karaoke (see photo) – well we all make mistakes! Although there are still things I haven’t done en femme such as travelling on public transport, going to a wedding or on a night out with a group of RGs/GGs (and who knows if I ever will), the adventures I have had have been wonderful.
Like so many others, I started on my journey en femme too late, but now being in my mid-50s, I am aware of my mortality and aim to make up for lost time. I advise you to do the same – but always be sensitive of not imposing your "hobby" too much on others, which is a difficult path to keep to.
Femulators in the United Kingdom, circa 1975.
Wearing Alice + Olivia.