My favourite picture is attached. Taken in May 2013 on what I thought would be just a quick trip to the shops, have a look, maybe buy something (using the automated checkout at the department store), then a little drive around and home again.
I had prepared everything the night before, clothes decided, makeup ready. So I got up early and got ready as per my checklist (I didn't want to miss anything).
In the car and off I go. I'm not going to my local shopping mall, I'm going to one a few kilometres further on from my house, thought I might get recognised at my local. I want to get there about 9.30 so it should be quiet. Before leaving I went outside, set up the camera quickly and took a couple of photos, I don't know why I decided to go with my hair back in a ponytail as I normally go with my hair down. Yes, that is my own hair.
I get to the mall about 9.25, park the car and walk in, not looking at anyone, just scanning the scene, trying not to make eye contact. I turn a corner to go into one of the mall's departments stores and the store is closed. Closed for a stock take sale. I try to be nonchalant, so I walk up to the roller door to look at some of the items that will be on sale when they open at 10. I don't realise others are coming in and doing the same or waiting for the store to open.
Suddenly, there on my right is a woman alongside me and as I glance to the left a group of others have come up alongside and behind me. I'm trapped. It would hard to make a break for it without saying anything, excusing myself or pushing past someone to get away.
How could I have been so stupid? My heart rate is now going like the clappers. This is it; I'm going to be exposed, ridiculed, embarrassed beyond all measure; who knows what else. By now there is a small crowd hanging around and I'm now standing in close company with 5 "other" women.
By now a woman is standing right next to me and makes a comment (at me) asking if I'm here for the kitchenware specials. I try to remember the voice training and M2F stuff about the voice. I attempt to raise my pitch slightly and talk softer and slower. Here Goes. I make a non committal answer, "No. I'm just here to have a look."
Expecting her to start yelling and pointing me out as an imposter or a pervert or worse, but no she starts on about how she's here for the cookware which is great bargain and it worth the wait if she gets what she wants. (I later find out this girl name is Renée). Another women behind me agrees with her that the kitchenware is a real steal.
I'm in a state of shock nothing is happening; just a group of women interested in snaring a bargain. I'm not sure if I've passed muster or they don't care that I'm a CD. My presence/voice seemed to be okay; no raised eyebrows or strange looks or worse.
Before I know it, I'm part of a small group of six. Four women who know each other, Renée and myself and they/we are just having a conversation to keep occupied until they can get in and I'm part of it!!!! I was just another women inconvenienced by the store opening late.
The conversations it seemed went all over the place from the already stated bargain cookware and the price of groceries and TV chefs, the bitch principal at the local school, problems with family/kids/partners/ and medical issues. I had already had experience of this conversation as woman become supportive of other women in conversations where one is having family problems, so I just followed. I initially kept quiet and answered questions when asked and as time went on, even threw in my two bobs worth.
My voice held up. I didn't try anything fancy. I just talked in a softer tone and remembered to phrase things in a female syntax and use the Aussie habit, especially women, of the raising the inflection at the end of a sentence so any statement sounds like question. I even chuckled a few times, many times, with the girls; I couldn't risk a laugh or giggle as that might have extended my range. But it seemed I was accepted. I looked the part, the figure, face and clothes all fit the profile. I had the jewelry, both engagement and wedding rings on the right finger, smelled right (I hope).
After a few minutes I calmed down and soon relaxed, sort of, the brain going a mile a minute trying to remember all the female habits I should do. I'm trying to channel some of my female friends and act as they would and also tried to take it all in and enjoy it. I was a women, a middle-aged, middle class, housewife and mother. Well that is what I assumed the girls thought. I was one of them.
Strange... when asked my name I said my second name Fiona, a name I chose, rather than my CD name of Yvonne, the name my mother once told me I would have been called if I was girl. So I was Mrs Fiona Burton; I assumed that was how I presented.
It lasted about 20 minutes I think; it seemed to fly by. We said our "see you's, etc" and went in as the roller door went up. I walked in with Renée; she did all the talking. I just agreed or added a short comment. I was in seventh heaven
Looked around the store for a while especially in ladies' wear and then did the big one: I picked out a couple of tops went to the change rooms, asked the young shop girl which cubicle to use and went in I tried them on. I didn't even think of using my phone camera. I liked the red and black tops and bought them as they fit beautifully. Better than my usual getting something I think is my size, getting it home and realising its too small and putting in the bag for the Goodwill. Checked myself in the mirrors in the changing room. In the different light and situation I thought didn't look too shabby and my makeup looked good. I had the no makeup look down pat. (Sorry, I digress.)
My confidence was now through the roof. I went into other shops, looked around talked to shop assistants, used my credit card (which is in my male name), bought things. Strangely I remember avoiding a certain dress shop as I reckoned the women in there might twig. Don't know why I thought that, but I didn't go in there. Mores the pity as they had nice stuff at good prices, but I did go in a couple of others and they all had young girls as shop assistants.
Went in the supermarket and did some grocery shopping I was going to do the next day in male mode. Who should I run into but Renée again. We walked down a couple aisles and had a bit of a chat; thankfully she again did most of the talking. I can't even remember what she said I was that blasé by now.
I even stopped at the coffee shop by the mall entrance and had a coffee. Sat down with my shopping trolley nearby and enjoyed the experience. It's funny; it seemed that as a women the mall was totally open to me; I could go anywhere as it seems some shops were off limits if I had been a male, especially single male.
Well I'd walked around, bought stuff, interacted with others and no one said anything; almost the reverse; I presented as female and that what I was! Got back to the car and opened the boot (trunk). As I did a women with a young child passed and said hello. I replied and added to the little girl that she was a cutie. They smiled and went on their way (that would not have happened if I were a man).
I was now thinking I'm going to another shopping centre and maybe an op shop, what the hell. I wished I had a Helen Reddy CD on my iPod as I Am Woman would have been on high rotation.
Anyway, I put the groceries and shopping in the boot, opened the car, put my handbag on the passenger's seat, put the key in the ignition and promptly burst into tears.
I just sat there crying, not blubbering or sobbing. It had just hit me what I had accomplished almost by chance. I was happy. I don't know if they were tears of happiness; I had never had an experience like it. I had gone out expecting a quick smash and grab, but here I was two hours later having been accepted and regarded as a woman. I passed the tests. I walked, talked and been a women, what I had always wanted be. I was exhilarated, happier than I can remember in a long time, but here I am crying like baby.
I composed myself and admonished myself for being silly. Looked in the rear view mirror; my mascara was running and my eyes were red. I went home to unpack and take stock of the day. By the time I had done this, I reckoned the moment had passed and I decided that was it for the day. A day that I cherish and try to remember every detail of when I can or when I'm feeling a bit down.
Funny; I've seen Renée at the shops a couple of times when in male mode. I'd love to say hello and say who I am, but no, that's not going to happen.
In response to my open invitation to send your favorite photo along with the story behind it and the reason it is your favorite photo, I received a lot of photos and stories that I am posting in the the order I received them. My invitation still stands, so don't be shy, send me your fave foto!
Actor Chris Williams in television's Ugly Betty (2009).