Monday, July 25, 2022

Get Out!

By Paula Gaikowski

Back in the early 90’s, the “dark ages” before the internet, I found myself connected to a dial-up bulletin board service that supported crossdressers and transexuals. The umbrella term “transgender” had not yet entered the lexicon. What was special and different was the fact that you could download pictures of other girls. This was the first time that I could see and communicate with others like me.

I was awed by how pretty some of them looked and I also was captivated by the fact that they went out in public. The thought that it was possible to be out and seen in public as a woman became an aspiration. It would take years.

Often I’m asked for advice on getting out in public from first timers. It’s funny – I can’t really remember my actual first time, the first few times out all kind of melt together. 

I was spending time in Reston, Virginia, on business and was dressing up in my hotel room, as I had been for years. I started making short trips from the room to my car and then back. Mad dashes, full of fear, that took my breath away.

However, it broke the ice and the evolution began. I became less and less fearful each time I went out. By 2008, it was natural for me to be in public as a woman. I traveled all over the USA, UK, Canada and Australia for business and used this time to go out and about in the world. 

I dressed in business clothes and appeared slightly better dressed then most women. I feel it’s important to blend in, not stick out and to dress age-appropriate. I never thought that I could go to malls, get makeovers at MAC, visit the doctor, dine out, and enjoy museums. Over the years, I lost weight, improved my wardrobe and developed my makeup skills. I became very confident and happy with my presentation as a woman. 

Many girls are fearful of what the public will think and how they will react. I have many friends who have been going out and about for years and we have all had the same experiences and reactions.

People either don’t notice you or sometimes you pass and sometimes you don’t. And if you don’t pass, most people are fascinated and supportive. I’ve never had a person call me a name or insult me in anyway. I remember it became such a non-event that I would often look for a reaction or input from hotel clerks or sales associates. 

I enjoyed shocking them with the transformation, One time, I was checking in as Paul, and at Marriott where they always ask if you are in town for business or pleasure? I responded, “Both – this afternoon I’m meeting a friend and we’re going dress-shopping. She has a wedding to attend”.

“Oh, you’re such a good friend,” she responded, implying that dress-shopping is something that most men didn’t like.

I returned about 90 minutes later as Paula, grabbed a water and asked her to charge it room 410. She typed in the room number and then made the connection to the guy who had checked in.

“Well, how do I look?” I asked. She and the other young women with her responded very positively. They were kind, complementary and cheerful. This was typical of persons I’ve interacted with going out and about.

Going out reminded me of learning to drive a car. When you first get behind the wheel, you are thrilled, look at me, I’m finally driving. I drove to the store, to school, even to the beach! Your hands are tight on the wheel, each turn is a challenge, every intersection daunting. Eventually you get behind the wheel and drive without even thinking about it. 

So much of going out has become second nature to me now. I walk out the hotel room door, smile at the maid, stop at the front desk, etc., without trepidation or anxiety. This self-assurance is contagious to everyone around you. It validates your appearance to them. 

When I visit cosmetic counters, the sales associates seemed to love the diversion of having a transgender customer. We always have great conversations and I always ask them about my appearance. Most often the words I hear are “poised,” “natural” and “classic.”

They say 90% of presentation is attitude and confidence. This takes effort and work. This effort is all part of being a woman. Please remember to enjoy the journey, the practice, the friendships, the accomplishments and even the failures.

I’d love to hear about some of your first times out and about!

Source: WhoWhatWear
Source: WhoWhatWear

A tradition in Southern Germany and Austria, Faschingshochzeit is a “Mardi Gras wedding,” in which the gender roles are reversed with a male bride and female groom. (Thank you Yamini for the tip about Faschingshochzeit.)


  1. First Time Out, eh?
    Hard to recall, but I think it was a walk around the block at age 18. It was VERY late (possibly very EARLY) and I got up the nerve to walk around the block. As I was out it was such a rush that I extended the "block" to a couple - it was a very quiet night and beautiful weather for a walk. As I rounded the next to the last corner, a police car pulled up beside me. YIKES!! The officer asked, "Is everything all right, Miss?" I replied with something like "Yes, just out for a walk" as I tried to avert my eyes/face. He said OK and drove on. The next thing I remember was closing the front door behind me and trying to get my heartbeat back down to normal. Things have gotten better - and easier - since then.

  2. I sometimes feel that I've lost my mojo.

    I feel anxiety when I'm thinking about going out and it isn't a time when there's a "reason" to go out en femme. I don't feel as much stress when I know that I'm planning to be with my kids at an event or if I'm on some sort of mission like going with my wife to see our therapist, enjoying Halloween or purposely dressing to vote against tyranny (twice).

    I live in a small town with people who aren't necessarily open minded and I work directly with the public so I often fear retribution. Deep down I know that it's irrational but seeing people in the news actively working against the LGBTQ community and the disrespect and animosity by some government leaders, it's hard to feel comfortable enough to let myself go out the door.

    My wife sees it. I'll take forever getting dressed. First, I'll start with a nice top & skirt and get myself worked up and end up wearing a tee shirt and shorts. In spite of all the anxiety, I still wear nail polish and a bra loaded with size appropriate (they're huge, 1400 g each) breast forms under the tee shirt.

    Speaking of which, I have to go take off the fingernail polish before work!

    Thanks for listening,


    1. AnonymousJuly 25, 2022

      They have MEDS for that.....
      If you are anxious (and who ISN'T these days?) about being honest/frank with your front line doctor (what is called a 'double bind'-- Damned if you do damned if you dont).
      Try one of those online doctors and see what they are asking for in costs....
      I, myself take a BETA BLOCKER (atenolol )which works quite well and is used as an 'off label' tranquilizer. QUITE inexpensive.
      And then, there are designated tranquilizers.
      Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda DONT 'P' your life away.

    2. 2 of my adult kids and I are going to take a trip early next month. Oldest gave me a trip to the Nevada State Railroad Museum in Carson City, NV. We're driving from here (southern Nevada) and staying in Reno. After writing my last comment, I thought about challenging myself to make the trip totally en femme. No backup plan boy mode clothes. I think it'll be a perfect opportunity to be in public for a whole weekend. I've asked the kids to look at things up there that they'd be interested in seeing while we're there, too.

      Reading the other comments, I always reminded that if we don't make a spectacle, nobody will notice you.

      I just need to do it!

  3. First of all Paula, I think I I have seen one of your photos before! You look no less, forgive me, poised and confident in any of your other images.

    I can totally empathise with your writing on the subject of going out - in the 90s I did not have any internet access nor the language to express what was going on in my own head - the concept of 'going out dressed as me' was so alien that I simply assumed it impossible. I could never do the 'joke' cross-dressing because, well, it wasn't a joke for me.

    My first time out was for a 'school-girl party' birthday bash and I was a little too serious and earnest about it - but fell in naturally with the other girls and had that wonderful feeling of being accepted and comfortable in the presence of others. It would be over sixteen years until I would be able to do that, dressing as me, again, but alone this time, and just be me in public.

    Point? I can heartily recommend going out as yourself / cross-dressed. No one will scream at you, no one will be frightened. Even people that 'clock' you don't really care. My (very NSFW) mantra is "don't be a t*t and no one gives a sh*t". These days my 'style' is a bit more middle-class professional than most of the women I meet (including middle-class professional ones, which says much about language and expectations) but I am comfortable and happy. Find what works for you, seriously, and take the time to do so properly. You'll know what works when you find it, honestly, and be ready to find it wasn't your 'dream outfit' or 'perfect clothing' you'd imagined but something you'd assumed was 'mundane' or even 'too risky' - for example, these days I regularly wear pinafore dresses and I would never have picked them out of a line-up back in the 90s!

    I'm not sure what 'dressing your age' means - most of the women round where I live dress in most styles and colours, maybe it's a class thing? I think I get the gist though: dress as you feel comfortable and in what works for you, don't fetishise it (unless heading to somewhere in which that's expected) and just 'do you'. You can 'stick out' so long as you are dressing in a way that you feel comfortable dressing in - if you act natural, so does everyone else. In essence, the effort one puts in is entirely the effort to be yourself and not be too nervous or scared - this is incredible amounts of effort but so worth it - and eventually, you'll discover you're not consciously putting that effort in any more. Alternatively: the more comfortable you are (figuratively speaking) the more comfortable others are with you. That's my experience anyway.

  4. Joshua AndrewsJuly 25, 2022

    Found you through Feedspot today. You're a great writer and I appreciate your positive outlook on mastering the different stages of transitioning. I agree it isn't as scary out there as it used to be. Except for trans women of color! We definitely need to step up for them as this political climate keeps sliding further to the right.

  5. Paula, what a wonderful story with such great photos. I really am a fan of your presentation. Very classic. It is similar to mine. But I am trans and still in the closet. Stories like yours with your confidence give me hope to be that way in the future.

  6. AnonymousJuly 25, 2022

    I like your analogy of learning to drive, so appropriate. Twenty years ago with a wig and too much beard cover, I ventured out and found that no one really took notice, and so many women were curious and more than helpful. I lost the facial hair, grew a short bob, color it too, took voice lessons and worked at perfecting every detail. I too now drive without even thinking of it. I travel, fly all over, dine anywhere, have many girl friends that I see, and their husbands and the kids. I am lucky to pass without question. Yesterday a man was walking into Beyond Bread as I was walking out. "How do you like your Vespa?" I asked him? We talked about it for a minute or two and he offered to take me for a ride. I had come from church and wearing a dress I wasn't going to jump on, but wish I could have! It takes work and time and a commitment to some changes, but at 5.9" and 140 pds I am fortunate
    that women's mediums fit easily. I pinch myself often to be sure it isn't a dream.
    Most importantly I have never had a bad moment in public.

  7. Paula, thank you for a great article. I really wish there was some way to get your message out to others on an even wider scale. You addressed one of the two concerns that seem to fairly universal within the crossdressing community: 1) spousal acceptance and 2) venturing 'out and about'. I don't think we can do much for the former since every situation is different and to try to apply a 'one-size-fits-all' solution is foolish. And, while there may not be an all-encompassing solution to going out in public, you very effectively touched on the issues that will help anyone wanting to go out in public. The first as you stated, is 'blending' which I feel is a much better term than 'passing'. Someone can have all the makeup skills at their disposal, but if they are not dressed appropriately or walk like a linebacker they will stand out like a sore thumb. And of course, the bigger issue, overcoming fear! You 'nailed it' when you suggested 'baby steps' 'testing the water' each step of the way. I guess it is always comforting and reassuring to see someone who has successfully navigated the "big jump" to enjoying her time out in "girl mode', and is willing and able to communicate these basic truths to others. Thanks again!