Friday, June 30, 2023

Casa Susanna Reviewed

I watched Casa Susanna on PBS Tuesday night. Caveat emptor: I have read no reviews about the documentary, so my review, which follows, has not been influenced by anyone else's review.

I hated the soundtrack. Most of the music sounded like it came from a funeral home. The music gave the whole documentary a dark feeling. I did not recognize most of the tunes – they might have been classics as far as I know, but I wish they had used some music that was more uplifting. 

The stories told by the two trans women were interesting, but not that unusual if you have been reading trans bios like I have been reading for the past 60 years. 

I wish they had interviewed a crossdresser, who had not undergone a sex change; her perspective would probably be different than the post-ops.

I found the stories told by the civilians much more interesting. You don't often get the perspective of a civilian who is related to a trans person and I could listen to their stories all day long.

From one of the civilians, author Darryl Radnor’s daughter, I learned that Radnor was a regular guest at Casa Susanna. Radnor’s book, A Year Among the Girls, had given me the erroneous impression that she was not that involved – more of an observer, rather than an active participant. By the way, wouldn’t this be an excellent time to republish Radnor’s book, which is impossible to find anywhere. I know I would purchase a copy (lost my copy in the Great Purge of 1983).

I already knew most of the facts concerning Casa Susanna, as well as its predecessor, the Chevalier D'Eon resort, so nothing new there. But the documentary was a little misleading because most of the filming was done at the D'Eon resort site, not Casa Susanna, and that fact was not mentioned until late in the documentary. (I knew something was amiss because I was familiar with what Casa looked like and I did not recognize it when they concentrated on the resort site during much of the documentary.)

Overall, the documentary was very good especially for anyone who does not know much about Casa Susanna. And it would be a good educational tool for civilians who do not have a clue about crossdressing, something that you might suggest that your family watch in order to get to know you a little better.

Source: New York & Company
Wearing New York & Company

Femulate reader Laura
I welcome all Femulate readers to submit Before and After photos for publication on the blog.
Just send your photos to stana-stana at-sign

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Too Good for Your Own Good

By Cathy Peterson

I absolutely laughed out loud as I read your lead post in Monday’s Femulate. You are so spot-on in your question about:

“there are one or two ‘ladies’ participating who are outstanding – so outstanding that you wonder if it was really their first time”

That was me at a Jr. High church youth group Halloween party back in 1970 in western Pennsylvania. Seventh grade, 5’4” about 110 lbs, fair-skinned, shoulder-length blonde “shag” haircut. With 2 weeks to go, me and four other guys were all set to come as Batman, Robin, Joker, Penguin and me as Riddler. Getting stuff together for costumes was harder and slower than expected. Wednesday evening before Saturday party we are in bad shape at only 25% ready with clothing and props. 

We’re at Richie's house and his mother jumps right into our conversation at the kitchen table with, “Just dress up as girls, that’ll be easy, you’ll get lots of laughs, and it’ll be fun.” I, of course, am the only one who knows I’ve enjoyed years of dressing in my older sister’s packed away clothes. But we were all surprised to have Richie’s mother hang him out to dry with, “and Richie, you and your sister have swapped clothes many times before.” (He and Sharon were fraternal twins.)

Richie looked a bit embarrassed, but kind of reluctantly said “ok” and then I tried to appear like this was all new to me, but “sure, I'll do it for fun.” We'd ask our mother’s to help with our outfits and we’ll meet in the church parking lot outside the Fellowship Hall – then go in together.

Not only did I love dressing as a girl since age 3, my older sister and mother helped with this very public outing for me. Quick version: From the large zipped hanging garment bags in the basement that had all my older sister’s clothes she outgrew (she was 18-year-old Senior to my 13-year-old 7th grader). Satin panties, classic Playtex stretch bra (one Nerf ball in each cup), off-white pantyhose, white polyester long-sleeved bodysuit with three snaps in the crotch and ruffles down the front, off-white nylon half-slip with 3-inch lacy hemline, powder blue pleated rayon skirt to above my knees, off-white slip-on 2-inch heels. Blue eyeshadow, eyeliner, mascara, “doe eyes,” pink lipgloss, pink nail polish, several rings, bracelets, necklace and dangling clip-on earrings. My sister did a perfect Farah Fawcett curled-feathered sides hair-style and hairspray, white shoulder purse and finished with Love's Baby Soft perfume all over.

Chilly late October, so I used my sister’s classic faux rabbit fur quilted jacket. Out to the car and my sister dropped me off in the parking lot. Sitting on vinyl flight bench front-seat felt amazing with all my layers. 

I got out, walked toward Kenny and Curt and knew right away I had made a huge mistake. Kenny was in a housecoat, fuzzy slippers and had his own hair up in silly long pigtails. Curt was in a huge oversized dress that went to his ankles with a 1960’s gawdy “church lady” hat. Both had on gym shorts underneath. They look at me in complete disbelief!!!

While I’m trying to deflect their “Are you kidding me – how far did you take this costume?” Steve arrives in a stereotypical Pocahantas brown fringed American-Indian costume with $3 black braided wig (very fake).

Now the three of them are incredulous in asking me “what is up?” as they check me out front and back –- even overdoing their shock of “Are you wearing perfume?”

Then Richie arrives, thankfully! His sister helped him so he’s in an orange ribbed turtleneck, black skirt, black tights, black shoes, black nail polish (all very Halloween-themed) and a fairly nice blonde wig from his mother (his own hair was buzz cut). You can see his bra outline showing under his tight top and he’s pretty stuffed, so it helped take some of the attention off me. 

Other friends arrived, girls and guys, and it was more of the same focus on me and Richie being “way too into this” as we got lots of shocked comments from them, but a few gals smiled at me and said, “You look amazing, I mean exactly like a girl, you would never know. I loved hearing that, but had to appear insulted or embarrassed.

The most telling moment came as we walked into the decorated Fellowship Hall and I took off the rabbit jacket, not thinking/realizing the white polyester top showed my bra super clearly under my top across my back and over my shoulders. Had lots of cat-calls, whistles, some very derogatory gay slurs and dealt with several times someone coming from behind and snapping my bra band.

There were seven or eight mothers and two or three fathers as chaperones, plus two of the parish priests, who made their rounds and I got a lot of wide-eyed looks with reluctant comments about my “costume.” One of the mothers was noticeably upset with how completely authentic I dressed, while two of the mothers were really into smiling at me and telling me how “cute” or “pretty” I looked and “How much you look just like your older sister when she was in Jr. High.”  I enjoyed the next four-plus hours. Tough combination of loving being so fully dressed, but also realizing I had perhaps gone too far in showing myself to all my friends like this.

Lots of comments and questions ensued for the week after the party. I imagine everyone had to wonder about me and Richie being that into it. I know I was in at least a dozen photos that night, but whatever happened to this photos from 50+ years ago, I have no idea. Would love to have just one of them to cherish that memory.

Looking back, I know now I did not think it through at all once Richie and Sharon’s mother put the idea out there to the five of us in her kitchen. It never crossed my mind to consider doing a toned-down version of dressing as a girl in order to be more like a funny costume and not so conspicuous for all to see and wonder about.

I guess I just assumed the other four guys would also show up in 100% girly outfits that any 7th grade girl would wear. Seeing Kenny, Curt and Steve in just plain silly costumes did jar me at that moment, but it was way too late to do anything about how I showed up.

I did feel some cover (deflecting attention) when Richie showed up in similar attire to mine with a skirt, tights and a noticeable bra showing through his clingy turtleneck. But even his all black and orange theme looked more like an actual Halloween costume. Me? I later thought I could have gone as a witch or vampiress – getting to dress in girly clothes, but under the guise of a Halloween theme.

I remember all the details of those clothes because I had worn them before many times at home. I knew those panties and off-white hose very well. And that classic late-1960s bra that was my sister’s when she was 13, Playtex, stretchy wide back band and straps, soft cups. And the lovely satin lacy half-slip and being snapped into that bodysuit top with the pleated skirt. 

I can only begin to imagine what everyone thought seeing me not only in a non-costume very girly teenage outfit, but how my sister had styled my own long hair into curled back and feathered Farah Fawcett style that really looked great! Add the full makeup, nail polish, lots of jewelry with hairspray and Love's BabySoft – it was clearly not a “costume” at all.

Final Thought

Oh, how I wish I had followed-up with people to get some copies of those photos. No digital cameras or cell phones. just the Kodak instamatic cameras where the roll of film gets developed weeks later.  I saw a few of those pics later on, but never got my own copies. I often wonder if they’re in a box somewhere in someone’s garage or in a desk drawer.

Source: WhoWhatWear
Wearing J. Crew

Hugh Williams
Hugh Williams (left) femulating in the 1942 British film One of Our Aircraft is Missing.

Monday, June 26, 2023

Any womanless veterans?

Womanless beauty pageant in rural Australia, circa 1975
Source: Genevieve

Womanless events bring out the curious among us (including myself) who wonder if any of the participants belong to our team.

In almost every womanless event, there are one or two “ladies” participating who are outstanding – so outstanding that you wonder if it was really their first time. Rather than being a civilian, are they actually one of us. Or they may be first timers, but their experience releases their inner girl and they so enjoy being a girl that they become one of us.

So are any of you readers past participants of a civilian non-trans womanless event?

If you were a beauty queen or a fashion model or a bridesmaid in a civilian womanless event I would love to hear and share your story and photos (I just know that you have photos.)

(I asked this same question in the past and the response was a little underwhelming. One person admitted to participating en femme in an adult prom fundraiser and another was an 8-year-old chorus “girl” in a summer camp production of Oklahoma, but no one admitted to being in a womanless beauty pageant, fashion show, wedding.) 

Source: New York & Company
Wearing New York & Company

Shopping at Walmart
Shopping at Walmart

Sunday, June 25, 2023

Someday Funnies

Source: New York & Company
Wearing New York & Company

Aaron Musser
Lutheran preacher Aaron Musser (center) femulated while leading a church service for children hoping to teach his young audience about joy and inclusivity.

Friday, June 23, 2023

BFF – Not!

What might have been: Me and my BFF
Billy and I were best friends throughout grammar school. I can’t remember how we became friends, but we had a lot in common and that is what probably drew us together. We were both Polish, which was a rare commodity in our neighborhood, we both went to the same church (a Polish parish, needless to say), we were both artists, which put us on the outs with the school’s “in crowd,” and we both were fascinated with the opposite sex. We had crushes on certain girls, but we both were also scared of them and never did anything about our crushes, at least not in grammar school.

Around puberty, maybe in the 7th or 8th grade, I remember Billy hinting that we dress as girls for Halloween. At that time, I knew something was up with me gender-wise, but I didn’t know what. The idea of dressing as a girl for Halloween was very attractive, but I was also in public denial about my gender issues and told Billy that I had no interest in his Halloween costume plans.

I don’t remember what I wore for a costume that Halloween, but I do recall that I went out with my usual Halloween trick and treat partner in crime, my other best friend, who lived across the street.

In school the next day, Billy mentioned that he did dress as a girl; he trick and treated at my house and was disappointed that I was not home to see him in his costume. Note that Billy never before trick and treated at my house, so he made a special effort that night to show me his girl costume.

Around this same time, I remember that one of us decided that we should adopt girl names (why - I don’t remember) and for days, he addressed me by my girl name, which was “Susan” and I addressed him by his girl name, which I cannot recall now.

As I mentioned above, we were both artists. He was very good at painting and I was a very good at sketching. As an outlet for my budding trans psyche, I spent a lot of my free time back then sketching males wearing female clothing. I must have killed a forest doing it. One day, Billy mentioned that he had been doing something similar and another day, he showed me some of his sketches. My reaction was to show disinterest.

But my real reaction was fear. I was in uncharted waters; I did not know what was going on with him (or me). I had enough trouble sorting out what was going on with me without having to deal with what was going on with my best friend, so I basically ignored him and I think that was the beginning of the end of a beautiful friendship. We hung out less during our last days in grammar school and ended up going to different high schools and were both out of each others' lives.

I think Billy was reaching out to me. He probably was just as confused as I was and maybe he thought he and his best friend would be better able to work things out as a team rather than solo. If that was the case, he was probably correct and I very much regret not reaching out to him and trying to work out together what the heck was going on. And so it goes.

Over the years, I learned through a mutual friend that Billy got married and lives two towns away, but our mutual friend said nothing about anything trans and I certainly did not ask. I recently found his Facebook page and there was no hint about being a crossdresser. 

I often think about Billy and wonder if he really was trans (or was it just my ’magination) and if he ever did anything about it. I often hoped that one day he would show up at my support group and we could become best friends again except that this time we would be girlfriends.

(This post originally appeared in September 2008 and was updated recently. It inspired me to create the “BFF” Someday Funnies that appeared here on Tuesday.)

Wearing Avon
Wearing Avon (recently added to Miss Stana’s wardrobe)

Janek Traczyk
Janek Traczyk femulating Slawa Przybylska on Poland’s version of television’s Your Face Sounds Familiar.