Friday, July 21, 2023

I always wanted to go out and about and be seen

By Paula Gaikowski

I always wanted to go out and about and be seen as a woman, I almost did when I was 10 to 12 years old. I had planned to walk around the block and it’s good that I didn’t. Or maybe being outed would have led to a different path in life?

When I think back to the times I was gendered correctly in public, it was always so powerful. In one way, it authenticates all the work I have put into my outfit, makeup, hair and accessories. The other part is that it validates the way I identify, as a woman; the world and society sees me as a woman and at that point, all the ideas and thoughts that have been out of alignment become synchronized, focused and for a short time, the stars align.

For instance, one time I was in the Lennox Mall in Atlanta and asked for assistance in the women’s department. “Excuse me Ma’am, I’m looking for…” These words almost knocked me down as they swept over me. I smiled demurely and answered, “I don’t work here, but you can find the Misses department over there.”

Another time I was wig shopping outside of Philadelphia, it was the typical beauty/wig supply store that you often see in urban strip malls. The young woman assisting me was very helpful and we tried on at least half a dozen wigs. We finally settled on a wig to purchase. 

At this point, after all of this close interaction I assumed she knew I was a crossdresser. So I asked her, “Do you get many other men in here shopping for wigs?” She look at me a bit confused and replied, “What do you mean other men? Why do you say it like that?” 

She was under no obligation or pressure to be polite and pretend she didn’t read me. She thought she was working with a woman and when I told her I was transgender, she was truly surprised. I can tell when someone is gaslighting me, she wasn’t. This incident gave me so much confidence and helped me evolve my feminine image over the next few years.

There are a few other times and I’ll add just one more. I was trying on gowns in the formal section of Nordstrom under the guise of needing a dress for my niece’s wedding. There was another woman also trying on gowns and here we were sharing a communal dressing room critiquing and complementing our different choices. The conversation between us ran the length of it all, what shoes to wear, body types, dress fit, foundations, bras and how a dress would be for dancing.  In the past, I can tell when someone reads me and then peppers me with sanguine artificial comments. She really thought I was female, and for about an hour I was in a dream world.

As transgender persons, we struggle with incompatible identities, gender roles and biological sex. With that there often comes feelings of guilt, rejection, sadness and antipathy.  We need and crave acceptance – all the ill thoughts and feelings can be wiped away when we are recognized for who we are. 

“Excuse me, but she was next, can I help you, Miss?”

You just did!

Source: Rue La La
Wearing Rue La La

Silvia, antes y después de


  1. Thank you for posting my photo "antes y después de" (hahaha), it's an honor to appear on this great website. I hope all goes well with your wife. Good weekend, Stana!

  2. AnonymousJuly 21, 2023

    Paula, I'm not as brave as you and my public appearances as a woman have been extremely limited. Only in safe places such as attending a TrisEss Be All which felt safe or shopping at boutiques who welcome girls such as us.

    Your essay reminded me of the time I was shopping for a new dress. While inside a dressing room. I heard a female customer softly ask the owner, "What's she trying on? She's been in there a while."

    This was the kind of dressing room where someone could see you legs from under the door. I'd been referred to as a she! It made my heart skip a little faster. Of course the woman thought I was a woman because all she could see were my high heels and legs which, of course, had on pantyhose.

    I decided to step out of the dressing room and ask how the woman and owner thought the dress looked. When I emerged, the customer knew immediately what I was, but she smiled and said, "nice legs."

    Sounds crazy, but it was a nice moment. Her smile filled me with a warm feeling. The shop's owner said the dress looked great and asked me if I wanted to try on a fur coat over it? I told her that I'd never spend that kind of money on something I couldn't really use, but she insisted I try it on. "Just for fun," she said.

    That was probably the most I ever felt in my life that I was one of the girls! It was very exciting and I didn't buy the coat.

  3. There's nothing better than getting "Ma'am"-ed in public. But often, my insecurities take hold - "Is she saying that ironically?""What does she REALLY think of my presentation?""Am I fooling ANYONE??" But I must realize that I am dressing and presenting as me, who I am and how I feel. In my humor, I always tell folks that I say things for my own amusement and if anyone else finds it funny, that's a bonus. I need to take that same attitude about presenting Julie to the world. As always, thanks for the inspiration, Paula.

  4. AnonymousJuly 21, 2023

    Paula you really hit the nail on the head--nothing beats going out in public and interacting with another person who really takes you for a woman. Also I have learned that when some women interact with another woman almost initially some open up with all kinds of personal stuff. These conversations have been wonderful although I must admit that I am always a tad nervous that these women might eventually read me and become angry. Nervous but in for a dime-in for a dollar as
    the old saying goes--Emily

  5. I go out in public as a man in a skirt/dress. I think that my outfits are tasteful, and low-key (not flamboyant). If I were in an environment where women wear skirts to work, I think I would blend in pretty well fashion-wise. I try to just be me, doing my man things, while out in public. In my experience, people treat me with respect. A few people have tried to be careful to not use gender terms, just in case I prefer female pronouns. There are always one or two people whom I will encounter who have an "Um, now what?" moment when they encounter me. They quickly adapt and interact with me like normal. I feel like I could do much much more while dressed pretty and life would be just fine.
    But, Paula, I get it. Being called "ma'am" is being told, "You look like a woman." And that is equal to "You are beautiful." I have been given authentic, non-patronizing compliments on a few occasions. I think it might feel the same.
    I love feeling beautiful!

  6. AnonymousJuly 22, 2023

    Paula, thanks for sharing your story. I enjoy reading of others having the ability to blend, fly under the radar or whatever one wants to call it. At six foot and 200 pounds I would stick out like a sore thumb. Except for several Halloweens all that I can muster in my comfort zone is an evening stroll in dress and heels. Maybe, the next time around I'll be five foot six.