Fife, the universe, and everything

The longest photo session I ever did took nearly nine hours. I think I should make a note of just how much effort went into it – not for my sake, but to recognise the infinite patience of my photographer/wife.

Sunny pool

Things to do on a summer holiday…

I had figured out a route that would let me get some sunrise shots in an outdoor swimming pool with weird rock formations around it, a small picturesque fishing village, the ancient university town of St Andrews, and a scenic coastal railway station. I could bring changes of costume for each location, and get all this done by breakfast (or so I thought…)

First, I had to set the alarm for 2am. we spent an hour getting ready (me putting on makeup, she getting a thermos for hot drinks and snack bars for the next few hours).

Then I had to drive through the city centre dodging drunken students at 3am, when it turned out that my usual route out was blocked off by a labyrinth of bollards (the city’s transport chiefs love to mess around with car drivers) and further on at a bridge, by a police van with strobes (I assumed someone was having A Very Bad Night, either on the bridge or not long off it, but apparently nobody was hurt). We finally escaped town about an hour later than intended thanks to some hasty re-navigation. It then turned out that our destination -the Kingdom Of Fife– had turned into a massive 20mph zone.

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So by the time we got to Cellardyke tidal pool, it was over 30 minutes after sunrise and about five minutes off the maximum high tide. The pool was completely submerged. Well, shit.

Going downhill in Crail...

You get used to cobbles. Eventually.

Cottages

Dainty, isn’t it? (The village, I mean…)

A bit of colour

Some people live in great-looking little houses.

Instead, we went up the road to the tiny fishing village of Crail, where I found a quiet corner to change dresses and into my heels.

Crail

Early morning at a quiet little harbour…

Harbouring a secret desire?

Uh, just realised there’s a boat with ‘KY’ right next to my backside; you shouldn’t read anything into this.

On the up-side, there was nobody about, apart from a Japanese tourist taking photos, and a guy in the harbour sorting out his boat. No problem! The sun was over the horizon and the light was good.

St Andrews Cathedral

It was like that when I got there…

In at the deep Pend?

Fancy visiting The Pends? It Depends.

After that, to save me constantly changing in and out of my heels, her ladyship drove us further up the coast to St Andrews. For the sake of helping to differentiate each scene, I wore different coloured tops and belts over the dress. I did try changing the dress in the car, but ended up giving a trio of male students heading home a bit of a show. Being St Andrews students, they were too polite to catcall, point, or stare for longer than thirty seconds (I think they managed about twenty).

If I move away, the pillar falls over.

If I move away, the pillar falls over.

This is where princes and princesses learn stuff and shiz...

This is where princes and princesses learn stuff and shiz.

...in which I pretend to be clever...

…in which I pretend to be clever…

We got there before 6am, taking in photos of the cathedral and the Pends, the university (where any security guards would’ve gotten a weird show from all the cameras around St Salvator’s Quad), and the golf course… where two SUVs containing a group of gigantic US golfers with bad dress sense jumped out to take photos of themselves right at the spot we were hoping to go. Dammit.

So I photobombed them.

St Andrews Golf Club

For swingers?

My only regret is not seeing the looks on their faces when they saw what I was doing right behind them. Sadly, most of the view was taken up with stands for The Open. If I gave even a mouse-sized shit about golf, I’d’ve realised this beforehand… but at least the early morning skies were spectacular. Incidentally, until 2014 the Golf Club was men only. If it still was, I could really have fucked things up for them.

Golf is a good walk spoiled.

Golf is a good walk spoiled.

We then drove back to Cellardyke, where the tide had lowered enough to reveal the pool. I’d been unable in my researches to find out how deep it was, and I had a choice of a decrepit paddling pool, or the larger pool where I couldn’t see the bottom.

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The water was lovely.

I went for the paddling pool, going barefoot on smashed up 1930s concrete and seaweed. It was filled with a load of sea flora and small fauna (I hoped it wasn’t being filled with sewage or anything – it was manky enough as it was!).

Paddling pool

This pool was ancient, decrepit, manky, and full of sea critters. The smile is fake.

Poolside seat

Trying very hard not to fall backwards into the sea…

Lido

You can swim in it too (if you dare)…

By this time it was about 7.30am, and instead of having the place to ourselves (nice and quiet and private), I was being watched by joggers and dog-walkers and people from the nearby caravan site fetching supplies.

This pool has spent about 80 years getting smashed to bollocks by the North Sea.

This pool has spent about 80 years getting smashed to bollocks by the North Sea.

One of them was an old man walking his dog. He sat on a bench and took in the Twist swimsuit show (which began with my beloved photographer saying, “Well, we’re here now. Come on, strip, motherfucker!”).

I bet that gull had a great view.

I bet that gull had a great view.

I struck every classic swimsuit pose I could think of, as best as I could. If only the old guy knew he wasn’t looking at who he thought he was looking at. Still, he had a big, wide, happy smile on his face. And when I say smile, I mean leer. He was clearly having the best start to his day he’d had in years.

Been seen to lean by a keen teen in jeans means I'm unclean?

Been seen to lean by a keen teen in jeans means I’m unclean?

It was getting busier, and more people were stopping to watch: TIME TO GTFO.

I made damn well sure to find a spot hidden by the sea wall where I could get changed out of my swimsuit… into a shiny little black dress. Regular readers will have realised by now that I’m not averse to standing out from the crowd. I can only assume that the caravan park crowd thought I was doing a walk of shame or something.

You'll notice I'm kneeling in a paddling pool; there's no way I was jumping into the one behind me.

You’ll notice I’m kneeling in a paddling pool; there’s no way I was jumping into the one behind me.

We went for one last shoot at Aberdour railway station, this time watched only by Scotrail’s security cameras and a middle-aged couple waiting.

Stationary at the station

I’m amazed I could squeeze into this dress…

LBD, platform, heels...

I’m trying to ignore the middle-aged couple staring at me…

I should point out that we still hadn’t had breakfast. Her ladyship was in dire need of coffee. I drove us back to Edinburgh, utterly exhausted.

I'm blue dab-a-dee Aberdour, dab-a-dee Aberdour...

I’m blue dab-a-dee Aberdour, dab-a-dee Aberdour…

My lack of peripheral vision from the wig only caused one near-RTA (thankfully the other driver was happy to let me know with generous application of their horn).

Platform

You just stick your thumb and and hitch a ride – that’s how trains work, isn’t it?

By the time we got back home, it was getting on for 10.30am. That’s eight and a half hours, people! THIS is why I love my wife to bits: there’s nobody else I’d go on adventures with! 🙂

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Be of good cheer!

Want an excuse to cross-dress in public? Make a deal, bet, or dare with someone!

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I lost a bet, all right?

I did this with my writing group as part of National Novel-Writing Month one November. A fellow writer bet that she could write 50,000 words before I did, and I bet that I could write 50,000 words before any of the first-timers in our group. We both lost. Her forfeit was to wear one of my garish Hawai’ian shirts to the end-of-month party; mine was to attend wearing her old cheerleader skirt from her university days. She even gave me her pom-poms.

The thing she didn’t like was the fact that I could fit into the skirt and she hadn’t worn it in years. The thing I didn’t like was the fact that it was the end of November and the worst winter we’d had in decades – not ideal conditions to be prancing about town dressed as a cheerleader. Our venue had to shut early, so we scouted around for another. We ended up in a sports bar. It was the night of some big football match. This was definitely not an ideal place to be dressed as a cheerleader. Especially at a table full of fellow nerds sipping soft drinks and typing stories into their laptops.

Yes, I got stared at. Yes, I freaked out a couple of guys who were staring at me a little bit too long before I said in my chirpy, bloke-ish voice, “Can I help you?” And yes, I was bloody freezing. But dammit, it was fun.

I'd never make it in a team.

I’d never make it in a team.

A couple of years later I asked to borrow the cheerleader stuff again for an early-morning autumn photoshoot. I got a few pictures in a sports field (with only sunrise dogwalkers to wonder what the hell was going on), but –meh– they just seemed too ordinary. I don’t like being ordinary!

Reasons to be cheerful?

Reasons to be cheerful?

Instead, I went the pop-culture route. Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a cheerleader, wasn’t she? And, handily enough, there was a sizeable Victorian-era graveyard nearby, overgrown and covered in autumn leaves. Perfect!

Creepy steps

I live in a city with a multitude of creepy, overgrown graveyards.

It’s a weird feeling going around a graveyard in a cheerleader outfit. I don’t have any religious sensibilities, and I don’t really get the concept of ‘desecration’; in any case, I was just walking around looking for striking scenery to pose in. The graves themselves held no interest to me other than as background ornamentation.

Buffy in undergrowth

Mucking about in the undergrowth…

Even so, I did wonder what I’d say to anyone who happened to be walking past. I wanted photos that looked incongruous when taken at face value, yet fit in with Buffy-style tropes.

Vampire Slayer

October is a time of grave concern…

On the other hand, who’s going to wander around a graveyard at silly-o’clock in the morning? There was nobody else there. It was as quiet as the grave…

Buffy: gravestones

Cheerleader Buffy doing a 3-point-landing in a graveyard. I don’t know how much more epic I can be for you people.

 

 

Shop hopping

It’s been ages since I got new clothes. I think I’ve probably got as much as I want in my wardrobe now. Maybe I’ve found my ‘look’ and I’m happy with it? Or maybe I’m not going out as much as I used to, and now I can just re-use my old favourites? (It’s always a huge relief to find I can still fit into a dress I bought four or five years ago…)

When I first started building up my wardrobe (after deciding what clothes and footwear to go for), I just went with my girlfriend and built up a modest stock of cheap underwear and basic skirts and tops from local shops. For solo shopping trips, I’d go to shops on the other side of town where there was no chance of bumping into anyone I knew. (The easiest trips were to fancy dress shops – it’s not like you have to explain yourself…)

I'm so bad at snooker, I can't even hold the cue properly...

One of my earliest and favourite purchases.

I’ve always been determined to work within a strict budget – so a large part of Twist’s wardrobe comes from second-hand charity shops. These tend to be slightly opportunistic or impulsive purchases – I’ll see something on a mannequin and think “Hell, yes!” and (assuming it’s about the right size) buy it because if it doesn’t work out, at least I haven’t blown vast amounts of money on it. More often than not, I have a ‘look’ in mind and scout around seeing if there’s anything that comes vaguely close to it.

You never know quite who’s going to be behind the till. On an early venture, I spied a slinky dress in a window that was perfect, and went inside. It was packed with little old ladies rummaging through winter coats, but I apologised my way through the crowd to the cashier and told her I wanted to buy That Dress in the window. She had a mischievous look in her eye.

She opened up the display and shouted back to me, “IS THIS THE DRESS YOU WANT, SIR?”

I was damned if I was going to let her try to out-sass me or try to make me feel foolish, even in guy mode. So I shouted back with a cheery smile and a thumbs-up.

“YEP! THAT’S THE ONE! IT’S JUST MY SIZE!”

I don’t think anyone else in the shop was paying the slightest attention to either of us.

"We're not flying; we're falling with style!"

The zipper on this dress was… eh, ‘flying low’…

On another occasion I was looking for a vintage 60’s-style dress for a photoshoot (the one in the old fashioned airliner; apart from having to avoid a children’s party, that shoot passed without incident and the photos can be seen sprinkled throughout the gallery).

I found exactly what I was after in a charity shop in a very genteel, prim, proper part of town. The sweet little old lady (Edinburgh’s second-hand shops contain no other sort) behind the till struck me as the kind of woman who was probably schooled by Miss Jean Brodie.

She rung it up and said, “There you are sir, one ladies’ dress.”

And I got to use the Eddie Izzard line, “It’s not a ladies’ dress – it’s mine!”

I thanked her and packed it into my bag. She just blinked, speechless. I think I was a bit too modern for her tastes.

(It turned out the dress was too small, so I had to figure out how to pose without showing the gaping zipper at the side.)

When it comes to charity shops, I go for the secular ones – health, animal welfare, and social support. The only shop I refuse to donate to or buy from on principle is the Salvation Army (because it’s just not a very nice organisation).

castle gardens

Splashing out…

I have splashed out occasionally. On a trip to Orlando five years back, we got an idea of the political divide between two stores.

The first was an upmarket dress shop; lots of stuff I’d love to have tried out, but the sales assistant was a middle-aged woman with big hair who struck me as the type who was Afraid Of Change and would vote accordingly.

She asked my girlfriend if she was interested in anything.

“Nah, we’re here for him.”

The saleslady laughed politely.

“No, seriously, it’s for me. I like to rock a dress from time to time,” I told her.

“Well, you don’t seem the type!”

“Don’t I? Damn. I’ll have to try harder.”

Uncertainty crossed her eyes.

“Let me know if you see anything you like,” she told my girlfriend, and left us alone. We departed about five seconds afterwards.

Instead, I found a couple of slinky purple dresses – one sparkly, one not – in American Apparel. I’m guessing it was a couple of college kids running the shop, and they were totally fine with me buying dresses. Kids today, huh?

Sing when you're whinnying?

Got milk?

Personally, I try not to buy stuff online – I like to actually see what the hell I’m getting first – but last year I succumbed to the temptations of a sale at Black Milk. Their range is of the tight’n’stretchy variety, so It takes a bit of dietary punishment to wear them confidently. I could go nuts clicking on purchases, but then a little voice has to restrain me: just when, precisely, do intend to wear a PVC skater dress?

Sometimes, the idea of wearing something is far better than the reality of it.

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Tomb Raiding at Edinburgh Comic Con

You’re never too old to scare yourself. And if you ever want a safe place to go out cross-dressed, I thoroughly recommend comic/science fiction conventions. These are two things I found out for myself last month.

I had it in my head to enter the cosplay contest at Edinburgh Comic Con 2016, but I wasn’t entirely sure which character to dress up as. So I asked my friends. Three costumes involved the catsuit: Emma Peel from The Avengers TV show (but I reckoned hardly anyone would be able to distinguish her); Selene from Underworld (but I needed a much shinier catsuit to do her justice); and Black Widow from The Avengers films (but if videos and photos of the 2015 con were anything to go by, I’d be up against dozens of Black Widows). That left Tomb Raider‘s Lara Croft (the 1990s version).

I’ve already gone out as Lara for a friend’s birthday, as well as an early-morning photoshoot (which was largely uneventful, so nothing to write about; photos can be found randomly throughout the blog gallery), but going to a comic con would be my first time just on my own, talking to a bunch of strangers (although I did meet quite a few people I knew anyway).

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A couple of Rogue Ones?

On arrival, I headed to the ‘green room’ where cosplayers could get changed. The first guy I spoke to was Andrew, getting changed from Bane to a shadow stormtrooper. He was my guide and guru to my first con. He also didn’t realise I was a guy as well, at first. When I caught up with him throughout the afternoon, he’d introduce me to various friends to speak to, so I could confirm for them that he wasn’t lying; Lara Croft was a dude. This was actually great fun!

blogimagery79-Multipass

I was glad to see I wasn’t the only 1990s icon at the con…

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Why yes, I *am* a slut for cameras…

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Covered from all angles (I think Leeloo was glad to escape and check out the rest of the con after this!)

Some of the reactions were priceless – one of my favourites was a guy who, after taking my photo, said “Thanks” and I said “You’re welcome!” …and then his eyes bugged out a bit.
“You’re a man?!”
“Well, yeah, sure.”
“Uh…”
(And then he left in a hurry. I’ve encountered this response before.)

That said, pretty much everyone else was cool with it…

Stark contrast?

I gotta be honest; I don’t recognise this character… my nerdy knowledge has limits!

An Intrepid selfie…

This was an incredibly safe, family-friendly environment. There were parents and kids all in costume (kudos to the very young girl dressed as the dancing sapling Groot from Guardians Of The Galaxy). The rules for interacting with cosplayers (essentially: look don’t touch; no photos without permission; don’t be a dick) were displayed on large pop-up stands, but I think everyone just took them as read. Everyone took pictures of themselves with everyone else. It doesn’t matter what size, shape, age, or gender anyone is – it’s all about the costumes.

blogimagery85-shopping

It was kinda weird seeing so many different genre characters mingling together… shopping. It’s the ultimate mix of the fantastical and the mundane.

Anyway, time was marching on and the cosplayers had to queue up for the contest. As I predicted, I saw a multitude of Black Widows (and Suicide Squads, and X-Men), but apparently a glut of Deadpools the previous day had deterred anyone from dressing up in red and black.

It was a long, nerve-wracking wait. I’d never competed in anything like this before (and had no expectation of winning; I was merely hoping to be remembered), and those nad-mashing leather shorts were really, truly uncomfortable (but Lara Croft does not cry; therefore neither would I).

After The Flash and Wolverine did their turns on stage, I was up. As the write-up of the con in Starburst magazine put it:

…a Lara Croft greeted with equal parts enthusiasm and unease after revealing herself to be an alarmingly convincing cross-dressed man…

I seemed to create an impression anyway. Someone in the midst of the audience said:

A good number of folks were surprised when he spoke I do have to say. I saw the reaction of two teenage boys when [Lara] spoke and it was priceless.

blogimagery86-feedback1 blogimagery87-feedback2

I’m told there was a massive intake of breath from some quarters. On stage, I was just aware of a short pause and then applause. The facial tectonics of the emcee were a sight to behold as well, as he rapidly reappraised who he was dealing with.

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This is my “Surpriiiiise!” smirk. Des, the emcee, recovered well (“Stay professional… stay professional…”)

blogimagery89-competition

“Don’t just stand there, let’s get to it; strike a pose, there’s nothing to it…”

“So what made you dress up as Lara Croft?” Hm. Yeah. What indeed? In retrospect I wish I could’ve come up with a wittier answer than the one I did (I could’ve mentioned the fact that like Lara Croft I have a habit of digging around for old things – apart from a clip-on ponytail, everything I wore came from charity shops, and was perhaps the cheapest costume at the con).

I’d also given thought to a short performance of how Lara picks something off the floor (shuffling around left and right until she’s finally in the right position, and then inexplicably drowning), but it’s hard to know if others will find it as funny as I do. So I limited myself to a final pose for the cameras before bounding off stage.

By the end, the well-deserving winner was a home-made Chappie. I understand a video of the contest might be available at some point – I’ll post it here if I can. I’ve already had a suggestion for a costume for next year’s comic con which some of my friends are keen on. And you know what? I’m tempted. It’ll take a lot of dieting and buying stuff I’d wear precisely once, but I’m tempted… sort of… kind of… maybe….

Photos shamelessly stolen from Andrew Judge, Mustbe2sday, Nick J Cook, Dave Jolie, Chi H Lau, Scott Mathie, and possibly others at Edinburgh Comic Con… sorry if I missed anyone!

Adventures in Crossdressing (part two): hit’n’miss, hit on Miss Twist

Ciao!

Ciao!

From time to time you have to face the fact that some men will chase anyone in a skirt, quite literally. How should we deal with this? If you do find yourself being hit on whilst cross-dressed, it does help if you have bags of self-confidence. Either that, or fake it well enough that others won’t know the difference.

I once went to a meal out with friends from my writing group, and we’d decided on a general sartorial theme of “something that takes you out of your comfort zone, or other people out of theirs.” This theme was tempered by the fact we were eating in an Italian restaurant in the city centre, so we didn’t go over-the-top or anything; just goth makeup, leather kilts and me in PVC leggings – that sort of thing.

Over the course of the evening, I was hit on by three Italian waiters. I suspect the first tried to set up the other two as a prank, but I’ll never know. I also reckon they told the chef, because every ten minutes or so, a Slavic face popped out from the kitchen door to stare at me. When I tried to avoid laser-eyed Boris, or an ingratiating ‘”Hey, ciaoooo!!!”, I found myself being stared at by a guy I think of as ‘Wistful Dad’, who was eyeing up women at other tables, presumably to take his mind off the wife and kids sitting with him. I was directly opposite him, so caught him looking at me …a bit too frequently. My girlfriend (now fiancee) was sitting next to me and thought it was hilarious. At least it was a controlled environment, surrounded by friends, and we could leave easily.

More recently, I went clubbing for the first time in 20 years (I decided dancing wasn’t my thing when I was a teenager). A friend in York was celebrating his 40th birthday with a fancy dress party. After a few months of watching my diet more carefully than usual, I went as Lara Croft: blue vest, unignorable cleavage, and those tight, nad-mashing leather shorts which make me feel practically functionally female…

Boy, they really like Lara Croft in York! Especially on a Races Night. I think I had a dozen requests for people to have their photo taken with me around the streets – usually after they realised I was a guy…

Anyway, in one pub, a woman approached me and said, “‘ere, you are a bloke, aren’t ya? Me ‘usband’s been starin’ at yer arse fer ‘alf an ‘our! Come with me a minute, will ya, luv?”

She then introduced her husband and I to each other, thusly:
You’ve been starin’ at a man’s arse, ya silly sod! Go on, tell ‘im!”

I just shrugged.

“Yeah, I’m a 38-year-old man,” I explained, “All it means is you like things that look feminine.”

He didn’t say anything. He just stared, slack-jawed. A couple of groups at the tables behind him applauded and took photos with their phones. I don’t think there’s anything I could’ve said that would make him feel less embarrassed (“Hey, c’mon, don’t be sad – everybody loves buttocks!”). There was simply no way his wife was going to let him forget this. Ever.

After the party a bunch of us went to a newly-opened nightclub, still in costume. As I said, I’m not much of a dancer, but I was up to my eyeballs with Red Bull and I simply thought “fuck it.” On the dancefloor, a drunken racegoer tried grabbing one of the women in the group, going for her wig. Being a wearer of a feminine wig, I’m kind of sensitive about that sort of thing. But mostly, I just couldn’t believe that some prick would do that to someone he doesn’t even know.

“DUDE – NOT COOL!” I barked.

He looked at me and I can only assume his brain did that blue-screen-of-death you get with a crashed computer. I could see the cogs weren’t going around – they were just jammed in a kind of “Lara Croft… but it’s a guy… Lara Croft… but it’s a guy” groove. (The woman he grabbed gave him a fearsome earful. Do not mess with Yorkshire women; they’ve had to deal with Yorkshiremen.)

Going clubbing in a blue vest and tight leather shorts is either very brave or very foolish.

Going clubbing in a blue vest and tight leather shorts is either very brave or very foolish.

A month later at the end of the Edinburgh Fringe, after emceeing a show on the final night, I was faced with a 45 minute queue for a taxi at about 1.30am. Or, I could walk home in heels in 20mins. I walked. (But not before a random punter asked to take a photo of my chest. I said yeah, sure, whatever floats your boat…)

I made it a less than a couple of minutes down a steep, cobbled street when a guy jumped out, presumably to scare first girl he saw. Except I’m not a girl, nor scared. His brother and brother’s fiance standing nearby pissed themselves laughing. The fiance asked me how I got my tits like that and showed me hers (erm… you don’t have to do that, really!); the brother mocked her for taking fashion tips on how-not-to-be-flat-chested from a guy. I told her to work with what she’s got, which is more than what I have. Then the jumper came out as a closet cross-dresser with a *ton* of questions for me. Feeling charitable, I answered them all (jeeeeeeezuz). Anyway, after a group photo and handshakes and smiles, we went our separate ways.

Five minutes up the road, and a guy in too-tight jeans and a smart shirt, looking like the last dregs of his youth were slipping from his grasp, looked me up and down (I was wearing a rainbow-coloured Space Invaders dress, if that helps explain things).

“Awwight, dahhhlin’? Fancy comin’ back to my place for a pahhhhty?”

I hadn’t taken my heels off*, so my sole tactical manoeuvre (“Run away!“) wasn’t an option. I would have to rely on bravado and hope things didn’t turn nasty.

I sighed.

“Dude. I’m tired, footsore and busting for a piss. I’m in three pairs of Spanx. All I want to do is go home, take all this crap off, have a shower, and sleep. If you’re still interested, you’re out of luck.”

Happily, I appeared to have sassed him into silence/ submission/ mental-bluescreen-of-death. I think my 38-year-old-guy-voice helped. He looked really dopey for a moment (kinda like the buttock-fancier in that York pub) and walked silently away (it was a busy-ish road, thankfully). I was mightily relieved to get home without further incident.

Moral of the story? Well, I don’t have one. These are all just one-off incidents and I’m not going to generalise from them. All I’ll say is that cross-dressing may not let me know what it’s like to be a woman, but I think it gives some fascinating insights into what it’s like to be seen as a woman… and that’s a lesson I think a lot of guys could benefit from.

Tomb Raider: The Curse of the Family Jewels

I had no problem hailing a taxi dressed like this.

*Heel-wearers might question this choice – I can only assume you’ve never seen the state of Edinburgh’s streets on the last night of the Festival…

Adventures in Crossdressing (part one)

(I cropped out the guilty faces...)

(I cropped out the guilty faces…)

I figured I’ve written enough blog posts in the past few months dealing with some very general, weighty issues and it was high time I got back to talking about just having fun dressed as a girly.

I think it helps a lot if you can take a potentially nerve-wracking experience and regard it with some slight detachment. In some ways, I’ve found it can be like operating like an undercover agent, gauging people’s reactions to you. Acting cool and glib can work as well – if challenged, telling people you’re crossdressed “just for the hell of it”, “because it seemed like a good idea at the time” or “hey, don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it” can be quite disarming.

For some reason, people keep wanting to touch my boobs, especially women. When they ask, I just say, “Go right ahead; they’re not real and I won’t feel a thing.” When men ask it tends to be a ‘what the hell are those things made of’ sort of inquiry, with a tentative prod or squeeze. Women tend to approach it more from the ‘but if you’re completely flat chested, how do you get it to look like that?’ angle, and confirm that my chest does not move or feel real after all.

Helping out at the IgNobel UK tour...

Helping out at the IgNobel UK tour…

Still, it’s better than the time after I took an impromptu part in the Ig Nobel UK tour’s visit to my home town in 2012, when a complete stranger grabbed my arse. It turned out to be a middle-aged woman whose first pint of beer of the evening was so far in the past it wasn’t even a memory.

“I wanted to talk to you but I didn’t know how to start,” she explained.

“You could always say ‘hello’,” I suggested.

After that, I just answered her questions. Once we’d dealt with what, how, and when, she asked why I was cross-dressed. I gave her the ‘Just for the hell of it’ answer. She seemed satisfied with that, thanked me for my time, and staggered back to the bar.

This is the expression I have when I'm put on the spot and asked to summarise the differences between 'transvestite', 'transgender' and 'transexual' in less than 60 seconds.

This is the expression I have when I’m put on the spot and asked to summarise the differences between ‘transvestite’, ‘transgender’ and ‘transexual’ in less than 60 seconds…

I don’t mind answering people’s questions as long as they don’t monopolise my time when I’m out. The way I see it, if they’re asking, they want to know more and I’m happy to help. I have a talk on cross-dressing I gave to a couple of UK Skeptics In The Pub groups, and figured I was well-prepared with a handful of Frequently Questioned Answers at the end, before the audience Q&A got going.

Having dealt with the obvious ones already, I was less prepared for questions about where, precisely, I shaved – once it was established that the question wasn’t about ‘which room in the house’, but ‘where on the body’, I said anywhere that was likely to be seen by the general public. I was also asked if I’d ever had sex whilst cross-dressed. I said I’d answer the question if they could explain why they wanted to know, and what they were going to do with this information?

There are ways of avoiding answering questions, and There Are Ways Of Avoiding Answering Questions

Frequently questioned answers...

Frequently questioned answers…

One of these days I really should take the talk around the rest of the UK…

 

Going Out…

Following on from the previous post, once you’ve ‘come out’ as a crossdresser, are you going to stay hidden at home, or will you dare to venture out in public?

It can be a nerve-wracking thought, given that you’ve no idea how people will react (depending on location, you may have more or less reason to fear hostile or mocking responses). Before going out for the first time, make sure you’re as presentable as you think you can be. I wanted to blend in rather than stand out, so no fancy dress, no party wigs, no trying to look sexy – just normal street clothes.

I went for a walk around the block with my girlfriend at about 10pm (it was a safe neighbourhood), just to get accustomed to the idea of being all dressed up and out in public. It was dark and there were very few people about, but I could at least gauge their reactions and be confident that if things went wrong, they wouldn’t create a scene and I was just 5 minutes from safety (I wore flat knee-high boots in case I felt the need to run).

All these preparations and worries and… nothing happened. We walked about for ten minutes. I think we passed a couple of dozen people at most. There were maybe a couple of girls who did a double take, but nobody paid me any attention. I was a bit miffed. Relieved, but miffed. But it was a start. We went out again to watch New Year fireworks (bit awkward; strangers wishing me a happy new year, and me not wanting to reply because I hadn’t given thought to putting on a feminine voice.)

Next time out was a meal with friends. I decided that I was just going to be me, but in a skirt (and this is the approach I’ve taken ever since). I would meet one of them in the city centre and then we’d go to the restaurant together. The walk from home to the city centre, on a busy evening, felt like one of the the most terrifying things I’ve done.

I was hypervigilant, checking everyone’s reactions. Guys would look at my legs and chest, but not my face. Women were more likely to do a double-take (partly because my wig was styled, partly because I didn’t move in a feminine way, and partly because all the makeup in the world couldn’t hide the fear). I think one figured it out and gave me a sly smile. And that was it. Nobody pointed and screamed like Donald Sutherland in Invasion of the Body Snatchers, anyway (and I guess that’s what I was worried about).

The meal itself was fine. Once my friends got over the surprise of seeing me in makeup and a skirt, chat was fairly normal. (“So, how long have you been like this?” ~”Like what?”) One highlight was seeing diners at another table staring at me, then conferring, and then nodding or shaking their heads as they tried to figure out if I was a girl or a boy. On my own, that would be a concern. Surrounded by friends, it wasn’t a problem (and they were able to give feedback on how I could do better the next time).

It gave me the confidence to do it again, but with a different wig, and trying out different looks. The more you go out cross-dressed, the less fearful you are, each time. It also gets to be slightly less exhilarating, and more mundane, too. Do it often enough, and it isn’t something ‘special’, it’s just another part of your wardrobe. (Although I have been saved a couple of times when my girlfriend asked, “Bloody hell, you’re not going out looking like that, are you?!”)

First time out...

First time out…