And It’s Me Who Is My Enemy

When I was 20 I learned a lot about myself.

I was living on my own, I was in a relationship, and I was learning more about my gender identity.

I started to learn how to be an adult, learned what I wanted in a relationship, and how to walk in heels.

I learned my limits, and what I wanted. I learned what I wouldn’t settle for, and how to come to terms with being transgender.

I acknowledged what was holding me back, and whether or not those barriers could be overcome.

One of the most defining moments of my life came when I was driving home from work one summer evening. It was close to midnight, the world was still. It is moments like this that life or God or your inner voice speak to you. It’s up to you to listen.

Sometimes what you need to experience is a moment of clarity, a realization, or music. I had never heard this song on the radio before, and I’ve never heard it played again. If I didn’t own the CD I would almost believe that the song didn’t exist. But it did, thank God.

“Me”, written and performed by Paula Cole really summarized many of my feelings and thoughts that summer. I was not happy in the relationship and felt a little trapped. I was living out of state, and ending the relationship was a little more complicated than simply breaking up. I would need to move back to Minnesota, find a new job, and in a way, admit defeat, on some levels. When you are 20 you chalk up your victories and losses by relationships. My perspective is different these days.

In addition to being in a bad relationship, I couldn’t help but wonder where all of THIS was going. I would buy heels and a dress and then quickly purge in a seemingly endless circle. I knew this side of me wasn’t going away. But how was I going to live with it? Did I want to? Of course I did, but what was life going to be like?

I felt powerless in my relationship, where I lived, and in a way, powerless when it came to my gender identity. It was a difficult but important summer. It was humbling, too. I would buy a dress that wouldn’t fit (know your measurements, girls), look horrific in lipstick, and stumble in stilettos. I wanted to be beautiful but my confidence was lower than ever.

But that warm summer night my perspective changed. The things I wanted, like getting out of the relationship, returning to Minnesota… I could do these things. The only one stopping me was ME. The lyrics hit hard.

I am carrying my voice
I am carrying my heart
I am carrying my rhythm
I am carrying my prayers
But you can’t kill my spirit, it’s old and it is strong
And like a mountain I’ll go on and on
But when my wings are folded
The brightly colored moth blends into the dirt into the ground

And it’s me who is my enemy
Me who beats me up

Me who makes the monsters
Me who strips my confidence
And it’s me who’s too weak
And it’s me who’s too shy to ask for the thing I love
And it’s me who’s too weak
And it’s me who’s too shy to ask for the thing I love
But I love

I am walking on the bridge
I am over the water
And I’m scared as hell
But I know there’s something better
Yes I know, yes I know, yes I know, yes I know

I bought the CD the next day and I still listen to this song. It still inspires me.

…and fast forward a few years. This song still impacts my life. Society is never going to “let me” be transgender. I can’t wait for the world to give me permission. I knew it was myself holding me back.

Having fully embraced who I am today, I am amazed at how much I have overcome and what I have done. I still know my limits, whether it is how long I can stay awake before I start to get really loopy, how many miles a day I can run, or what I am comfortable wearing. I know I don’t “pass” (and there’s no such thing) but I still don’t want to show the more traditionally masculine parts of my body.

So, dresses with thin spaghetti straps were out as they showed off my shoulders. My huge, manly shoulders.

I accepted my limitations of what I was comfortable with, and lived my life.

And then the pandemic hit. Things we took for granted were gone, and my time out of the house en femme was gone. Before I go further, I want to recognize that many of what I am thinking, and feeling, and writing about is incredibly shallow and self-centered in comparison to how the pandemic has impacted others.

I would look through my wardrobe and get a little sad about not being able to hit the mall or visit a museum en femme (again, I own my shallowness). I would buy dresses and heels and wonder when I would wear them.

And then I saw a super cute dress. It was unlike what I usually wear… it wasn’t form fitting, a little longer than I normally wear… and the thinnest straps I’ve ever seen. I saw it, I loved it, and I wished I had the courage to wear it.

And then I bought it.

I promised myself that as soon as I could, I would wear this dress the next time I could go out en femme.

And I did.

I’ve held myself back in my life so many times, and when I got tired of listening to that voice and would do the thing I was afraid of, I was always thrilled to do so. I also wondered why I stood in my own way for so long. It’s true, we are our own enemy sometimes.

I am so excited (and proud of myself) to show the photos Shannonlee and I took that day of the dress. The photo shoot was for a shoe review I did for The Breast Form Store but I couldn’t help but show off this dress… and my shoulders… and confidence.

Love, Hannah

The Beauty and Power of Beige

Of course, the first pair of heels I purchased were black. What is more classic and sexier than black? I was probably twenty years old when a pair found their way into my closet… and then purged lest my girlfriend at the time found them. Thus began my ongoing obsession with heels.

After coming out to my wife while we were dating, this world continued to open up. The purging was behind me, and my wardrobe began to properly grow. Obviously this would include heels. And of course, the first pair to find a permanent home in my closet were a pair of black heels. This time they were patent stilettos, but still, they were black.

Creating a wardrobe is amazing and a lot of work, and it can also be overwhelming. Expanding my shoe collection wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. Of course red heels, and heels that sparkled with gold and silver were added to my collection, but I wasn’t sure where to go next.

My wife said that I needed a pair of beige heels. And I thought nothing could be more boring than heels that more or less matched my skin color. When I wore black or red heels, they really stood out. The screamed for attention, which I absolutely wanted (and needed in the early days). I didn’t see the point in beige heels, but I soon added them to my closet. My wife is amazing at putting together an outfit and matching accessories, so I gave her the benefit of the doubt.

And she was right. I found myself wearing my beige heels more often than I expected. I found they were a perfect match for beautiful, spring outfits. They paired perfectly with a yellow dress.

It wasn’t long before my beige heels became my go-to for an outfit if I wasn’t sure which shoes went best with it. They were subtle, they helped dress down a dress in a way, and did the opposite that my red patent heels did: they didn’t scream for attention. The heels didn’t compete with my outfit. They complimented it. Yes, at first glance they weren’t as eye-catching, but this is not a girl who wears flats, so beige allowed me to wear heels but not draw attention from my usually bright, summery dress.

To me, there is nothing beautiful than small attentions to detail. Something that isn’t noticeable at first, but a second glance or looking for a couple moments longer and seeing a really beautiful accessory or an intricate dress pattern is really sexy. A small, subtle thing to reward the person who pays attention to an outfit is one of my favorite things.

And this is exactly what these heels from The Breast Form Store do. Described on their website as perfect for dressing up or down, I cannot recommend enough having a pair of Pleaser Dream 4 inch Criss-Cross d’Orsay High Heel Pumps in your closet.

They come in a variety of colors, but these heels in beige are exactly what my wardrobe needed.

The best heels inspire an outfit. Many times when I pick out my dress for the occasion I start with the heels I want to wear and I go from the there. When I opened the book and saw the shine from the patent leather, my mind raced. The elaborate criss-crossing is simple but sexy. This is not a pair of heels you simply slip into, they require a commitment, the strap belies a sexiness that rewards the person who catches a glimpse of these seemingly innocent and subtle.

I knew exactly what dress to match these gorgeous heels with… and inspiration like that only comes from the best accessories. I paired these heels with an animal print, low-cut dress with thin straps. I’ve had this dress in my closet for a couple of months waiting for the right moment (and perfect heels) to wear it.

This is a dress that screams confidence, especially for me. I have always, always felt conscious about my shoulders. I have always felt they were too… manly. Wearing a dress with thin straps like this shows them off in a way I have never done before, and the pattern of the dress just… demands to be acknowledged. I myself am not going to turn any heads, but my god, this dress will. This dress will not be ignored.

The heels are not trying to take away one’s attention. The dress is not subtle. The heels are not competing, so to speak, for someone’s eye. But these heels do exactly what I want them to do… they compliment the dress. Yes, the dress is hard to miss, but if you happen to glance down and see my heels, you’ll see a beautiful shine, you’ll see small details, you’ll see a sexy strap wrapped around my ankle. A perfect heel, a subtle stiletto that rewards a careful look.

The heels themselves are gorgeous. They shine, literally. They run true to size, and sizing is always hit or miss when to comes to shoes. The strap is long enough and has enough notches to fasten comfortably without pinching or digging into my skin with each stride. The heel itself is centered perfectly and I never felt unbalanced regardless whether I was standing or strutting.

Simply put, beige heels are a must for my wardrobe, and these heels are exactly what I need. An overlooked color, but an essential one. The criss-cross strap works in beautiful, perfect contrast to such an understated color. And the shine!

Thank you to the Breast Form Store for these absolutely gorgeous heels.

Love, Hannah

Behind the Scenes!

I wanted to share some behind the scenes shot from my photo shoot for En Femme‘s spring and summer line that I did earlier this month. Please note they were taken with an iPhone without the normal touch ups that Shannonlee does.

And! Since they are behind the scenes and taken between shots, please forgive me if I look a little distracted… or tired. 🙂

Thank you to Jennifer for taking these pictures!

Love, Hannah

Playing Dress Up

paper doll

As shelter-in-place restrictions are eased, we are able to slowly and gradually return to parts of our lives that have been off-limits for a while.  I am excited for this for a number of reasons.  One would think these restrictions are being phased out because the curve is flattening but that doesn’t seem to be the case, unfortunately.  That would be the reason I would be most excited about, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Regardless, I am excited to go out en femme and resume MN T-Girls events and photo shoots.  I have a shoot in June for En Femme and another shoot for some amazing stilettos I was sent to review.

Part of my review for the heels will be about matching the shoes with an appropriate outfit.  Which mini-dress looks best with a pair of sky-high stilettos, for example.  Sometimes the answer is obvious, sometimes this decisions keeps me up at night (not really.  Okay, maybe a little).

This side of me has an amazing wardrobe with a zillion different possibilities.  On one hand this is wonderful, on the other hand, it can be quite intimidating.  Putting together an outfit with everything from earrings to stockings to shoes to a top and making sure it all goes together is a learning curve.  I still have a hard time matching a skirt to a top which is one of the reasons I mostly wear dresses.

I’ve been thinking about which dresses I will wear for the shoes over the last few days and I think I have decided on two out of the three, but still considering the final pair.  Putting together an outfit is not unlike playing dress up with paper dolls.

Have you found putting together outfits easy?  What are some of your fashion rules?
Love, Hannah

Ask Hannah!

This might be a weird question, but I just passed the anniversary of my biggest milestone, so I wanted to ask you:

In your “journey” (I know you hate that word) as Hannah, what would you say have been your biggest milestones? I have a few that I would happily share in a comment, but I’ll keep this brief… so what are some of the key moments that have defined who Hannah is today?

Congratulations on your milestone!

This is a really good question.  Thank you for asking it.

I thought about this for a while and I think this comes down to four key instances.

If I look at who I am as a journey (and yes, I totes hate that word but dammit if it isn’t an appropriate one), then my journey started when I was very young with trying on my mom’s heels, being fascinated my lipstick, dying to try on lingerie, buying my first dress, and so on.  I remember progressively going from underdressing to sleeping in a nightgown to learning makeup.  All this time I was discovering who I am, and how I wanted to look and what felt right.  As we learn makeup and build our wardrobe, we learn what we like and what looks suit us.  In many ways, my first real wig was the end of one part of my journey but also the start of another.  It was the final part of moving on from identifying as a crossdresser to realizing that all of this was more than just clothes.  It was about identity.  I didn’t know it at the time, but I should have realized at that moment that I was transgender.

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I remember looking into the mirror for who knows how long the first time I was in full makeup, a dress, and a wig.  I didn’t look like me, and I was a far cry for what I look l like today, but at that moment I had never felt more beautiful.  I realized I had wanted to look and feel beautiful for my entire life.  It was one of the happiest moments I can remember.

The second instance was about a year after that.  After dressing fully at home and plucking up the courage to go out at night, I was ready to step out during the day.  I planned a day where I would wake up early and go into Minneapolis to buy a coffee at a cafe.  That was the plan.  That was the dream.  It was something I did almost every day in male mode, but this, this was something new.

This was significant in many ways as it was the first time I was interacting with the “real world”.  I had been out at night a few times to a LGBTQ+ nightclub, but this was my first time at a normal, everyday place and being seen by others outside of the LGBTQ+ community.  I had fears of people laughing at me, pointing at me, being harassed, and worse.  Thankfully nothing like that happened.  I was so ecstatic from the non-eventful reactions from others that my confidence shot way up.  No one cared.  Sure, they knew I was trans, but I don’t think anyone really gave me a second thought and if they did, I didn’t notice.  Although I had planned on only getting a coffee, I ended up going to two malls, a few other stores, and out to lunch.  This experience gave me the confidence to go out again.  And again.  And again.

The third milestone was the first meeting of the MN T-Girls.  I had been attending a trans support group off and on for a few months and it was a wonderful group with incredible girls.  But I didn’t really fit in.  The group was mainly attended by girls who were or had transitioned and many of the meetings involved conversations about hormones, surgery, and the legal process of legally changing your name and gender.  It was an important and necessary group for our community and I am glad it existed.

But my journey (ugh) was something different.  I had no plan or wish to live full-time or transition.  The group wasn’t for me.  So at the suggestion of my wife, I started to create a group for girls like me who weren’t necessarily looking to transition, and girls who just wanted to make friends and hit the mall.  Yes, it’s a little shallow, but my thought was that I can’t be the only one who wants to look cute and wander around a mall looking for heels.

Thankfully and surprisingly, I learned that I wasn’t.  Not by a long shot.  Today the group has close to 300 members and has been going strong (well, on hiatus under the shelter-in-place orders) for over six years.  But the group had it’s humble beginnings.  Our first meeting was in a coffee shop with about a half-dozen attendees.  Having others show up was huge.  If they hadn’t, I probably would have ended it right there.   But that day was the start of something I am very proud of.

Finally, modeling for Glamour Boutique and En Femme has been incredibly significant to me.  Doing my makeup, finding the right wig, and creating my look has been a humbling process.  I cannot tell you how many times I looked in the mirror and wanted to give up.  There are countless days where I spend an hour doing my makeup and seeing a boy in the mirror.  I have felt fat, felt ugly, felt too tall, too… male.  There have been days, there are still days, and there will always be days where I feel this way.  It happens.

IMG_2080

But modeling has helped me feel beautiful.  I know it’s shallow.  I really know this.  But being considered pretty enough to model clothes and represent a business is incredibly affirming to me.  When I feel ugly or male, and I do a lot, it’s helpful to look at photos from a shoot or to look at the clothes I will be modeling next.

As I look back on all of these moments, I realize that all of them boosted my confidence in some way.  Whether it was how I looked or being able to create something.  Going out into the real world requires a lot of confidence, but a positive (or at least not a negative experience) can also boost your confidence.  I can do this.  I AM doing this.  I think when I present as male I take my confidence for granted.  I could look in the mirror and shrug and tell myself that this is just how I look.

But being en femme is a different story.  Looking male in a dress can crush my self-esteem.  A bad makeup day can be devastating.  Someone staring at me (in a rude way) can destroy me.  Although I can strut through hell with my head held high, I am faking it most of the time because I know that someone pointing at me or a bad wig day can reduce me to shambles.  It can often take an $80 makeover and a new dress to make me feel beautiful, but all it takes is a suppressed smile or a mean comment on Twitter to ruin my day.  Or week.

Anyway, that ended up getting depressing.  🙂

I loved this question and I would love to hear about everyone else’s milestones in the comments.

Love, Hannah

Have a question for me?  Oh yes you do.  Ask me here!

The Power of Pink

I was looking at my Flickr account the other day and I saw that this photo was one of my top pictures on my Showcase, which, I assume, is based of off view, likes, and comments.

Black bodysuit and skirt 3

I love this photo.  My makeup was done by friend Corrie Dubay and it was from a photo shoot in January 2019 with my friend and photographer Shannonlee.  My legs looks amazing and it’s a cute outfit.  More pictures of this outfit can be seen here.

I love this photo.  I hate this photo.

And this is all going to sound very shallow and I own that.  I also know that my feelings and thoughts are very hypocritical to my core belief: that beauty and femininity has no guidelines, no rules.  There is no such thing as passing, it is impossible to be too “male” to be a girl.

But I’m only human.  I have my insecurities and I get depressed sometimes when I am en femme or see a certain photo.  For every glamorous picture I post, there are five similar shots that are just… ugh and will never be posted.  And that is not Shannonlee’s fault.  I’m the model, it’s my body, my face, my everything.

If you look at anything long or hard enough, you’ll start to notice little things you missed before.  Furthermore, it’s not healthy or recommended to over-analyze or to be super critical of pictures, or of anything, of our femme selves.

But here I am.

So, what do I hate about this picture?  Glad you asked.

Untitled-1

Let’s look at my face.  No matter what direction I am looking or how my head is positioned, my face is my face.  Contouring can only do so much.  I have a pretty strong jawline and it’s not going to be different no matter which gender I am presenting as.  My face looks very male here.  Pointing my head down slightly can usually minimizes my jawline, but I clearly didn’t do that here.  Perhaps I should hire a modeling coach.  🙂

Same with my shoulders.  I look like a linebacker (which is a part of a football team but that’s literally all I know about linebackers).  The pose I am (trying to) rock here contributes to how my shoulders look of course as I am supporting my body with my arm, but my God, my frame is huge.  I am thankful black is a slimming color and de-emphasizes my shape but this picture makes me wish there was a darker color than black.

Next on my list of self-loathing (not really) is my shape itself.  I work hard to stay a size 12 but I have virtually no shape here.  No curves at all.  Thank God for my thigh pads from the Breast Form Store and for my Dita Corset from Glamorous Corset.  Pads, forms, and a corset does amazing things for my shape.  I wish I had these essential items for the shoot the above photo is from.

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Lastly, my hands.  There are many things one can do when it comes to changing the shape or appearance of our bodies.  We can contour our faces, we can wear black, we can wear hip/butt/thigh pads (and I do), we can avoid certain patterns on a dress… but I am very self-conscious about my hands.  I wear rings in an effort to lessen the manly appearance of them and I suppose I could paint my nails more often than I do, but I try not to draw attention to my hands in my shoots but this photo, due to my pose, make it hard to do that here.

Please don’t misunderstand me.  I feel beautiful, I love how I look, I love this picture.  Everyday I get emails from girls like us who try so hard to be beautiful.  Their heart is aching so much as they yearn to be pretty.  I understand.   I relate.  I am very secure with how I look and who I am, but I have days just like anyone where the dysphoria is killing me and I just want to go back to presenting as male and hide under a rock forever.

As much as makeup, a pretty dress, and killer heels can make us feel feminine, they can also make us feel very… male.  As I move from one gender presentation to another, I can see signs of my male self peeking through the cracks of my femme self.  My eyeliner might look amazing, but I also see the bags under my eyes.  My lips might be the reddest shade in the world, but I also see my male jawline.

Makeup and clothes can only do so much.  It’s our attitude that must do the heavy lifting.  Our hearts must also work hand-in-hand with our clothes.  Yes, a pink dress makes me feel more femme than my suit, but if I am constantly nit-picking at every aspect of my face and body (and hands and…. everything else), the pinkest dress in the world is powerless.

And pink is NOT powerless.  And neither are you.  Block out the parts of your brain (and society) that tell you that you are not pretty.  That you are not beautiful.  That you are too male.  At the end of the day, there’s only so much we can do when it comes to our bodies.  Red nail polish is not going to suddenly give our hands the slim, tapered look we may wish for.  Accept it.  Own it.   Move on.  Focus on what you love about yourself.  I may have the manliest hands in the world, but my legs are to die for.

If t-girls had a team color, there’s no question it would be pink.  Pink is considered to be the most feminine hue of the spectrum.  Even “boy clothes” like a dress shirt is commonly looked at as femme.  I don’t support or agree with the genderization of anything, whether it is a color or something to wear, but pink is pretty aggressively feminine.  And thank God for that.

But pink is more than a color for me.  It’s a state of mind.  It’s an attitude.  I wish I knew how to eliminate dysphoria for good, but it’s not possible.  There’s always going to be days, photo shoots, makeovers, pictures… where I feel and look more masculine than I would like.  I acknowledge it, and fight it as best as I can.  It’s not always going to be a fight I win, but if I think pink, in attitude as well as what color I wear, I can hold my head high (even if my head has the squarest jawline in all of humanity) and love who I am.

Love, Hannah

 

 

 

Photo Shoot – Red PVC Dress

This is the final set of photos from November’s photo shoot.

Besides working with my friend and photographer Shannonlee, one of the reasons I love doing photos is having a chance to show off another side of my wardrobe.  Most of the time when I go out en femme, I dress for what I’m doing that day, whether it is shopping or going to dinner.

But there is a side of me that loves to look… sexy.  A girl wearing leather or PVC looks a little out of place at the mall, so photo shoots give me a chance to let this side of me out for a little bit.

Of course sexy is subjective and this look isn’t for everyone, but it’s still a part of me.

What do you think?
Love, Hannah

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