Yesterday was probably the last warm autumn day In Minnesota for the year. I was SO happy the weather cooperated because I had a photo shoot for En Femme‘s fall line.
Shannonlee and I shot pictures in downtown Saint Paul and it was such a fun shoot. My favorite location was when we snuck into a newly renovated hotel that used to be a girl’s school a million years ago that they say is now haunted. Spoooooky.
I used to think the only way I would be able to leave my home en femme was if I passed. Knowing I would never pass (not that there is such a thing) I thought if I blended in I would be ready to brave the world.
I see blending as a… hm, survival method, and it was in this perspective that gave me the courage to enter the real world.
My sense of fashion, however, does not lend well to blending and I have just embraced it. Certain colors, patterns, and prints just scream LOOK AT ME. Of course, being as tall as I am AND being trans I am going to be noticed so I may as well wear what I want.
Sparkly, silver dresses do not help a girl blend in. It requires an insane amount of confidence and hubris and the ability to shut out the stares to wear a dress like that in public. And that’s what I did at last month’s photo shoot.
This was for a project a friend of mine is putting together and I’ll share more details as they become available. For now, I hope you enjoy the photos!
I totally heart Natassia Crystal. Her wardrobe, especially her heels (OMG her heels), are always glamorous, she is super sweet and kind. She posts a lot of videos of her simply walking around and showing off her beautiful outfits. She is so graceful and feminine and if she wasn’t as lovely and as she is I would totes hate her, lol. Regardless of how tall her stilettos are she walks, struts, and almost floats as if she was born with high-heeled shape feet. Like a Barbie doll, I suppose.
From time to time I get questions about how to talk and walk en femme. I don’t do much with my voice. I suppose I speak a little lighter and I choose my words differently depending on what gender I am presenting. If my wife asks her husband if he wants pizza for dinner he’d respond with “yeah, that sounds good”. If you ask Hannah if she would like room for cream in her coffee she’d reply “oh yes please, thank you!”.
When it comes to walking I suppose I don’t think that much about it. When you move from tennis shoes to stilettos your whole body moves differently. I mean, it HAS to. You’re supporting your entire fabulous body on two tall, tiny stems as you strut your way around the mall or your house. I drop my hips, I stand tall, and go go go.
At the last photo shoot I did I was asked to provide a few videos of me walking in the dresses I was reviewing. I had never done video before so this would be a new adventure. The first outfit I wore for the shoot was to feature a cute pencil skirt. Shannonlee took a few pictures to test the lighting and then shot the first video. It was nothing remarkable, just ten seconds or so of me walking from one end of a path to another. I watched what she shot and I was almost horrified. I didn’t look graceful, I didn’t move how I thought I moved, I looked like Frankenstein’s monster clomping around. It was super cringy.
Have you ever come home after a day out en femme and looked in the mirror and saw your lipstick was smudged or your foundation was smeared and you realized that all day long you walked around looking like that? This moment was like that. I wondered if this is what people see when Hannah is out and about. I know I sometimes look like a man in a dress, but my god, now I realized I walked like a man in a dress.
Needless to say this was a humbling and crushing experience. I always felt like I glided when I was in en femme. At least it felt that way.
I was super self-conscience the rest of the day. Whether we were shooting a video or just walking from one location to another I couldn’t help thinking about how I looked when I moved. As the day and videos progressed I slowed my walk down a little, I stood a little taller, shoulders back, head higher. The videos looked a little better but soon I got to the point where I didn’t watch them at all.
As devastating (I know I am being dramatic here) as the videos were, I got over it and moved (see what I did there?) on. Walking was just another thing to learn. Of course this is not to say that there is a certain way girls should move or walk, mind you. The shock and cringe came from me realizing that how Hannah moved was sooooo different than how I felt when I moved.
There really isn’t a point to this post except to say that I think we have a lot of expectations and hope as to how we look, move, sound, and feel as we present as a gender that is different than a gender we normally present as. We hope our eyeliner looks as amazing as it makes us feel, we hope a dress makes us look like a supermodel because that’s how it makes us feel. We hope we move like angels because we feel like we are cloud 9. I love mirrors but sometimes they reflect something we hope we don’t see or expecting. Reality can be a bitch.
So, what do we do? It depends on what it is. If I look in a mirror and see my lipstick looks smudgy and I hate how it looks, then it’s time to practice my lip liner and technique. But it’s important to know what can be changed and what we need to accept. I can always get better with my makeup so I can practice, take lessons, and watch videos. But there are things I can’t change. I can’t change my height, my facial structure, the size of my hands. These are things I need to live with. It’s not easy because this requires a change in our attitude and thinking. What helps me is remembering that girls can be tall and they are tall. My wife and sisters and many of my friends and coworkers are girls and guess what! They all look different. My wife is petite and barely five feet tall, and one of my colleagues is taller than I am. No one ever thinks that these two women aren’t women. I don’t think my wife looks at her friends and think of them as whether or not they “pass as females”. There’s no standards that a girl, cis or trans, needs to meet.
Some girls glide like Natassia, some girls stomp around like me, but we are both beautiful, and we are both girls (when we want to be).
Of course this is all easier said than done, but that’s how I want to think. It’s how I need to think. If I continue to hold myself to standards that simply cannot be achieved then I will spiral into a pit of despair and never leave my house. Or my bed.
I promise you that no matter what the mirror says, what the camera shows, or what the rest of the world thinks, you are a beautiful girl.
I don’t want to sound ungrateful or bitchy or snobbish or anything, and I am so blessed and fortunate to have the life that I have. But sometimes after a busy week it sounds very tempting to just be lazy instead of packing, selecting accessories, heels, and everything else that goes with a shoot.
But Shannonlee was ready, I had my makeup appointment scheduled, and the designer was counting on me so there was no backing out now. Not that I would, of course. Even after all this time it’s still a thrill to feel the wind dance through my hair and hear the music of my stilettos singing on the sidewalk.
Once my makeup is done and Shannonlee’s camera starts clicking away, I begin to relax and have fun. The hard part, the planning, is done. It’s time to smile (or not) and let the camera do the work.
This summer Shannonlee have done a lot of shoots and the last one we did, well, I wasn’t feeling it. My allergies were causing my eyes to water and smudge my makeup, the sun was bright and hot… I didn’t feel cute and I knew that the photos wouldn’t show the confident girl that I pretend to be. Well, sometimes I am not pretending. 🙂
Thankfully Shannonlee worked her magic and the photos turned out beautiful as always.
Still, I was a little burnt out. Not necessarily from the shoots but from everything. I am emotionally exhausted and I barely have the bandwidth to pay attention to things or really lose myself in something. Basically I feel restless and distracted all the time. Modeling takes a lot of concentration and commitment. I just didn’t feel I could pull myself together for the shoot.
But this shoot was different. It was in the Peace Gardens in south Minneapolis and it was just a beautiful place to be. The weather cooperated and everything just kind of came together. We had fun. I mean, we always do, but this time we really explored the space and interacted with the environment more. It wasn’t just me smiling in front of… something. There was a different energy at this shoot. I worried less about getting the perfect shot and just… try to lose myself in it and I think I pulled it off.
I am looking forward to see the photos, but here are a few of the dresses I wore.
Once I stepped out of the house for the first time and watched the sunrise on a summer morning I felt that I had conquered something impossible. Hannah was real, I was real, we were living in the real world. I felt invincible, I felt powerful, I felt fearless.
I began to think of all the other things I could do. My confidence was through the roof, my potential was endless, nothing could stop me. It was this moment when I started to list all the things she could do. All things I wanted to do.
I felt strong, I felt cute, I felt loved. Well, loved probably isn’t the word, but I was tolerated. What I mean is that I was terrified of being in the real world, I was scared of being harassed, laughed at, or worse. None of these things happened. The city accepted me, tolerated me, ignored me.
As I grew more secure with this side of me, and with how I looked, I fantasized about having professional photos done. An iPhone selfie is fine and my patient wife took countless pictures in those early days. Her love and support did more for me than a color-correcting foundation ever could.
Once the MN T-Girls started to meet, I thought it would be fun to do a professional photo shoot with a photographer. I had no idea how to set something like that up, but my philosophy is that once you commit to something, the universe just kind of gets out of your way and somehow it happens.
And that’s exactly what happened.
Hannah knew someone who knew someone and we got to chatting about my idea and her enthusiasm and support made me feel calm and safe. A few months later a small group of the T-Girls met at a studio in Minneapolis to have our pictures taken by Shannonlee.
This was five years ago and since then the group has had an annual shoot and I have had quite a few shoots with her on my own for modeling gigs and for my own vanity, if I am being honest.
For our first shoot I wore two different dresses. Shannonlee took so many pictures and I had never felt more beautiful. I still love looking at these pictures.
I realized a few months ago that this year marked five years of working with, and five years of friendship with Shannonlee. To mark and celebrate this occasion, I decided to wear one of the dresses I wore at that first photo shoot for our most recent shoot.
There are few things in my state that are more iconic than ‘Spoonbridge and Cherry’ by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen. This and the Mall of America, I suppose. I think everyone in Minnesota will have at least one photo of themselves taken in front of this amazing work of art.
Last month’s photo shoot finally gave me a chance to have my picture with the sculpture. And of course I had the perfect dress for it.
I don’t pay much attention to fashion. I mean, I look at every dress I see and if I think it’s cute, I add it to my wardrobe. But I don’t wear something because it’s in style or trendy. I might wear something that IS in style or trendy, but not BECAUSE it is.
If that makes sense.
I wear what I wear because I think it’s cute and because I think it will look good on me..
Fashion usually encapsulates an era. Bell bottoms will forever represent the 60’s to me. Poodle skirts represent the 50’s, and so on. But there can be an outfit or a style that simply says retro and I totally heart this look.
I fell in love with this dress and I thought it looked flirty, cute, and feminine. It is also a rather bold style. I don’t care about blending in and I usually am overdressed wherever I go, but this dress really, really stands out.
This was one of those dresses that caught my eye and I wasn’t really sure why I liked it. I don’t have a lot of blue dresses so I thought it would be fun to add to my wardrobe and for my August photo shoot.
I don’t know why I was so drawn to it but I’m glad I bought it because I love it. I love how it looks and it feels very flattering, especially with my Jolie Thigh Pads.
This past weekend Shannonlee did a photo shoot in the beautiful Sculpture Garden in Minneapolis. I have always wanted to do a shoot there and thankfully the weather cooperated, but not much else did 🙂
Shannonlee’s camera was being silly so most of the pictures we took were on an iPhone. My allergies decided to kick in and my eyes watered and smudged my makeup. The sun shone right into my eyes and the squinting spoiled a few shots.
But despite all these small things, it was a wonderful day. Sometimes I feel sorry for myself and I need some perspective that my life is really a blessing. I was thankful for the reminder that I am fortunate in many ways, in both of my genders, and I should be more grateful.
I’d like to share a few pictures from that day before Shannonlee works her magic and adjusts things like lighting and cropping. I can’t wait to see the final pictures.