Spring Photo Shoot: Summer Girl

Last week I posted some photos modeling a new ‘do courtesy of The Breast Form Store.  The hair inspired an outfit I put together but never had the opportunity (or courage) to wear.  It was a fun, cute summery outfit that I wasn’t sure was *me* or not.

But a new hairstyle can do wonders and I was brave enough to try a new look.

So, what do you think?

Makeup by Corrie Dubay

Photography by Shannonlee McNeely

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Love, Hannah

 

 

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Ask Hannah’s Wife

Last month my wife offered to answer some questions from t-girls and partners about her experiences, thoughts, and feelings about her relationship with a girl like us.  She read every comment, email, and question and I am happy to share with you her responses.

Being who we are is not easy, and it’s even harder on our partners.  I hope this helps and offers support to anyone who reads this.

-How have you handled seeing your man put on a wig, dress, makeup, and be Hannah?

Pretty well, I think. 😉
I think realizing that this wasn’t a fetish or kink, nor did it mean my husband was gay, helped. That may seem crazy to you, but I can almost guarantee this is a thought in most wives or partners mind at first. After really trying to understand this, I think adding a wig, and makeup made it better as she wasn’t my husband in a dress, she was more.

Seeing the desire to look put together and like a lady made it easier than just him wanting to wear lingerie. I’m actually quite impressed and proud of her style and want for her style to be classy and not tacky or ill-fitting and age appropriate. This also helped me understand its not a sexual thing. Knowing he had just wanted to feel beautiful, I thought, well I guess we all do in one way or another.

-How have you handled seeing her become a model… both physically and as a role model for many t-girls like myself?
I’ll be honest, Hannah modeling clothes and also having the blog and photo shoots bothered me at first. I kept it to myself for a while. I felt like “Why can’t she just wear what she wants and look the way she wants and just meet some t-girl friends to go out with? Why does she have to be so out there? Why does she need to be so extreme in that world? Does this mean she’s happier that way? Does she want to transition but feels she can’t because of our life together? I feared for our privacy with posting so many pictures, etc. I was afraid she could be hurt by someone joining this community with bad intentions. I also feared she would get a big head about herself and like the attention and want to be her more and more and my husband less and less. The only thing that has changed my feelings on this is time, lots of talks, reassurance and honesty. This just doesn’t come to you instantly. Also, she lets me make the rules. That may sound like I’m being selfish or bitchy, but it allowed me to have a say. I had no say in who he or she were, but I had say in how Hannah was in my life. Although I was aware of some of this before we were married, Hannah didn’t exist then and if we wanted this to work for both of us, I needed a say in how this other person was going to be invited into my life and marriage . It made me feel like I mattered just as much as both of them did.
With that being said, I am glad she has started a community of like-minded people being out there and doing things we all do, instead of hitting up LGBTQ bars ALL the time. I’m glad that when she couldn’t find what she was looking for, she became it. How inspiring is that? And in the process she helped others be more accepting of themselves or their spouses or their partners minds being put at ease a bit. I’ve always been supportive of the whole community. I believe being out there, being respectful and kind will go a long way in the fight for equality. People need to know there is nothing to hide, that other people existing is of no threat to them. That you all are people, too. People who just want to go to a play or Target. Hannah does important work. If there is one thing that’s similar in Hannah and my husband it’s that they are both all in or not in at all.
-How have you evolved during this period? Were there times where you just wanted Hannah to “just go away and be my husband!” or have you always been accepting. Did it evolve from tolerance to acceptance to embracing… has it gone back and forth. between those. 
I have found a deeper connection with my husband. It didn’t feel that way at first, but it became the case for us.
Yes, there were plenty of times I wanted Hannah to go. I know that if I asked for that, it would happen. How could I live with this knowing I was the only thing holding him back from feeling fulfilled as a person? He would resent me, I would always wonder if he was sneaking it or secretly unhappy in our marriage. He would be unhappy. I love him. You may think Hannah is awesome, but you’ve never met my husband. He’s all I could ever want. His happiness and contentment are just as important as mine are. I had to find a place where I could meet him and her in the middle. We couldn’t both have what we wanted and I knew that in the grand scheme of things, he needed her to be part of his life. We’ve always been us against the world. This was no different. He needed to explore her and figure this out. He needed one person that would say I love you for who you are, no matter what. There was no way I wouldn’t be that person for him, and in return, her. I was not going to snuff out a very big and important part of the person I loved most. I also wasn’t going to do this without boundaries.  I would just need to keep doing my best to communicate and make sure I felt reassured that we were on the same page with where this was heading. I also needed to make sure he was being open and honest. So, yes. it has evolved over the years to where we are today. Yes, it’s gone back and forth. When it does, we talk. Some days, its hard. Most of the hard days are behind us, though. It took effort and I feel it was worth it. On the lighter side, some days it’s nice to have him truly understand how it feels when we just don’t feel pretty or are taking longer to get ready. He knows that if I’m in the closet changing a million times that when I come out, that I need a confidence booster and some gentle honesty. Its fun when he complements an outfit or my eye make up, because I know he really means it. There’s a level of intimacy and respect that I didn’t know was possible when we are raw and honest about who we really are.
-How do you feel about Hannah when she’s… um… Hannah? I’m not asking about sex (don’t worry), but what about other areas of affection? Do you still feel comfortable holding her hand, hugging her, kissing her, saying “I love you” to her? Was it instant, or was it something the two of you worked up to? 
This is tricky. I feel just fine saying I love you, etc. I don’t want to have pretend I’m someone else just because she is. Do I treat Hannah as my spouse? No. I see her more of a good friend. I feel loving and supportive, but don’t prefer to kiss her, etc. Not that I won’t, I know that although they are two, they are also one and I can see past that and see the person I love no matter what. In our situation, She is here and then he is. I married ‘he’ and that’s who I prefer. She doesn’t live in our everyday world. Its a hard thing to explain. At the end of the day, I love them and will cuddle and hold both of their hands. I’ve definitely learned that gender and sexuality are often and easily confused, but completely separate.
-How did you feel when Hannah “officially” identified as Transgender? I can remember following her from back in the day when she labeled herself as a crossdresser, and while that can be a shock, it’s definitely not as intense as transgender? How did you cope with it? 
At first, it was worrisome, what did this mean on a transition scale? Eventually, knowing there would not be a full transition,  I honestly didn’t care. I didn’t know what “label” did describe her and to be honest, why have a label? This isn’t my experience, who am I to say who she was or was not? We are all just people. Everything we think about clothes and gender are all just societal norms. It’s weird to say my spouse is trans at first, but honestly, it’s all meshed together. I don’t really think about it anymore. I wouldn’t prefer the term crossdresser over trans. It just is what it is.
-What would you say to the wives of us t-girls? What advice would you give? What kind of support system do you have in place for all of this? How have you been able to cope with it? How can I be more supportive to my wife through this period? How can I remind her that, even dressed up, I am still her husband and will always be there for her? It’s not just about making her okay with this, or getting her to view this the way you do, but genuinely loving on her and supporting her through this time. 
I would tell her its ok to not be ok with this right now and mean it. I would tell her everything she is feeling or fearing is normal and valid. Tell her that her feelings count. Ease in. Don’t tell her and then come out and show her your other side, dressed to the nines. It’s too much to take in all at once. Answer her questions the best you can and honestly. When she asks them again, answer them kindly and honestly again. She needs reassurance.
Respect her boundaries. If she doesn’t want you at the local mall or gas station near your house while en femme, for fear of you running into someone you guys know, respect it. Tell her you respect it and don’t break that promise. Be patient. Don’t expect her to want to hit the mall and movies with you right away or possibly ever. Don’t make her feel that she isn’t supportive if she doesn’t want to get mani and pedis and have girls day. She may be willing to let you explore that, but at the same time doesn’t want to be chummy and pretend it’s a girls day if she feels like she is with her husband. Remember, you two together, out, says something about who she is, too. She may not even know what that means yet. Will people think you’re friends? Probably not, but maybe. Will people think she is a lesbian or into trans women, probably. She may not know what this means for who she is when she’s with you en femme. She doesn’t need to fulfill that fantasy of being one of the girls for you. If she wants to, awesome! If she doesn’t, no sweat! Hell, she may not want to hit the mall or do pedis with her cisgender girl friends, either. I think men tend to think grown women are having pillow fights in our nighties, talking makeup and doing our nails. We’re not. Promise. We pretty much want the pedi, a glass of wine or tea, and quiet time by ourselves. Don’t rush her to be ok with it. Just let her slowly wade through the water and get there comfortably and gradually. She shouldn’t have to dive right in to it all or nothing. You have probably been thinking about all of this for years. Trying to understand yourself, purging, embracing back and forth. Many times trans girls will come to a point where they have done all the back and forth for years and found yourselves and just HAVE to tell her. She deserves time to process, understand, hate, love, and understand again, too.
In the beginning, I just wanted my husband. I wanted to see my husband the way I did before all of this. I missed his old body holding and hugging me, it made me feel so safe. I felt smaller and more feminine and more beautiful before. I missed being the only feminine one. I couldn’t quite as easily find the masculine traits I used to see. I missed cuddling up to his huggable, comforting chest and having his strong, still hairy arms wrapped around me. When he lost more weight and had shaved legs and arms, I felt as though he could just duplicate what I was bringing to the table and felt less of an asset. I watched what she wore and her style and wondered is this what he wishes I wore? I’m fashionable, but also way more casual than her. I wear make up every day, but heels are rare for me.  I’m a flip flops, flats and tall boot kind of girl. Did I not turn him on, now that I know what he liked in a woman’s style and its very different than mine? I felt I had to compete and I didn’t know how to explain why. It felt weird to be cleaned face, hair in a messy bun and in my pajama pants with a glass of wine, while chatting with Hannah in makeup, heels and dressed to the nines. I felt a little self-conscious or sloppy.  I was frustrated because I felt like there was another woman in our marriage. It’s like hanging out in your comfy clothes and another person comes over dressed to go out and you feel inadequate. I know that sounds crazy, but we cant always explain why we feel the things we do. I’m sure you can attest to that. 😉
My husband is handsome no matter what, honestly, he’s good looking, but becoming Hannah also changed my husband on a physical level, and so all the changes made him less ‘him’ and more both of them combined. It spilled over. I had a hard time with that, I wanted that hard line drawn at first. I wanted my big strong teddy bear when he was him and then I’d let her be her when she needed to be her. It didn’t always end up that way. I found myself annoyed when people would ask about his weight loss. They would worry if he was healthy. Most guys work out, lose weight, and then bulk up, therefore it’s less of a shock and more of a “woah you’re getting in shape.”  How can you say “He’s fine, he just wants to fit into cuter dresses and not look bulked up?!”? It was stressful. People worried that he was ill. I was tired of explaining he was fine.
I didn’t want to carry around this secret but I also didn’t want confide in anyone. I was afraid I would regret it and they would also view me and our relationship differently. Now, I’m glad I didn’t. I’m at peace with it and feel only I can understand this all the way I would want them to. If there won’t be a full transition, Then, I couldn’t expect others to understand. Over time, It really has just evolved much like you said, tolerance,
acceptance, embracing. I feel very accepting and loving of Hannah. I think embracing is a strong word. I’m not excited about it, but I am ok with it and it no longer makes me upset. I am happy for her and now that I know where this starts and ends, it’s much easier. I’ve gotten over the hardest part and am so glad that he and she feel fulfilled.
Again, honesty, time and reassurance were key. There are things that I have learned about myself and ways I’ve grown as a person, friend, ally, and wife. I am appreciative of her for that. Also as Hannah has written, be worth it. This is a difficult thing for your wives or partners to wrap their head around and come around to. If you are committed to wanting to stay together and helping her understand you and feel some ease through this period of transition in your relationship, you must help foster that. There are a million things going through our heads. Showing us that you’re not stuck in the fog, she’s not losing you and being sure to help her around the house and with daily things, remembering things she’s told you, asking her what she needs and giving that to her, letting her know you’re thinking of her and that you’re attracted to her means a lot. Keeping your word, going above and beyond to take things off her plate will help her appreciate you and leave her with more gratitude and feeling appreciated. Thus allowing more understanding and grace in other areas. You may say “She’s not losing me, I’m the same person”. No. You’re not. Once this is out, you are different in her eyes. It never goes back. Show her that its not a bad thing. Show her she’s not crazy when she says you’re different. You may feel the same inside, but, you’re not the same in her eyes. That doesn’t have to be a bad thing, but don’t deny that or make her feel as though she is not accepting just because she sees you differently. Put yourself in her shoes. What if she wanted to present as a man? Wearing “men’s clothing”, not shaving her legs, not waxing her upper lip or brows, hiding her soft curves, walking different, talking different. You may be accepting and still able to find her in there, but you won’t see her exactly the same either. Put yourself in her shoes, be empathetic, be patient. It’s all you can do. The rest will follow.

When you are dressed as Hannah, does your wife see you as a man in a dress or does she treat you like a woman?

 

When Hannah is presenting as herself, I just see “Hannah”, but not at first. It took some getting used to, some patience and effort to understand something that even he or she could understand. I guess it took a cautious trust on my part that my husband was being honest with his intentions as he explored her and who Hannah was, and what it meant for my husband to be part Hannah. For her, it took some experimenting with looks, hair, mannerisms and personal style for me to see her as someone separate from my husband. Slowly, Hannah became a whole other person. Someone very different than my husband. She was like a well dressed visitor (over dressed compared to me in my messy bun and leggings ha ha) but a visitor who I enjoyed chatting with. Its hard to describe, as some lines are blurry. Hannah brings out a more chatty and light-hearted side that I don’t normally get to see quite as much and as much, as she is like another person, Its still like talking to my husband, as we talk about family and friends and all the usual things we would while in male mode. I think as Hannah, the every day stress and to-do lists seem further away and this allows for that more relaxed free flowing conversation and presence.
When she comes in after a night out with you ladies, she is Hannah. When she’s dressed around me and hanging out, she’s not one thing. She knows my heart like my husband but is more chatty like my girlfriends. It’s not always easy and seamless, but I do appreciate Hannah and her affect on my husband. Mostly, I just love my husband very much and know its never in his heart to hurt me and I would never want him to suppress such a major part of who he is.
Does she treat you like a woman?
Hmmm, I don’t know how to answer this one. I guess I would say I treat her like a friend, a sister, someone close. I don’t treat my guy or girl friends like guys and girls, I just treat them like people, like friends. If you’re asking if I’m likely to ask Hannah to fix the toilet or save those things for my husband, I don’t do either. I fix it myself. 😉 I will ask Hannah and my husband to get things down for me, though. There’s more than a foot difference between us even without all of her fabulous heels. Don’t get me started on those! haha

Does she use proper pronouns?
I address Hannah as Hannah and use the proper pronouns. With that said everyone slips up from time to time and there has to be room for mistakes as we stumble through these things. I call Hannah by Hannah and my husband by babe or babes. Sometimes I’ll call Hannah Babe. No biggie. I know that Hannah and my husband are two very different people, but the same soul to me.

Do you see each other as lesbians while you are dressed?
No. I see Hannah as her own person separate from my husband. Her being who she is doesn’t change who I am. While I find Hannah very beautiful, I’m not attracted to her. I am attracted to men. I can always appreciate a beautiful person. If Hannah needed me to be sexually attracted to both her and my husband, that wouldn’t be fair, as this whole part of our lives is allowing us to be who we truly are and would put pressure on me to change who I am for her. I’m happy with my husband. 😉

Love, Hannah

The New Little Black Dress

I love how clothes can change…everything.  I love how certain patterns, colors, and styles can minimize or enhance certain characteristics of our body.  Black tends to be slimming, dresses with larger prints are usually flattering to us tall girls, and a skirt with horizontal strips can balance out a body that is considered top-heavy.

Of course, you should wear whatever you want.  There is also no standard one must meet to be beautiful or feminine.

That being said, I have always loved what peplum tops and dresses do for my figure.  Peplum dresses and tops have an extra piece of fabric that flares out around your hips.  Peplum style clothing is very versatile as it gives the appearance of hips to those who lack curves, but for those who are a little shapely it draws attention to other parts of our body.

Glamour Boutique recently sent me several dresses to model and to review and I am excited to share with you the first of those outfits.  I have modeled for Glamour Boutique in the past and I am excited to continue to work with them.

When I first started to build my wardrobe, I tended to gravitate towards black dresses as they were not only slimming, but they also gave off a sense of sophistication and class.  After a while, I drifted more towards brighter colors, bold patterns, and different styles.  I hadn’t added a black dress to my closet in years and I was at a point where it would take a really amazing black dress to be added to my closet…

…Such as Glamour Boutique’s Black Crossdresser Peplum Dress.  I looked at this dress on their website and I thought it looked cute, but nothing too spectacular.  When I opened the package the dress came in I was struck by how the photos didn’t really do it justice.  The dress was cuter than it appeared to be.

 

And then I tried it on.

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Wow.  The dress gives me a little more curve, and the skirt is short enough (always a plus in my opinion) to show off my legs.  The top of me is pretty square-shaped so its not easy for me to pull off a hourglass look, but the cute little flare that cinches around my waist gives my body a lot more shape.

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The bottom of the dress is in the style of a pencil skirt and it’s meant to be tight and straight.  This style helps even out my square shoulders and gives me an overall proportional look.  If you are tall like I am, it’s usually recommended to not pair a peplum look with heels, because this style can accentuate height, but as you can see I kept my stilettos and paired this dress with black stockings for a classic look.

The dress itself is true to size and when you order it please take your measurements correctly.  I went back and forth between two sizes and went for a size up and I am glad I did.  If a dress that is my size doesn’t fit me its usually because of the shoulders and not the hips, however this dress fit like a dream.  I was comfortable in it, I looked good in it, and even though I don’t drink, I felt like going to a cocktail party.

This is a fun, flirty dress.  The peplum style adds a little extra to the traditional little black dress but does not take away any of the style, timelessness, and sophistication.  I am so happy this is in my closet and I am excited to show it off the next time I go out to dinner.

Thank you to Glamour Boutique for providing this dress for this review.

Makeup by Corrie Dubay

Photography by Shannonlee McNeely

Love, Hannah

 

 

Queer Prom!

1262222-250This time of the year I always am reminded of how badly I wanted to go to prom en femme.  The adventure of shopping for a beautiful dress and the matching heels, daydreaming about how to do my makeup, and spending the evening looking beautiful was all I thought about when I was in high school.

Sadly, I never had the opportunity.  But life often gives you a second chance.  Each year the 20% Theater Company holds Queer Prom, a night for anyone to have the prom they wanted.

This year’s queer prom will be held on Saturday, June 15th from 8pm until 1am.  There will be a photo booth, a DJ, and other performances.  The event will take place at The Bird in Minneapolis, MN 55403.

Tickets range from $10-$50 and is expected to sell out.

Click here for more details and to get your tickets!

Love, Hannah

 

Spring Photo Shoot: Mesh Dress

A couple of weeks ago I had a photo shoot to highlight some products I was sent to review.  The first review was for Jolie Thigh Pads from The Breast Form Store and you can read my review here.  Shannonlee and I did some pictures against a white backdrop for the review photos, but the dress I wore was so fabulous that we did some photos for fun.  I hope you like them!

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Makeup by Corrie Dubay

Photography by Shannonlee

Dress by Momtuesdays 2 from Amazon

Love, Hannah

#girlslikeus

There is a hashtag that a girl like us uses on social media.  The tag, conveniently enough, is #girlslikeus.   This tag is used to bring attention to our community for the purpose of relatable problems, whether it’s trivial such as getting frustrated that Target doesn’t normally carry heels in sizes larger that an 11, or more serious issues like our president slowly and methodically stripping our rights away from us.  It’s a tag that is used for personal pride, like when you take an amazing selfie, accomplishing something amazing (like finding heels at Target that fit) or just a way for our community to connect with each other.

It’s important that we have support, and it’s important that we have each other’s backs.  It’s very challenging to understand who we are, not only to others but also to ourselves.  But we don’t have to explain who we are to girls like us.  Sure, being trans might mean something different to each of us and we all have similar journeys but we might have different destinations.  I’m done.  I’m at the end of my journey.  I went from underdressing to where I am today.  I am no longer discovering who I am.  I have found myself, I have accepted myself, I have created myself.

But you might still be on your journey.  Maybe you just accepted yourself.  Maybe you just left the house for the first time.  Maybe you just told your wife.  Maybe you just started hormones.  Maybe you just received your updated birth certificate.  Our journeys start and stop.  We might rest for years between next steps.  We may want different thngs at different points of our lives.  There are no timelines to any of this.  You are never too old to start anything.  It’s not too late.  Besides wearing opaque stockings with open toe heels, there’s no wrong way to be transgender.

The point I am trying to make is that t-girls get it.  We may not understand ourselves, but we understand each other.  I don’t really know why I like to dress, but I know why you do.  We all remember the thrill of when we first tried on heels or panties or lipstick.  We remember how less alone we felt when we learned the word ‘transgender’.  There are others like us!  So many like us that there is a word for us!  We all can relate to the tension between us and the cashier as they rang up a dress when we first started to build a wardrobe.  We all have had the same conversations with our partners when we came out.

At some point in our journey (and for the record I want to say that I hate that word but it’s probably the most fitting and relatable), we find that we want support.  We want to talk to someone.  We may have spent decades in our heads wrestling with this side of us and we need to sort it out.  Or shout it out.  Or cry about it, whether it is because we are scared about this means, or cry from relief that we have accepted this part of us, or tears of joy.

It’s hard for someone else to understand who and why we are.  They may want to support us but they will likely have questions.  It’s important that we are patient and honest with the people in our lives that we come out to.  Being patient is hard, though.  I think one of the reasons I am not out to more people is because it takes a lot of energy to do that.  I know what questions they’ll ask, I know there will be a conversation about how my wife reacted and what she thinks, and discussing what being trans means to me.

Just typing that part exhausted me.

I don’t feel I need support from anyone in my life that I haven’t already come out to.  Yes, sometimes I would like to be out to more people but I don’t feel a burning or desperate yearning to do so.  The truth is I never really felt that I needed support from many people.  I wanted acceptance and, more than anything, friendship.  I wanted Hannah to have someone to shop with or talk to.  Not only is my wife the love of my life, she is also my best friend…in both of my genders.

I think it’s important for a t-girl to have other t-girls for friends.  Not only to have someone to hit the mall with, but it’s important to have someone who absolutely gets it.  I never have asked another t-girl why they are who they are.  It’s none of my business anyway.  I’ve never been asked that either.  We don’t need to have that conversation.  We already know what we would say.

I talk to a lot of t-girls on different points in their journey (ugh, that word).  It’s exciting when we first come out because accepting yourself is one of the hardest and most wonderful things you can do.  It’s also the time when we will make the most mistakes.  These mistakes can be bigger than wearing opaque stockings with open toe heels.  We will often get lost in the pink fog and make bad decisions.

One of the biggest mistakes we make is overwhelming our partners.  Most of us want our partners to know about us, we want their support, and we want them to…well, participate.  What participation means is different for all of us.  Some of us want our wives to teach us how to do makeup, pick out a wig, hit the town, or have a girls nights in.  I see too many of us tell our partners about this, and then the next day we tell them we want to go out en femme and the day after that we ask them to come with us.  It’s easy to understand why our partners are wondering what’s next or where all this is going. Being who we are can be lonely.  We want friends.  We want to know girls like us.  We feel we are the only ones like us.  We have no one to talk to about this.  On that note, our partners often feel that way, too.

When we come out we are opening up and discussing feelings and experiences we have been silent on for years.  We are so ready for what’s next.  But our partners aren’t.  They are processing what we just told them and they need time to sort it out.  Understanding this part of us is not simple.  We don’t understand ourselves and we have had our entire lifetime to figure it out.  Our partners need more than a couple hours, or a weekend, or a decade to let it sink in.

The most important thing we can, and should do is be open and transparent with ourselves and our partners.  It’s also important for girls like us to be friends with girls like us so we have others to talk to about this.  Again, we should avoid overwhelming our partner and it’s easy to do so if they are the only person we talk to about this.

So, how do we do make friends?

I don’t need to tell you about this new thing called the world wide web.  It’s a wonderful way to connect with others.  Of course, if your partner has requested that this side of you doesn’t have social media accounts, you had best respect that boundary.  It drives me crazy when t-girls tell me they have a Facebook profile that their wife doesn’t know about.  Don’t do this.  Seriously.

You can create profiles and chat online at places like crossdressers.com, The Gender Society and urnotaone.com.  Even just chatting and posting on the forums can give you support and friendship.  I spent a lot of time online in the early days and found it helpful to read about others like me and I gained a lot of information about everything from beard cover and color correcting to understanding what our partners are feeling.

I met girls online that I later met in real life.  In fact, one of the first times I went out was to meet up with someone I met online.  I hope I don’t need to explain why you shouldn’t meet someone at a hotel room or at their house.  If you are meeting someone you know from the internet, meet in a public place.

When I was ready to make friends, I started attending a local support group.  There are a few in Minneapolis and I went to two different ones off and on for a few months.  One of those groups was PFLAG and I am willing to bet you can find a PFLAG support group near you.  Going to the groups was wonderful.  If anything, they help me get used to going out en femme.  I built confidence and it soon became second nature to get in and out of a car wearing a skirt, walking in heels outside, and interacting with people as Hannah.

After a few months, I started to feel that the groups weren’t right for me anymore.  All t-girls are different and are at different points in their lives.  Some had just started hormones, some were there with their wives as they were both struggling and coming to terms with this, some just had gender affirmation surgery and just hit the reset button on life.  I wasn’t conflicted about who I was, I didn’t want to live full-time and I wasn’t about to transition.  I was no longer looking for support, it was time to make friends.

I talked to my wife one night after a meeting.  I felt ready to start going out to other places besides the support groups.  I was ready to move from seeking support to finding a social circle.  A group to shop with, go out to dinner with, and just do…stuff.  Places to go that weren’t built around gender identity.  I didn’t want to just frequent gay bars or drag shows, I wanted to go to the mall and Starbucks.

So, my wife suggested I start a group like that.  And I did.  As of this writing, the MN T-Girls has existed for almost six years.  It started small like most things do, but the group now has hundreds of members from all over the state, the midwest, even girls from outside of the area who travel to the Twin Cities on a regular basis.

The first step in creating the group was to decide what kind of group we would be.  This was kind of like writing a mission statement.  I remembered the first time I went out and how scared I was.  I could think of nothing but the sad and horrific and terrifying stories of girls like me getting harassed, attacked, or worse.  These instances understandably stop many of us from leaving our living rooms.  So, safety in numbers became the driving force behind the group.  Not only safety from those who may hurt us, but the security we give each other when we know we are not the only ones like us.

The second goal of the group was to create a social circle for those like myself.  Most of the members of the group are secure in who they are.  Most know where they are in their journey.  Most members of the group live comfortably with their gender identities and go back and forth between them.  In 80% of their lives they are husbands and fathers but every other Saturday they strut out of their closet looking fabulous.  Most of us are out to our partners.

Sure, support for each other is a given.  It’s not uncommon for members to talk about something they, or their partner, is struggling with.  Our shared experiences help each other and offer a perspective we may not have had before.  So, I guess I created a support group after all.  But I like to think the group offers a social part that many of us need.  The group meets once a month and we have different adventures.  Sometimes it’s the group going out to dinner, or attending a play, visiting a museum, annual holiday parties, or going to a pride festival.  We’ve had a lot of private shopping events where businesses will host our group after hours which gives us an opportunity to shop for everything from lingerie to shoes to clothes to accessories.  Our most popular and requested events are the private makeup lessons that I organize at least once a year.

Our first event was meeting for coffee at a cafe owned by a transwoman.  There were about five of us there.  Today the group has close to 300 members.  Growing the membership was one of the hardest parts of starting the group.  I had been blogging for a couple years at this point so I had a little following.  I was active on forums and had attended local support groups and knew a few girls like me.  I wrote about the group on my site, I told others about it at the support groups I attended and soon word spread.  After a few months of, well, recruiting I guess, we had our first meet up.

The group was formed for girls like us to find and make friends with others like us.   I wanted to meet other girls like me, I wanted to shop with girls like me.  There wasn’t a local group that offered that, so I created one.  I’m glad I have the group and thankful for the friends I met because of it.  I get emails from t-girls from all over the country looking for a group like this.  I encourage them to start one.  It takes dedication, consistency, and probably a kind of madness to do something like this, but it can be done.

I keep the group going because I know how important it is for me to have friends who are like me.  It’s important to every girl like us.  I wholly believe the group is a form of activism in a way.  We are showing the world that girls like us go out to dinner, shop, and do whatever everyone does because #girlslikeus are just like everyone else.

Love, Hannah

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not Pretty Enough

A few weeks ago I was sent a wig to review for my website.  It was a sandy blond color and the cut was very different than the black, shoulder-length style that I usually wear.  Shannonlee, my photographer who would be taking pictures for the review, asked me to send over some selfies of me wearing it so she can get an idea of the color for the shoot.

If there’s anything this girl likes, it’s taking a good selfie.

If there’s anything this girl hates, it’s taking a bad selfie.

I was having a good day.  I spent the day getting a makeover and wearing my new thigh pads with one of my favorite dresses.  I looked good, I felt good.  I got home and switched hairstyles and selfied away.  After a few pictures, I looked though them to see which were the best photos to send over.

They were terrible.  All of them.  The wig looked good, my makeup looked good, but everything else was just….humbling.  I hated how I looked in every single selfie.  I tried more photos, I tried different angles, nothing helped.  It was borderline devastating.  A flood of emotions and thoughts hit me.  Was this how I really looked?  Is this what I looked like all day?  Is this what people see when I am out?

I sent over two of the least terrible selfies and changed back into male mode.  My spirits were remarkably lower than they were fifteen minutes ago.  I deleted the photos as soon as I could.  I tend to go to extremes when I am stressed or worried or frustrated and this was no exception.  I think I look cute most of the time but maybe I was fooling myself.  It’s not about passing because there is no such thing, but how we feel about ourselves is often tied into how we feel about how we look.

We have all been here.  Sometimes this feeling lasts with us for a few days, sometimes we can shake it off after a moment or two, sometimes this crushes us so much that we never dress up again.  There have been times when I walked past a mirror at a department store and checked myself out.  It’s a real confidence booster to see a reflection that looks good, but there are times when… well, what reflects back is different than what you thought you would see.  These moments hurt and they catch us off guard.  All of a sudden that confident strut turns into something else.

There have been times when I bought a new outfit and sent an hour doing my makeup, choosing the perfect heels and accessories, and fixing my hair and feeling excited to go out and looking forward to seeing how everything comes together and then…wham!  You don’t look as cute as you hoped you would.  You were expecting a transformative moment but you still look like…you, but you with longer hair and lipstick.

A new outfit, new hair, amazing makeup can be a magical experience.  Every makeover I get from Corrie Dubay or MAC is amazing.  I can stare into the mirror and look for “me” but there is only Hannah.  But the opposite is true, too.  The more I dress, the less this happens as I know what I look like, I know what I will probably look like, but when this feeling hits it catches me unaware and cuts deep.

This happens.  To all of us.  This happens whether you are trans or cis.  We all know this heartbreaking, humbling, depressing feeling.  There are times when we just don’t feel cute.  There are times when I dress and I look and feel amazing, but the very next day I dress again and I feel absolutely horrible.

What some of us don’t know is that this is a real thing with a real name.  It’s called gender dysphoria.  According to Wikipedia, gender dysphoria is the distress a person feels due to their birth-assigned sex and gender not matching their gender identity.  People who experience gender dysphoria are typically transgender.

So, what do we do when this happens?  How I shake it off depends on how it’s hitting me.  Dysphoria hits me from a physical and from a psychological perspective.

About two years ago this feeling was hitting me hard and hitting me more often and for longer than it usually did.  Every time I did my makeup I just wanted to cry.  My face was very angular, my features harder, and overall structure was just very…well, not cute.  I had just lost a lot of weight and although I liked my new body and felt healthier, I missed my old face.  It was fuller, rounder, and had a different, softer look than what I had now.  Simply put, I hated how I looked and it was affecting how I felt about myself.

For years I had been doing my makeup for my old face.  I had my techniques, my methods, my tricks.  But I had a new face.  I needed to learn how to do makeup for it.  I scheduled a makeup lesson with Corrie and we discussed my goals and what I was struggling with.  We spent two hours going over new techniques, how to contour, different products and how to minimize and accentuate my features.

I felt like so much better.  I know this all sounds shallow but I think you know what I mean.  Even in male mode I feel better about myself after shaving when I let my facial hair grow for a week.  I don’t like looking, or feeling, like a slob.  I like to look my best regardless of what gender I am presenting as.  I feel just as good in a suit as I do in a summer dress.

But the psychological attacks can’t be overcome with a makeup lesson.  I can feel absolutely terrible about myself even after an expensive makeover and a new dress.  It’s usually triggered by how I look, but the voices and thoughts in my head are worse than any bad selfie.  Not pretty enough.  Too male.  Too ugly.  Quit fooling yourself.  You’re an embarrassment.  Stop doing this.  Throw your clothes out.

As I said, I tend to go to extremes.  These thoughts can break your heart.  These thoughts are hard to push out.  They linger and stick around and hit us when we least expect it.  These thoughts come back when we see a cute dress and that voice tells us that we’ll look awful in it.  They can cause us to purge but we all know purging is silly because in two weeks we are kicking ourselves for tossing out our stilettos that we spent $80 on only to have to replace them.

What helps me is knowing that these thoughts and feelings will pass.  I may be able to shake them off in a few hours or in a few days.  Sometimes they hang around in my head until the next time I dress up and get, in a way, a second chance.  More often than not the next time I dress up I will feel differently about myself and it erases any doubt or hurtful thoughts.  Sometimes looking at photos of me that I like helps.

We all have off days.  We all have bad days at work.  If we are artists not every painting will be good.  If we are carpenters we will sometimes hit our thumbs with hammers.  If we are chefs we will sometimes burn things.

It does not mean we should hang up our berets and aprons.  It just means we had a bad day and we need to try again.  An off day will sometimes create feelings of doubt, frustration, and depression.  A bad day will make us question our self-worth and make us wonder if what we’re doing is what we should really be doing.

A bad day just means we need to try again.  Sometimes we need to try more than once.  I have had weeks where every day at work is difficult and makes me want to find a new job, but then I’ll have an amazing Friday and everything turns around and I love life and the sun is shining and birds are singing and I wonder why I even wanted to quit in the first place.  Dressing and makeup are like that, too.

It’s also important for us to remember, especially in the early days, that no matter how expensive the makeup or the wig, we will not look like Kate Beckinsale, Sandra Bullock, Selena Gomez, or your favorite celebrity icon.  I remember the thrill and letdown of what I looked like after my first makeover.  I loved my look but at the same time I was disappointed I did not look like Elizabeth Hurley.  We must accept we will not look like them, but we will look like us.

As for the wig…I had my shoot two weeks ago and my review will be posted soon.  Of all the outfits we had to shoot that day I saved the wig for last because I remembered the selfies.  If that feeling hit again I didn’t want it to cloud over the whole shoot.  It’s not the wig’s fault, the hair is beautiful, it was the psychological trigger thew wig had on me.  I changed my hair and walked into the studio, nervous because of how I thought I looked and nervous because of how I looked a few weeks back.  Shannonlee took some photos, I changed back into my hair, and held my breath while I waited for the pictures.

A full review and photos will be coming soon, but here are a couple pictures from that day.

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I heart them.  I love the color, I love my smile, I love my look.  I am a different girl than the one who took bathroom selfies. What changed?  The wig is the same, my makeup was professionally done both times.  But we can never forget that there is a difference between a selfie and pictures by a professional photographer.  Lighting and camera angles make a difference, too.

I am also bad at selfies.

These are things that I will remember the next time this feeling hits.  Because it will.  Maybe tomorrow, maybe in a month.  But it will happen.  You are not alone in feeling this.  You feel this.  I feel this.  Our partners feel this.  Everyone reading this sentence feels this.  We all feel this more often than we would like but this does, and will, pass.

I may not look like Elizabeth Hurley, but I look (most of the time) exactly like Hannah McKnight.  And that is a wonderful feeling.

Love, Hannah