DAVINA – TRANNY OF THE YEAR
Looking as pretty as a picture, 18 years old Davina Willis stole the judges’ eye to become the UK’s first ever ‘Tranny of the Year’ in a contest shown on Channel 5.
A total of eighty tranny hopefuls had originally entered the competition, half coming from London and half from the North West of England. But by the time it came to the grand final, the budding beauty queens had been narrowed down to just six.
The final was a star-studded occasion, with Ruby Wax as compare and actress Patsy Palmer among the judges. For the three rounds, Davina wore a long lacy halter-top and hot pants; then changed into a schoolgirl outfit; and finally into a glittery long dress.
She proved to be a sensation. As one of the judges remarked during her televised interview, “You’re just so lovely and dainty and feminine!”
Back at home in Romford, Essex, Davina is David Willis -the typical boy next door. His family knows all about his feminine side, and their reaction is mixed. His brother wont hide his open disapproval, but mum and dad are far more relaxed.
“Dad used to work in Soho, so he’s seen it all before,” said David. “They watched me in the contest and they really thought it was great.”
With her blond hair, long legs and and a body that slips into a size 12 dress and size 7 shoes, the 5’9″ tall Davina has a natural-born femininity. It’s hard to believe she has only been out in public for just over a year.
David had first started dressing in his mum’s clothes when he was about eight, in a domestic scenario behind locked doors that must be familiar to many of us. Later, he progressed to chancing putting on make-up when he got home from school and had the house to himself.
When he was 17, he took his first step outside, and has never looked back…
His bedroom now boasts a wardrobe full of dresses and high heels. Sometimes he goes out shopping for them as a boy, but still tries them on in the store and rarely gets any hassle. Other times, he’ll go out as Davina.
When Davina was in Top Shop in Oxford Street recently, she was picked out by the camera and had her picture projected on to the shop’s large TV screen.
“People think I’m a girl and that’s wonderful,” he said. “I often get wolf whistles on the way out to nightclubs, and I love the attention.”
As if that wasn’t all enough to make you green with envy, David has even worked in a bridal shop. The management had never had a boy helping with all the rustling gowns and crinolines before, but his feminine appearance swayed them to give him the job.
It doesn’t take a fortune teller to predict that the future is an exciting one for Davina. The main prize for becoming the nation’s Number One Tranny is a trip down under to take a starring role in the sensational Sydney Mardi Gras parade – the largest and most colourful celebration of cross dressing to be seen anywhere in the world.
He was interested in the study of a wide variety of sexual and erotic urges, at a time when the early taxonomy of sexual identity labels was still being formed. His scientific work extended that of Karl Heinrich Ulrichs and influenced Havelock Ellis and Edward Carpenter. He often visited bars in Berlin catering to gays and transvestites as he researched the first-ever book on transgenderism, Die Transvestiten (1910).
In 1921 Hirshfeld organised the First Congress for Sexual Reform, which led to the formation of the World League for Sexual Reform. Congresses were held in Copenhagen (1928), London (1929), Vienna (1930), and Brno (1932).
Hirschfeld was both quoted and caricatured in the press as a vociferous expert on sexual manners, receiving the epithet “the Einstein of Sex”. He saw himself as a campaigner and a scientist, investigating and cataloging many varieties of sexuality, not just homosexuality. He coined the word “transvestism,” for example. Although he preferred to project himself as an objective researcher and scientist, Hirschfeld himself was gay and a transvestite, and participated in the gay subculture of Germany. For these activities he gained the epithet “Tante Magnesia” – “Auntie Magnesia.”
In 1919, under the more liberal atmosphere of the newly founded Weimar Republic, Hirschfeld opened the Institut für Sexualwissenschaft (Institute for Sexual Research) in Berlin. His Institut housed his immense library on sex and provided educational services and medical consultations. People from around Europe visited the Institut to gain a clearer understanding of their sexuality. Christopher Isherwood writes about his and Auden’s visit to the Institut in his book Christopher and His Kind. The Institut also housed the Museum of Sex, an educational resource for the public which is reported to have been visited by school classes. The Institut and Hirschfeld’s work there is depicted in the documentary film The Einstein of Sex.
When the Nazis took power, one of their first actions, on May 6, 1933, was to destroy the Institut and burn the library. The press-library pictures & archival newsreel film of Nazi book-burnings seen today are usually pictures of Hirschfeld’s library ablaze. Fortuitously, at that time Hirschfeld was away from Germany on a world speaking tour. He never returned to Germany, dying in exile in Nice in 1935.
Sylvia was the co-founder of S.T.A.R (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries) along with Marsha P. Johnson, and was the first president of the organization.
Sylvia was born on July 2, 1951, in New York City. Orphaned at the age of 3, she was raised by her grandmother. Sylvia ran away from home at the age of 10 because of non-acceptance of her gender orientation, and over the next 10 years survived as a hustling street queen.
Sylvia has always been an activist at the street level, ready to demonstrate and ready to go to jail to make the point she is trying to represent.
Her most recent incarceration came as a result of the police riot which occurred following the Matthew Shepard “Political Funeral” in New York City. One of her earlier exploits was scaling the walls of New York’s City Hall in a tight skirt and 4-inch heels in order to open the doors to admit the gay and lesbian demonstrators attempting to gain admittance. (They removed her with a fire ladder before she got the doors open).
Sylvia was active in queer politics in the 1970s and was a direct witness of the shameful deletion of transgendered people from the proposed Gay Rights ordinance in New York City by gay and lesbian leaders who were willing to sacrifice trans people in order to get their own rights protected. In spite of “giving up” transgendered people, gays and lesbians still did not get their ordinance passed until 18 years later.
Sylvia Rivera took a hiatus from active political work from the late 1970s to the early 1990s, when she worked as a food service technician with the Marriott Corporation in Tarrytown, New York. Nevertheless, during this period she never missed the Christopher Street Liberation Parade (now known as the New York City Heritage of Pride Parade). She also organized periodic drag shows in Tarrytown.
In the early 1990’s Sylvia returned to New York City after losing her job, and went through several years of homelessness, living on the same piers where Marsha P. Johnson was found dead. Sylvia resumed her political activities as an advocate for homeless people, queer people, and the transgender community. In 1997 she came to live at Transy House. She continues to be active on the Stonewall Riot Veterans, the Metropolitan Gender Network. the MCC of New York, the Anti Violence Project, The Fed Up Queers, and many other organizations.
Sylvia Rivera has been featured in many books and articles dealing with Stonewall and queer activism. One of the best sources is “STONEWALL” by Martin Duberman. She has also received many honors and awards in the United States and overseas for her lifetime of political activism for the queer community, including recognition by the Washington DC Transgender Alliance, the AmBoyz, and the New York Puerto Rican Gay and Lesbian Organization.
Today many fashionable clothes are designed for wear by either sex. Slacks and jeans, sweaters, frilly shirts, bow ties, jaunty hats and stylish boots often “look even better on a woman”, as the advertising slogan used to say. But, while a woman might happily dress in a man’s suit and tie, the poor fellow who tries to step out in a cocktail dress or evening gown is risking his reputation, if not his personal safety.
Despite this, thousands of men get a harmless kick out of dressing in women’s clothes. Contrary to popular belief, transvestites are not necessarily homosexual, although they all willingly confess that they pursue their compulsion to gratify the softer, more feminine part of their natures. In a world torn apart by violence surely this is no bad thing.
Transvestites are particularly attracted by the glamorous aspects of femininity. They spend hours grooming themselves for special occasions, shaving their legs and bodies, spending a fortune on luxurious skin creams and other cosmetics. The excitment comes as much from the anticipation of wearing them as the fulfilment.
Some transvestites identify with a specific feminine type – the saucy french maid, the femme fatale or the music hall star. Others contrive to look and behave as much like normal women as possible. Still more will want to dress in a stimulating material, such as satin, silk, rubber or leather. Others will seek female domination, bondage or humiliation in conjunction with their cross dressing.
Psychologists say that a fetish is an association between some object and a pleasant sexual experience or the desire for it. Certain materials are considered sexually provocative and today there are clubs, publications and clothing shops which specially cater for those with a predilection for rubber, leather, silk, satin and lace.
Rubber, of course has long been associated with hygiene, being widely used in hospitals and the nursery. Those who delight in wearing rubber underwear, dresses or shirts, or regularly sleep and make love on rubber sheets, are recreating some childish paradise in which the smell or touch of rubber played a delightful part. Rubber particularly appeals to those adults who enjoy baby games.
Leather is associated with hunting and gives a chance to identify with our primitive forebears to whom the wearing of skins was a symbol of sexual and social status. Leather is also identified with belts, straps and instruments of restraint as well as with whips and Flagellation.
Silk, satin and lace represent softness, elegance and femininity. The growing fashion for transvestism may imply that men are beginning to show a softer side to their nature.
Foot fetishists are among the most common. They will literally grovel before an attractive woman, sometimes in public, and beg to be allowed to worship her feet. If she is wearing boots or high-heels and stockings then so much the better. To be allowed to admire, touch and kiss her foot is paradise indeed, and the more haughty and contemptuous the woman the better the foot fetishist likes it. If she grasciously allows him to remove her footwear and kiss her bare toes he is likely to curl up and swoon with delight.
The psychology of Bondage is obvious. If a transvestite is restrained he has no way of escaping from the feminine attire which he has been compelled to wear, thus assuaging his conscience.
It would be a matter for outrage if there was the slightest element of coercion in bondage games. In fact, not only do many women enjoy being the “victim” but so do many men. How reassuring it must be in our repressed society to know that, in the face of overwhelming passion and temptation, we are totally incapable of resistance! It permits us to enjoy the delights of sex in total innocence.
Such ideas have long lurked in the folklore of sex. In the greek legend, Prometheus was chained to a rock as punishment for stealing fire, and his name had become a symbol of an organisation promoting bondage. The story of Samson and Delilah, the binding of Gulliver by the Lilliputians, Joan of Arc at the stake, the exploits of Houdini and the pictures of Christian martyrs have similar sexual undertones.
The relationship between the prisoner and the captor is a recurring and popular theme in literature and films. The prisoner is naked, chained and buried in the deepest dungeon or behind the highest prison wall, apparently totally helpless. The captor, intelligent, cruelly attractive, is dressed in sexuall-provocative clothes.
Just as there are many different types of transvestites, so their sexual interests vary and although we have briefly touched on some, there are many more: corsetry, depilation, voyeurism, enemas, the list is endless and reflects the sexual practices of the population at large.
The poor demented housewife will then say that she questioned her blushing partner and he confessed, the wicked pervert, to finding a delight in women’s clothes, lingerie, perfume and make-up. He went even further, said he wished to be a girl, was sorry that God had made him a male, would love to walk around town as a female, and had almost a hatred of male clothing.
What could the poor girl do? It was a cruel blow, he had always been so loving, gentle, a good father and she had thought how manly he was! Now all that had been lost because he loved knickers.
She must take pen to paper and slowly write down her problem, seal it with tears and post it to Aunt Maude, or Dear Fiona, or Diedre or any other understanding media girl…
One would expect a little sympathy tinged with understanding and sound advice, but the Agony Aunt is as horrified as the poor wife. Yes, seperation would be a good thing. Maybe he is gay or perverted, it is certainly something to keep hidden from the children, and maybe one day she could find happiness with a more manly man, and yes, she was right to feel upset, afraid, and to seek some drastic way of escape.
How lacking in understanding are the experts, for as any true transvestite or transsexual knows, there is no major connection between wanting to dress as a girl and being gay. Sure, some transvestites are gay, just as some of any group are gay.
When dressed as a man I feel frustrated, depressed, hating every unattractive garment. But when I throw off my male attire, as I do whenever possible, and put on the beautiful lingerie and clothes of a woman, then I feel happy and free.
To be dressed as a girl would not make me a less gentle or loving husband for, indeed, it would show how gentle, how feminine, how soft-hearted and emotional I could be.
The transvestite who loves his children, treats his wife with gentleness and chivalry and takes a full share of the household duties – is he to be counted as evil, while the drunkard, the womaniser or the gambling wastrel is the kind of husband a wife will standy by, swear obedience to? If I were a wife I would wish my husband to be loving, kind, considerate and gentle even if he were dressed as Miss World.
Why do we wish to trans-dress rather than transgress? The simple reason is that our mothers taught us many feminine ideas; taught us to be gentle, to love beauty and admire good taste. We found that the colourful and dainty lingerie and the soft touch of silk and satin brought a clinging, sensual and almost erotic sensation, for it was as gentle as an angel’s kiss.
The crude, utilitarian cut of male Y-fronts hurst the aesthetic ideals of life we have gleaned from our mothers, and there was the heavenly delight when the true beauty of lace-trimmed French knickers caressed our thighs.
Everything feminine was delightful, the pale pastels of well-designed bras, the fairy cake lightness of silken slips, the gossamer see-through of the baby doll nighties. Was all this to be denied us because we were created male?
Did the wearing of it cause us to be perverts, to wish to make love to our own sex, to make us less worthy of loving and caring for children?
There were the lovely hairstyle that women could adopt, perms and curls, long waves to the shoulders and colours as variant as the rainbow. But, to be manly, it had to be short back and sides, natural colours whether pleasing or not, until grey and white proclaimed one’s age.
There were the exquisite perfumes distilled from the flowers of France, odours that lingered as if one lived beneath the honeysuckle or the jasmine, sweet delights that hurt nobody. Why are we perverts because we admire the scents that are like bouquets of paradise?
When I am as a woman I am happy, I feel full of gentleness and love, I wish to take all children by the hand and pour out true affection on them. I am not aggressive, I have no desire for over-indulgence in alcohol, and no longing to beat girlfriend or wife.
The very clothing of the male is designed to create aggresssion; even the three buttons of the sword-fighting days still remain on coat sleeves, and all that utility and plainness is to make getting to battle stations more easy.
Nevertheless, many wives who return from the shops or office to find their husband or son happily prancing around the bedroom in bra and panties balieve there is a weird perversion here, a danger to domestic life. Such men are unworthy to look after children, and Agony Aunts recommend a break-up of the home, a tearing apart of family life.
Oh, the futility of such ideas! For if I had been born a woman then I would have chosen to marry a gentle, kind, loving, transvestite rather than a macho, heavy drinking, wife-beating aggressive male. The former I could love, and the latter I would divorce. SO much for tha Agony Aunt and her advice!
I love perfume, I appreciate jewels, I admire earrings and bangles and prefer delicately-coloured lingerie to plain male attire but that does not make me gay. It does not give me any desire to love my own sex – far from it. I long for the company of those who share my feelings and sensations – and such people are women.
The time is surely here when a person should be able to walk freely, head held high, dressed as he or she pleases and not be restrained by Victorian and Medieval taboos.
How often have you seen newspaper reports which place drug addicts, prostitutes and transvestites together in a group as though they were all common criminals? How many TVs do you think cross dress secretly in constant fear of discovery, as though they were committing some sort of sin?
Those of us who have this compulsion to put on make-up, frilly undies, and dresses know that it is not a criminal act, a sin, the result of thinking bad thoughts, reading pornography or sheer perversity. It is something in our brains and, for most of us, has been there for almost as long as we can remember.
To us transvestites it is as natural as being left or right handed and is the result of something that happened before it was even possible for us to be aware of our sexuality.
Of course you may think that I, like many transvestites, would claim that it was not our fault simply to assuage my guilt. But the view of transvestism and transsexualism I wish to put forward is based on considerable research done by many doctors.
I think that it is now common knowledge that all of us start by being female. Our mothers can only produce female eggs and it is the father’s sperm that decides whether the baby will be a boy or a girl.
If the baby is to be a boy then at six weeks a massive dose of male hormones will be produced. This will cause the baby to form male organs rather than female ones. All the basic differences betweenmen and women are laid down at this time, many of which do not fully develop until a further surge of hormones is produced at puberty.
Most important of all is the brain. All babies have a female brain and the amount of hormone required to turn the brain into a male one is critical. SHould this fail then the child’s brain will naturally develop as female, even though the body may be male, and once developed nothing will alter it.
There are considerable differences between the male ond female brain. For instance, when considering a problem a woman will tend to use both sides of her brain while a man will tend to use only one. So what to a man looks simple, a woman will see further complications and different solutions.
The German doctor, Gunter Dorner, discovered that there were a higher than normal number of homosexual men born to women who were in East Germany and pregnant at the end of the last war. It is known that tension in pregnant women reduces the amount of testosterone, the main male hormone, and the knowledge that the Russian army was advancing towards you would create considerable tension.
From these studies and other research Dr Gunter, with others, developed a theory about the development of a baby’s brain while it is in the womb. He decided that the sexual characteristics of the brain develop in stages.
First, the sex centre. This controls the development of the physical sexual characteristics.
The second stage he called the mating centre. This controls the sexual behaviour of the person and is located in a part of the brain that we all have, but which is more highly developed in women and homosexuals.
The third stage he called the gender centre, which controls our general sexual behaviour.
A failure in the supply of the male hormone or an extra dose of the female hormone, oestrogen, at any one of these stages will cause the brain to develop in a feminine way for that particular stage.
Since the female does not rely on male hormones to develop, the chances of anything going wrong are far less. This accounts for the lower incidence of transvestism and transsexualism in women. Dorner’s theory will explain how you can get feminine men who are rampant heterosexuals or masculine men who are passive homosexuals.
The true transvestite who finds dressing in female clothes a relaxing and satisfying experience would have normal dewvelopment in the first two parts of the brain’s sexual centres, the sex centre and the mating centre, but a hormonal imbalancw during the development of the third part, the gender identity centre.
Two things must be made clear at this stage. One is that this is not the only theory. There are others, but most modern ones follow the same general theme. Secondly, we are not talking about fetish transvestism, which like all other fetishes has its roots in the early development of sexuality after birth.
Fetish transvestites can get immediate sexual satisfaction from wearing female clothes. They do not necessarily feel feminine although they may imagine they are women during the actual moment of sexual activity. This is no different to other fetishes such as rubber, shoes, silk, fur, or more commonly, the female breast.
What complicates the situation is that the person who is born as a transvestite, homosexual or transsexual can also be subjected to fetish influences during their sexual development. Particularly in the case of boys who may be dressed or treated as girls just because they exhibit feminine behaviour.
In the 1960s and 70s there was a lot of attention given to the effects of social anvironment on gender identity. It was, and still is, claimed by some practitioners that that girls are feminine in their behaviour because that is how they were brought up, and similarly for boys.
A famous case was reported in Time magazine in 1973. An American couple had twin boys. While circumcision was taking place one of the babies was castrated in error. It was decided that he should be brought up as a girl and given an artificial vagina and female hormones.
The treatment had a significant measure of success and although subsequent evidence is that the subject has some psychological problems, it does have something to tell us about the post-natal development of gender identification. Many feminists hailed this case as proof that women were forced into their roles by training rather than genetic influences.
This was before the Babilonia case came to light. This family from the Dominican Republic inherited a gene along with 23 related families from an ancestor some 130 years ago. The effect of this gene was to suppress the male genitalia and give the baby the appearance of a girl, including a vagina.
The eldest of the ten children to be born to the Babilonias was Prudencio. Being the eldest and clearly a girl she helped her mother with the housework and child rearing, did not mix with the village boys or indulge in any typical male behaviour.
At the age of twelve the clitoris developed into a penis, the testicles descended into what had been the lips of the vagina, and Prudencio changed into a male. Like his younger sister Matilda he is now a brawny, muscular man. He is sexually potent and lives with his wife in the United States.
Technically, what happened was that in the womb, while Prudencio’s brain developed normally his body was unable to make the particular hormone that shapes the male genitalia and body shape. So in it’s absence, although he was in all other respects male, his body developed as a female until puberty when the surge of testosterone completed the job.
The importance of the Bablionia family for the study of gender identity is that although Prudencio was totally subjected to a female upbringing his male brain was unaffected and he has adjusted to being a man without any problems. His father’s evidence was that as soon as he reached puberty he found himself a girlfriend.
We have in England a similar significant case. Mrs Went is a housewife with adopted children. When she failed to menstruate or grow pubic hair she went for a medical examination. It was discovered that she was male and her abdoman contained testes rather than ovaries, but that she was totally insensitive to the male hormone testosterone. Not only did her body develop as a female, but also her brain.
There was also the case of Mr Blackwell, a Malawian. He is one of the hundred or so recorded hermaphrodites but with a male brain. He had both penis and vagina.
When at puberty he developed two large breasts he had them removed and his vagina surgically sewn up so that he could continue his life as a man.
Imbalances of hormones in pregnancy can occur in all sorts of ways, and very often they have no noticeable effect. In the 1950s and 60s injections of hormones were used to alleviate some of the problems of pregnant women. While the treatments were successful in that regard, other complications started to appear.
Some American doctors followed up these cases when the children were teenagers. Jim was typical of the group. His mother was treated with a female hormone while she was pregnant with him. He has no interest in sport and considers himself to be unpopular. His mother says the other boys called him a sissy. He had no heterosexual experiences but says he has had some homosexual ones.
His elder brother, Larry, was brought up in the same environment. He is interested in all sorts of sports and is very assertive. No hormone treatment was used while the mother was pregnant with Larry. The investigation indicated that the hormones had been given at a critical stage in Jim’s prenatal development.
The inescable conclusion from this research is that while it may or may not be possible to control or cure the abnormality of a fetish condition, there can be no ‘cure’ for the true transvestite as his condition is totally normal for him.
Attempts have been made in the past, but not only were they doomed to failure, they could and did do considerable psychological damage.
I choose the term crossdresser because transvestite carries too much negative connotation with it. As a transgendered person, my crossdressing is really more an issue of self expression than something I do for kicks.
The many and varied reasons for this can be reduced down to a prime-motivating factor – it give me a more complete sense of self. I feel more like me (Don’t get me wrong there is a definite sensual aspect to crossdressing. I like the way women’s clothes feel – a flowing silk skirt against stockinged legs, a silk blouse – it very sensual. Let’s be real – me;s clothing just isn’t sensual. Functional? Yes. Comfortable? Usually. Sensual? Hardly!)
Mens clothing is pretty boring – pants and a shirt, and for business – a suit. The steretypical business attire – a blue suit, white shirt, tie and black shoes and if it’s raining a trench coat. It looks like a bunch of clones walking down the street. Women, on the other hand, have a flexibility in dressing of which, to be honest, I am quite envious. With choices of fabrics, colour, style and accessories, womens clothing is just more fun. It allows a freedom of self-expression men just do not have. My crossdressing helps fill that void.
There is nothing inherently male or female about any one article of clothing. The design of a piece of clothing may favor one or the other (a bra definitely fits a woman better than a man) but it remains nothing more than a specific configuration of cloth, metal, plastic, etc. As a culture, we have chosen to associate certain types and styles of clothing with either men or women.
There are those who feel that crossdressing is unnatural. Well, it is. In fact, the wearing of any clothing is unnatural. We have no genetic predisposition to wearing clothes. Crossdressing is as unnatural as straight dressing. Clothing and the meanings we placed upon is a fabrication of society.
Men used to wear tunics with tights, knickers, ruffled shirts, wigs, heels… the list goes on and on. Try putting on a tunic length top and leggings today… You get the idea. Interestingly though, items such as sarongs and kilts are alright (in certain settings.) Prince Charles has appeared on TV (how appropriate) sporting his kilt while out with his sons.
Women crossdress all the time. They buy men’s jeans, shirts and sneakers… even underwear, and they do it without shame or ridicule. In fact, the female crossdresser is considered fashionable. I have read many articles in fashion magazines about how to liven up ones wardrobe by borrowing clothes from your boyfriend, husband, etc. Women’s fashions have even copied men’s: tuxedo shirts and jackets, boxer shorts, and sport coats are just a few items that have been feminized. It seems clear that women wearing men’s clothing (female crossdressing) is socially acceptable.
Men, on the other hand, do not have this freedom. The wearing clothing associated with women is frowned upon by society. Men wearing women’s clothing is not socially acceptable and the male crossdresser opens himself to scorn and ridicule almost beyond belief. We are tagged as freaks and misfits: deviants to be avoided. It is immediately assumed that we are either gay (not to insinuate that any of the above labels apply to either the gay or transgendered community as a whole), which is false more times than not, or that we are just mentally disturbed.
The repression feelings is not a good thing, and women who want to express their masculine side are, in general, encouraged to do so. Society as a whole has no problem with women exploring the stereotypically masculine world. Men, on the other hand, are not supposed to have a feminine side. Any man who show interest in stereotypically feminine interests runs the risk of being pigeonholed as above.
Men who crossdress tend to have strong feminine sides that needs to express themself. Whether crossdressed or not, this feminine side is still there, fighting to be heard; although society would rather that it not exist at all.
Can you say Double Standard? Welcome to the life of a crossdresser.
The simple fact is that the majority of men who crossdress are really no different than any other men. They work, have families and basically live like everyone else except they like women’s clothes.
Ah, I can hear it now “That’s not like everyone else!” Allow me to ask, “How do you know?” Many crossdressers never venture into public. Some who do are better looking than some real women are! Many wear women’s underwear on a regular basis. The fact is, if no one told you, you would probably never know. He could be anyone: a drinking buddy, an employee or even your boss.
Anyone, put under close enough scrutiny, would probably reveal something, which could be construed as not fitting in with the societal norm. Yet, we all go about our business not really thinking twice about the person next to us. We are all different, and at the same time similar. The diversity of Mankind is something as yet unsurpassed in the animal kingdom, and is something to be embraced and celebrated. It is our differences which define us, not our similarities.
Crossdressing allows me a freedom of self expression which the confines of society’s definition of ‘man’ just won’t allow. And I like that freedom.
It has taken me a long time become comfortable with who I am. I am a crossdresser. And even with all the baggage that comes along with that statement, I wouldn’t want change who I am for anything
OSCAR WILDE AND TRANSVESTISM
Wilde was a bi-sexual, as the world came to learn through the celebrated court case that ended with his barbarous gaol term. But he was also a transvestite.
His mother, Jane Francis Agnes Wilde, was a formidable woman, nearly six feet tall, big-boned and with a strong profile. Oscar was her second child; her first was a boy – she had hoped, almost presumed, that Oscar would be a girl.
It was at first a great disappointment to her, but she compensated for this in his early years by virtually bringing him up as a girl, sending him out to play in pretty little dresses with ribbons in his specially curled hair, and banning him from rough, boyish pursuits.
A third child was born, and this time it was a girl, much to Mrs Wilde’s relief. Oscar slowly lost his dresses but kept to his feminine style of clothes, preferring to play the dandy. Even as a 13 year old at school he wrote complaining that his mother had sent him his brother’s grey flannel shirts by accident, instead of his own in scarlet and lilac.
But then his sister tragically died at the age of ten, and Oscar – a gentle dreamy boy – was the most distressed of all the family. He wrote a poem that ended “All my life’s buried here. Heep earth upon it.”
As a man, Oscar’s love of dressing was confined to very small, intimate circles – transvestism was more than just frowned upon by the hypocritical Victorians. However, there are more than enough reports to realise that here was a man who continued to live out his mother’s fantasy of his early years.
During his trial the Crown used Oscar’s appreciation of cross dressing as a sign of his moral degradation, despite the support of his friends. As the writer Max Beerbohm acidly pointed out from the witness box, an earlier crown witness, an army officer, had been “wearing Her Majesty’s uniform, another form of female attire.”
One of the few occasions when he was actually seen in drag was when he posed for pictures as Salome, the lead role of his play which starred Sarah Bernhardt in Paris but which was banned from the London stage. He himself would have loved to have performed the dance of the Seven Veils in the long skirt and Oriental headdress, but the world wasn’t ready for that…
Although he knew he could never play the part for real, it didn’t stop him from dressing up as Salome and posing for the photographs. A fantasy, perhaps, that we can all relate to.
St Paul said that there abide faith, hope and charity – but I have more hope than faith in the charity shop as a source for transvestites’ clothing…
In Heaven, no doubt, charity shops are Aladdin’s caves for transvestites. This world, alas, is a more cruel place. Buyer beware: rather than Aladdin’s cave, here, charity shops are all too often little shops of horror.
I think that there are three main reasons for people giving clothes to charity shops – they’re worn out, they no longer fit or they were a mistake from the start. To take the last of those first – if it looked ghastly on the woman who originally owned it, it will probably look even worse on you. On the whole, transvestites need to take more care over what they wear than women do. I, for one, am not crossdressing to wear someone else’s discarded horrors.
A quick glance with a critical eye will be enough to assess the ghastliness of a lot of clothes. Sometimes, though it’s necessary to try the clothes on to see how awful they are. There are garments which seem fine in theory but in practice, just don’t work. There are clothes which could be splendid, but they’re cut so that they don’t hang right on a human body. If they hang badly on a woman, they’re likely to hang a whole lot worse on you. The cut of clothes can offend a lot more than the eye. I have a friend who picked up a teddy from a charity shop. Exceptionally, it was large enough for a transvestite’s body – and it was certainly very pretty. The snag appeared when putting it on for the first time. It was decorated with piping which cut into the flesh in some extremely sensitive places. The original owner had probably found it too painful to wear, but I think it must have been even worse for my friend!
Less painful, but still a pain, are problems around washing and ironing. There are clothes which are a lot of work to keep in half way acceptable shape. There’s no reason why transvestites shouldn’t iron their clothes – all the same, if someone took a garment to a charity shop because it was too much trouble to iron, it probably really is too much trouble to iron. I’ve given clothes to charity shops for this reason – I’m sure that a lot of women have done the same.
Other pains include hand-wash only – how good are you at hand washing? Worse are problems around garments not being colour fast. I once bought a red skirt with an elasticated waistband from a charity shop. Its original owner had removed the washing instructions, so I decided (as I thought) to play safe. I hand washed it, with a few other things, in tepid water. The skirt came out fine. Everything else emerged mottled with pink. It ruined some expensive undies.
More extreme than hand-wash only is dry clean only. Charity shop items in that category generally cost more to clean than to buy. Something which looked to be a real bargain turns out a bit expensive. Washing and ironing are compounded by the fact that a lot of charity shop clothes are without manufacturers’ labels. Some of these may be home made, but in others one came to see where the labels have been ripped off. Why anyone should do this I do not know, but it leaves care of the garment as a lottery in which there are only booby prizes.
Wrong guessing can ruin not only the clothes without labels, but other things in the same wash. Instructions for washing and ironing are not the only label to be snipped out. Size labelling can also be missing. That allows three possibilities – carry a tape measure, try the garments on, or guess. Someone did once advise me to carry a tape measure as a matter of course. I’ve never done so, and don’t know anyone who has. Even the friend who gave me the advice (a transvestite) doesn’t do it.
Trying clothes on would be the ideal – but it takes an unusually bold transvestite to do so except in such safe outlets as Transformation. Not having attempted it, my guess is that a trannie wishing to try on women’s clothing in a charity shop would meet with, at best, a frosty reception. It could well be worse than frosty. In fact, ‘frosty’ is an accurate word for the attitude of many assistants in charity shops towards men who bring women’s clothes to the counter, let alone towards any male who wished to try them on!
Size labelling brings us to the size of the original owner. An important point on this is that there’s an overlap between the issues of clothes being ghastly and their no longer fitting the original owner. I married a woman who wore size 10 clothes. I saw her through the traumas of going up to size 12, then size 14, and on to size 16. She was concerned not only at her increasing girth, as such, but also by the fact that, with each increase in size, it became harder to find nice clothes.
The problem for us, here, is that not only does the male body tend to be larger than the female one, but it is differently proportioned. Men generally have thick waists, which increases their skirt size several notches. Probably worse, they also tend to have broad shoulders, which can have a dramatic effect on blouse and dress sizes.
Towards the end of our marriage, my wife was finding it difficult (at size 16) to find clothes she liked in ordinary dress shops and department stores. The task would be much more difficult for a transvestite who is more likely to need sizes up in the 20s. Someone I know, who doesn’t seem an unusual size for a man – and certainly isn’t fat – says that he takes a size 22. If flattering garments in that size are difficult to find in shops selling new clothes, they will be very much more so in a charity shop.
This brings us to the reason why clothes no longer fit women – and are given to charity shops. Generally, it has to do with the process through which my wife went. Women tend to grow larger as they grow older – acquiring matronly figures. The result is that there are plenty of size 10 and size 12 clothes in charity shops. The proportion of transvestites who can squeeze into these must be as tiny as their waists are.
In fact, probably the most frustrating thing about charity shops is that there are some lovely clothes going very cheaply in size 8 or 10. I’ve seen some really beautiful leather skirts available for a couple of pounds. Alas, all of them have been designed for anorexic teenage girls.
The most beautiful leather skirt I ever saw anywhere was in this category. It combined black and wine coloured leather sewn to form an applique pattern. It was in a Leyton charity shop. I don’t know why I tortured myself by giving it a second glance, but I went so far as to gauge the size. It was hard to believe an adult human being could have a waist as small as that.
Much the same applied to a skirt of electric blue satin with a tulip hem. This wonderful creation was sighted in a Southend- on-Sea charity shop. I still think about that skirt. Even if I could have returned to my early teenage dimensions, I doubt if it would have been possible to squeeze into the tiny waistband. It would have been better if I’d never seen it. The likes of that skirt can offer me nothing but heartache.
It comes as a relief to leave the subject of beautiful clothes much too small to wear, and consider the third reason people give things to charity shops. This is because they’re worn out. Clothes of this kind can be found on the bargain rails – cheap even by charity shop standards. Alas, unless you’re good with a needle and thread, you are unlikely to rescue anything useful in this category.
Indeed, even if you can sew, it isn’t worth trying to fix anything worse than unstitched seams. When the fabric of the garment starts to give out, there’s not much to be done apart from ripping it up to use as dusters. That said, perhaps the most intriguing thing I’ve ever seen in a charity shop came into the worn out category. I didn’t buy it – the item wasn’t worth having – but it did set me wondering.
It was a red suspender belt which had been repaired repeatedly with large and clumsy stitches. A woman who sewed that badly would surely not bother to sew at all. Women don’t usually repair their lingerie, in any case. Suspender belts continue to be worn in this age of tights because they are sexy – the much repaired one had long since lost its last trace of sexiness. The original owner was almost certainly a transvestite – but why had the worn out suspender belt gone to a charity shop instead of in the bin (where it belonged)? I sensed that there was a story behind it – and I still wonder about it.
Perhaps the best treasures to be found in charity shops are such intriguing little hints of other people’s lives. I’ve donated several items to charity shops which, I’d like to think, may have set someone wondering about the original owner. These have included garments carrying Transformation labels – at the end of their useful lives.
I have found one (and only one) useful garment – repaired by its original owner after much wear – on the bargain rail of a charity shop. It was a little pink blouse with re-sewn seams under the armpits. I bought it for 50p, expecting the seams to go again very shortly. Many wearings later, the seams are still holding – and the blouse has proved itself a genuine bargain.
I’ve wondered about that original owner. She may have been an exceptionally tubby woman – overly fleshy arms, perhaps.
Alternatively, the blouse may have formerly belonged to an other transvestite. The strain on the armpits could be the result of broad shoulders (a major problem in clothes made for women placed on a male body). The restitching of the seams, while not as clumsy as that of the red suspender belt, does not exhibit much delicacy. That may be another sign of a tranny former owner.
To be fair to charity shops, I ought to mention another excellent buy – albeit one that few trannies could have worn – a genuine girl’s blazer. Can a schoolgirl be properly outfitted without a blazer? This was – and is – a treasure, not least because the blazer is an item of school uniform not available from such outlets as Transformation.
Buying a blazer from a school outfitter is not a transaction I would care to make. They would surely wonder why my ‘daughter’ hadn’t come with me to try on her new blazer. And then, perhaps…
“What size is she, sir?”
“Oh, about my size…”
Really, I’d rather not even think about that. But here was a blazer that would be easy to buy. It seemed natural enough that I would snap up a charity shop bargain while it was available, rather than risk losing it by waiting to return with my ‘daughter’ at some future time. The only question was whether it would fit me…
As school blazers go, it was a fairly large size. The previous owner had probaby finished with it on leaving school, rather than growing out of it and being bought a larger one. I looked for a size label. There wasn’t one, although all of the other labelling was intact. I felt doubtful – could I squeeze into even a large school blazer? As a teenager I’d worn an elder sister’s blazer sometimes – but that was a long time before. The blazer was cheap for what it was, but it wasn’t free.
Trying on the blazer in the shop was out of the question. I am generally fairly open about my transvestism, but there are limits. A trannie going for schoolgirl items is sure to raise issues around paedophilia in the minds of a lot of people. It may be nonsense – there is no link that I can see between wishing to dress as a schoolgirl and wishing to abuse children – but that would probably not reduce the trouble which would ensue.
After dithering for a little while, I bought the blazer, took it home and tried it on. To my great pleasure, it fitted. It was a very snug fit when buttoned, but I was able to wear it. Few transvestites, however, would have been so lucky. I am small by male standards, and – most important – have very narrow shoulders. My last girlfriend, in fact, had wider shoulders than me.
Turning from the best to the most surprising transaction, it arose in the purchase of a matching camisole and French knicker set. This was another purchase over which I dithered before making the transaction. It was very pretty – but would it fit? There was no size label and I had to guess. My feeling was that the knickers would be OK, but the camisole could be too small even for me. (As it turned out, this guesswork was about right).
Eventually, I decided that the camisole didn’t matter because the French knickers were worth at least the £3 asking price. On that basis, I took the lingerie set to the counter. The lady looked at it, picked up a pen, crossed out the £3 and wrote £2 instead. And that was what she charged me – but why? I’ve often wondered about that…
Possibly the lingerie set had been priced by a rival whose prices she enjoyed altering. I would like to believe that she thought transvestites should be encouraged to wear frilly undies, and liked to sell them as cheaply as possible if a trannie was buying. I’ve tried to convince myself of that explanation – but haven’t yet succeeded!
I have made a few really good buys in charity shops – but has the charity shopping, overall, been worthwhile? I doubt it. I am reminded of people with gambling habits.
Speak to any gambler and you’ll be told that he or she (usually he) has made an overall profit from betting. If this was true, Ladbrooks, Coral and all the rest would have gone bankrupt. Instead, they appear to be doing very nicely. The punters misperception is surely a matter of selective memory.
So it is with charity shopping. I remember a few real bargains. How could I forget them? The things are still in my wardrobe. What I rarely do is to balance these against a large number of mistakes.
More – what have I done with these mistakes? For the most part, they’ve gone back to a charity shop. This is a process which increases the size of the charity shop haystacks of the unwearable which obscure the needles of occasional real bargains.
If I added up the total of my charity shop spending, and divided it by the wearable clothes with which I emerged, I’m sure that my bargains would prove rather expensive. If I added on the cost of the undies ruined by dye from the red charity shop skirt…
Well – I’m sure you get the picture. There’s no such thing as a free frock. You’ll be lucky if you even find a cheap one that’s any good.
Normally, a charity shop habit is not quite as expensive as a gambling one, although a wash day disaster can leave it so. However, the truth is that almost all of my wearable girlish clothing was bought new.
Alas, in this cruel world, charity shops are very far from Aladdin’s caves for transvestites…