For me, the gateway was heels. At five years old I was fascinated and mesmerized by anything that girls wore. I longed to wear skirts, lipstick, and that gorgeous princess dress my sister had. It would be another year or so until the elaborate and delicate lingerie modeled by mannequins in department stores became my new obsession, but my first experience in this beautiful world was sneaking into a closet and trying on a pair of my mom's high heels. Of course they were way too big for me but it was a thrilling moment that decades later I can recall with perfect clarity.
I knew even then that as beautiful as this forbidden world was, it was also a lonely one. Boys were teased and called sissies if they did anything that wasn't associated with football or violence or being tough. Men wearing dresses were portrayed as comedic fodder in movies. Society did a very effective job at telling me that this world was not for me unless I wanted to be humiliated or worse. This beautiful world became my secret world, and as I got older, a refuge from the everyday stress and realities of life. Is there anything better after a long day at work than slipping into four inch heels, a corset, and stockings?
It's typical for us to go through stages of guilt and shame at this side of us. However we can (and should) accept and ultimately embrace who we are. We will not change, we can't change, and we shouldn't change who we are.
I accepted that this is who I am a long time ago. I knew I would never change. I also wondered why I ever thought I could. I absolutely love this part of me. It makes me so happy. Why on earth would I want this to be erased? Knowing I wouldn't change, and knowing I shouldn't change if it makes me happy, I soon fully embraced who I was. Finally breaking through any sort of mental anguish that I felt, I was now ready to face another emotion.
This secret, forbidden, beautiful world is a private one. We keep this to ourselves for many reasons, not only is it because no one needs (or wants) to know what panties I am wearing (except that one guy who keeps messaging me on Twitter), but we also learned that this part of us is supposed to be embarrassing and is misunderstood. Things are better these days than they were thirty years ago when it comes to those of us who identify as transgender or as non-binary, but we still have a ways to go.
When something makes us happy, it's not uncommon to want to share it. Embracing this part of me felt like a major accomplishment and I was proud of myself. As my look evolved from lingerie to the towering glamazon I am today, I also got to know my femme side's personality. Clothes can absolutely impact my mood, regardless of which gender I am presenting as. When I present as male, I am happy to stay home and read, but when the heels were on I surprised myself realizing I wanted to hit the mall and be around people. Hannah is incredibly social whereas my male side is a lot more introverted.
I am very fortunate to have such an amazing wife. On every level. She makes our house a home, she's hilarious, cute, smart, patient, and kind. The early days as she watched and guided me from underdressing to applying eyeliner to instructing me to drop my hips when I walk in stilettos were not always easy for her, but our openness and honesty with each other as I explored this side of me helped considerably. We spent countless evenings having girls nights drinking wine and catching up after a busy day. It was, and is, wonderful.
These girls nights made my world a lot less lonely. I realized, and still realize, how lucky I am to have her in my life, and in Hannah's life. Talking to my wife en femme is different than when I am a boy. In the early days my personality and mannerisms were very different from each other depending on my gender presentation, but other the years the differences became less distinct. It was easier for Hannah to be more vulnerable, empathetic, patient, and open. Over time the boy side of me was able to communicate better too. I think Hannah made me, and still makes me, a better person.
Coming out to our spouses is an overwhelming moment in our lives. Sometimes it doesn't go well. But for some of us, the fortunate ones, it can be life-changing. In a good way. Before I go on, I want to emphasize that how someone reacts to this side of us does not necessarily reflect on the type of person they are. This aspect of us is not easy to understand and can cause a lot of stress and emotion from our partners. For some, it's not something they can handle or accept from their husband or boyfriend. This does not make them a bad person. Please remember that.
I've written previously about how this revelation can go very badly, but this conversation can also go the way exactly the way we hoped, or even better than we dared to dream. When we have a supportive partner, our relationships will typically fall into two different scenarios. Neither my wife or I understand this part of me, but she recognizes and understands that Hannah is (literally) part of me. This is who I am. She knows this part of me makes me happy. She knows I am not able to change, and that I don't want to change, even if I could. I came out to her early in our relationship as I knew I wanted to spend my life with her, and if this part of me was a deal-breaker, we needed to get it out into the open, before the relationship became even more serious. Let's face it, this part of us can be a deal-breaker. Coming out to her was hard for both of us, and there were some difficult and tense moments over the first few years, but communication and honesty were our guiding stars that we used to navigate those talks.
These days we have conversations about makeup techniques and clothing styles. She borrows my foundation, she recommends eyeliner to me. I keep nothing from her. She has even written an article for my website. I'm sure to an outsider our conversations and lives in this regard would seem very atypical, but I think that is true of any couple if you saw every aspect of their relationship. I am blessed to have her in my life, regardless of my gender identity.
When we work up the courage to come out to our partners, many of us secretly dream not only will the accept this side of ourselves but that they will be excited that in addition to having a husband, they also have a girlfriend. I know a lot of t-girls and some of them have wives and girlfriends who go out with them. They shop together, go out to dinner, and do things that girlfriends do. This is the other scenario that having a supportive partner is. Supportive, and participating.
Regardless of what our partners' comfort level is, having someone to talk to abut everything from lipstick to dysphoria to fashion is wonderful. To go from hiding the biggest secret in the universe to openly showing each other cute skirts is indescribable. Finding someone we want to share our lives with is a wonderful thing. Finding someone who wants the same thing from us is beautiful. Add this part of us into any relationship is a new dynamic and not one every partner will understand, tolerate, or accept. Again, this is not a reflection on them. My wife is amazing in a million ways, and I am sure your spouse is as well, but her accepting this side of me does not necessarily make her better than a partner who would prefer not to ever discuss this topic ever again. Finding someone to share our everyday lives with is a treasure. We must be honest with them, and we must be honest with ourselves, especially with this part of us.