The first person you come out to is yourself.
I came out to myself all the time when I was younger. Looking back I suppose you could almost consider them milestones. The first time I tried on my mom's heels. When I wanted to wear lipstick. "Borrowing" my sister's clothes. The first time I tried on a bra. The first time I wore panties under my boy clothes. The list does indeed go on. Each of these milestones was paired with me accepting (and later embracing) that there was... something to all of this. I didn't know the terms at the time but had I known them, I would have told myself that cisgender men do not daydream about wearing lingerie or trying on bridesmaid dresses. Cisgender boys were not jealous of girls at prom. Cisgender boys did not want to wear skirts. Each daydream, each act of bravery was me slowly coming out to myself.
Like trying on different, beautiful clothes, I was also making progress on my journey as a transgirl. Although many t-girls and crossdressers start off the same way as I did (trying on dresses and the like), as we get older our paths diverge a little bit. I think many of us hit the same milestones and the same accomplishments (and yes, they are accomplishments. Walking in stilettos, perfecting liquid eyeliner, zipping up the back of some dresses... these things are not easy) but at different stages in our lives. Not all of us have the same linear path.
When we come out it's not uncommon for us to think of that as coming out to the people in our lives, such as friends, family members, work colleagues. But in a way, we also come out to the whole world, the people we don't know. What I mean is that many of us will experience the real world, the world outside our own living rooms. Going out en femme is, in a way, showing the world (or perhaps just the shopping mall) that is one more transgender person in the world. The world doesn't need to know our name(s) for us to show the world who we ARE. And we are transgender, we are women, we are beautiful, we are powerful (even if our knees shake from nerves).
Once we come out to ourselves, our journeys will split down two common paths. One path is coming out to others. The second is leaving the house en femme. It's likely we will wander (or strut) down both paths eventually but for me I came out to others before I was ready to go out into the real world. I didn't leave my house en femme until I was in my thirties and by then I had come out to a few girlfriends, a roommate, and several close friends. At the time I came out I never came out as transgender. I wasn't as familiar with the world and all it's potential definitions and possibilities at the time. I thought identifying as transgender meant transitioning and I've always known that that journey wasn't mine. No, when I came out to others I came out as a crossdresser (and with that, all the baggage that came with a notoriously often sexually charged word). I liked wearing "girl clothes" and that's what I told others. Makeup, wigs, forms... none of that was on my radar. Not really. I didn't feel that what I eventually came to understanding as presenting en femme was what I wanted (oh how times have changed) at the time, I just loved wearing lingerie and heels. At this point in my life (and at this point of my journey) going out en femme wasn't something I thought toooo hard about. As fascinated as I was by dresses I wasn't THAT interested in "real" clothes in my twenties. I was a lingerie lover and that's what I primarily wore. So, that's what I came out as.
Of course, things change with time.
Eventually my life and my journey would take me down the other typical path: going out en femme. I learned a lot about the world outside the first dozen times I left the safety of my home. I learned about how differently people looked and responded to me, how I responded to the world, and how to prepare for a lot of different situations. It's not uncommon for us to be afraid of going out en femme and there are a LOT of reasons for us to be scared, but all these fears typically come down to us simply not knowing what will happen when we go out en femme... when we come out to the world. It's impossible to know what to do in every single possible situation but you can be prepared for a lot of potential things. So! Let's get started.
When I start planning the next time I am going out en femme, I think about what I wear (the most fun part) and where I am going and what I am doing. More than likely what I am doing will influence what I am going to wear (and vice-versa), especially when it comes to which heels I'll be wearing. My stilettos for the day are determined by how much walking or standing I'll be doing, and then my outfit will be determined from there. Of course, the opposite can be true, too. If I have a new dress I want to wear, I'll think about what kind of event or place such a dress can be worn. But one part of going out that I overlooked the first first few times I went out was what was in my purse.
Obviously the fun things were in there, such as my eyeliner, mascara, and lipstick. But bringing along your powder for touch-ups isn't a bad idea, particularly if it's warm out. I will also have a backup pair of stockings in my purse as well as a second pair of earrings, too. Since my ears are not pierced I am always paranoid the clip-ons won't stay, well, clipped on. My purse has non-fun things in it as well. When I prepare for going out I will transfer things such as my drivers license, insurance information, credit cards, vaccination card, and other essential documents from my boy wallet to my girl wallet. I also make sure I have cash and a spare car key. In boy mode it's a habit to simply put my car keys in my pocket after I park, but locking your car and then dropping your keys into your purse takes a second to remember. And I have so much stuff in my purse it's easy to lose track of them, lol. I've never had to use my spare key when out en femme, but paranoia and preparation are key (no pun intended).
So the purse is ready, what about driving? Walking in heels is one thing, but driving in them is another. I can strut in five inch heels without a wobble, but I don't drive in them. If you've never driven in heels before make sure you practice first. Start with small, kitten heels, or drive barefoot. The first few times you go out en femme you'll probably be nervous and nerves and driving a car do not mix. Our paranoia and fear are already sky high, the potential for a car accident isn't going to help (and could prove to be VERY dangerous). In times this might get easier but be safe and smart when it comes to this. I also make sure my car has enough air in the tires and enough gas. I've put air and gas into my car en femme before but it's not something I really WANT to do on the regular.
After you've (likely very slowly and cautiously) parked your car at your destination, it's time to venture into the world. If you're like me, you probably sat in your car for a few moments to psych yourself up, to calm your nerves, to... just prepare for this step. You've been mentally preparing for this moment for who knows how long, you've daydreamed about it, you've scared yourself silly about it, but now? Now it is time. You'll have different experiences depending on where you go, obviously. The first time I went out en femme was at night when I met another t-girl at a LGBTQ+ bar. This was about as safe as you could get. A girl like me is expected to be at a place like this, so I had no problem fitting in. Having a friend waiting for me made it hard to change my mind as I sat in the parking lot. After what seemed like an agonizing length of time, I opened my car door and I strutted (as best as I could while my legs trembled) to the door. Luckily it didn't take long for my nerves to melt away and I had a really amazing time.
But what about a non-LGBTQ+ place? I mean, I think almost EVERY place is an LGBTQ+ place. We're everywhere, lol. I tend to shop (in both of my genders) at places that are supportive of our community. Target for example seems to be fairly progressive when it comes to trans issues (at least compared to their competitors), Starbucks seems to be very inclusive. So when I need a coffee or an outfit I feel generally more welcome at places like that. Many of us want to find places to frequent that are crossdresser/transgender friendly. I mean, I totally get that. I want to find places like that too. But the problem is that this type of classification is almost impossible to find. At the most a business might change their Twitter icon to a rainbow during Pride month, but that is usually the only sign we can see when it comes to how they feel about the LGBTQ+ community (or at least our money).
But something to keep in mind is that businesses employ people who may not always agree with the company's policy when it comes to inclusivity. Not everyone we pass by at the mall will be thrilled to see a t-giirl. My next article will discuss the reactions (both positive and well, not so positive) the world may have when we come out to it.