Last weekend was the third weekend of August, one in which Madison’s LGBT+ community celebrates and puts on a show. Normally, that would have included a parade up State Street and a rally around the Capitol Square. This year, however, thanks to city ordinances, police department demands, and organizational logistics, event organizers went back to the future, as it were…
Friday night (June 14) was the premiere showing of Stage Q’s Queer Shorts: Spirit of Stonewall. For the regular readers of this blog, or at least those familiar to Madison’s theater community, Stage Q is a live theater group committed to lifting the voices, talents, and stories of those in the LGBT+ community and our allies. Queer Shorts is an annual showcase of LGBT-themed one-act plays and has been the cornerstone event of each of Stage Q’s seasons since the first edition in 2006.
Each year, Queer Shorts has had a theme. This year’s edition, which runs through June 29, takes inspiration from the triumphs and difficulties the LGBT+ community has faced since the Stonewall riots of June 1969. The plays, which I’ll analyze further in my next post, have tones that range from funny to poignant, joyful to serious (and very dramatic in one instance). But they all reflect how far our community has come, where we are today, and how we still must overcome fear and prejudice while being unafraid to live as our true selves.
If you have a basic cable subscription or one of those relatively newfangled online TV accounts, perhaps you’ve seen this title card at least once… and if you have a keen ear, the high-heel clicks that accompany it.
Pose is a dramatic series whose first season ran a year ago on the FX network and debuts Season 2… holy freakin’ cow, this week?!
For the uninitiated, here’s a basic description of what Pose is all about: Set in New York City of the late 1980s, the series is centered primarily around the subculture of the LGBT+ community known as ball culture. In this environment can be found participants who are, more often than not, part of “houses.” No, not a physical house per se, but rather teams of participants who glam themselves up, walk the stage, vogue, and emulate other genders (especially the one they weren’t born as) and social categories in ball events. The object: Making a good impression on the event’s judges and audiences (“10’s across the board!”). The reward: A trophy, personal pride in knowing that you and your house are top dog for at least a night… and the thrill of venturing outside your drab and nowhere-near-glamorous social, economic, and health-related circumstances.
The other day, with a thunderstorm ruining my plans to venture out en femme, I decided instead to head down to my building’s basement. It’s obviously not the most glamorous locale in my building, let alone the world, but the pale color of the concrete walls that help keep our apartments upright are a nice background for a fashion shoot.
And just what am I wearing here? Well, let’s start off with the skirt. Back at Christmastime, I received a nice gift card from Kohl’s department stores. With the $40 on that card burning a big hole in my wallet by the time spring rolled around, I figured it would be a nice way to help build the summertime portion of my feminine wardrobe. Luckily, I found a perfect addition in this navy blue Apt. 9 maxi-skirt.
If you’ve ever perused that feed to the right of your screen, you’ve discovered that I am indeed on Flickr. And once or twice on this blog, I’ve opined of how Flickr can be a nice avenue to show off one’s outer beauty.
Whenever it’s the last week of a year, I find myself looking at the calendar on the wall, noticing the dwindling dates of December, and asking myself, egads, where has this year gone?
The gravity of knowing that one year is about to give way to another makes one think of all that’s to come with the new calendar on the wall as well as, naturally, all that occurred while the old calendar was posted. And a lot happened in 2018, including something you probably know by now if you’re a frequent reader of this blog: My having to depart my previous place of employment and eventually finding the current temp-to-hire assignment I call my new income source.
But rather than bore you with another post of the professional journey Male Mode Me took in 2018, or for that matter any other issues that popped up in my life this year, I want to lift my cup of kindness yet for one of the more enjoyable days of my previous 365 that should not be forgot. At the end of September, I joined up with a Flickr friend and fellow male-to-female crossdresser. The two of us first got together a few years ago at my apartment, at my invitation. Back in the fall, my friend put out the call for someone to join her for an afternoon at her place, which she would have all to herself. (Her wife doesn’t mind her dressing up but wants no part of it.)
My Flickr friend and I spent the few hours of that late afternoon trying on outfits, conversing (despite my not being a brilliant conversationalist), and just enjoying that “girl time.” And, yes, we took pictures. It was just these past few days that I finally got around to going through the photos from that afternoon. First was this pic of yours truly in a leopard print dress and trusty leather belt you probably saw before on here:
And this dress I found earlier in September at St Vincent de Paul. Yes, there are diamond shaped studs along the lower halves of the sleeves and above the hemline. And, yes, it was love at first sight when I saw it, especially considering the fact that it’s in my size (8).
And here’s me in another item I found at St Vincent de Paul, a tank top all glittery in front-panel sequins. I pair it here with a patent leather mini skirt I found at Forever 21.
But the best photo of yours truly from that late afternoon was one of the last pictures my friend and I took.
Yes, you’ve seen this “me” shirt I found in the Macy’s markdown racks back in March. But the suit? I had just bought this Who What Wear pantsuit earlier that very day before my dress-up rendezvous. A few days earlier, I had actually noticed this suit on the rack at Target but didn’t think of purchasing it then. After that, however, I thought about how my femme side deserves to have a professional look. I mean, an endless stream of wigs and leather skirts isn’t enough sustenance for a crossdresser.
So when you look at me in this suit, you’re not just looking a crossdresser. You’re looking at a human being who in 2018 went through the sadness of losing one job; regained pride in finding new employment; and for one Saturday afternoon, put aside the worries of the outside world and took the time to be… well, me.
It’s this day of meeting up with someone and dressing up for the camera that is one of the better moments I will want to remember 2018 for. Yeah, the steep slopes and rough seas of this year will linger in the back of my mind, but my glass will be raised in honor of the good moments and good people I spent them with.
Here’s hoping when you raise your own glass at midnight tonight (or earlier if you like to turn in early on New Year’s Eve as I do), you’ll have your own happy moments and good friends you’ll remember from 2018. Thanks for reading, and may you all have a happy and safe 2019.
Back in September 2017, I posed for a professional photographer for the first time, doing so before the camera of Katie Berry at Smoketree Photography. Three months later (December 2017), Katie, her partner, and their friends in the Everyday Gay Holiday art studio/collective on Atwood Avenue threw a holiday get-together for their friends in the LGBT+ community — a “HOLIgay” party. While I’m not a party person, I jumped at the chance to doll myself up, snack on some food, and mingle with other LGBT+ people from the Madison community.
Being the photographer that she is, Katie set up a corner in the studio to let the partygoers use her fancy camera and snap a few free selfies in front of a festive “toyland/horse/holiday/winter wonderland” setting. Not wanting to pass up a photo opportunity while looking fabulous, I took the remote and snapped a few photos. There I was in red hair, soft sweater, and patent vinyl Forever 21 skirt, and Katie’s remote clicker in hand, smiling and being all beautiful for the camera. (Oh, the Santa hat was among the available props in the studio.)
Yes, I hear you from a mile away. “Yes, Allison,” you’re telling me, “we don’t mind you telling about what’s going on in your life and what you’re digging. But we just want to see new photos of you.” Okay, you got your wish.
One Saturday back in may of this year, I attended a regular meeting of the CD/TG support group I’m a part of. On most Saturdays after our meetings, our group meets up at some restaurant in the Madison area to break bread, literally and figuratively. On this particular Saturday, we had dinner at Short Stack Eatery, a LGBT-friendly restaurant I’ve talked about here and here and will eventually devote a full post to sometime soon (the food and atmosphere are that good there).
Do you remember my post from September where I added a song called “Don’t Give Up” to “Allison’s Jukebox”? You know the one where Peter Gabriel sings of deep lament and Kate Bush tries to steer him toward the positive? Yeah, I bummed you out with that one, didn’t I?
Well, let’s see if I can brighten up your spirits a little bit with another addition to my jukebox that just happens to have the same title, “Don’t Give Up,” yet has a background that nicely dovetails with the week we’re in right now, Transgender Awareness Week. Please have a look & listen to the Canadian-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter/YouTube personality Maggie Szabo:
[*sound of loud rumble of thunder and spooky music*]
Salutations, ghosts and goblins! Before you directed your eyes to this paragraph, you probably took a gander at that old photo of yours truly at the top of this page. Yeah, that was me a few years back looking all so sultry in a sexy witch outfit and leather boots.
The timing of both donning that costume back then and writing this post now are intentional: Yes, today is, and the date of that photo was, Halloween. And since it’s Halloween, you’re probably thinking this post will be all about the joys of dressing up en femme on Halloween, right?
Well… [*sound of record scratching on phonograph*] not really.
Halloween has always been, and perhaps always will be, an occasion when you can dress up and display to the world a personality you normally wouldn’t appear as. Many of my crossdressing sisters (and, yes, brothers too) will use this day as the perfect excuse to bring their hidden side out of the proverbial closet.
More likely than not, Halloween will be a time when some fine young gentleman will don a wig and a dress, slap on some heels and makeup, and carouse around town in a female appearance. And depending on the effort they put into their outfit and comportment, the resulting display will have various success. Just read them for a few seconds and you can tell whether they dressed up en femme to make a good impression on passersby, or just threw on something for their own giggles and jollys.
The thought of that “I’m just dressing up for Halloween” thing brings me to this quote I just happened to come across the other day during an online search:
“Putting on a dress and a wig doesn’t make you a transgender woman.”
Unfortunately, the link that had that quote was broken, meaning I can’t confirm the context the speaker was intending with those words. I do know, however, that those words came from a trans woman. And I know that said woman started out life assigned with a male identity, but would over time begin to don women’s clothing and makeup; take on an online feminine identity; and eventually realizing that said feminine identity was the one she was born to be, birth certificate be dammed.
Despite not knowing the context of her line, I could imagine how that could be interpreted as being directed to some guy only dressing up as a woman for some Halloween party. “Hey, dude!” he’ll probably tell his friends in a bit of intoxication and self-sarcasam, “I look all girly.” But as soon as his party ends and he’s safely home, he’ll shed that dress and wig and head back to the everyday life of a cis-gender male. And during that brief time he wore a dress and a wig for the sake of doing so, there’s a good chance that he won’t have the chance to feel empathy toward someone who has struggled with gender identity and has yearned for acceptance while transitioning.
But then… that guy just wearing a wig and dress on Halloween could be someone like me. As I noted above, Halloween is the perfect time for a crossdresser to dress up, leave the closet, and have a good time. And it doesn’t always have to be at a party. I mean, they could use the day to dress up for the camera instead of some partygoer. I say this because a fellow WordPress peep whose blog I love to follow posted photos of her wearing a vinyl dress and butterfly wings. Yes, she posted them for Halloween. And, yes, she’s a male-to-female crossdresser just as I am. And, yes, even though she may not live full-time as a woman (and neither do I), she does consider herself part of the broad trans community.
But even though she’s a part of our transgender community, she doesn’t live full-time as a woman. But does that make her any less of a transgender woman? I don’t think so at all, and I think a big part of that, in addition to her looking stunning, is the fact that she’s a big champion of our community. She has used her blog to share stories about her everyday life, her photos, and tidbits in support of fellow crossdressers, other trans people, and our allies. She has great comportment through her positive actions, and that’s something that’s beneficial for our community at a time when we desperately need any positive imagery.
So, back to that quote I came across: “Putting on a dress and a wig doesn’t make you a transgender woman.” The person who said that has a valid point: Don’t just put that dress and wig on tonight. If you’re gonna look the part, try to play the part. And, no, I don’t mean put on a falsetto voice. Be friendly to others. Have a positive demeanor. Take a compliment. Give a compliment, too, especially to some other guy who may also be wearing a dress and wig.
And don’t just compliment that guy in that dress and wig, empathize with them… for perhaps deep down inside they are trying to figure out what it is that makes them a transgender woman.