How Did They Read Me? Let Me Count The Ways

| Oct 3, 2011
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For many crossdressers being recognized as not a natural-born woman while out in public is the ultimate fear. So powerful a fear that in many cases the crossdresser never, ever goes out in public in their preferred attire. At one time I, too, was a fearful closet crossdresser so I know how powerful that fear can be. But — I got over it.

I’ve been going out in public for too many years to mention (without totally blowing my image as a sexy, young hottie) and at first I had to be totally sure that there was no one outside to see me exit my apartment. I would wait by the door for 15 to 20 minutes while I listened for any sounds from the courtyard. It was great practice on how to stand completely still and listen intently. I could have become a great duck hunter with skills like that.

After I came out to a girlfriend about my desire to dress up like a lady she was cool with me sitting around the house in drag. One night she developed a donut craving while I was dressed. She had to beg and plead with me to drive her to the donut shop since she couldn’t drive a stick shift. There was no waiting for me to change as the donuts were necessary asap. I had to man up and be a lady behind the wheel. Somehow we made it to the donut place and back without my heart exploding. That was an adrenalin filled night.

I remember the terror of those early days and I want to give back to the community. In keeping with the Dan Savage “It Gets Better” campaign to help gay youths learn that things will get better, I am writing this to let the neophyte crossdresser know that when it comes to fearing being “read” as a man in a dress — it gets better. When you first get read while out in public you feel like running home, tearing of you dress and hiding under the bed. After you’ve been around awhile you learn how to cope.

Being read is inevitable unless you are completely flawless. Even then there will be some tiny thing that will make people wonder. I knew a woman — born with a vagina and ovaries — who was about six feet tall. She was very pretty with long blonde hair. She had grace and poise but she was too tall to pass. She told me that she had been read as a man several times just because of her height.

Why does it, or can it, get better? First you can stop worrying about what other people think. As long as they’re not hitting you with something nothing they can say will do any lasting damage. I’ve been read many times and yes, even now it stings a bit because we like to think that we have learned how to move, how to dress, how to speak, do our makeup and hair, and carefully accessorize so we will not be troubled by anybody seeing through our feminine facade. Then someone does see the one tiny “tell” and we feel like we made some glaring mistake that got us caught. We think we weren’t perfect enough. But you can’t be. it only takes one split second of maleness showing and you will be read. Not by everyone but possibly by someone.

There are hundreds of clues that people send out when they walk down a street, sit in a room, drive a car, that inform the people around them of gender, status, and so on. Doing something a woman would not do, or doing something mannish while dressed as a woman will get you read. So, you do your best. You enjoy yourself and the act of dressing as you like but you don’t worry about the read. The read isn’t sticks and stones.

The title says “let me count the ways” and that’s what I’d like to get into. Over the years I have been read many times but the reads tend to fall into a few categories. The first and least desirable read is the read of the ignorant, low-class creep. You may be walking down the street and hear a loud voice exclaim, “That’s a man!” I call this read “Ain’t nobody foolin’ me about nothin’.” The individual who shouts out your hidden gender to everyone on the street is trying to let people know that he (or she)  is no fool and a man dressed up like a woman is not going to pass by without them catching it. Of course they are fools because we’re not attempting to mislead them in for some nefarious purpose, we’re just having fun. After all we don’t shout out, “Hey! There’s an ignorant fool right over there!”

Akin to the previous category is the read I call “It’s a Giraffe!”  This read also occurs on a public street but the reader is just letting everyone in the area know that there is something odd about the street. They have spotted a man dressed as a woman and they have to point it out. They’re not malicious. If they saw a giraffe on the corner they would yell out “It’s a giraffe!” and they would have the same degree of amazement in their exclamation.

Next we have the “Oops” read. The “Oops” happens when you’re walking down the street, looking pretty good, and there are a couple of males in a vehicle coming toward you. (This is when the weather is good and car windows are down.) You have attracted the attention of one of the males and he has uttered an appreciative comment about you to his companion(s). You don’t hear that or what his companion says but as the vehicle passes you hear him say, “That’s a dude?” This read has its highs and lows. There’s the fact that he thought you were hot enough to point out to his buddies but that is balanced out by the fact that his buddies had superior observational skills and noticed you were a man, told him, and then he said what he did loudly enough for you to hear.

One read that was popular in the late 1990s in New York City was the “What Time Is It?” read. You would be walking down the street on your way to a hot club, or back from a night at a hot club, and someone would walk up to you and ask if you had the time. They did this not to determine the correct time but to hear your voice when you gave it to them. Not a bad read to get because again, they weren’t certain enough you were a dude that they could just go ahead and do an “It’s a Giraffe!” so they had to check your voice first.

The very best read, if that’s possible, happens while you’re walking through a nightspot in a fabulous dress, looking and feeling totally sexy, and you hear a hushed voice in the crowd nearby ask, “You mean that’s a man?” Isn’t that kind of reverence for your skill and beauty worth the trauma of being read?

Remember, wearing what you want and acting like a woman is nobody’s business but yours. If people look and whisper something to a companion — so what? If they do an “It’s a Giraffe!” just keep your head up and proudly walk on. The best reaction to any read is to be confident, feminine, and let it roll off you like water off a duck. Now get out there and have some fun.

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Category: Transgender Body & Soul, Transgender Opinion


About the Author ()

Angela Gardner is a founding member of The Renaissance Transgender Association, Inc., the former editor of that organization's newsletter and magazine, Transgender Community News. She wrote the Diva of Dish column for TGF in the late 1990s and was the Editor of LadyLike magazine until its untimely demise. She is currently the Editor of TGF. She has appeared in film and television shows portraying TG characters, as well as representing Renaissance on numerous talk shows. In her idle hours she keeps busy producing her monthly TG parties, Angela's Laptop Lounge.

Comments (4)

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  1. says:

    That’s a great article on several levels. For me it brought back memories of telling teenage girls the time and of having guys start to hit on me and then backtrack.
    One point, girls, is that it is rarely a problem to be ‘read’ so if being read is the only thing that is keeping your femme persona from getting out to enjoy the world then put that fear aside its a big beautiful world for us out there.
    Angela has inspired me and my next article will be about why being ‘read’ doesn’t have to be the disaster many fear.

  2. Gina-Vizavi Gina-Vizavi says:

    Great post Angela! Thanks for your wisdom.

  3. says:

    It can be annoying, too, getting hit on. Some of us get that a lot. I’ve had as many as 19 hit on me on the street in Santa Ana. One afternoon, I decided to turn the tables on the johns. The next guy to call out, “Wanna ride?” I hopped into the passenger side.
    “Where are you going?” he said.
    “O I’m not going anywhere. And that’s not why you picked me up, is it?”
    “Why did I pick you up?”
    “You wanted to get to know me, right?”
    “And possibly to get into my panties, right?”
    “Uh, yeah…do you charge?”
    “I do and my price is very simple. If you can give me the definition of innocence and its ramifications, then I will give myself to you freely and in faith. For if this is truly in your life and experience, then there is nothing in my spirit that can resist you and you will know exactly what to do to me.”

    His response? He wasted no time to throw me out of his vehicle. Pity that. His life could have been revolutionized. Instead, he became a laughingstock.

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