Before I transitioned, the only times I went out as a female were under cover of night. My wardrobe, accordingly, was “clubby,” party dresses and high heels I only had to live in for a few hours. The first times I ventured into daylight as a female I felt as out of place as a vampire.
In the beginning, my Diana days were Tuesdays and Wednesdays, coinciding with a psychotherapy appointment and a voice training session. (I could have attended either of these in male mode, but I wanted the structure, and the practice.) After voice lessons at New York University, I went shopping for a daytime wardrobe in thrift shops on Crosby Street and 4th Avenue, then wrote in a café on Astor Place. After therapy on 24th Street, I visited Midtown thrift stores, treated myself to frozen yogurt, and wrote in a Starbucks in Chelsea. I could have written alone in my apartment, but it mattered to me to be practicing my occupation out and about as a female. (I didn’t write any differently in a dress, as one friend suspected I might.)
Gradually my Diana days extended to three or four per week, and I started going places. I had a museum buddy, an older woman who used to be an art teacher. After a show at the MOMA or the Frick, we’d go to a café: just two ladies who lunch. One spring day I went to a fortuneteller on the Upper East Side (don’t ask), then walked into Central Park. How strange to be out in the sun, among the grass and trees, and female. Grocery shopping as a woman alongside my neighbors and the familiar manager and checkout girls was another adventure, as was attending the theater. Like a kid sailing out of the harbor or riding a bike across the highway, my habitat was expanding.
I started getting on planes as a woman and renting cars (which I could do with a male ID). I flew to Indiana to be with an old friend for Thanksgiving. Strolling the moving walkway in the Indianapolis terminal, I thought to myself, “I’m probably the happiest person in this airport.” On a trip to teach in California, I led a workshop in San Luis Obispo as Doug, then drove to the Bay Area and taught as Diana. On the way, I stopped at Hearst Castle, that monument to conspicuous consumption. Walking the grounds in a wrap dress and sunglasses, gazing past the gaudy facades of guesthouses to the magnificent Pacific, I felt like I was getting away with something. The something I was getting away with was my life.
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