This photo was taken just before leaving for my high school reunion, August 22, 2009. I snapped it in the bathroom, facing the big mirror where I apply my makeup - the lighting there always does my face justice. :)This is the third and final installment of attending my high school class reunion as Gabrielle. If you haven’t read part 1 and part 2 yet, I encourage you to do so before continuing.
A quick recap
Longing to get out in public and interact with people as Gabrielle, I attended my high class school reunion en femme. The photo to the right was taken just before leaving the house that evening. I was terribly nervous and it took me a while to find my stride, but eventually I hooked up with some old friends and wound up having a great time. I also found myself very much out of the closet to many more people than I was comfortable with.
In the days following the reunion, the realization of being “out” to so many people wreaked havoc on my emotional stability as I pondered all the terrible things that may come as a result. After some time, I realized that I was over-reacting and simply experienced some instability as a result of taking such big first steps out like that.
The experience changed me. Many fears were conquered that evening. The insecurities that followed have been properly dealt with and bother me no more. I’ve made some wonderful advances in my growth and evolution as a person. There were also some considerable failures on my part that evening – signs of how far I have yet to go.
There were several points of progress made in attending my class reunion as Gabrielle. Some of them may seem insignificant, especially to those who has been boldly stepping out in public en femme with great success for some time now. For those of you who are still relatively new to getting out in public, or have yet to do so, these are the points that seem most relevant in my mind:
- Stepped out of the car. One small step for a t-girl in high-heeled boots, but one giant leap on the courage front. It was the first time I stepped outside the safety of my car in a populated location.
- Interaction with people en femme. Not only did I walk among people in a populated area, I interacted with several people as Gabrielle.
- Outed myself. I didn’t intentionally out myself, but out I am, and to literally dozens of people who’ve only ever known me as my man-side, Gabe.
- Relaxed and had a good time en femme. What good is being out in the world without also enjoying oneself? Nervous as I was, eventually I did loosen up and just enjoy my time among old friends. My appearance was (to my friends) a complete non-issue.
- Braved the laughter. I was aware of the many people gawking at me like I was some kind of freak show. Also very noticeable were the ones pointing and laughing, even calling out to me at times. They laughed at me and I didn’t care. I still had a great time. Oddly, this is something I was unable to do back in high school as I was often made fun of and laughed at for just not fitting in. It used to hurt terribly. On this night however, their laughter had no negative power over me at all.
Even though I made some important advances in my evolution, there were some dismal failures as well. My insecurities got the best of me on a few fronts and manifested themselves in some rather embarrassing ways.
- Secret identity. I showed up at my class reunion expecting to keep my male identity secret and refused repeatedly to tell people who asked (with good intention) who they used to know me as. Refusing to offer my male identity is fine in meeting new people, but at a class reunion? I really should have thought this through better and been more reasonable. Most of the people who asked were clearly well-intentioned in their inquiry. Unrealistic expectations and poor behavior on my part.
- Little miss bashful. Every time someone asked my male-identity, my response included very juvenile and overly shy behavior and mannerisms. I literally tried to “cute” my way out of the question… and probably looked like a damn fool each time. Way to leave ’em with a good impression, Gabrielle. Aside from the fact that this information should not have been kept secret at a class reunion, I simply should have explained that I didn’t want to reveal that information and behaved like an adult.
- The need to explain myself. Over and over, I felt an overwhelming need to explain to people that I’m not confused about who I am, my wife knows about my feminine side, and that I do not present myself like this full-time. Almost every person I interacted with that evening looked at me wide-eyed, surprised, uncertain as how to interact with me, and very obviously tried to behave as if “everything was ok” (a polite gesture that was very much appreciated). In turn, I felt it necessary to explain myself. If they think I’m confused about myself or believe that (I think) I look 100% female in appearance, I should explain that I’m not confused and fully aware of my inability to pass. If they think I’m a mental case or wonder if “my wife knows”, I should explain that I’m happily married, my wife accepts me as I am, and life is good. It’s hard to really convey exactly how many people looked at me, unless you’ve experienced it yourself. Rather than keep trying to explain myself, I should have simply been myself, conversed with them, and displayed by example that I’m very down-to-earth, normal, and put them at ease with pleasant conversation.
- Way too girly. Even after loosening up among friends, my behavior and mannerisms were a bit exaggerated and overly girly, or so that is how it sits in my memory. Although existing as Gabrielle feels very natural to me, I have yet to work out my public mannerisms and behavioral display. The opportunity to develop it naturally over the years did not exist in my life. I was forced to (or felt extreme pressure to) “man-up” in order to fit into society.
I’m fairly pleased with the progress made for my adventure. Even my failures offer me a pretty clear map of where I need improvement. Part of the funk I fell into immediately following my reunion was the fact that I might have made a much better impression on my class (as a whole) had I shown up as Gabe, wearing a nice suit, with my wife by my side. I was not popular in school, often regarded as a freak and social misfit and made fun of as such. It would have sat better with me to show my old class how far I’ve come since those dark years in my life. Instead, many of them saw me as a freak and social misfit… once again filled with insecurities and visibly awkward in my behavior (not quite ready to be out in public as Gabrielle).
I’m ok with it now though. Perhaps the legacy of Gabe will remain that of a weird-o freak in the minds of many in my class. I do not regret showing up as I did but rather wish I was better prepared in doing so.
Interesting and unexpected reactions
This being my first time interacting with people (in person) as Gabrielle, I was a little surprised by some of the reactions people displayed when seeing me. I fully expected to be read and laughed at. I even worried about the potential for harm. Some of the reactions I got from people are still under analysis in my mind.
Several people refused to make eye contact with me, or would very quickly look away if our eyes met. I think in some cases, they were genuinely attempting to be polite and not “stare”, or be perceived as staring at me because I’m “different”. In other cases, it felt more like they simply wanted nothing to do with me, as in breaking eye-contact sends out the message of “do not talk to me”.
The most confusing reaction was that of the invisible bubble around me that seemed to keep people from getting too close. There was an obvious hesitancy for some people to step into the space surrounding me. For instance, if there were 8 people chatting with each other before I entered the space, 4 of them drifted off and remained at a distance while I was present, waiting and watching from the side-lines. It almost seemed as if they were afraid of me, like I had the plague and they didn’t want to risk catching it – a reaction I was not expecting. In reflection, I think they just didn’t know what to make of me, and my presence made them uncomfortable, so they remained at a “safe distance”.
Many of the people I spoke with in brief had the look of horror on their faces, as if there were an ax sticking out the top of my head and blood dripping down. Their eyes remained very wide open as they politely spoke with me, attempting to behave as if everything was “normal”. One man shook my hand repeatedly during a brief conversation, as if to let me know he was ok with me being as I was. In school we were acquaintances, but not really close. Unlike others who looked away as our eyes met, he chose to approach me when we made eye contact. He was obviously uncomfortable in my presence, but made an honest effort to appear welcoming to me, which was appreciated, if awkward.
Were there others?
A thought that is often on my mind when I’m out in guy-mode is how many other undercover part-time t-girls are there among me? At the reunion, I was the only genetic male en femme, but statically, there should have been at least one or two more (closet) crossdressers. Did any of them say hi to me? Did they regret not showing up en femme? Are they still too heavily closeted to even consider such a move? That will remain a mystery.
Life outside the closet
Immediately following my class reunion, I felt terribly exposed and feared negative fall-out as a result of now being “out”. As of yet, nothing bad has come of it – at least not that I’m aware of. I’m honestly very comfortable now in terms of people knowing me as I truly am. Those who were cool to me, and those who laughed – it’s all good.
My somewhat neglected (man-side) facebook account started receiving friend requests from people I encountered that evening. There were some pleasant, though fairly brief message exchanges as a result. I added a photo of Gabrielle (the same one seen up top minus the text) to my facebook photos, labeled only as “a dear friend of my wife”. Consider it a small step forward in coming out to others.
A woman I was friends with in high school actually saw me at the reunion (though we did not meet up there), but didn’t realize it was me until finding the (Gabrielle) photo in my facebook pictures. Her friend request came as a result of discovery through mutual friend and not because of the reunion itself. She let me know she was cool with it, even if it was just a prank I pulled. I could have easily told her “Yep – it was just a joke”, but chose to fill her in on the reality. She explained that she didn’t understand it, but has always liked me and that hasn’t changed regardless of my gender expression. If only more people in this world were as accepting. We also enjoyed a brief exchange that died off in a few days, more so because of busy lives and not because of my femme-side.
I may be “out” as a transgender but the link between Gabe and Gabrielle remains a secret, at least for now. In part 1, I explained that a different femme-name was used (instead of Gabrielle).
How does my wife feel about this?
Mrs. H. is not yet comfortable with my being “out” to my high school classmates. She fears that someone may use this information to somehow cause me trouble. Her concern is understandable.
She also feels let down. For years, she had expressed an interest in attending my reunion with me (as Gabe, not Gabrielle). Aware of my very troubled times in high school, she wanted to be by my side as I showed people the confident, mature, strong and handsome man I had become… one with a rather attractive wife. When I found out about the reunion, only a few weeks prior, my interest level was very low, so I didn’t mention it to her. It was only at the last minute that I decided to attend (as Gabrielle) and filled my wife in as to my intention. My only real regret of the evening was in not allowing my wife an opportunity that oddly meant more to her than it did to me – a selfish move that I didn’t fully comprehend the scope of until talking with her after the fact. I could have shown up as Gabe, my lovely wife by my side, and made a very good impression on my old classmates as such.
Come so far, yet so much farther to grow
In venturing out as Gabrielle to my class reunion, I made great strides in my personal growth. I also discovered how much I have yet to learn. It is so very different being Gabrielle online than live and in-person, among people. Understanding the psychology of being who and what I am is one thing. Finding my footing in out in the world as Gabrielle is something that I have much to learn about.
I’ve ventured out as Gabrielle a couple more times since my reunion. There have been additional successes, failures, and an unsettling cold dose of reality in the form of intolerance and hate. Next up will probably be my first foray into vlogging as Gabrielle.
Related content: Class Reunion En Femme and Unprepared