Now where do I start? Without rambling too much (hard since I am blond), let me try to structure my story in a question / answer format. So let me start at the beginning.
Residence: New Jersey Age: 54 Height: 6' 0" Weight: Appropriate for height (and I weigh less now than when I was in high school) Dress Size: 1X Shoe Size: 11 Perfume: Susan Lucci, Opium Make-up: MAC and Sengence Lipstick Favorite Past Time: Shopping and getting out Favorite Local:: Boston Best Attributes: Legs, Smile, Optimism Worst Attributes: Butt, Lips, Outspoken Profession: Professional providing business information services to small businesses ”Vices” – My Gel nails (always have them) and pedicures, shoes, wine and short skirts.
Dislikes: Red-Necks, People who stare or don't listen.
So where did it begin?
I have always known that I had feminine tendencies and my first contact with woman clothes was when I was eleven. It was my grandmother’s seamed stockings. How would I know? I always liked woman’s hosiery but never had any desire to dress until my 40’s (yes, I was a slow developer).
It never occurred to me that there was a woman inside of me so I didn’t have a burning to desire to dress in my teen, 20’s or 30’s. Woman clothing was more a turn-on. As I got older, the desire to be a feminine kept growing.
I have been married for 30 years to a very understanding and supportive woman. Didi knew about my fem side before we were married and even dressed me once but emotionally, I couldn’t handle it. I assumed I must be gay. Oh, how little many of us know that these early formative stages.
I finally confronted my cross-dressing in May 2002. Why? My wife has MS and at that point was fully bed bound. I have a high stress job plus we have two special needs children. It was a matter of stress that pushed to the edge; and most importantly, the internet.
Like so many other girls, I started looking on the internet. I guess for every supported or information site about cross-dressing, there must be 100 others that are porn. But persistence did pay off. Sites like Vicki Rene (www.vickirene.net), Tri-Ess (www.tri-ess.com) and your site helped me gain better insights to what cross-dressing and transgender are. No pun intended, but I wasn’t alone or abnormal.
Eventually I found Clare McAfee at TG North (www.tgnorth.com). I was looking for a transformation service to really see what this was, how I would look and feel. I also needed a release from everything else in my life. And so Joanna was born. Funny story on who I got the name Joanna….I realized that I couldn’t email Clare with my boy name and had to create a second email address to communicate with her. Out of the blue, Joanna just came to me not sure why but it stuck.
In a fateful afternoon, Mother Clare transformed me, we had a photo shoot (inside and outside), we went to a mall and out to dinner. To this point, I had never really been dressed and ever when out. It was a baptism and I have never turned back. It was cathartic and life-altering.
I realized that my feminine side was part of my “essence” and this essence has been continually developing. I realized it wasn’t sexual but an expression of who I am. I realized that I was not in conflict with my male side, I liked them both. Most important, I found myself and started channeling energy in accepting this duality, not push away.
Now, I didn’t tell Didi that was I doing this. But two days later, she looked at me and asked “Are you seeing another woman?” In those two days, I have gone from a bitter and frustrated male to a more relaxed and calm person. My answer was yes, of sorts. I explained where I had been, showed her the pictures and she said “it’s about time.” Thus started monthly trips to VT for the first year and I cannot say enough how I wouldn’t be talking to LadyLike Magazine without her support.
Now that you found her, where is this going?
I am a soul that once I make up my mind, I am 150% committed. Thanks to Clare and Stephany (my big sister), I started to find out more about my feminine side and what it meant to my existence. Initially, this was seeing my girlfriends in VT every month and getting out in groups. It was refining how I did my make-up, the clothes I wanted to wear and most important, getting out in the real world.
It has taken over two years for me to find my essence. I relish my time as Joanna but when it is time, I am happy with my male side. I do believe that my souls are coming together and I am seeing things more femininely. This is an evolution and I now the journey is far from over. It is also having me question my sexuality, which I am sure is a question to be asked. This is a journey where I do not know the final destination.
While I still have friends in VT, I now love going to Boston more where I have a new circle of CD and GG friends. We go the theatre, go to expositions and art shows, spa for facials, dinner at great restaurants, and yes, accepting bars and dance clubs. For me, I know who I am and do not shirk away from any opportunity to get out. Yes, I do like clubbing since short skirts are my favorite.
Where is your favorite place to go?
It is a toss up between Boston, Provincetown, MA and Erie, PA. Provincetown is wonderful for anyone coming out. I highly recommend Fantasia Fair with its seminars, follies, fashion show, and a week of heaven. Now why would I say Eire, PA – Erie Sisters Gala, every November. Just a wonderful social time with bus trips every day, something special planned at the hotel every evening, plus 3 TG friendly dance clubs for a late night out. And Boston, like NYC, is very accepting with night life plus many great venues for shopping, eating and culture.
What could you change, if you could?
For Joanna, nothing since like the movie “Its Wonderful Life”, I am sure that life would have been very different. I would do anything to have my wife healthy. She would relish in going out with me and I feel bad that I believe Joanna was only born due to my wife’s illness.
But life is a complex puzzle where we too often look at an event (puzzle piece) and say why. There is no single answer but if you have the perspective of time, you can often see the interrelationship of many events. I also follow astrology and believe that you are presented with events and how you react make up you life experience.
What has been your scariest moment?
I have been really lucky and haven’t really had a bad moment. Oh there were moments like being followed by a Quasimodo type admirer or when my big sister called a policeman over to our car to ask directions. Ahhhh…. Again, I know who I am now, have the confidence and good sense to know where to go.
What were your happiest moments?
I will also remember my first club trip to Pearls in Burlington, VT. It was August 2005 and Clare was planning this trip. I was thinking of every reason not to go including the preverbal “I have nothing to wear.” Stephany comes out of her room and throws a red spider dress at me and said “Okay B _ _ _ H, what is your excuse now.” Suffice to say that Stephany became my best “girl” friend, the dress fit, and it is my favorite dress this day (not something you would wear to the mall though). I remember walking down the street with the breeze going up my legs and feeling beautiful. It is one of those rare times where the real thing was as good as the fantasy.
What insights would you want to pass on?
Being different is hard; confronting your fears even harder, but it IS worth it. First, find a support group like Tri-Ess or in the Northeast, TG North or Femme Fever. If you don’t confront this, it will eat at you for years, decades for most of us. I have met, as I am sure you have, many bitter CD.
Secondly, be informed. There is a ton of information about cross-dressing. There are many “varieties” of being transgendered and being a CD does not mean you are gay!. Again, Vicki Rene was great to find other sites and I have many links on my site (www.joannasplace.com).
Third, embrace it, if it for you. Think of all the negative energy we direct to suppressing this phenomenon channeled instead to support it. It is a load off your shoulder, I find it has made be a better person and certainly a lot happier.
Fourth, when you go out (and that is the best part), dress appropriately. People will assume you are a woman or leave you alone. I call it thinking with “positive intent” and you will be surprised that our concerns about being read or people staring will go mostly unfounded when you are confident and acting like a woman.
Lastly, be thankful either way. We live in a society where we speak of self-expression and this is it. If cross dressing is not for you, then you know it rather than always wondering.
I could not find any web presence for Joanna ... Please let me know if you find her on Flickr or such.