Subterfuge. It’s not a fun word to say but boy you get used to the concept very quickly when you’re a gurl-in-the-closet.
For me Sarah, and the incarnations she went through (in order Diane the 80s chick, Julie the 2010’er and now Sarah) spent a long time in a very small closet. My other half only discovered her in February, and I’m now one those lucky ones who doesn’t have to hide anymore.
But forty-two odd years of secrecy isn’t something you can put away overnight, so I thought I’d share some of the tricks of the trade, and some of times I came so, so close to swishing my way into the limelight.
1: *Never* mix your online personalities on the same computer. I have an old laptop that belongs to Sarah. She, with not a trace of modesty, has her favourite picture as a wallpaper, her links (Flickr, TVChix, Twitter, Tumblr and WordPress), all her pictures, her stories, basically everything that is hers.
Of course, that wasn’t always the way. Sarah used to have a Facebook page with, and I’m almost ashamed to admit it, four times the friends that drab-dude has, and I came so close to the ultimate reveal.
Turns out that if you are using an iPad and looking at Facebook in the browser, that doesn’t affect the account your iPad is logged into. I’d logged into drab-dude’s account at one point, forgot it, and the day before my first ever makeover session in London, when I was in the hotel room, newly shaved and modelling a particularly sexy pair of stockings (with black roses) and a serious pair of f*ck-me heels, I took a leg-selfie and uploaded it to Facebook from the Photo app with the comment ‘There’s nothing like the feel of stockings on freshly shaved legs’.
For the first time ever I uploaded it as a private photo. No idea why, but it saved my secret, as the iPad uploaded it onto drab-dude’s newsfeed.
Adrenaline is an unpleasant thing, especially when your body floods with it when the realisation kicks in that your personal FB account has an unexplainable picture and caption. Cue four minutes desperately trying to find how to remove a picture from your account (it takes a surprising amount of fiddling).
I deleted her Facebook account after, not immediately, but when a suggestion popped up on drab-dude’s page saying ‘people you might know’ with her smiling picture. Yeah, it was a bit of a thrill but too close to home.
Even now that my other half knows (and she’s part of an exclusive club which was just me and her, then me, her and her best friend, then me, her, her best friend and a colleague of mine who is transitioning, the club keeps getting bigger) I’m not ready to come fully out of the closet, so for now Sarah gets her own laptop. And an iPad, just in case.
2: If you spend a lot of time out of the house and your partner doesn’t, be very, very careful with parcels.
I’ve read a lot of comments on how to reveal yourself to your other half, when you decide it is time. I had a lot of plans, all set sometime in the future because, hell, I didn’t want to reveal Sarah. My worry was that I’d lose my soul-mate, so I had persuaded myself that I could continue to occasionally let Sarah out and work around the consequences. It involved a lot of ‘work trips’ that involved a day of Sarah and three days of willing my stubble to re-emerge to the point that I wasn’t anywhere near clean shaven.
I digress, but when I am in drab-mode I am never clean-shaven. Partly due to laziness and partly, and amusingly, because when I am clean-shaven Sarah is just below the surface, and I find myself sitting the wrong way, letting the wrist go limp just too much. Bad Sarah. So each session involved a couple of days of sitting around hotel rooms waiting for enough masculinity to seep back in and hide her.
Anyway, parcels. I’ve always been terrifyingly organised around buying Sarah her things. Often I order online to ‘collect from store’, which always involves me slinking into the shop, dropping my voice a couple of registers and making a point of talking to the shop assistant and saying ‘I bought my other half some presents’. Yeah, pathetic, but ingrained.
Then the perfect storm. A long day, concentration a little impaired, Sarah giggling behind my eyes, I ordered a Hell Bunny 1940s dress from Amazon.
To my home address.
Now, my other half never opens my mail. There’s no problem if she did, it’s just a habit she has because she lived by herself for a long time. But now she has an online store, and needs packaging, so she helpfully (and 99.9999% of the time it is incredibly helpful) she snips the bags, slices the boxes so I, as a gorilla-handed package tearer, can get the contents out without damaging the packaging.
And that one day, when I had forgotten to re-direct the Amazon parcel to a collection box, when I was in London for work, she snipped the bag and saw polka-dots.
It got worse. We’re soul-mates, but we’ve both had poor choices when it comes to previous relationships, and she immediately thought the worst. I was seeing someone else and buying her clothes. Which was accurate and completely wrong.
And bless her, she kept it to herself, worrying, making herself sad, until she blurted it out on Valentine’s Day.
Given the circumstances I had no choice but to tell her the truth. She was completely surprised, not a clue that the be-stubbled, zero-fashion-sense bloke had a softer, err, feminine side.
So the secret was out, if only between us two.
Parcels. Be very, very careful.
3: Never, ever, ever underestimate the power of super-glue
So, back in the early 90s I was living with my first partner. We met at college and spent 17 years working out we weren’t meant for each other. That involved marriage, sexual exploration and all the things you do with your first partner, not including clicking.
She was into the cross-dressing, partly because I was pretty cute back then (and secretly a cross-dresser since I was nine years old) and partly because she, umm, liked girls a little more than boys. So cue a lot of dressing and experimentation, some fun, some not. *Cough*.
Anyway, I was discovering various aspects of what was then Diane. I’m a nervous person at heart and it surfaces as nail-biting. Not serious, but enough to cut to the quick. We used to paint the nails but they never really looked right, so I decided one day whilst my partner was out working and I had a day off to go buy some false ones.
It was like buying my first condoms. I ended up getting a tonne of shopping, all unnecessary, so I could put a single box of very long, pre-painted red nails in the shopping cart. And a tube of superglue, because I’m an idiot.
Cue racing home, stomach full of aforementioned adrenaline. I decided to surprise my other half by applying the nails myself as I knew she liked long nails.
Now, there’s a certain amount of glue you need for nails. Having never used superglue before, and being somewhat of an all-or-nothing gal, I liberally applied a thick layer of glue to each nail, covering them entirely, and squeezed each of the unfeasibly long nails onto my own.
For the first five minutes it was a serious thrill. I couldn’t do a single thing – long nails were in then and they were like kinky talons. I could scratch my nose, carefully, but undoing my trousers so I could pass water was difficult.
And they started to feel a little….odd. A little tight.
So after ten minutes my bottle went and I decided to take them off, the surprise could wait for another day.
Yeah, not a huge twist in this tale. Those nails were *not* coming off. I tried to get the thumb nail off and I literally felt the actual nail start to move off of the bed of the finger.
Now, this was a single day off. I had work in the morning, developing software for satellites. With the military.
Four hours later my then other half came home and found me sat in bed, worried. When she had stopped laughing, and it took a while, believe me, we had an hour of gently tweezing each nail off. Relieved doesn’t start to cover it when the final one popped off, taking a chunk of quick with it. Everyone of my fingers looked like I had been dipping them in washing up liquid that had turned to stone. It took six weeks for the nails to grow long enough so the remnants of the glue disappeared.
Sometimes I just can’t be trusted. She makes me do things, I tell you. Naughty Diane/Julie/Sarah.
On second thoughts, don’t take any of my advice……
Oh, and here’s one of the very, very rare pictures from the early 90s. And yes, *those* are the nails.
Stay beautiful sweeties xxxx