Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Nearly Getting Caught



Though I have officially sworn off wigs as anything other than a fun fashion accessory, I still have a rather large backlog of unposted pictures from old brunette wig days. So here are a few I took on a recent day off. These are some of my sparky ones. 

I have always loved sequins. There's some fun and glamorous about them. Over the years I have owned a few sequin garments and loved how shiny and sparkly they were. Most of them have been cheap and have shed sequins all over the house, but they were still fun.

Stray sequins have also come rather close to accidentally outing me. Back when I lived by myself, I remember one time when I mom was visiting and found a stray sequin. On that same trip she also found a fake fingernail on the floor. And yet, she was surprised when I came out to her.

For most of my life I hid my female presentation. I felt like I had to. I was being raised by a Republican, military, Southern, evangelical father who was hard core conservative and homophobic as hell. He used to rant about how gross gays were and how they should be imprisoned. Who the heck knew what he would do if he came home to find his oldest son wearing a dress? He wasn't a violent man but I feared that, in that situation, he would learn to be violent. He was also constantly threatening me with military school. So, chances are that I would have been sent to a military school where my life would have been even worse than what it was at my Christian evangelical school.

There were, over the years, a few times when I came perilously close to being caught. The earliest I can remember was when I was about seven years old. My sister had an old ballerina costume that was in the "give away" pile. So I took it and hid it. One day, in my room, when I wasn't playing with my Star Wars toys or GI Joe's, I decided that it was time to try it on. So I did. That was the moment that my mom came in to ask if I wanted cut up bananas on my ice cream. She sat me down and told me that dressing up as a girl was no longer okay (despite it being tolerated when I was three or four). She discussed getting me a boy costume to play in and that was that. I never got the boy costume though. Ah well.


Another time I remember being eleven or twelve. I was old enough to be left alone in the house. My mom and sister had gone off for some chore and so I headed downstairs to my sister's room. Her room was in the basement/lower floor (it was a weird 1970s split level design on a hill so who knows what story was what).

Thinking I had tons of time on my hands, I went straight to my sister's closet. This was a regular hobby of mine. If I only had a few minutes I would put them on, admire myself in the mirror, and maybe do a twirl or two so I could experience how amazing it felt to wear a dress. If I had an hour or more I would pick out a bunch of outfit to try on, then select one. I would wear it and then hang out watching TV with my legs crossed. Or I would walk around practicing a feminine walk. If I had more than an hour I might even incorporate makeup. 

On this day I thought I had an hour or more. So I carefully picked out a few outfits to try on and laid them out on my sister's bed. Then I selected my first one and carefully put it on. It was at this point that I saw a foot go by my sister's window. It was my mom and sister walking back up to the front door!

Quickly as I could I ran to the front door, locked the deadbolt, and locked the chain. I heard my mom's key in the door, but the chain would hold her for a bit. As I listened to my mom yelling at me to open the door, I tore off the dress and scrambled to get everything back into the closet as quickly as I could. It was then that I realized I had nothing on but my underwear. I had left my own clothes upstairs. And to get there I had to walk by the front door, past the pounding and yelling. So I ran up the stairs, slid the chain open, and then kept running up to my room.

I got in trouble for locking my mom out. But that was nothing. That I could deal with. Getting in trouble for trying on my sister's clothes? I had avoided that.


Another close call came one year at my grandmother's house. For a couple weeks each summer my parents would ship my sister and I off to my grandmother's house. My sister always got the nicer guest room and I ended up with my aunt's room. My aunt wasn't that much older than my sister and I. She was, I think, around nine years older than me and when I was about ten she was off in college. Most of her room was still had her stuff in it including a ton of clothes that she hadn't taken off to college with her.

So at night, after everyone else had gone to sleep, I would go through my aunt's massive closet and try stuff on. Unlike my tomboyish sister, she had beautiful dresses, prom gowns, and other amazing clothes. But the bedroom door didn't lock. To try stuff on, I would sneak it to the one room where I had privacy; the bathroom. Locking the door behind me, I would try on my aunt's wonderful clothes. And then, to avoid getting caught exiting the bathroom I figured the best thing to do would be to put the dresses in the laundry hamper.

Thinking I was being stealthy, I ended up filling the laundry hamper with tons of beautiful dresses, many of them probably dry clean only. For some reason I thought the hamper was completely anonymous. Like, my grandmother would just assume it was house laundry and do it without question. She actually did not do it without question. In fact, unbeknownst to me, she and my sister discussed and the blame was pinned on me.

But, there it died. Nothing came of it. I was as though my behavior was so bizarre that it was easier just to prentend nothing happened than to actually address why there was a young boy leaving dresses in the hamper. This story did, however, come up after I had come out to my mom and sister. And at that point, with nothing left to hide, I admitted it .


In fact, my coming out letter to my sister included an apology for trying on her clothes without her permission. So even though I wasn't always the best at hiding, I am happy to report that I made it out of childhood without getting sent to military school. 


Monday, July 30, 2018

Hair Transplants: Six Months Progress


Back in January of 2017, when I was out but still stuck wearing wigs because of my hairline I wrote: "Wigs are awful monstrosities that were knitted by Satan's most horrid demon underlings." At the time I was super frustrated. I hated wigs. But now, even though I still have two wigs sitting on foam heads on my dresser, I am out of the woods. Wigs, for me, are no longer a necessity. They are something I can choose to wear when I want a nice fashion accessory. Yes, Faith DaBrooke is officially wig free! 

It's been a long journey. Right after I got my hair transplants back in February I was told that I could not wear wigs as they would interfere with my hair's healing. So I went with a headband. It was something I had already been doing when I worked out as wigs just don't work for the gym. Headbands, of course, weren't ideal. For one thing I didn't ever feel pretty in them. It felt like some quick and dirty way to cover up my male pattern baldness wracked hairline and nothing more. It was fine. I even rationalized that why should I bother looking my best for my coworkers or for running errands?

So for the last few months I've rocked the headband daily. It works well enough. Except that one time I bought new bands that would creep up over time and come off without my realizing it. That was potentially embarrassing. On more than one occasion I have had to run to the drug store or grocery and try to find another headband to cover my baldy head. Also when I recently rode Kingda Ka at 6 Flags Great Adventure, the 128mph acceleration knocked my headband right off. Luckily I had brought a spare.


But, I've not been happy with headbands. As I'm sure you can imagine. I mean, don't get me wrong, it's way more comfortable than wigs. And unless the wind gets up to world's second fastest roller coaster levels, headbands are way better in a breeze than a wig. And on hot, humid days they are infinitely nicer than wearing a tight, constricting wig. Gosh, I remember coming home from a long day of work. And the first thing I would do when I got home is rip off that wig. So, you trade beauty for comfort. It's worked, though it's not been too ideal. It's a good stopgap measure.


The other option of course is hats. In the past few months I've done quite a bit of the ol' ponytail through the back of the baseball hat with sunglasses looks. Honestly I like this look. I think it makes me look like an undercover celebrity. And we get a lot of undercover celebs in my area. 



There's also sunhats which I have been known to wear to shield my delicate pale skin from the sun's harmful radiation. Sunhats are good but my hat isn't big enough to wear with a ponytail, so I don't wear it too often. Luckily I do have a parasol to help block the sun when I don't wear a hat. And yes, sunscreen every day. Radiation can still get through clouds. 



My transplanted hair is growing out. It's nowhere near the length of the rest of my hair and it's not quite long enough for bangs yet. But it's growing. In fact, it's gotten to the point where, if I style it just right, I can start going without either headbands or hats. 


It's been most helpful when swimming, although I still made sure to not get my hair too wet. Still, it's a lot easier than wearing a wig at the beach.



In fact, I've even started being able to go to work with just my own hair. Above is a picture I took on my first wigless, headbandless day at the office. It's been a little tough being relaxed though with just my hair. After ages of never going out without the wig, hat, or headband, it's kind of nerve wracking to have my plain old, regular head on display for the world. But, as my hair grows out (at the rate of half an inch a month) it starts getting easier and easier. 

Yesterday I dyed my hair red. Because, let's face it, I've always been a redhead (at least on the inside). The last time I dyed my hair it didn't work that well so this time I asked Kath to help me. And it came out a lot better. Instead of doing a ponytail I decided, on a whim, to do a top bun. 




I've always wanted to do a top bun (at least since it became a fashion trend). It's a style you can't do in wig. Throughout my day I would see pretty girls with their top buns and get super jealous. My gender dysphoria would boil up inside me. I longed for the day that I could have my own top bun. And to my surprise I was able to pull my hair up into a top bun! 


Oh my gosh, I have never in my life felt cuter. I couldn't to throw on my glasses so I could have the perfect pretty hipster girl look. Sure, it was a little bit of a messy bun. But dang I felt so cute. It was my own hair! And it was a top bun! And I was a redhead. Oh my gosh, I seriously felt so cute. When Kath and I went out for a drink every time I caught myself into a mirror I was completely blown away. I was a real cute girl with my own hair! It was amazing. I loved it. I was super, insanely happy. So naturally, I had to get lots of pics. 









Then Kath told me about the fact that they make a product specifically to help bulk up buns. It's a little light plastic donut thing that you wrap your hair around to help bulk it up. I was super excited to show up for work rocking an nice big top bun.  
 
 



It's a little messy, but I still love it and I'm still super happy. It's amazing to be able to look in a mirror and see me and realize that it's my actual hair. Oh my gosh. I've really never felt cuter in my life. 

Monday, July 23, 2018

Some Old Favorites

Honestly I don't know how many photos I've taken over the years. From the time when I first started posting up to my Geocities home page, to my Myspace, to my current Instagram posts, I must have shared ten thousand pictures on the internet over the years. But I have also taken down quite a few. My old websites are long gone (though Wayback Machine still has some screen grabs), I deleted most of my photos off Flickr, and my shiny new blog doesn't have a deep photo archive. So, I thought it would be fun to post of up some of my favorite old photos from the vault and share where I was transition-wise when they were taken. 


This is from my first time ever going out as the real me in NYC. This was back in September or October of 2001. I had just moved up and thankfully had Rachel, an old friend from high school, to go out with. We hit up Lucky Chang's. I remember I was too afraid to go on the subway so I had to take cabs both ways.


This was taken in spring of 2003. The Matrix movies were recent enough that I bought these books thinking they were cool because they were like something that Trinity would wear. My aforementioned old friend and I went up to Inwood Park (near where she lived). I remember I was still afraid to travel from Astoria, Queens to Inwood in Northern Manhattan. I got dressed up at her house and then got back into boy mode for the return trip. 


For Christmas of 2003 I took the money my mom sent me and went straight to Trash & Vaudeville (then located back on St. Marks). I bought a cool punk skirt with lots of tulle and some goth boots with shit tons of buckles. By the way, the Scooby Doo curtains were free. I was kinda poor back then and had to take what I could get to give me some privacy in my first floor bedroom. 


I loved these tights because they made me feel good and goth. The dress is a black waitress dress (one of my favorite styles). This was the empty concrete spot behind my first apartment in NYC. It was a shithole, but at least I was in NYC. 


This was taken in the same empty concrete spot. It was full of trash, but I was kind of afraid to go out on the street to take pictures. This at least provided some privacy (provided my super didn't walk out to get the trash or anything). 


This was taken on my roof (another semi-private non-street location to take pictures). The silver dress was so great. My friend let me borrow it though I only ever wore it for one photo shoot. And I didn't even go out in it! 


This was taken at about the same time as the previous three. The roof became one of my favorite spots for pictures. And this photo is actually one of my absolute favorite photos of me ever. I was skinny enough back then to actually show midriff. That wasn't diet or exercise. That was poverty skinny. It's not as fun.


This photo was taken on Thanksgiving on 2004. Again this was the back of the building. My boobs were painted on with makeup but the illusion worked in this low cut (trashy- let's call a spade a spade) dress. Back in the day I smoked a pack a day. That helped maintain both skinniness and poverty. 


These clothes were borrowed from a friend I met on Myspace. She also lived in Astoria. She did my makeup, let me borrow some clothes, and took my photo. Actually she is the one who introduced me to Maybelline Dream Matte Mousse foundation. This was maybe 2004 or 2005 and I had actually started coming out to new people. Though I was still terrified of going out. 


On this one I was trying out some Photoshop effects. I remember buying a bootleg copy of Photoshop in Chinatown. At the time I was reading William Gibson and the idea of going through Chinatown to buy bootleg software seemed ever so cyberpunk. 




Look at me! I'm actually outside the house. This picture was taken in an alley way on my block. At the time I thought this look was  "normal, everyday girl." I mean, it was more normal than my goth stuff, but I wasn't quite at the point of being able to blend in fashion wise. At least I was getting out and starting to see these dress up sessions less as "dressing up" and more like "presenting female."


This was Christmas of 2005. I had gone out and specifically bought clothes so I could dress like an average, every day woman. This was an important moment for me. I was getting less and less interested in the idea of identifying as a "crossdresser" and was leading toward transition. I would sito on the subway on the way to work and write out transition plans or budgets. Sometimes I would do pro-con lists.


Pants and a winter coat! I was starting to actually get out of the house enough to need outwear. This was probably winter of 2005-2006.

I loved this dress because it looked so nice and 1950s. These shoes were actually borrowed from a coworker. Yes, I was getting to the point where I could start coming out to co-workers. I worked in a small office (just four of us) and the boss used to go to France for the summers. One of my coworkers (who was also my first NYC photographer friend) wanted me to come to work as Faith. But I was way too terrified of that.



This was in my apartment but it was a photoshoot I did with my friend Dresden. We had gone out shopping to Saint Marks and had actually got matching thigh high fishnets with red bows. I still wish I had this skirt. It was Tripp NYC, one of my favorite brands back then. I was starting to come out to more and more people at this point. 


This is from a party that Dresden and I attended. This was probably 2006 and I was comfortable to the point where I could present female and go out in the city for a night. I could even ride the subway! Sure, I felt safer when I was with a friend, but it was nice to be able to go out more and more as the real me. 


This outfit was one I wore for one of my favorite old videos. It was called "Things to Do on a Rainy Day" and was five or six straight minutes of me being silly. Doing my old YouTube videos was really fun. Sometimes I would have planned out ideas to film but other times I would just get dressed up and start the camera rolling. Some were meaningful, some were cringe worthy, and some were silly. I was glad to hear that so many people enjoyed them. Gender Rebels TV over on YouTube has some videos with a similar vibe for those who miss Thoughts from My Head. 

My second apartment in NYC had a larger bedroom so I took the opportunity to create a sort of photo studio. So I bought a few yards of black fabric. When I'd take photos I would duct tape it to the wall. This picture was during a time when I was experimenting with some serious padding, waist bindage, and boob tape. It's a good look, though not particularly great for blending in. 


This was an attempt to seriously blend in. I bought girl jeans and wore a sweater. This was (in case you can't tell from the tree behind me) a Christmas party. At this time, maybe 2007, I was really trying my best to be a normal, everyday, ordinary girl. These were the moments when my dysphoria would go into overdrive and I would think seriously about transition. 



This was another from the winter of 2007. Again I am doing my best to wear casual clothes and look like an ordinary girl (sans a winter coat of course). At this point I was already describing myself as genderflux online. Sometimes when I was really feeling bold I would identify as transgender. I knew that I wasn't a crossdresser but I still couldn't take the leap and transition. 



This is another attempt at being a normal girl. Heck at this point I had already started decorating my room in what I thought would be a female style. My goal was that if someone came in my room and were told that it was a girl's room they would easily believe it. Of course I was still wearing bright red witch wigs from Ricky's but still. Like many other trans women, it took me a while to start really understanding fashion and presentation. 


This photo was taken soon after I took the one above it. While a part of me wanted to be an everyday normal girl, another part of me wanted to be gothy as heck. For this shot I literally drew all over my face with eyeliner and used spring loaded earrings to give myself facial piercings. Yes, I still hadn't actually taken the step of piercing my ears or growing out my hair. That would come later. 


This picture found the middle ground between goth and normal. Also I loved this corset top. Wish I still had it. This was also the period back in 2008 when I would add a distorted glow to all my pictures in photoshop. I thought it gave them a pretty, dreamy quality. It does, but you have to use it in moderation. 


This was a pic that my friend Dresden took of me while I was getting ready to go out in Astoria. By 2008 going out in NYC was literally no big deal. This was during one of my normal girl phases - as evidenced by my wearing pink.



This is also one my favorite photos of me ever. I was wearing a jeans and an ordinary shirt. I love that I just look like a normal pretty girl in this picture.



This is me being super crazy normal, to the point where I'm even wearing sneakers. At this point in 2008 I kind of knew I was transgender. I was out to all my friends but not to my family or coworkers. But I was still afraid to transition. I imagined losing my job. I imagined being rejected by my family. Plus I didn't really understand how to navigate the mental health industry to get the psych recommendation for hormones. It was frustrating and frightening.

This isn't one of my favorite pictures, but I remember this night clearly. It was a Saturday and over my coffee I read an article called "The Second Most Beautiful Girl in NYC." It was about Jamie Clayton and her transition. This was 2008 and way before Sense8. After reading the article I literally had to get up and go for a walk to think. That night I went out with a friend of mine and told her that I was going to transition. 



When I posted this picture on my Myspace I got a bunch of comments about my new ink. It wasn't real ink. It was a temporary tattoo. In fact there were supposed to be two - one on each shoulder blade - but I screwed up the application. I still love this short blonde wig. I wish I could rock this style again. I was pretty cute. 


In 2008 I moved into my own apartment. I didn't share it with roommates. It was all mine. That meant that I could dress up and present female whenever I wanted. Suddenly the world opened up for me. This is also when I started doing things like staying in girl mode all weekend Friday through Sunday or taking a stay-cation and spending the whole time in girl mode. There was nothing quite as depressing as having to go back to boy mode on Monday morning. 


Also, in case you can't tell, I finally got my ears pierced! I still wasn't growing my hair out. But I had found a slightly punk yet still casual look. I was finding my style! 

One wall of my bedroom was kept bare white so I could use it as a photo background. 



It may not look like much, but this was me at work. Granted the boss and co-workers weren't there. I was not yet that brave. Instead, I had made plans to go out with a friend of mine after work. So I brought all my clothes and makeup to work and got ready. I tried to snap a few pics but the lighting wasn't too great. It was a fun day. 



This is me going out with my friend after a different day getting ready. We went out in the village. It felt really great to literally be out at happy hour after leaving work presenting female. It made me feel normal and ordinary.


Soon after getting my own apartment I started dating a woman who knew about my then dual nature. On one of our many thrift shopping trips, she got persuaded to me to get this black blazer. It was a perfect fit and it worked as a nice accessory to lots of different outfit, even a casual one like I was wearing in this picture.


Just for the fun of it, I tried to dress professional. In my head, I fantasized about going on a job interview as the real me. Of course I was still terrified of coming out at work and feared getting fired, but it was nice to dream.


This was Halloween of 2008. I went as Catherine Weaver, the T-1000 character that Shirley Manson played in Terminator: The Sarah Conner Chronicles. Really it was great excuse to go out with friends while wearing a black shift and heels. No, I didn't win the costume contest. In fact, I barely looked like I was in costume at all. In fact, I just happen to love this look. And this is basically how I look at work now half the time now. Either way, this Halloween was an amazing night and I felt amazing and beautiful.


This was my friend's Christmas party in 2008. It had just started snowing. I thought I looked amazing in this picture. Though at the time I always stood with my legs far apart. It would take me a while to figure out feminine posture. Still, I think it's a good pic, especially with the falling snow.


This was probably from the winter of 2009. At this point I had all my winter gear and never let inclement weather stop me from being fabulous. At this point I basically knew transition was right for me. I was living as a woman whenever I could. But I just needed that last push. 


For a while there was a gay bar in my neighborhood just a block from my apartment. When I saw that they had open mic nights I thought it would be a great opportunity to come down and try my hand at stand up comedy. I got a few laughs but thought I bombed. It was only later after talking to more seasoned comedians that I realized that a couple laughs is actually good. You just have to hone your bit to make it better. Ah well.


Look how skinny my arms are! Oh my gosh to be this thin again! Getting up on stage (or on a stage-like area) of a bar was major for me. This meant going out and being the center of attention. I was embarrassed though (mostly because I thought I bombed) and never went back to an open mic night. But it was nice to have a gay bar so close by home. It meant I could go out whenever I wanted and have a safe space. The Irish pub down the street didn't feel quite as safe. Though I did go to the Irish pub many times too.


This was spring of 2010. I was on my way to an early Reddit meetup. This was back when Reddit was a small enough site that you could get the top voted post with a few hundred upvotes. I don't think sub-reddits had been invented yet. So the national Reddit meetups would have about fifty people at most. I remember this felt like a huge thing because my one friend was like the only girl at most of these meetups. My going as Faith meant a lot of eyes on me. Thankfully it went well and I had a good time. 


I was on HRT when I took this photo in 2010. I had quit smoking and was sure that transition was right for me. But then I had a bad reaction to the hormones. They left me exhausted and feeling foggy. The fogginess lifted when I stopped taking them after a week or so. After that I started putting on weight. Quitting smoking will do that to you. And between the transition not happening and the weight gain I kind of just lost interest in being Faith. I figured that I could go back to boy me and just be happy with that.


For two years I didn't present female at all. But then I was out shopping with a friend and found an amazing dress in my size. I bought it and eventually started dressing again. This was from my first real shoot after decided to girl up again. It was in Brooklyn Bridge Park on a grey day. It felt good to be back.

And well, the rest is history right?


And oh my gosh I have so many new pictures (like this one above) to share with you. I'll post them up soon!