Thursday, October 29, 2015

Meeting Up

Me after a recent Meetup (also recent grocery shopping)

There's this thing about Facebook. It makes you hate everyone you know because people only ever post up the good, amazing things in their lives. You see your old high school friends partying, travelling the world, going on vacations, having fun dinners. Then you look at your own life spent at your job, commuting in the rain, eating vegetables, brushing your teeth, and you start to worry that other people have it amazing and your own life sucks. Of course, everyone's life sucks, it's just that we don't tend to broadcast that fact to the world. Unless we're whiny Debbie Downers and then it's okay to hate us.

So, I'm about to broadcast some negative stuff in my life. And not to complain or whine or Debbie Down (yes I made that into a verb), but rather to show people out there that my life is not all rainbows, sunshine, free Haribo gummi bears and unicorn rides. Yeah, I totally go on unicorn rides sometimes, but not always.

Okay. I want girl friends. Well, actually all my friends are girls. But, I want more girl friends and I'd love to meet new people to hang out with. Me and my imaginary new friend could go shopping, do lunch, meet up for happy hour or go out on the town! Plus I also want more friends who only know me as Faith. To them I'm just a girl and always have been.

I'm just a girl. You know, like in that No Doubt song.
Meetup groups seemed like a really good way to meet new people so I joined a few. First I tried a coed board gaming group (there are like a million board gaming groups) and while I was accepted at the meetup, I didn't really have fun. But that sort of had to do with the fact that I missed out on Catan and ended up playing Munchkin with some annoyinglt competitive people. Ah well, at least they used the right pronouns, but I didn't really connect with anyone.

Next I tried a ladies' happy hour group. This made me so nervous! Unlike a regular coed group, this was just for women. Going into the bar was terrifying. I mean, I'm not social person. At a party or a business type meeting I'll pretty much just stand by a wall, by myself. I'd certainly never go up and talk to a stranger. So walking in the bar where the meetup was to happen, my first instinct was to chicken out. Yes, indeed. Just go up to the bar, have a drink by myself, pretend I'm totally not here to meet random strangers and then go home!

What am I worried about? I'm worried that people will find me ridiculous and then ridicule me because of it. I worry that people will think I'm a fraud or a weirdo or a big loser. I fear that I won't be accepted, that I can't do a good enough female voice, that people will exclude me from the group because I don't belong. Because I'm fake and not a real girl.

Sigh.

The nice thing is that, after going to 6 or 7 meetups, I haven't chickened out thus far. And as far as I can tell people have been super nice (though maybe they talk about me behind my back - you know how girls are).

My first meetup worked out fairly well and everyone was super friendly and accepting. The group organizers were even like "Oh, please be sure and come to our next meetup!" And I totally did and had a great time at them. People sent me the "Nice to see you at the meetup" emails you can send. people who I'd talked with at previous happy hours seemed happy to see me. Actually I went to a few with the group and the organizers actually used one of my ideas (Cobble Hill Pub Crawl) for the Halloween meetup.

Now having never been able to do Halloween as a girl, I had come up with a cool costume idea; my black lace dress, some black tights, and cat ears and a tail! Then I'd paint a little nose and whiskers on with eyeliner! Cute, right? I know. So I was looking forward to this.

Still time to cat up for this year!

One particular night, however, just left me seething. Even though I know I shouldn't have taken it so harshly, I did. Now, I know I passed at least with some of the people in the group. And we're talking maybe 15 or so people. So, we're all out, fifteen of us girls, at this bar in Brooklyn and we're getting a little inebriated, as people do. Earlier I had been talking with another girl, a blonde girl in her late thirties, who lives in the neighborhood Then later, with the booze flowing, someone asks her if she lives nearby the bar. This girl was partying, a little intoxicated, and said excitedly, "Oh yeah, I do!" then she points at me and ads "So does he...so does she."

She was nice. She was cool. She was drunk and not thinking about what she was saying. She let it slip. She immediately corrected herself. I don't think she was being mean at all. She slipped up.

But there I sat, next to her at the table, just seething as soon as I heard the H word. I wanted to shout at her "Don't call me he! Don't ever call me he! Female pronouns! All the female pronouns in the world!" Of course yelling that would have made me crazy, so I just sat there and seethed, my whole body tense, my mind unable to focus on anything else.

She was nice. She was cool. But she knew that I did not come into this world with two X chromosomes. She knew I was a faker. I was faking it. Despite the time and effort I had put into looking female, despite the courage it took to come out and present myself to the world, and to new friends, as a woman, she saw through me. And I hated that.

But, you know what? Even though she saw through me, she talked to me, hung out with me, had drinks with me and was just friendly and warm to me. She never gave me shit, never judged me, was willing to share my company. And yet, it ate away at me that she misgendered me.

I ended up not going to the Halloween meetup that I had helped plan. There were myriad reasons, including that it was raining, that going would have left my partner with nothing to do, But I never went back to the group after that. Maybe one day I will.

Another group I only went to once. When I walked into the bar (yeah these are all at bars - drinking is what we do in Brooklyn), I was so scared, so I decided to have a drink by myself at the bar first, just to build up my courage. I looked over at the girls who were there for the meetup. They were so petite and feminine and pretty and I felt like I wasn't all all. Eventually I did screw up my courage and go over and had an okay time. People were friendly, but I didn't really connect with anyone in a major way.

Then after that I saw that someone had launched a meetup group specifically for my neighborhood and so I figured I had to check it out. But, before I did, I actually outed myself to the group organizer.While I'm always so concerned about passing, I also worry about invading female spaces. Like, they set up this meetup group for all women and nothing I can do can erase my Y chromosome or change how I was born. Even there were never any issues with a trans girl at the other meetups, I just wanted to be sure.

Here's our emails:

Hey Melanie,
So I'm trying to find some new girl friends in the neighborhood and wanted to come to have a pint at this new meetup and get to know everyone. But, before I showed up, I just wanted to make sure that you would be a okay with a transgender woman in your meetup group. Please let me know. I'd love to meet some cool new people in the area.
Best,
Faith

Hey Faith,  Of course! Everyone in our group has been super smart and welcoming so far, and I'm sure that you'll fit right in.  Hope to meet you soon! 

Now I sort of feel bad about outing myself, but ah well. I've been to two meetups with the group and everyone is super duper great. Hopefully I can make some new friends that'll stick this time!

Of course...every time I still dread going out to meet strangers, though I do manage to overcome my fears. And often times after meetups I still get down on myself. Sometimes my thoughts just rot in my core the days after. Who the hell do I think I'm fooling? They also must have thought I was an idiot. An ugly giant man in a dress and wig trying to invade a female space.

It's tough. People accepting me. It's true. But I still struggle to accept myself. Every single day it's a struggle. But, I'm going again to more meetups and we'll see how it goes. I loving finding new people who have only ever known me as a woman and I hope I can find some real friends. Maybe I shouldn't worry. Maybe I shouldn't be afraid. Maybe I'm not invading a female space. Maybe I'm being welcomed in. Maybe I should be happy about that.


Sunday, October 25, 2015

Bangs


I hate wigs. I really do. They're hot. They tangle. They're expensive. But my primary for hating wigs is the wind. New York is a windy town and I swear within five minutes of going outside my wigs end up blowing all around and looking terrible. Girls with long, natural hair, can put theirs up in a bun or a pony tail and not worry about it. They can let it get blown around and it can still look okay. But I feel like when my wigs blow around they end up looking terrible and fake. Really, I don't like that the whole time I'm out I have to worry about how my hair looks and if my messed up wig is ruining my ability to pass. 

But, until I can figure out something with my hairline, I'm stuck. So wigs it is. 

Lately however, I've been frustrated by the wigs I have and have been trying to find a new look. So I thought, why not try bangs? Honestly, I've never actually tried bangs before, so I thought maybe I'd see how bangs would work for me. After all, there are some pretty ladies out there who totally look great with bangs. Behold!

Dakota Johnson (I've never read Fifty Shades of Grey and have no comment about it, but she is pretty)

Krysten Ritter. I loved in in Bitch in Apartment 23. She's my hero. 

Zooey Deschanel. They say she's adorkable. 

Knowing that I had a whole weekend of Faith time, including a meetup group and a girls' night with some friends, I knew I needed a new wig. On my lunch break one day this week, I headed to Wigs & Plus on 14th Street in Manhattan. Their 34th Street location (which was my favorite) closed for some reason in the last month. The whole building they were in is now under construction, so I'm hoping it's a building issue and they'll reopen soon. 

There were a couple wigs that caught my eye.


The more classical bangs wig was a medium brown, but had blonde tresses down the back that I didn't like at all. They didn't have just a regular medium brown in stock, just a dark brown.


The other kind of looked like the hair style that Jenny Lewis had in the "Portions for Foxes" video. 




What is it with me and red headed singers? Anyway, They did have that one in the display color as well as a darker shade. My issue with the display color was that it had lighter highlights that I felt were too light. It looked kind of fake, like a two tone look. 

For a while I debated back and forth on the two wigs and finally decided to get both. Both in the darker color. 

In anticipation of my nights out, I tried on both. What do you guys think? Here's the first one: 





And the second: 







Female Role Models - Shirley Manson (an Update)


So, the band Garbage is touring in celebration of the 20th Anniversary of their debut album. I've loved them since that album came out and was so excited for this show. If you guys know me, you know I love Shirley Manson and Garbage.

During a break between songs, Garbage singer Shirley Manson was talking about how much had changed for the band and for all their fans in twenty years. She said "We've changed jobs, we've changed towns, we've changed boyfriends and girlfriends, we've changed genders..."

I loved that moment. It just made me so happy to a see singer on stage in front of 4,000 people just make a casual reference to the fact that some of us change genders and it's just like all the other changes in life.

It meant a lot to me and put a smile on my face.

Also it was a great show. I love Garbage and Shirley.


Friday, October 23, 2015

The Very First Time I Ever Went Out as a Girl


My first real time going out in public I wore combat boots.
Yes, I literally wore combat boots. They weren't even nice combat boots and were actually pretty torn up and nearly falling apart. They might have actually been in Vietnam. They were definitely on the ground in the DMZ in Korea. They were real, genuine, bona fide US Army issue combat boots and I wore them with a tight leopard print dress, fishnets and a $20.00 brunette wig with bangs.
Honestly, I'm not sure how the conversation exactly got on to the subject, because the truth was that I was supposed to be tutoring my friend Michelle. I was sixteen and so was she, but I was two grades ahead in school because I had been skipped and hence why I was tutoring her. For a while, up in her tinfoil lined bedroom (which was an homage to Andy Warhol's Factory) we went over history or science or whatever subject it was, but then, somehow we ended up at the point where she asked if she could dress me up like a girl.


Yes. Just like this please. Hey, the 90s was a different time, okay. 
Of course, I had been secretly dressing up since I was three, stealing my little sisters' clothes or putting up little argument when she tried to dress me up. Once at the same age, I naively asked my mom the difference between boys and girls, and my mom, perhaps with a bit of a shaky voice, ad-libbed that girls wore dresses and had long hair and that made them different. That conversation may have been the direct reason why I remember being three or four, standing on the bathroom counter, wearing one of my sister's dresses and attempting to brush out my short hair (believing that one need only brush it to make it long). That would make me a girl right? Of course nature doesn't answer wishes so casually.
So, throughout childhood and into my teenage years I would steal my sisters or mom's clothes and wear them. We had a "yard sale" box in my basement and that became my first shopping experience. These clothes were squirreled away in a tackle box I kept in my room, because it was the South and boys had tackle boxes for fishing lures or whatever it was that boys were supposed to have.
As I grew older, I secretly lamented that my sister was such a tomboy; interested in sports, ROTC and had only the bare minimum of dresses, skirts and makeup. Luckily she did have friends, and when a friend of hers spent the night in high school, I was rather excited at my one and only opportunity to don a genuine cheerleader outfit, though I only did it for a few minutes, in the privacy of the bathroom, while pretending to take a shower. Of course I was sure to dunk my hair under the faucet before emerging from the bathroom in order to provide at least some evidence that I was showering and not just looking in the mirror, pretending to shout "Be aggressive, be be aggressive!" in front of my entire school.


I can dream, can't I? 
"Let me dress you up like a girl!" Michelle said and I think I at least pretended to be disgusted by the idea. I think I must have put up at least an iota of defenses before giving in. Unfortunately, my friend Michelle was also quite the tomboy and pants-wearer and thus had only a couple of feminine articles. Still, I jumped into them excitedly when given the opportunity. She did my makeup and I think I probably looked like someone who had failed out of clown school, but it was fun. For once I had found an outlet! Plus her mom had size 10 shoes and lots of nice ones at that. It was so nice to finally be able to share my hobby. I had an outlet! Of course that outlet was one friend's bedroom, but still it was a start.
This was 1996. It was a good time to be a teenager; Animaniacs and Batman: The Animated Series taught us to love animation after decades of Hanna Barbara, the internet was in its early ages and giving us access to song lyrics, chat rooms and multi-user dungeons, and on the MTV a sexy redheaded siren named Shirley Manson redefined for me what femininity could be. Oh my god, I wanted to be Shirley Manson! I wanted her makeup, her clothes, her hair, her attitude, her boots! I wanted to be feminine and strong and sexy and dang it, I was going to try. Plus I wanted her boots!
So, now out to my female friends (of which I seemed to have a gaggle), I started shopping at the local mall, particularly the Body Shop, which featured only the finest garments for the discriminating teenage slut. With my money from my lawn-mowing and weed-eating jobs I picked a super tight, sleeveless, super short leopard print dress that no one outside a music video should ever wear, and a matching set of black underwear and a bra. I even tried it on first. On a trip to Wal*Mart I bought my own makeup; blue eyeshadow, black eyeliner, bright red lipstick, equally bright red blush and super white foundation. Spencers Gifts is where I think I bought my first fishnets. But I didn't buy shoes, because I wanted boots like Shirley Manson's. I wanted nice big, strong powerful sexy boots like she had. But, stores didn't seem to sell those. So, I took my dad's combat boots and figured those would work. Why not? Boots are boots right?
One exciting Friday night, my female friends and I gathered over at my friend Crissy's house, where the girls all helped to doll me up. I had my leopard print dress, with gobs of toilet paper for fake breasts, my sexy fishnets on my newly shaven legs, tons of shakily applied eyeliner, big blue trailer park eye shadow, smears of red lipstick and gloss and a raggedy chestnut wig. Of course, I didn't think to pluck or shape my eyebrows, so those sort of looked like Noel Gallagher's (if you catch that 90s reference), plus my arms were good and hairy too. And to top it all off, I wore beat up old combat boots with my fistnets.
And I was going to go out and rock it! And where else is a young, sexy, bold transvestite to go on her first night out? That's right, a family-friendly casual dining Mexican restaurant! 



Yes, we went out for enchiladas and I have no idea how ridiculous I must have looked. I have no idea what the Southern Christian Republican families must have thought as I walked by in my giant combat boots and slut dress and took my seat at the booth to dine on some reasonably priced Tex-Mex fare. Honestly I don't remember any comments (even when I took the time to excitedly pee in the women's restroom), but I may also have just been too excited to even notice the stares.
But it was a good night. I got out there and even though I looked ridiculous, I made it through the night and did my best. Afterward we went to the mall, where I did have some rednecks and ghetto guys laugh at me, but I was able to shake that off because I at least thought I was looking pretty hot. Eventually, I would get better a makeup, get better clothes and find better places to hang out (though I am still friends with some of those girls who got me out there). Eventually I would get enough practice to get super comfortable in a female role, but you always have to take that first awkward, embarrassing step. There's always that first terrible, horrible, awkward embarrassing step into the unknown, into that great big world out there.
So I would say to everyone out there, take that step, come out to a friend and get out and rock it and be fearless and even if you can't be fearless just fake it. Sometimes we're all just faking it and you're not alone. You are definitely not alone.


See, all the fun happens outside!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

My New Novel "Greenleaf" is Here!

Hi dear readers & friends! I'm so excited to announce that my new novel Greenleaf is now available online! It's super cheap at only $2.99! At that price you can't afford not to buy it!

It's something of a romantic comedy, but I wanted to do my own subversive take on the genre. Romance movies seem to always end with that first passionate kiss, then cue music and roll credits, right? Really that first kiss is just the start and most of the time it's not happily ever after. I tried to tell an honest, funny story about how real relationships work. They're fun, frustrating, funny, awkward and sometimes infuriating, but mostly worth it in the end. 

Please check out Greenleaf and I really hope you enjoy it!



Eleanor is in her early thirties, an only child and a small town librarian who still hasn’t quite figured out what she wants to be when she grows up. She’s barely left the little town of Greenleaf, Vermont and she’s pretty sure she has no real friends left, though she’s hoping to one day build up the courage to talk to cute guy who comes into the library every Thursday morning to steal copies. Or maybe she should be waiting for him to approach her. Isn’t that how it’s supposed to work? 

Alexander is the new guy in town. He’s just lost his job in New York City. Broke, and with his lease ending, he offers to help his family by leaving Queens, coming to Greenleaf and cleaning out the house of his recently deceased hoarder grandmother. Figuring he’ll also spend the time working on his long-planned, but never worked on book about how to fix everything in society, he heads to the library to grab some research books. There he meets Eleanor. After they bond over similar book tastes, breaks the rules to get him a library card. 

Through thrift shop visits, lazy Sunday mornings, partying with friends, and lots of nights out at the local bar, Eleanor and Alexander realize that they have much in common; their their lower middle class backgrounds, their views about the world and morality, and their interest in the most insane and obscure self-published literature imaginable. Though he's always prided himself on wanting to take risks to follow his dreams and she’s always felt safest in the small town she’s always known. 

Life's not always about finding your soulmate. Sometime’s it about the one you call when you get drunk eight months later, the one whose picture online makes you smile but who you know would never really make you happy. It’s about that nagging voice in your head that never shuts up, even when things are going really well. It’s about being thirty and realizing that you actually do know who you are and you actually can figure out a little bit about life, jobs, family, pets, music casseroles and love. 

The truth that you don’t always fall in love. Sometimes you just fall in like. And those count too.

The author looking cute. 




Female Role Models - Shirley Manson



When I was fifteen years old, Shirley Manson burst onto the world stage and helped change my life forever. I was a confused, frustrated, unhappy teenage boy and she was a beautiful, kick-ass, outspoken, courageous, fashionable, fearless, amazing woman. She was everything that I wanted to be. 

I was in high school and she was to become my hero. 

The first time I saw her was on MTV, in the "Only Happy When it Rains" video. 



I'd stay up late and watch Alternative Nation or 120 Minutes and hope to catch it. Back then, I'd have a VCR with a blank tape ready each time I watched MTV, ready to hit record when one of my favorite videos came on. I taped "Only Happy When it Rains" and would watch it when I had the chance. I really liked the song and I really liked Shirley.

Then one day, in Turtles records on Wrightsboro Road in Augusta, GA, I remember my friend Marc and I were shopping for CDs of our favorite bands; mostly grunge, a little heavy metal, a little punk. I saw the Garbage CD for sale and said to my friend "The chick from that band is cool." It was a big moment for me. I was admitting a chick from a band, a band with a bright pink album cover, was cool.

Pink feathers? It's like they were trying to actively discourage teenage boys from buying this. 

Back then, I thought that openly admitting that I liked a band with a female singer kind of made me gay. Not only did they have a pink album cover, but their music was kind of techno-ish and definitely didn't involve angry men screaming. At the time I had been conditioned to believe that angry men screaming was the only acceptable music for a young heterosexual teenager.

So I didn't buy Garbage's album. Instead I took the slightly safer route of buying the cassette single.

Some people called them cassingles. An early portmanteau. 

And I listened to the three songs on that tape over and over again. "Girl Don't Come" was my first real foray into the world of techno/dance/electronic music, though looking back it would probably just pass for regular Alternative Rock. "Sleep" was a quiet, mellow song that was a good way to wind down the second side of the tape before I flipped it back over again to hear "Only Happy When it Rains" again. 

Within a few weeks, I would save up the $8.99 ($54.95 in 2015 dollars) and get myself a copy of Garbage's debut, self-titled album. As of this writing, I own four different releases of it and have been thinking of getting the 20th Anniversary edition which came out last week. 

From there on in, I was all about Shirley Mason. It was a fun time. 


Yeah, she was totally my hero and I totally wanted to be Shirley Manson. Now, this was slightly problematic a wish for a young boy in suburban Georgia. Shirley was a girl who wore dresses and skirts and boots and makeup. Meanwhile I was a fifteen year old boy in the South with an Evangelical Christian Republican family. Wanting to be Shirley Manson was a sin and God would surely send me to hell if I tried to go through with anything like that. 

On the other hand, have you seen how cool Shirley was? 


God didn't stand a chance. 

The first thing I got was a pink feather boa. Shirely had one wrapped around her mic stand. I think I got mine at Spencer's Gift's in the mall. I'd wrap it around my neck and wear it to school in 11th Grade. It was the 90s so it sort of worked. There were a few male rock stars who were a little gender-bendy, so I got away with it. Next I went to Wal-Mart and got some eyeliner pencils and started to wear big thick black gobs of eyeliner. Again, it was the 90s. Scott Weiland from Stone Temple Pilots was doing it too right? Then I got fishnet stockings since Shirley wore fishnets in the "Only Happy When it Rains" video. I cut a big hole in the crotch then wore them like a shirt, under a black t-shirt. Again, it was blurring the lines a little.

Then, came the day at Body Shop in the mall, when I decided to buy a black faux leather mini-skirt. Pleather. One weekends I started wearing my skirt with fishnet stockings and combat boots, eyeliner and lipstick out to the local punk dive corner where all the freaks and geeks hung out. It was an androgynous look and it worked. My girlfriend at the time didn't have any issue and even bought me a garter belt for a birthday present. Black or red nail polish became every day wear for me and I even pierced by own ears with safety pins one day in study hall.

Had this have been today, I probably would have been some young transgender girl posting pictures on Instagram, but we didn't have that back then. We did have AOL and they constantly mailed us CD-ROMs good for 250 free hours, but it wasn't an enlightened time like today.There wasn't such a thing as transgender. There was gay, and I knew I wasn't gay, but there was no real way for me to understand how I could be attracted to women and yet want to be one too. I was confused, but that was how things were in those pre-internet days (luckily no one is the least bit confused now).

Slowly I started acquiring dresses, cheap ones from the slutty teen stores at the mall. I had long hair and I would dye it dark red, deep burgundy, even purple. When we went out, I would start to go less androgynous and more full on girl mode, letting my female friends do my makeup. I'd secretly borrow 4" black heels and fur coats from my friends' moms' closets and eventually their racier dresses too. By the time we were sixteen or seventeen my female friends and I would go out, realizing we could get into certain types of bars with lax ID policies. It frightens me to this day, but I remember we'd go to the payphone and call a friend's boyfriend to come pick us up and take us home. He'd be drunk and we'd get in his car anyway. We were beautiful and stylish and fun, but we were not smart.

I've felt transgender my whole life. But there was something about Shirley Manson that made me feel bold and powerful enough to get out and explore my female side. Suddenly I wasn't ashamed of these feelings any more, they didn't need to be buried. I could express them.

It was her fearlessness I think. It was something I'd never seen in a woman before. Most of the women I'd seen in media growing up were either matronly prudes like Aunt Bea, bimbos like Kathy Ireland or weak little submissive mice like June Cleaver.

Shirley was bold, powerful, fearless and still incredibly feminine. She gave me the strength to come out a little bit, to embrace my own femininity and let me understand that femininity didn't mean weakness or submission. Being a woman could be awesome and empowering and you also got to rock some seriously cool clothes.

Last year (when I had dabbled with the name Scarlett Stone for some reason), I tweeted to Shirley Manson. I had just done a makeup job I was really proud of and it reminded me of all those great makeup jobs she had in her videos. So I tweeted. And Shirley tweeted back and I was the happiest girl on the planet for a little moment. 



So I guess that all worked out.

Gonna go see them play on Saturday here in Brooklyn. Looking forward to the show. And Shirley is still super awesome. Check out this recent interview


Keep rocking, Shirley! Or in the words of a brilliant and empowering woman "Go, baby, go go!"

And thank you for helping me realize that even a confused boy from Georgia can grow up to be a cool, fashionable, brave woman too.

Female Role Models - Shirley Manson


When I was fifteen years old, Shirley Manson burst onto the world stage and helped change my life forever. I was a confused, frustrated, unhappy teenage boy and she was a beautiful, kick-ass, outspoken, courageous, fashionable, fearless, amazing woman. She was everything that I wanted to be. 

I was in high school and she was to become my hero. 

The first time I saw her was on MTV, in the "Only Happy When it Rains" video. 



I'd stay up late and watch Alternative Nation or 120 Minutes and hope to catch it. Back then, I'd have a VCR with a blank tape ready each time I watched MTV, ready to hit record when one of my favorite videos came on. I taped "Only Happy When it Rains" and would watch it when I had the chance. I really liked the song and I really liked Shirley.

Then one day, in Turtles records on Wrightsboro Road in Augusta, GA, I remember my friend Marc and I were shopping for CDs of our favorite bands; mostly grunge, a little heavy metal, a little punk. I saw the Garbage CD for sale and said to my friend "The chick from that band is cool." It was a big moment for me. I was admitting a chick from a band, a band with a bright pink album cover, was cool.

Pink feathers? It's like they were trying to actively discourage teenage boys from buying this. 

Back then, I thought that openly admitting that I liked a band with a female singer kind of made me gay. Not only did they have a pink album cover, but their music was kind of techno-ish and definitely didn't involve angry men screaming. At the time I had been conditioned to believe that angry men screaming was the only acceptable music for a young heterosexual teenager.

So I didn't buy Garbage's album. Instead I took the slightly safer route of buying the cassette single.

Some people called them cassingles. An early portmanteau. 

And I listened to the three songs on that tape over and over again. "Girl Don't Come" was my first real foray into the world of techno/dance/electronic music, though looking back it would probably just pass for regular Alternative Rock. "Sleep" was a quiet, mellow song that was a good way to wind down the second side of the tape before I flipped it back over again to hear "Only Happy When it Rains" again. 

Within a few weeks, I would save up the $8.99 ($54.95 in 2015 dollars) and get myself a copy of Garbage's debut, self-titled album. As of this writing, I own four different releases of it and have been thinking of getting the 20th Anniversary edition which came out last week. 

From there on in, I was all about Shirley Mason. It was a fun time. 


Yeah, she was totally my hero and I totally wanted to be Shirley Manson. Now, this was slightly problematic a wish for a young boy in suburban Georgia. Shirley was a girl who wore dresses and skirts and boots and makeup. Meanwhile I was a fifteen year old boy in the South with an Evangelical Christian Republican family. Wanting to be Shirley Manson was a sin and God would surely send me to hell if I tried to go through with anything like that. 

On the other hand, have you seen how cool Shirley was? 


God didn't stand a chance. 

The first thing I got was a pink feather boa. Shirely had one wrapped around her mic stand. I think I got mine at Spencer's Gift's in the mall. I'd wrap it around my neck and wear it to school in 11th Grade. It was the 90s so it sort of worked. There were a few male rock stars who were a little gender-bendy, so I got away with it. Next I went to Wal-Mart and got some eyeliner pencils and started to wear big thick black gobs of eyeliner. Again, it was the 90s. Scott Weiland from Stone Temple Pilots was doing it too right? Then I got fishnet stockings since Shirley wore fishnets in the "Only Happy When it Rains" video. I cut a big hole in the crotch then wore them like a shirt, under a black t-shirt. Again, it was blurring the lines a little.

Then, came the day at Body Shop in the mall, when I decided to buy a black faux leather mini-skirt. Pleather. One weekends I started wearing my skirt with fishnet stockings and combat boots, eyeliner and lipstick out to the local punk dive corner where all the freaks and geeks hung out. It was an androgynous look and it worked. My girlfriend at the time didn't have any issue and even bought me a garter belt for a birthday present. Black or red nail polish became every day wear for me and I even pierced by own ears with safety pins one day in study hall.

Had this have been today, I probably would have been some young transgender girl posting pictures on Instagram, but we didn't have that back then. We did have AOL and they constantly mailed us CD-ROMs good for 250 free hours, but it wasn't an enlightened time like today.There wasn't such a thing as transgender. There was gay, and I knew I wasn't gay, but there was no real way for me to understand how I could be attracted to women and yet want to be one too. I was confused, but that was how things were in those pre-internet days (luckily no one is the least bit confused now).

Slowly I started acquiring dresses, cheap ones from the slutty teen stores at the mall. I had long hair and I would dye it dark red, deep burgundy, even purple. When we went out, I would start to go less androgynous and more full on girl mode, letting my female friends do my makeup. I'd secretly borrow 4" black heels and fur coats from my friends' moms' closets and eventually their racier dresses too. By the time we were sixteen or seventeen my female friends and I would go out, realizing we could get into certain types of bars with lax ID policies. It frightens me to this day, but I remember we'd go to the payphone and call a friend's boyfriend to come pick us up and take us home. He'd be drunk and we'd get in his car anyway. We were beautiful and stylish and fun, but we were not smart.

I've felt transgender my whole life. But there was something about Shirley Manson that made me feel bold and powerful enough to get out and explore my female side. Suddenly I wasn't ashamed of these feelings any more, they didn't need to be buried. I could express them.

It was her fearlessness I think. It was something I'd never seen in a woman before. Most of the women I'd seen in media growing up were either matronly prudes like Aunt Bea, bimbos like Kathy Ireland or weak little submissive mice like June Cleaver.

Shirley was bold, powerful, fearless and still incredibly feminine. She gave me the strength to come out a little bit, to embrace my own femininity and let me understand that femininity didn't mean weakness or submission. Being a woman could be awesome and empowering and you also got to rock some seriously cool clothes.

So I guess that all worked out.

Gonna go see them play on Saturday here in Brooklyn. Looking forward to the show. And Shirley is still super awesome. Check out this recent interview


Keep rocking, Shirley! Or in the words of a brilliant and empowering woman "Go, baby, go go!"

And thank you for helping me realize that even a confused boy from Georgia can grow up to be a cool, fashionable, brave woman too.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

How to Take Great Photographs


Shopping for Fall Clothing


Okay it's definitely getting a little chillier these days, but despite the colder weather I've been going out as Faith more and more. In fact this last week I had quite a lot of Faith outings planned. 

First was a meetup group for post-work happy hour drinks. It was for ladies in the neighborhood and it was my first time meeting the girls in the group. I was super nervous about attending and even wrote the group organizer to ask if it was okay if a transgender lady came to the meetup. She was like "Of course, absolutely, can't wait to meet you!" I had a great time, met some new people and everyone was like "Hope you come out to our next meetup!" Which I am totally planning to. 

Smokey eye for a meetup group. Why not? 

The next day I had off work so my plan was to meet up with a friend of mine for lunch in Midtown. Now, this friend is super cool and she only knows me as Faith. As time goes on I've found that I've acquired more and more friends who only know me as a girl. I love it. Actually I was stressing over a good lunch place, looking up different restaurants on yelp and things. But when we met up, she was just like "Let's go to the diner." Nice and easy. I was so glad 

Actually, I was about an hour early for our lunch date. It was near Lexington and 59th where there are a bunch of places to shop including a big H&M, a huge multi-story Banana Republic and of course Bloomingdale's. I figured Banana Republic was my best bet, since I wasn't sure I was quite up for a Bloomingdale's crowd.

Earlier in the day I had stopped by LOFT because I had a $25 promotional gift card, but honestly I just didn't like much out of their current line. There were a couple of okay pieces, but nothing that wowed me. But, I really wanted to find some nice, comfy, casual clothes for fall. Banana Republic was awesome, especially their sale section.

I found a really cute, totally soft and comfy black sweater, which I ended up getting for like $25 and then two really cute skirts that were also around the same price. I was such a happy girl! 

Can't you see the happiness on my face? 

Okay that's a little better. 

So now I have another meetup group to go to next week, and a friend just invited me out for a girls' night next Friday, so I'm super excited and will have some great new clothes to wear! What can I say, being a girl is so much fun!





Wednesday, October 14, 2015

A Guide to Cleavage


Everyone loves boobs. How can we not? They're the giver of life and can be used to sell lug wrench sets. Heck, half of the internet is devoted entirely to boobs.

But what do you do if you want boobs but nature didn't bother to give you the right XX chromosomes, you don't have the time to wait for estridiol pills to grow them for you, and you can't afford to get implants? Well, you just have to make them yourself!

It's easy. All you need is duct tape, some makeup and a nice low cut top to show off your fancy new dirty pillows. Over the years many people have seen my photos and have asked how I managed to have such lovable, motor-boatable fun bags (that's generally how they phrase the question).

So, in the interest of making this world a better place, I thought I'd take a moment and do a quick how-to guide. Here we go, this is Faith DaBrooke's official guide to creating super sexy boob cleavage!

By viewing this image you agree that you won't sue me if you try any of this. 

Let's start with a list of supplies. Actually before we do that, I should mention that you should shave your whole chest area, underarms, etc. in case you aren't. I mention that because you never know with some people. So here's the list of products I used today.


  • Rimmel London #002 Smokey Brun Quad Eye Shadow - I like having a few different shades of brown that are darker than my skin tone.  
  • NYX ESB02 White Pearl Eye Shadow Primer - great for highlights. 
  • Rimmel London 001 Transparent Natural Bronze Powder - this is a seriously light beige powder, lighter than my normal skin tone. 
  • Wet & Wild 250B Sugar white eye shadow. This is a high pigment white shimmery eye shadow. Also good for highlights. 
  • ID BareMinerals- I have these in a few different beige/browns and used them for both highlights and shadows. 
  • NYX Push Up Bra Eyebrow Pencil - great for bold highlight lines and bold shadow lines. 
  • Regular foundation. This I used when I messed up and needed to even things out. 
Really it doesn't matter exactly what products you use as long as you have some flesh toned shadows and highlights.





Creating fake fun bags involves the same thing as contouring with makeup or shading when you're drawing. You want to create shadows for some areas and highlights for others. Okay, so I started with some slightly dark brown eye shadow and my first step is to create the edge of where my boobs would be. As you can see I'm drawing this about two inches or so from my nipple. This is the edge of the boob.




For my next step I want to use a slightly lighter shade of the eye shadow and my blending brush to create a shadow around where my boob would be. Start at the base and brush your way up because you want your boobs to be darkest at the base and blend naturally at the top.

Okay I should mention that some of these photos use flash photography and some don't. So my skin tone will vary a little bit between shots.

The next step is to add some highlights. You want to put your highlights around the top of the boob. I suggest a half-circle motion above the top of the nipple. I'm using the Bare Essentials highlights here, basically taking a super light beige powder and adding it around the nipple to give us some faux depth. The idea is that the highlighted areas are projecting out toward the viewer and the shaded areas are further away.



One departure from this basic idea is that you'll want a nice highlight between your breasts. This highlight should go right from the base up to the top and blend naturally with the area of your chest between your boobs and collar. I also used my NYX pearl eye shadow base for a highlight and also my NYX Push Up Brow pencil.

Don't be stingy about blending either. And remember that it's okay to make mistakes. You can always add more highlight or more shadow as you go.

Next you'll want to add the duct tape. Don't let it scare you. A lot of people think duct tape will hurt and are terrified of putting it on their skin. I think that's unfounded. I've used it many, many times on my skin without incident. One thing I will say is to always shave the area first. Most of the pain associated with duct tape comes from it pulling hairs out by the roots. If there's no hair for it to stick on to then it's pretty painless. Also, if you're worried, just take a shower with the duct tape on your skin. The hot water will loosen the glue and you'll be able to pull it off easily.

Next we'll tape. But first make sure you're skin is nice and dry first or the skin won't stick.

Start by tearing off a 12-14" strip of the tape. Usually, I'll tear that length-wise to produce a 1/2" by 14" strip of tape. Pull your boob area up and toward the middle and put the tape on the bottom, pressing tightly. Then pull up the other side and apply tape there.





Once you have that set you can apply some additional pieces of tape. As you apply each piece of tape, you want to be sure pull your skin & fat in and up.



Apply other strips of tape as needed. Remember not to go any higher than your nipple. And if you don't have pasties be careful around your nipples - they can be a little sensitive. Also I think I'll take this opportunity to point out that I'm not legally liable for any thing if you follow these directions which I've provided for entertainment purposes only.




When I did this I used four strips of tape. The first two were thinner but then the last two were full sized to help hold the who thing on better.





Next, I tend to add an extra small piece to the side, just to help keep everything from peeling off. Yes, there have been times when I've made myself some awesome boobs early in the night only to sweat under my dress and have to discard a damp wadded up handful of ductape in a bathroom trashcan. So yeah, the extra pieces can help.

So now we're done! 



Okay maybe not quite. You can see here that I've manged to smear the shadow just above my boobs where it should really be highlighted. I'll need to clean that up with some foundation. You can see in the picture below that I'm using a sponge to blend the makeup a little more. 


Once you have your bra or clothes on it's a good time to check and see how everything looks. You can always add some more shadow or highlights. Often, I find that adding more highlight in to the top of the boob can really make them stand out. 




So yeah, that's really it. You'll want to practice to make sure you get it looking as best as you can, but in general it's quite simple. 


Now go have fun with your boobs and be sure to make sure no tape is sticking out of your dress! Or you can always use black tape which tends to blend in with black underwear pretty well. 

Here's a few of my favorite boob jobs!