Up until 2 years ago today my relationship with my camera was shaky to say the least. There were a couple of classic photos that featured on most of my profiles. One was a shot of me in my favourite skirt – a close up that revealed, well, a skirt. The other photo I regularly used was a full-ish length shot with me in my denim miniskirt, pink gypsy top and a big black photoshopped box over my face. I even cropped it carefully as it was taken at home and might have given away more than I wanted.
I was paranoid about revealing anything else, to say the least. I was obsessed with the idea that I was going to be recognised and outed. I was in the closet with the door locked from the inside with a pile of furniture holding the door closed and a grand piano blocking that furniture. It was the last thing that I wanted anyone to find out about me. I’m not saying I don’t care about that at all, even now, but I also am sure that it is not the end of the world. At some point I’m going to have to deal with people hearing about my secret whether I like it or not anyway. Too many people know about me now. At some point it will break as gossip amongst the people who know me. It may already be out there.
But that’s not the point. The point is that two years ago today, the trepidation of being photographed vanished. For the first time ever, I visited a dressing service and had some photos taken by a pro. The first time I arrived, to be frank, I was scared witless. I was about to completely lay it on the line and show everything about me to someone for the first time. Could I trust them? Would they laugh at me? Would there be a collective gasp, followed by a ‘god, you are ugly’ comment? I really didn’t know what to expect.
I don’t know what the view of this community is of dressing services; but that first time I went, I found a caring acceptance I had never known before. I met people who had seen it all before and who helped me to embrace myself in a way I had never done before. On my own, in the closet, there was a certain amount of sexualisation and fear of my girl side. Through the eye of their camera lens they introduced me to someone I’d never met. I met Rhiannon for the first time and despite her flawed appearance they allowed me to see a curvaceous sassy girl who didn’t want to be sexual fantasy, but instead who just wanted to be a normal woman. One who didn’t revolve around a secretive ‘existence’, but instead wanted to find her place in the real world.
The first time I came back and posted a photo taken on my visit, face included, I held my breath. But the feedback was so kind and uplifting that in an instant I profoundly changed. My paranoia disappeared. Since, I have shown my photos to countless people who know me. They never twig that it’s me until I point it out or wait for them to guess. They normally, very kindly, say that they would never believe that I could look so pretty. The photos capture my inner happiness of being who I really am and that is transformative of itself.
I’ve been back to the service since and they have taught me the art of make up. They helped me to see what looks good and what looks disastrous. In the absence of girlfriends I see regularly, they provided a place of reflection where I could make decisions about what kind of person Rhiannon was to be. I’m not sure I could have found a better starting point.
Next month I go for my next appointment and I’ve been excitedly planning my outfits, working out what I need to buy, considering how I can lose a bit of weight to hopefully fit into the next size down before I go. Honestly, I can’t wait.
But above all, and this is an unsolicited advertisement, the owners of Trans-Femme in Swindon, where I went and still go, are singularly lovely people and if you are up for that type of thing, I heartily recommend them to you.