Oct 27, 2009

Cross Dressing Canvas - Part 2

Dear friends, I had no intention of writing a whole 2-part big deal here, but I seemed to have accidentally struck a bit of a thought gusher, and it seems to have splashed onto your monitor. Bear with me. I should be able to tidy things up today. Part 1 of this rambling epistle is nestled directly beneath this post. Scroll down and take a read if you like. Of course, the epically lazy amongst you may simply prefer to click here.

To net out the prior post, I will say that I have come to a grudging and late belief that the people who imagine, design, build and market the clothes that we wear are involved in an artistic, or at least creative endeavour. There. Everyone caught up? Good. Now, proceeding. What about all the rest of us who dress? And particularly those of us who cross dress.

This line of thinking started for me in earnest the other day when I received a nice couple of comments about my description of a recent dressing up experience. One of the notes came from a dedicated fashionista, a genetic female who said more or less “ …makes me wish I had an occasion to don my finery right now!...”

I pondered that a bit. All of us dress each day in something. There is a certain amount of routine about it, and routines lose their ability to capture your attention. Dressing becomes very functional, and not attached to any particular magic. But even at the most routine level, choices are being made that reflect something you want to show to the world. At some level, our ad hoc selections are acts of creative expression. We paint and present ourselves to the world each day, and some days with a little more consideration and pride than other days.

But for the periodic cross dresser, and for anyone, anywhere in between the opposite ends of the gender expression continuum, well, dressing is special. I believe, from my thinking and reading and corresponding with a handful of friends made here online that most M2F cross dressers are exploring that sense of gender. I sense as well that all of us to some degree are expressing a creative drive too. For me, I am beginning to see the creative side of this life as more central to my dressing than any sense of uncertainty or unresolved curiosity about my own gender identity. I enjoy being a guy. I do guy stuff pretty competently. Life is simple and I like simple.

O, but what a platform for creative expression cross dressing is. And what an array of media we get to work in.

Our bodies are clay. The under-layers that obscure some shapes, and build curves where there normally are none. The smoothing and cinching that happens here and there that molds the body into new shapes. This careful process, this first stage of my dressing ritual is surprising each time, and breathtaking too. From noticeably male to attractively female in shape, and there in the mirror. We are sculptors and models all at once.

Our clay is a form. And forms want adornment. The array of finishes from hosiery, to skirts, blouses, shoes, dresses, a much more endless array of drapery meant to display our form attractively, functionally, and perhaps even comfortably. The realms of choice multiply massively from the simple sets we work from in our more typical day-to-day lives. Some tragic choices are made, but as we get more skilled, and as our adornment better fits us and our images, the better the feelings. The clay beneath the drapery takes on a new life, our movement changes, postures smarten, and with each step, stretch and touch we are aware of our choices.

Our forms want finishing. The painting that changes and smoothes complexions, that adds definition to cheek lines, that amplifies the colors of our eyes, that makes our lips look and taste sweet and desirable. This transformation is perhaps the most heightened, and most demanding work of art we can labor at. Again, fraught with failure, but with practice or with help, done well, you become to yourself a familiar stranger, a newly possible self. Again, it can take a moment to get back to breathing again. But still, the next mirror will be sure to see you.

Our nearly finished selves are tapestries too. Final adornments, the hair, the belts, the bracelets, the nails, the scarves, the bags, these new things, taboo to guy-mode life, are a completely new and endlessly variable matrix of options that express us, and finally conceals the clay within. These elements compel new and changed ranges of motion, keeping your mouth clear of hair, handling keys and car doors, being sure to not derange everything that we have worked to create takes constant consideration.

Our finished, and feminized selves are now dancers, expressing with a new physicality. We must now perform, and to move like a man, to sit like one, to hold a glass as we normally do would spoil the illusion. So many of these reflexes require thought and response, and always moment to moment. Movement becomes with time more natural, but there is always a frontier of physical presence, for me at least, that requires attention, craft and consideration. These are complex and satisfying moments of learning and of performance.

And performance in public, is definitionally a creative art. I spent a good amount of my earlier years on stages. The nerves before the curtain went up never got slack. And the satisfaction, right in the moment, of realizing that the performance was being bought into, and perhaps appreciated was for me the primary reason to be there. The nerves and the curtain calls could not be separated. So it is when the door opens and we take on the world en femme. There are critics of course, and performances that fall flat, but the moments when our characters effectively occupy the space we are in, believably, plausibly, these moments are the curtain calls of this cross dressers life. We are sometimes extras lost on a huge set, and sometimes get speaking parts in smaller and more intimate theaters of sociability, but always performing. We are actors, and this too is an ancient and demanding art.

All of this together is a pretty deep immersion in a highly creative, expressive, artistic life. Few people get to be so deeply involved in such a life.

It surprises me to put all of these thoughts together and to realize that I am, and many of you are, unconsciously to some degree, really quite accomplished artists. You might see in your day to day life, like me, less of an outlet for these capabilities than cross dressing provides. I suppose that without really being aware of it myself, that much of the satisfaction, and elation I derive from being Petra comes from the truth that this taps into a pretty deep pool of creativity. Petra brings out a bit an artist. And that art satisfies a special part of my humanity, a humanity we all have at some level or other.

Regardless of what compels us to explore this part of ourselves, forces we cannot often fully understand, confronting those forces, exploring them, personalizing them, is a form of art. Each day is an opportunity for donning our finery after all. Lots of clay and canvas and performance spaces all around us.

Thanks for reading through this. I wish you artful lives. I hope you enjoy your art. Whatever medium you work in, for whatever audience you work and play for.


Leslie Ann said...

Beautifully wrought, Petra, with much to consider. The only place that I took exception was that I feel like I'm acting whether presenting male or female. In either presentation, I'm affecting some things and hiding others.

As a practiced actor, I suspect you're more comfortable in all your roles than many of us. Keep on doin' what you do so well!

Anonymous said...

Dear Petra,

I always enjoy your writings (much missed after your recent flood) but I found your latest article particularly thoughtful and perceptive.

I do not seek a permanent transition. But I do believe I am seeking a transformative experience by cross dressing. Somewhere within me, a heterosexual guy, is a female entity who needs to be given visible life from time to time.

At the very least this requires much art and artifice to get round the basic engineering fact that men and women are different in shape, size, smell and texture; let alone behaviour.

I feel it is a fascinating and recurring enterprise that can only get better with practice. Though I haven’t yet assembled all the necessary props and definitely lack the feminising skills that you must have developed.

At least, in other contexts, I know that nervous feeling before the curtain goes up, without which the performance falls flat.

Best wishes,


Petra Bellejambes said...

Leslie Ann - of course, and so true. We are always acting, at some level. There are often dark sides to that reality. We all obscure inconvenient truths, for a dollar sometimes, for the sake of family peace at other times, and sometimes through plain old fatigue. When the acting is conscious, and directed right at our own happiness, as it is for me when dressed, it is a nice change.

Penelope - thanks for the encouraging words. Glad my words hold some value for you. Practice itself is rewarding, and pays dividends, usually before we realize it. Keep practicing.


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