By Paula Young
Picture this... you've been cross dressing in secret for years, but being 'in the closet' is starting to suffocate you. You've finally realised that you can't live your whole life this way and make a life-changing decision to confront your fears and come out. You feel that coming out will allow you to develop and grow as a human being and express yourself as the individual you really are.
Of course, you know it's not going to be easy. You are afraid of what people will say and are worried they'll make fun of you. Everyone who's previously respected and admired you - your work colleagues, family, friends and acquaintances - will think you've lost it. You're also anxious about being able to look good enough to go out unnoticed.
If you've met any cross dressers, you'll know this familiar story.
So, what should a cross dresser in this situation do to aid a smooth transition? The first, and arguably most important matter to address is self-image. When you look in the mirror, what do you see? Do you see a man in a dress? Or do you see a woman? Maybe you see an absolute stunner? Regardless of your appearance (however good it may be), if you don't have a strong self-image, straightaway your fear or nervousness will show. This makes people wonder what you're afraid or nervous about, so they examine you further and figure it out.
A healthy self-image starts with a heartfelt belief that you're not sick, perverted or strange. You're a human being and have chosen to express the feminine side of your personality by presenting yourself as a woman. If you're at peace with yourself and accept the person you really are, the fear need not give you away.
Most people aren't particularly observant. If you confidently present yourself as a woman, no-one has any reason to think that you're not. Even if you are read, you're likely to be taken at face value because your self-image is strong. People rarely challenge anyone who is self-confident and comfortable with the way they look.
Apart from self-image, you should spend some time working on your appearance. Makeup is amazing and can really transform the way you look. I'm not going to give you a makeup lesson now, but advise you to take advantage of the many wonderful resources out there to learn how you can use makeup to your advantage. A skill particularly relevant to cross dressers is the ability to highlight and contour the face. With a little know-how you can bring out your most feminine features and disguise the manly ones, such as a strong jaw. You should also make a special effort to cover up your 5o'clock shadow. There is nothing feminine about a stubble showing through your makeup!
Your body and clothes are also very important. Women naturally have different proportions than men and should make an effort to create a feminine figure. Corsets, waist clinchers, hip pads and breast forms can all be used very effectively to offer assistance in the areas that you need it. Your clothes should be appropriate for your size, weight and age and it's important that they fit properly. Please don't take this opportunity to re-live your youth! If you're aged 40, dress as a 40-year old would, otherwise you're asking for trouble.
Finally, I'm sure you'll know that men and women have different ways of standing, sitting and moving. The perfect feminine image requires you to move and behave as a woman at all times, so it's important that you address this. Start by observing women around you and take note of how they move. You can get specialist coaching on this and there are also books and videos that may help. It's a lot to take on and the task can seem daunting, especially when you just can't get the hang of it. Perseverance, however, will always pay off!
Coming out of the closet is a big step and the journey to womanhood can be a long and challenging one. However, those who have made the journey agree that it was worth coming out of the closet for, as they have been able to go on and lead happy and fulfilled lives