I look in the Mirror and what do I see
A grey haired man looking back at me.
I put on a frock some makeup and hair
Oh what joy, as Jenny is there.
What is it about dressing up and needing to look at the girl in the mirror? Why do I want to take a picture to capture every “Jenny” moment? There is a need to create a visual footprint of every swish of the skirt, every change of an outfit, a hairstyle or makeup. It is who I am, and I am sure I am not the only one who visually documents our feminine journey.
As every phone and electronic device has an inbuilt digital camera, it takes no effort to snap off a few (hundred) pictures. I like to think that I am not as obsessive as a tourist at a famous historical landmark, but I know I sometimes do get carried away. Sometime, I surprise myself at the numbers of pictures that have been taken. Usually I don’t set out to do a “photo shoot”, but it is so easy to pick up my phone, hold it out and “snap”, creating another point in time frozen for the future. Then there is instant playback, an instant confirmation that Jenny is in the room.
Before the camera, the mirror was my way of reinforcing the joy of being in a dress. Through the looking glass I was able to see the young lady who I thought I was and always wanted to be. Even when I was young, when I would go into my mother’s room and lovingly put on one of her dresses I needed see what I looked like. The soft floaty material of her skirt against my skin reinforced the sense of touch. The faint lingering of her perfume in the dress, highlighting the smell associated with the softness of being a girl. It was the act of pulling on a dress over my head, and then wriggling into the bodice before doing up the zip that awoke the girl within, letting her take over to complete the transformation.
I often likened putting on certain dresses to what it feels like when diving. You would start by putting your hands together and plunge up through the skirt to emerge into the bodice as the folds of the dress fell down around you in that symbolic act of encasing you in joyful femineity. The dress was like the water as you dived in, starting with that first touch of the finger tips against the material, to the dress sliding down along your body as you guided deeper into garment. Then as the frock settles, and you slowly move around in it, the slow rush a adrenaline heightens your senses.
With all these sensations going on, the mirror was then the only way that I could visually experience and see the physical evidence of the girl wearing the dress. I never saw a little boy with his short summer crew cut, in an oversized floral sundress that dragged on the floor as I pranced and danced in front of the mirror. What I saw was a little girl with pigtails in a summer frock, looking pretty and being set free. My reflection transformed me and like any other magic mirror showed me what I longed to be and what I wanted to see.
Then removed from my pretty clothes, my reflection changed to show a little child in disguise, pretending to be a boy. In male mode, the mirror shows me a body stripped of its femineity, with parts attached that still feel alien and foreign, lumps missing that never formed. Even over the years, my mind still finds it hard to accept what some feel is a cliché that “I was born in the wrong body” and that unfortunately is a trigger for dysphoria. Life taught me that I still need to protect and hide from the world, and that the little princess who could safely come out to play in front of the mirror and be herself.
It is a sad fact for me, that even today, I find it hard to look in the mirror or look at photos while I present in male mode. Even shaving I prefer to do it “blind” in the shower without looking at my reflection. Unless I am wearing something feminine, I really don’t spend much time in looking at my image. Luckily, Jenny is Jenny and she does enjoy being in front of the mirror. I have a total U-turn in attitude when transform as I always want to bring out the best in the woman I am. I find it therapeutic to painstakingly put on my makeup and I do love the ritual. I never try to rush the process and just enjoy experimenting and discovering what suits me and what I should avoid. Maybe I am a bit vain, but I want to put in the effort for Jenny’s sake. It sound stupid, but I think I owe it to myself to be the best I can, because I am proud of the fun loving lady I want to be.
Makeup done, and it then time to pick out the outfit to wear. Over the years I have learnt to buy clothes that fit, and to buy clothes in the style I like. I see myself as an ordinary “lady next door” type, who is a bit conservative in how I dress. I enjoy outfits that enhance the feminine form and so love soft fabrics, flowing skirts and midi dresses. I will stand in front of the full length mirror while I get dressed to admire the way a frock flows when I move, or to check the combination of a top with a skirt. The mirror is still an important tool to reinforce who I am.
Now, I don’t have to rush Jenny. My wife has a good understanding of my needs, and so I have the freedom to spend as much time as I want. Gone are those nightmare days of living in fear of getting caught as I slipped into a dress the moment my wife drove out of the driveway. Gone are the days of wearing poorly fitting clothes from the charity shop that smelt of moth balls. I have come a long way and I am truly grateful for the opportunities I have. I have learnt a lot on this journey, with many regrets. There are things I would do totally different if I had the chance to relive my life.
The digital camera changed everything. No longer did you take a photo hoping you have an acceptable image. The roll of film was then sent off to be processed, and was viewed by an unknown stranger, well before you got too see what you had taken. There was that constant fear of being found out and so I do not have any pictures of Jade (as I called myself pre digital camera) or a documentation of her life in the 80’s and 90’s. My first filmless camera was a Sony and armed with a tripod, I learnt the joy of being able to happily record my life. This was in the days before my wife knew my secret and before image storage platforms like Instagram, Facebook and Flickr were around. All pictures were stored on a USB stick, which I quickly learnt the hard way were easily corrupted. After those initial hic cups, I joined Flickr, yahoo mail and chat and started my small digital foot print.
Looking back on those pictures, I can see that I have come a long way. I can see how I have grown up to be the woman I am. The biggest changes I have noticed was when I look at the pictures of Jenny before I told my wife (BC – before conversation), to the pictures I am taking now, (AD- after discussion). That conversation was my turning point, my life changing event. Pity, BC and AD did not happen early on in our relationship. I am still active on Flickr and occasionally on Facebook. Flickr is good as it’s a way of storing, what I feel are my best images.
It started with the reflection from the mirror and now I am capturing frozen moments in time. As I wrote in my poem a few posts ago, for me this is an affirmation of who I am and want to be. I need these pictures to show to the world the real me. This real woman, I know, is unsure, sometime frail and scared. She is tired of the past humiliations, the past pain and hiding the truth. The mirror and the camera are such a positive reinforcements that, in the past, held me together. Now as I get out to meet positive people, Jenny is starting to mature and I am feeling the good vibes. It is lovely, like the inner warmth one gets from feeling the warm afternoon autumn sun, but this feeling warms the soul.
The mirror and the camera are my visual and constant “Proof Of Life”.
Flickr, Flickr on the screen
Look who’s wanting to be seen.
“Why do you do it ?”, asked my wife.
You see, for Jenny, its proof of life.
Just want to give a shout out to another wonderful blog. It’s by Lyn Jones and is YATGB https://yatgb.co.uk/ I am really enjoying her writing and her reflections on life for her. Lots to read and worth a visit.