Frequently Asked Questions about public cross-dressing

One of the great joys of being a cross-dresser is going out in public fully dressed as a woman. However, this can be quite anxiety-provoking for the novice cross-dresser. Here are the answers to a range of questions about situations facing cross-dressers contemplating their first public outing.

This article also offers advice to more experienced cross-dressers taking on the challenge of travelling as a woman.

Christine offers her own advice to of these questions, based on her own experiences.


How should I dress in public? What type of clothing should I wear?

Answer: When you decide to go out, dress accordingly so as to not draw attention to yourself. Dress for the occasion. For example: In the middle of the day REAL girls do not go to the shopping centre dressed in 5 inch heels, slit skirts cut up to the top of the thighs, makeup that looks like they are applying for a job with a circus, or with hairy arms.

Some good advice is to go out in male mode and take notice of what the women around you are wearing. Take a mental note of combinations of handbags, shoes and clothes they are wearing. What they wear with their figures, how they dress for their body shape, does it work or not? Look at their hairstyles: cut, colour, and accessories.

This is a rewarding exercise as you will pick up ideas from the "experts", the real women, who you are trying to emulate.

Christine's comments:
The aim is to blend in with the women of your age group. Lets face it, women in their 50's and 60's do not look good in mini-skirts, like they did 40 years ago.

Which toilet should I use when I am dressed?

Answer: The law in NSW is to use the bathroom of whichever gender you are presenting as. Use the Women's bathroom if you are dressed as a woman; do what you have to do, e,g, if your clothing needs adjusting or makeup needs fixing, do this as quickly as possible and do not create a disturbance.

WARNING: If a cross dresser uses the male toilet whilst fully dressed as a female, he can be detained and/or arrested by police for being a public nuisance or soliciting other males.

You will find that most women will tolerate you as long as you do not abuse the privilege. If you do extend your time in the bathroom, you may risk having to answer to police or security, if an incident is reported. Use commonsense and treat the real girls with respect when you are in this situation.

Read more about using the Ladies toilets

Christine's comments:
Using the Gents while dressed as a woman could lead you to being assaulted.


What do I do if I am out and about and get pulled over by the police?

Answer: First of all keep as calm as you can. Park your vehicle at the side of the road as directed. The Police are required to identify themselves as members of the Police and to advise you why you have been detained e.g. RBT, licence check, rego check or driving offence.

This can be very daunting for a cross dressing driver as their licence picture is not going to match how they are presenting. So what should they do?

  • Try and bluff it out and pretend that you are really a woman?
  • Get smart and demand your rights as a transgender person?
  • Panic?
  • Start crying?

None of these responses are advised. The consequences of behaving like this can result in the person being treated as a "hostile suspect", which makes it more stressful and difficult for everyone involved.

So what should you do?

  • Answer any questions asked.
  • Be truthful about your gender, if asked.
  • Do not try and be smart.
  • Produce your licence as directed.
  • If you are pleasant and respectful, you can expect the Police Officer to be the same.

If you have broken the law, expect to be treated in the manner that is dictated by the laws of Australia, regardless of how you are dressed.

Christine's comments:
I have been breathalysed several times as a woman and have never had a problem. Police do not routinely ask to see your licence these days.

Going to a club and am dressed as a woman; my ID will not match how I am dressed?

Answer: Clubs these days will ask you for some form of ID when signing in or entering the premises. This is regardless of whether you are male or female. The main reason for this is so the club can ascertain whether the person signing in is outside the circle of licensed regulation.

If you are asked to present your licence at the point of entry, do as requested. The reason a licence is asked for, is that your licence has your home address on it.

Whilst attending a club, you are obliged to follow all the rules and regulations as set out by that club. Some clubs may challenge your right of entry due to an anticipation of their members not being accepting of your presence in the club, or that you may be a bit "over the top" or that your presence may create unwanted attention from other patrons. If this does occur, rather than push the point, accept the decision graciously and make a dignified exit.

Always remember that when you are out and about it that you should not try to confront people with your gender presentation, especially in "normal" social arenas.

Christine's comments:
I have been to clubs on a few occasions and have never had a problem.


How can I remain safe going out at night dressed as a woman?

Answer:

  • Try to organise to go out with other people, so that you are not on your own.
  • Try to travel directly to and from the venue, either in your own car or in a taxi.
  • Avoid known "hot spots". Avoid places or situations that could put you in a compromising position.
  • Try not to dress in a sexually suggestive or inappropriate manner.
  • do not drink to excess and avoid other drugs. By staying alert and having a clear mind, your judgment should help you to stay safe.
  • Take your mobile phone with you.
  • Simply be careful and be streetwise.

Christine's comments:
Just use your common sense and follow the above advice.

Useful links:

What can I do if I am confronted by someone?

Answer: This can happen very ocassionally, but luckily, not very often. Remember that every time you go out, it is unlikely that too many people will notice you. Most people are going about their business; paying bills, remembering shopping lists, going to appointments etc. Most of them are too involved with themselves to notice you. You may get the occasional knowing stare, but rarely more than that.

Sometimes you will get approached by another person whilst you are cross-dressed. Most people who muster up the courage to approach, are simply curious. Just act as though you were in male mode and were approached by someone. Be pleasant and talk as naturally as you can. They are probably just as nervous as you, they would not know what your reaction could be.

If, however, you are approached in an aggressive manner, this calls for a slightly different response. do not react with aggression, this only inflames the situation. Smile, shrug it off, walk away from the scene. Move away from the person and towards other people. You should find that this will defuse the situation and the aggressor (not willing to appear foolish or threatening in public) will move on.

Christine's comments:
A previous Seahorse member once I met told me that she was assaulted in Oxford St. An aggressive, intoxicated woman made an abusive comment towards her, so she told this woman to "f*** off", which provoked a punch in the face. Yes, she should not have been spoken to like that, but she should have ignored the drunk and just walked away. Remember that women can be just as aggressive as men when intoxicated.


What are the policies on attending a church dressed?

Answer: If you want to attend a service dressed, the best answer is to contact your church first and ask how they would feel. If you would like it to be at another church, contact the Head Office of the denomination that you are interested in and enquire whether they have services that would cater for you. There are a number of church groups that do not discriminate.

If you have been invited to attend for a wedding, christening, funeral or other occasion, the first step is to ask those that have invited you how they would like you to come. They will tell you what the "dress code" is. This will still need to be cleared with the church as well.

Christine's comments:
I am a card-carrying atheist and gave up going to Mass (for Lent) when I was 18, so it is unlikely that I would ever attend in a church, except maybe for a trans friend's funeral and I would only be dressed as a woman if this was acceptable to the family.

Am I allowed to cross dress whilst on a domestic flight?

Answer: Short answer - Yes. There should not be any problems as long as you obey the rules and regulations as set out by the Airport and airline. With the current terrorism scares and potential threats you may arouse a little attention, but if you remain calm and answer any questions truthfully and follow directions, then you should be fine.

The most hassle you will probably have will be in going through the security checks. Jewellery, shoes, hair ornaments have been known to set off the metal detectors. All women face this.

For a short flight it might be probably easier to go in male mode, but the final decision is up to you.

Christine's comments:
I have flown as a woman and it was no more a hassle than flying as a man. The only difference was people were more polite to me!


What about on an international flight and while I am overseas?

Answer: Similar to the previous question, but, you now need to add the rules of Australian Customs and Immigration as well. Your passport and visa will not match how you are presenting and the Department will not issue you with a "female" version of your papers. This may make it a little uncomfortable to be dressed on the plane and to get through Customs at the other end.

As for being cross dressed in overseas countries: You should observe the cultural customs and standards of that particular country. Do your research before you leave Australia.

Whilst on the subject of cultures, there are areas in Australia, even in certain suburbs of Sydney, where a man dressed as a woman will cause offense. Use your common sense.

Here are a few examples:

New Zealand: Has similar attitudes to Australia, especially in the larger cities.

England and most European countries: Same as above

The islands of Fiji, Tahiti and Samoa: Have as part of their culture "an understanding of cross dressing" but how this translates to visitors is unknown.

Malaysia and Indonesia: These countries do have an element of cross dressing in their countries, as evidenced by entertainment in Bali. However due to the political unrest in these countries and the fact that Muslim culture is very strong against such expression, it is advised to not go out in public cross dressed.

Thailand:This would clearly be the safest and most accepting place for trans-women as many go the Bangkok and Phuket for gender surgeries each year.

China: May still be a "NO GO" zone due to cultural backgrounds, but times have changed there considerably in recent years.

Japan: there are areas of Tokyo, such as Harajuku, that are definitely CD-friendly.

United States of America: (submitted by an American cross-dresser): "Cross-dressers should not have too much difficulty in most areas of the US. However, there definitely are areas to avoid.

Most accepting are larger cities (over 100,000). The following should not pose any problems: Shopping centers such as large and small shopping malls, Small strip malls, large discount stores such as Kmart and Wal-Mart, most public places such as zoos, museums, restraunts, etc.

Areas to avoid are certain bars in almost every city, high crime areas, alone at night in unknown areas would not be a good idea. Do not go anywhere alone cross-dressed at night without a cell phone (purchased everywhere) dial 911 in an uncomfortable situation.

For the most part the authorities will leave you alone. Although, they will drive slowly past you and take a good look. They probably will not confront you unless you are doing something more suspicious or are in an unsafe area.

Most police officers have seen this before and know what is going on. However, some young , enthusiastic male cops (the same type that would give their own Grandmother a ticket) that have not been exposed to cross-dressing will probably be interested. However, there are no fashion police over here and although they may question you, there is not much they can do legally to detain you unless you cause a problem. It may be best to swallow your pride and just answer the questions. He probably is just ensuring your safety.

One observation: Female police officers seem to be less likely to confront you. Perhaps it is because they understand cross-dressing, as they do it daily!"

Christine's comments:
I have not yet attempted international travel as a woman. I would have very few concerns with travelling to New Zealand as a woman, for example.