This is a sequel to my recent article, entitled "My Secret Love's No Secret Anymore", in which I described how my mother discovered my cross-dressing when I was 17. This sequel follows my life from my early twenties until my early thirties through the peaks and troughs of life as a solitary cross-dresser.
For the next five years after my mother discovered my secret, I was consigned to an unhappy closet. I was sent off to boarding school, repeating my Leaving Certificate to obtain a better mark to go to university. It was an all-male school in rural NSW but I actually quite enjoyed my time there and even joined the Cadet Corps there. Of course, there was no opportunity to dress, but I recall with envy, four boys wearing ballerina outfits at the school concert doing the Cygnets' Dance from Swan Lake and thinking how brave that was.
The following three years were in a residential college at University, again with no opportunities to dress, as was the next year, flatting with some mates at Bronte. Early in 1971, I met the young woman who later became my first wife and after a few "sleep-overs", I moved in with her, in a house in Newtown that she shared with her three girlfriends.
One morning, after a sleep-in, I realised that I was home alone and I began exploring. Two of the girls were a bit bigger, size 12-14, and I was pretty slim in those days, just 70kgs. So, one thing led to another, trying on their clothes, practicing make-up, etc. I was soon finding excuses to skip classes at University when all the girls were at work. I became more and more adventurous and decided to sneak outside in the daytime, initially down a back alley.
My legs were very hairy in those days and two pairs of black pantyhose were needed to hide the dark hairs. It was summer time, so you can imagine how hot and uncomfortable that was. One day, I took the plunge and shaved my legs. What an amazing feeling having smooth legs! However, this bought up an issue. How would I explain this to my girlfriend? I decided the truth was the only way.
After week or so of hairless legs, she had not noticed, so I told her what I had done and that I was a cross-dresser. This was the first time that I had voluntarily told another person. I hoped that she might be accepting or, at least, understanding. However, she was quite shocked and upset. Looking back now, I can see that she was just 19 years old, had grown up in the country and had never heard of such weirdness. We reached a compromise that I was not to dress in front of her.
My need to go out into public as a woman was becoming stronger and more persistent. I went out again, this time walking out the front door and up the street. I bought a newspaper in the newsagents, my first time in a shop as a woman. As my confidence grew I became more adventurous. I decided to walk up to Newtown Station and get the train into town. As I travelled I became aware of a man staring at me. I got off at Central and found a photo booth to take some photos of myself. While I was waiting, the man on the train approached me and wanted to chat to me. I was terrified. Did he know I was a man?
"Would you like to go the Kings Cross and have a coffee?" he asked in a thick European accent, suggesting that he had read me. "No, I have to meet my boyfriend" I replied in a terrified falsetto. I grabbed my now-developed photos and quickly scurried away, getting the next train back to Newtown, upset with myself for such a foolhardy adventure. As I walked back along King St, I thought that I overheard two girls talking as a passed them: "I think that was a man" I did not risk another trip out for months.
I grew my hair longer as was the style in the early 1970's for young men. I read articles in the then new magazine, Cleo, about makeup and practiced. My girlfriend was sick of me using her make-up, so she bought me my own. We moved to Glebe and again I began to go out again, especially one summer when our flat-mates were all away on holiday and I was on a University break. My girlfriend was become increasingly unhappy with me and began to say she thought I must be gay and eventually suggested that I find out if I was.
I was working as a cleaner in the early evenings in empty offices, so one night when I had finished, I changed at work and rode my motorbike back home as a woman, and then went by taxi to a gay nightclub, Chez Ivy, at Bondi Junction. I was nervous as Hell. I had never experimented like this before. I was not attracted to men, but maybe this was a thing I had to try to find out what I was.
I was very nervous, but within a short time, an older man with a French accent was chatting me up and bought me a drink. He suggested that we go back to his place. He took my hand as we walked to his car and he told me I looked beautiful. I have to admit that this felt very special. I will spare you the details of the rest of the evening, except to say, that while he was a perfect gentleman and did not pressure me into anything with which I was not comfortable. To be perfectly honest, I enjoyed the night and have re-lived it in my mind many times.
A couple of years later, I was picked up by another man who unfortunately was the complete opposite to my French friend above, This guy was quite pushy and rather demanding. After we finished, he had the gaul to lecture me about how stupid I was for going out in public dressed as a woman, saying my friends would recognise me.
Over the next couple of years, when my now-wife and I shared flats with other people, dressing opportunities were sparse. It was around this time that I first heard of Seahorse, while watching a segment on a current affairs show. I was fascinated, but I had no idea how to contact them. In 1973 we had our own flat, so I had a few months of going out dressed again before I graduated and moved to Newcastle. Then followed another five years back in the closet.
Within months of graduating and finding the pressures of my new career quite stressful, we separated.
I became involved with another woman, who was a tiny size 8, so there was no hope of me trying on her clothes. I decided not to tell her, thinking that I might be able to control my cross-dressing. One day early in our relationship, she suggested that she make up my face for fun. I became rather defensive and refused, missing out on an opportunity to share with someone who may have been more open-minded.
My new partner and I moved back to Sydney so I could complete my post-graduate studies and for the next two or three years I did not cross-dress. My hair was short again and I had bulked up working out at the gym and competing in Inter Club Athletics (shot put, discus and hammer throw). It was a bit of a blokey phase, however the drive to dress was still deep inside me.
My partner began working shift work and weekends. I began buying female underwear and clothes and practicing with her make up. The need to go out dressed quickly returned. I lost more than 15 kgs to improve my appearance. My partner had a wig that I used. My wages were fairly low, so I did not have many female clothes. I began shopping on Saturdays while she was at work and then trips into Sydney CBD when she was working evening shifts. I even went to a movie one night. On one trip out, I was chatted up twice by older men, but how their faces dropped when they realised I was a guy!
One evening, I was dressed at home and my partner rang saying that her shift had finished early and could I come straight down and pick her up. It was the quickest change I ever did, but she still asked what had taken me so long.
Finally, she found a cotton-bud with obvious eye shadow on it and she angrily accused me of having an affair. I decided to tell her the truth and she went ballistic, chasing me around the house with a knife threatening to cut my balls off. In retrospect, I think that it was the fact that I had hidden my cross-dressing from her is what made her so angry.
Despite that episode, I continued to dress secretively and go out right up until our return to Newcastle in 1981. The move necessitated me purging all my femme stuff, which I kept hidden under the house, as I feared that she would discover this during the move. Fortunately I kept some photos well hidden as a memento of that era. We stayed together for another eight years and had two children before we eventually split up. I remained deep in the closet for those years and I can still recall that I was often moody and unhappy. I threw myself into my career as my way of coping.
We all have our stories and I do not think that mine is very much different from many members. Perhaps I have been more adventurous with going out in public as a woman, with all the risks involved in that. Even though I did go out quite often back then, I was always very nervous about being read. The other thing that was different back then, was that I had never met another cross-dresser, and I would have dearly loved to have joined a group like Seahorse. That all changed in January 2007, when I decided to join Seahorse and what a life-changing decision that was. It finally allowed me to meet my sisters and to express that feminine side of me with a comfort that I could have never even imagined back in the 1970's.