The Woman in the Mirror

By Amanda J.

I walked across the room and caught sight of her looking just like I remembered her.  I smiled at her and, straight away, she smiled back.  Even though I’ve known her for some time, every time I see her seems like the first time.  There’s just something about her that makes me feel good every time I see her; perhaps it’s the fact that she always seems blissfully happy or maybe it’s a combination of me being a normal guy and her having the knack of choosing styles that I find attractive.  Sometimes it feels like I’m seeing life through her eyes, the sensations of her world spilling over into mine.  At other times, she seems somehow distant but fascinating all the same.  The only thing I know for certain is that the woman in the mirror really knows how to mess with my mind!

Take a look at these two photos of me taken at my makeover last year.  What’s the difference?  We can all see that they’re mirror images of each other but that’s not what I mean.  There’s actually a huge difference between them.  The one on the left is the original photo.  If you’d seen me on that day in September 2021, that’s what you would have seen.  But that’s not the person I see when I look in the mirror or on a smartphone selfie I take.  For obvious reasons, I can never see myself in the same way that the rest of the world can.  The only way I can normally see myself is either in a mirror or via a selfie and, as a result, I almost always see a reversed version of myself.  In fact, if I see a photo of myself which is not mirrored, it looks strange to me.

And that raises an interesting question.  Which of those two women am I really focussed on?  The one on the left who is a true representation of me in the world or the one on the right who is the one I see?  Or, to put it another way, is the reflection I see in the mirror just a validation of what I’m feeling as I cross the gender divide or the whole reason I do it in the first place?  I’ve sometimes wondered out loud about this on forums or when exchanging messages with like-minded girls and the answer is almost always an immediate ‘of course it’s about you, not your reflection’ but, to tell you the truth, I’m still not convinced.

Let’s face it, crossing the gender divide is an amazing feeling for people like us.  It’s an assault on our senses – we look in the mirror and see what we believe is our ‘true’ self looking back.  Everything feels different, hair caressing our neck, the softness of our clothes and the gentle straining of our leg muscles as they get used to unfamiliar heel heights.  Those amazing smells as we open up the cosmetics and then taste the lipstick on our lips.  Even our ears are in for a treat as we hear the clicking of heels on hard floors & pavements and the gentle swishing of our skirt as we walk.

And then, as what we’ve just achieved sinks in, the worries and frustrations of life just seem to evaporate as we enter a state of complete happiness.  Our mind wanders and we allow ourselves to wonder what life would be like if we didn’t have to pack everything away in a few hours’ time but instead could remain in our acquired persona for ever more.  It’s an intoxicating proposition, made all the more so by the frustrations and anxieties we know will return when we cave in to society’s expectations of us and pack our things away.  So all of those people who tried to reassure me that how I feel is the real deal and I’m not just fixated on my reflection in the mirror are almost certainly correct.

Or are they?

To tell you the truth, I wish they were.  It’s a far easier sell to the conscience if we justify what we do because our brain is wired differently, because something hormonally went awry in utero or because we feel trapped in the wrong body.  Justifying it solely on the basis that we like what we see is far harder, not least when we’ve done our best to look as attractive as possible.  Let’s face it, women don’t normally spend a quiet day at home in a smart dress & heels and fully made up.  And even if they did, they probably wouldn’t keep walking towards the nearest mirror to admire themselves.  The truth is that I don’t want to look old and frumpy; if I’m going to go to all this trouble, there has to be some form of reward at the end of it.  And if that reward is a woman who, if I met in real life, was the type of woman that I’d date if she wasn’t completely out of my league, all the better!

Perhaps there’s an air of inevitability in that, at least as far as I’m concerned.  If I was further along the transgender spectrum, I don’t doubt that I’d spend most of my time with little or no makeup and wearing just the sort of clothes that other women wear on a day to day basis.  I’d have my beloved heels, dresses & makeup of course but they’d be saved for special occasions, not for doing the housework.  But, as far as the transgender spectrum is concerned, I am where I am.  And if I manage, say, six hours per month to indulge my feminine side, that’s still less than 1% of my life.  And during that 1%, I’m going to focus on being the type of woman that I admire, or the woman I’ve had a secret workplace crush on, or the woman I saw reading the news on the TV the other night.  Because during the other 99% of my life, they are the ones that catch my eye, make me smile and remind me that it’s about time I experienced the important 1%.  Furthermore, when I see ‘her’ in the mirror smiling back or look at one of the hundreds of photos I’ve taken, there is a strong element of disbelief – how can that guy in his 60s possibly transform himself into her?  In fact it seems almost unreal.  Almost impossible, in fact.

But there’s an important word there – ‘almost’.  Because in and amongst that disbelief and incredulity is a small spark.  The spark of knowing that she is me.  It’s a spark fuelled not only by the absolute love of her as someone I see but also by the discomfort I feel when, for whatever reason, she’s not around.  I can’t say that her presence in the mirror is irrelevant and unimportant but, equally, I also can’t declare that it’s the sole reason I want her to see the light of day.

So I’m still none the wiser but, in the end, I really don’t think it matters.  We all have different reasons for doing this and different priorities when we do.  In my case, perhaps the answer to the question of where my priorities lie is ‘it depends’.  Sometimes, my need is to feel complete as a person and to resolve my anxieties surrounding my identity.  Other times, I’m just happy to look admiringly at her and the warm feeling inside is purely and simply because I’ve found a woman that doesn’t run away when I approach her and smiles back when I smile at her.

And that trait alone makes her a ‘keeper’!

17 thoughts on “The Woman in the Mirror”

  1. Amanda,
    I love the way you dig deep into your feelings and the way your mind works. Thankfully we are all different, and we can learn and enjoy other people’s thoughts, experiences and opinions.

    If I understand you correctly, you see the woman in the mirror as another person and she is “a keeper”. Even though it is you, in reverse, you talk about her in the third person.

    When I see myself, all made up, in a mirror, I just see me in a different look. I really like the changed look, but the person inside my head is the same. I am a lot happier when I have a more feminine appearance, but it is not a different me.

    I too am a 1 “percenter” who rarely feels the swish of a skirt. When I am out and about carrying a purse it feels more natural. I know, if given the chance, my normal attire would be a skirt and blouse/sweater.

    Thanks for your post. I like reading your thoughts.

    Jocelyn

    1. Jocelyn, thank you as always for taking the time to share your thoughts.

      Whether I see the woman in the mirror as another person is an interesting question and one that’s not easy to answer. Superficially, I know she’s me but the question really digs into the subconscious and that’s when it gets a lot harder to answer. For starters, it begs the question ‘what is a person?’ – is it a physical being or a collection of non-physical attributes that make up the personality? Arguably, it’s both but I’ve often read trans people relate ‘when I’m [female name]…’ which intrinsically draws a distinction between the writers’ female & male personas and yet that conflicts directly with their acceptance of themselves as single, multi-faceted people which is fundamental to who they are. You also picked up on the fact that I sometimes describe ‘Amanda’ in the third person but that’s actually unconnected – that’s something I do (along with the use of quotation marks) when I want to contrast ‘her’ side of my personality to ‘his’ (see, I’ve done it again!!) but where there is either no ambiguity or it’s not relevant, I’ll use the first person because I don’t draw a distinction in that particular context.

      The ’keeper’ point was superficially a tongue in cheek assessment of my success rate (or lack thereof) with women in my dating days! But there was also a more serious point to it in that, ultimately, it doesn’t really matter. As with many situations in life, there’s a huge risk of overthinking the whole thing. Is ‘Amanda’ the embodiment of a deep seated feeling that I’m female? Is she a facet of my personality that represents all my good bits? Is she the physical representation of a life I yearn for? Is she so unlike ‘him’ that my brain has disconnected the two and just permitted me to have a mad crush on her?! The truth is that none of that matters and as long as seeing the woman in the mirror (or, equally, on a photograph) makes me happy, where my focus actually lies becomes irrelevant.

  2. Amanda,
    You raise a very important point about the way we view ourselves , which is the real you ? As a professional photographer I would lay all the proofs out for my client to choose , they were all nice shots but always one would stand out . What was that extra ingedient ? The tilt of the head , the use of the hands , a picture had to flow for the viewer . So consider your correct and reversed images , which works better ? Our faces aren’t symetrical , try pasting both R/H and L/H sides together and see the difference .

    As you know my life is as Teresa 24/7 so I’ve got over many of the thoughts you mention , I’m very much in the hands of the people I meet everyday . I admit it was a huge leraning curve , doing everyday is hard before you find the balance you’re comfortable with and hopefully one people around are comfortable with . My recent holiday with the NT proved so much for me , it was the first time I had been away not only as a single person but as Teresa . You are correct in saying it’s not all high heels and beautiful gowns and I also agree even at my age I’m not going to be an old granny . The one aspect that must be accepted is don’t go looking for compliments , women don’t do that , just be confident it what you wear appropritate for the situation .

    Some might say ” how boring ” but believe me it’s far from , the interaction is wonderful when people don’t question what they see .

    1. Teresa, thanks for sharing your thoughts. Your insight on photographs is particularly interesting and particularly pertinent in the CDing community where even an imperceptible change in position can betray our ‘provenance’. The RH/LH issue is interesting too – I’ve taken many selfies to check how I look but these are always reversed. But that means that the surroundings are reversed too and yet when I correct them in Photoshop, they often jar because the feeling that I no longer look instantly familiar overrides the fact that the environment around me is correctly depicted.

      I suspect that many people in my position suffer from a subconscious ‘narrative’ – ‘I’m a guy, I like what I see in the mirror but I can’t possibly feel a strong affinity to her because that’s not what normal guys feel’ or the converse ‘I like transforming my appearance into female so I must be trans’. In the end, the simple answer is to go with the flow and not try to overthink things. If the woman in the mirror makes us happy, then we should embrace her without trying to understand her. Of course, for some of us, other aspects of our life get in the way and we may make compromises to give a balance between everything but that’s fine. I’m ‘Amanda’ for 100% of the time, I just don’t dress in the manner that society would expect her to dress for over 99% of it!

      1. Amanda,
        Belief in yourself takes time , seeing that mirror image is still you BUT you aren’t being allowed to believe the truth .
        Society doesn’t mind half as much as you think it does , the biggest block is in your own mind . I really wish you could prove it to yourself and lose the constant turmoil .

        1. Teresa, please don’t worry about me! Despite what may appear from reading between the lines of my posts, I’m probably in the best place I’ve been for some time. Up to the point where I came out to my wife just under 10 years ago, the only outlet I had for this side of my personality was CDing. It was completely mindless – multiple buy-wear-purge cycles and totally on my own. After realising that I couldn’t keep the promise I made to my wife, things seemed a lot better – I was a lot happier with how I looked, was starting to realise that it was more than just the clothes and was interacting with others via Flickr and susans.org. That helped me give the Amanda side of me an identity but it was ultimately destructive because the whole thing was based on fishing for compliments and then believing that I was the hottest thing this side of the sun when I got one!!

          Over the past couple of years, this side of me has grown up a lot and going to see Cindy at BWBG was pivotal – not only because of what she managed to achieve from a pretty ropey blank canvas but more importantly because by being able to talk to someone who knew both sides of me, I realised I was one person, not two, and no longer needed to put up a fight when the feminine side seemed dominant. What that, in turn, has shown me is that I no longer need the clothes to define me and permit this side of me to function, but equally, I won’t put up a fight if the inner woman is screaming to get out and enjoy a bit of glamour.

          Of course, my life isn’t perfect and I know that if certain aspects of it were different, I’d almost certainly want this side of my life to be more overt. But that’s a reflection of two things – firstly what I’ll call for want of better words the ‘all dressed up but nowhere to go’ syndrome – seeing a side of myself that I absolutely love and being curious about how life would look through that lens – and secondly because the balance of everything that I value that drives the compromises I live within would change. A lot of the frustrations I have experienced in the past have been a product of either forcing my Amanda side when the need to express it was low or reining it back when it was running away and that’s because it could only manifest itself in one way – the clothes. Now that I have been able to totally accept that this is how I am, it’s become a multifaceted part of my personality and no longer relies on just one aspect for its oxygen, so to speak.

          It’s definitely a challenge, this trans thingy, though!

  3. “I’m ‘Amanda’ for 100% of the time, I just don’t dress in the manner that society would expect her to dress for over 99% of it!”

    Yeah, this is the type of conclusion I got to. Whether I am dressed or not I am Christina. Over time I have worked through my denials and accepted that I am Trans. For me, I dress femininely at home (which I am at home a lot) and when I go out in the world I dress in my “guy clothes” to make my way through society without issues. But internally I am Christina. I don’t know if Christina will ever dress femininely outside the house or not.

    I fall into the boat of being Trans but not transitioning. Accepting myself is a wonderful feeling.

    1. Christina,
      I’ve discovered transition is a spectrum , the thinking now is ” Whatever makes you happy ” . I’ve been through the pros and cons of the stages but now come to realise it’s what I’m comfortable with to face the world . It’s what you want and not what others say you must have .
      Being trans is just a label we need to explain or excuse oursleves , the general public aren’t interested . I have friends who drop in conversations they are ” Trans ” , they either want to excuse themselves because they might appear different or they want to make the point they are different . I haven’t entered into a conversation of that nature since I went full time , I have nothing to excuse or explain to people .

      1. It absolutely is whatever makes you happy! Labels are labels. Generally meaningless. Self love is what is most important!
        -Christina

    2. Christina, thanks for joining the discussion.

      To me, self acceptance is everything and once we’ve got over that hurdle, nothing else really matters. Am I a woman trapped in a man’s body? I honestly don’t know because I don’t know what being a woman feels like. But there’s a subgroup of women that I admire, or even envy, and that sometimes leads me to want to experience life as they do. But that’s just me and others may have completely different feelings, wants & needs (but I am quite possibly on the same boat that you are).

      And to pick up on your point about going outside, I’ve done it twice. The first time was planned over several days, the second was a spur of the moment decision. What I realised both times is that the urges to do it were so overwhelming that resisting it would have led to a lot of frustration. But at the moment, I have no need to escape from the house so would not dream of trying to force it. If you ever get to the point where you feel that ‘Christina’s’ whole existence hinges on it, then go for it – there’s enough evidence here on Kandi’s Land to underline that you have absolutely nothing to fear. But, if you don’t get to that point, that’s just as OK. Because in the end, all that matters is you are you and you find a good level of emotional equilibrium in your life.

      1. Amanda, I do see myself going out in the future in a very calculated way. But I better get a wig first. 😉
        -Christina

        1. Christina,
          Going out en femme is the only time I dress in the societal expectations of a woman’s attire. It is so self affirming and it solidifies my feminine nature. Unfortunately my opportunities to do so are very limited.
          AND, everyone I meet is completely accepting, or in reality I’m no big deal, just another person going about my business.
          As a Contributor to Kandi’s Land you can read about all my outings.
          Life is wonderful.
          Jocelyn

          1. Jocelyn, sounds wonderful. And I hope to experience that one day. Certainly is a goal of mine for sure.
            -Christina

  4. Amanda,

    These comments you made – “In the end, the simple answer is to go with the flow and not try to overthink things. If the woman in the mirror makes us happy, then we should embrace her without trying to understand her.” – reflect my thinking 100%. When I first started dressing fully and going out in public en femme, there was a lot of overthinking and trying to analyze “why” on my part. Eventually I came to the realization that some of the “why” questions were truly unanswerable and but not really that important. I then relaxed, became immeasurably happier and embraced Fiona without hesitation. I now spend 80% of my time in public as Fiona and am totally comfortable when doing so.
    Cross dressing is a very complex and emotional experience for many but if they could follow the sentiment you expressed in your comments then I believe many would experience a much more pleasant journey.

    Fiona

    1. Fiona, wise words which I think are spot on. The problem that probably almost all of us have faced is that before self-acceptance comes denial. I’m quite happy with the concept of the gender binary but we all have elements of both genders within us – at least insomuch as particular traits are normally attached to one gender or the other. These are just things that define us and they should not be used to pigeonhole us. Sadly though, we tend to suck up society’s prejudices, apply them to ourselves and then feel shame as a result. What’s important though is that self-acceptance doesn’t mean that we have to conform to others in similar situations do. You and I think in a similar way and yet you spend 80% of your time out and about in your feminine persona. For me, it’s 0% at the moment! Maybe that’ll change, maybe it won’t but the important thing for those still paralysed by denial is that there’s no imperative to conform to any trans paradigm. It’s just a case of understanding that it’s part of who you are and then arriving at an equilibrium that works for you. And if that provides a launch pad to move from 0% to 80%, that’s fantastic. And if it doesn’t, that’s fantastic too!

  5. It’s been very interestings to read the thoughts of you all . I agree you must be honest with yourself and not try and live by other people’s lives .

    It is a learning curve , the more you do it the more you realise certain aspects change from your preconceived ideas . Sometimes it’s good to stand back and just people watch , the more I did so the more it bacame clear that the differences between men and women are much closer together . We share many jobs and we share many domestic situations . Crossdressers often place women on pedestals and aspire to reach their level but many women are far from that , they are just the same as anyone else going about their business . Many care little if at all about clothes they wear or makeup and many feel vulbnerable and insecure , often what we attempt to emulate isn’t the truth but something we consider to be a perfect woman . In going full time I took this on board , often it wasn’t the case of too much makeup but how little it takes and to accept that everytime we step out it’s not on the catwalk but simply to do the supermarket shop and similar jobs .

    I do understand those who don’t or have never experienced long exposures find they have the need to sometimes overdo their appearance when given the opportunity but I also accept every girl does need a night out to dress to the nines , I’m no exception .

    To me the bottom line is be or look appropriate so you can gradually build your identity , we mustn’t forget it is a transition , our apprearance is going from one gender to another , people need time to absorb that . After several years I’ve reached the point of comfortably achieving my identity , I can place myself in any situation and deal with it , I have no more fears as a female than I did as a man . The wonderful thing is life is so much more enjoyable , being accepted as a woman is so different from male acceptance .

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