Old friend, New love - 3

I took the long step out of the closet, the short distance to Kate’s door.

Kate met me at the door, the image of a 1950 sitcom mom, shirt dress, heels and full makeup.

“I've missed our talks” as she hugged me.

“I was so anxious, after your invitation, I could hardly sleep.”

“Come in and get comfortable, we have a lot of catching up to do.” as she led me to the family room. Have a seat, I'll get us some refreshments.”

She was back in a flash with a bucket of ice with a bottle of wine in it, “You can open that while I get us some glasses” as she handed me a corkscrew.

She was back with a tray of cheese and crackers and two glasses as I was screwing the corkscrew into the cork of the bottle of white zin.

“I am really glad you came. It was a real surprise to see you at the wake.”

I filled both glasses. “I was visiting my dad and recognized Barbara's picture. You guys had been special to me, and it fit my schedule so I stopped by.”

“As I grappled with my loss. I remembered how helpful our discussions had been and wished you were around here, to talk with.”

“You must have lots of other people, you can talk with.”

“Not about Kate, and not who's opinions I respect as much as yours.”

“I know you have remained active with Tri-S so you should have lots of people to talk about Kate, unlike closeted Chrissie.”

“Yes, but you are unusually objective for that community. Most distort the world to fit their views.”

“That's probably true of people in general.”

“You're probably right, but for whatever reason I respect your opinion more than most.”

“Thank you, it sounds like you have something specific you want my opinion on?”

“Well yes, I had thought we would get deeper into the wine before getting here. I loved Barbara more than anything, but now that she is gone I think I would like to explore Kate more deeply.”

"What do you mean by that and what do you want my opinion on?”

“I would like to explore living full time as Kate, and I would value your thoughts on that.”

“That's a decision only you can make. You are well equipped to give it a try. You have one of the best package of appearance and presentation of any TV I have known. Your speech is convincingly feminine. Beyond that you have what I would call true feminine beauty, a kind, caring, nurturing empathy for others. I suspect you really need to explore life as Kate, and recommend that you do.”

“Thank you. I really value your opinion. And am flattered by what you have said.”

“Don't get too carried away. I think you need to explore. But you have spent over 50 years as a rather successful male. You have been successful as a husband, father and a businessman. Important parts of who you are, are tightly wound with that male identity. I have seen others get caught up in the fantasy and fun of escape into femininity, and make changes they later regretted. Don't let yourself get caught in the fantasy that changing into Kate's full time, will magically make your life better. You need to work on hanging onto the best of Kelvin and integrate it with the best of Kate regardless of how you choose to present yourself. Don't just exchange a male cage for a female cage.”

“That sounds good, but putting Chrissie back in the closet, doesn't look like practicing what you preach.”

“It's probably not. If I could comfortably be accepted as I choose to present myself. I would love to let Chrissie out of the closet. But society isn't ready to accept people, presenting as male sometimes and female other times depending on their mood. If I have to pick one, it is male. Some of our younger people are taking other courses, such as androgynous or genderqueer, that didn’t exist for us. But they all seem to lead to outcast status. Which is not what anyone wants.”

“I am curious, about how and why you are back in the closet. I have never seen anyone, who got over the self acceptance hurdle, as successfully as you, go back in the closet.”

“At first it was mostly depression, transforming to Chrissie took more energy than I had, after Grace and I separated. But it really came down to not having a place where it was comfortable to be Chrissie. When I was with Grace support group meetings had become very comfortable for Chrissie. But, when I went to the local support group, I got hit on. With Grace, the meetings had seemed like the most asexual group I could imagine. But, I found getting hit on very uncomfortable. Part of me wanted to be attractive and have the power to turn men on. And part of me was pretty homophobic. In any case, I found getting hit on by a man in a dress, who I did not find attractive, was very uncomfortable.”

“That surprises me. Having seen you out on Michigan avenue, in broad daylight, in a wrap skirt that flashed leg up to your waist, and 5 ½ inch heels, I would have thought you would be able to handle an unwanted advance.”

“That wasn't Chrissie. That was Chris in drag. I had that discussion, with Grace. She didn't like that outfit. It didn't fit the image she was trying to create of Chrissie. I explained that we were going to a drag club with a group at “Be all”. That Chrissie had little chance to pass in that group. And this was a rare chance for Chris to camp it up in drag. Grace reluctantly went along with that.”

“I wouldn't have thought of it like that.”

“Well, in part it was a slick argument to get Grace to let me out in that outfit. But in retrospect there was a lot of truth in that. It was Chris in drag, and that provided a lot of armor, that Chrissie didn't have.”

“You're still the same Chrissie, I knew. Sensitive and vulnerable, and afraid to let it show.”

“In Chrissie mode, I can let it show more. That may be one of the more liberating aspects to spending time as Chrissie.”

“There is something very appealing about your vulnerability, it makes me want to hug you and comfort you.”

“ That would be nice.” And with that we embraced each other in a warm mutual hug. It did feel good. And it was something I wouldn't (maybe couldn't) do in Chris mode.

After a period of silence, both enjoying the warmth and security of each other’s embrace. Kate said “I hope you will always feel safe to be yourself with me.”

“That's the nurturing and caring that make you the beautiful woman on the inside, matching the beautiful woman on the outside.”

“Do you really think of me as a woman?”

“I think of you as a very nice human being. We all have parts of us that are labeled as masculine and other parts that are labeled as feminine. You and I both have more and stronger feminine elements than most genetic males. When you present as Kate I think of you as a woman, but I also know Kevin is also you. You have to decide for yourself how to balance your different aspects.”

“How do you balance your competing aspects.”

“I try not to make it a competition. I try to build the strengths of both aspects and enjoy the advantages of both aspects. As you know that is not always easy or successful.”

“How does that fit with being back in the closet?”

“While there is still some erotic appeal to wearing woman's clothing, it is primarily a cue on how I want others to relate to me. When I dress, I want people to accept me as a woman. I have not had people, in my life recently, that I could trust to do that. That is why your invitation means more than I can really express. So, I don't dress much anymore but, I still recognize my strong feminine components and try to integrate them into my male life.”

“How?”

“I think I am a better listener, by using my feminine empathy and desire to understand others emotions and suppressing the male urge to dominate the conversation. I had a female bridge partner that told me, 'I have never been able to talk to a man like I can talk to you, and that includes three husbands'. I was more like a girlfriend.”

“That must have felt good.”

“It did. But I used the opportunity to reveal Chrissie. She just didn't get it, She could not understand why a man would want to wear female clothes. I tried to explain that it, was not just the clothes but an emotional release from the constraints of the male role. But it still didn't make sense to her.”

“Did it adversely affect your relationship?”

“No, it went on pretty much as it had before. But I had expected more curiosity and probing and mostly just got, let's just drop this subject vibes. When I introduced Jean, my long term, long distance girlfriend, to the subject of my cross dressing, she was full of curiosity and probing. She claimed she could tell when I was in Chrissie mode, and that I actually had changes in voice and complexion.”

“Sounds like you found yourself an “A” girlfriend.”

“Pretty much. Grace was encouraging. Jean was pragmatic. At first she embraced the novelty of the situation, but she came to the conclusion 'Chrissie isn't much fun, she is too passive and needy.' I recognized she was right, Chrissie was a repository for those parts of me that were suppressed by the male role, the neediness, passivity, vulnerability, but also nurturing, empathy, caring. I realized a need to integrate Chris and Chrissie, not just use Chrissie as an outlet.”

“How is that working for you?”

“Well, I hardly worry at all if anyone perceives me as feminine. And until you invited me I had little urge to present as Chrissie.”

“I've missed Chrissie, and I'm glad you are here.”

We engaged in another long, quiet hug. As women we could exchange this show of caring and support. As men it would have been embarrassing.

“I hadn't realized how much I missed having someone to be Chrissie with. But you have gotten me to do most of the talking. Now it's your turn. Come on girl spill about your plans to bring Kate into the real world.” I refilled our glasses and waited for her.

“It's not really much of a plan. But as I try to imagine a life without Barbara I keep seeing Kate not Kevin. Though Barbara was very good about accepting Kate, part of the deal was that Kate kept a low profile. Now I think, I would like to let Kate be more out and about and see how I like it.”

“Have you thought about things like job and your relationship with your kids?”

“Like you, I don't have to work anymore, and Bob, my boss, knows about Kate, and wants to use me as a consultant if I retire, even if it is as Kate. I've talked to both kids. Kim says 'Whatever makes you happy, dad.' Keith says, ' I'm not really comfortable with the idea, but it is your decision, and I will continue to love you regardless.”

“So, you would just retire and start a new life as Kate?”

“That's the general idea, I would sell this place, It was too big for Barbara and I, it's way too much for me alone. I could move to a smaller place as Kate.”

“ Just bang, one day Kevin, the next day Kate, and no looking back?”

“Well, Kate has spent years preparing for this. And she has started making excursions into the real world. And I don't intend to burn all Kevin's bridges.”

“ It seems like there are a lot more things you need to think through.”

“That's one reason for your presence here. And I really do value and appreciate
this time with you. You are the best person, I can think of, to talk these things over with.”

“Do you consider yourself transsexual?”

“Probably. I am approaching this as a real world test, and the final answer depends on the test results. Remember when we inadvertently let a couple TS's join the club.”

“Yes, Virginia just about blew a gasket when she found out.”

“What I remember, is your comment, that spending a little time with them, made it clear to you that you weren’t one of them.”

“Yes, those guys really hated their genitals, they regarded them as deformities, whereas I am pretty fondly attached to mine.”

I envied your clarity on that. While I didn't hate my genitals. The idea of giving them up to be fully accepted as female, didn't seem like an unacceptably high price.”

“That doesn't get you fully accepted as female. With some, nothing ever will.”

“Of course, you are right. But the point is I questioned and still do where I stand
on this matter.”

“Have you had professional counseling?”

“I am seeing someone, like you, she says I am the one who has to decide. She is encouraging me to explore and experiment, but right now the focus is on grief management. I realize there will always be a hole that only Barbara could fill. But I am starting to look forward to exploring where my life, without her, may go. Though there are days it is hard to get up, knowing she won't be there for me, planning for a life as Kate is starting to energize me.”

“I think your doing very well. When Mark was killed, I think I stayed depressed for three years. I think you need to explore the Kate situation, and I think you are approaching it sensibly. Let me know if there is any way I can help you.”

“Being available, for this kind of talk, is what I want most from you. But if you are still around this Saturday I could use an escort to a dinner dance.”

“I am really enjoying this conversation, and want to have more like it, with you. I don't have fixed plans. But the way this is going, I would enjoy staying around thru Saturday. But being about 2 hours out of the closet, I don't think I'm ready for that kind of outing.”

“Actually I was thinking of Chris as an escort.”

“Chris isn't much of a dancer.”

“ That doesn't matter. I'd like his company and he would add a measure of safety to Kate's outing.”

“ OK, my brother would be happy to escort you.”

We continued on well into the early morning, despite Kevin having to go to work the next day. The next three days were more of the same, with Kevin going off to work, and Chris sleeping in and then going shopping, mostly for Chrissie, but also for provisions (mostly wine) for the evenings. In the evenings Kate and Chrissie continued the hen party, getting caught up on each others last 30 years, and further cementing the friendship.



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