To and Fro - Joy in a Dress

To and Fro - Joy in a Dress

Sometimes I'm Charlie - and sometimes I'm Charlie - just depends what I'm wearing.


It’s a long time since I put on the first dress that stays in my memory. It was one of my sister’s; a simple day-dress with wide shoulder straps, pale cream with huge red poppies in a simple lined cotton. As for length, well I was only about 11 and it came to my knees.

I think it was the gorgeous swooshy swishy slithery feel of the lining as, somehow, it stroked my body as it fell past my shoulders to my knees. Truly a mind-altering moment.

Of course I had tried on panties before, and slips, and skirts and blouses. Not a bra – only a very few 10 or 11 year old needs help there. I had tried lipstick, some makeup, nail polish – and almost worst clip-on earrings. Normal levels of experimentation really for any normal girl. – and not rare for a boy either.

And I did really enjoy everything I tried. Although removing the makeup and the nail polish completely was truly difficult. Any time I got my face or hands looked at strangely I pretended it wasn’t happening.

By hindsight, it was obvious and I should have realized that my mum and my sister both knew about it – but I was confident – well self-deluded actually - that I was successfully hiding my activities.

I never really thought about it the first time. One day more than two years ago I was helping with the laundry, taking the clean basket up to our various rooms; I put my clothes in my room, then Tina’s …… and my hands seemed to stutter as I put her panties and bras on the bed as instructed. Then the other things, skirts, blouses and so on. And my hands went into slow motion.

Instead of putting all the clothes on the bed as I meant to, I put them back in the basket. Instead of getting on with the job I picked up one of the panties and felt it, then I stroked it. It was so so different, soft and thin instead of thick, smooth and delicate instead of, er, otherwise, frilly and lacy with a little bow instead of plain, lovely and interesting instead of plain, pale green with a white trim instead of plain. Just so very ‘not plain’.

I folded it back so that sis wouldn’t notice – and picked up the bra. The same pale green with white trim but such a strange thing. The cups had an obvious purpose but there were the tiny clips at the back and the thin straps with their fiddly adjusters. I wondered how a girl could bend enough to fit the clips together without looking. And wouldn’t it be so complicated to get the right fit – yes the adjustments were useful – then I saw the label and read that. 34 B – what on earth did that mean. I looked over at the basket and saw one of mum’s bras ….. 36 D. My mind performed calculations.

I had never deliberately looked at the breasts of any woman, certainly not my mother or my sister. Somehow that would have been icky. I had noticed that some of the girls at school had begun to get a new silhouette. And I had overheard some of the girls giggling about ‘budding’ or ‘blossoming’ and the ‘Breast Fairy’ and ‘when are You going to get a bra’.

But this thing in my hands was just so interesting. The panties had been exciting because they were so similar and yet so different from what I wore. But a bra – wow.

I heard noises on the stair. I quickly folded the bra and put sis’s other clothes carefully on the bed. I picked up the basket and set off towards my parent’s room. I got there before whoever it was came round the corner. So I had almost finished putting their stuff, very hurriedly, on the bed before mum caught up with me.

“Nearly done, darling. Thanks so much. You must have taken your time, eh?”

“It took a bit of time. I or someone must have made a mix-up in the sorting downstairs. One of my pants was in Tina’s pile so I had to check everything a bit.”

“Oh well, mistakes happen. Well spotted, I guess. It’s good to know that you’re double-checking.” She giggled, “finding Tina’s panties in your pile is one thing, just imagine if my clothes and Tina’s got mixed. Would you be able to tell.”

“Er”

“Good answer, dear.”

My mouth suddenly opened, “How would I tell the difference, mum?” What made me ask that question.

“What …. Well, I suppose if you’re actually interested, then like boys and men, girls and women come in different sizes. You agree that’s quite obvious?”

“Yer um.”

“Well, most of my clothes will have a 14 on them to show that I’m a, well, mid-sized woman. Tina is a skinny teenager so she’s mostly an 8. Although because of her swimming, she has big shoulders so some of hers are 10 or even 12. But then a few of mine are 12 too. So, if you can’t tell what teenage clothes look like compared to mine, which I confess are no longer teenage-style – then you’ll have to ask.”

Pause

“Any other questions?”

“Why are clothes so different?”

“…… Interesting question. I think we’ll delay talking about this for a while until I’ve got some time and collected a few bits and pieces.”

“Er, okay”. My brain was strangely numb.

---------------------------------------

Time passed.

“Charlie, when you said you wanted to know why clothes were so different, what did you mean.”

I had been doing the laundry again the day before – and once more I had taken the opportunity to investigate some of the items. I had looked at lots of the pieces, stroked them, caressed them, held them against my skin to get a better feel for them.

I blushed – I could feel the tide of scarlet red spreading across my face to my shoulders and ….. ugh.

“Why are you blushing, sweetie. Have you been, er, investigating the differences. I have to mention that I did notice that the last load of laundry on my bed did look a little, um, crumpled. As if they had been picked up and re-folded. D’you need to say something to help me here.”

“Yes, yes I did. I was just, y’know, wondering…….” I hesitated.

“And …. What exactly were you wondering?”

“Well, after asking about the differences, I began to think about it and realized that I could at least look at some of the laundry and begin to learn for myself.”

“Well, what have you learnt already then?”

“I guess the most obvious thing is that you have colours in greens, reds, blues, yellows while most of my stuff is brown, grey, black and generally dull. And then you have completely different materials compared to what we get.”

“I’m going to pause and change what I was going to do. Let’s go to the shops and have a look at a wider range of things. Bring a note-book. Get your shoes on and get in the car.”

To my amazement, we went to the local shopping mall to Marks and Spencers. As we went in, Mum said, “First, I want you to scoot through the various departments, with me, and make a quick note of the colours available in each one. You may be right about boring man colours for daily wear but I feel you need to look a little harder. For example, I’m pretty sure that men’s casual clothes do have more variety.”

After not even half an hour, we had looked at the colours and done a general overview of every department – including eventually the ladies’ underwear. There was no doubt that the ladies had an enormously wider variety of colours. There was some of the drab male colours but primary colours, pastel colours and mixtures as well as patterns were much more in evidence.

Mum smiled as we had our drinks, “and we haven’t begun to actually look at the fabrics yet.”

“Wwhhat. I’m going to have to actually touch the stuff.”

“First, you really should get away from calling anything ‘stuff’ – such a vague word. And, yes, how can you have a clue about how clothes are different without using touch. We’ve done colour, although not look and line and style, and we can’t really get much out of sound or taste or smell – but touch. That’s really important. You’ve already said that there was a different feel to my clothes and Tina’s clothes. But we need to give you a proper understanding. Come on, drink up. Let’s get moving.”

So back into our explorations. After a few minutes, I was getting quite relaxed and getting much more calm about the whole exercise. My notebook was filling up.

We spent a long time there, over an hour and a half. Every now and then, mum would pick something for one of us to try on so that we looked like real customers. We did the men’s department first – and there were quite a lot of sections for us to look at. Smart, casual, holiday, shoes, coats and so on. I did point out that there was a little more variety than I had said. There were some bright colours, some mixtures over and above the tweed and the pringle.

Then into the ladies area where I had to pretend to assist mum. Fortunately for my embarrassment factor, we didn’t go near the underwear department first, even though it was nearest.

Wool, cotton, satin, jersey and so many more. It was wonderful, exciting, interesting, stimulating (no not that way!) I think it was the underwear that had me most interested. There were so many varieties, boy-cut, high-cut, high-waist, sheer, support, French, bikini, thong (if you want the full list then YOU haven’t been looking – and don’t forget that Victoria’s Secret has invented the Cheekie and the Cheekini.)

We were both exhausted by the end. My notebook was full of jottings and cryptic comments and some of the advice that Mum had given me. I knew more and in closer detail about the materials, fabric, patterns, shapes and styles of the clothes that interested me than ever before.

At the end of that session, Mum said, “I wasn’t planning this, but I noticed a new shop down the road – and I’m going to take you in there just for the experience.” She smiled at me. “It’s all going to be part of your education. “

And a few moments later, I was dragged in a BRIDES SHOP. In the next fifteen minutes or so, I was introduced to satin, silk, chiffon, net, organza, taffeta, tulle in hundreds of shades of white-ivory-cream as well as the prom-dress equivalents in much bolder colours.

I was learning new adjectives to go with each of these materials. Satin – smooth, sleek, shiny, heavy; silk – similar but much lighter in weight; chiffon – floaty, thin; net – for puffing out the skirt; taffeta – noisy; organza – a light net; tulle – soft net. And any of these could be decorated with applique or lace or beadwork or sequins. The varieties and options were fascinating.

As we left Mum chirped “Going in there was a bit more than perhaps you needed. But you seemed so interested in our little project and were taking so many notes – that I felt you might as well see the ultimate in feminine costume as well as the ordinary. There’s really no more that I could show you for you to learn about the difference in clothes.”

In the morning, as we had breakfast, Mum started up again on my ‘clothing project’. I was really pleased, puzzled a bit too, about how much you joined in with my efforts to teach you the differences. D’you reckon you’ve got enough to think about for the moment.” Once more she giggled. “The only thing extra, the next big step, would be for you to actually wear these different clothes.”

I felt that blush again – even bigger – it felt like I was scarlet from my toes to my fingertips to the top of my head.

“Charlie, have you actually tried on anything at home?” Mum’s tone of voice was kinda tough.

I hid my face in an effort not to answer, to pretend that I hadn’t been caught out.

“And what items exactly have you experimented with, um, hey?” …. Tone of voice ‘demanding’.

“I did try on a pair of Tina’s panties.” I was NOT going to admit to anything more than that. Even though my mind was so often remembering the excitement and delight of the slithering sliding dress. ‘Please, Brain – stop thinking about that. Just think about panties and being embarrassed at Mum’s questions.’

“Was that all. Surely just that wouldn’t make you blush quite so much. Did you try them on …. And leave them on, perhaps?” Tone of voice ‘forceful’.

My whole body wriggled – in obvious denial.

“So, that answer was a ‘no’ ….. perhaps you tried on Tina’s panties more than once, eh?” Tone of voice ‘startled’.

I sort of shrugged.

“Mmmmm, what would you say if I offered to buy you some panties for your very own, eh?”

There was silence for a while.

“Mmm, am I going to get an answer.”

“I think I want to say ‘yes’ but I’m very frightened of how you will react.”

“Do I come across as likely to react badly – I mean look at how I’m dealing with it right now. Not what you’ve imagined or calculated or assumed. Am I being quiet, am I being reasonable, am I giving you the choice.”

“Yes, but … but I don’t know how you will react later.”

“Alright, I’ll make the decision for you. If you were going to refuse then you would have refused instantly. So, I guess that I’ll buy you some panties, leave them in your drawers and wait and see what happens. Okay?”

“Erm, yer, okay.” I mumble-answered.

“Fine. Today’s first major decision made and it’s not even 9.00.”

I got dragged out to the shops later, in my usual job as bag-carrier.

I tried to walk off when the first place we went into was a clothes shop – for girls. And I was not a girl and I was wearing boy clothes. But I calculated that at my age and size, I would be expected to be following my mother around as she shopped. So, apart from being in the girl’s department actually looking for panties for me, nobody would be thinking anything unusual. ‘Oh, there is a lady with a young boy buying panties for another child.’

“Don’t be silly, Charlie. I might be getting something for Tina. Don’t make assumptions.” She smirked not quite nicely. “But as we are here – I want you to choose 4 pairs of panties for yourself. Any shape, any colour, any material. But 4 pairs will give you enough to always be sure of having a clean pair if and when you want to try one. It would be silly to buy one pair and then another once you’ve decided you like them, and then another when both are in the wash. And that doesn’t allow for having a choice either. Make it at least 4 pairs – in case any come in multi-packs or you see several you want. Chop chop.”

I hesitated. Was this for real. This was being a bit more obvious. But I had (nearly) asked for it, well them. “You’re really willing buy panties for me?”

“I want you to be happy. If wearing panties helps then it’s better than stealing or ‘borrowing’ someone else’s panties. And this way, you get a choice too – and I have the enjoyment of spending some money on you. Because normally clothes don’t interest you. Let’s go with the flow. Relax and Enjoy.”

I began to move – and then I was actually at the racks and my fingers were flying. Mum muttered to me what sizes I should be looking at. Most of the panties were, to my mind, fairly uninteresting in simple cotton – even if they had pretty patterns and messages and unicorns and so on. I spent more time on the lacy ones and the shiny satin-style ones – because they were so different from boy-stuff.

Mum noticed. “So different for you means really different, does it. I can cope with that for the moment. You’ve picked three so far, get a bit of a move on. If you like those ones, just pick more of the same in other colours.”

So I did. I had six pairs of panties – of my own.

Mum smiled as she tucked the packet into a bag. “That’s enough for you for today. Now we can do the rest of the shopping. I will bend enough to say that if you see something you really want then I will consider getting it.”

I stretched my neck to be closer when I whispered. “Can I have some new pyjamas?”

Mum’s eyes widened. “Maybe, you’ve a couple of minutes to show me what sort of thing you’d like.”

I didn’t run – not quite. But I had seen the sleepwear section. There was a lovely children’s set in pale pink with darker pink trim. There was a skimpy top with loose panties; there was a bigger pyjama type top and bottom and a proper nightdress with short puff sleeves. I pointed at the rack.

“Well, those are pretty – even if completely and obviously girly. Which do you want?”

“I’m not sure.”

“Well, the skimpy one is silly – so no to that. It’s a choice of pyjamas or nightie. If you’re still going for quite-different instead of nearly-the-same I’d suggest the nightie.”

“But it will be more visible, at home, in the evenings, and when I go to bed or get up.”

“Yes – and that’s where you’re going to have to begin to make your choices. If you go for the nightie – then I must tell you that wearing what many people will see as the ‘wrong’ clothes will result in disapproval, anger, dismay, even disgust, even attack. You need to be ready for that. I can tell you without any hesitation that ‘being different can HURT’.”

She gave me a quick hug – “But if you really need to do this, if you really need to sometimes wear girly clothes – then I will support you because I love you. In a way, even though you’re only 11, you are making the first of the adult decisions of your life. I can promise that there will be occasions when you do or say or act or decide to do things that I think are wrong or nasty or iffy from my perspective as an older adult. But I will continue to love you whatever happens.”

“Nightie, please, Mum.”

“Fine, decision made. And what do we do when the nightie is in the wash.”

“Buy two? Buy another? Buy something else?”

“I think we’ll get the pyjamas as well. Just so you can realize that their material is quite sufficient to make them non-boy. Okay?”

So now, there were two packets in the shopping bag for me. Real girl stuff. For ME!

------------------------------------

Some days later, Mum caught me a teatime when Tina was out. “How is it with the panties? Are they comfortable? Are they nicer, better than boy-pants? How are you coping?”

“Well, you probably know from the laundry that I only wear them in the evenings and at weekends – but they’re so much nicer. I put them on and slide my hands around my bottom and they swoosh, they slide so yummy. Can’t do that with boy-pants mum!” I grinned.

“And at night?”

“Same thing. The nightie feels so much nicer. I can slide around in it, I can feel the layers slither against each other. And the pyjamas are almost as good. Certainly not boy-stuff. I love it all.”

I hesitated.

“What do you want to be telling me – or asking me?”

“Oliver?”

“You want an Oliver, do you?”

“Yes, please.”

“You want MORE!” we both said together in one of our favourite family sayings.

This had us both laughing hard.

“What sort of things do you want more of. Panties and Nightwear?”

“Well, no. I’d like to find out more about girl’s things generally.”

“That’s a biiiig statement, Charlie. Have you got a clue what you’re actually asking about.”

“No. I just thought I was asking for something quite easy – like a trip to the shops and a look at what I might want next. I think I want a skirt!”

“A skirt. Mmmm.”

Pause

“Okay – later this afternoon. I’ll take you back to the shops. In the meantime, you can help around the house. Help equals money. If I don’t do it then it doesn’t get done or I have to pay someone like Mrs Tibbs or Mr Holding.” [Our occasional daily and our even more occasional handyman].

“What’s the first job?”

“You’ve been getting better at the laundry – which means Tina no longer needs to do the general laundry – just her own clothes. So let’s strip the beds, remake them and I’m sure there’s other jobs too – I seen too many cobwebs as one example.”

Now cobwebbing was a pretty easy job – every corner, every crevice – and only once had a spider fallen off in the process – into Tina’s, erm, front. She screamed and wriggled and we never found the spider.

“Okay.”

We spent the morning doing the beds, then I vacuumed upstairs and downstairs – and stairs too. We stopped for lunch and the house was looking somehow just that bit more sparkly. Kind of nice to know I had done my share.

“If we’re going to buy you a skirt, then I guess we should, erm, edit you a bit so that nobody makes a fuss. I can fluff your hair a bit so that it’s a bit more girl for the afternoon and easily goes back to boy for tomorrow. But I think, yes I do, that we might borrow something from Tina which she has grown out of. There’s a few things in the ‘too small’ box that I noticed.

So, a few minutes later, I was wearing a pair of jeans – and they were nothing like anything I had worn before. They clung to my legs. They stretched snugly round my bottom. They had pink embroidery on the back pockets. No – not boy-style in any way. But they did feel nice.

Mum smiled at me as I checked out my new – and different – outfit. Oh yes, I was now wearing a pink t-shirt and a paler pink cardigan. I did need more than one layer, it was March. Sometimes, cool, sometimes cold, sometimes frozy.

“Yep, that’ll do nicely. And those trainers – they’ll have to do for today. I’m not getting too much all at once.”

“It’s convenient that you name is Charlie – sort of goes either way if we need it to. You might be a Charles or a Charlotte depending. Eh.”

I relaxed in the winter sunshine. It was nice in the car but there was a biting wind that easily whistled through my ribs outside. “Yeah, you could be right there.”

“Er, no. NOT if you say ‘yearh’ to anything. Girls don’t talk like that, mostly. Today, if you’re trying on and buying a skirt and so on – you’re going to have to be a bit more of a Charlotte.”

“Yes, mummy darling.”

“Now that’s just as naughty – silly bo…. silly child.”

We both relaxed as we got to the shops.

“Do you have any idea of what sort of skirt you’re looking for – length, style, colour, material – have you any thoughts on the subject, darling?”

“I quite like to feel the swish of the skirt at sort of knee level or an inch or so longer.”

“Not sure that the average girl-of-style wears much at that length. Let’s sit and have a lemonade and do a quick score sheet. Draw a girl and mark her skirt at knee, a bit above, a bit below, a lot above and quite long below and parental disapproval and long – you can score skirts you see as a 3 or a 2 or a 1 or even 0. Once we’ve got a fair number, we’ll have some idea of what you like to see which must be sort of equivalent to what you want to wear, eh?”

We sat, we watched. It was quite fun. I noticed Mum was making a few notes of the things I really liked and the things I made rude comments about.

We were there about fifteen or twenty minutes before Mum thought we’d done enough. We’d pretty much come to an agreement that I would look for two skirts today – one about two inches above the knee and one two inches below. The longer one would be either a heavy skirt or maybe a floaty one if I found one that suited (which was less likely at this time of year). It was just that I saw a girl with such a skirt and really loved the look of it – and what I guessed would be the feel of it. As for the shorter skirt, that was less certain.

It takes time finding just the right skirt. I had never realized. Buying boy clothes was pretty simple – trousers or shorts, t-shirt or shirt, sometimes long-sleeve, sometimes in fact usually short-sleeve. Not much need for choice, not much need for effort. Quick. In and Out.

But not quite the same for girls. Oh no.

I think it was mum’s fault. She decided that if I was getting a skirt then I had to have a suitable top to go with it – and then that meant a selection of tops. And that meant trying on so much more. The first skirt I was keen on – well we couldn’t find tops to go with it – so it had to be put back. And the process went round and round. I was exhausted. And Mum kept chuckling and saying ‘this is part of why girl’s clothes are so different – it takes much more effort in the selection.’

But in the end, I did have two skirts – and six tops.

On the way home, I asked the question I hadn’t really worked out while we were shopping. “Why did we buy so much stuff if I’m only going to be ‘finding out about differences generally’.

“I kindof decided that I was going to encourage you to wear your pretties more often. Not just putting them on when helping me and otherwise hiding in your room. You won’t find out anything if you run away and hide. So – in future, if you’re in pretty-mode and Dad or Tina come home – then stay as you are. They have noticed what you’re doing and while they may not really understand the why of it – it doesn’t bother them. I’ve told them you’re finding out about things. I’ve also been very firm that this makes you happy – and we’ve all agreed that happy Charlie is much better than sad Charlie.”

“You’ve told them about me wearing panties.” I gasped.

“No – but they have eyes – and sometimes when you bend over or stretch up – your trousers leave a gap and, y’know.”

The noise I made was something like ‘uuurrrggghhh’.

“And it really doesn’t bother them. Tina did say that she wanted to be very sure that you weren’t going to be borrowing any of her clothes and I reassured her that nothing she wore would fit you anyway. She did agree to trawl her room for things that were too small – and she eventually said you could try some of them. She said she wasn’t keen on seeing her old clothes being worn by you but it wouldn’t be the end of the world. Mildly generous of her, I thought. If the opportunity comes up in the next few weeks, do say thank you to her. I would suggest the first time you wear one of her tops – after making very sure she doesn’t see you in it first – that you tell her afterwards and say thanks.”

“Thanks, mum. I’m so happy that you’re happy about this.”

“Wait up, boyo. When have I said I’m happy. What I am most interested in is whether YOU are happy. The sites I’ve looked at make it very clear that the choice for many families with a child who is really different is between a content or happy child and a depressed and possibly dead child. Every analysis of children committing suicide says that most of it is the result of bullying, abuse, intolerance – and all of these are the direct result of ‘being too different’. And this will not happen to my child.” The tone of voice was ‘fierce’.

“oh.” The tone of voice was ‘tiny’.

0 – 0 – 0 – 0

By the summer, I had a new routine. I woke up and dressed according to my mood of the day. I was averaging almost exactly 50-50 wearing boy’s clothes and girl’s clothes. Mum had encouraged me to look in the charity shops and the discount stores for much of my wardrobe. Fortunately, there were a couple of girls at school who were helpful. They had a big sort out of what they had bought but had decided were ‘just wrong’ once they had been worn once or maybe twice or even not at all.

Anne and Josie lived about half a mile from me, and about quarter of a mile from each other – easy walking distance and even easier on a bike.

Anne had come up to me in school; we had just been in English together and it had been one of my first days at school in a dress. I’d been in skirt and blouse before, but not in a dress.

“Charlie, I’ve been wondering ……. How did’y get into this dressing as a boy and sometimes as a girl. It’s a bit unusual. And as for getting the school not to stomp on the whole idea – well that’s just beyond my understanding. D’y want to tell me about it – I’m on your side I guess – and if I know what’s up then I can do more to help.”

I think I’d reached a point where I had to tell someone other than my family what was going on. I’d spent time with psychs of various sorts in order to get approval from them that I could and should be able to wear either uniform to school.

“I’ve worked out that it’s something I need to do. I’m not sitting on the fence as to whether I want to be a boy or a girl. I’m quite clear what I want – I need to be able to be a boy somedays and a girl when I need to be. I am so much more relaxed, more confident with this new me.”

“Well, that’s for sure. You’re completely different from the grey ghost who drifted through the school for the last couple of years. You join in in class, you ask questions, you volunteer. You’re actually interesting now. And I want to find out how such a dramatic change has happened. After all there are other Greys around – perhaps they have issues like you.”

“What do you mean ‘Greys’”

“It’s a new group I’ve identified at school – there’s the geeks, and the sporties, but Josie started calling a small group ‘grey’ because they never did anything to be noticed. They stayed somehow out of sight of everybody as much of the time as they could. And you were one of them …. And now you’re not. That’s really interesting – actually exciting, y’know”

“I don’t want to be exciting to anyone. I don’t want to be unusual even if there is a truth in that. I’ve had my years of being different, of not fitting in – it’s horrible. There’s too many really unkind and vile people out there. But I will tell you – that the few of you like you – make up for all the nastiness. There’s still bad days and good days.“

“Then I’ll have to be happy that I make a good difference for you.”

“That y’do, lass”

“What sort of language is that.“

“A variation on a family phrase.”

“What would y’like the lass to do for you.”

“I’d like a bit of advice – Mum does her best but, not too surprisingly, she’s a bit older than me. She’s a bit more fixed in her ideas of what I can or should wear. I need a bit more from someone of my age who is at least willing to help a boy who likes dresses.”

“Is it dresses you like best?

”Yes, I do. I do like them best. There’s so much variety and they feel so good. Skirts and blouses are nice, panties and undies are important – but I do love dresses best of all. Don’t really know why.”

“First off, not many girls are as into dresses as that. Most of us wear jeans and tops or some simple outfit that we tell everyone ‘we just threw on’. Ha. As if. You must have some idea about it – doesn’t it take you so much longer to choose your clothes before you spend at least as long putting them on and arranging yourself.”

“Can’t argue there – but it does give me so much more ability to express who I am. I like the benefits of dressing. I know there’s difficulties ahead

“No – but they do give me a real buzz. Skirts and dresses especially. It’s two things best of all, the feel of the hem swirling and swooshing and the glorious slide of the lining first as you out the dress on. Part of it may be that you never get either of those feelings with boy clothes – but there’s bits about being a boy that I utterly enjoy and want to continue with.”

Anne looked very serious. “So you really are going to continue with this sometimes a boy, sometimes a girl system.”

“Yep or alternatively ‘golly gee yes’ unless you’d prefer ‘oh that would be so lovely’.”

“Ergh, Charlie, that was horrid.”

I smirked, “I know, sorry.”

There was a pause.

“Yes, I will be keeping on with this. I know its upsets a few people, but if I couldn’t do this thing of sometimes being a boy because I love the boy things I do and if I couldn’t dress as a girl sometimes because I love the feel of the clothes – then I wouldn’t be complete it guess. And actually the spread of activities and the insights I get by belonging sometimes with the boys and sometimes with the girls. And I do have insights. And by sharing some of that flexibility and insight about boys with girls and about girls with boys ….. there is no doubt that some of my friend’s relationships have been more successful. And that makes me proud. It gives me Joy. And if I didn’t have the useful name of Charlie – I’d call my girl-self Joy – Joy in a Dress,

Days passed – and to my pleasure I continued to ‘pass’. Yes, I was known as a boy in a dress to many people but they had been persuaded by the support given to me and, apparently, mostly by the confidence I showed.

Of course there were mindless bigots – they were actually quite easy to ignore individually. More difficult when as a group but there are simple techniques with modern technology. Occasionally I lied ‘you do realise you’re on camera on-line to a back-up computer’ was a good way to persuade them to go away.

As I grew older and more confident, I could comment to those who approached me in ones and twos, ‘Yes, you can hurt me, and your words are also unkind, but how would people deal with knowing your most embarrassing secret.’ Now and again, one of these near-attackers would come to me a month or so later and apologise. Wow – I had helped them grow up and become near-adults. Wow again.

I had a good solid group of friends. Some clearly preferred to do things with me as a boy, and some preferred to do things with me as a girl. Not too surprising really – but the real point was that none of them rejected me when in opposite-mode. The boys never asked Charlie-girl to play sports or video-games or the like. The girls never asked Charlie-boy to try on dresses. They were both able to say, how about next time, or similar. I was accepted – and every time this increased my confidence.

And my life just went to and fro. I think the longest time I stayed in skirts was about a month, and the longest time I stayed out of skirts was the same. I confess that quite a lot of the time as a boy, I still wore panties – but that was because my skin was kinda soft from the waxing and so on.

I was given pills for a while to slow down puberty – but my metabolism and the quantities given balanced out just right, for me. I have a working penis, good quality sperm, and very sensitive C cup breasts. I do know that I am lucky to have come out, so to speak, all right turned out this lucky.

One of my uncles was quite snotty about my to-and-fro transition – then his much younger sister came out as a lesbian and gave him both barrels about his intolerance. She was also heard to say ‘you want everybody to know YOUR secret?’. He’s one of the good guys now, his wife seems much happier, they’ve got another baby on the way – he’s even been on the radio about domestic abuse and how to deal with anger. Now, I do wonder what WAS his secret?

I did worry each time there was a big change in my teenage life. I moved schools because the courses I needed were only available at the bigger school. But being a bigger school meant it had better arrangements for kids who were different.

A key message that had was ‘If you are different we want you to stop hiding’ and then a list.


Statistics tell us that in a year-group of 200 in an average school

2-10 of you have parents or siblings or relatives who physically or mentally abuse
10-20 will have thought about committing suicide within the last year
20+ will already be certain they are homosexual as either L or G or B
50+ will be wondering or uncertain about being homosexual
1 or 2 will be uncertain about their gender and giving themselves the T or Q label
50+ of under-16s will have lost their virginity
50+ will be drinking to excess and damaging their bodies and brains
50+ will be taking drugs and damaging their bodies and brains
50+ will be smoking and already causing damage to their bodies
50+ will be significantly obese and causing damage to their bodies
50+ will be bullying
50+ will be targets of abuse at school by pupils or, sadly, a few by some teachers.
25+ are taking pills for depression or other mental health issues
25+ will have dyslexia, ADHD or some similar 'label' of difference

EACH of these is WRONG or UNKIND or DAMAGING and should be stopped.
This school does not approve of LABELS – our pupils are UNIQUE and SPECIAL.

EACH of you belongs to a minority and suffer from intolerance and prejudice
EACH of you has a secret that you want nobody to know
ALL of you need to know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE

If you are needing help with ANY of these then talk to any member of staff.

I had never seen such an open and clear statement that the average pupil was already likely to have been hurt and damaged just by being part of modern society. And actually, there were lessons in the first week about Tolerance, Acceptability, Support and Kindness given by TASK-force members. The really interesting part was the stories they each told about how and why they joined. A really large number of them of course were in minority groups or even several minority groups and easily targeted as ‘different’. Some of the language and the viciousness with which they had been targeted was ….. very wrong. But the rest had been those who delivered the nastiness.

Everybody in the school was proud of how the feel of the school had changed – and indeed of the neighbourhood. As pupils got older and joined local companies, as well as the police, fire, schools, hospitals, things got better. Perhaps this was because they were all either businesses or part of the local system of government.

By the time I got to college, the same poster was at the Main Entrance. The numbers hadn’t altered much because they were the nationwide statistics. But locally, there has been a wonderful improvement in so many aspects of the bad world out there. Fewer suicides, less drugs, less crime, longer marriages, more marriages, more children (perhaps not too surprising), and people have been moving to the district because we have a good reputation.

The churches were variable in their response. Some were of the belief that everything they did was perfect and wonderful because their god would not endorse anything else – perhaps they forgot that they were all too human. Some were too wedded or even welded (typo that I kept in) to the laws and rules that had been accumulated by earlier generations and turned into a ‘book of knowledge’ that they were unable to use flexibly. And some churches were tolerant and kind. Being very simplistic, those who shouted most about how wonderful they were - were the least tolerant.

It’s been nearly fifteen years since I first put on a dress. I’m married to Melody, a friend of Anne’s who has known me since college. We have 2 children, Richard and Janet, who are completely accepting that sometimes Dad wears a dress and sometimes he doesn’t. I go to work – and the people at the factory know that their top salesman sometimes wears trousers and sometimes doesn’t. I still play sports – wearing the appropriate costume and we’ve joined the local Dramatic society. It was hard to deny my friend, Jeff, when he said, “as you act every single day for real – sometimes as a guy and sometimes as a gal, well doing it on stage shouldn’t be too much of a problem.”

I do the shopping, the school-run when I need to, the holidays – and I do all of these sometimes as Charlie and sometimes as Charlie. I live – and life is good. Actually life is a Joy – Joy in a dress.



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