Tonibelle's Profile

I'm middle class, middle aged, Caucasian, English male, married with two older teenage children. I was a teacher until middle age when I managed to switch to being a freelance writer, which I continue to be.

What is your name and what is your background?

Real name: Tony. Tranny name: Toni, if you insist. I don't really need to make the distinction, but when out in tranny world I find that I'm sometimes pressured to 'play the game'. I'm middle class, middle aged, Caucasian, English, biologically male, married with two older teenage children. I was a teacher until middle age when I managed to switch to being a freelance writer, which I continue to be.

Is your name an alter ego "femme" name - why did you choose that name?

I like the way my real name goes both ways. If it were more unequivocally masculine I might shorten it to fit with my tranny persona (eg Jason to Jay, or Jacey etc). But I don't have to bother, which is nice. I sometimes playfully refer to my tranny self as Antoinette, but that tends to be in the third person. I think it was my wife, or a gay male friend of hers, that came up with that. But I like the way it fondly conjures a festive, playful creature such as my tranny self can be.

How old are you and how young were you when you first thought about or actually cross-dressed?

I'm in my early fifties (though, amazingly, I get read as thirties when I'm all trannied up and out there! Which helps ....). I remember, let's see, dressing up and swirling about in a long, blue, silky skirt I found in a trunk under a bed in a spare room of our house - maybe it was my dad's! I must have been 4 or 5. Then later, aged about 7 or 8 I used to strip off (again in a spare room) and pull on a very silky slip of my mother's. I recall that this often gave me an erection and already I was in some sense role playing being a pretty girl. So this activity had quite a fetishised, erotic quality. There was a mixture of excitement and doing something forbidden, something I shouldn't show or share to others, not even family members.

Where do you buy your clothes?

Anywhere there's something I feel I need in order to get an outfit together. Shoes are hardest as I'm male size 10. I once found a nice shoe in an Oxford Street shop my size. But the tranny shops are easiest for shoes and wigs. The rest can come from department stores or charity shops. I tend to get underwear and stockings from shops like BHS, Debenhams, M&S. I get frocks from charity shops which can often yield discarded glam wear in sizes 16/18 which is me. I bought my oriental cheong-samhs from a Chinese shop near China Town, London. When I asked for size equivalents, I said to the shop assistant that I was putting together a drag outfit (everyone understands that) and then I tried them on in their little booth. I'm actually not a keen shopper though. And, provided I've one or two good enough tranny outfits for getting out in, I'm happy with that.

What leads you to choose the styles you wear?

I only ever dress to go to a club or bar or such. So my tranny look is always a kind of fairly chic, glam evening wear look. Sexy but not over the top. I want people who see me to read me as interesting, alluring, attractive, with a bit of wow! but nothing too shocking. Posh tart, you might say.

Do you have one look or many images?

Really just one. Shoulder length dark bob wig (Louise Brooks, but a bit longer), pale face, very full red lips, eyeliner below the eye, lots of mascara - lucky me, I've long cow-lashes, oh, and a long fringe so I don't have to do more than trim my eyebrows and pluck them a bit to look right in girly mode).

Is make-up and hair important to you and if so how do you achieve your look?

I covered some of that in the last question. If I'm going out properly I do a careful double shave, the second shave against the grain to get the face really smooth -- it usually lasts till the following midday, which is handy. Then I use a 3 in one cover all of an appropriate tone for my type. I carry the stick in my bag for patching up during the evening. Then just the other stuff I mentioned in the last question.

To what degree do you practice hair removal, and other body feminisation?

When going out in tranny mode I usually body shave (except pubes, and I leave out my arms which have only a passable dark down on them). I'm never trying to 'pass' as a woman, but I am trying to look my best as a tranny. So I shave parts where hair is starting to grow in middle age. I'm lucky to have quite smooth silky, white skin and I like to look good in my underwear, or where my arms and upper chest show in a cocktail frock.

Who knows you dress?

I've kind of lost track of this. My wife has known since just after we first met. Though back then I didn't know quite what it all amounted to, let alone her. Quite a few family friends, some colleagues, some other people in tranny world, of course. My daughter knows, but not my son. Mainly because she's older but partly because it came up during talks about sex and things, such as can arise with your children as they come of age. I worry about my son and how he'd cope with it. One day it should be ok to be more open with him about it. But it could cause trouble for him at school, and I shouldn't want that. It probably gets around a bit though. Some people you tell treat it like a dark secret to guard at all costs. Others like to put the gossip about or at least think it's fine, wonderful, mildly amusing etc. At some level I want it known, but I swing between being more open and worrying about negative impact on my working life and family. That's a tricky one. If I did something different it would matter less. Also if I didn't have children. But it might not go down well with my public image and status. Not that I'm exactly a household name.

How often do you dress and if you go out where to?

Hardly ever, now, as it happens. I've done my trannying in intensive spells lasting 3 to 4 months. Going down to London once to three times a week while the flurry is on. Where do I go? The Philbeach, where I like to stay overnight. The Wayout Club. Ron Storme's when it was running. Ted's Place. Stunners (once). One or two straight places in Soho (restaurant, bar, disco type places). My favourites are The Philbeach Hotel and The WayOut Club. But there are some new places I'd have tried if I were out on the scene more, which I'm not at present. Which is why I've got time to write all this, I suppose.

What is a man and what is a woman?

In the first instance, whether you're a man or a woman it is biologically determined, by chromosomes. And I know that some human beings can be born literally, physically, biologically in a middle ground. So I think there's a biological basis in the first instance. For purposes of scientific categorisation most of us can be defined at birth as one or the other. But after that a whole lot of other things kick in to do with society, family, temperament, experience, etc which make us embrace, tolerate, resist, resent, or even reject the initial fact of us being man or woman. I believe there is an objective, scientific, biological distinction between man and woman, but that's as far as it goes. The rest is cultural and conditioned, and within either category there is an enormous scope for individual differences. So much so that there can be a very wide overlap resulting in some men seeming a lot more feminine (as culturally defined) than many women, and some women seeming a lot more masculine (again as culturally defined) than many men. I believe that many transgendered people of all types inhabit this territory of overlap.

What is your definition of feminine?

I won't allow myself to have a definition. It's too loaded an issue, and as a male to female tranny I don't feel I can be a reliable judge. Ask a woman, ask a feminist. But be sure of this. When I tranny myself up I'm NOT thinking 'How can I be like a woman?' or 'How can I make myself feminine?' I'm more thinking, 'How can I look as good as possible, wearing the kind of clothes I want to wear for this kind of occasion? How can I get this kind of outfit to work on my body?' I want to look good as a tranny, not be mistaken for a woman. It's a very important distinction, not least for political reasons. I know that women can find tranny statements on 'femaleness' or 'femininity' very insulting and annoying. So I'm not stepping in there with my 4 inch heels on.

Where do you feel you fit on the transgender spectrum CD TV TS?

I'm mainly in the middle there, with TV. I'm an occasional transvestite who would 'dress' far more often if it weren't such a big issue. Curiously, I don't like to draw a lot of attention to myself in public, so as a guy I tend to wear a very low key neutral look which I'm very happy with. It's quite a soft, casual style: chinos, loafers, t-shirt or roll neck with fleece + beany hat if it's cold. When I'm tranny-clad I don't want to provoke any negative attention, so I tend tactfully to keep the drag back for club or bar. Ideally, I might tranny up when going to straight parties or social occasions. But I don't because I can't face the big deal so many people want to make of it. When younger I think I was too scared. Now I just feel too old and too tired.

Are you happy to be called a tranny or a drag queen or does that offend you?

Drag Queen I feel applies more to high camp effeminate homosexuals who drag up either in the hope of attracting straight(-ish) men, or for the sake of performance &/or exhibitionism. But the term itself is fine by me. It just refers to a different kind of creature. Tranny I tend to take as an affectionate reference to TVs. In my experience TSs are quick to make the divide clear, to let you know they're about to, or have already, had the surgery. TVs generally have no intention of such a move. So they tend to know they're not TS. I like the term Tranny. I apologise to radios and vans for hijacking their nickname. I doubt they'll mind. What might offend me is how people say the term. If it's said in an affectionate, or even matter of fact way, that's ok. But if it's spat out with hatred or intended violence, well, I'd rather not be there. I've sometimes told people that I'm a bisexual transvestite, but I'm not sure if I really am bisexual as such, in the true sense. I find 'tranny' a nice shorthand. 'Transvestite' sounds so psychological / clinical, as if spoken by a serious man with specs and a smart suit. If I'm being more cautious, I use the term TG, which I feel is a really handy neutral label, short for trans-gendered. Trouble is, most people don't know the term, so I use 'tranny' which is more received. Most people's knowledge of the transgendered world is very limited, so the distinctions between different terms are lost on them. We're still at the stage where many people just think of us as 'faggots in frocks'. FFs! So 'tranny' is a good catch-all term. Not offensive to me.

To what degree do you feel gender dysphoric (i.e. that your brain is feminine)?

I don't feel that my brain is 'feminine'. How could I know? But I have friends who are heterosexual men, and friends who are homosexual men. And I know I don't belong to either category. So I now consider myself to be TG or transgendered. I can't say whether this is part of my essential genetic coding or the result of conditioning and experience, but I believe myself to be in a category of men who are in some sense in-between, with the basic physical attributes of men but with a disposition to identify with the observed demeanours and behaviours associated with the broad category of women. I will admit to feeling 'feminine' or 'womanlike' in some respects so long as this is not construed as putting pressure on biological women to behave in any particular way not natural to them or desired by them. I have often caught myself wishing I had been born a woman, wanting to be genuinely the other sex. But I know there's no way that can be truly achieved, so it's an unrealistic wish. April Ashley once advised a young man considering surgery not to go ahead with it, on the grounds that he wouldn't become a woman. He'd just be a mutilated man. Maybe for some people that's enough. But for me I know it would be a big mistake. I sometimes suspect that the so-called sex-change option has caused more misery than happiness. I wish we could have a 3rd sex, TG, formally recognised, so we could just work toward being the best way for ourselves. There'd be so much to work through. Lots of stuff to do with self-presentation and identity. It would all need to be milled through in the way that feminist women had to work out so many things about themselves across the 20th century.

To what degree would you consider permanent hair removal, hormones, surgery?

For me surgery would be a big mistake. And I don't trust the kind of chemical change that hormones might result in. Dodgy interference with Mother Nature. But permanent hair removal I'd love. Why haven't I gone for it already? Big story. To be beard free and only to have to shave my armpits and pluck my eyebrows would be wonderfully liberating for me. Maybe I'll try it. But it's very laborious, expensive, etc and I go out so rarely as a tranny that the old razor may be good enough for me in the end. Hmm... surgery. I think that would be terribly misguided for me. I actually quite like my body, just as I quite like my neutral self in a roll neck, chinos and soft flat shoes, and fleece. Genderless clothes, I suppose?.

What individual has inspired you most in relation to your TG inclinations?

Over the years, a number of people in different ways. And I love them all for it. Though I don't always agree on everything, or want to live their life or be like them. I'm grateful for them helping me to be a me that works for me. They're not all trannies, necessarily. Let's see: Danny La Rue for just being there as a visible form of feminised male back in the 60s. Quentin Crisp for showing how you can just brazen it out if you really want to, whatever you are. Vicky Lee for making it seem possible to come out into the world as Antoinette and give my tranny self a reallygood canter round the big city. Ditto Ron Storme, though I never met him. Charlie (ex Charles) Anders, who wrote 'The Lazy Cross Dresser' for voicing so much of what I was coming to myself vis a vis being a tranny. There are many others. Oh, yes. Miss Renee, or Renee Hall as she now calls herself. I liked her attitude to looking good and getting out there into the straight world to claim her space. I ought to mention Vern & Bonnie Bullough who wrote that immense tome, 'Cross dressing, sex and gender', which is probably the most up to date available book on the whole subject. I think it informed me rather than inspired me. Packed with data though. It all helps.

Do you feel you have any choice in your TG thoughts and actions?

I know I have absolutely no choice in being, in some sense, TG. I can't change what I was born, or became, in that respect. That really is me. I've spent two thirds of a life resisting it, and it really would be easier not to be that kind of thing. But I can to some extent moderate both thought and action. Ironically, though, I've found that by going out and doing, as fully as possible, everything I've ever fantasised about in 'trannysphere', it's somehow made it easier to control what I actually do now. I mean that now that I've done most things I used to fantasise about, I have much more control over the fantasies. And I'm much more sensible about what I do and where. It's as if, as a tranny, I've grown up and gotten real. So instead of being the victim of intense whims and urges, I now plan and control what I do far more effectively. There's more fun now, but more safety too. I often use memory these days to satisfy tranny urges. I just play back what's taken place. But, I'll be back out there soon, I expect, for a little trot round.

Have you ever suffered harassment or abuse?

Nothing traumatic. Got jeered at once by two lads, walking from Gloucester Road area to Earls Court, en route to the Philbeach Hotel. Late at night, 2am, "Ere, it's a geezer, ain't it? Yay, it's a geezer." I ignored them, crossed the road briskly between cars and walked on. Could have been a lot worse, as any girl knows.

Have you tried to stop?

Of course. A man of my generation who fancies women, predominantly, and wanted a female partner -- what do you think? Back then in the 60s there wasn't much info about it all. And of course I sniffed out what I could. But things were pretty primitive back then, with regard to trans gender issues. I tried to explore it more fully in my thirties (the 80s) and went quite far with dressing, going to a party in full kit, walking out at night, all the stuff we do. But there seemed no place for it back then, unless one was going to have a full time life as a drag artist or tranny whore. And I wanted to be a teacher and a writer. I didn't want to have to be a tranny first and above all else, which is what it would have become. So I kept putting it away, pushing it to the back of the cupboard so to speak. I knew I wasn't a straight homosexual, and I felt it seriously jeopardised my relationship with my female partner. I feared becoming a poor sad, solo tranny in a frightful flat. So, yes, I tried to pack it in, got rid of the gear, sometimes went for years with nothing but the odd fantasy. Most trannies of my generation know the story. A bit like being gay before legalisation.

Are your sexual preferences changed by your TG experiences (even temporarily)?

No, but they're pretty broad, generally. When I'm dressed I really like the sexual attention of men. I don't especially fancy them, but I love them fancying me. And since learning to dress effectively as a tranny and going out to tranny hotspots, I've done a lot of sex with a lot of men. Just about every kind of thing with every kind of person. To the level of whoring but without demanding money. The fact remains that the best real sex I have is with my wife, a heterosexual woman who relates to me as her heterosexual man. And for me, the object of desire is a woman rather than a man. It's women that light my fire and arouse my interest, curiosity and desire. But, as a tranny, I really enjoy acting out the sexual encounter. It's like role playing sex, in a way. But the sex really happens. It's not just pretence & cockteasing. I've put this bluntly because I've observed quite a few trannies seeming to be rather confused by issues to do with admirers, tranny fanciers & male punters. I think every tranny needs to work this one out. I'm not suggesting all trannies are really like me and they should admit it. I've observed there to be at least 3 types of tranny in terms of sexual leaning: trannies who go with punters (tranny tarts), trannies who go with other trannies (lesbi-trannies) and trannies who just tranny (tranny posers, teasers, whatever). We'd need a survey to cover this properly.

Have you suffered illness, depression, relationship break ups because of being TG?

It's been a big issue in my life in all respects, whether while I've been in resistance to it or running with it. I was never in denial once I'd identified it, but I was often in resistance. Even now I'd say I 'manage' it, which it most certainly needs. I had an early breakdown of an obsessive-compulsive style while at university. There were many factors, but I think trying to accommodate being TG back then, along with other pressures, caused me a lot of trouble. I also think that my sense of self-worth continues to be compromised by being TG, especially in respect of marriage and friendship. I still feel emotionally devalued in some sense, as a result of being TG. I can't just let it be an accepted part of my life, as there are still issues to do with being open and public about it that get compromised by other things in my life. So I live half-out and half-in as a tranny and it weighs negatively, quite often and quite deeply. So much so that I keep the problems to myself these days and don't even talk to my partner about them, for fear of being a drag (yeah!). Having said that, I can't fault her as a listener. And she's been amazingly open minded and intelligent about the whole thing. Always. So compared to some I've been lucky in having a tolerant partner. There's another issue under this heading that needs addressing, which is sexual health and safety. I'm middle aged and educated so you'd think I would know the score. Moreover I don't do drugs of any kind and am a very moderate drinker, even on festive occasions. So I'm never technically out of control. However there've been two periods of my tranny activity during which I've behaved very promiscuously. And I've tipped over, once or twice, into doing 'unsafe' sex, to the extent that I've later had to do the whole drawn-out clinic thing: the tests, the waiting, the worry. Both times I've been lucky (clear on all counts), but both times there was a chance I might have gotten the Big One (HIV). It's seriously affected my behaviour now. I'm far more restrained and inhibited, far more cautious. I hope I've learned my lesson. But I feel my carelessness was something that wouldn't have happened to me in the heterosexual world. It was a lot to do with the intense intoxication of being out there, being flattered, being found beautiful and sexy, the sheer pleasure of being able to give pleasure of that kind as an 'effective' tranny. That kind of excitement, exhilaration, after half a lifetime of restraint and non-indulgence, well, I can only say it led me at times to lose my head and behave stupidly. Of course someone may insist that they're clean, in the heat of the moment. Well, they would say that, wouldn't they? But afterwards, when you think about it, you know you can't trace them and that you know nothing about them. So off you must go to the clinic. I can't be the only Tgirl in tranny world who's had this kind of problem, the business of being in a position to act out the fantasy of being a tart, and then getting into serious trouble over it. It can be like being a child who's never had sweets (but known and dreamed about them) finding them self in a sweetshop with no-one there to help them control what they do.

If you could relive your life without the TG experience would you choose to?

A bit of me wants to shout, 'YES!' In times of difficulty I've envied straight gays for the clarity of what they are, and the way they can now move in the world relatively freely. And if I could have had free choice I'd have been a straight woman. But, on reflection, there's a deep bit of me that just doesn't want to be a standard, straight man, and that's what I'd be without the TG strand in my twine. If I could have a wish, it would be to have been allowed to have been a tranny with my own place in the field, allowed to be and do as that kind of creature, accepted along with all the others. Somewhere in me there is a kind of self-acceptance and pride growing these days. I kind of love my tranny self and identify deeply with it. It's me and I'm not changing. I can't, anyway. So I'm learning to love myself as a tranny, even if no-one else can.

Do you feel that releasing your "gender gift" has released creativity (poetry, music, art) that may otherwise have remained repressed?

Well, I'm a writer and quite successful as such. I think my writing is a part of my person, but I can't claim that embracing my tranny self has exactly 'released' creativity in me. It's possible that I have a determined and inquiring spirit that has taken me doggedly (bitchedly?) into tranny world as it has into writing. You certainly need nerve to get out there at first. There's a leap that needs to be made, when you first walk out 'en femme'.

Have you ever performed and if so how did you get into performing and what have you done?

I perform as a writer, quite a bit. But this has no obvious connection with TG. If I did my events in drag it could prove tricky in a number of ways. I am sometimes tempted to do like our friend of the Turner prize and make a public appearance. But not just yet. When my son's older. And I'll be a bit over the hill by then... Perhaps...? Maybe not. What does grow in me is an interest to go public, but in a more modest way, as I get older. Maybe by writing some form of auto-bio-sketch about the whole tranny experience, which might help to educate the public more widely about the whole thing. Or maybe by getting more involved in some kind of tranny support system, to do with helping other trannies come to terms with themselves. Ideally both. But just now my life doesn't afford the time. And I have a fair bit of work to do on myself, I think, before being able to face the world like that.

What outstanding TG experiences stand out in your mind?

The day I went down to the lounge of the Philbeach Hotel for the first time ever. I had on a full length red sleeveless dress, a black velvet bolero jacket, black stockings and strappy 4 inch heel sandals. I had my full slap worked out and my dark bob wig. I knew I looked ok, but worried I was getting a little old to be doing this. There was a young handsome man just getting up from the computer there. He was big, with long dark hair in a pony tail. Just the sort of person I expected to have no sort of interest in the kind of thing I was. He looked at me and just said, 'You look fantastic!' It was the nicest kind of compliment, said with evident sincerity. I glanced across at the wall mirror and thought, 'Yes, actually. He's right. You do. Let's see what they think down in Jimmy's famous bar.....' I did thank him for the compliment. And still do. I have stacks more stories I could tell, but Vicky would have to censor half of them.

What one piece of advice would you give to someone that has just found they are not the only tranny in the world?

Go to the WayOut Website & follow up its leads. You'll soon have friends in tranny world. Or places to find them.