From the minute we are born we encounter key moments in our lives—opening our eyes, the first smile, the spoken word, and those first steps. Before we know it we give our first kiss, lose our virginity, get our hearts broken. Yet all the time most of us are living the life that was prescribed in the most basic of forms even before that very first day we entered the world—as a man or as a woman.
Professor David Forbes does not fall into this basic category of ‘most of us’. For him, and many others, life isn’t that simple. He is a man who accepts that he is a man, but who is happier wearing make-up and a dress.
And now one of his student’s has discovered he is a crossdresser and is asking for his help.
David handed Hector the cup of tea and sat opposite him at the small table in his office. “Have you spoken to anyone else?”
“N—no. Just you. And, and it’s good of you to listen to me. It—it’s been a help to get it off my chest.” The stammer was beginning to creep back into Hector’s speech.
“Mmm.” David glanced around the room as he wondered who was the most nervous.
A quietness hung between them and David began to doodle on his notepad, biding his time and pondering what to say, conscious that if he procrastinated any longer his feet would go cold and walk him out of the door. Hector sipped his tea and waited.
“So, your parents don’t know?”
“Do you feel you could talk to them? Perhaps your mother?” David remembered how sympathetic and supportive his own mother had been when his urges had become too much to hide.
“I think they’d be ashamed. My d—dad thinks wearing a long coat is the prerogative of women. He wouldn’t even watch Keanu Reeves in The Matrix.” Hector gave a small laugh.
David had never heard him make a joke before and took this to be a good sign. The man was relaxed.
“And my mum…she just h—hopes I’ll meet a nice girl after my PhD and get married and have kids. B—but what g—girl is going to want to be with me? When I want to w—wear the same clothes as her?”
David leaned forward. “Some girls will, believe me. One thing I’ve found out about myself is that I can empathise with women. I’m sensitive to feminine needs and desires because I share a lot of them.”
“Have you got a girlfriend then?”
David swallowed and continued to expand the isometric wave chart he was creating on the pad. The wavelengths began to get bigger. Images of sexual partners swirled around his head. In fact, the label ‘partners’ bestowed too great a connection. For the past couple of years he mostly had hook-ups. One night stands that weren’t even worth notching up on a bed post. He played safe and it suited him. On the odd occasion someone would touch his inner soul. He pictured Sandrine Lafayette, and Matthew in Singapore. Then there was Lucy. In a way she was his girlfriend, but that label bestowed too little importance on their relationship. She was his soulmate, the one person who knew all there was to know about David Forbes, the one who understood and loved him. And he loved her.
“No,” was his reply. He didn’t want to talk about Lucy. Not yet anyway. “Not at the moment. But I have had relationships with women in the past.” Well, this was true. He had dated Vicky in his first year at university. She fled the minute he asked her if he could try her lipstick on—the colour had been divine. And then there was Angela in his third year. That lasted a few months, even after he confessed his enjoyment of wearing girls’ clothes and make-up. She had even slept with him when he was made up and let him keep a negligee on.
“I admit it’s not easy to find someone to truly be yourself with, but that doesn’t mean it’s not possible. For me, it wasn’t about finding someone to be with who understood me. It was about finding myself and understanding myself. It was about being able to be myself. To be the man I needed to be without drowning in shame and guilt.”
“That’s what I need, Professor. I need to find myself.”
David glanced at his watch. His next lecture was due in fifteen minutes. “Look. I’m sorry but I have to go now. If you like, we can talk some more. In the meantime there’s a good website out there.” He pulled a sheet of paper from his pad and began to write Fionadobson.com. “Take a look. There are tips on all sorts of things like wearing make-up, finding clothes that fit. And some fun stuff too. You can sign up to a programme and connect with others like us. We’re not alone, Hector, and we don’t have to be lonely. Take a look and let me know how you get on.”
Hector put the paper in his pocket. “Thanks. I’ll check it out. And it would be great t—to talk again.”
Knowing that Hector was going to walk through his door and experience immense loneliness once more left David feeling unusually philanthropic. He picked up his phone and flicked through his calendar. “I’m free on Friday for an hour at eleven. Pop in if you want another chat.”
As David headed to his lecture his mind drifted.
Five years ago
At last his real life could begin. After years of studying, David Forbes had become Professor David Forbes. That meant a great job with a good income. And today he took possession of the keys to his very own place. Well, the bank owned most of it, but he had his own TV licence.
This called for a celebration. He would indulge in something he mostly abstained from. An urge he fought to ignore. A secret he kept hidden. Tonight he was going to be who he really wanted to…no, needed to, be. He would take Diana out.
The pleasure of slipping on a violet laced cami top and stepping into matching panties, chased away the fear that he was going to make a fool of himself. You chose to live miles away from the university and student accommodation areas. No one is going to recognise you. He stepped back from the full-length mirror and admired his reflection. It was almost a shame to cover the lingerie with his pale blue dress, but the touch of the cool silk against his skin, together with the faintest waft of air from the ‘swoosh’ of the fabric as he walked, was too delectable to resist. Besides, decency called. He was going to venture out and didn’t want to be mistaken for a semi-clad slut. He also didn’t want to be mistaken for someone who couldn’t walk in their high heels, or even worse, someone who had difficulty getting up after falling down, so he wore flat sandals.
He stared at the mirror on his window sill—yes, his window sill in his bathroom—and applied a light dusting of eye-shadow and a heavy brushing of mascara. Then he pulled on his wig. The colour of dark, rich soil matched his own hair, but the long tendrils which bounced off his shoulders were definitely not his. And soon it would start to itch. Pushing back the fake strands he added the final touch, his favourite part. He savoured the moment as he coloured his lips in a bright scarlet before kissing the glass and gazing at the imprinted kiss staring back at him.
Not quite ready to venture through his door, he spent the next quarter of an our drinking in some Dutch courage from a cheap bottle of Scotch and smoking in some stupidity from something he promised he was going to give up. Before the courage deserted him and the stupidity overwhelmed him, he threw a shawl around his shoulders with a flurry of joie-de-vivre and grabbed the small bag containing his wallet. At last Diana headed out to a nearby bar.
After being followed by numerous stares from passers-by, shoved in the shoulder twice, and jeered at by a tattooed ignoramus, David sat alone at a small table in a dimly-lit corner of the bar, making his second glass of wine last as long as he possibly could. He wasn’t experiencing the soothing peacefulness that being Diana usually gifted him, and the idea of walking to the bar for another drink didn’t appeal. Despite customers being thin on the ground, he was still a victim of the occasional stare. Was it that obvious he was a bloke? Had the intense pleasure of being Diana blinded him from the true picture she portrayed? The dress was a good fit. Was it the flat shoes? The wig had sat comfortably on his head when he left home—had it slipped? Instinctively he raised his hand. Then he changed his mind. His head itched but if he scratched it he might dislodge the fake hair and make it look even worse.
The taste of the white wine distracted him from these defeatist thoughts. For a small bar, the house wine tasted very good. He glanced around and began to study a poster promoting the quiz night. Held every Wednesday. All welcome. With Master-of-the-Mic Michael.
“You’ve put it on too thick, you know?”
David’s eyes landed on a girl short on height and long on hair—no doubt her own—standing beside his table.
It was a rhetorical question as she pulled the chair out and plonked both herself and her glass of wine down.
“I could help you, if you like.”
David stared at her with a blank expression. “Help me with what?”
“Your make-up. It’s just a bit heavy around your eyes. Makes you look a bit tarty.”
“Tarty!” David pursed his lips, praying the light didn’t reveal his blush as much as it did his ‘thick…heavy eyes’.
“It’s a common error. Lots of girls overdo the eyes. I know long thick lashes are the in thing. But that doesn’t mean they should resemble the bristles of a clogged-up paint brush. Know what I mean?”
David didn’t respond. He was still hung up on ‘lots of girls’. Did this girl think he was a girl?
“Is it new?”
“Is what new?” He needed to catch up fast with this conversation.
“The mascara. The shaft gets gunky with age. Good job that doesn’t happen to every shaft.” She winked as she laughed, and reached out to touch David’s hand which was resting on the bottom of his wine glass.
As if struck by lightning David yanked his hand away and thrust it under the table. Not quite sure if this girl was bawdy, or naïve and the wink was really a twitch, David attempted to assume an air of authority. He opened his mouth, as if he was about to lecture a student. Then he shut it again. After all, this girl could be thinking that he was a girl, and he didn’t wan tot ruin it.
“Well, that’s all very interesting, er…?” He sounded confident and alluring. At least that was what he hoped, and not scared stiff which was what he felt.
“Oh, Lucinda. Lucinda de Vilish.”
De Vilish, really? And there was that wink again. Yes, a definite wink.
“You can call me Lucy. I like your dress. Your eye shadow matches beautifully. And just the right amount too.”
“Right. “ He shuffled in his seat. “De Vilish, you say?”
“Wicked, I know.” She beamed and sipped some wine.
“Well, thanks for the tip. Sounds like I need to pay a visit—”
Lucy cut in. “They’re over there.” She nodded to the sign that said ‘Ladies’ before adding, “Or do you need that one?” and turning in the opposite direction, to the sign “Gents”.
David closed his eyes for a moment and took a deep breath. “I meant to the shop. To buy some new mascara.” Now his voice was barely a whisper. “I think I’d better leave.”
He felt sick. And stupid. He was the one being naïve.
“Don’t go. I’ve just got here. When I noticed you I thought you looked like you could do with a friend.”
David didn’t know it at the time but that was when he met the girl who was to be his very best friend. He had reached the lecture theatre and all thoughts of Lucy, and Hector, were replaced by particle-wave duality. Oh, for the love of physics.