Volunteering is perhaps one of the best ways to gain acceptance by the cis-gender community because it creates visibility which after all is the theme of this column.
I said to myself it’s September and where has all the time gone? I remain very committed to my agenda. I want to continue to support my like-minded sisters. I wish to remain visible, as we will not affect any changes unless we get out there, changes minds, make ourselves part of the mainstream. It is absolutely doable to take ourselves off the margins if we all follow the rules of the road: be smart, be appropriate and be confident. My daily posts on my blog are about being positive, uplifting, moving the ball forward, so to speak.
And I’ve found that volunteering is one of the best, and perhaps easier, ways to get out there. It builds confidence to take the next step, whatever that may be. Or to help you to at least find a comfortable place just to be yourself.
Volunteering, is my key to happiness as a crossdresser. When I first started dressing completely, I was determined to make Kandi a real person. Early on, I went to CD/TG events. While I learned quite a bit, I often felt out of place. Not that I didn’t belong or that many of these people were not worth knowing, but the events were about “being dressed”. That was the main topic of conversation. What I was looking for was a simple state of “being”. Instead of an evening out to be dressed, I wanted to dress for an evening out. Make any sense?
So being armed with the anonymity of the internet, I sent e-mails to various charitable organizations, explaining that I was a crossdresser and wanted to volunteer my time, dressed (see Tasi’s note below). One organization, one wonderful woman, welcomed me with open arms. I was effectively her assistant for a few hours each week. I cherished those hours. What would I wear to the office? What would we be doing that day? Being greeted as Kandi, being referred to in female pronouns, using the ladies room, it all seemed so natural. Due to some personnel changes, including my “boss”, I have since moved on to other organizations.
I now volunteer for The North Coast Men’s Chorus, The Cleveland Museum of Art, Museum of Contemporary Modern Art, The Great Lakes Science Center, Mercury Theatre, Cleveland Public Theatre, Weathervane Theater and Greater Cleveland Volunteers. I attend big events, small performances, large performances, work on Playhouse Square and in wonderful community theaters. I am becoming known as Kandi and treated like any other of the female volunteers. I am valued. I am appreciated. I am considered absolutely “normal” (I don’t like that term, but I use it to make the point). I talk with women about the dress I am wearing, talk to men about the latest game, give and receive complements and am generally considered a welcome part of their experience that evening.
Why is volunteering important? Separate from the intrinsic good one feels from giving, it is the perfect place for a gal to spread her wings. Any activity that allows me to interact with as many people as possible, as many total strangers as I can, is a welcome one to me. I am addicted to complements. I often challenge myself to obtain three hugs on any one evening from total strangers (and I often do). So I am in a welcoming environment surrounded by open minded people. I get to meet new people and make new friends. I get to see wonderful performances and learn so much about things I previously knew little about.
The best part? What I wear!! For the art museum’s monthly party, I wear formal attire. At the theaters, I can get casual (jeans) or get a little adventurous. I cannot explain the chills I got when a few of the ladies at the theater greet me with a “cute outfit girl!”. Do you know how freeing it is to walk around in a skirt? Or to sit on a bar stool before the show, enjoying a cocktail with my legs crossed, digging in my purse for my phone.
So my first lesson to those that wish to get out there. Simply find an organization that can use a hand and give some time. You will get so much more back in return than you can imagine.
I guess my favorite charitable event was A Prom to Remember! This is a prom for kids battling cancer and I was very involved in helping set up the event. It was time to bring my absolute “A” game. Below are a few pictures from the event. I picked up this beautiful Ralph Lauren floral dress at a thrift store, knee length, half sleeve, perfect for me and the occasion. I paired it up with this pretty necklace to pull the green tones from the dress and added modest gold accessories. My makeup included a light purple eye shadow and purple lipstick. I felt wonderful and looked alright, if I must say so myself.
The thing that struck me most was that I was completely accepted, 100% as one of the ladies. They treated me no differently than any other woman, chatting about our heels, talking about our lives, it was really special. And then the kids……both heartbreaking and life affirming. These brave young people were all very happy to be there and very appreciative of our efforts. It was a long day, a good seven hours in heels that I may have reconsidered had I realized how painful they would be at night’s end.
There were many memories. The beautiful young lady that made a point of telling me how she loved my dress (yes, I cried). The twenty minute conversation I had with a fellow volunteer, a father and husband and a world class human being. Having dinner at a table of all ladies and being an active participant in their conversation, never feeling that I was nothing but one of them. In every single conversation I had that evening my attire was irrelevant. As I drove home I thought about the fact that I was probably the first such encounter most had that night with someone like myself, I represented in front of over 150 people and hopefully left a positive impression on them.
Ladies, things are better. We do have work to do, but being visible, being out there, makes all the difference. Be smart, be appropriate, be confident, get out there and be visible!
Next month I’ll talk about other events, other organizations and how I line these things up…more of a nuts and bolts of what I do. Then I’ll lay out photos in different types of outfits for different events and organizations.
Sister House Fashion and Style Columnist
Visit Kandi’s blog at Kandi’s Land
If there is anything you would like me to discuss, please let us know. You can contact Tasi directly, me through my blog or leave a comment here.
Tasi’s Comment: I asked Kandi about her volunteering process. Sometimes she contacts the organizations in person or by phone, but if she contacts by email, then she tells them she is transgender presenting as female and willing to have an interview and provide references.