Daily Archives: August 13, 2012

clothes as chrysalis


The journey from “biological male with a woman’s brain” to woman, inside and out, is long, complicated, and full of things people are fascinated by but don’t dare to ask about. One has to start somewhere, however. We started with the women’s section of the Land’s End website.

Nicholas (not quite Melody just yet) had been gradually adding slightly more feminine items to his wardrobe, mostly tops, one or two at a time, as his male clothes wore out. Then one day, he called me to the computer and asked me to help him pick out the real beginnings of his (or actually, her) new wardrobe. We went through every garment, every choice on that site and several others; I discovered that he has a playful, yet elegant sense of style and and an excellent instinct for colour. Together, we chose several items; I felt incredibly touched that he wanted my opinion and help with these first outward symbols of his emerging inner self.

The packages arrived; he was excited, but for some reason, they sat in their packages for a day or so, on the main worktable in our front room. Perhaps we were getting used to their presence in our lives, the existence of flowery things belonging to him, instead of to me. That first time, we came up with a little ritual to help welcome the changes to his wardrobe and to our lives: Trying On The Finery. I asked Nicholas if I could see him in her new things. With the aid of a full-length mirror, together we explored these visions of a new self. We’ve since done this with every new purchase; it’s become something we cherish and make time for no matter what else is going on.

The first try-on session was mostly shirts and tops, but it was a revelation to me nonetheless–a moment held in time in my memory, a sacred event. For me, that was the day the transition really began, even though for Melody herself the changes had begun long before.

This next part is hard to explain, but I’ll give it a go.

Having helped Nicholas choose his purchases, of course I knew what the clothes looked like. On the internet. In the catalog. Folded flat in their plastic packaging. As the first flowered shirt became three-dimensional by enveloping his body, as he buttoned it up to claim it as her own, a shift happened inside me. You know that moment in the Wizard of Oz movie where Dorothy steps out of her tornado-tossed, monochrome house into the technicolour Land of Oz? That’s what it was like watching Nicholas don her girl clothes. One moment my husband Nicholas was opening a package from Land’s End, and then, as he raised his head from buttoning the shirt, the “he” fell away and the “she” looked up and smiled at me. I saw my wife for the first time that day. She was beautiful.

As she took off the shirt, I watched her change back to Nicholas. Trouble is, though, once you have seen what’s really there, you cannot go back. Several more blouses were tried on, and my view of the person in front of me wavered from husband to wife, from male to female, from Nicholas to Melody and back again. Then…well.

We’d saved the dress for last.

We’d chosen one dress, after considering and rejecting dozens of summer styles. It’s multicoloured, almost patchwork, with embroidered embellishment, beads, and lovely buttons in clever places. Melody had fallen in love with the floral motifs, the bright colours, the playful feel of it. She was worried it wouldn’t fit; I could tell she liked it so much that she did not want to return it.

I helped her slip it over her head; as I stepped back, I saw her toss her hair to get it out of her eyes. The motion was so completely feminine that I stopped and just watched her for a few moments as she moved her shoulders and her arms to settle the dress more comfortably, just as every woman does with a new outfit.

And then I watched as her shoulders relaxed, and her face relaxed, and her smile grew, and her arms relaxed, and I know it’s sappy and clichĂ©, but I felt as though I was watching a butterfly fresh from the chrysalis, shaking out her wings, getting to know her new self, relaxing with the joy of finally discovering her own beauty.

I cried. I stood there, my hand over my mouth, tears running down my face, and marveled at the wonder of a woman emerging from a long time hidden from the world. “That’s my wife,” I thought, and savoured the sound of it. “My wife, Melody.”

And I cried more tears of wonder and revelation, gobsmacked by the immensity and the sacredness and the simplicity and the reality and the love encased in this moment.

I knew then that we were never going to live in Kansas again. The Land of Oz, the land of unfolding wonder, the country of talking trees and dangerous wicked witches and generous townspeople, this would be our home and our strange new journey from now on.