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"Ive Been to Paradise but I've Never Been to Me" - Who is Steph?

Posted: 3 months ago - Nov 28, 2023

All I knew for CERTAIN was how being Steph made me feel. I loved the way she moved through the world and the different way she was treated by others and the way she looked and the time, The effort and therapeutic nature involved in getting her to look that way, Also the time I would take as I noticed how I would also act differently in my mannerisms and how I would hold myself (posture and micro expressions etc. This was not AGP. There was nothing in the experience that was sexual about Steph. It all felt so 'natural' and I had NEVER cared about 'myself' SO much before! Why did I clearly 'care' so very much about Stifannie? She was the me I loved and wanted to be, that could exist independent of me yet obviously still was 'me'! It was all so confusing! Her 'appearance/birth', the catalyst,I believe, was a matter of need and timing.

At the time I was living with my landlady. An awesome woman. And we would spend a lot of time doing stuff together when we were not working (watching movies, going out for drinks a karaoke etc). Which involved sharing in each others loves and passions. Well she knew how much I loved Prescilla Queen of the Desert (which is a bit of a chicken ad egg thing when I think about it). She discovered that there was going to be a Special PqotD event held in the city and suggested that we go together. So we did and Steph was conceived! Everything about that night, from the preparation of Steph (even her name Stifannie), creating Steph, and the movie screening, competition and clubbing afterwards, was amazing beyond words that I have to express it all.

So I became kind of both intrigued and addicted to Steph and would just spend evenings with my friend and landlady as Steph just sitting on the couch watching movies together. All that time and effort just to 'be' Steph for a couple of hours, but it didn't feel like an effort at all, quite the opposite. It was a pleasurable experience unveiling Steph (As an aside I did wonder that if some part of that plausible experience was the 'artist' and perfectionist in me, and thus part of the reason I found the process so satisfying and rewarding).

Then one day, on one of my days off, I decided to take Steph out again into the world. I got a cab and went for a drink at my place of work. ALL of which I did on my own which, in hindsight, seems INCREDIBLY ballsy. But, despite my propensity for EXTREME anxiety, I wasn't nervous one bit! (NB This was 23 Years ago and a far different world to what we have today)! Steph then made several appearances as friends and colleagues heard about her and requested to meet her (even for an entire shift at work where we all dressed in costumes for charity)!

As time moved on I started to question why Steph made me feel this way. Was there more to her than just 'escapism' because I hated being 'me' so much (with all the baggage I carried from the many horrendous experiences I had had). I concluded that there was. Like how much I disliked being 'male' because of what others expectations of being a member of that group meant. I think I mentioned before that I don't have many male friends because I detest the way many of them view and talk about women (I don't mean flirting and banter between consenting parties. That's different). Which is a problem because it seems that many women now 'expect' men to 'be' like that and are suspicious of you if your not! And I hate being judged as part of that group! But I also knew that I didn't hate my physical 'body'. So I hated being Male but didn't hate being a Man!

Then there was the 'being admired and found attractive' part. After pondering on that it seems that the pleasure I derived from that was not actually 'in' the part of being found attractive (I experienced that as a man also after all) but more in it being a 'complement' to how successfully I had erased '<my male identity>'. That's why it I derived more pleasure from the people I worked with every day not recognising me even when I was sat right besides them at the bar, let alone complement me, finding me attractive. Then there was the whole gender/sexuality thing. I am only sexually attracted to women so I couldn't get my head around the idea of being a lesbian trans woman. Something about that whole concept didn't 'feel' like Steph or me. I questioned several gay friends about this. So this was also about the culture of the world around me and not just me physically/mentally. Therefore what 'label' I would put on her/me? I still don't know really!

So Steph was 'born' from the timing of the PqotD event, but persisted because I actually needed her! And I think that's partly why she 'disappeared', because as my career progressed and my life became 'successful' I didn't 'need' her so much any more. But there 'could' also be other reasons that seem moree likely, centred around not really being confident in who Steph is! I do remember going to a drag club/bar in Blackpool and thinking “This is where I would love to work”!

Who knows if I made the 'right' decision or not with regards to her? Would my life have been better as Steph? It's something I can never know for sure. I do still think about her to this day and even talk about her with my therapists. She certainly hasn't completely disappeared! <UPDATE: Steph has become the main topic of conversation with two of my therapists this year (2023) and she has made a reappearance. Neither if my therapists were familiar with gender issues and my journey 'with' them was quite emotional and beautiful. Both expressing sheer gratitude at having shared her with them. I will try to write more Blog Posts about that particular part of the journey though it's worth noting one particularly monumental part here as it is particularly instrumental in why Steph is back, and likely for good this time, and why I wrote this essay. One of my therapists asked me "How do yo want to be remembered?". Fairly quickly I replied "I wasn't too concered wether people 'liked' me or not since thats just life but it would seem a tragedy if those who do love me didn't know about Steph becausethen they realy didn't know 'me' a all! It would be like having had my biography but with half of the pages missing, and the most significantt half at that!". It was then that I knew that whoever Steph is I HAD to tell my family and closest friends! And this essay was a large part of that process. I needed to 'explain' her as best as I could and allow them time to digest it in their own time without feeling pressured to providing an immediate response like doing it face to face would. That way I could now that whatever response I did get would also be thoughtful and considered Boy was that an intense time, especialy telling my daughter and son and fiancee of 16 years (who are my world).>

Will she make a reappearance? What would it take for that to happen?

It seems that there is much to my personality that values others WAY more than I do myself. That if others are not present to 'appreciate' something I do then it holds little to no 'value' for me. And I think there is some part of Steph for which this also holds true. That there is no point to her if there is nobody present to appreciate her. So I think much would need to change for her to return but its not impossible. <UPDATE: She has made a couple of appearancees this year>

Is the book closed? Has Stephs main story been written? Honestly, I just don't know.

I hope I am explaining things well. I'm currently but a shadow of 'myself' and Steph brings to the for the one part of 'me' that's left that doesn't 'hurt' and that I recognise as 'me', before the whole Arson thing etc! <Thats a whole other story!>

Thank you for letting me share Stephs story, which i've never publicly done in such depth before.

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ADDITIONAL

Because I have such low self esteem and self worth that causes me incredible hardships when it comes to self-care it seems that Steph was also 'created' to try and fix that problem! Because I care about others WAY more than I care about myself my brain created an 'other' for me to care about but that would also, in so doing, result in taking care of me! I take care of her and in so doing 'she' takes care of me! This would seem to possibly explain why it is she re-emerges at the times I am struggling the most! But, conversely, it 'could' also be that part of the reason I am struggling so very much in the first place is because I keep suppressing her! See what I mean about 'complex'? How does one even begin to try and figure out which one of those is true?!!!!!!

That's why the scene in Kinky Boots where Simon (Lola) is chatting with Charlie about how hard it is to explain how Lola makes him feel so 'different' resonated so well with me and impacted me HARD when I watched that movie.

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