Hello, ladies. After getting the cart before the horse and having a computer crash because of a nasty virus, I'm finally able to introduce myself properly.
I'm Ariella Michelle Hellerman. I'm 61, was born Michael and have gone through my life VERY closeted until now. I guess it's best I start at the beginning, so here goes:
I can't remember a time I didn't feel more like a girl and, later, like a woman. My female self has ALWAYS been part of me. Always The first time I tried to express it was when I was about two years old. My parents both worked in a family-owned business and we had a housekeeper who took care of me, cleaned and fixed meals during the day. One day after both my parents were at work, I decided I'd get dressed up like my mother did. I didn't get as far as makeup, but I DID try on her panties, bra and high heels (obviously too big for me, but that doesn't matter when you're playing dress up, does it?). Our housekeeper heard me trying to walk in my mother's heels (I was on my way to put on some makeup) on our hardwood floors and came to see what I was up to. I was making no attempt to hide anything because I didn't see that I was doing anything wrong. Oh, was I wrong! We're talking rural West Texas in 1953, girls. To say the feces hit the fan would be an understatement.
Our housekeeper screamed and asked me what I thought I was doing. I said I was "getting dressed like Mama." She told me, "Boys don't wear women's clothes," made me take off what little I'd managed to keep on, got me dressed in my own clothes and then. . . she called my parents at work. Second time it hit the fan in less than ten minutes. My mother came home from work, chewed me out, blistered my bottom good, and told me not to EVER do that again. I was so confused and frightened I didn't for many years.
As I got older, I found that I preferred playing with the girls on my block more than with the boys. I'd rather make mud pies and play house than do guy stuff. I never cared for, nor was I good at sports, especially rough sports like football. I didn't like rough-housing as play. I really tried to be a good "boy," but I never quite measured up. I went all the way through Cub Scouts and it was OK. Ladies were in charge of that and I felt safe. When I tried Boy Scouts, it was not a good fit at all. The scout masters and the other boys scared me and after a couple of camping trips, I left that endeavor, never to return. Still, I was determined to prove I was a boy. And it worked until I came home from school one day when I was still in junior high school.
By then, our housekeeper only worked until after she'd finished the lunch dishes and she went home. In Texas you could get your drivers' license at age 14 if you took Drivers' Education, so by the summer of '65 I was fully licensed and pretty much on my own after school let out. My parents didn't usually get home until 6:00 or 7:00, so that gave me some free time. One day when I got home, I looked in some boxes of old clothes my sister had left when she got married and discovered that her clothes fit me well, as did my mother's shoes and lingerie. So I got dressed up, put on a little makeup and spent the next couple of hours letting my inner girl out for the first time in years. It felt SO good. I just watched TV, did some homework, and went about my business as I normally would, but as a girl. From the beginning, I took the precaution to lock all the doors and make sure the blinds were shut because I knew I'd be dead if anyone knew. Only once did some of my friends come over and I've have been sunk if they'd have come in. Where we lived, no one locked their doors and friends just walked in. The next day at school my friends asked me what was going on and I told them I hadn't felt well, didn't want to be disturbed, and was resting. I don't think they bought it completely, but they bought it enough.
My maleness developed slowly and I was able to continue in this for the next three years. When I was seventeen, the hair started coming in. I knew I couldn't start shaving my legs (my chest didn't get hair until I was in my twenties), and I felt weird putting on stockings over hairy legs. It didn't feel ladylike and I felt like a freak, so I quit. I thought I could just make the female feelings go away, but they didn't. I was dating by now, was only attracted to girls, but still felt more like a girl inside. I went WAY over the top to suppress the girl and stress the guy and that seemed to work for years. I got myself a Harley and became a biker. Got some ink. Studied martial arts.
All the while, Ariella was simmering underneath. The hippie movement came along and I grew my hair long (finally). I dated a girl who was bi and let her do a makeover on me at her request. She thought I looked pretty good and I did, too. We still chat online and she's the first person I came out to a little over a year ago. I was scared to death. She told me she suspected all along, but that she was going to let me go at my own pace. I asked her how she knew and she said, "I just knew. It didn't matter." More on that in another blog.
I got married in '72 and am still married to the same woman. I think she suspects, but I haven't mustered up the courage to come out to her yet. She says things that make me think she knows, but it's like "don't ask/don't tell," so that's where I'm leaving it for now.
In '78 I had a really bad motorcycle accident and as part of my rehab I started riding a bicycle. I really got into cycling and now I could shave my legs without incident and, in spite of a neurological condition that prevents me from riding any longer, I've continued to shave my legs.
A few years ago I decided to try a more androgynous look. I started trimming and plucking my eyebrows to give my face a softer, more feminine appearance. I wear aloha shirts a lot and have quite a collection in very feminine floral prints. I use scented oils that would be considered more feminine than masculine and I try to keep my nails (finger and toe) buffed to a high gloss and nicely manicured, but haven't made the move to nail polish just yet. Living in Austin which is VERY liberal helps and I've done these things gradually and over time so the changes aren't sudden and radical.
Nevertheless, I'm doing this slowly and carefully. I'm a singer/songwriter and am recognized as my male self around town. Segments of many of my gigs have been posted on YouTube my the venues where I've played, many of which are country venues. I sure complicated my life, didn't I?
I wanted to transition when I was a teenager. I'd read about Christine Jorgenson and thought, "If she can do it, why can't I?" Well, there were many answers to that, not the least of which was that someone would have to pay for it and my parents certainly wouldn't have. If I'd have told them, they'd have thrown me out of the house and it would have gotten all over our small town in no time. That may very well have been the end of me.
I've come out to a few more people online, but this is the first place I've found that's specifically for people like myself and where I get a vibe that tells me I'll be accepted as me and not pressured to be an activist or just throw caution to the winds. Maybe someday, but I'm just not ready for that. My wife and I share a car. I take her to work and pick her up. Because of my profession, I work from home and do some of the domestic duties. It offers me the opportunity to be my true self, if only for a few hours. I feel like I'm getting there.
So, I know that was long and rambling, so I'll stop for now. I have housework to do. Suffice it to say, I'm so glad I found PINKessence. I already feel welcomed and safe.
Thanks, Chloe, for starting this site.