lace punk, satin punk, petticoat punk, oh my!

This article was first published on the fashion blog Mad Hot and Artsy on 20 November 2018. Special thanks to them for featuring my content!

To satirize my proud (and adopted) feminine modality, I developed a personal clothing style I call “lace punk”, “satin punk”, and/or “petticoat punk”. It carries steampunk, burlesque, and pin-up influences; and emphasizes poise, class, and elegance. In other words, I give the appearance of “high class”. This combination kills when combined with sound posture and a confident stride—my satire has since evolved into a robust display of raw power.

Key elements involve millinery, corsetry, lace or satin gloves, heels, and frequent appearance in gowns.

The “punk” in all this is me: Accomplished hacker. Cyberpunk. Skilled guitar shredder. Free-thinking anarchist. These outfits tweak guys’ expectations when I talk engineering circles around them—“geek chic” never celebrated femininity quite like this.

I perform under the stage name “Napalm Fatale”. Have released two albums freely available at https://napalmfatale.bandcamp.com. Wrote an important article called “This is Transgender Music” describing this work and my musical goals.

I founded the company Whole-Systems Enterprises, Inc. to pay the bills. Am extremely interested in applying artificial intelligence to the fashion industry.

how to sit with ladylike poise, class, and elegance

Everybody knows I live an absolutely prim and proper life. For that reason I insist on spreading my copious knowledge to quality ladies everywhere! Here I demonstrate the “Duchess Slant” and the “Cambridge Cross”:

The Duchess Slant and the Cambridge Cross, attributed to Kate Middleton and Diana Spencer respectively, prevent your knickers from showing while seated, particularly in front of a camera [1]. We wouldn’t want the press to snap a photograph of the royal panties now would we?

Duchess Slant

English royals prove well practiced [2]:

Legs join at the knees and ankles (not crossing), and then tilt to one side. Heels touch the floor. Hands gently rest in the lap, ideally with one folded over the other [3]. Good posture—with back not touching the chair [4]—finalizes the position.

On my side of the Atlantic, I tend add a pronounced head tilt because I think it’s cute; compare to Ms. Middleton’s very slight tilt in the picture above.

Cambridge Cross

Again with the English royals [4]:

As the name implies, ankles gently cross when performing the Cambridge Cross, but otherwise one follows the Duchess Slant technique.

Why Bother?

Besides protecting modesty, these positions also slim and lengthen leg appearance [3].

I learned to sit properly from a modeling school’s video. Unfortunately I do not know which one so I cannot cite it. The video argued that given two equally qualified candidates for a photo shoot, the one that sits better will most likely get the job.

We can expand this idea to cover any job interview, and to cover career growth in general. Carrying oneself with class and poise, including how you sit, takes you places.

What About Crossing at the Knee?

The talking heads of etiquette have not sorted out amongst themselves whether crossing at the knee, while keeping angles together, proves appropriate for a lady of class [3]. But Ms. Spencer performs this position very elegantly:

Word to the wise: Prevent your petticoat from getting between your angles as demonstrated here:

The medical community continually debates the potential health hazards of sitting with legs crosses at the knee, but the jury is out [5].

How Not to Sit

Above I emphasized that one can only properly cross legs at the knee whilst keeping angles together, as demonstrated in the last two pictures. For contrast, this image [6] shows a less elegant form which ladies must avoid:

References

  1. https://www.popsugar.com/celebrity/What-Duchess-Slant-44944499
  2. https://people.com/royals/meghan-markle-duchess-slant-kate-middleton/
  3. https://www.vogue.com.au/culture/features/what-is-the-duchess-slant-and-does-it-really-matter-in-2018/news-story/e205f9b71548f9e9a004e15c6c573ba8
  4. https://brightside.me/wonder-people/12-exclusive-rules-from-the-duchess-of-cambridge-372910/
  5. http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20151013-is-crossing-your-legs-bad-for-you
  6. http://faze.ca/is-sitting-with-your-legs-crossed-bad-for-you/

 

declaring myself an arbiter of proper ladylike behavior

Today I officially declared myself an arbiter of proper ladylike behavior. Issued the announcement via Twitter and Facebook:

Obviously I’m not a perfect lady myself, having immediately mocked the whole concept by using foul language in the second sentence of the announcement tweet.

But this speaks to a fundamental issue: A proper lady will not take herself too seriously! A proper lady knows that “ladylike behavior” is an abstraction and a ruse, yet chooses to employ it anyway. It’s a means to an end, and, for those that wish to participate, one of many pathways an individual may take toward creating a more civil and empowered society (if taken within proper context).

For a transgender lady such as myself, and perhaps for all ladies, ladylike behavior exercises empowerment. It provides an assertion of identity against a world that devalues the feminine. Deep in my transgender femme brain (and I’m only speaking for myself here), becoming a woman is never enough. I need to blossom into a lady. A “proper” lady. This liberates, not oppresses!

The best thing about this process is that I get to define “proper” and define “lady”. I’m creating something that works for me within the current time and place. Certainly I draw on a multitude of others’ etiquette manuals, blog posts, and how-to videos. I tap the Kama Sutra and the Bible for ideas. But the tiara stops with me—I’m the ultimate arbiter of my intent.

However, I plan to actively influence culture with my process and conclusions. Therefore I will add my voice to the growing worldwide call for promotion of civil, polite, feminine, demure (when appropriate), and of course, “ladylike” behavior by (interested) women of all ages. Will never treat my contribution as mandate, as many fabulous women will find no interest in it. This is perfectly fine.

My perspective proves unique in that no one taught me proper ladylike behavior growing up. The result is that I still “man-spread” and chug my beer when I lose mindfulness. As a work in progress recreating my own social construction from the ground up, I assimilate ladylike behavior as a foreigner learning a new language from scratch. This is beautiful and absurd. And it means all assumptions fell off the table.

So in my derivation of ladylike behavior for this social reconstruction I’m learning a lot about it, and intend to share my findings from a position only a transgender lady can offer.

Let’s get started!

Ladylike behavior involves many “musts”. I now issue my first:

“A proper lady never wears flip-flops in public, except at the beach, the pool, or the public shower.”

Proudly developed this “rule” myself; read it in no style guide or etiquette post.

The world is ours, ladies!

Update 27 April 2018

Received the following perspective-enhancing reply to my Facebook announcement:

Just reminds me to follow what I first admonished above:  “A proper lady will not take herself too seriously!”. Also illustrates how “expertise” lies in the eye of the beholder.

I figured out this whole “ladylike” thing today

“A ‘lady’ is a woman who, through her mere presence, simultaneously commands power while setting others at ease.” – Emily Marie Williams

I achieved public womanhood on 14 July 2015 when I declared myself a woman before a judge and started living full-time as one. But as discussed several times on this blog, I work consistently to develop my personal concept of “lady” (a concept distinct from “woman”), and labor to assimilate this concept’s traits into my core being. (Check out the “See Also” section at the end of this post for links to my previous writings on the subject, which illustrate my progress through this exercise).

Today I experienced a breakthrough in this concept’s development, upon writing the following letter to my mom. I quoted the key innovation at the introduction to this post:

I have discovered that when I dress simultaneously classy, elegant, and ladylike; and move with casual grace while wearing heels, strangers take me more seriously. They step out of the way in stores. They open doors for me more frequently. They resolve conflicts with me more effectively.

Of course, it helps that I smile at and make eye contact with everyone I pass, and that I’m tall. And that I’m confident in my skin. Somehow I’ve discovered how to command power while simultaneously setting people at ease.

I think that last sentence is the essence of the “ladylike” concept I am striving to create for myself. I now have a vision that fits my feminist ethos and still matches my extremely gendered ideas about class.

Recently concluded that my days proceed more effectively, both in my mind and out in society, when I dress sharply.

Here is what I was wearing when I figured this out, what earned me the respect from strangers I received today that enabled me to put the pieces together:

See Also

feedback from my mentor

My primary mentor offered the following advice by e-mail to help me on my quest to deliver a more feminine presentation. I publish it here without explanation:

Walk slowly, speak slowly, listen ‘what is stated’, being open to others as you enter… ‘open hand represent Open Heart’…

big time

I’ve noticed that the Universe consistently validates my femininity, and (it feels like) little else right now. Best to run with what’s going well…

Update 13 November 2017

What this is about:  The femininity expressed up to the point of my public transition was instinctive. Now I am learning the strategic and the tactical expressions, i.e., how to fabulously make my way in the world as a woman. It is working. I feel the Universe opens this door wide for me.

taking abuse for not being “ladylike” enough

I expect that many women receive abuse from their loved ones for not being “feminine” enough, by which these loved ones mean not being “ladylike” enough.

I received such abuse for the first time in my life last night, from a mentor and dear friend. He is a keen observer of woman and generally a wise man, so I rely on him for advice about my presentation. He also loves me greatly.

Something masculine in my behavior really lit a fuse with him yesterday though, and he sent an extremely abusive e-mail detailing his dissatisfaction. I won’t post it here. He obviously holds some deep insecurity that came out in that moment.

But I will post my response; it demonstrates how I’ve learned not to accept abuse but still can reach out with complete love, forgiveness, and compassion. I’m setting an example for others.

The lesson in this for me is that I need to refrain from oppressing myself. I place a lot of pressure on myself to become the “perfect lady”, but to me this is fun. As long as I maintain that perspective, and keep things real, things are alright. In my response (below), I observe how it is far more important for me to exhibit stereotypically feminine characteristics of empathy and kindness than, for example, manage how I walk or gesture.

And why do I consider the pressure I place on myself to become the “perfect lady” fun?  Because I am claiming the oppression and re-spinning it for my own ends. I accepted this oppression upon becoming a woman and decided to make a game out of it. This is punk.

And the fact that I’m now receiving the oppression from someone else shows how successful at feminine assimilation I’ve become.

Two days ago at a restaurant I observed a woman with the perfect presentation: Elegant gestures, graceful stance, etc. Then she slapped her kid. Disgusting. Poise without compassion is meaningless.

Anyway, here is my reply to my mentor:

——,

I am a lady, and therefore expect better treatment than you presented in your last e-mail to me. I expect an apology. I forgive you whether or not you give that apology.

I also know you wrote this out of both love and frustration. I am empathic to that. But ask yourself: Why the insecurity?

In my recent feminization work, I’ve pursued becoming a great “woman” over becoming the perfect “lady” (for now). So I’ve been maximizing my empathy and kindness.

I’ve also asked you before never to bring up my weight. Never do that again!

While I’m not perfect, please remember how far I’ve come! When one is acculturated as a man (think guzzling beer for instance), one cannot expect to change habits overnight.

Again, I’m focusing on the “woman” side of the coin right now, versus the “lady” side. So I’m studying fundamental examples of Christian women. Perhaps you noticed that the last time you were angry around me (about the PBS series on Viet Nam), I gently comforted you. That is the femininity I am concentrating on building right now.

I value your coaching tremendously, and appreciate stern correction. But your last e-mail was abusive. You are better than that.

With absolute love and complete forgiveness,

Emily

Update One Minute After Publishing This

About 1.5 years after my public transition, an emerging transwoman leaned on me for support. We had coffee together.

She is extremely tall, and carried a purse not much larger than her hand. I advised her that having a large purse would prove more appropriate to her body frame. Really stressed this when she resisted. (She likely resisted due to anxiety about having to spend money or anxiety about shopping as a woman).

I told her it would make a difference in how well she passed.

The thing is:  Saying it once was fine. But the fact that I persisted reveals some anxiety I was carrying at the moment. I fake nobility and rationalize that I was concerned for her safety, but I was actually really anxious because her look was incongruent. As if it reflected on me. As if it “outed” me.

I’m sure my mentor feels the same way, that my incongruencies reflect badly on him. As if it “outs” him as trans-friendly.

 

poise, leadership, and mindfulness

I think a lot about poise: How to cultivate it, how to maintain it, what it means. I also think (and write) much about leadership. Concluded that the two overlap substantially. Further concluded that mindfulness forms the glue that holds them together.

Please permit me to elaborate:

Recently I developed my own description of poise for a witty Twitter and Facebook posting. Here is what I came up with:

Poise is an interesting mix of following tradition and inventing novelty. An interesting mix of following and breaking society’s rules.

This does not define poise, but it illuminates my vision of its practice. We follow tradition with etiquette designed to lubricate social interactions, but invent new ways of accomplishing (presumably noble) goals together as needed. We follow society’s “Golden Rule” but work to transcend society’s moral lassitude.

Realized that this describes a good leader.

Realized that this also describes the woman I want to become.

I have always been a natural leader. Not a natural executive or manager, just charismatic. Cut my teeth in leadership development as teenager organizing rock bands, an environment rich in people-skill development opportunities because you have to deal with creative conflict, egos, and drug addictions. (Compare to performing in a youth orchestra, where adults tell you what to play and how to play it, and the biggest conflicts are resolved by the same adults).

When your bassist is high and your guitarist demands the spotlight, you quickly learn to remain poise lest the whole endeavor falls apart.

But other than that I’ve never thought much about poise (until recently). I wore t-shirts and jeans exclusively, cursed like a punk rocker, and didn’t give a damn about etiquette. My best redeeming features were deep kindness and compassion. For better and worse, I moved forward in life by fully leveraging the “sexy rebel straight guy” ethos.

Likewise, I never thought much of cultivating leadership skills until recently. I just “winged it” when I needed to lead something. Also led culturally by inventing and promoting intellectual output, whether new music compositions or new ways of designing nucleotide sequences.

What changed? I decided to become a “lady”. (Please note that I used the word “lady” instead of “woman” here—they form very different concepts). This led to my search for feminine poise. This also led to a complete reevaluation of my workplace skills: I realized that my talent lies with people and technology, not just technology. Many a transgender woman reports this shift—I think the reason emerges from a combination of cultural expectation and consuming large doses of estrogen. Whatever the cause, I emerged ready to lead and/or facilitate in a formal manner.

But that’s my story. Lets get back to the intersection of poise and leadership, and throw in a discussion of mindfulness, because that might prove more useful to the world than my navel-gazing:

Leaders gain the confidence of their followers through poise. During the last presidential debates, Hillary Clinton made a conscious choice to maintain her presence and delivery rather than stop to confront Donald Trump for hovering in her space. While either decision would have been appropriate, she believed the best way to win voter confidence was through the action she felt showed the most self-control, the most poise.

Any loss of poise, though really often just a result of human frailty, knocks down a leader. Consider Donald Trump’s approval rating at this moment. The man can’t sustain a solid presence and has reaped the fruits of it.

Compare to Jesus, whom the Pharisees always tried to trap in some legal black hole. He (reportedly) always held it together with them, delivering nothing less than wit and wisdom. Jesus also provides a model of when it is appropriate for a leader to lose their cool: We consider his anger at the money-changers in the temple justified.

And here is the first place mindfulness comes in. I bet Jesus held complete in-the-now presence of mind while overturning those tables.

Poise requires mindfulness to execute, and leadership requires poise as I’ve demonstrated above, so the three concepts interact. In my example of Hillary Clinton’s debate decision above, she mindfully delivered the content while evaluating the circumstance. To manage this her mind could be nowhere else.

Similarly, in my work toward developing stereotypical feminine poise, my mindfulness skill strengthened as I learned to live my regular life while monitoring how I walk, sit, stand, talk, etc.

So my formula for leadership development from here on out involves mindfulness practice.

working out my concept of “lady” (part 2: my revolutionary demand)

I’m developing a vision of what “being a lady” means to me (and only me!), with the full intent to live it out boldly and dramatically for the rest of my life.

Notice I said “lady” here, not “woman”. I feel I have to constantly remind people that these are different concepts. As I’ve stated before, I’ve achieved womanhood, but not my personal ambition of becoming a “lady”.

The first challenge is one of defining what it means to be a “lady” for myself. The second is the mechanics of adopting the habits, mannerisms, and skills for external presentation of the identity; and the mindfulness and psychology for internal ownership of my ideal.

On this blog I have wrestled with these concepts. Will continue to. Broken it down so far into two (there are more to come) major themes: accepting and embracing sexism, and “stagecraft”.

Accepting and Embracing Sexism

From my post “corset training”:

…and it involves taking on many of the classic social constrictions women have faced through the ages. I’ve made a significant personal commitment to this process…

While I fight the patriarchy ideologically, and believe that no woman should be subjugated to it against their will, I’ve accepted that the patriarchy isn’t going away in my lifetime, and that being a woman means dealing with it. I suspect that one yardstick for evaluating how much of a “lady” a woman is measures how well they conform to the patriarchy’s social expectations of women.

So I’m allowing myself to be subjugated. Going to enjoy every moment of it! And that last statement is where my feminist revolution continues—I’m claiming the oppression and re-spinning it for my own ends. For my own liberation.

Plan to live demure while simultaneously expressive. Quiet while loving at full volume. Poised while punk.

One of my favorite things to do is tell men off for not treating me properly. Men frequently send me unsolicited photos of their hardware, and I take extreme joy in responding:

“I am a lady and expect to be treated like one.”

This is my revolutionary demand: I am a lady and expect to be treated like one.

Stagecraft

Here I’m referring to behaviors such as posture, how I walk, how I talk, etc. I see a clear role for the adage “fake it ’til you make it” here: I’ll work on feminine presentation consciously until it becomes habit, and then I’ll keep working on it. For example, while typing this post I stopped myself from “manspreading” multiple times—frequently put my knees and calves back together where they belong.

See Also

My post “double agent for the patriarchy” explores the concept of embracing sexism (and liking it) while holding feminist ideals.

The post “working out my concept of lady (part 1)” begins this series by exploring ancient Hindu evaluations of ladylike behavior and social expectation.

“evaluation” and response

A mentor and absolutely wonderful friend of mine provided the following unsolicited, and difficult, “evaluation” of my transition.

It is extremely welcome. I respond below.

Evaluation

METHOD ACTING…

“Wearing your heart on your sleeve”

Smiling when greeting people with the body language representing comfort and happiness represent a ‘warm and healthy attitude’…

“What ever others think of you is Not of your concern…”

Creating your persona is a long difficult steep road of ideal goals. You must first establish the: Goal

I learned public speaking watching videos of the great speakers: Nixon,
Kennedy, Reagan.

Select a character of who you believe has warm personal introductions by their actions!

Then practice their technique.

Who wants to be greeted by a stern face, stoic behavior, stiff body language, as in dancing a certain routine is established.

Learn to make others feel comfortable when they view you, as they will welcome you more quickly.

This is important …

You walk with a stride which is evaluated a threatening to some people. Relax walking… Develop a routine in how you reach for anything, ‘walk slowly, speak slowly, reach slowly, drink slowly, EAT slowly as not one is forcing you.’

Learn to be comfortable:

WITH YOUR SELF…

Swagger if you must, sway in walking movement, learn to saunter, you are not a Drill Sergeant!

Move with Grace as a cultured woman, be again slow in movement, measured movement, force yourself with discipline as you walk, stand, sit and rise.

Be aware of the moment:

MINDFULNESS

First observation of Method Acting is being aware, of the behavior of others and the environment.

Next is a mirror of the behavior of others and match this with yours. While being relaxed and Mindful. Relax.

Move slowly, walk slowly, eat slowly, as you do not force yourself impressing others. “Impress yourself with your accomplishments at the ‘moment.’

You create the character in which you wish to become… very important.

In your mind set, you live this ‘Character’…

This ‘interpersonal character’ will eventually amalgamate to any situation, being consistent.

“Believe in the Part,
Act the Part,
Develop whom you wish to be,
Program this if you wish,
Achieve this Goal,
Once Identified,
As you are playing two characters,
One Female and the other Male,
Male cannot be erased easily
You will forever fight the Male,
Create the: FEMALE!

Ain’t easy yet: GO FOR FEMALE!

You lack the empathy of a Female, being distant in the social situation as you do not gracefully contribute, nor are you supportive of others.

Females are contributors, supportive of others without regard to their self, as Females …

ACID TEST

I purchased the ‘Female Doll’ to measure how you would react. You glanced at the Doll and placed it aside.

As “Alpha Male” I saw the beauty of the creation, the detail in clothing, the balance in creation as I appreciate: ‘Art.’

I question why you saw no significance in the Feminine relationship of ‘The Doll’ with the person you wish to develop.

Perhaps you need to again evaluate:
‘Emily’.

In the conversation of your goals, you did not mention ‘sex reconstruction’, no mention until I breached the topic.

“Are you guranteed you are on the correct path in your journey?”

Just thoughts, EMILY…

Response

Let’s first enumerate my transition successes:

  1. Have lived fulltime as a woman for two years
  2. Have worked fulltime as a woman for two years
  3. Grown breasts
  4. Undergone facial-feminization surgery
  5. Taken hormones for over 2.5 years
  6. Can manage a feminine voice when I need to for short periods
  7. “Pass” well
  8. People call me “ma’am” and “miss”
  9. Been fucked as a woman
  10. Men give me attention
  11. Traveled alone to three foreign countries as a woman
  12. Received full professional recommendations for sex-affirmation surgery
  13. Write openly about my transition

This is all a really fucking big deal. Serious accomplishments!

Make no mistake, getting to where I am today took every ounce of courage and energy I possessed. I can therefore be forgiven for not achieving more yet.

But I do plan to achieve more; have a clear feminization agenda. Your “evaluation” points to many of the traits I plan to include.

And I am relying extensively on your help!

So lets explicitly state the “goal”: Complete and culturally submissive femininity.

Here is what that means to me:

  1. Completing sex-affirmation surgery
  2. Developing a warm, soft, friendly, and sultry voice
  3. Cultivating extremely feminine mannerisms
    1. Mindfulness
    2. Method acting
    3. Class
  4. Establishing solid appearance
  5. Fully expressing my inner feminine warmth and friendliness
  6. Being “put in my place”
    1. I’m happy to let masculinity run the world
    2. Love and support a strong woman or an “alpha” male
  7. Living out my fashion whims

So the goal stands clear. VERY CLEAR.

Lets discuss specifics:

I’m distracted by sudden job loss. My mind currently runs every direction thinking about how to make best use of the time. But the answer is to focus primarily on my feminization agenda. (Job hunting, etc., will take place too of course). Therefore I’m resisting the urge to travel abroad or go on tour. Need to focus on my goal.

The first thing you can do to help relates to your suggestion that I listen to speeches/films/performances that represent who I’d like to present myself as. You know better than I do which female media figures represent the mannerisms and class I want to portray. So I ask you to please make suggestions on whom to study.

You correctly state that the “male cannot be erased easily”. While one would expect the reason is habit, the real reason is male privilege. Having masculine traits aided business success in the corporation I worked for until just recently. Masculine traits help in business culture overall. The other challenge is that I subconsciously cling to masculine traits in hopes to win a date with a woman.

But the thing is: I do not want the masculine traits, so I’m going to have to go through the process of letting them go. It will be a process. It will take time. Might even experience grief.

You stated “females are contributors, supportive of others without regard to their self.” I easily meet this description. But the problem is the risk of codependent behavior, which destroys relationships. My take on the Golden Rule is that it needs to be a recipe for mutually beneficial outcomes, not mere altruism.

The “acid test” regarding the doll is an n=1 test that you cannot make inferences about. I appreciate beauty and refinement as much as you do. Consider my very advanced music sophistication. Read my blog post “sissy fashion”.

Yes, I need to again evaluate “Emily”. I developed a habit of constantly reinventing myself decades before becoming Emily. This served me well during the last two years.

You ask if I’m guaranteed I’m on the correct path in my journey. With the goals spelled out as stated above, the answer is overwhelmingly yes!

And for God’s sake, put me in my “place” from time to time! You are the only “alpha” male in my life and I need it.

using video to help feminize my walk, posture, voice, and body language (part 1)

I bought a video camera today so that I may film myself walking to see how better I can feminize how I carry myself. I’m looking to project poise and feminine power, of course, and to deliver a sexy strut!

Using the camera will also help me work on posture, correct sitting, and giving presentations (voice and body language).

Furthermore, I’ll film my punk shows and my practice sessions so that I can learn from them. (Unlike the rest of my life, the stage presence I’m crafting here is NOT meant to be ladylike).

Finally, I’ll likely make a GoFundMe video to solicit money for this book I am writing. Therefore I’ll need the camera for that.

Here an example of filming my walk as I develop it:

As you can see, it needs work but I’m making progress. You can also see from the video that this is a really good camera, available from Amazon.