Straighten Up and Fly Right!

I’ll begin with a few notes to set the stage.   I am in my very late 50s (that means 70), and felt something was different about my gender identity long before I knew there was such a thing as a gender identity.   Like most of us, I got pretty good at the whole hiding and denial thing, right through 35 years of marriage(s), kids, overcompensating sports and military services.   I was underdressing, though we didn’t call it that, until my 50s, when I started to realize I needed…not just wanted…to allow myself to feel, dress and interact with the world as a woman.

I am in no sense unique, having read the posts of so many others here or on other social media.   It seems eventually, many of us reach a point where something has to give, and perhaps a point where the runway ahead looks a lot shorter than the runway behind us.   As a pilot, that means either take flight or something else.

I also doubt I am unique in dealing with a rollercoaster of emotions, particularly in my acceptance of self.  There have been times when I was utterly confident that I needed to come out and live something like full time.  One or two setbacks could plunge me into self rejection and another cycle of denial and repression.  Again, I know I am not the only one.

En Femme Style

So, is it any different today?   Well, for one thing, what’s left of the runway is beneath and behind me.   Short of what is called the impossible turn, I pretty much need to stay airborne and fly the circuit or perhaps plan finally to head to my new destination. (Forgive the flight analogies;).  I’ve opted for the latter.

So what is my heading and where am my heading!?!   I retired just pre-covid to a northern resort community and set out immediately to integrate myself in the areas as a woman, or whatever people who met me judged me to be…I’m good with either one.  Covid messed up progress to some extent.   Obviously there were fewer opportunities to get out and mingle.   Those weeks of mandated or self imposed isolation took their toll on my confidence.   It took a while, and I began to emerge once all that seemed to be behind us.

My first attempt at retirement wasn’t entirely successful.  I’ll blame covid for the boredom.   After 18 months, I found myself back at work part time, unfortunately in male mode.   Fortunately, it’s mostly remote, so I don’t have to make many compromises, nor very often.   Frankly if I were to advise the soon to retire…I’d suggest that you take a part time role, rather than going cold turkey.   Its too much too fast. (But I digress)

I still find myself questioning my authenticity as a transwoman.   Isn’t that odd, as if anyone would willingly subject themselves to potential scorn, discrimination or harm?   I think really what I may be questioning is my ability to present myself convincingly as a woman, despite certain physical tells.  I find that my willingness to step out the door and towards the scrutiny of a not always encouraging world lies in being able to accept that I am imperfect, just as anyone else.   I can’t control and honestly don’t want or need to know what every person thinks when they see or interact with me.   I am grateful when I am accorded courtesy.   I am delighted on those occasions when I feel accepted, either as a woman or a transwoman.  And I have been ecstatic when somehow I have been perceived as a natal female.   It happens, and much as we are not supposed to care, it is a real confidence booster when it happens.

So, where does that leave me today.   I am still in and out.   I live far enough from family and old acquaintances to feel I can maintain a dual existence for the time being.  At the same time, I am tending towards a stage in life where I care less about what others think and more about enjoying the time I have left.

The basic rules of flying are 1) aviate – fly the plane, 2) navigate – know where you’re going, and 3) communicate – let others know what you’re doing…in that order.  I’m trying to apply these to my life.   I hope you’re able to do so in your own life.


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Kim Dahlenbergen

A child of a good household with kind and supportive relatives. And yet, I felt alone and imperfect. I sometimes wonder if that feeling isn’t rather common.

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Lauren Mugnaia
Active Member
Lauren Mugnaia(@reallylauren)
10 months ago

Hi Kim, I love the flight analogy! Although I knew from very young childhood that I was, or was supposed to be, a girl, and that dream never left my heart, I also always wanted to fly. I finally joined a flying club, took all my lessons, and got my license, although I’m no longer current. I have to say that almost all my instructors were women, and they were absolutely the best, and each flight with them was thoroughly a wonderful time! Kim, my flight plan always had a destination where Lauren would land at some point as a… Read more »

Eunice Irwin
Eunice Irwin(@eunice63)
10 months ago

Certainly enjoyed the article, being a licensed pilot myself (though no longer current). I remember one especially serene flight where I said a little prayer, thanking God for allowing me to be a pilot. Yes, it can be seen as a “macho” activity, but bear in mind there are many talented and highly capable female pilots, including some in acrobatics. I have a flight simulator, where you can choose either a male or female avatar at the controls. I always chose the female, imagining me in my cool sunglasses, headphones and stunning figure in the pilot’s seat. I remember in… Read more »

Marie H' class='avatar avatar-64 photo' height='64' width='64' />
Marie H
10 months ago
Reply to  Eunice Irwin

Yes flying en femme would be nice but but essentially female pilots dress like the men. I did once see a student pilot wearing a very pretty and floaty red dress climbing up a little step to dip the fuel tanks. 🤣 It was quite a sight. Flying may seem macho and the number of women becoming pilots remains very small. But I don’t think it should be seen that way. In fact when I started learning to fly my main Instructors were a woman and a very camp man. Probably gay but unspoken. I had struggled but we got… Read more »

Eunice Irwin
Eunice Irwin(@eunice63)
10 months ago
Reply to  Marie H

Yes, the dress is dictated by practicality and safety. Nylons or pantyhose are a no-no in the event of a fire. At that point, one needs plenty of skill, a fire extinguisher, and some luck.

Marie H' class='avatar avatar-64 photo' height='64' width='64' />
Marie H
10 months ago

Not always Kim but quite often.

They say there are two kinds of pilots. Those who walk out to their aircraft knowing it’s the last time and those who don’t. I’m the latter so far.

It was just an ordinary flight although it was aborted due to weather with a slightly tricky landing.

Afterwards as I headed home, I said, ‘See you guys’. But I never did. That was nearly ten years ago.

I never missed it but I don’t think I left it behind.

Jonnie Bigelow
Jonnie Bigelow(@jonniebgood)
10 months ago

“I am delighted on those occasions when I feel accepted, either as a woman or a transwoman. And I have been ecstatic when somehow I have been perceived as a natal female. It happens, and much as we are not supposed to care, it is a real confidence booster when it happens."

Truth! We all deserve ecstasy. They are seeing your soul peaking through.
Blessings, Joni

Marie H' class='avatar avatar-64 photo' height='64' width='64' />
Marie H
10 months ago

Interesting article. I suspect from the flying analogies your are a fellow aviator? As ever what is always striking when reading our stories is that while our experiences differ in detail. The parallels are obvious. I read your previous article too. Again it resonated with me. Early on I knew I was different. But swayed back and forth between acceptance and denial. Not helped of course by the oppressive times I lived in. I decided on a military career as a pilot. I wanted to fly. Flying of course is often seen as a way of escape from life’s travails.… Read more »

Bryn' class='avatar avatar-64 photo' height='64' width='64' />
10 months ago
Reply to  Marie H

Maybe you can ask her to pick out something for you. Let her take control and dress you, start with something small and see where it goes Good luck,be strong and pretty

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