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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  1. ' class='avatar avatar-100 photo' height='100' width='100' />
    Lauren Mugnaia 2 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 woman. That has happened and I’ve been living as a woman for a year and a half now.
    Recently a health issue common to women, a UTI, took me to the hospital where I underwent tests only to find out that I am an intersex person, The lady doctor said, “Lauren, you are a woman!”

    So two childhood dreams came true, I learned to fly, and I learned I actually have always been, a woman. So for me, it was a woman, learning from another woman, how to fly, to straighten up and fly right!!


    Ms. Lauren M

    • ' class='avatar avatar-100 photo' height='100' width='100' /> Author
      Kim Dahlenbergen 2 months ago

      Hi Lauren, I recall reading about your surprise! Talk about affirmation!!!


  2. ' class='avatar avatar-100 photo' height='100' width='100' />
    Eunice Irwin 2 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 the prime of my flying days an intense discussion with my wife. I told her if I had to make a choice, I’d rather crossdress than fly.

    The truth: nothing could possibly beat flying an airplane en femme!

    • ' class='avatar avatar-100 photo' height='100' width='100' />
      Marie H 2 months ago

      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 on great and she got me to solo standard.

      Later I flew with another instructor, Fiona. She was a romantic at heart and I think she recognised me as different to other student pilots . Sometimes instead of spending the whole lesson doing serious work we would float around the countryside chatting and admiring the scenery. She got me to my licence.

      Again I later flew with another woman during training for the Instrument rating. We became good friends as often happened with women. She I believe was the best pilot I ever knew. She was a superb Instructor too. Not just my opinion but that of other mostly male pilots not known to favour women.

      Considering how few female pilots there are it’s remarkable how many fell into my orbit.

      Certainly none of them reduced me to tears like certain male Instructors did.

      I was asked by my former boss to come back and fly part time this year. But there was a problem so that’s delayed. I thought I’d left flying behind but I’m been sucked back in.

      I can’t wait to find myself alone again over a rose tinted cloudscape. Seeing a fully round rainbow below me or flying in sunshine above a rain shower that looks like a shoal of tiny silver flying fish.

      A magical sight beyond imagining until you see it.

      Now I’ve gone all nostalgic.

      Would I rather be a woman or fly?

      Surely I can do both.😊

      • ' class='avatar avatar-100 photo' height='100' width='100' />
        Eunice Irwin 2 months ago

        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.

    • ' class='avatar avatar-100 photo' height='100' width='100' /> Author
      Kim Dahlenbergen 2 months ago

      It must be a tough decision to give up flying. One of my older brothers reluctantly sold his plane, at the age of 83.

      • ' class='avatar avatar-100 photo' height='100' width='100' />
        Marie H 2 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.

  3. ' class='avatar avatar-100 photo' height='100' width='100' />
    Jonnie Bigelow 2 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

  4. ' class='avatar avatar-100 photo' height='100' width='100' /> Author
    Kim Dahlenbergen 2 months ago


    Yes, I am a private pilot. I don’t have extensive hours built up. I put off pursuing my license for the usual reasons: money and family obligations. I finally took flight, literally and figuratively, when I separated from my (now) ex-wife. Separation freed me to be myself and to pursue my passions.

    I hope you can find a way to make both happen for you.

    Best wishes,


  5. ' class='avatar avatar-100 photo' height='100' width='100' />
    Marie H 2 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. Certainly when you are alone in the sky often out of sight of the Earth, you can feel you are no longer of this Earth. Some days above clouds as the low sun paints them with its favourite pallete of red and orange. It’s as if you have travelled to an alien planet. I wanted to stay there forever.

    I joined the army reserve aged 17 while still in school. (The Irish army. ) The idea being that it would help when I applied for a pilot cadetship after my school exams.

    It was not to be. Even as a part time soldier I realised I simply didn’t fit in with the macho culture. In fact while I was never bullied or singled out the others saw it too. I had no chance of getting a cadetship. I didn’t have the right stuff.

    I didn’t take the hint and got my licence and ratings with a view to a career. Looking back it was a clear attempt at deflection. I still crossdressed but concentrated on my quixotic career ambition.

    I eventually married, again as a way of escaping my true self. Ironically I got a flying job finally. It was fun but I eventually left it behind to stay at home and look after the children. My wife having a good career.

    I finally found myself. I was and am effectively a housewife and child minder. It’s rather ironic.

    Perhaps in the hope of completing the transition. I told my wife. She wasn’t entirely surprised but made it clear she didn’t want to see anything of that part of me. We otherwise have a good relationship.

    So here I am stuck in the closet with no chance of transitioning.

    I’m 63 now, financially dependent on my wife. So I’m trapped for now.

    I envy you being able to get away and be yourself.

    I can only hope that an opportunity will arise in what’s left of my life. May I can finally get airborne again.

    Thanks for your story.

    • ' class='avatar avatar-100 photo' height='100' width='100' /> Author
      Kim Dahlenbergen 2 months ago

      So sorry that you feel trapped at this stage in your life. I hope that as time goes on you might be able to build upon your otherwise good relationship. At least your wife knows, so perhaps the conversation can be renewed in the near future.

    • ' class='avatar avatar-100 photo' height='100' width='100' />
      Bryn 2 months ago

      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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