Monday, 14 December 2020

Interview with Stana


Monika: Today I am going to host Ms. Stana, an American influencer and owner of the popular blog called Femulate where she covers different aspects of femininity for ladies that opt out to be women without any operations and hormone treatments. Stana is the author of Fantasia Fair Diaries (2015) and evangelizer of the normality of crossdressing at colleges and universities. Hello Stana!
Stana: Hello Monika and in honor of our mutual Polish roots, “Dzień dobry!”
Monika: I must say that our chat is going to be a bit different compared to all my previous interviews. Given my own experience, I usually focused on the experiences of women that transitioned into womanhood with a little help from surgeons and hormones. However, we should not overlook the fact that many ladies will never go that path due to many reasons. So I am happy that I am making up for this now…
Stana: Thank you for the opportunity to tell my story or should I say “our” story because I have discovered that there are a lot of women in the same high heel shoes as me.
Monika: Did it ever cross your mind to go further to become a woman?
Stana: The first half of my life, I was in denial that I was anything more than a ”plain vanilla crossdresser.” By the time I realized that I was actually a feminine being, I was married and there was no way that I was going back on my commitment to my wife – she married a man and I planned to do my best to meet her expectations.

Glamour shot.

If I could do it over again, I would never marry and put my wife through the trials and tribulations of being a crossdresser’s spouse. Rather, at a minimum, I would live full-time as a woman and perhaps do hormones, but not surgery.
Monika: When your wife learned about your crossdressing, how did you manage to keep your marriage intact?
Stana: She was very supportive initially, encouraged me to find a support group, and occasionally purchased me “pink gifts.” As her health deteriorated (MS), she was more concerned with her own situation than with mine, but she never turned against me regarding my crossdressing.
Monika: I have a feeling that although transgender women slowly (too slowly!) get recognition and respect, crossdressing ladies remain in the closet due to great social criticism that they are still facing.
Stana: I believe we are at a tipping point where crossdressing males will be as accepted just like the crossdressing females who broke ground wearing pants and other menswear in the mid-20th Century.
Today’s crossdressing youth are leading the way by dressing in womenswear and not giving it a second thought about going out in public so adorned. The more who crossdress publicly will encourage even more to do it and I predict that it will not be long when a man in a dress out in public will be as common as a woman in slacks. 
Monika: You started crossdressing at the age of 12. If you compare the status of crossdressing at that time with today’s reality, do you see any substantial differences? 
Stana: It’s like night and day.
When I began crossdressing circa 1963, there was nowhere to go to find out what was “wrong” with me. I remember finding a one-line definition of transvestism in our Encyclopedia Americana and it did not give me a warm, fuzzy feeling. I thought I might be gay, but that did not ring true because I liked girls. Meanwhile, my peers considered me to be a sissy because I had feminine mannerisms, so I was very confused until my late teens, when a paperback book titled A Year Among the Girls revealed to me the world of crossdressers – I finally knew I was no longer alone doing my femulation.
Today, there is a wealth of information on the subject, not to mention support for LGBTs everywhere. If I was a teen today, I would probably be very competitive on the womanless beauty pageant circuit, not to mention a favorite to be crowned Queen of the Prom.
Monika: I guess when you are young, the most liberating thing is when you can meet with other people as yourself. Did you feel the same?
Stana: I am 99% sure that my best friend in grammar school was a crossdresser, but I was so closeted that when he asked me to join him dressing as girls for Halloween, I feigned no interest in doing so. To this day, I wonder what would have happened to us, if I had accepted his invitation.
Monika: Your book ‘Fantasia Fair Diaries’ (2015) is a recount of a convention where attendees spend a week living as the opposite gender. Could you say a few words about this event and your nicest recollections?
Stana: Fantasia Fair is an 8-day crossdressing extravaganza that takes place in October in Provincetown (“P-Town”) on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Unlike other crossdressing/transgender events that occur over a long weekend in the safe confines of a hotel, Fantasia Fair takes over the whole town. Events occur in various venues throughout P-Town and the attendees have the run of the town living and interacting with the “civilians.” 

Available via Amazon.

My favorite memory from the Fair is discussing “passing” with two crossdressers I had just befriended. We were talking about the difficulties in passing and when I chimed in about my difficulties, they both stated that when they encountered me for the first time, they thought that I was just another female spouse of an attendee. After that I stopped worrying about passing.
Monika: I am not surprised. I must say I love your website not only for the topics important for the community but also for one particular thing, you place there fantastic photos of dresses and other costumes, and they look cute not only on the photos of models but on yours as well. :)
Stana: My father’s greatest influence on me was his line of work. He was a printer at the company that invented the comic book and as a result, we were inundated with comic books and the Sunday funnies from newspapers all over the Northeast that my Dad carried home from work every day. As a result, graphic arts were in my blood and when I began blogging, I made sure that graphics were an integral component of my blog.
Monika: You created the Femulate blog in February 2007. What inspired you to launch it? 
Stana: I wrote for a living, but what I wrote professionally was technical, so for a change of pace, I began writing about crossdressing. Since I could not crossdress full time, I crossdressed vicariously through my writings and as a result, put my heart and soul into what I wrote.
After three or four false starts with irregular blogging, I decided to try again, but this time I posted something every day to keep the audience coming back. That strategy made a difference and 13 years later, my blog gets 6 to 7 thousand visits per day.
Also, I invented the word “femulate” for the name of my blog and I believe that distinctive name helped the popularity of the blog. (And I am still in awe that the word I invented has been adopted by our community and is commonly used in all crossdressing places – even in crossdressing fiction!)
Monika: Your blog can boast a group of avid and faithful readers and fans. What are the most frequent questions that you receive from them?
Stana: The top questions I have received over the years are how does my wife deal with my crossdressing, how do I do my makeup, what do I do when guys hit on me and how did I lose 25 pounds.
Monika: In one of your posts, you wrote about your meeting with Namoli Brennet, an American trans songwriter. Her first CD, Boy in a Dress, became an important song for our community...
Stana: Namoli was performing at the 2007 True Colors Conference where I was staffing my support group’s booth and we happened to sit at the same table for lunch. The funny thing is that I was familiar with her song Boy in a Dress (I had it on my iPod), but I did not connect the song with the person with whom I was breaking bread. She was very personable and we girl-talked throughout lunch. Later, I discovered we were born in the same city!

In her office.

Monika: But what I am extremely envious of was your participation in the lecture by Christine Jorgensen, one of our most prominent sisters that promoted our cause so much. Was it an unforgettable experience? How was Christine like?
Stana: While I was a student at the University of Connecticut, I took a journalism course and received the assignment to report on Christine Jorgensen’s lecture on our campus (in Jorgensen Auditorium of all places).
I was so closeted back then. I feared that if anyone found out that I attended the lecture, I would become a marked crossdresser. Nevertheless, I was in awe of Ms. Jorgensen, who was one of my heroines back then and I attended the lecture, completed my assignment, but I never told anyone about it.
I cannot recall a word of her lecture now, but I was impressed by how beautiful she looked even though she was almost 50 years old. (I was 20 at the time and to me, someone 50 years old was ancient. LOL)
Monika: The 60s were the times when the media were jumping at the stories of transgender women. Many of them were ‘outed’ against their own will, such as April Ashley or Caroline ‘Tula’ Cossey. When I talked with Caroline about it, she said that it was a personal tragedy for her but on the other hand she was a beacon of hope for all transgender sisters that they finally had someone they could look up to.
Stana: Sort of… I got what they represented, but they were post-op transsexuals, which did not exactly correspond to what I was doing. The people I look up to are the crossdressers who don’t deny the fact that they are cisgender males even though they present as cisgender females. People like Eddie Izzard, Grayson Perry, Miqqi Gilbert, etc.
Monika: How do you recollect the Stonewall riots in 1969?
Stana: I read the Village Voice at that time, otherwise I would have missed the story because the local media did not mention anything about it. My recollection was that it was the crossdressers who led the charge – the gays were hardly mentioned at all contrary to the “history” that was rewritten decades later.
Monika: Can you think of any landmark events that happened in the 80s and 90s that shaped the history of crossdressing?
Stana: The birth and growth of the Internet had a profound effect on crossdressing. It provided access to resources that we never knew existed and more importantly, it revealed that we are not alone and using the Net, we could contact other crossdressers to compare notes and socialize.

Another set of glamour photoshoots.

Monika: Do you have any icons that you regard as ideal women in terms of beauty and clothes they wear?
Stana: Over the years, a variety of celebrities have come along who were my icon du jour that I admired for their beauty and fashion sense. Those icons come and go, but throughout my life, I modeled myself after my mother, who was a beautiful fashionable woman. And I even look like her!
Monika: Please tell me more about her …
Stana: My father worked two jobs, whereas my mother was home taking care of the kids. Since my male role model was often absent, my mother became my role model. She was smart and very creative and encouraged my sister and I in our creative endeavors.
Monika: Did she ever find out about your feminine side?
Stana: I know she knew, but I think she did not want to embarrass me by confronting me with it. However, she often asked, “Is there anything you want to tell me?” to encourage me to come forward with the facts. I never did and I so regret it now that she has passed on. 
Monika: And your sister?
Stana: I assumed that my sister knew especially since I often got into her clothing and makeup. (Did she think a crossdressing gremlin was messing around with her stuff?) I felt that her knowing and not talking about it was the elephant in the room and since we were always very close, I decided to come out to her.
She did not take it very well. She is very open-minded and has LGBT friends and acquaintances, but when it comes to her big brother, I guess it is a different story. We are still very close, but the subject of my crossdressing is avoided.
Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Stana: I think about it occasionally and some of my readers have encouraged me to do it. After nearly 5000 blog posts, it feels like I already wrote a 5000-page book!
Monika: Quite impressive, indeed! What would you recommend to all your trans sisters staying in the closet?
Stana: As Franklin Roosevelt once said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Don’t let fear keep you locked up in the closet. When I finally escaped, I realized that there was nothing to fear. I so regret not escaping earlier in my life.
Minimize your regrets and get out of the closet today!
Monika: Stana, thank you so much for sharing your story. We are all sisters, so I have been very happy and honored to be able to talk to you. All the best to you and all readers of the FEMULATE blog!
Stana: It was fun. Thank you, Monika.

All the photos: courtesy of Stana.
© 2020 - Monika Kowalska

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