Love & Sex

I Did It for Science: Cross-Dressing

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imageI Did It For Science by Grant Stoddard

To be made over as a woman by professionals at Miss Vera’s finishing school for boys who want to be girls.

State your hypothesis in the form of a prediction that can be verified by the results of the experiment.

I’ve always imagined that, given a bit of time and effort, I’d make a relatively attractive-looking female. I’m somewhat small, not some hulking hairy-ass dude. I don’t have any prominent facial scarring or tattoos. And not to blow my own horn — although God knows I’ve tried — I’ve got really pretty eyes. Enrolling as a student at Miss Vera’s Finishing School for Boys That Want to be Girls would give me the opportunity to confirm my suspicions once and for all. It would also provide me with immunity from friends thinking that I’d become fruitier than Carmen Miranda’s most ostentatious headgear. “Dudes,” I could casually complain as we looked over a Camaro engine, “You would not believe what they’ve got me doing at work . . . ”

Please list all the materials required for this experiment (including, if applicable, how they were obtained).

Makeup (three lbs., approx.)
Woman’s clothing (various)
Gold lamé genital restraint (one)
Wigs (two)
Candle (one)

In this portion of your report, you must describe step-by-step what you did in your lab. It should be specific enough that someone who has not seen the lab can follow the directions and recreate the same lab.

Miss Vera’s cross-dressing academy is, according to her website, the only one of its kind in the United States. Blokes who want to get dressed up as women drop some serious bling-bling on courses ranging from “Sudden Beauty” — a $600, two-and-a-half-hour session that offers help with wigs, makeup and clothing — to “Femme Intensive,” a two-day tutorial that’ll set back a prospective transvestite at least four grand. I signed up for one day of instruction on makeup, body shaping, voice training, wiggery, walking in heels and “taxi training.” Before class started, however, I had a little prep work to do.

Initially, I was just going to shave my legs, but in the interest of science (and to satisfy the whims of the sadistic bastards in the Nerve office), I booked myself a full leg waxing. I went to a lovely spa in Soho where the staff is smiley, they offer you snacks and they barely bat an eyelid when you announce you need your hairy-ass yams waxed. I was shown to a small room containing a table, a seasoned waxer and a trainee who could barely contain her amusement. Marrying professionalism and ruthless efficiency, the waxer coaxed me onto the table, asked me to pull my robe up to my groin and scanned my lower body. “It’s just like pulling off a Band-Aid,” she lied in the same way that a doctor tells you to expect a scratch when he’s about to plunge a needle into your vein.

Both the trainee and Nerve photo editor Virginia tried to stifle a giggle as the nice lady smoothed hot wax over the tops of my feet and ankles and pressed on a strip of fabric. She put her left hand on my shin and transferred her weight onto it as she yanked the strip off with a sickening rip. I created a vacuum in the room by inhaling through pursed lips with superhuman force. Pain. Unspeakable pain. The agony seemed to increase as she worked her way waistward. As more hair came off, my skin felt extremely tingly and sensitive. When it was over, the three ladies stood above me, complimenting my incredibly girly legs. Almost instantly, a million tiny welts surfaced, and my legs looked like some ghastly reptile’s belly. “Is this normal?” I asked my tormentor. “Hmmm, you’ve really come up,” she said. “Don’t worry; that should calm down within forty-eight hours.” Bugger! I was due at Miss Vera’s academy in twenty. Wanting to ensure that my legs were silky smooth, I took a small handful of antihistamines, got on the subway and zonked the fuck out, regaining consciousness several hours later somewhere near Coney Island. Zombified, I found my way home.

I awoke the next morning and set about shaving other areas that could compromise my believability as a hot chick. Arms, pits and chest were all mowed bare. I looked in the mirror at the body of an overgrown twelve year old. Thankfully, my legs had healed. Before going to Miss Vera’s, I popped into a nail salon for a pedicure. No big deal for a guy these days, but heads turned when I dramatically prevented the nail lady from applying clear polish. “Unh-uh!” I cried, wagging a finger and selecting a shocking pink color from the rack. “This one!” Clients and employees exchanged quizzical glances as the man with the Grizzly Adams scruff and the smooth legs wiggled his freshly painted toes in the air and sprayed them with enamel. I returned to the office and gave myself the closest shave I could muster without lacerating my face. I was now ready to be educated in the ways of women.

Veronica Vera is a real stickler for details. She insisted that I bring three things to the session: my payment, in a pink envelope only; a mascara wand; and a pink or red candle in the shape of a woman. “You know, the kind they sell in bodegas,” she told me over the phone. What on Earth was she talking about? With Virginia and Joey, our cameraman, in tow, I arrived at her Chelsea studio, which was painted a garish pink and decorated with portraits of previous students. “Welcome, welcome,” Miss Vera enthused as she ushered us in. She relieved me of the pink envelope and the candle (which was not in the shape of a lady, but in a glass tube with a woman’s picture on it). “What’s this?” she asked, holding the little mascara wand an inch from her nose. “This is not what I asked you to bring.” She sounded quite cross. The significance of the wand and exactly what I did wrong remains shrouded in mystery to this day.

A diminutive man gave us Styrofoam cups half-filled with tepid water. He politely asked us to not damage the cups, as they were the only ones they had. He then promptly left the apartment. Seconds later, Shannon, the “dean of makeup,” appeared at the door looking quite flustered. She wore a bandana in her hair and a pronounced black Z — the mark of Zorro — on her left cheek. Miss Vera placed the unlit candle on an altar, grabbed my shoulders and spun me around. “Repeat after me,” she instructed. “I dedicate myself . . . to releasing all of the juicy female energy . . . inside of me . . . I place my trust in Miss Vera . . . and the deans of the academy . . . and I thank myself for this gift. What is your name?” she asked me. “Gretchen,” I replied. It was the closest thing to “Grant” that I could think of. It’s also the most matronly, hard-sounding, ugly name in the book. It was to set the tone for my look.

Miss Vera told me to take off my shirt, then put me in a nightie in front of the makeup mirror. A week earlier, I had filled out an application form that detailed exactly what kind of female look I wanted. I asked for “college senior/East Village rocker chick.” In other words, something low maintenance, natural and relatively believable.

I knew something was awry when Shannon began applying a thick layer of beige pancake makeup to my face, shoulders and upper chest. I asked her if it was really necessary and was informed that my skin had too many imperfections to use any less. Once the thick foundation was applied, Ms. Vera took me into another room to try on my gaff. “If you need to pee, now would be a good time,” she suggested. A gaff, I learned, is the garment a crossdresser wears to reduce the prominence of male genitalia in clothing. It’s a triangular piece of material with elastic straps that you wear much like an athletic supporter. But unlike a jockstrap, this particular undergarment was made of gold lamé. Miss Vera stood there, hands on hips, watching me get naked. She then pulled the gaff up around my thighs and cheerily said, “Now, pop your balls up inside yourself.” That’s easy for you to say, I thought. Miss Vera looked at me as if I, as a male, should innately know how to do this. After an uncomfortable thirty seconds of juggling, I managed to push my testicles inward. “Right,” she said. “Now, pull your dick between your legs and pull up the gaff.” I did so, and marveled at the now-flat area where my unit used to be. Miss Vera paraded me around the room in front of Shannon, Virginia and Joey, who were respectively proud, repulsed and aroused by watching my powdery beige frame strut around in little more than a gold tea bag. “Where did it all go?” asked Joey. I motioned skyward. “Ooof,” he offered sympathetically. I took only the tiniest sips of water. The thought of pulling my rig out to pee filled me with foreboding.

Miss V. then put me in pull-up stockings, a bra stuffed with very realistic-feeling “chicken cutlets” and a tummy-flattening panty-girdle that was significantly padded in the hips and buttocks and gave me some serious booty action. I was told it was the same model that Patrick Swayze wore in To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar. Miss Vera then put me in a pair of eight-inch, cherry red, patent-leather stilettos that would make a whore blush. I took a few steps before losing control; I had to be caught before I hit the deck. Miss V. put me in more-modest heels and handed me back to Shannon, who for the next three hours proceeded to go ape-shit with the entire contents of her makeup bag. She stopped occasionally to compliment me on my pretty lips and pretty eyes and mentioned that, thanks to her ransacking of the Maybelline warehouse, they could be made “even more prettier.”

“Your eyelashes are just so thick, long and fabulous,” she insisted, before squirting glue all over them and applying eye-bristles that would make a camel proud. “Okay, now it’s time for your crowning glory,” she announced, rifling through her big bag of wigs. “This is the most exciting part!” exclaimed Miss V. “In keeping with the dress we’ve picked out [a gold-and-royal blue cheongsam], I thought we could give you an Asian look.” Shannon frantically combed through a hairpiece I swore I’d seen atop Rod Stewart in the early eighties. She noticed my stunned reaction and corrected herself: “You know, that . . . cyber-Asian look.” I tried on about half a dozen wigs before deciding on a straight black number with high bangs. As Shannon pulled the wig over my head, I could see that my transformation was complete.

I had become Mayim Bialik, TV’s Blossom.

Exhausted, Shannon raised her hands above her head and took three dramatic steps backward. “Voila!” she screamed.

Next came the corset, which reduced my waist almost into the single figures. “Can you handle it?” asked Miss Vera. “Sure!” I wheezed and tried to sit down, almost ejecting my spleen out of my throat. “Sitting down takes some getting used to,” she added as I writhed in pain, my lung capacity halved.

A knock at the door produced Miss Tiger, ballet mistress and dean of dance, also a bona fide woman. She had arrived to teach me how to walk in heels, but was first called upon to get me into my dress. The silk number was snug when I tried it on without boobs and hips. With them it took three women to get me into it. Miss Vera and Miss Tiger pressed on my fake nails and handed me some gaudy jewelry and earrings.

I looked in the mirror at the cyber-Asian Blossom Russo dragon lady before me and almost screamed in terror. Tiger, Vera and Shannon held their hands to their chests, and their eyes went all glassy. “Gretchen, you are beautiful,” sighed Miss Vera. I smiled and looked over at Virginia and Joey, who were grimly nodding in agreement.

Miss Tiger then led me around the room, shouting out instructions punctuated with claps. “Shoulders back, tits out, move those hips, work that ass!” She showed me how to stand and how to get in and out of a cab, then decreed that I was ready to go out on the town. Virginia, Joey and I waved goodbye to the deans and went downstairs to hail a taxi. In the face of rush-hour traffic, all of my training immediately went out of the window as I teetered across Seventh Avenue with the gait of a rugby player. “Oy!” I screamed mannishly as I clambered into the back seat, legs akimbo. I had been given a very nighttime look. It wasn’t even six o’clock yet, and, like a vampire, I felt that the afternoon sun would soon destroy me. New York’s a fairly accepting place, but I as I scrambled across Broadway to the relative safety of Nerve HQ, I felt like the Elephant Lady. People were pointing. I looked scary. I felt ridiculous.

Quantify the effects of the experiment.

For a good fifteen seconds, no one recognized me as I sashayed into my office. My colleagues’ thoughts were clearly etched on their faces: “Get a load of this old dragon lady!” “What’s Blossom doing here?” “Mmmm, she’s a piece of ass!” and then, unanimously, “Oh ma gah, it’s Grant!” Riotous laughter followed. Lorelei, cutting to the chase, said that I looked awful, “like some cheap tranny hooker,” and that she wasn’t sure if she could go out with me. Not what I wanted to hear, as we had planned to hit some bars and convince the entire East Village that I was a real girl.

I had three hours to kill, and I think the wait finished me off. It was a hundred degrees under the wig, my makeup was smudging and the shoes were killing my feet. The corset was really becoming a problem: when a press-on nail popped off, I couldn’t bend over to pick it up and had to get on all fours. Isabella and I went to dinner, and that’s where disaster struck. Halfway through our meal, my eyes rolled back in my head and I almost passed out at the table. Dehydration, the heat of the wig and the compression of my vital organs brought our girls’ night out to a premature end. I hobbled to Emma‘s apartment, where all three girls struggled to free me from my bindings. I’ve never felt a physical relief like it. My rib cage assumed its normal shape and I felt great. Broken but relieved.

Seeing my pathetic figure crumpled and smudged on the couch, Em and Lo convinced me to let them give me another makeover. Their M.O. was different: they wanted to recreate me in their own image, and I was too weak to refuse. Two nights later, I went to their place, where they dressed me in a mix of their own clothes: Emma’s denim miniskirt and pink cardigan; Lorelei’s T-shirt, platform flip-flops and a platinum blonde wig from last Halloween. An hour later, they had transformed me into “Sarah,” an entirely different animal from Gretchen. Sarah had just moved to the Upper East Side with one of her sorority sisters from a Lutheran college somewhere in the heartland. Aside from being a little heavy around the shoulders (she was on the swim team), she was cute as a button. The girls didn’t let me see myself until I was entirely transformed. I looked in the mirror and was astonished. With about three pounds less makeup, I made not only a convincing girl but a heartbreaker! In the words of Buffalo Bill from Silence of the Lambs, I’d fuck me. Actually given the orientation of my Johnson in the gaff, I almost kinda was.

With my feminine ego bolstered by Emma and Lorelei, I simply had to go out on the town and work it. Not twenty yards out of Em’s apartment, guys in cars pulled over — enticed my long legs and perky breasts, no doubt— and yelled at me. I gave them a wink, a finger-wave and sauntered with my gal pals through Tompkins Square Park, where I was given the up-and-down by junkies, hipsters and bums in equal measure. They can look, I thought, but they can’t touch. Unlike my brief time on the town as Gretchen, I seemed to be pulling off the whole girl thing this time. We sat down in a bar on Avenue A, and the girls told me how to sit on a barstool without putting on an impromptu peep show. I was rapped on the knuckles several times for pursing my lips and doing the pigeon-neck when a ‘Zeppelin song played on the jukebox. Occasionally, I could see more sober patrons of the bar giving me a “Is that a he or a she?” look while a couple of the less sober boozehounds gave me the come-on.

Summarize your findings. Don’t forget to attempt to identify possible variables that could result in different findings for others trying to recreate your test results.

I can’t say that I felt sexy as Gretchen, other than in a cartoonish way. Miss Vera’s academy is not really for boys who want to be girls; it’s for guys who want to look like drag queens or, more likely, for the older “student” who’s trying to capture a look and beauty regimen from a bygone era. I really wanted to be a convincing girl, but when I was sitting in the makeup chair at the academy, it didn’t take long to figure out that these probably weren’t the folks who could make that happen. Conversely, I really enjoyed being dressed up by Em and Lo, not least because having the undivided attention of two hot girls isn’t generally something that happens outside of my dreams. They too cooed over my legs and eyelashes, but unlike Miss Vera, they sought to extenuate them. As Sarah, I really didn’t go out feeling that I was dressed for battle.

Without the girdle and stockings, I walked around the East Village with the breeze up my skirt, which I guess felt kind of naughty. It’s not until you’re dressed as your gender opposite that you realize how differently men and women are constructed. I’ve always thought I had an androgynous body, but there’s something about women’s clothes that broadens my shoulders, gives more weight to my jaw, more depth to my voice, accentuates my brow, etc. Similarly, you never realize just how big your unit appears until you put on a skirt. I never really appreciated body hair until it was ripped off my body.

Three weeks later, the hair on my arms, chest and pits is starting to make a comeback, but my legs look neither male nor female. They’re covered with sparsely distributed stubble like those of a man in his seventies. Only tennis shorts and brown socks pulled halfway up my shins could make me look more like a Floridian retiree. Ultimately, I’ve realized just what a manly brute I am — and that I should own my look a little more convincingly.

Veronica Vera’s new book, Miss Vera’s Cross-Dress for Success: A Resource Guide for Boys Who Want to be Girls is available here.

Visit Miss Vera’s website here.

Have an idea for Grant’s next I Did It for Science? Let him know here.


© 2002 Grant Stoddard and, Inc.