My Cousin Michelle
by Paula Thomas

We grew up in the same town as my mother's sister, Aunt Caroline, and
her only daughter Michelle. Mother would visit Aunt Caroline often and
always bring me along.

Michelle and I were born only a few months apart, she being older by
just under three months. When we visited Aunt Caroline's, Michelle and
I would usually go up to her room and play with her toys.

Somewhere about the age of four we got into the "show me your's and
I'll show you mine...". One thing led to another and I ended up
wearing Michelle's pinafore and panties while she ended up wearing my
shorts and playshirt. She thought this was quite a giggle and I got a
quite unexpected thrill from it. We played for the rest of afternoon
in each other's clothes, changing back just before Mom and I went home.

After that, each time Mom and I went to visit Aunt Caroline, I would go
with Michelle up to her room, put on some of her clothes and spent the
rest of the day playing with her toys. Once we went downstairs to show
Aunt Caroline and Mom how cute we were, but Mom didn't see it that way
and made me change back into my own clothes. After that I was careful
to keep Michelle's and my game a secret from her.

Beginning nearly the first week of first grade, Michelle and I would
walk home to her house to spent the remainder of the afternoon playing.
Aunt Caroline didn't mind, as I was very well behaved. I must also
have struck her as pretty enough to be a second daughter because she
encouraged my dressing in Michelle's clothes to the extent that she set
some things aside in her spare bedroom just for me.

Mom was glad for the "free babysitting". My father and she got
divorced soon after I was born and she had to work as a waitress to
keep food on the table. Not having to worry about me was a welcome

Frequently, I would sleep over at Aunt Caroline's; going to school
directly from there. Mom had left several changes of clothes with my
aunt so that we could do this if the occasion demanded. This was a
treat that I looked forward to, however unexpected, since come bedtime
Michelle and I would dress in her pajamas and go to bed. Pajama party

By the time we reached fifth grade, Michelle and I were more sisters
than cousins. I slept over at least one night a week and always on
weekends; usually going to school on Monday directly from Aunt
Caroline's house. Aunt Caroline enjoyed raising her "daughters".

I was able to let my hair grow to a sexually neutral pixie type style,
so it was possible for it to appear either feminine or masculine
depending on how I was dressed and what other flourishes were employed.
Since nobody in Aunt Caroline's neighborhood knew me outside of my
playing at her house, I easily was passed of as Michelle's cousin

Growing into puberty, Michelle and I would pore over teenage fashion
magazines, learning how to be as pretty as possible. Naturally,
Michelle wanted to appeal to the boys our age. I wanted to be
appealing to them also but wasn't really interested in dating them.
Much confusion here. No doubt Michelle was as confused as I since the
boy she knew and loved the best was by all appearances a girl.

Beginning about age 13, we would dress up and Aunt Caroline would drive
us over to the Mall to go shopping. Michelle and I would spend hours
perfecting our make-up, trying things suggested in the latest issue of
Seventeen. We'd usually dress in the tightest and shortest skirts that
Aunt Caroline would allow. In contrast, our tops were somewhat more
conservative. At the time, our legs looked much better than our

We would cruise the Mall, seeing and being seen. I wasn't at all
self-concious about dressing as a girl; I had been doing it most of my
life. And besides, I made a fairly pretty girl: I had no beard,
certainly, at age 13; I was tallish but slender and my hair was very
fine and pretty. My voice, though not as high as Michelle's was a soft

Aunt Caroline gave us each a $10 allowance when she dropped us off.
The idea was for us to learn how to shop, wisely. Before we went,
Michelle and I would decide what we wanted to shop for (shoes, blouse,
skirt, etc.) and then we would spend the whole day going from shop to
shop trying things on looking for the best fit and quality that fit
within our budget. Unfortunately, Michelle and I were beginning to
develop different figures so oftentimes we would have to buy two sizes
of an item to fit us each properly.

The summer that we were fifteen, Aunt Caroline took Michelle and I to
the ocean for the entire summer. We each bought a two-piece bathing
suit. Mine had a built-up bra and a bottom with a tiny skirt.
Michelle's was somewhat more daring; tiny top/tiny bottom. She got a
lot of appreciative looks that summer.

At the beach, there was almost always a dance or something going every
night. Michelle and I would dress in light cotton dresses, sandals
with no hose and go down to the dance-hall. We'd usually stay until
about 11 pm. Michelle would end up dancing with every boy in the place
while I watched from the side. At first, a lot of boys asked me to
dance, but I didn't really know how and really wasn't interested in
dancing with boys, especially slow dancing. After a few weeks, they
stopped asking. Instead, I watched the band and dreamed that I was one
of them up on the stage.

It hadn't occurred to me during the entire summer, but when it was time
to pack up and go back home I realized that I had a major problem - tan
lines! Here I had spent the entire summer wearing a 2 piece bathing
suit which put some very pale flesh in a very embarrassing place. I
was mortified. Michelle suggested Coppertone; trip to the drugstore.
It colored the skin but was not at all natural. It was also streaky.
Sunlamp; another trip to the drugstore. Intensive sessions under the
sunlamp and keeping the shirt on for a few weeks got me to a somewhat
uniform color.

By the time we were 16, Michelle was the most popular girl in school,
Homecoming queen, the whole bit. I usually had a date for Friday
and/or Saturday, but I was not the BMOC. Occasionally, Michelle and her
date would double with me and my date.

Late in my junior year, I fell in with a ragtag rock & roll band at
school. We were decent musicians but we didn't have anything to
distinguish us from the rest of the hurly-burly. Since we were already
a mixture of sexes, styles and tastes (our keyboardist (Michelle) and
rythm-player were female, our lead-player was simply strange and the
bassist (me) and the drummer were male) I suggested we call ourselves
ANDROGENY and keep the crowd guessing as to what it was they were
looking at.

We all wore a mixture of clothing - constantly rotating amoung the
members - leotards and tights, miniskirts, jeans, leather. Since long
hair was in, we all wore at least shoulder length hair. With a little
makeup, we could go from male to female to male at will, at least on
stage. The idea was an instant hit! God, we could have been banned in
Boston. At the very least we were banned from all the $50 a night
church dances. As a consolation we were booked at $500 a night into
every dance within a 25 mile radius. Everybody wanted to SEE us and
guess what/who we were. Aunt C volunteered to be our business manager
and negotiated our gigs.

I preferred to dress feminine and in fact I really tarted it up some
nights but I also put together a really Hell's Angels looking costume
to keep the folks guessing. Michelle had some difficulty looking
androgenous, much less macho, but she and I worked on her costume
(after all I owed her) and with a little make-up and some really butch
clothes she also kept the crowd guessing.

We kept the band going for about a year, playing until Michelle and I
were ready to go to college. She planned on studying nursing and I was
going to major in computer science. I figured that computer science
was a field which offered me the maximum gender flexibility given my
intellectual capabilities.

Our freshman year we lived in the dorms. Unfortunately, separate
dorms. Occasionally, we could dress up and go out but since I couldn't
be in her dorm and she couldn't be in mine, it was really difficult.

By our sophomore year, we had located an affordable apartment that we
could share. We each had separate bedrooms plus a kitchen and a living
room. The rent was more than two dorm rooms but we had much more
privacy and less noise. Since I didn't have to worry about one of the
guys getting into my stuff, I loaded up all of my clothes from Aunt C's
and moved into the apartment full-time.

During my sophomore year, as I became better known among my classmates,
I took deliberate pains to cloud my gender. First, I was tall (now 5'
11") but slender (140 lbs). My hair was long and I was virtually
beardless but I did not tweeze my eyebrows. My clothes that I wore to
class were asexual (jeans and sweatshirt). Second, my voice, though
low for a girl was soft. Third, the style that I wore my hair had
infinite variations varying from unquestionably feminine to borderline
masculine. Finally, my personality (intellectual and emotional) could
be varied through the spectrum from male to female. Manipulation of
these traits allowed a great deal of freedom for me to explore my own
gender identity. It also made it almost impossible for me to get any
dates, be they male/female.

I attended most large lectures (ie.more than 70 students) and
especially those that Michelle was also taking, as Paula. For smaller
lectures, where the instructor was more likely to compare the face to
the roster, I attended as Paul. Even as Paul, I continued to sow as
much gender confusion as possible (might as well share the wealth).

Michelle began to take some nursing courses that required her to do
some time in the local hospital. Naturally she had to buy some
uniforms. I loved them. Always a sucker for a gal in uniform.
Seriously, I considered changing majors just to be able to wear a
nurse's outfit like Michelle's. Michelle also found a waitress's job a
few miles out of town, serving cocktails. She had to wear a very
tight-waisted outfit that was "cut down to there, and cut up to here".
Plenty of pinches, but she earned nearly $75 a night, every night she
worked. I decided that I could endure an occassional pinch for that
kind of dough, so with her introduction I applied for a job.

I didn't make anywhere near the money that Michelle did in that job
(beauty counts for something) but it did help out for spending cash.
The outfit was a problem, though. Not so much the "cut up to here,"
but the "cut down to there" was a toughie. Michelle pitched in by
visiting a second gynecologist (her gyno already had her on the pill)
and obtained a second prescription for birth control pills. After
taking them for about a month, my nipples became sore and my breasts
began to enlarge. After about six months, I had enough breast
development to fill an A-cup bra. I wasn't going to challenge Dolly
but it was going to be hard to look like a boy again. At least

The "cut down to there" problem remained, but at least it wasn't
flagrant. Going home to mother was my biggest worry. Oh well, I'd
cross that bridge later. The pinches, as I expected, were there even
if the tips weren't quite up to Michelle's. One worry that Michelle
didn't have, though, were my testicles and penis. Some drunken cowboy
getting a grip on those and the jig was up.

I devised a more advanced version of the gaf that I had worn since I
was 6. Previously, I had merely taken an elastic brief, such as a
panty girdle, pulled my penis back between my legs, stuffed my
testicles up into my abdomen, and caught the whole mess with the
girdle. Occassionally, the penis would slip to the side, but more
often it would simply creep forward, coming to rest as a lump of
unwanted flesh at the tip of my pubis bone. My new gaf improved upon
this by providing a pocket into which the penis was inserted, thus
preventing it from slipping sideways. It also allowed for the head of
the penis to be secured and pulled backwards with the gaf.

The final improvement involved finding a corset-type garment to attach
the gaf to. This was the hardest part. Corsets went out of favor many
decades ago and therefore one cannot expect Sears or Penneys to carry
them in their catalog. The Yellow Pages weren't much help either. For
the short term, I bought what was termed a "waist nipper". I sewed the
gaf to the front of the nipper and put eyelets into the back, so that I
could draw the laces, that I had sewn to the gaf, tightly towards the

Utimately, I found a manufacturer of a Victorian style corset and had
one made to my measurements. The gaf I had designed for the nipper
worked well with the corset and my worries about being "felt-up" all
but vanished. The corset provided one additional benefit. Without the
corset, my waist-line was nothing special. With the corset, I was able
to bring my waist from it's natural 28" to a corsetted 24". This alone
seemed to be worth an additional $25 a night in tips. After a few
months, I was able offer a corsetted waist of 22" and an uncorsetted
waist of 24 inchs.

My gender ambiquity was become more difficult to maintain. The
waitress job forced me to take a definite posture towards my feminine
side, most of which was difficult, if not impossible, to reverse the
next morning. Obviously I was going to have to make some difficult
decisions soon. I knew that I did not want to go through life
appearing as a man, though I felt comfortable "being" a man. I knew
mother would be hurt and probably wouldn't understand. Aunt C probably
would understand but I didn't know she could help. My professors would
have to be told since the classes at the junior and senior level were
definitely small enough for them to associate names and faces.

I asked for, and was granted, an appointment with the Head of the
Psychology Department. I felt that I needed some help making these
decisions and thought he might be in position to recommend someone
knowledgable about my problem.

On the appropriate day I was greeted by Professor Ferguson himself. He
gave me a warm handshake with his big dry paws. Directing me to the
chair upholstered in well worn leather, he took up a position behind
his desk. Leaning on his elbows over his enormous desk, he inquired
how help be of service. My hopes rose.

I told him, as briefly as could, my career at the university. I then
told him of my extracurricular life. He didn't bat a lash. I told him
that I felt I had reached a crucial decison point in my life and hoped
that he could recommend someone who could help me with these decisions.

He smiled warmly and sat back in his chair. "I totally sympathize with
your dilemma. It is believed by our profession that fully 1% of the
population suffers from some form of gender dissatisfaction. On this
campus alone, that means that there are some 300 students facing the
same questions that you face. Most will never resolve their

"I have studied the problem somewhat, however my schedule will not
allow me to devote as much attention to your situation as I should.
There is, however, a colleague of mine who is also knowledgable about
this problem. Let me give you her name and extension. No, better yet
let's see if she has time to come here now."

Professor Ferguson picked up the phone and dialed a few numbers. He
chatted amiably for a few seconds, inquired if the callee was free for
a few minutes and then replaced the receiver. We chatted for a couple
of minutes about campus life, weather and so forth, until there was a
tap on the door and Professor Young walked into the office. I
recognized him instantly from his press clippings. He was a rising
star in the academic world for his research into the fundemental causes
of dyslexia.

Professor Ferguson briefed Professor Young about my situation,
recanting almost exactly every detail I had told him. When Professor
Ferguson was finished, Professor Young turned to me and invited to
follow him to his office.

Young's office was a good deal less opulent than Ferguson's and a good
deal messier. There were 2 foot stacks of books lining every inch of
the wall around his office. His desk was buried beneath 4 inches of
papers and books. Apparently profesors and students weren't that
different after all.

He asked me to elaborate on the briefing he received from Professor
Ferguson, which I did. When I was finished, he said "your course seems
clear, your mind seems clear, how can I help?"

When he sensed my confusion at his response, he added "Look, most
students your age are still wrestling with fetishism, how to hide
episodic crossdressing from their parents or peers, or whether they're
homosexual. You seem to have a clear idea of what you are and you have
lived enough in both genders to have a basis to form an educated

I explained to Professor Young that I anticipated some of my professors
would have difficuly accepting me as Paula in their classrooms and that
an authoritative person that they could be referred to might help. I
shared my doubts that my mother could accept my decision, but added
that I had a sympathetic aunt, my mother's sister.

He recommended that I resolve with myself what I wanted/had to be and
return to him when I had made my decision. He felt that whatever
decision I made had to be right for me and only me. When I decided
what was right, he would help to make it happen. I thanked him for his
time and went back to our apartment.

I continued in the identity that I had established for each part of my
life (school, work, Michelle) for the remainder of the semester. As
the end of the semester approached, I prepared myself to discuss my
plans with Mom.

About two weeks before the semester was to end, I called Aunt C and
prepared her for what she was to see and to ask her advice about Mom.
She suggested that she drive over to the school and see me before I
went home. I readily agreed, so we made a date for the next saturday.

Aunt C showed up at our apartment at 9 am. I answered the door and we
embraced for what seemed like minutes. She complimented me on my
appearance, which I appreciated deeply and must have let show because
she embraced me again. I told Aunt C about our past year at school and
how Michelle and I worked at the same restaurant as cocktail
waitresses. Finally I told her of my plans to live the rest of my life
as a woman and my concerns about how Mom would take it.

Aunt C then told something that I never would have believed if anyone
else had been telling it; Mom was Aunt C's brother! My Mother hadn't
divorced my father; HE had divorced my mother.

I was floored. I was caught in some sort of "Kafka world".

In a few minutes I was sufficiently recovered to ask my aunt some
questions. She and I conversed for nearly 8 hours. Michelle had
finished her classes around noon and sat with us until 3 pm, when she
had to prepare for work.

Things were coming full circle. I, a transvestite, was the child of a
transvestite. How could he (she) do this to me! Then I realized this
must have been why she allowed Aunt C to raise me, to allow me to find
my own course in life without any inadvertent influences from her.
Suddenly I felt a need to embrace my mother.

Now was not a good time. Finals were to start in less than a week.
Michelle and I were up to our elbows in studies to prepare for the
finals. I did give Mom a call and chatted with her for nearly an hour.

I called Professor Young and told him that I wanted to register for
fall classes as "Paula". I told him that I had resolved my problems
with my mother, but I expected problems with the faculty and would
appreciate any assistance he could lend. He promised that he would
take care of all registration and "faculty" problems and wished me a
good summer.

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