I’ve been taking my newfound femme freedom in stages, somewhat due to being hesitant in my new home (which is really quite conservative) to rocking the boat and somewhat due to not having much knowledge of a number of femme things.

Phase 1 of this process was some stuff for home: finding dresses I liked and learning how to do makeup. I painted my nails and slowly learned to get my eyes right. I wore tights and found the occasional pair of heels I could wear. This was for me. This was to see if it felt right. And it does.

Phase 2 was casual wear. Denim capris? Tank tops? A nice ruana or poncho for that evening chill? You bet. This was relatively easy to do, and it meant wearing more female clothing than male. My wardrobe started to felt femme, and I’m happy for that. It also meant I was more public wearing those things. But summer clothing can span a spectrum.

Phase 3 is what I’m starting now. This is clothing that I can wear to work or potentially wear out and about. This means wearing women’s pants (sizes 10 or 12), finding good tops that are right for academia (which, let’s be honest, could be t-shirts and ripped jeans), and (*gulp*) also means finding skirts I like. I haven’t had the guts to wear any of those out and about yet, but I’m getting closer.

It means more shoes, too.

I’m doing well with phase 3, and it’s thanks to both the support of those I love and also a bit of extra money these last couple of paychecks due to massive overtime. I have the opportunity to experiment a little bit with the money that isn’t being socked away for a house.

I’ve also started painting my fingernails, not just my toenails, and kind of getting used to being stared at. It happens a whole lot more now, and I’m learning how to be with that. So far so good.

Oh, and it also means more cosmetics. I got matched to a good foundation and powder, and I’m learning to accentuate things like cheekbones through that. I’ve gotten much better with eye makeup as well, and I wear eyeliner publicly most days.

Phase 3 is interesting because it’s the closest I’ve come yet to feeling like I’m living as me. It takes some courage, not all of which I have yet. But compared to how timid I was to even walk into an Ulta or through the women’s section of Macy’s a year ago, I’ve made big strides. Maybe that skirt day isn’t all that far off.

But not at work. I don’t have tenure yet.