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Page last updated at 14:51 GMT, Thursday, 12 August 2010 15:51 UK
Manchester stylists helping guys to be girls
A transgender model
Cross-dressers can get advice on make-up and clothing

In many ways, Transfixed is a salon like any other, catering for those who want to look glamorous for a night out.

Unlike other salons though, it is aimed at transgenders and cross-dressers.

Set up by Zara Prior and Lisa Breakey, the salon provides hair and beauty treatments, as well as advice on what dress to wear and how to apply make-up.

Lisa said they are breaking "the last taboo" and dealing with the "weird confused ideas" held about transvestites and transsexuals.

The pair have known each other for 25 years, but the idea of the salon is a recent one, as Lisa explained.

"We were out one night in the Village and there was a lot of trans-people there and we just decided to do a salon with a difference - for men that liked to dress up.

"Because we had the knowledge of wigs and hairdressing, that combination of skills, we decided to give it a go."

Their premises near the Northern Quarter, a few streets away from the bustling heart of Manchester's gay community, Canal Street, which may surprise some.

A lot of the time, if men express their feminine side, they're nicer men
Lisa Breakey

But Lisa is quick to point out that the idea of being a "dresser" - a man who dresses up as a woman - is removed from a person's sexuality.

"Unlike gays or lesbians or straight people, transgenders can fit into any categories.

"Many people do it for different reasons. Some men have dressed all their lives from being children; it just comes natural to them, they have their feminine side and they express that.

"For others, it's more serious, they do feel like a woman trapped in a man's body, and they will go on to have sex change operations.

"And for some, it's just a little experiment."

Of course, regardless of the reason, the pair are happy to welcome any man to the salon and Zara said that there is "a huge call for it".

That said, not everyone finds it easy to make that first transformation, as Lisa explained.

"People tell us that a lot of people 'dress' at home and about 20 percent of them are out and about.

"They come to the salon all the time - they have their hair done, they'll have a photo shoot and they'll go out in Manchester.

"But some have never been outside and they're really nervous.

A transgender model
The salon aims to help break "weird confused ideas" about transvestites

"We get some that will make three or four appointments before they actually turn up.

"We've even had people walk in, take a quick look round and go out, saying 'I'll come back', as they were just sussing the place out."

Not that the pair mind at all. They understand the difficulty that some men have accepting their desire to 'dress' and that's just the half of it.

As Zara explained, "it's very complicated, especially when you're doing it not from being a little girl."

Adding: "It's starting all over again and learning [things like] how to put your make-up on and what clothes to wear."

Lisa agreed, explaining that the notion of cross-dressing is "the last taboo" left in society.

"It's like gay men 50 years ago. If you say transvestite or transsexual, people have these weird confused ideas.

"They get quite a lot of hassle and they do still feel unsafe.

"Manchester is absolutely brilliant, because there's quite a large transgender community and there's a lot of support mechanisms out there for them.

"But it is still the last taboo and people get scared, so as well as stylists, we see ourselves as trying to support and point them."

With that in mind, she is sure that those who do step inside come out happier and she firmly believes that they are better men for the experience.

"A lot of the time, if men express their feminine side, they're nicer men.

"They understand a woman's world, they understand the problems and the difficulties and they're quite sympathetic to women in a different way."

Transfixed is on Jersey Street in Ancoats.



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