Every square inch of me wants to be out. What does that mean? No disconnect between how I present and how I feel…to wear my identity on my shirtsleeves. Does that seem self-indulgent? Does it seem different than anyone else? I’ll bet it does.
When we perform in role, when I put on the clothes that are the signifiers of masculinity, I am putting on a uniform. Every man plays this role…largely, with the exception of a few very creative people, or some members of the LGBTQ+ community. Women have more freedom in this regard…the western world has gotten used to a broader range of female presentation even if it has not evolved much in terms of expectations of women.
Most of us don’t think about this for one minute. I used to work for a globally famous designer, a man, who wore the exact same suit and shirt every day, for every situation. It was quite literally his uniform. He did it to keep that part of his life simple, so that he could “save” his creativity, his creative decision-making for stuff that mattered. I thought it was nonsense even if my colleagues whispered in hushed tones how ‘cool’ it was, he was. I just thought creativity is not zero sum. If you have the muse, then the muse speaks.
Back in the day of men’s business suits and my workaday commute, I suppose this decision was relatively easy, but it certainly didn’t make more creative for making it easy. Still, it was (and is) an important expression of identity. My soon-to-be-ex-wife has been likened to a bully by many who have come to know her conduct in our divorce proceedings. One of her bullying comments was why I had worn men’s clothes to a country where it is illegal to be trans, and telling me that “I can clearly go on wearing men’s clothes when it suits me.” She doesn’t like me to have income uncertainty, so she tells herself all kinds of things.
I noted in reply to her that there are certain situations where I will rock boy mode, namely when my safety and well-being are threatened by not doing so. I also underlined to her that I had been told by our children that she was threatening to have me arrested. Yes, you read that correctly. My wife was seeking to get me thrown in jail for being trans when I travelled to a country where it was illegal to be trans. You can’t make this stuff up.
I am 99% out. I still go into boy mode on zoom calls for work and job interviews. I don’t know yet that I will be able to work in my profession as a trans woman. Finding a job is hard enough. I’d rather get the job and then tell them when it is too late for them to discriminate against me. I don’t like that. I do have choices. I could just fully go for it. And I will, in a semi-contained way. Begin looking for work as an out trans woman.
I will also double down on side hustles and starting something new. That would be best. But in the meantime, I live in a difficult limbo. The trans community refer to this period as a period of greatest danger. And it surely is for most trans women, who are at the beginning of transition, but are also required by the WPATH guidelines on transgender care to live out fully for at least one year, on hormones, etc before taking any further steps. It is a kind of cruelty towards us that this gatekeeping exists. I would just stealth mode my neo vagina into existence, and then come out from one day to the next, perhaps after I changed my paperwork to reflect what I had become. But no, you can’t, no doctor will treat you on that basis.
So, we are all more or less forced to live through this difficult grey period, where nothing is sure. Enter the power of clothes as a signifier. I think a lot about what I feel like wearing, and my choices have expanded exponentially given the increased choice in a woman’s wardrobe. But my moods have also become that much more complex. What I am feeling. How my clothes embody that feeling, how they outwardly represent how I feel.
I found myself recently in the good ol’ state of Texas. This is a state that boy me has always loved. Horses, ranching, cowboy culture. And I have had many very positive experiences over the years in Texas. But the political rhetoric is scary. There are pockets of the US which have become positively Apocalyptic as they have been swallowed up by right wing extremism conflated with a misguided and ungodly form of Christian intolerance. In such places, I am warned that I am in danger. That I stick out like a sore thumb. Oh, and I thought it was tragic and fragile beauty.
Nope, they don’t like my kind. Part of me feels duty bound to be out and to rub my existence in the faces of the intolerant. And I don’t hesitate to do this in Europe. In part because my fear of being assaulted or worse is much lower than in the US. Hate crime simply follows legislative madness, and so a feeling I don’t wish to acknowledge at all, that I have anything to hide, or be ashamed of, creeps into my feelings of where it is safe to be.
As an ex-inhabitant of the landscape of ultimate privilege, the financially successful, educated white male, this is a new feeling for me. I have embraced the feeling of being “othered” or what it feels like to being a transwoman. But I can’t get my head around the feeling of being hated by a stranger to the point of them wanting to harm me just because what I represent is something that makes them uncomfortable.
Well, I am glad I wasn’t wearing a dress. The people I was with in Texas were charming, but boy, was I sure that I would have been unwelcome if they really knew me.
“You don’t want to go to Austin. That city is ruined. It’s so woke now. It’s just like San Francisco,” said the patriarch.
“Hey Dad, be careful, you don’t know which way these guys lean,” said the son.
“There’s only one way to lean in Texas,” said the man.
I was there to see if I liked his business enough to buy it for a group of investors. Apart from the answer being ‘no’ on the merits, I’m not sure how comfortable I would be sitting in the same room with people who might politely shoot me if they knew what I was really thinking. I say polite, because the Texan man is one of the politest you will encounter in the USA. And these chaps were no exception.
As we toured their facilities I marvelled at all the hunting trophies around their office. The products of brittle performative masculinity. Their passion for killing things with guns did not just extend to their local fauna, and they were proud to show trophies of animals they had travelled long distances to shoot—bear from the arctic circle, bighorn sheep in the Rockies. Their lust was going to take them to Africa to shoot the big 5.
I couldn’t help but thinking that a bust of a ballerina giraffe would fit right in on their walls, another trophy of a majestic beast brought low by toxic masculinity.
But how like this are things in many companies? We were wandering around their plant, and one remarked, “oh, they’re shooting x-rays over there, we don’t want to go there.” In other words, x-ray radiation just being blasted around their site. Don’t ask.
It was like stepping back into the dawn of Industry. Little regard for health and safety. “Don’t look at the welding light,” one said.
“But you can’t help it,” said another. I just smiled. What are you going to do?
When in the belly of the beast, it is best not to stick your head above the parapet. But we ballerina giraffes have very long necks.
just be very careful if you have to go back to Texas – we dont want You shot 🙂
the only trophy You should be is Yours – Your hard work and perseverance during Your transition – a shame you cant be involved in buying and selling business in europe – far less guns and not so trigger happy – opps by passing mr putin of course. very best wishes alan
LikeLiked by 1 person
Hi Alan…I know. Texas, and the US in general, is a pretty weird place these days. In some states it is actually now illegal to wear drag. Beyond that, it is also up to the arresting officer to determine what drag is. It is a country that has enshrined bigotry into law. It seems a mighty step backward. Thankfully, I can usually watch from a distance. But sometimes, I cannot.
I do mostly work in Europe, so I should be safe. I have to say that New York is the most trans-positive city I have encountered thus far, with London a close second. After that, my experience is really European cities, and a very small number of US regional cities. The best is when people don’t even take notice, because it is normal enough.
I appreciate your kind words and support.
LikeLiked by 2 people