What I am increasingly enjoying about my not caring about binary gender expectation, and also in playing the system to suit myself, the result being that I feel, at least a little, more in control and with more personal power than I had before. What I deeply feel is that any expression of transgender feelings should be primarily about gaining more control – control over your body and control over how you experience being transgender. You may perhaps loose control over your finances, loose cis-status and associated gender privileges of course, but you may attempt to minimise this loss of power by gaining more control over your personal identity. In time this control may result in more confidence or offset the loss of control over other aspects of one’s life.
For instance, currently, due to my remaining androgyny and choice of feminine blazers, I do sometimes hear comments directed towards me, such as “OMG, that’s so obviously a guy”. Now…if I were to turn around and say in a feminine voice “I am a woman, whats your problem?” then they’d laugh and I’d be the typical man-in-a-dress transwoman. The tired-old cliche re-confirmed. But if I turn around and happen to make some random conversation with my male voice, without any reference to seeing myself as feminine, then all of a sudden I have more control.
It re-asserts my right to male-privilege, plus I potentially make them feel stupid for assuming that I was a “trannie”, so I basically take them off-guard, giving them response the opposite that they might be smugly expecting. They’d be expecting me to be a typical non-passing transwoman, the type that the media simply adores to portray, and because of such idiotic and damaging assumptions can result in abuse and discrimination, I want to try to avoid those by subverting expectations.
And THAT is what I feel transition should also be about, not just about the self-realisation and need to outwardly express your innate gender, but about how to gain more personal power over your existence. Adapting your circumstances to your advantage and presenting yourself in a way that may successfully navigate a world not in-tune with how you may feel. Play the system instead of letting it play you, basically.
You may argue that Transgender people in this day and age have been dealt a bad hand to play with. As someone who increasingly sees themselves, I’m increasingly aware of the potential pitfalls of breaking gender conformity & seen to be being visibly doing so. Thus I’m more than happy to play this (arguably) bad hand as I like, even if some may call this “cheating” or perhaps my lacking in my gender conviction. However I’d counter these accusations with – why should I be honest with strangers and the general public who obviously don’t and most likely wouldn’t care or take the time to understand my gender perception? If I am honest with myself and those I am close with about my gender, then that’s where my wider responsibility ends in that respect.
A case in point was when I was dressed in a home-made Victorian bustle dress and was travelling on the tube to a Japanese rock gig (which incidentally featured some rather fetching crossdressing musicians). I was travelling with friends, and enjoying the journey, however we disagreed upon my reaction to some looks by fellow passengers. The disagreement hinged on the fact that I tend to say passers-by (if asked) that I’m dressing up as female for charity, simply because I like the clothes, or just for a laugh, instead of telling them its because its to do with my gender presentation. I don’t see why I should need to tell them the actual reason as A: they probably wouldn’t understand, and B: their reaction may well be hostile regardless. Thus, I give an answer that simplifies my reason for the benefit of understanding, its more socially acceptable and also more subverts their expectations as to how I’ll react. So my resulting interaction with these people may start off as frosty as they may not approve of or understand my presentation, but may well warm and become cordial when I present my non-conformity as something they can relate to more and which may not seem as aggressive. Usually, I end up having a warm and friendly conversation with them. I doubt, though, whether they would still be as cordial if I were to say “its because female presentation is part of my identity” or “I see myself as part female”, etc.
Most of the public of the UK might well be familiar with crossdressing comedians and/or friends/acquaintances who may wish to crossdress for a fancy dress party for instance. So a related answer may ensure a more palatable response. There’s less chance of being ridiculed and therefore more chance of getting through the day without incident. And as for the issue of “standing up for oneself and their beliefs” – I consider that my dressing up as the “other” gender whilst in full public view in order to express my identity is massively standing-up for what I believe in! But I don’t have to complicate that statement by needing to tell people the full story.
In order to change society, I feel that the best way is to buck the system and undermine it one step at a time, almost subliminally until the transition between the old way of thinking and the new way is almost expected without much disagreement. One or two trans* people stating their real reason for cross-gender presentation to strangers isn’t going to change society, no matter how honest the intention. As with most landslide changes in social customs and human systems, changes tend to be gradual and only really become openly addressed / accepted when the issue or custom has to be un-avoidably addressed on a global scale. Issues from climate change to infectious diseases to equality all have had to reach an explosive point before the world is forced to accept the issue and deal with it. With diseases, the issue may only be openly explored in the mainstream when it may reach pandemic proportions. Then is the time to be open and honest with the public at large. Until then, however, one of the only ways to slowly build awareness without huge risk to the individuals involved, may be to put the point across in a way that the current mode of thinking can understand. To make it seem less like a leap to understand. One step to understanding should lead to another, instead of sea-changes which seem to make the public feel scared like the world is running away, and thus the public strikes out at those who are rocking the status-quo. If you stand-up like a nail you WILL be knocked down.
In the novel and film(s) of “Nineteen Eighty Four”, we are introduced to Julia and Winston, the two major characters in the story. Winston believes in an all-out revolution whereby the repressive regime will be destroyed in one fell swoop upon the awakening of the repressed classes. Winston believes that this revolution must be looked forward too, whenever it may take place. Julia however, thinks rather differently. She believes that the regime being so complex and the repressive culture so entrenched in its citizens, that a mass revolution will never happen, and so the only way to stand-up to the regime and undermine it is to rebel quietly and individually. Unlike Winston, she actively participates in the schemes of the regime, whilst simultaneously and covertly rebelling against it with the personal acts she commits. Her “revolution” happens every time she commits an act of defiance against the regime. Even if her little defiances are not also to be secretly perpetrated by others, her rebellion will still be valid and resonant to her. As she sees it there is no hope of revolution in her lifetime, so the only way to undermine the system is to commit personal acts of treachery, deception and rebellion.
This is the way I see gender transition as having to unfold in our day and age – it HAS to be personal, it has to be tailored to the individual and the transition should definitely not be about conforming to the same regimes & expectations that may well be one of the fundamental reasons for your problems in the first place.
Transitioning from one restrictive binary box to the other is simply perpetuating the gender divide and binary mindset that is a major component in persisting issues such as transphobia and gender inequality.
But back to attaining more personal power – If I did transition pass to a certain degree as a woman – I’d still want to be listed as male on my passport, I’ll keep my deep voice, I’ll continue to very firmly shake hands in the traditionalu up-standing male way, etc etc. Why? Because I’ll being constantly subverting people’s assumptions. They’ll think when they see me “oh I know you’re a man, haha”. And when I tell them “yep, I’m a man. Did I ever say I was a woman?” Then what leverage do they have? I’ve played them at their own game. I hate people thinking that they know me by my appearance. I love to talk about how much I fancy girls when Im looking very feminine. Its not an act, its fun to see their confusion as they were thinking “Oh, I thougt he was gay”. And I’m thinking inside “haha, get fucked. You see! You know shit-all about me”.
Unlike alot of transitioners who blended in 100% with others of their birth sex pre-transition, I’ve always had questions raised about my gender not being man enough, etc etc, so I already know what its like to have reduced male privelege. And I don’t wish to go back to that, unless I have some increased personal power over this.
The doctor said to me “well, if it hurt not being seen as a male, then how will you feel in-control if you started to look more female whilst on hormones?” And I said, that when I was younger and androgynous – I had no control over the process at all. However, this time round I would be in more control of the process. It would be my choice,and this helps to give a sense of power of proceedings.
Take suicide for example. If someone was feeling suicidal, and a doctor said to them “OK, can I inject you with a terminal illness, then?” The person who most likely say no, but might still go on to kill themselves. Why? Because the suicide is an act of taking control. Being diagnosed with a disease isn’t controllable by your wishes. But planning suicide to your own specification is. Once again, it all goes back to needing to have power when feeling powerless. A person with no power over their lives can still hold ultimate power over their life by having the potential to take their own life. And transition to me, can be similar, especially in my case.
I’ll never be a manly guy, so instead of spending a lifetime trying to run after this ideal – buying shoes two sizes bigger to make my feet the male average, wearing two pairs of jeans to thicken out my legs etc, and thus having no control, I might as well control how I experience this feeling of inadequacy.
You have turn a weakness into a strength. That’s what I feel I’ve done. My exasperated and broken male identity has been actively replaced by a stronger, more increasingly well-rounded feminine identity. If this hadn’t of happened, then I’d continue to be a depressed and broken man. Instead, I’ve jumped ship. Perhaps my whole feminine identity is a construct, but if it is, then it’s what powering me forward in life, and therefore its a force for good. I’ve adapted to my situation and may thrive as a result.