My name is unimportant. I could tell the same story that many other trans women can tell about how they knew from the earliest ages, how they were disappointed when “reality” set in, how their parents/relatives/schoolyard bullies beat them into submission to belong to a narrow gender binary. I could tell you how I “feel” about my body, but I will say that it is different from how I “experience” my gender. I didn’t come out as a trans woman in order to dress or act like a woman. Actually, it was the opposite. It took me a long time of introspection. I got into Goth during a time when androgyny and ambiguous sexuality ruled. I was one of those Goth boys who excelled at blurring the gender line so well people could never tell whether I was male or female. And to this day, people still can’t tell. It is what is comfortable for me. It is an androgynous form of femininity that is empowering. My role models were a whole host of strong women in rock: Siouxsie Sioux, Exene, Joan Jett, Poly Styrene and many more. This was before RiotGrrl. The only confusion I had about my gender was whether I was selling out male femininity by acknowledging that I truly did identify as female. It was hard. It doesn’t matter whether you are male or female or third gendered or neither gendered when femininity is attacked as submissive and weak that is wrong. I was and still am a feminist. I’ve maneuvered through straight and queer culture outside of the worship of masculinity. Male and Female masculinity always tried to “put me in my place” whether actively by males and females who were masculine or by males and females who were feminine who willing submitted themselves before the alter of masculinity…or even just by being critical of others who were feminine as to make themselves feel better about themselves. In the trans community, this is so rampant that the expression “more trans than thou” is quite apt.
I will say that I am not perfect. There are days where I feel like if I’m not wearing the right clothes or acting a certain way, that people will think I’m male (or use male pronouns for me). Sometimes it doesn’t matter how glam or done up I am, I will have someone “sir” me. Of all the gendered words, I hate “sir” and “ma’am” the most. I always try to use Comrade or some neutral word that puts people on an equal scale. But I’ve never liked the “zie” and “hir” gender neutral pronouns either. It’s not that I need validation from “she” and “her” to authenticate my existential identity as “female” but just my laziness with my day to day life having to be political and having to educate every damn person out there. I just want to do my work or wait for the bus or just dance to a song or go to the bathroom. I’m not getting paid to be anyone’s professor of gender theory and pronoun politics. That said, if an enlightened person says “zie” and “hir” I’m cool with it. It doesn’t offend me.
I have had some wonderful butch friends who get sir’d and male pronouned, and that’s what we have in common. I’m not butch though, so it’s weird. It makes me feel like no matter what I do, I’m not living up to some arbitrary standard of humanity’s collective pronoun acuity. I said I wasn’t perfect. I mean, yes, if I’m having a bad day, it can send me into a reclusive feeling of wanting to hide. I stopped crying a long time ago.
I learned that it didn’t matter how long my hair was or what style it was. People either get it or they don’t.
Regardless of how people perceive my gender, the dangerous part is not being called sir or that dreaded pronoun “he.” I have fought off skinheads in my youth who would call me a “Goth faggot” and even today at 34, I get these dumbasses who think it’s okay to make fun of me or stare at me with some air of intimidation. Why? Because femininity is supposed to be submissive and weak. If they perceive me as a “gay male” then their homophobia is being directed at my being a feminine male. If they perceive me as a trans woman, then maybe they have some sexual desire for me that makes them want to oppress me. I’m not unnerved by it. I’m ready for it. I’m just tired of having to be ready for it. I’m just tired of feeling like I can’t let my guard down. I won’t bore you with all the stories, but I’ve lost and won many fights over how I choose to live my life. I chose to walk a path of non-violence…but I also choose not to be a victim. The most I’ve experienced lately is the intimidation of violence against my body here in Portland. Will it ever be more than the suggestion? I hope not.
I have to thank my friends in the Punk and Goth subculture for giving me the freedom to be who I am. So few people have stood up and defended me in places where there are no laws to protect me, or worse where those who enforce the laws are likely to be the ones who do the acts of violence. I’m an outsider in Queer and Straight cultures. I’m never an outsider in the Punk and Goth subcultures…hell, I’m an Old Bat by now. The hairs that grow out from where I shave my mohawk are gray. There’s crows feet where my Cleopatra eyeliner begins. I ache the next day after too much dancing (especially slam dancing). But I’m happy with who I am. I’m happy as a feminine person who despite what “femininity” is supposed to be, by some mainstream gauge, that I am a strong person. I’m now the role model to other women. I’m an “Aunt” to a friend’s daughter (who is a cisgendered/cissexual female) who is the age I was when I started my path to being who I am today. She doesn’t see me as a trans woman, just as a woman. And that’s what I am. The trans is just an adjective like feminine or lesbian that describes what kind of woman I am.
the pictures I’ve included represent three different ways I express my form of femininity.