Are you confused? I’m not. Not anymore. In the past 5 years, I really have gone from femme to MTF transvestive. I used to wear femmey clothing to try to be a “real” woman. Now that I don’t have to prove anything anymore, once in a while, for sexual purposes, I like to dress like a femmey slut. And it feels subversive now, so I like it.
It was quite a route to get here though. As mentioned in one of the very first posts here, there came a time when I realised that I didn’t have to limit myself to “F” and I started to explore “gender blended” or transgender at large. It was quite liberating but then there came a time when I needed to explore the other extreme. If I had become well-versed in extreme femininity (as socially defined in North America), I needed to explore extreme masculinity (ibid.) I did that through drag kinging as Gary Dickinson.
I started to publicly embody Gary at Montreal Pride 2004. I had been practicing colouring my bountiful peach fuzz with mascara to create a nearly-realistic looking beard at home for a few weeks. Walking at Pride with a beard made me feel SO GOOD.
After that public appearance, and after realising how good it felt to embody manhood, I began to seriously question my gender identity. I had already been through an existential crisis back when I started exploring a trans identity through the idea of being gender blended. This time, though, I felt myself moving closer to male than was comfortable. It was uncomfortable because it was bringing me closer to trans with a capital T that, at the time, terrified me with it’s implications of suffering and loneliness. I would get a feeling of cold, hard, heavy metal (not the musical kind, because that would reassure me instead of scaring me) in my stomach whenever I would make it all the way to a website discussing physical modifications. This was still 2004.
Throughout 2005, I embodied Gary at home or on outings in the village with my bi friends. People would ask me if I wanted to be a man and I would apologetically reassure them that no, I was going to stay gender blended in a female body. It was reassuring to be between the binary. It felt like I wasn’t betraying myself (my anti-essentialist politics, for example). And yet . . .something was nagging me. I kept repressing it. It kept coming back.
In 2006, I hit the stage as Gary for the first time. I still had my long hair and I embodied one of my idols, Bruce Dickinson, by lipsyncing to the Iron Maiden tune, Number of the Beast. It was an amazing experience and I was hooked. I networked with other beginner kings and we formed a troupe called King Size (now renamed as the Dukes of Drag). For quite a while, I thought that portraying extreme, or stereotyped masculinity on stage was enough to feed my need to embody masculinity. For a while, it was enough.
What amazed me about the whole thing is how natural it came to me to embody masculinity. I eventually realised that it was because a lot of the physical cues that are defined as masculine (but which I don’t believe are essentially and inherently male – I’m anti-essentialist, in fact) came naturally to me. I had spent my life suppressing them out of a desire to please, to be accepted and read as a “real” woman. More and more, I realised how feigned and affected my mannerisms were in the rest of my life and how natural I felt when I was Gary. And, over the course of 2006 and 2007, I increasingly allowed myself to express the natural “masculine” me in my daily life: during social outings, at work . . .everywhere.
The skirts and tight tops that I thought I should wear to convince people of my womanhood started to gather dust. I would wear them occasionally in the name of maintaining my claim to “gender blendedness” but it felt less and less right. By the spring of 2007, I was packing 24/7 and wearing men’s clothing 95% of the time. By the fall of 2007, it was 100% of the time, except for binding. I remember a day in October of 2007 when I thought I would give “being a woman” one last shot. I wore a long denim skirt with a tight grey top that showed off my D cups very well. I walked my son to school like that, stopped back at home to pick up my stuff for work, left home and walked half a block. I couldn’t do it. I felt like I was betraying myself yet again after all that work at being me. After all the unlearning of what I had learned as a “wanna-be” girl. I ran home, put on some men’s slacks, black men’s shoes, a button-down shirt and whistled (metaphorically, because I don’t really have that skill) all the way to work. A month later, I made my decision to physically transition and began to identify as FTM.
And I lived happily ever after.
Waitaminnit! I’m not done! There’s the transvestite part!
A few months after self-IDing as FTM and beginning psychotherapy to get my letter for testosterone, I began to get the urge to wear women’s lingerie on occasion. For a brief second, I went “uh-oh!”. But I quickly realised that it has nothing to do with wanting to be a woman. I now occasionally enjoy transvestitism, as in, being a guy wearing women’s lingerie, because of the subversiveness of it. It turns me on, especially if I’m sporting facial hair and a bulge. I think it’s sexy and so do others who see me, apparently. And it doesn’t, in the least bit, threaten my sense of masculinity. I actually feel VERY masculine dressed that way. Think of the men in Rocky Horror Picture Show when they are wearing corsets.
As it stands, I identify socially as male because it comes closer than female in expressing how I feel inside. However, inside, I’m genderqueer. I’m between the two, and beyond. I’m a whole other sex and gender. I’m trans. I’m a trans male who expresses masculinity through dress, demeanour and identity in his daily life, who expresses gender neutrality in his personality and attitudes and who expresses femininity when the mood strikes him through clothing in sexual contexts. All that and I’m a mother and a feminist to boot!
So there, identity police. Just try to pin me down. I’ll laugh at you all the way.