My new life as a transexual

Boxes and labels

I made some people uncomfortable today. I also surprised someone and was surprised by someone.

A friend had loaned me some vintage outfits. I had worn them one night while I was in Arizona a few weeks ago. One of the dresses is blue on the bottom and white on top. The style is from around the 40’s but the dress is from the 60’s. Of all the outfits that was the one piece I fell in love with. So I wore it today.

I have been told that the dress really looks good on me. And it is very feminine. I walked into the office in the dress and high heel black pumps. Everyone looked up. Then many of the men in the office looked away trying to avoid seeing me. Some of the women gave me disapproving glances.

I do want to point out that the dress by itself is not very sexy. I covers almost everything but the ankles, forearms, and a small triangle at the throat. It’s slimming but not form
fitting or clingy. But there is something about it that makes me feel VERY female. I glide across the floor while wearing it. My movements are more graceful.

More than any other outfit I have worn this one breaks through the barrier of trans to woman. My friend put it this way “the dress tears away the walls of the boxes people have created to explain you. Wearing it you are a woman, not trans, or crossdresser, or thing, a WOMAN.”

I always accepted that the people I work with just take for granted that I come in ‘looking’ like a woman everyday. They see me as the guy they work with in a skirt no matter if I happen to pass or not. They only get glimpses of me expressing my true femininity. By creating this box for me they don’t have to think about the logical conclusion of my transition. The box helps them avoid feelings that they might not be able to deal with otherwise.

Today I walked out of the box and forced them to face those feelings. The men had to come to terms with uncomfortable feelings of finding me attractive. Something that borders on homophobia for some. The women who gave me those withering stares saw me not as a curiosity any more but a threat. The old “he just thinks he’s a woman and we will humor him” thoughts were replaced with “OMG he does girl better than we do!”. I talked to a couple of close friends today and these are generalized statements based on what they told me.

As for me, I felt wonderful! We had a vendor rep show up this morning bringing bagels and coffee for the office. He had only met me once a year ago as my old self. He is really a great guy and we talk often on the phone. He had no idea who he was going to meet this morning.

I was logging into my computer when I heard a deep voice say “Hey where’s my buddy (insert birth name here)?” A dozen fingers pointed at me. I stood up and shook his hand. No shocked look, just a big smile on his face. “You look terrific!”, he said. “Everything working out for you? You happy?” I nodded. He looked at me with an expression I usually only see on other trans people. It is an expression that says I understand and accept you no matter what. He said “I am happy for you”. I could feel the tears welling up. I realized my coworkers were unnaturally quiet as they looked on. Then he broke into one of his great stories and I broke out laughing. If it wouldn’t have seemed so awkward I would have hugged him right then and there. This terrific gentle bear of a man chose not to label me as a freak, or tranny, or whatever. His label for me is friend.

Later on, another friend from work asked me out to lunch. We went with a girl from another department who’s birthday we were going to celebrate. After we got seated at the restaurant, the waiter asked what he could get for us ladies. ‘Us ladies’. That felt good.

Afterwards I started thinking about the boxes we put ourselves and others in. Also the labels we stick on people. We do this to make sense of the world. But sometimes the boxes and labels get in the way. I have transwomen friends that demand to be called mom by their kids. I have gotten strange looks when I say I’m ok with my kids calling me dad even after transition. In a documentary I recently saw there was an interview with the famous SRS surgeon Marci Bowers. I was shocked to hear her say that she thought that two other transwomen were undermining all that transwomen have fought for because they allowed their kids to call them dad. Wow. Jenny Boylan’s children call her ‘Maddy’ mommy+daddy which I happen to think is very clever. I wonder sometimes about why the labels mom
and dad are so important to trans people. To me our reality is being transgender. It’s not necessarily our kids’ reality. Those two labels are more important to them and how they can comfortably relate to their parents. Why force them into using labels that feel awkward or uncomfortable? Is it because we as trans people need those labels as validation of our decision to transition? (being trans is not a choice, transition is, regardless of the reason behind it). Plus we label ourselves as transgender. But under that label are boxes: crossdresser, Bigender, gender queer, intersex, transvestite, transexual, etc.

I propose that trans stands for transcendence. We transcend society’s notion of the gender binary. We transcend the idea of boxes and labels and stereotypes that attempt to classify us trans people. As Betty Crow said about being labelled ‘trans’: “It would be even better if people thought of me as a person and we can go from there.”

As a person, I love that idea.



Comments on: "Boxes and labels" (2)

  1. Rachel,
    I love the way you said all this. I hate labels and boxes. For many of us, our lives are a mess because we conformed to a male label or box where we didn’t belong.
    On the “Dad” issue. I would never dream of having my kids call me Mom. They have a Mom, and she does a brilliant job of it. I am not trying to take her place. I like “Maddy”, but it doesn’t really work for older kids. For me, I am encouraging my kids to choose for themselves. If they can still see me as Dad, then they can call me Dad, if not, they can call me Becky. I only ask that they don’t call me anything profane in public.


  2. Rachel,

    that was a very long posting from you !

    It seems you are getting drawn more and more into the reality of transition, since this are all views and problems that come with it ! I think every person in transition will have to spend a significant amount of time reflecting on this problems in daily life.

    What happened to you at work, is something that will most probably happen a few more times. I noticed the same thing in my past 12 month.
    Many times people are actually ok with just accepting us as who and what we are, but then they are more worried about what light will be cast on them when they do so. When others suddenly accept you, then its ok for them to accept you even more, since it won’t make them look funny.
    You know my story well enough, I have to deal with many situations in my work where I get exposed very much to the public side of life. So many times I noticed that people where nearly biting their nails when big meetings came up, or my conducting a larger group of people, this are always people that are ok, as long we are among us. When we leave the comfort zone of non trans people, then things become funny enough different for them – not for us. Logically it should be us who care, but then we are just ourself.
    I find this knowledge frightening, it says so much about the weakness of people !

    I was just telling a friend, that I grow more and more comfortable to the trans community, since we actually tend to look the problems level in the eyes and deal with them ! Others just tend to ignore them or look away….

    One thing that I learned in 12 month… there are no boxes.. if there is containers at all, they are bag like, flexible structures that change its shape and appearance.

    Ah the good old pronouns and names issue… I never cared, every persons who asked my which name I prefer got the same answer – I did not care ! I mean that very much, as long I was able to express my self the way I wanted. Over time people have organically adjusted and started to call me by my correct way and pronouns. All people going on the journey with us face the same transition as we do, maybe even in a slower pace.

    Your children will call you what they see in you (and what will be tolerated by your spouse). Choosing one name is forcing people and I believe that would do more harm then good. Sometimes things just start out of fun and a joke, then they become the routine.

    And I remember the dress you refer to ! I certainly looks very good on you and not provocative in the least ! Me I haven’t manage to look good in such a dress on a regular day… but then it would be certainly a lot of fun for other – me working on a stage with it !


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