Waitinggirl @ Sometimes It’s Just A Cigar writes today about the different experiences of make-up that women have, and how there is no One True Narrative of what it means. The context is that apparently there’s been a recent flurry of “trans women seeking advice oppress cis women” (yawn, nope, learn a new tune!)
I’m somewhere on the cis-ish/not-quite-trans area of the gender spectrum, flitting mentally between a sense of myself as more male and more female with relative ease in my own mind and utter calamity when I think of expressing the more trans/feminine side of that.
I’ve been spat at, yelled at, and windscreen wiper fluid sprayed on me, from passing cars while expressing just the slightest gender nonconformity or “queer” behaviour or appearance. It hasn’t happened every time I’ve pushed at the boundaries but often enough that I tend to hide from public displays of gender difference behind a veneer of cis respectability. I can pretend to be like the comfortable binary “Others” I see around me. (“Others” here used to signify that they are other than me; in social terms, I am the Other but I’m hiding it).
And that hiding means I have experiences like this one, which is what I immediately remembered as I read Waitinggirl’s piece:
I was just beginning to explore my gender variability with more awareness of myself and that there was such a thing as nonbinary and trans identity. I had gone into the big town, and as usual that meant I had some kind of appointment. When I have an appointment, I dress smartly, by the norms of “male” dress. A suit and tie, therefore: perfectly respectable, if tubby. But today I wanted to do something else as well. I wanted to buy my first makeup. I had read some tips about trans women’s basics and wanted to have at the very least some lipstick, eye makeup (I love doing my eyes, still what I have most of!) and I had some vague ideas about “foundation” but not really what it’s for.
I still had long hair back then, and Lord knows, that’s been enough for some people to hate me as nonconforming, but it didn’t seem like enough.
So I’m dressed like that when I go into Body Shop (because I knew where that was, and recognised the name) and, looking very much like a Man, had to explain that I needed help choosing things that suited my complexion. I was very self-conscious, and I am grateful to every salesperson (all of them women) who have helped me then, and since, because all of them took it in their stride.
A similar story is described on this blog about going to buy bras for myself. Again, I had to go into that shop disguised as a man with my smart suit on and explain my situation, reveal that I am not in fact what I look like in order to have some assistance in maybe looking like what I wish to. I wore my boobs & bra in public once (under regular clothes!) and that was to a trans/nonbinary munch rather than a general social or professional event. I might try wearing my boobs & bra more regularly as a way into signalling that I’m not quite the same, but do I dare? What else might I dare use to signal or be accepted as the not-quite maleness?
So I wear a disguise every day and dream of being able to say with confidence what I really am because there’s some evidence for people to hang their ideas about me on, rather than just the man I’m disguised as, claiming to be other than a man.