August 29, 2012 § 6 Comments
August 28, 2012 § 31 Comments
I’ve been up at the Edinburgh Fringe, where this picture was taken. See the full feature here. Now I’m back I hope to keep this blog turning over much more regularly. You can help with questions and with inspirational pictures and links and stuff. Anyway. Here’s a blog.
People still give me a certain amount of grief on the street for the way I dress. However, as I get better at it I get less attention. This is partly because the look is more natural – the crossing of the gender boundary is less jarring – and partly because it is more feminine, so that often by the time people notice what they’ve seen, I have already walked past, and am out of range for insults or hassle.
One thing I have noticed about my own behaviour, however, is that I interact with other people less when I’m dressed feminine. Particularly in any critical or aggressive way. I am pretty misanthropic, and will often tell people less well brought-up than myself when they are doing things that are inappropriate (like playing music out loud on public transport or dropping rubbish in the street). When I’m cross-dressed I am less likely to do this. Today on my way home from the Edinburgh Fringe I was reminded of why.
As my wife and I were struggling to get on the tube with our suitcases, guitar, amp, and massive bags a woman shoved her way between us to get on the tube first, dragging her child behind her by the hand. Behind me came her equally annoyed friend, shoving past me and flashing me dirty looks for being in her way. As she settled down she kept on glaring at me. I asked where she though I should have gone, (it being patently obvious I was still settling in to the carriage). She mouthed off about me apparently hitting her son in the head with my bag, which hadn’t happened, and then the whole group of them started on my appearance, at a volume self-consciously loud enough for me to hear.
I was knackered, in pain (my hip has gone psycho on me, dragging my back along with it. The scheming bastards…) and not in any mood to argue any further. I ignored them and went on my way when my stop came along.
But it reminded me that any intervention with people’s annoying and unacceptable behaviour while I’m cross-dressed immediately gives them a target at which to strike. “Yes, I may be stealing from this charity box, but you are wearing lipstick, so you are in no position to judge,” they basically say. It is one of the boundaries I still have yet to push away.
I get asked every now and then “So why are you a transvestite?” which is mainly my fault for diagnosing my gender presentation as such, rather than simply doing what lots of my mates do and wearing what they like with little fanfare. Trouble is, I am a stand-up comedian, and in going on stage cross-dressed I am in almost exactly the same social position as when telling someone not to stick chewing gum on William Blake’s ‘Ghost Of A Flea’ in the Tate. The audience is an annoying twat with no social skills whom you need to convince of your superiority in order to make them laugh. Thus I have to own my image, and put it in a clear space for them to handle and get over.
The real question, of course, is not “Why are you a transvestite” but “Why is there such a thing as a transvestite?”. Given the FUCKING MASSIVE number of people who want to present themselves in a way other than that which is deemed suitable for their sex by society, I think we should press people for the answer to THIS question a lot more strongly.
And the question should be addressed at everyone who questions cross-dressing.
Why are you giving me shit for this?
I think there are two main reasons:
1) Sexual insecurity
b) Social insecurity
The first is a straightforward “I find that quite attractive but I don’t fancy that gender”. This explains both bonehead blokey-bloke reactions as well as those from the more conservative elements of the gay community (and it is a community). A certain gay comic never relents in his questioning of my cross-dressing. It’s annoying.
The b) is more common. People like to feel superior. A good way of doing this is to point out other people’s failings. Society deems transvestism as a failing, and this is self-perpetuated by what I like to call the ‘violent enforcement of conformity’. The social failing is not to cross-dress, but literally just to have committed a social failing. People pointing it out as a bad thing are not doing so for any reason other than the shared knowledge that to cross-dress is somehow weird and different and just socially failing! There are other reasons, more specifically to do with male-to-female gender jumps and giving up your patriarchal birthright, as well as good old fashioned homophobia, but I think the simple idea that to do a thing deemed socially wrong is itself the social wrong is more important.
I’d be interested to know what you lot think.