When boredom is a victory – 28 Day Gender Challenge day 14 (belated)

February 17, 2013 § 4 Comments

IMAG0388This post is late. Sorry about that. Cutbacks.

It’s a piece of piss, this challenge.

Since the 1st February I have cross-dressed every single time I have left the house. (With one notable exception which I’ll talk about in a bit.) Apart from one day where I didn’t leave the house at all I have shaved, put on make-up and worn a skirt every day.

Several changes have taken place. The biggest one is that I am less fussy about the standard to which I need to dress when crossing the gender line. I have always had a policy of making sure I am doing it ABSOLUTELY right, so that I am at least making sure I’m dressing exactly how I want. Now I’m doing it every day I’m relaxing a lot more, and treating my clothes as just clothes.

THIS IS A COLOSSAL VICTORY.

I cannot emphasise how much of a big deal this is. I have almost entirely destroyed the binary in my head, and I’m mixing and matching like crazy. I’m not even wearing make-up today. Normally I’d be worried I was presenting the wrong image, the wrong signals. Now I don’t give much of a fuck.

Shaving is proving problematic, as I thought it would. I’m getting round it by alternating a wet shave with using my electric shaver, and giving much less of a fuck about going out with a bit of shadow. The more I do that, the more I work out a coherent self-image that encapsulates both sides of my gender presentation. Props here go out to my friends Joe and Arran and to John in Melbourne. All of them do this already, and do it really well.

I’ve reached, and then pushed through the point of boredom. The novelty of cross-dressing, which is a really big part of it for the guys who do it very secretly, or at weekends only, was always a small part of it for me. Cross-dressing was dressing up. Now it’s every day. The hassle factor started to outweigh what I felt I was getting out of it. But I pushed through, and now it doesn’t feel like a hassle, it just feels like me.

The one time I went out dressed ‘straight’ was a difficult decision. I did a workshop, teaching kids about stand-up comedy. I felt that to cross-dress would lead to a lot of difficult questions, and would make it harder to communicate directly with the kids. It felt really weird wearing trousers! This is remarkable in itself. It felt unnatural, and more of a gender performance than wearing a skirt. Cool, eh?

The more I do this, the more this feels natural, and part of me. I’ve had that in the past, but not to this degree.

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Voice stuff, and how this is easier than I thought.

February 5, 2013 § 10 Comments

I just went to the shop for some beer, and was struck by the sound of my own voice.

I’ve never really considered changing my voice to make it sound more feminine. My voice is one of the things I really like about myself. For the last few years at least it has dropped one semitone with each Edinburgh Fringe I put it through, to the extent that I cannot properly sing some of the stuff on my band’s first album. I am a stand-up comedian first and foremost, and it is my instrument. It feels like a part of my identity.

But every now and then the foghorn I present to the world sounds out of key. I might try to experiment with it.

Here is a wonderful example of what is possible:

But then a contrary thought occurs and I feel defensive about the ‘me’ that I am carving out of social space. My voice might be quite masculine, but it’s so closely linked with the ideas I put over on stage that I feel like I should keep it exactly as it is. Some people have even said it is sexy. They are clearly completely fucking insane. In fact – when my band first went to America to play a big steampunk event we were told that it’s quite common in US steampunk circles to put on a ‘British’ accent. This was illustrated by several people asking if mine was my real voice. Why the fuck anyone would put on my Wallington accent, I have no idea… but I’ll take a compliment where I can get it.

The other thing that occurs today is how much easier this is than I expected. I think I was using festival cross-dressing, where I am doing it for the benefit of my shows more than for myself, as my model for what to expect. But the simple act of shaving and sticking on a skirt and a bit of beard-cover to go to the shops is actually really not that much of an issue.

I think I might be carving out a space for myself in which I can actually cross-dress – to some degree – every day for the rest of my life.

 

28 Day Challenge – Day Four

February 4, 2013 § 6 Comments

Today has been a lazy admin day, so I haven’t even changed out of my dressing gown. I will observe the rules later when I go to the shops, but for now I haven’t broken them!

So I will indulge those wanting this to go more in the direction of a fashion blog and show you the vegan ankle boots I’ve been perving over online. One pair of these will be mine.

I found these:

…and assumed they just happened to be vegan. They’re made by ‘Madden Girl’. A bit of investigation makes me think that this offshoot of Steve Madden (whose shoes I fucking LOVE) are all synthetic uppers!

http://www.stevemadden.com/CategoryItem.aspx?id=384

Then I found PURPLE VEGAN SHINY DOCS!

I have a full-on fetish for shiny docs (when on the right woman…) and these are LUSH! But not helpful. I need something with a heel in order to help me with the challenge.

Then there’s these:

Dammit. I want these. Massively impractical though they are.

And then I get caught in a web spiral and don’t get any work done at all…

28 Day Challenge – Day Three

February 3, 2013 § 6 Comments

I have started using make-up in a different way. Up until now, because crossing the clothing gender line was kind of an ‘event’ I would always use make-up in dramatic ways. I’d give it the works, more often than not.

IMG_0944b

Now, with the everyday cross-dressing I’m using it much more subtly – I suppose I’m using it more in the manner of someone trying to pass.

I never really try to pass, because I have reconciled myself to the fact that I can’t. Some of the pictures on here might suggest otherwise, but they’re the ones I’ve selected and the real life me has issues of scale, body language and voice to consider. I can’t choose the angle people see me from.

There are loads of visual clues that give away gender. We barely notice most of them. Jawline, adam’s apple, hand size and shape, the distance between the fold of the eyelid and the eyebrow, proportion of leg length to body length… they all go together to make a general impression. We have evolved to recognise gender in order to maximise our child-rearing potential. Personally I’m also pretty good at determining a cat’s gender too.

So I am using make-up to smooth the impression I create. It’s not to pass, but to look less jarring. To create the impression in people’s minds that – at the very least – this is part of a consistent effort.

I do find that sort of thing quite fascinating. The range of responses depending on how and to what degree I’m crossing the line. Flouncy skirt and pink tights are very different to pencil skirt and straightened hair. I think increased tolerance and visibility of transgender people means that a ‘sober’ look is more likely to be thought of in that category. (There’s a whole load of stuff to write there about the relative acceptance of TS and TV people, but that’s for another day.) In an earlier blog I spoke about how a perceived effort to look ‘sexy’ can sometimes cause problems with audience response in my stand-up. I’ve never thought consciously about it in more day-to-day terms. But certainly a mini skirt and massive heels would bring about more of a fuss than what I’m currently wearing. But there we stray into the territory of how society reads ALL clothing, which is much less of a trans* issue.

Today I am covering up my beard shadow and wearing a little bit of eyeliner. Enough to reduce my projected biological masculinity (beard cover) and project a little societal femininity (eyeliner). The combination makes the skirt and stripy tights I’m wearing look part of a coherent whole more than BLOKE IN SKIRT.

I’m continuing to learn, and to find stuff out. The experiment is working.

28 Day Challenge – clarification

February 2, 2013 § 2 Comments

So just to clear up any confusion…

I am not remotely new to trans-ness. Been doing it publicly for years. The point of the month is to make the effort to do it every day, to break down my own mental binary, to help me further resist the social pressure and lethargy which make me often decide not to bother and to increase my own comfort zone.

The things that make me cross dress less often than I’d like include:

  • Shaving every day sucks and eventually hurts
  • I am bad enough at leaving the house on time without the added time it takes me to shave, make up, make sure I don’t look like shit… basically my default setting is jeans and a t-shirt and not even washing, which is boy-mode
  • Perceived hassle or weirdness in my interactions with other people. Going to the shops in jeans and a Tom Waits t-shirt doesn’t ever result in bullshit. Wearing lipstick and heels often does
  • I don’t always want to have to address the issue of gender and clothing when I’m doing stand-up. If I cross-dress I have to (even if jut in a cursory way) which can get in the way of other things I want to talk about, especially if I’m doing a short set
  • I don’t always feel safe

Sorry if that wasn’t clear to people. I think ALL the other straight TVs reading this get it, but some didn’t.

28 Days – my gender challenge (Day 2: the story so far)

February 2, 2013 § 8 Comments

28days

I’m a day and a half into the challenge I set myself to cross-dress every single day in February.

Already I’m feeling the benefits. Today for the first time ever I went out cross-dressed without shaving, just with a bit of foundation to hide the bit of growth that’s there since last night. I feel like what I’ve worn today (big boots, combat skirt, shiny leggings, hoodie, big massive bow in my hair, eyeliner, eyebrows strengthened) is way more gender-blurry than I ever normally dress. One of my hopes was to break down the binary, and that’s already happening. Brilliant.

I have decided to make some rules for the month. Number one: ‘cross dressing’ in this context will mean heels or a skirt as a minimum. Alas my shopping trip today for some wicked ankle boots with a little heel was unsuccessful (I’m vegan, so I don’t wear leather which makes it slightly harder) so it’s likely to be skirt-based for a bit. Number two: cross-dress at all times when out of the house (or hotel room). Indoors I’m usually in my pants anyway (ladies…). Number three: be positive. That’s it.

Yesterday, tellingly, I wasn’t sure I could be bothered to prepare myself just in order to pop downstairs to reception to ask for something. But I did it. I think the more I do this the less I will default to boy mode after the challenge is done. I’d really like to get rid of the gender of clothing in my mind. Break free of that conditioning.

It also helps that I can a lovely gig last night. I seriously can’t recomment the Glee Clubs enough. They’re in Cardiff, Oxford, Nottingham and Birmingham. You should go.

I’ll keep you posted about how it goes. I won’t post pictures every day, but I will post some. (My hit-rate on this blog goes through the roof when I regularly post pics. You saucy devils.)

In the meantime I’m happy to answer any questions you lot have. Fire away.

 

Bravery is relative.

January 30, 2013 § 13 Comments

Out of the whole world, I reckon the Turkish guys who work in the small convenience-type shops round the corner from my flat will be the last to get on board with my cross-dressing. After I have finally converted my family to a state of neutral acceptance, after the very vocal blokey-blokes in market towns on Friday nights have opened their minds to the arbitrary nature of gendered clothing, after Tory MPs start calling for greater awareness of trans issues in schools, the Turkish men in my local shops will still avoid eye contact with me. They will still try not to touch my hand. They will still fail to engage with my formidable bantering skills.

I actually find their discomfort quite endearing. They are never rude, not even annoying. They just look massively uncomfortable. They seem almost to see me as a symptom of a culture they don’t yet fully understand. And I don’t remotely blame them. I’m sure London is a massive culture shock for someone from Turkey, and I am enough of a weirdo in the eyes of people who have lived here all their lives.

They are exactly the least of my worries. I just talk about this as an example of the reactions I know I will get if I decide to cross the gender boundary.

And that’s the thing. I’ve not been doing that very much recently. Partly the weather, partly a lack of events I feel like dressing up for, partly the usual cycle of gender identity I have been getting used to in recent years.

But the biggest part is the hassle-to-trans-satisfaction ratio. It’s really easy for me to get up, not bother with a shave, throw on a t-shirt and jeans and leave the house. In order to cross-dress and (importantly, for me) be happy with how I look, I have to have a wash, a shave, put on foundation to cover up my beard shadow, do a little bit of eye make up and only then decide what to wear, and whether my gender thing is going to cause any issues over the course of the day.

Blah blah blah. Moan moan moan.

(I’m not really moaning, and I’m certainly grateful that my level of gender dysphoria still leaves me the choice of whether to cross the boundary on any given day. Over the years I have reconciled myself with my male-ness and can on occasion quite like that part of me. For the record (a recent argument with a dickhead makes me feel the need to say this) I have been through the self-hatred and confusion of feeling I was born in the wrong body. It is a horrible feeling. My path through that was to carve out a gender identity that I can be happy with. And that’s as much as I’m going to talk about that on here.)

So… I am going to try something. I am going to try to cross-dress every day for a month. No matter what.

The point of the exercise is to carve out a bit more space in which I feel comfortable. To make myself face the situations I might normally decide not to face. The more I think about it the more I realise I often avoid certain situations. Late night local booze shopping is one of them. Nipping out to run an errand is another. I did both today in the shortest, most Amy Pond skirt I’ve ever worn (a friend just sent me her cast-offs, which I consider the greatest thing any human can do for another, including Médicins Sans Frontiers) and both trips had their little incidents. I can now say without fear of contradiction that the builders who are currently working at the end of my road are not gay, and do not fancy me or people like me.

I think I will learn a lot. I will further eradicate the binary boy/girl thing in my identity, I will probably get better as presenting myself how I want and handling the shit that comes as a result.

I will vastly increase my comfort zone and I will have a lot to write about.

I will finish with the mandatory apology for infrequent posts, a request for questions to help that along (ASK ME STUFF! I WILL ANSWER!), and a picture of me with classy hair, from Friday night:

hair