Today, like every March 31st, is the International Transgender Day of Visibility.
The purpose of the day, according to Human Rights Campaign, is a time to celebrate transgender people around the globe and the courage it takes to live openly and authentically, while also raising awareness around the discrimination trans people still face.
I fully believe that each time we leave the house and interact with people in the real world we have an opportunity and an obligation to show others that transpeople live in the community and not just in Hollywood. It’s a chance to show others, whether it’s the cashier at the mall, the barista at Starbucks or someone we pass in the store that we really exist, that we are real people and hopefully not as different as some might think we are.
One of the goals behind the MN T-Girls is to create awareness of transwomen in the real world. I believe that when the group goes out to dinner that we are doing a quiet form of activism. We are showing the world (well, at least the other people at the restaurant) that we exist and will hopefully leave others with a positive perception of he transcommunity.
Not at all of are ready to interact in the real world as the gender we want to present as, whether it’s full time or just for a fun afternoon of shopping. It took me a while to prepare myself but I started to build courage when I spoke with a friend of mine who revealed she was transgender. I had known her for years and one day she came out as transgender. She was an inspiration and patiently answered so many of my questions. I asked how she dealt with people staring at her but she told me that no one cares. People don’t pay as much attention to others as you think they do. I didn’t believe this at first but once I left my house for the first time I realized she was right.
Her being a visible transwoman was an inspiration to me. I only hope I can be that inspiration to someone else.
Being out in the community will sometimes trigger conversations from others. I know I’m transgender, the rest of the world knows I’m transgender and sometimes people will interact with me on that basis. Some will compliment me in a way to show that they are an ally, some might not. Some will ask questions, but to be honest that doesn’t happen very often. It’s not really polite to “clock” someone who is trans and most people know that.
As someone who doesn’t *really* believe in gender, I sure think about it a lot. I think about the social expectations and societal norms and traditional roles that are all connected with gender. I believe that gender is a personal choice and you have the right to identify as different genders throughout your life and even throughout the day. That might make it hard to keep track of someone else’s gender, but really, why are you keeping track of someone else’s gender anyway? Does it matter how they identify?
Growing up, I was happy being a boy and I still am. I never wanted to be a different gender permanently. I wanted to freedom to change into any gender that I wanted, whenever I wanted. I have that now. I’m everything I wanted to be. Things that people traditionally associate with gender, such as clothes and colors, feelings and perspectives are still pretty far solid. You are either THIS or you are THAT and that’s end of the discussion.
The idea and identity of being agender, non-conforming, gender-fluid, non-binary or simply a third gender is becoming more recognized and understood and accepted. As someone who identifies as boy OR girl, the concept and identification of a third gender, or no gender, is fascinating to me, and ultimately helpful to the transcommunity. I think anything that challenges the traditional perspective of gender is a good thing. Anything and anyone that breaks out of the ‘boy’ OR ‘girl’ mold does help break down gender stereotypes. Perhaps it makes it easier or others to understand that gender can change, it can be fluid and it’s not permanent.
My only caution is that your first (or one of your first) experience with makeup is with a professional makeup artist. You will look amazing, you’ll feel even more amazing-er. I know that’s not a word.
However, depending on how often you dress up, it may not be realistic to be able to visit a professional each time you want to get glammed up. Eventually you’ll have to learn to do your own makeup. If you’re like most of us, your first few attempts at makeup will be disappointing. It took a long time for me to be happy with doing my own makeup. But the more I did it, the more I learned and the happier I was…my skill and confidence grew.
The photo on the left was one of my first attempts, probably taken about six years ago. The one on the right is from earlier this month. If I had started with a professional makeover my heart would have sunk as I would not (nor will I ever) be able to duplicate what Corrie did, but these days I am happy with my makeup. But it took some time.
Working on your look has a lot to do with keeping your expectations realistic and always, always practicing. I’ve said it many times before and it will likely be etched onto my neon pink tombstone, but crossdressing takes time, practice and money.
Don’t get discouraged when it’s time to do your own makeup after visiting with a professional. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Don’t give up.
The term ‘trans’ is a Latin prefix that means a few different things, but one of the definitions is ‘changing thoroughly’. If one is transgender, we are, essentially, completing transforming our gender.
There is no standard or measure that one must change their appearance, wardrobe or anything else to be able to be transgender or as the gender we identify as. Some of us completely alter how we dress, some of us will make very few, if any, changes to our appearance. Some of us will change our names, some will not. There is not a list that we must check off to be able to identify as transgender or as anything else.
As members of the transgender community, being transgender means different things to each of us. Yes, both myself and Laverne Cox identify as transgender but whereas she has had operations and legally changed her name, I am happy to go back and forth between genders and never committing permanently to one or the other.
I think it’s safe to say that we all have explored many different things, whether it is clothes or makeup that is traditionally considered “for girls”. Some of us have tried makeup and fell in love with it, some of us have very little interest in it. Some of us happily spend a lot of money on a pair of heels we wear three times a year, others think that is an incredible waste of money and are happy with a pair of practical flats.
I have tried many things as I became who I am. I learned a lot about myself and what I like. I have no problem spending an hour doing my makeup or buying a sixty dollar dress, but I have little patience for doing my nails. I do love doing my nails but it feels impractical to do so as I spend most days completely in male mode.
Discovering who we are can be a humbling, exciting and eye opening experience. It’s humbling because we realize early on that this discovery is something that requires time, patience and money. We need to accept that the first time we try liquid eyeliner on our waterline that it will be a messy disaster. We need to accept that it may take several wigs before we find one that truly suits us. We can’t let ourselves get frustrated when applying false eyelashes takes 45 minutes. It’s exciting to find a pair of heels that fit us and that we can wear for hours at a time without any discomfort. It’s exciting to zip up that dress that we fell in love with. It’s exciting to look in the mirror and feel happy.
Before I go further, I want to stress that I do not believe there is a standard you have to meet to be transgender or to be a woman. You do not have to paint your nails, wear skirts or heels to identify as any gender you want. Not all women wear makeup and you do not have to in order to be a t-girl, transgender or identify as anything else. Again, I can only speak from my experiences.
Transforming my gender, even if it’s for only a few hours at a time, has been an eye opening experience. It’s also been an expensive experience. I accepted early on that if I wanted to look how I wanted to look that I needed to take the time to learn makeup and I needed to be willing to invest in my look and wardrobe. I was stunned to learn how much a tube of lipstick cost. I was shocked at how easily a pair of stockings can run and how expensive it was to replace them. I couldn’t imagine spending $120 on a haircut. I was used to fifteen dollar haircuts, a half dozen pair of socks costing under ten dollars and renting a tux for a wedding for around a hundred dollars or so.
I accepted that if I wanted to look how I wanted to look I needed to accept that it was going to be expensive. That’s not to say you can’t be thrifty or find for an amazing dress on clearance but how I wanted to look was going to be more expensive than how I want to look in male mode. Based on my experiences, you generally get what you pay for on makeup. Yes, I can buy foundation for $6…or I can spend $45 for foundation that I feel suits me better. My recent makeup lesson with Corrie at Midwest Makeup Supply gave me a chance to experiment with different foundations, powders and techniques. I always had trouble getting my lipstick as even as I would like, so I bought a lipstick brush to help apply it. Sure, I could have spent the eight dollars on something else, but I wanted my lipstick to look better so it was an easy investment to make.
As we start to reach out to others that can help us with makeup or other services, we may find out that certain services cost more than we expected. I have a friend who went through hair removal and I was taken aback at how expensive and extensive of a process it was. But I can’t argue with results and she’s incredibly happy with the decision. Truth be told if I could afford it I would do it, too. Private makeup lessons are not free. As much as Corrie loves makeup and helping others, she also has to pay rent. Makeovers are not free. When we schedule a makeover we are hiring someone for their time. I’ve never had makeover that was less than 45 minutes.
Not only are we hiring someone for their time, we also need to consider how hard the artist worked to get where they are. If they went to cosmetology school it’s not unrealistic for them to have spent tens of thousands of dollars investing in their art. And of course, the makeup they use is not free, either.
Yes, it can be surprising and perhaps a little shocking to explore the financial impact on obtaining the look we want, but for some of us its worth every penny. The feeling I get from an amazing dress, an incredible makeover and killer heels is priceless.
According to the documentary’s website, The Queens takes viewers out of the politics and onto the stage with an exclusive look inside the first beauty pageant to ever allow transgender female impersonators to participate. Born out of discrimination, the Miss Continental Pageant is now one of the longest running and most prestigious contests of its kind in the United States, attracting competitors from around the globe.
The Queens humanizes and demystifies this group of often-misunderstood individuals; they’re fiercely determined, strikingly imaginative and possess jaw-dropping talent. The Queens will have you cheering for the creative spirit that lives within us all!
In attendance was director Mark Saxenmeyer and Tiffany T. Hunter, one of the featured girls in the movie.
After the showing Mark and Tiffany took questions from the audience and Tiffany performed for the crowd.
It was a very fun night and it’s always interesting to see a part of the transgender spectrum that I am not too familiar with. Thank you to Mark, Tiffany, Lush and to the MN T-Girls for coming! Unfortunately it was too dark to take photos of the group, but rest assured we all looked fabulous. Oh, and thank you to Corrie of Midwest Makeup Supply for the amazing makeover before the night started.
Last week I had the honor of visitingChristi Williams, the photographer of one of Minneapolis’ most incredible boudoir and pinup photography studios. I had an amazing time modeling, smiling, posing and trying on clothes. I heard she had a fun wardrobe to pick from but I was blown away but how many fun things there were to wear.
I love the fit of this dress and I love how these photos turned out.