For those of us who aren’t full time or haven’t transitioned, we carry (or wear) secrets. I have been in work meetings about revenue projections and I’ll think to myself that under this three-piece suit I am wearing the laciest panties I own. That’s a fun secret.
We share experiences and perspectives that our female co-workers, sisters, friends, and wives have. They just might not know it. I have listened to conversations between my female colleagues about how their lipstick wears off too quickly and I am tempted to suggest applying an eyeshadow primer before putting lipstick on, but that would raise more questions (and eyebrows) than I am comfortable with, so I keep my advice to myself.
We know what it’s like when a girl gets frustrated when a $18 pair of stockings runs. We can relate (and become a little jealous) when a girl says that her heels are killing her.
We notice subtle things, like accessories a girl is wearing, the color of her nail polish, the perfect swoosh of her eyeliner.
We understand the joy of finding a cute outfit that fits. The happiness of finding a new shade of lipstick.
I know that this might sound a little superficial, but these things make me happy, these are things I notice, appreciate, and can identify with.
I have learned many things over the years. How to move my hips when I strut in heels, how to blend foundation, how to hold my head high when people stare at me in the mall. I have also learned that in male mode that it’s better not to comment on a girl’s outfit or makeup.
This is likely going to spark a discussion, so let me explain.
A couple of years ago I went to a coffee shop in male mode and the barista had the most amazing eye makeup. The color, her eyeliner, her eyelashes… glam, glam, glam. Forgetting for a moment which gender I was presenting as, I told her that I thought her eye makeup was amazing.
As Hannah, a comment like this is usually met with a thank you, but not that this time. She just rolled her eyes, handed me my coffee and that was that. She wasn’t rude, she was probably tired of men commenting on her appearance.
She doesn’t know who I am. She doesn’t know that I appreciate and strive to achieve makeup like hers. To her, I am just a boring man who was flirting with her or felt that her appearance was up for discussion.
When I dress, I dress for myself. I don’t give a second thought about what others might think about my outfit or makeup or shoes. Most women, cis and trans, do the same thing. She spent who knows how long on her eyes, and she did it for her. Not me, not for anyone else.
The #metoo and #timesup discussions are focusing on bringing women’s experiences with harassment into the public eye. Almost every woman I know has shared their own experiences with sexual comments and harassment from men. This includes everything from inappropriate jokes from male co-workers, to unwanted physical contact, to comments about their appearance.
“Um, Hannah? NOT ALL MEN.”
Okay good, glad we got that out of the way.
No matter if we are wearing lingerie under our clothes or slipping into a nightgown when we go to bed, many of us present as men for most of our lives. I do. To most of the world, I am seen as a married, white male. Which is fair and accurate. These discussions will hopefully make men examine their conduct and be held accountable when we say or do something inappropriate or offensive.
It is not up to me to decide what is offensive or inappropriate to someone else. Yes, commenting on a girl’s eyeshadow might be perfectly innocent from my perspective. I may mean it a compliment, but to the barista, some man commenting on how she looks might make her uncomfortable.
She doesn’t know (or care) that I appreciate amazing makeup. As soon as I commented on her makeup, I knew I crossed a line. I felt awful the rest of the day. While it’s true some people might take what I said as a compliment, it’s not up to me to decide how someone else should interpret my words.
“Gee, Hannah, you’re so politically correct” you might be thinking. For starters, I think that term gets thrown around so often that it loses it’s meaning. There is nothing political about being respectful. Keeping opinions about someone’s appearance to yourself shouldn’t be up for debate. Sure, YOU might appreciate someone commenting on your makeup or outfit, but it can cross the line for someone else.
If you present as male at all, I am sure you are a respectful and kind man, and would never say or do anything that is disrespectful, hurtful, or offensive to women. It’s easy for us to feel like “one of the girls” because for many of us, we are… but perhaps not at that moment. I listen to my female coworkers who compliment each other on their outfit or shoes. I often want to do the same thing. But it could easily make them feel uncomfortable or taken in a way I did not intend. For those who have more than one gender identity, we need to be ladies and gentlemen.
I write a lot about being transgender, I write a lot about having more than one gender identity, and I write a lot about being a girl. But I can’t ignore the fact that I present and interact with the world as male for most of the time. The Hannah part of me might want to compliment a girl on her outfit, but it would the male side that says the words. My wife knows what I mean when I compliment her on her makeup or outfit, but very few others do.
As someone who identifies as a t-girl, I feel I have a lot of responsibility when it comes to representing the transgender community and I think I do a fairly decent job of being a positive voice for us. As someone who also identifies as male, I also have responsibilities when it comes to how I interact with the world and I will always choose to speak with upmost respect to everyone and to do my best to not let others feel uncomfortable with my words and actions.
No matter how stunning their eye makeup is.
8 thoughts on “Ladies and Gentlemen”
Hi Hannah, your article is right on. I was raised with only sisters, got married and had 4 daughters, then there are all my granddaughters. There are so many times I have wanted to say something about how they have dressed or the makeup they are wearing. I usually don’t say anything but there have been times were the words just come out. Then, as you said, it is met by a odd look or uncomfortable- OK. If my wife is present I always get the “look” of – really, you just had to say that! It is hard to completely shut off half of who you are when you are interacting with others.
Also, I have made the mistake if giving a total female stranger a compliment only to immediately know it was out of line, in male mode.
Thanks you for sharing your thoughts on this topic, Carolyn
This was a good post about the dual aspects of our lives. I have made comments while in my regular male mode that, at least according to my wife, were not typical for a guy to make. Having a female side you do notice that women are often quick to comment about another woman’s dress, shoes, etc. As a guy we need to be more circumspect because those same comments, if made in girl mode would be proper and complimentary, when made in guy mode come across as creepy.
I have found one exception, however, in that on occasion I have commented on woman’s nails when they are particularly pretty or long or show interesting nail color or art and it seems that even when in guy mode comments on exceptional nails is always appreciated.
I agree with you in most of your points and in general all your posts however; a segment about not finding cross dressing as exciting as we once did is worth writing about. I believe there comes a time where you do not want to hide the male, but to set the female part flourish. In my case, I wanted to change from inside, rather than cover my male persona with clothes and makeup (which for a time I found so exciting); of course I wish most of your readers will never have to walk that path, which is difficult; and excitement and fun are exchanged for peace of mind and self acceptance.
Hi and thank you HANNAH, yes in today’s times we have to be careful what we say. I once was in a wallmart and saw a sister . me being a full time t female i somtimes long to make more friends. and her realy kinda over dressed in heels and a short dress was in the makeup isle and it was tempting to meet anouther in my area. it was summer so i was in basicly redneck girl mode blending in with most cis gen who wore shorts an t back tops it was hot out. anyway i met her in the next isle and said cute dress. she said thank you but i could tell it made her uncomfortable as we both disappeared quickly around the isle. and i felt bad like i singled her out in the store. still i went on wih my shopping wondering if i will ever see her agin and if i do will she say hi. in my area i rarely see other girls weather cd or t , and most the time i feel like im the local trans girl in my small country town. and when ive been in the closest big city Cincinnati ive only seen 1 other girl. im sure i have walked past very much younger transgender girls that look like cis gens. most cis gens treat me as a equal. but still i never start a conversation. and most men either want me or act as if i get to close a fight would break out . so i rarely say anything to anyone. unless they start it. i do understand what cis gens feel uncomfortable i have had men say things out of line and sexual things at me. when that happens it opens a door for me to play bad girl and lay it on as thick as i want. ive had a wife smack her husband across the face just for opening the door an checking out my butt. my real life blood sister was there and she laughed so hard she about hit the floor still i just said thank you an went thru the door.lol. well thank you for letting me ramble HANNAH 🙂 ALWAYS….MARIA
Since I started going out dressed in the pretty clothes I love so much, I have given compliments more frequently to women who have taken the time and made the effort to wear something beautiful. A simple “Cute dress!” always seems to go over well even when I’m in boy mode because the compliment is given as a celebration of “skirt culture” (as I call it) and not about hypersexualizing the wearer.
I was at the Costco food court yesterday getting one of their excellent hot dogs. The woman behind the counter was a pretty young Hispanic woman in a hairnet, apron and baseball cap. But she had taken the time to apply very elegant makeup which I’m sure made her feel good about herself. As she handed me my hot dog, I said to her “ I LOVE your makeup! So pretty!” She smiled and thanked me. I think the day was a little brighter for both of us!
A superb summary of inner thoughts. When dressed in some lingerie lovelies under regular manly attire. it is easier to feel comfortable. Personally, I feel better in women’s company, and work in an office which is, to be fair, predominantly women and that has been the case for some time, and of course, yes, you hear conversations of all levels, even those which are a bit near the knuckle from them.
Of course, I’ve entered into the sort of banter that might be expected of me, such as when somehow part of a conversation or blatantly within earshot of one about make up (not that I wear any) or heels that are killing them etc., it is easy to come up with the ‘only at weekends’ ‘gag’ if that is what it is, or ‘I’m not wearing mine today’ sort of thing.
The actuality is that, it ISN’T only at weekends and I probably was wearing heels before I set off for work and may well be doing later or the following day. You’ve experienced stockings laddering, straps getting twisted, suspender clasps pinging, you can genuinely relate, only you’ve got to be on your guard and remember who you present as to fit in with the stereotypical norms of a society, which, although having made some progress, still has a long way to go.
Thanks Hannah for another great blog post.