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.