I recently received an email from a t-girl who has started to venture out into the world en femme when she experienced something that was a bit of a surprise to her. Normally in male mode she felt very confident, but en femme she felt… insecure. After she mentioned it, I started to think about it as well.
When I go anywhere presenting as male, I never look over my shoulder. I never worry about my safety. I walk downtown, in a parking ramp, across an entire mall, and never think about whether or not I am in any danger. I never worry if someone will harass me.
But Hannah is always aware of her surroundings. I can tell you who is around, who I am wary of, where the nearest exit is, if it came to that. My comfort level drops significantly when I am not presenting as male. This is something that many transgender people can relate to.
Regardless of whether or not this shift has more to do with presenting as a girl or being out as a t-girl isn’t important. Rather I think this is a reflection of the privilege that those who present as male have.
I looked forward to being out in the word en femme for years until I finally found the courage to. When I did it, I realized not only how amazing and wonderful it was, but also how different of an experience it was compared to decades of being in public and never worrying about my surroundings. Living in the real world in high heels was a new, beautiful, and terrifying change.
It’s not that I am not confident en femme. Anyone who visits this blog will likely be able to tell within a few minutes I am very confident and comfortable with who I am. Perhaps even obnoxiously so. After my makeup appointment the other day I strutted through the mall in my four inch stilettos and my tight dress and my $65 makeover. I felt bulletproof, I felt like a goddess.
But it was such contrast to how I felt two hours before. I arrived at the mall before most stores opened, so I killed time by sitting on a bench, trying not to be noticed and looking at my phone. As brave as it is to leave the house en femme, it’s ever harder to leave without my makeup being finished. Normally when I get a makeover I will do my foundation and leave the rest to the artist, so sitting and waiting for Ulta to open, and looking for very male, was really uncomfortable. I felt insecure with how I looked. I felt ugly. I know I don’t pass, but in moments like these I feel more clocked than normal.
Though I felt invincible after my appointment, in reality I knew I was also very fragile. I knew all it would take to destroy my self-esteem was one cruel comment, a smirk, someone pointing at me. Usually I am able to shake things like that off, though.
So even when I feel and look amazing, I am also on guard. My confidence is genuine, but it’s also prone to collapsing at the same time. This is such a big difference compared to when I am presenting as male. Whenever I am en femme and feeling… unsafe, paranoid, watched, I am reminded about how I never feel these things in male mode. Walking in Hannah’s shoes reminds me that this is how many women feel all the time.
And honestly? Feeling this way is terrible. I can’t imagine feeling that way every time I go out. These moments are a reminder that for those of us who occasionally present as male, we all need to be gentlemen.