The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

I came across a video that was floating around Twitter the other day.  It starred a young woman, probably in her twenties, talking about her experiences as a trans girl.

And she was gorgeous.  I mean, obviously.  All women are.

Sometimes I see another t-girl and I’m like yeah!  I’m trans too!  T-girl power!     But she was…  she was on another level.

Before I go further I want to acknowledge that all women, trans or cis, look different.  There is no standard one must meet to be pretty, to be a girl, to be trans, to be femme.
Okay, now that I have that out of the way, this girl was beautiful.  I wasn’t expecting her to say she was trans.  Her face was heart-shaped, she was petite, her voice as femme as could be.  After a few moments of the video I felt more like a boy than ever before.  Yes, she’s trans, and yes, I’m trans too, but she and I are trans in the same way someone writing lousy poetry and Stephen King are both authors.  

Logic, facts, and self-worth don’t always overlap.

I don’t want to say I spiraled into a pit of despair, as I am wont to do sometimes, but I thought about her for a few days.  I stopped my self-esteem from plummeting after I told myself that she was likely half my age, it’s possible she had surgery, facial reconstruction, possibly was on hormones and t-blockers at an early age.  It’s also possible that she was just born and grew naturally into a beautiful girl.  I don’t know, and it really doesn’t matter.  My life and her life are completely different and it’s not healthy to compare myself to her.  For starters, it’s possible she identifies as having one gender.  I don’t.  I have two genders. If she did have surgery, if she did take estrogen, it’s likely because she felt those steps were aligned with what she felt was necessary for her gender identity.   

Being bi-gender means I live my life going back and forth between gender identities and presentation and I am happy as a boy and a girl.  Surgery, hormones, it’s not what I feel is right for me.  Yes, we’re both transgender, but if break the t-word down a little, there’s another, more accurate, more personal label for me.

This got me thinking about bi-gender representation.  I feel that the transgender community has a lot of wonder people representing our community.  However, a lot of the trans girls that most people know, such as Laverne Cox, have taken hormones, have had surgery, or both.  Caitlin Jenner has had a lot of work done.  And that’s okay!  T-girl power!  I am not judging at all!  Promise.  I DO think it COULD have an impact on how the non-trans community views a trans person and how it MIGHT influence what SOME cis people think what it means to be trans.  If the only trans people most of the world sees have had surgery or taken hormones, it’s POSSIBLE some people think that you NEED to have taken these steps to be trans.
And of course, that’s not the case.

Were I to come out to everyone as trans, I know I would be asked if I was going to start hormones.  I would be asked this because many people think you need to do certain things because you are trans.  A t-girl knows that the term transgender covers a lot of territory.  A crossdresser, someone who is bi-gender, a drag queen, a boy who wears nail polish, the girl in the video, all fall under the fabulous umbrella that is transgender.  

I think the term transgender is a double-edged sword for some of us.  On one hand, it’s wonderful to be a part of a community.  There’s a term, there’s a community for a boy that wears panties, a man that wants to wear a dress, for someone who feels that being a boy is just not who they are.  On the other hand, this is a big word!  It’s intimidating!  It comes with a lot of expectations.  If we come out as trans, all of a sudden we are going to be asked if we will live full-time, if we will take estrogen, have surgery “down there”, and all sorts of invasive questions.  For a lot of us, these steps are not right for us, we have no need or desire to take any sort of medication or anything.  We just like to be beautiful.  Many of us, myself included, just enjoy going back and forth between genders.

Because of the weight the transgender term brings, many of us are hesitant to identify that way.  It’s easier to stick with the term crossdresser.  Of course, that word also has some skewed, mostly sexual, perceptions.  If crossdressing isn’t a fetish to someone, and we don’t want that perspective to be associated with ourselves, well, what are we?  

Well, we’re still a crossdresser.  We’re still transgender.

It’s frustrating, isn’t it?  Generally transgender means surgery to most of the world, and generally crossdresser means kinky to most of the world.  We are between the devil and the deep blue sea in terms of how most of the world thinks of someone like us.

More of us fall in between these two terms than the world thinks.  The reason is that someone who wants to be femme, but doesn’t want to take estrogen or wears a dress for a sexual reason, doesn’t have representation.  Not enough of it.  In terms of someone outside of our community, RuPaul, Laverne Cox, Caitlin Jenner are who most people think of when they think of someone who isn’t cis.  I am not dragging (lol) RuPaul at all.  RuPaul is GORGEOUS and I feel does more good than harm in terms of deconstructing gender norms.  But a drag queen and someone who has had everything from facial reconstruction and a trachea shave, and someone like myself, are all on different points of the gender spectrum.  

A girl like me, possibly a girl you as well, identifies as bi-gender.  Crossdressing, I feel, is about clothes, generally.  Wearing panties under my boy clothes, sleeping in a nightie, is me crossdressing.  Wearing thigh pads, getting a makeover, walking around in stilettos, well, I’ve stepped over the line of crossdressing into my other gender identity.  And that’s the key!  A different gender identity.  Whether it’s for a couple of hours to a full day, it’s a different, it’s another gender than the one I usually present as.  

Any term outside of identifying as cis can be difficult for others (ourselves, too) to understand.  I don’t think one is easier than other, but identifying as bi-gender has it’s own challenges.  Sometimes I am a girl, sometimes I am a boy.  Which is, if you think about it, is really strange to a lot of people.  My wife always feels like a girl.  All cisgender people always feel like the gender they were assigned to when they were born.  

Not long ago, drag was really weird, and really new to people outside of the LGBTQ+ community.  Now drag is mainstream, in a way.  Most people can name a drag queen (thanks to RuPaul).  Most people can name a transperson, but a bi-gender girl like me (and possibly you) doesn’t have that kind of representation.  We need it.  We desperately want others to “get” us.  I mean, that won’t happen and it doesn’t need to happen, but I think we want someone to point to and say that we are bi-gender, the same as (insert person’s name here).

  All of a sudden it would click with someone else.  We have given them context, a frame of reference.  They know what it means to be bi-gender because a character on a television is bi-gender.  They listened to a podcast that featured a bi-gender person.  They know the term, they know what we mean when we say we’re bi-gender.  

I would love to see more girls like us, girls like us who aren’t always girls, who don’t always want to be girls or boys, in the media.  In the mainstream.  I would love to see more representation for someone like myself.  The more people are aware of how many ways someone can identify is important and it breaks down the whole concept of gender.  At one point people thought of gender as binary, as either a boy OR a girl (I mean, some still think this) but over time cis, trans, drag, crossdresser, started to pop into people’s vocabulary.  I’d like to see bi-gender out there, too.  I feel that within the community that identifies as a crossdresser we are very familiar with what bi-gender means.  I would love to see it break out of our little bubble.

So!  How does this happen?  Just like everything else, whether it is a ciswoman wearing pants or a drag queen becoming a celebrity, the world just needs to see more of whatever we want to become more commonplace.  At one point women wearing shorts or pants was highly controversial and even scandalous.  But the more people saw women wearing shorts, it became more normal.  The more movies that had a gay character in it, the more people accepted and understood that love is love.  Visibility works!  It’ll take decades (if we’re being optimistic) but the more people see girls like us identifying specifically as bi-gender, the sooner we’ll get there.  

The point of all this is that if you are like me, and you identify as bi-gender, we are representing our pocket community that is in within the transgender community.  Every time you go out en femme, every time you try to explain to someone who you are, what being bi-gender means, the more you are changing the world, regardless of long it is going to take.  And I thank you for that.  Gender is a complex concept.  It’s arbitrary and a little silly and at the same time incredibly important and personal.  

Please don’t ever feel like a fraud or less valid identifying as transgender.  Especially after seeing a video or a photo of someone so unbelievably femme like I mentioned earlier.  Her identifying as trans is different than how I identify as trans.  Some trans people feel that they need surgery or estrogen to be who they are.  I don’t feel that.  If I wanted to look like her, then I would need to take steps, such as hormones, to do that.  But those steps don’t feel right for me.  They don’t feel right for me because I am bi-gender.  As much as I love being femme, I also love (in a different way), being a boy.  I need to be true to both of my genders.  I am true to being my femme self when I am en femme.  I am true to my other gender when I am not.  I am true to both of my genders when I let myself choose my gender presentation.  Hormones, surgery… yes, they would be true to my femme self, but that would come at a price for my boy self.  I don’t feel any step I could take in either gender is right for me if it would impact my other gender.  I won’t grow a beard because it impacts my femme side, I won’t take estrogen because that would impact my boy life.

Does that make sense?  If you’re bi-gender it makes total sense.  We live happily between two genders.  We are between an angel and the deep blue ocean.  

Love, Hannah

Related reading

The T Word

Why Passing isn’t Important

Trans, Drag, and Crossdressing

What is Crossdressing?

9 thoughts on “The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

  1. Love your insights and digressions! I have struggled with great conflict internally over this. Trying to come to some resolution… you have been very helpful! Now that I have retired I can explore this with courage


  2. This is such a thoughtful post. I think many of us approach our gender in much the way that you describe. For me anyway, I feel exactly as you do. I think eventually society will come to view bi-gendered individuals to be just as normal as cisgender individuals. The more we use the phrase and explain the meaning the more quickly it will come to pass….


  3. Great post. There really seems to be a push for acceptance of all the way or nothing, but the middle gets looked at as somehow weird. I think there are VERY many of us that like (and feel a need) to express different gender roles at different times, but go back to our primary (or birth) gender for much of our time. And that, even it seems in many LGBTQ realms, seems to get looked down upon. The fear of that being looked at as somehow not enough as a full “trans” person, or that it is “just a fetish if you only do it periodically” makes many hesitant to share or express that part of themselves for fear of the judgement, or worse, it will generate.


  4. It is unfortunate that “trans”gender (the umbrella) is so close to “trans”sexual (wrong binary), thus creating a false association. Hannah, have you ever considered presenting as both genders at the same time? Male with feminine fashion elements like skinny jeans, skirt, leggings, blouse.


  5. Well thought out post, hit all of the key points that truly resonates with me and lightly with many people in this forum. If only people beyond our little community could be a bit more open minded and accept others that are differ from themselves without fear or judgment, they would see that gender is not binary, just boy or girl. I mean, we exist right? Things could be so much simpler, we are not queers, crossdressers or by any other labels; we are all just human that live and identify as either static or dynamically in the gender spectrum.

    Rachel M


  6. Absolutely! Its so frustrating that a lot of people see these terms as an “if, then ” proposition. “No im not gay and no I don’t want to transition” are almost always the first answers some of us reach for when we reveal ourselves and then it just confuses the person asking them because it doesn’t conform to the widely and dubiously “accepted” normal definition of transgendered or crossdressing. Its simple to me: Some of us just like girls clothes and the way they feel. Some of us like to slip into a nice pair of stilettos and that’s where it ends…Full stop. Its not hard but society cant label it easily so it will continue.


  7. Interesting to contemplate how to introduce oneself as bigender. Some months ago, I took one small step in that direction by attending an outdoor community event en femme (and en mask). I had attended an earlier meeting in male mode, so when I reintroduced myself, some made the connection and others did not, but overall, I felt that the response was quite supportive and positive.

    Now, the question is whether I attend any future gatherings in girl mode or if I can alternate presentations, depending on circumstances and, really, my personal preferences in the moment. I haven’t made up my mind.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s