When I start to change my gender presentation from BOY to GIRL, I really never know how the “process” will go. Sometimes the dress I picked out doesn’t look as cute as I thought it would, sometimes my stockings get a run, sometimes my foundation won’t blend.
Obviously this is frustrating and on some levels a little heartbreaking. When your body isn’t cooperating with what you’re trying to do, then your brain needs to speak up. You need to psyche yourself up, you need to shift your perspective, you need to turn things around on a mental level.
(Of course, sometimes your brain agrees with your body and tells you that it’s pointless and to give up. Stupid brain.)
Look, crossdressing and presenting en femme is more mental and emotional than visual. It’s more crucial that you FEEL cute than if you LOOK cute. Yes, you might look in the mirror and think you look cute, but let’s face it, if you don’t FEEL cute, then your sparkle is dulled a little (or a lot).
I was assigned male at birth and I identify as bi-gender. Transitioning is not right for me. So, when I spend the day en femme, I have to make do with my cis gender male body. My man shoulders have to fit into my dress, I need to shave my man face, I need to tuck my man parts, and a million other things.
Of course, I am being being very binary here. I know there are no such things as MAN parts or WOMAN parts. Men can menstruate, women can have a penis, but I think you know what I mean here.
Someone said that getting ready is like painting on a blank canvas. But for me, it’s not even that. First I have to paint OVER what is already there, and go from there. I have to take something apart, and build something different with those same materials. When getting ready goes well, it’s not unlike a phoenix rising from the ashes. A little dramatic yes, but I think by now I’ve established that I am
a little dramatic.
Some mornings when I get ready I look at my middle age boy body and my middle age boy face and it’s disheartening. My reflection tells the familiar story that THIS is going to be a lot of work. Mentally I am already defeated. When this happens, I need to, well, psyche myself up.
I put on some Taylor Swift, pour another coffee and I tell myself two things:
“You better work”
“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are”
The first quote is of course from RuPaul. The second is from President Theodore Roosevelt. I don’t know what Roosevelt was referring to when he said this, but I highly doubt he was talking about crossdressing.
Telling myself these things, especially the latter, helps keep my expectations realistic. I will never ever look like Catherine Zeta Jones or Elizabeth Hurley or Heidi Phox but I CAN look like Hannah McKnight.
Once I remind myself that I am doing the best I can with this jawline, these shoulders, this BODY, then it gets a little easier to look at my reflection.
It doesn’t happen as often or as badly as it used to, but sometimes my self-esteem takes a dive when I see other girls, especially when I see other t-girls. Many t-girls that I admire (and are jealous of, if I am being honest) have the same body “flaws” I do. Some haven’t taken estrogen or had any sort of HRT or anything. But my god, they look prettier, more feminine than I could ever hope to be.
There are times when I don’t look or feel cute. But I make peace with that by telling myself that I look as femme as I am able considering what I have to work with. Buuuut then I see another t-girl that again, like myself, hasn’t taken estrogen or HRT. They also have a genetically cis male body, a cis male face and they are cuter than cute. Why can’t I look that cute?
And yes, there are no rules or standards when it comes to being pretty or feminine, but I think ya’ll know what I mean.
Sometimes it’s jealousy, sometimes it’s a yearning. A yearning to be as pretty as they are, but also being shown the potential, do you know what I mean? Like, if she can look that good, why can’t I???
And before I go aaaany further, let’s acknowledge that comparing yourself to someone else is not healthy and it’s not something one should ever do.
Buuuuut I do it all the time.
The very first time I was in full makeup and wore a wig I was mesmerized. Not because I was a knockout or anything, but I could see the potential. I wasn’t a lost cause (and no one is). It wasn’t hopeless. I could *work* with this. It was a beginning.
As time marched on, I developed better makeup techniques, invested in a higher quality wig, and started to wear breast forms and thigh pads and a corset. All of these things enhanced my look and I got to a point where I looked as good as I could, considering what I was working with.
Sometimes where you are physically doesn’t match up where you are emotionally and mentally. Again, looking cute and feeling cute aren’t always on the same level. I’ve had my ups and downs (often swinging between dizzying highs and soul crushing lows) but for the most part I am at peace with how I look. I think that I look as good as I can, and most of the time I am perfectly content with that. I have my bad days and moments where I feel like a man in a dress, but that’s dysphoria for you. It happens.
The concept of potential can be motivating, but it can also be, well, painful. That first time in a wig and full makeup, I saw the potential. It encouraged me to keep at it, if you will. I worked hard on my look, my body, my techniques. These efforts paid off and led me to where I am today on both a visual and an emotional level. Simply put, I think Iusually look pretty good AND I usually feel pretty good.
Buuuut there’s the ugly side of potential as well. When I see photos of other trans girls and my god, they are so pretty, I feel a little longing. A pang of jealousy.
Again, I know this is shallow but, well, actually there is no but. It’s how I feel.
I see pictures and I wonder what I could do to look cuter, more feminine, prettier. This hits especially hard when I see side-by-side comparisons of boy mode and femme presentation.
For the most part, I do know what it would take to look cuter, to look more femme. And yes, I know I talk a lot about how there are no standards one must meet to be pretty, to be femme, to be a girl, but… again, there is no but. I get jealous. For years and years as I developed my look and presentation the goal was always, always to look prettier. That determination never really slowed down. I think it will be with me always.
Again, I DO know what it would take to look more femme. For a lot of girls that I am jealous of they’ve taken estrogen. They’ve transitioned. T-blockers. Facial reconstruction. HRT. The list goes on. (And just a quick note, no one needs to take these steps to be femme.) Would these steps enhance my presentation? Almost definitely yes (in my opinion and for my body. Again, these are not steps that ANYONE and EVERYONE *needs* to take). Buuuuuut are these steps that I want to take? No.
And yes, I remind myself that photo filters and Photoshop exists. It doesn’t take much to enhance a picture digitally. I think I look better in photos than I do in a mirror. This is not to say my photos are altered, but my photographer plays around with lighting and things like that. I also only share pictures that I look femme in. There are a zillion photos of myself, buried in my hard drive, that will never see the light of day, where it’s a bad angle and my masculine jawline is more prominent, for example.
Hormones and surgeries, at least to me, mean transitioning. Forever choosing a gender identity and a gender presentation. Committing to my femme identity. Transitioning is not right for me. That heel doesn’t fit, if you will. I am comfortable with who I am, I like being bi-gender.
I suppose another way to look at it is feeling jealous of my friend of mine that lives in Switzerland. I mean, yes, I COULD move there too and the jealousy would vanish, but I also like living where I live. I can always visit Switzerland.
And gender presentation (at least for me) is not unlike visiting somewhere. I can go back and forth, not only from one city to a different city, but also from one side of the closet to another.
5 thoughts on “Why Can’t I?”
Wow, Hannah, after reading this I feel that I know you so much better, and I love that.
Dara Hoffman-Fox, a gender therapist and acquaintance of mine, said that each of us (trans people) are on our own Hero’s Journey. We were dealt a hand of cards when born, raised, and so on, and we struggle as we want to get there from to where we’d rather be.
I’m sure it doesn’t help to observe that all people (cis too) are on their own unique journeys of course. Even the beautiful and pretty people we admire, trans and cis. Sometimes it helps me to think of this. I hope it does for you, too.
I understand your thoughts on not transitioning, and having no surgeries, and not taking hormones. I am sure like many t-girls, you have spent money a few times on good and better wigs. Have you ever considered growing out you hair and leaving the wigs behind while en femme? Your own long hair could be fabulous!💃. Bobi
Hannah, you are brilliant as a writer, even more as a thinker advancing the cause of enlightenment. Your humility and honesty are like talking with a wise witty adult of either gender. Thank you.
Hannah my god girl. You talk about looking at other T gurls and wish you could be that cute. I look at your pictures and wish I could be that cute. While you wish just know there are lots of gurls looking at your photos and wish they had your looks. That should give you the boost you need when you feel down on your self.
Yup, without question, all of this. For sure many of us feel this way. I believe that this sense of discouragement, and jealousy, and longing for what seems to be unattainable, at least right now is, in part, made much worse by the world of the pandemic. It has been almost two full years now that so many things have been impacted, altered, ruined, by the pandemic. It tints everything in our world. Our moods are greyer, our sense of being marginalized and constrained is greater.
The hard reality of the world is that there are and always will be those who are what we wish we could be (richer, more beautiful, or other) and those who we are so glad we are not (the desperately poor of the world, the unfortunate ones who suffer with any number of physical or mental conditions that constrain them). Most of us are in the middle trying to enjoy what we have and what we have learned. Do the best we can and roll on.
I try to just keep on working at it, keep on trying to do as well as possible and to enjoy all of it. Hannah and everyone have a nice Friday evening!