My mind races constantly. I have a zillion thoughts each day. It’s exhausting. I wish I could just kind of zone out and take a break but my brain is always telling me to DO something, even if it’s just to THINK about something.
Sometimes these thoughts are introspective. And I bet you have these thoughts too. I think people like us, people who have a perspective on gender and identity that is waaaay more nuanced and multifaceted than most people have, think a LOT about a LOT of different things:
“Why am I like this? Why do I wear this? What does this mean?”
Questions that feel like there IS or SHOULD be an answer, but really, there isn’t one that is satisfactory. The answer for these reflections usually comes down to one reason:
“It’s just who I am.”
Sometimes that realization is comforting and we can move on, sometimes it’s…. underwhelming. Like there HAS to be more to it.
I get a lot of emails from others like myself wondering why they are the way they are. I am usually gentler in my response but the real answer is that there is no reason. I wonder if they are looking for a deep, psychological (or even medical) reason for why they dress the way they do or feel the way they feel, but like being left or right handed, or enjoying certain types of food, it’s just who we are.
And again, this answer, if you can even call it that, is underwhelming and it’s not satisfactory AT ALL.
Please understand, I am not trivializing or diminshing gender identity by equating something so personal with preferred cuisine.
Every “reason” I’ve heard about why we are the way we are has sounded incredibly shallow and wrong and almost damaging. Some “experts” continue to believe that people like myself like to wear girl clothes because I had a bad relationship with my mother. Or I am in denial. Or repressing something. Or there is a chemical imbalance in my brain. Or there is something unique about my hormones.
The list goes on and on.
Now, I do think some non-binary people would be relieved to hear one of these reasons. Like “oh, I like to wear panties because my chromosomes are a little different.” And if that helps someone accept who they are, then that’s wonderful. I can only speak for myself but I think I am who I am because, well, this who I am.
And yes! It is incredibly simplistic to think that. It’s… well, kind of like the Big Bang. The universe is SO big and so complex and perfect and scary and fascinating and impossible but to learn that the universe formed because one day, a billion years ago, a billion lightyears away, SOMETHING just… exploded?
It’s like… oh.
Like, I don’t know what I was expecting but I wasn’t expecting THAT.
Anyway! My point (I don’t really have a point but the coffee this morning seems especially strong and mind seems to be racing especially fast at the moment) is that we can ask ourselves a question and sometimes we answer it very quickly.
We provide ourselves with a response that is likely very much based on instinct or an initial reaction. It’s the first thing that pops into our heads annnnnd a lot of times it’s exactly what we feel and therefor the correct answer. Of course, there is also the question of whether or not we are being impulsive and perhaps too hasty in our answer, but that’s neither here nor there.
I got to thinking (well, OVERthinking) about all of this the other day at my most recent photo shoot. Here I was, in a rented studio, with a professional photographer, modeling clothes. I know! It sounds so… ooh la la. Like I’m some big shot super model.
The end results, the photographs, would have you believe that these shoots are very glamorous but they are a lot of work. Changing outfits in a tiny bathroom, using your phone for a mirror to check your hair, hoping that there’s not something in the background of the shot that shouldn’t be there, being paranoid I don’t have lipstick on my teeth…
Don’t get me wrong, I love doing these shoots and I am so lucky to have them, but they are a lot of work.
Sometimes I look at myself and ask myself introspective questions out of the blue. At the shoot I was just kind of taking it all in and watching Shannonlee change her camera lens as she talked about a dress I was wearing and the angle she wanted to get… I felt a LITTLE silly. I don’t like when anyone makes a fuss about me (in either gender) so someone putting a lot of thought into something I was doing and wearing made me feel a little… well, not uncomfortable, but a little self-conscious.
“Who are you fooling?” I asked myself. What I was REALLY asking was do I think I am so beautiful that I need to schedule photo shoots? How conceited am I? Do I think I am so glamourous or delusional that I think I am a REAL MODEL? Am I SO important and special to do something like this? Am I really this shallow or insecure and needing attention? Do people really care what I think about a skirt?
As I mentioned, we can sometimes immediately answer questions like that. Almost before I finished asking myself this, I responded with “no one”. I am not trying to fool anyone, especially myself. I am not so delusional that I think I am a model, or even attractive. I am not special or important. And these thoughts are not meant to be depressing or self-deprecating. I know exactly what I am doing. I am having fun.
And like the Big Bang, this is a very hollow reason. Like… that’s it??
And yes. It is. I have fun picking out outfits for shoots, I have fun working with Shannonlee. I have fun looking at the pictures. Yes, it is an ego boost when I see a really good photo, but I don’t have a NEED to be… well, reassured, I guess.
I don’t think of myself as a model or as someone who is SO pretty or SO important that I need to do photo shoots or anything else. My self-esteem is firmly in check and reinforced with every mirror or selfie. I am often humbled as I get ready as I try to turn my middle age boy body and middle age boy face into something that is SOMEWHAT pretty and femme.
No matter what, I am never trying to fool anyone, least of all myself. I am certainly not trying to fool anyone in the real world, either. I have no illusions of myself. I do not think that anyone at the mall or wherever I am thinks that I am a cis woman. I am not trying to, um, deceive anyone, for lack of a better word. I don’t care if people know or think I am trans. And I don’t care because I AM trans. If someone sees me and thinks “that person is trans”. That’s fair. If I am being honest I do the same thing when I see someone who I think is trans. The important part is what comes AFTER that realization. If someone treats me differently (in a negative way) because of my transfabulousness, well, that’s a conscious decision. That’s cruelty.
I know many of us want the world to think we ARE cis women. I get that. I understand wanting to look so femme that all evidence (if you will) of our maleness has vanished. I mean, I attempt that every time I dress. But I also know that my jawline, height, hands, voice, shoulders “give me away”. But I don’t think of it as that… because I am not trying to fool anyone. My goal is to not be thought of as a cisgender woman.
I would rather have someone treat me kindly because they know I am transgender woman instead of them treating me kindly because they think I am a cisgender woman. Kindness to someone like me, someone like you, someone like ANYONE is an act of support and acceptance.
Anyway, the caffeine is starting to modulate a little so let’s wrap it up.
4 thoughts on “Gender, Coffee, and the Big Bang”
You have so many great photos and as a professional photographer myself, still my favorite photo is of you in a peach outfit sitting on a window ledge. I love that one and you look beautiful. It pays to hire a professional photographer.
I ask myself some of the same questions & the answer is usually, I just am & I do. I don’t know why I am the way I am, I just am & I’m OK with it. Why do I dress, because I love the feel of the clothes & the feeling of being feminine, do I pass, no, do I care what people think, no, I just want to look as beautiful as I can & that feels good.
And yes, you are beautiful, even if you don’t think so sometimes, you are certainly beautiful on the inside!
I agree with Kristine, that picture is also my favorite!
I am old enough to remember hearing the Peggy Lee song entitled ‘Is That All There Is’ when it played regularly on the radio some decades ago. My take on the song, then and now, is that most of life’s experiences are trivial, even those that are supposed to be a big deal, so take it as it comes.
We might be similarly unimpressed if we ever learn the ‘real’ causes that made us as we are, and in any case, whatever it was…it happened and there’s nothing we can do about it now… so….have a ball, if that’s all there is.
Or it can be that we were closer to our mother, or an older sister, or a sister, in our family and maybe had a weak father figure too? Anyway, I have also wondered why I do it. The fact is it is fun to dress up, and it is so cool looking in the mirror all dressed up, especially looking mostly feminine and seeing a resemblance to a female in my family is also interesting…