Walls

The process of transforming this tired and overwhelmed middle-aged body into Hannah is, well, a process. After shaving (everywhere), I more or less start with a blank canvas. It’s like my appearance could go in any number of directions. I might be getting ready to spend the day en femme, I might be putting on his suit for a job interview, or anything in between.

The slate is clean.

When it’s a Hannah day, I start with my stockings. I rarely wear tights or pantyhose. I prefer stockings because:

a) they are sexy

b) accesibility

c) cost

There’s more practicality to this side of me than I would like to admit. If I spend $12 on a pair of pantyhose and they get a snag, well, that’s $12 lost. If I spend $12 on a pair of stockings and one gets a run, I can toss it and replace it from my overflowing basket of hosiery.

On a bad day I tear a stocking even before I put it on. If I can manage to delicately put my stockings on without incident I say a little prayer that I avoid any snags for the day. From there, on goes my gaff, my heels, my corset, bra, and forms.

Makeup comes next. Then my hair and jewelry. Finally I get dressed.

If I notice a snag in my stocking then I almost always have to go back a few steps and slip into a new one. This might be a process depending on what I am wearing. Obviously I have to either slip off my pumps OR unfasten my stiletto AND depending on my outfit putting on a new stocking might require undressing, replacing the torn stocking, and then getting dressed again.

In some cases, the snag might be TINY and not noticeable and I can spritz on a little hairspray to strengthen the fibers in it and hope the run doesn’t get worse.

BUT I never learn as the snag will probably get worse. I usually will spend the day dreading the likely disaster.

And YES this is all VERY dramatic and YES this is such a small and insignificant thing to dread AND it’s a silly thing to even bother writing or thinking about BUT I am doing it anyway.

For some of us, the approaching holidays are like this teeny tiny snag. We see the calendar ticking down to the holidays, we see the tear widening.

How’s THAT for a segueway?

I try so hard to use the holidays to recuperate and I try to do the bare minimum when it comes to leaving the house as the year winds down. It’s not always easy as family and friends return home and invitations to meeting up for a coffee or gatherings or requests to pop over to see the new house will inevitably start to trickle in.

On one hand I really DO want to see (some) people. On the other hand, well, I don’t. I mean, no one should take it personally. Well, some people should, lol, but I just want to slip away from the world for a few days.

As the years pass the holidays have become a LITTLE less stressful. Just a little, though. I have gotten better at declining invitations and setting boundaries. And my god that sounds bitchy but it’s not meant to.

One contributing factor to holiday stress was, well, my gender identity.

My immediate family, my mom and siblings, know of Hannah and most of have met her.

Well, in a way.

This might sound a little odd but when Hannah first made the scene I identified as a crossdresser and I wasn’t quite who I am, or who Hannah is, as WE are today. This side of me has evolved into an actual identity as opposed to just looking at this side of me as just about clothes and makeup.

Like many of us I started to identify as transgender. My family hasn’t met Hannah since I came out to them as a crossdresser. If I had waited a little longer then THE TALK would have gone differently.

A little over a dozen years ago I started to really open up when it came to who I was. I started to make the transition from lingerie and underdressing to everything I am, and everything Hannah is, today.

This was an exciting and overwhelming time. It’s not uncommon to question who one really is when our identity begins to shift. You wonder who you are and where you belong and wonder how someone might react to your identity.

This can cause some tension and anxiety.

There are people in my life who are very kind to me. The male me. But sometimes I can’t help but think how they might treat me if they only knew.

I can’t stand hypocrites and I prefer to know who people really are. If you treat HIM with respect and kindness but this behavior would change because of HER, well, you’ve kind of revealed the type of person you are.

It can be a little jarring, to be honest. I work for a college and from time to time a student, or more than likely a parent of a student, ask if we have any of “those transgenders” at the school. This always takes me aback. In some situations I will have been communicating with this person for weeks and everything seemed, well, normal, but this question comes out of the blue and just… shifts everything.

It’s like, oh you seemed kind but you’re really a bigot.

And then I wonder how quickly their opinion of me would change if they only knew.

Family can be like that. You hope that your family will love and support you regardless of your sexual identity or gender identity but we all know those things can impact our relationship with them. My uncle might be kind and chatty with me but I have to admit it annoys me that if he only knew he would likely ridicule me. That’s what I mean about being a hypocrite.

While it’s true the people in our lives will likely have different.. opinions of who we are and these opinions can usually have an impact on our self-esteem, the primary, and really, the only opinion of who we are that matters is our own opinion.

Many people in my life would likely never accept, let alone embrace, Hannah. Which stings a little. BUT acceptance of who you are MUST come from yourself. Once you have accepted and have embraced who you are it becomes easier to ignore the opinions (or the likely opinions) of others.

Of course I need to acknowledge that it’s not ALWAYS easy and moments of sadness will always creep in when you think how some members of your family, you know, the people who are supposed to love you, might shun you if they only knew.

For decades I was a crossdresser and that was that. I wore panties and a nightgown to bed but dresses and stilettos were very rarely in my wardrobe. A wig and a femme name weren’t really on my radar. But things change. When I realized that THIS was more than THAT I couldn’t help but rethink my gender and my identity. Not only who I was but also how others might think of me.

And yes, other opinions of us shouldn’t impact us but I think it’s normal when they do.

Who am I? Where do I belong? Who are my people? My allies? My friends? My family? My enemies?

The typical standards and expectations and social gender norms begin to shift. There are cracks in the wall separating BOY and GIRL in our hearts and in our worlds and in our closets.

This rebirth, this new reality of what gender IS and what people THINK it is can really be manifested during the holidays.

A typical family gathering for me these days is overwhelmingly women. My wife, my sisters, and their daughters. When it come to masculine presenting people it’s usually my brother-in-law and maybe my brother who lives out of state.

And then there’s me.

And when I say ME I mean HIM.

Sure, they know of Hannah but they don’t know her, if you follow.

All of us mingle between the kitchen grabbing coffee or a snack and the living room chatting and eating.

But growing up the holidays were a lot different. MEN in the living room drinking BEER and watching FOOTBALL. Women in the kitchen CLEANING and COOKING and drinking WINE.

The dining room was the treaty zone, if you will, in what seemed to be a war between the sexes. Not that there were conflicts (I mean, there were conflicts as most families are wont to have) but nothing out of the ordinary “discussions” of politics and family gossip.

Once Thanksgiving dinner or Christmas breakfast was finished, both sides returned to their respective rooms and roles.

The dress code was also pretty set in stone. The men wore “a nice shirt” and women wore… oh, the things they wore. Cocktail dresses, black stockings, glitter, sparkles, sequins… the women shined as they usually did but their outfits glowed with them.

Everything about these family gatherings reinforced gender roles and gender presentations to me as I grew up. They also made me feel more out of place than ever. Where did I belong? Neither room nor role felt right OR wrong.

My gender… oh, let’s call it an awakening, caused these nomadic feelings to return in my early thirties. While it’s true that the homes I visited during the holidays were not as divided as the houses I was in growing up, there were still some elements, whether out of habit or otherwise, of men in one room, women in another. Cross pollination, if you will, happened, too.

But even subtle, unspoken “rules” vibrated loudly in the house and in my mind.

Once again I was back to wandering between rooms, never staying in one place for very long.

The holidays, already creating stress, brought back that old, familiar, and unwelcome feeling of anxiousness.

But things, as they tend to do, change.

When our gender identities evolve, our hearts and brains and soul grow and change as well. It can be uncomfortable adjusting and learning who we are and navigating this next phase of our lives. It’s not unusual to wonder who we are and where we belong and where all this is going.

And again, this can lead to wondering literally which room we belong in.

In some ways we see gender as more binary than ever, even though the lines between GIRL and BOY are blurring. We see how other react to anything that someone wears or feels that isn’t in synch with the gender that they thought we were. “Why can’t I wear THIS, even if it’s for girls?” we may think. It’s an article of clothing. It’s fabric. It’s magical. But soon we are reminded that for most people that every single article of clothing or color is for a girl OR a boy.

So we swing back and forth between genders internally and that feeling of out of place returns or it’s something we notice for the first time. Soon EVERYTHING is about gender and gender roles. We feel shackled by one gender, and drawn to another. This pull is representing perfectly by feeling that we SHOULD watch football with the guys but feel a need to connect with other feminine people.

So! How does one feel peace and contentment in what feels like a tug-of-war? How do we lessen the tension and anxiety that we feel from others knowing how less than enthusiastic they would be when it comes to our identity?

Well, the world isn’t going to change anytime soon. And most of us don’t have family members that will become enlightened by the next time everyone gets together.

The only thing that we have any control or influence over is ourselves. We can’t make or expect the world or our judgmental aunt to change… like, ever. We can accept ourselves. We can find peace within ourselves. We can love and accept and embrace who we are.

The barriers between genders collapse. Walls come down.

When we do this it becomes easier to be… well, anywhere. We stop seeking any acceptance from others, we care less about which room we SHOULD be in. Like my gender identities, I happily float between the room with the football in it and the room with the girl talk in it.

Love, Hannah

6 thoughts on “Walls

  1. It is interesting to think about how we mentally change regarding our gender as we get older – I think one reason is that the Testosterone lessons and hence the Estrogen in us becomes more dominant. I believe this happened with me. Others? Just a thought…

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  2. “Every single article of clothing or color is for a girl OR a boy” This is not exactly true. Items which are traditionally boy can be worn by a woman and accepted by most. The converse, an item which is traditionally considered for girls will hardy be accepted by anybody if worn by a man. I can totally relate bouncing from the football game to the kitchen!!

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  3. There’s an old and rather bad taste joke that comes around every now and then, “What’s the difference between a cross dresser and a transgender woman? ~ About five years” I think this highlights that for many of us our gender identity develops, first we have to come to accept that we actually do have a gender identity, that it may not match our gender assigned at birth, and then we need to work out how we deal with it. None of this is easy, and we can not expect everybody to come on the journey with us.

    These days I find myself firmly on one side of the divide, and am very happy about that ~ I’m not so sure I would have been 40 years ago, then I just liked to visit.

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  4. Insightful and thought-provoking, Hannah. Other than my wife, only three people know about Alana, none od them family, and they’ve never met her in person. I frequently consider coming out, so to speak, but I think the shock literally could push my very elderly parents closer to their end, which I’m scarcely prepared for even as their son. And, I wonder, what would my kids think? How would my granddaughter react to Grandpa as…well, I don’t know. Grandma Gramps? Maybe someday.

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  5. Always enjoy your commentary and conscious thought. The holidays and blending our gender roles makes one stop and think about our complexity in our gender perception. Far greater to acknowledge our dual genders than to never be aware at all.

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