My newest blog for En Femme is now live!
Simply titled ‘The Talk’, I write about some of the most common reactions our partners have when we come out to them. I hope you find it useful.
As someone who lives and presents as two genders, I think about gender identity a lot. When en femme, I identify as transgender and bristle when feminine pronouns are not used by others when interacting with me. I know one should never assume someone else’s pronouns, but when I am dressed to kill in a dress and heels and spent $65 on a makeover, I think it’s pretty safe that I am a her.
Being called male pronouns when en femme can also sting in a way that can ruin my entire day. Sometimes I can shake it off, but other times, especially if I am having an ugly day, it can linger in my head for longer than it should.
Sometimes someone can mistakenly use pronouns when speaking with me, but they will quickly correct themselves. But when it appears they are using male pronouns on purpose in an effort to be vindictive, then it becomes an issue of common courtesy. To intentionally call someone by the wrong pronouns is simply cruel. When someone uses the wrong pronouns, I will always correct them. Well, unless it’s clearly pointless. T-girls are pretty adept at knowing when someone is mis-gendering them intentionally.
Identifying as transgender covers a lot of gender identities. Not that labels matter, but I feel that bi-gender is a more specific term when it comes to my identity. I have two gender identities, and besides underdressing or something subtle, such as wearing “girl” jeans, my wardrobes do not crossover with each other. Like my closet, my gender identities are very separate from each other.
Gender identity, pronouns, specific labels are very significant and important when en femme, but in male mode these things do not come up very often. When I present as male, no one ever calls me by pronouns that do not match my gender presentation. This is cis-privledge.
Last week was International Pronoun Day. According to their website, referring to people by the pronouns they determine for themselves is basic to human dignity. Being referred to by the wrong pronouns particularly affects transgender and gender nonconforming people. Together, we can transform society to celebrate people’s multiple, intersecting identities.
Users on social media were commenting on their own pronouns regardless if they were cis, trans, or non-binary.
Although providing pronouns on a social media profile is pretty common for our community, I am also seeing it more often for cisgender people. The more cisgender people state their pronouns, the more normal it becomes when someone who is transgender states theirs, especially when it changes. I also see this happen as a show of solidarity and support for the trans community. Why should only transgender people have to state their pronouns? Why doesn’t everyone?
I appreciate anyone showing their support for the transgender community. Even a small and subtle thing such as this makes me happy. It’s reassuring to know we have allies out there.
Through my blogging, the MN T-Girls, and just simply being visible in the real world, I feel I am a positive voice and representative in the transgender community. But I wonder if I am doing enough for our community in my male life.
I vote for candidates that support the same social issues I support. I use the correct pronouns for my non-binary coworkers and friends. I defend our community when someone attacks it.
But could I do more? I write a lot about activism and awareness here, but I rarely bring up the same things on the social media that I use in my male life. Hannah goes to Pride celebrations, but perhaps I should go presenting as male.
In the few people I have come out to, identifying as transgender or bi-gender or as a crossdresser is the last thing they would have guessed about me. I wonder if that means me being an ally for our community is also just as much of a surprise. Maybe I should do more to show my support and solidarity in my male life.
As a straight white male, I have never had to fight for my rights. I have never had to fight for the right to vote, to own property, or to marry who I wanted. This is another example of cis/hetero/white privilege, to be perfectly honest. When marriage equality was passed, it took the entire LGBTQ+ community fighting for it, but it also needed the support of the non-LGBTQ+ community as well. Similarly the transgender community is waiting for the Supreme Court to decide on whether or not sex can be a determining factor in cases of employment discrimination in regards to the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
Of course, the transgender community is involved with making sure that we are protected, but the cisgender community needs to be involved, too. Like many issues, this decision should not be based on gender identity, but it should be a basic human rights issue and it’s a little insane this is even being argued.
In order for the transgender community to have all the rights and protection and respect that we deserve, it’s going to take everyone, regardless of gender identity, fighting for it.
It’s going to take both sides of me fighting for it.
I’m wondering if you can share with me where girls like us hang out in the Twin Cities? Back in the day the Town House was good on Thursday nites & The Camp Bar on Sunday nights.
Many of us look for places where a member of our community can feel welcome and bars and nightclubs are a pretty common place to find that. I think it’s important to support businesses that are inclusive and supportive for our community and to avoid businesses where we are not welcome.
For me personally I tend to frequent malls and museums and have never been much for the bar scene, but perhaps you’ll find something fun to do in Minneapolis/Saint Paul here.
I have gone to The Townhouse a few times, and it was the first place I went en femme. Located in Saint Paul, The Townhouse was the Twin Cities’ oldest LGBTQ+ bar, but it was purchased in 2018 and has been renamed The Black Hart. I have not been there since they have changed owners but they still feature drag shows and other events that The Townhouse was known for. Despite the name and owner change, members of the MN T-Girls tell me they still frequent there.
Camp Bar is also in Saint Paul and has a theater which features cabaret style shows, music, and other types of performers. From what I understand, Camp Bar used to be known as a LGBTQ+ bar, but their website doesn’t specifically indicate that.
The Gay 90’s is also a popular place to go, but I haven’t been there in a very long time.
Have a question for me? Oh yes you do. Ask me here!
The other day I spotted a very stylish looking trans girl in my suburb (well, I’d be damn surprised if I’d mis”read” her). Tall, lovely mini dress, flatter heels than I’d have chosen (but, hey, nobody’s perfect!) and spot-on makeup.
I was so tempted to say hi, compliment them on their look, but decided not to, in part remembering what you’d written.
But I’m thinking about what I do if/when I see someone en femme, while I’m in guy mode? Do I say something, or (at most) smile in as friendly a way as possible (trying not to be at all creepy)?
I know when I’m out and dressed, my situational awareness radar goes through the roof, and I’m checking out everyone who may be checking me out. Sure, I do love to get compliments from girls, and even a smile is lovely.
I’m not so sure it it were from a guy, just because I’m so NOT interested. Even if it were just a “hi, you look great” or similar, would I be flattered, or pissed?
If they were obviously gay (I spend some time in a very trans/gay friendly area of my city occasionally, just because it feels safer)? Maybe that’s OK (just cos I’d see them as more non-threatening, not from any interest).
Smile from anyone? Yeah, I’d like that.
From my point of view, I think when we are out and about, we are grateful for all allies. On balance, if someone took the trouble to say something nice and supportive, I’d take it with very good grace. But also make it clear I wasn’t interested.
I think all t-girls will have a different perspective on this situation, but for me I do not believe you should ever clock a transperson.
“Clocking” is essentially acknowledging and addressing that someone is transgender. Yes, I know I am trans, you know I am trans, and I know that you know that I am trans. You don’t need to clock me. I don’t want someone approaching me and using my gender identity or presentation as a conversation starter.
Let me expand on that. It would make me incredibly uncomfortable if a man were to approach me and tell me I’m beautiful. It’s happened before and it makes me feel very awkward. I say thank you and I walk away, but there’s the feeling that they may follow me or continue to watch me. I understand the comment may be sincere, I understand that they may be an ally, and who knows, perhaps they are also living a life between genders, but like you said my situational awareness is at its peak when I am en femme. I know I stand out, but knowing someone is… noticing me, I guess, makes me feel very uncomfortable. My uneasiness is also heightened knowing that there are men out there who fetishize a girl like us.
Again, yes, I know not all men, but I would prefer to go about my day and not know how anyone feels about me. When I am in male mode and I see a girl like me, unless I am required to interact with her such as saying ‘excuse me’ as I pass by or something similar, I see no reason to acknowledge them solely based on their gender presentation. A kind smile if eye contact is made is one thing, but I don’t think gender identity is an appropriate conversation starter, even if it is to compliment her heels.
Another woman, whether they are cis or trans, is a little different. Women can relate to how much effort one can make when it comes to walking in heels, applying makeup, and picking out an outfit. A girl telling me that she loves my dress or says that I’m beautiful means more. I also think most girls know what it’s like to be a girl in the real world. We are at the mall to shop, we dress for ourselves, and for most of us we would prefer not to have some guy approach us for any reason.
When I am out en femme and I see a girl like me, it’s a little different, but not much. Again, I know I’m trans and so does everyone else, but I see little need to discuss my gender identity with a stranger. A t-girl is generally hyper-aware of their surroundings and when we see another t-girl, an acknowledging smile that says “I see you” is all that is really needed.
And yes, I understand that each of us has a different perspective on this. Some of us would love to have others come up to them at the mall with compliments and messages of support. Personally I just want to go about my day. If you see a t-girl and whether you are in male mode or en femme and you are not sure if you should say anything to her, it’s best to keep your thoughts, regardless of what they are, to yourself.
Have a question for me? Oh yes you do. Ask me here!
You are very beautiful, dressed en femme. Have you ever run into anyone you knew, and if so, did they recognize you? My guess is that they would not…but I am curious! I feel like even those who know me wouldn’t connect the dots. Have you had this happen to you at all?
But I kind of let it happen. I could have stepped away but I chose not to.
Being recognized was one of the biggest fears I had and it held me back from going out into the real world for too long. But after years of stepping out, I realized no one really pays much attention to each other anyway.
Have a question for me? Oh yes you do. Ask me here!
“If it makes you happy, it can’t be that bad”
For me, that feeling never goes away.
The happiness of buying new lingerie, the feel of a zipper sliding up on a cute dress, the power rush of the first steps taken in my stilettos.
These feelings are connected to memories of the first time I entered this beautiful world. It cannot be described, only experienced. It’s not unusual for us for feel to a little confusion about all this as we realize that this feels right, that this is something that is a part of us.
I have stopped trying to understand this part of me. I have stopped trying to determine why I am who I am. To me, this part of me is simply that. It’s a part of me. Literally. I can’t explain why this part of me makes me happy, it just does. I can’t explain why this makes you happy, either. To me, it’s no different than the other things in your life that create joy… whether it is a certain food, a song, or a season. You just love it and that’s all that matters.
We feel the joy, the confusion. We also feel the shame, the guilt, and the embarrassment. But why?
I think some of this comes from being taught that anything feminine is associated with inferiority or weakness. We are told to man up, boys are taunted for throwing like a girl, and that men don’t cry. These comments are meant to embarrass us. To shame us. To humiliate us when we express emotion. Girls cry, girls wear dresses. Men are taught it’s embarrassing to be associated with anything feminine, whether it is an emotion or a piece of clothing.
Is it any wonder we felt ashamed or embarrassed when we dressed?
Our feelings about ourselves and others are sometimes influenced about what we are taught and exposed to. Some of us feel we are too tall to “pass”. Some of us feel our hands are too big to be feminine. Some of us feel we are too masculine to be beautiful. In a way, these perspectives are a result of us being told what a woman “should” look like. A woman needs to be a certain dress or shoe size, a woman needs to be a certain height or weight, a woman must have a certain face shape….
When we don’t fit these arbitrary and subjective standards, we feel that we can’t be beautiful, we can’t be feminine, we can’t present as the gender we identify as. But there are no standards we must fit. There are no standards a woman, cis or trans, must fit. No one is too tall to be feminine, for example. Once I realized this, I completely stopped worrying about “passing” and meeting someone else’s expectations of what I needed to look like. I never looked back.
I can’t recall ever being ashamed about wanting to, or wearing panties or makeup or anything else that is considered feminine. I was raised by a single mom for most of my childhood and I have two strong and independent sisters. In my world, women were leaders. People to emulate. I was used to being around girls, and I was friends with girls in grade school at an age when that wasn’t normal.
Eventually I got tired of being called a sissy for being friends with girls and started to hang out with the guys instead. Grade school is tough, and it’s sad how strong gender roles and expectations are enforced even today.
But this side of you is nothing to be ashamed of… unless you think it’s shameful to do anything that is commonly considered feminine. Perhaps Iggy Pop said it best when he stated “I’m not ashamed to dress “like a woman” because I don’t think it’s shameful to be a woman.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.
Years ago I had a coworker who stated he just didn’t “get” people who were transgender. As he spoke, he said he sort of understood why women wanted to be men, but didn’t see why any man wanted to be a woman. “It’s a demotion”, he said with a laugh. I wish I had had the courage to say something at that time.
This perspective is a perfect example of someone who thinks it’s shameful to be a woman. I don’t think it’s shameful, and I doubt you think so either.
Some of us feel guilt when we dress. We are going against arbitrary gender roles that we were taught growing up. Boys do this, girls do that. Why? Well…. no one really knows but it’s often explained that these rules are in place because that’s the way it’s always been. Well, perhaps not always.
Some of us were told that God made us a certain way and we need to remain that way. If God made you a boy, then you must be a boy. Doing anything that isn’t “for boys” goes against God’s plan. As someone who was raised Catholic I can certainly attest to being told to live a certain way because that’s what God wants, but I seriously doubted God cared about what color underwear I wore.
You might feel guilty for keeping this side of you a secret. We are used to keeping this side of us to ourselves and we likely have gotten quite good at little white lies and concealing things. Telling a coworker that I had a boring weekend when I really spent Saturday getting a makeover and going shoe shopping is technically a lie, but it’s a lie I can live with. Lying to our significant others about this side of us is a different story. This will likely trigger deep feelings of guilt. Some of us can live with the guilt, some can’t.
I know that this side of us is complicated. I know that we want to know why we dress, why this makes us happy, what this means. I know this side of us unleashes countless different feelings from fear to happiness to confusion to excitement to calmness to anxiety. I know this. You know this too. We are told and taught so many things about gender and gender roles from a very young age. So many things in this world are categorized by gender, whether it is shaving cream, sports, or colors.
These things reinforce any negative feelings we may have about our own gender identity. We want to paint our nails but boys don’t paint their nails. We want to wear a nightgown but those are for girls. We want to be friends with girls but that’s gay.
If we are to accept and embrace this side of us then we must stop listening to what the world says we must be.
We must listen to our hearts.
We must be who we are.
How did you get comfortable enough to be public and how did you meet people who are accepting? Should I keep it a secret from employers and is there some kind of protection against some sort of discrimination?
For a very long time I was scared to go out in public Safety and being recognized were two concerns, but another was that I wasn’t able to “pass”. But I had an epiphany one day and I realized that I am the only one who matters when it comes to how I feel about myself. What do I care if someone else thinks I “pass” or that I am beautiful enough? It led me to realize that there are no standards I must meet to be a girl and there is no such thing as passing.
As for coming out to anyone, be it a family member or an employer, it’s important to think it through. You should consider why you want to come out to them and why you feel they need to know. You can’t unring a bell, after all.
As for protection against discrimination… well, that could change very soon. In some states someone can be fired for LGBTQ+, so check your state’s laws. You also should look at the employer’s policy when it comes to inclusion.
Have a question for me? Oh yes you do. Ask me here!