A linguistics professor was lecturing to her class one day. “In English,” she said, “A double negative forms a positive. In some languages, though, such as Russian, a double negative is still a negative. However, there is no language wherein a double positive can form a negative.”
A voice from the back of the room piped up, “Yeah, right.”
When I look in the mirrror, my response is often “Yeah, right. I don’t think like a girl.”
All those years telling me what I was and what I wasn’t, and they got it wrong. I remember the look in Christine’s eyes the night she figured it out: I wasn’t just dressing up. There was really someone who thinks like a girl in there.
The one thing I have been clear on since I came out in the mid 1980s was that there weren’t two people inside of me. There may well have been a cast of characters, like Chuck McCann, but it was all me. In fact, when the therapist did her diagnostics when I was 13, she asked me “If you could be anyone in the world, who would you be?” I knew it was a trap, limited by the state of trans-understanding in 1968, and I chose not to answer.
She pushed and finally I gave her an answer: “I want to be myself.” I would not be moved off that answer, and it was only as I studied the works of people like Joseph Campbell that I found many cultures had found that the gift of a lifetime is being who you are.
Somedays, I just put my hair back, don’t bother with makeup, toss on jeans and a sweater and go about my day. When i walk though the mall, I see that many women make the same choice.
The difference is that people see me differently when I get dressed up, for work, for church, for an event, or whatever reason. And when they see me looking different, they assume that I must be different. They make assumptions and fill in with their own expectations and then I am layered with expectations I don’t even understand because they are never explicit.
What difference would there be in my choices if I felt more confident I was being seen as a woman? I think the only difference would be that I would be more flirty — more open, more loose, more smiley, more reaching for connection. Hell, I’m a femme, connection is what we do.
But what’s the difference between me and any other woman? It’s only when we feel safe that we opens up, that we blossoms and turns towards the sun. And when we do that, the reflected and internal light will keep anyone we focus on warm and growing.
(BTW, I’m pleased that this year’s Translating Identity Conference has a session on “Femme As A Gender Identity,” something I sugggested last year. We femmes may center our lives around relationships, but that doesn’t mean we should only exist as ourselves in partners (SOFFA) workshops. We have to be for us.)
What would I do if I felt more confident that I was seen as a woman? I’d make more femme choices, and femmes are the ones who wiggle. I guess that means I’d be more ballsy, because femmes, well, we are some ballsy women who trust the power of our minds and hearts. I could never really be ballsy as a guy, because those balls just didn’t have it. But when you show your femme balls and people can read you as born male, too often they assume it’s your past coming though rather than your heart reaching up to meet you.
I look in the mirror, and I think “Yeah, right. I don’t think like a girl.”
And others look at me and assume I am really just my bones.