We were talking about The Prince. . . .
I also had a copy of “How to be a Woman Though Male” –
but was never really comfortable with it.
It seemed to alternately glorify and objectify women
(of course, it was intended as a handbook for mimicking women).
You know, this is one of the most difficult challenges I have with crossdressers. Many know that they can’t be a woman — they have to stay a man for their relationship, their job, their family, whatever — so the best they can do is “mimic women” by “alternately glorifying and objectifying women”
To me, this is the same as The Muppets Swedish Chef mimicing Swedish. We know his “blah, blah, blah” probably doesn’t mean anything in Swedish, but it’s fun to see him blather on and pretend to make sense. For crossdressers who are committed to mimicing women, it’s about some kind of externalized at that a native woman speaker would never understand as anything but gibberish.
Now, that’s OK. It’s the classic model for men in dresses, clowning as women, athugh many of these crossdressing men don’t understand their act as clowning, don’t understand their performance as full of tells that they aren’t really women. After all, they don’t really speak woman, don’t really speak Swedish, so how can they tell? This performance is comfortable for women, because the men stay men, just as drag queens who make it very clear that they are really gay men rarely offend women, because they locate their own manhood clearly.
The problem comes not in the choice to mimic women, or to do gay drag, but in the assumption that others are trying to do what you are trying to do. I may have spent decades understanding what it means to be a woman, respecting that culture and experience, but all too often crossdressers assume that I’m just real good at mimicing women, erasing my work.
Of course, all this tends to come out of locating truth in biology: If you were born with a penis, you always stay a man, no matter what. This is a comforting belief to both gay men and crossdressers, who need to stay located as men no matter how much they express femininity in their choices. They want to believe that their choices have no meaning, that their gender cannot be undermined, that their birth sex is determinant. They want to believe this as much as some transsexual women want to believe that their current genital configuration is determinant, that now they have no penis, they can never be seen as men.
It’s when we hold others to the expectations that comfort us that we become the oppressor class, denying others to keep our own power in the world.
I understand why people want to not have to engage the messy bits of becoming real, holding onto their own fundamentalist belief in what defines reality, and what lines can’t be crossed.
But boy, a “Swedish Chef” crossdresser who just assumes that others can only be mimicing women, like they are, well, I find that bad magic.
Then again, that’s always what will set me off, people who don’t open to the possibilities of others, who just assume others must be like them, with the same limits and boundaries. GB Shaw was quite clear that was why he didn’t like the common Christan version of the Golden Rule; “Don’t do onto others as you would have them do unto you; their tastes may be entrirely different.”
It’s the older Jewish version of the Golden Rule that I veneate Hillel, when asked to speak the law while standing on one foot, was reported to have said “Do not do onto others what would be hateful to you. This is the whole of the law; the rest is commentary.”
If you want people to accept you as a unique indvidual with your own experience and your own story, you need to accept others as unique indviduals with their own experience and their own story, not just as people like you.
But, to me, that’s why honoring queerness is honoring a committment to exploring reality, and resisting it is the assumption of determinism & mere mimicry.
Of course, my openness sometimes makes resisters crazy, because I listen to hear their personal truth even in their ersatz Swedish, and often find it there, the last thing someone who just wants to mimic while staying fixed wants to happen.
Exposure is hard, but is their any other choice in the long term?