Hard Gender

“Oh my God!” women would sometimes exclaim, “He is prettier than I am!”

“That’s because I had to work so hard at it,” I would explain, “while you just got the gift of being pretty.”

“There are no ugly women, only lazy ones,” said beauty icon Helena Rubinstein.

For most women today, especially around here, polishing their performance as women just wasn’t socially acceptable.   We didn’t have finishing schools, beauty pageants, coming out events.  They aimed for a look that they call “natural,” which isn’t really natural but is played down, blending in rather than standing out.

I got beauty books when I was coming out and I quickly learned to skip the first half.   That was where they had all that blah, blah about beauty coming from the inside, about valuing yourself, about posture and skin care, about attitude and engagement.   I didn’t need that crap, I needed the makeup lessons in the back of the book, learning what to do with my Flame-Glo palette of purples.

My goal was an amazing mask that I could paint on, an exterior paint job that would turn me into a different person, someone who looked like a beautiful woman.    Cover me up, I imagined, let me hide behind a face full of makeup and that is all I needed.

It turns out that the people who wrote those beauty guides, though, actually knew a thing or two.   You really can’t show outer beauty without having inner beauty.   Real beauty actually does come from within.


I worked very, very hard to earn my womanhood, harder than you can possibly imagine.   Most of that work was on the inside, having the ultimate tranny surgery: pulling the stick out of my own ass.     Transgender really is about revealing the truth of your heart, even to yourself, and not about working to conceal your history and biology either through clothes (transvestism) or body modification (transsexualism.)

To appear as a beautiful woman first you have to be a woman.

There is actually a world of women’s culture, which, sadly, is usually unknown to transwomen.  They have almost no understanding or interest in what it means to grow up as a woman in this world. To most of them, woman is just the shadow of manhood, so rejecting manhood makes them women.

Being a woman is, to most transvestites, primarily about what you wear on the outside and not about the choices you make, choices based in the internal cultural identity of being a woman.

That makes no sense to me, of course, but I have no way to explain to people who are not immersed in womanspace what being a woman really is, what it really means.   They really believe they know all they need to know about womanhood, while women who have been raised as women know that there is so much more than they can ever know about the experience of being a woman in the world.

“For it is surely a lifetime work, this learning to be a woman.”
— May Sarton

Woman is not about clothes or genitalia.   Woman is about connecting with other women, about doing the work of women in the world.   Gender is part of the poetry of expression, not doing different things but instead doing them with a different approach, a different attitude, a different balance.

I have heard crossdressers explain that you should never wear a skirt to the mall.  Their logic is that since most of the other women at the mall are in jeans and a top you will stand out too much.   They neglect the fact that there are always women in dresses at the mall, coming from or going to work, because they always wear skirts, or just because they like them.   Some women can wear anything and look great.

The difference, of course, is that those women are wearing their outfits from the inside out.   They aren’t looking for a disguise that lets them blend in, like picking out the right camouflage pattern from Cabela’s, rather they are dressing from a sense of comfort.  They are women wearing their own woman’s clothes, not deceivers skillfully infiltrating an enemy camp.   They own their own womanhood rather than just trying to wear it on the outside like a blind.

Owning our own feminine, womanly beauty means owning our own feminine, womanly self.   That process requires clearing out all the blocks you have to feminine, womanly choices, letting go of your old defences — that broomstick up your ass– so you can learn to flow, open, and wiggle in your own feminine way.

I worked very, very hard to earn my womanhood, harder than you can possibly imagine.  Harder than the women who take their own expression for granted, seeing it as “natural” and “unaffected” just because it was constructed without conscious and considered choice.

Comfort, authenticity really do count towards an easy, graceful and integrated presentation that reads as honest and compelling.

No matter how simple that sounds, you really do have to work at it, do the tough work clearing out the crocks and opening to truth.

Doing gender well, doing human well, is hard.