Concealment Refuge

I have always been of opinion that consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.
— Oscar Wilde, “The Relation of Dress to Art. A Note in Black and White on Mr. Whistler’s Lecture

I dress as a woman for a number of reasons.

The first, at least for me, is that I believe that my choices make much more sense as the choices of a woman, as the choices of a feminine hearted person.  My understanding of the world, my affiliation, my desire, my priorities all are much more in line with that of a woman than that of a man in this culture.

Woman gender symbols express this knowledge more clearly.   Women always are marked by their choices in appearance and showing my choices not only reveals more of who I know myself to be, it gives a more full and relaxed context for others to see those choices.

The second is that I know that expressing the feminine nature in my heart is part of my work in the world.   In cultures where gender is rigidly bipolar, rituals of gender crossing remind us of our continuous common humanity.    That’s my mission statement, so being visibly trans in the world is one of those rituals that reveal, venerate and even celebrate connection.   My clothes are my vestments.

The third is that I like looking pretty.   Who wouldn’t want to be able to wear makeup and other adornments?   Well, maybe men wouldn’t so much, but then again, I don’t identify as a man.

I have no problem with being seen as a trans woman in the world.   I do, however, have a problem with being seen as “really a man,” really a “guy-in-a-dress.”   That feels like an erasure of what I communicate with my gender expression, so I work to stop that happening.

Often transpeople assigned as male at birth or soon thereafter have been seen as essentially men, but because of their trans expression, as men with something extra.   This is the essential call of the “bigendered” label, that these people are men with a some dose of femininity thrown in.

I understand this call.  My original plan was to increase my range of expression by being more androgynous, more playful with gender, more gender queer or gender fuck.

As I came to understand myself, though, I realized how unlike other men I was, how much that acculturation never really stuck.  As I explored the culture of woman I began to see how much it reflected and resonated with me, bringing my nature and worldview into focus, opening my heart and removing the angst.

I didn’t want to appear as a man with something extra because that does not reflect my understanding of myself.  I understand myself as a woman with a different history and biology, an immigrant to woman, woman in vision and choices.

The big problem is that I know I live inside a very essentialist, very binary culture.  A woman born female expressing some balance of masculinity would just be seen as having a healthy balance, owning a bit of androgyny, but when I express that balance, I know that my gender can shift and people see me as “really a man.”

This binary culture means that I am much more concerned about concealment of my biology and my history than I want to be.   I tend to avoid using the full range of my voice, for example, just to avoid an appearance that might be jarring and off-putting to others around me.

In her drive across country, TBB felt much safer at a hip restaurant in liberal Bend Oregon than at a family place in Georgia where Christian iconography abounded.   In Bend she got loose, listened, laughed and relaxed, while in Georgia she touched up her make up before she got out of the car, kept her voice modulated and heavily minded her manners, wary of someone who would decide she was not welcome.

What we end up trying to do is cover ourselves in a small and false consistency so that we have less chance of frightening the horses.   We know, as Mr. Wilde knew, that consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative and that many, many people cannot imagine in their wildest dreams that the truth of your heart is more important than the truth of your birth designated biology.

These people like the comfort of simple and consistent rules over the creativity of real and abounding hearts and often have no compunction in asserting their consistency over our creative expression of our truth.

What we end up trying to do is cover ourselves in a small and false consistency so that we have less chance of frightening the horses.   We know, as Mr. Wilde knew, that consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative and that many, many people cannot imagine in their wildest dreams that the truth of your heart is more important than the truth of your birth designated biology.

These people like the comfort of simple and consistent rules over the creativity of real and abounding hearts and often have no compunction in asserting their consistency over our creative expression of our truth.

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day. — ‘Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood.’ — Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.
― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

I worked very hard to own my own womanhood.  I will always own it in my heart, in my private spaces.  To have it removed by those unimaginative people who demand a refuge consistency just feels like crap, which leaves me working to conceal, either concealing my gender or concealing my biology and history.

I don’t like working so hard to conceal, to lie.  I like opening up, telling truth even when it is complex, nuanced or appears contradictory.

The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement.
But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth.
—   Niels Bohr

The amount we have to conceal to appear consistent in order for our truth to be accepted by those who have limited imaginations is always a challenge.  These people like their small minded refuge, using their own short stick to judge the reality of others. ‘

I know who I am and what I want to express.  I also know that my worldview has popped more than a few fuses in other people in my time.   I try and attenuate, modulate, conceal and diminish what others believe to be contradictions in order to navigate in the world.

And I find that difficult.