Commercial Affirmation

There is a reason transwomen love Halloween, at least up to a point.

Halloween is the only time we can expect social affirmation for our trans expression.

This is exciting and fabulous until the point where we no longer are willing to see our trans expression as some kind of costume, something that we put on.

At that point, Halloween turns into hell night, because whatever we choose to wear, people tend to see our costume as being a guy-in-a-dress, erasing our trans nature into our costume.  We may have a great Marie Antoinette look or a fabulous rock chick, but it all gets reduced down to “dude looks like a lady,” and the fun just is drained out of it.

I have been reading a crossdresser blog that wants their followers to go to the office as “working girl”  on business Halloween, the working day that lines up with Halloween.  To the author, it’s just so affirming to show up once a year in 4″ Liz Claiborne heels and an outfit from Dress Barn, because Halloween is the day that expression can be affirmed as costume.

I remember all the Halloweens that I wanted some kind of commercial affirmation.   I would pay for a makeover, get my make-up done at a department store, have a wig trimmed at a hair salon, anything where I might get some positive feedback for how good I looked, how amazing my transformation was, how brave and witty I was.

Of course, very little of that affirmation had much to do with trans.  Instead it had a great deal to do with the wit and smarts of women in the beauty business who know that they are selling affirmation.   No woman goes to a salon to leave without at least a few ego strokes.

Now, I may think I look good, but I remember a dance where a lesbian thought I looked like a local comedy drag queen and a crossdresser just laughed and agreed with her, even as I squirmed and showed my displeasure with the comparison.

If the crossdresser had been a girlfriend, of course, she would have seen my discomfort and back peddled, saying I had my own unique beauty or some such, but this was one of those CDs who you can never trust to watch your purse; they just have zero training in how to be a good girlfriend.

Looking for parties this Halloween, just some place to find someone with wit and smarts, an event which might echo the best of my old memories, like making out under the taxi stand or being fed drinks by the goth bar owner and her bartender, well, the chances of that happening again are near enough to zero.

I know why crossdressers live for the affirmation of Halloween.

I also know why transwomen fear the erasure and diminishment that comes with it.

Yowsa.

Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.
Oscar Wilde, “The Relation of Dress to Art”, 1885

When I have the right audience, I really enjoy doing a reverse striptease.

The classic drag show ending was for the performer to remove their wig, their mask at the end of the show to reveal who they “really” are.  This is the end of “Hedwig And The Angry Inch,” for example, getting naked in the world.

I don’t think that stripping off reveals who I am.

I don’t see my trans expression as a mask anymore, as trying to hide my biology or my truth.

Instead, I see the most revelatory bit as putting on my feminine expression.   Once I do that, my heart magically becomes visible from behind the normative expectations that people project on my big, male, trans-natural body.

For me, this is the powerful revelation of trans, not the peeling back of artifice to show some base and simple truth but rather using art to expose a spiritual truth which has always lain inside, hidden, unseen and unconsidered.

It is my experience that people who see what I have to work with and then see me as expressing as a woman are the only ones who truly understand the profound power of what is inside me.   When they just see me as a woman, they just think that I could do better, seeing ragged edges, but when they understand how I invoke the energy inside, they get how powerful that essence is.

As much as I would love to invoke a seamless and elegant front, built to be beautiful, if I want to show my open heart, the reality is much more ragged.  My humanity exists not just I am in this moment but also in how I got here, not just in the story I want to tell but also in the stories that are inside of me, running deep.

I always dreamed of being transformed, just ending up as the beautiful woman I imagined, but very early I had to learn to say the serenity prayer, acknowledging what I could not change.   Some transwomen have tried to change beyond that I know, with reshaped bones and widgets of silicone, but I saw the limits of that kind of medicalized intervention.

There are times, no doubt, when offering a consistent face is important.   Many people take the easy way out, writing trans expression down to costume and deciding that reality is based on their expectations.

People who really, really want to see something under my trans expression are the people who I don’t want to show myself to.   They make me feel unsafe, like they are looking for a reason to dismiss my hard fought gender awareness and reduce me to something that fits in their belief system.

I hate it when media wants cheap representations of transpeople changing, detailing a makeover or using “before and after” pictures.   To me, that turns trans expression into a wholly visual thing, making it just about what we look like on the outside, like putting on a costume or pulling a trick appearance.

There is good reason to express consistency in gender presentation; it shows a strength of will, a commitment that asserts that “this is the real me.”

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