Bound Emulation

Smart humans create smart ideas that offer smart defences, notions that rationalize and constrain our choices in a way that seems simple and elegant.  Our ideas become the filter that defines our worldview, that gives us protection and comfort.

There comes a time, though, when any defence becomes not just a way to bind us from outside harm but also becomes a barrier that binds us from growing beyond the limits we have constrained.

Our walls, so carefully and thoughtfully constructed, stop being a fortress to keep out challenge and start becoming a prison to keep us bound up, isolated and hurting.

An egg is wonderful protection for a budding bird, but unless and until that egg breaks open, there can be no glorious & brilliant flight.

The day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud
was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.
— Anaïs Nin

I very much admire transpeople who strive to honour a commitment to family.   As a woman, I am moved when I see people take care of others, even when they have to put their own desires aside to do that.

For transpeople raised as men, those of us with a feminine heart and a body that went through puberty as a male, finding the balance between our own deep knowledge and our obligations is very hard.   We know the power of love which leads us to know the power of performance, the gift we can give of being a man in the moment.

The notion that our commitment to manly duties is enhanced by the pull of our feminine hearts may at first seem surprising, but for those of us who committed as spouses, parents and caretakers, we know that our love, our need to both give and get love has shaped our choices.

One classic strategy for people assigned as male at birth who love women and have the power of the feminine in our heart is the “hobbyist” plan.   In this model, we define the choices we make to try and satisfy the yearning in our hearts as just play, just fun, just a hobby.

This hobby has often been called “crossdressing.”  In this model, choices are just about the clothing worn, just a kind of game to emulate females because of admiration or sexual stimulation.

Since the 1950s or 1960s there have been those who strongly advocated this model, even creating organizations that tried to make crossdressing safe for “heterosexual men,” by banning any kind of homosexual behaviour or attempt to actually emerge as women.    The leaders have often broken the rules they wanted to impose on others — Virginia Prince used hormones while railing against the folly of transexualism, for example –but they worked hard to promulgate the model as one that gave comfort to wives and those who clung to manhood.

The comfort of this hobbyist model was obvious, protecting masculine privilege by denying queerness.   For those who felt the pull of family obligations, or even just feared their own nature, it gave cover and comfort to be seen just as a crossdresser, just a guy who liked to dress up without any deeper meaning.

The problems with this model were also obvious.  Makeup artist Jim Bridges who worked trans conventions came up with two classic jokes:

What’s the difference between a straight crossdresser and a gay crossdresser?
— Three Drinks.

What’s the difference between a transvestite and a transsexual?
— Three Years.

The boundaries of dreams, especially dreams we first had as transkids, imagining a future, are never simple or logical.

In the recent HBO film “Wig!” I was touched to see two powerful drag queens. Willam and Lady Bunny both tell stories about how moved they were when they were seen as women — when they felt that they “passed” as being born female — if even for a moment.   Willam was called “m’aam” by a crack addict breaking in while Bunny was warned about her gown hanging out of a cab, but the power of their childhood dream flashing true moved each of them.

Is womanhood for people born male even possible?   I wrote on this in 1998, “The-Guy-In-A-Dress-Line,”  a piece Jamison Green called “Fabulous! A literary tour-de-force.

In my decades, I have seen that the power of womanhood is not in how we can look flawlessly feminine, passing as being born female by concealing much of ourselves, but rather in the choices we make, the way that we let our love and feminine truth flow.   While gay men may have seen Divine as just one of them, reduced to birth sex, at least some women saw her heart, understanding her as powerfully feminine.

Recently, a very popular blogger who spoke for the hobbyist model, for “emulating females,” has announced they are done, signing off their blog.

For many years I read their work, watching their focus on crossdressing and not womanhood.  For example, they recently featured a BBC comedy where a young gay man disguised himself as a crossdresser.  I saw that scene, but it was not that engaging to me, as I watch how the lead woman character carries herself, how they write and dress her.    Woman choices are much more compelling to me than crossdresser choices.

The blogger worked hard to carry a hobbyist model, even merging hobbies so they got to crossdress at other conventions.   Now, though, they are retired, and while they still have a wife with health challenges, I was seeing the pull of emergence work on them as they imagined bonding with women and having relationships with men as a woman.

They are still proud of the terms they introduced to support the hobbyist model, terms a wide audience of men with trans in their hearts engaged, living vicariously even as they dreamed of being more out with their own crossdressing.

That rapt audience, though, and their expectations of emulation, of putting on a mask, rather than of emergence, of breaking out of the egg, letting go of old habits and making the leap to fly, became a burden.   How do you satisfy people who want to live through your exploits when you need to do what terrifies them, being reborn beyond past limits?

The walls of our fort become the walls of our prison.  It becomes time to bust out, even if that is exactly the thing we have been resisting with all our might for so long.

The day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud
was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.
— Anaïs Nin

Blessings in blooming to each of you.