Gender Triumphs and Treasons
This section has personal stories by different kinds of people detailing their exploits and battles with gender in our society.
What gender stories would you like to know about? Me growing up longing for the aproval of my father and compenstating by allowing youthful assholes to tread all over me? My feelings of inadquacy as a teenager because I didn't look like the girls on MTV or on the TV? or, The story about how I can run a bulldozer, backhoe and excavator and an 18 yard dumptruck, and run lasers, lay pipe, but still get whistled at by passers by and tested repeatedly by co-workers about what I can do and what I know?
for a very long time, i have been a fag hag. in high school, my best friends were both gay - one was male, one was female. the female was my best friend first, and i knew she was gay in the ninth grade (i have an excellent sense of gaydar). she didn't figure it out until the summer of our 12th grade year - at least not totally. she was wearing men's cologne and had an enormous crush on wendy of prince's revolution, but somehow she never had a girlfriend. anyway that is beside the point...
after high school i had yet another male best friend, and then a female. this was a girl who was friends with my then-boyfriend, and i was so obsessed with him that when i noticed the big blonde chick following him around i didn't pick up on her then - i just wanted to know what he was doing with this blonde. once that was sorted we became fast & close friends, and have remained relatively close even though she has moved to another state and i see her about twice a year. since there were a plethora of chris's in our circle at that time, she became known as girl-chris, or chris-girl, the name she much prefers. for a brief period i called her christine, until she politely told me that she hated it. she's the best!
when i met my husband in 1992, we knew straight away that we would be getting married. my best friend, though, clinched the deal by taking him aside at a party and telling him that if he hurt me, she would kill him. she was not joking. she has always looked out for me, and so it was only natural that i ask her to be maid of honor in my wedding. and when i asked her, her first words were "you're not going to make me wear a dress, are you?"
bless her, no. i told her i would never dream of doing such a thing (in 11 years, i have seen her in a skirt twice - once for another girl, and once for a photo shoot we were doing where we dressed her up. she looked great, but it certainly didn't suit her). arrangements were made for her to wear a tux, and sad to say she looked better than most of the guys in it. but that's not surprising - two years before she went in male drag to a club, and with her long blonde mohawk pulled back and her delicate, yet not totally feminine features, everyone swore she looked just like Lestat. it was a proud moment! so there has never been any question about her.
it was about a year after my wedding. chris and i were going shopping, and for some reason we found ourselves at a major sports store. we were wandering around looking at this and that, she in her usual outfit of black tee-shirt, shorts, and combat boots, hair short and blonde and spiky, and me in my usual garb of the time, black tee-shirt, tights, a short skirt, and boots. we were quite the cute couple. so as we wandered the store, looking for whatever she needed, we found ourselves being followed by a couple, male and female, who were staring at us - mostly her - and mumbling to each other. this happened several times, with the same couple - who looked to be a nice, middle class pair - following us about. we decided to mess with them, as we sometimes did, and started holding hands. they kept following us. finally, as they went down one aisle and we went up another, with them still staring, i hollered out "stop staring at my BOYFRIEND!" it must have done the trick, because they stopped.
to this day, i wonder why i said "boyfriend". why didn't i say girlfriend? she was a girl; she was my friend; they were strangers, and didn't need to know there was no sexual relationship. but i hollered out "boyfriend", and later she thanked me. we got used to people like that. i guess we were an odd couple - me short, dark-haired, and girly in skirts, her tall, blonde, and butch. it must have looked even odder with my husband in tow!
I have this strange problem, er, not exactly a problem, but reaction from people. I'm male, and I wear boy-clothes, but somehow the loose-fitting pants/corduroys and button-up shirts only seem to accent my femininity. That is, people often mistake me for a woman. Men will wait to let me on the elevator or through the doors first and treat me with the condescending deference usually reserved for the ovary-equipped. It seems to happen more often on those days when I wear glasses instead of contacts. I think it is an interesting blurring of boundaries, that a man could be mistaken for a woman trying to look mannish, but in some way it is upsetting. Not because I mind being mistaken for female so much, but I don't like being treated like a woman, particularly by men. It gives me a peek into what a woman must go through on a day-to-day basis. Yes, there is some preferential treatment (like a man rushing to hold open a door for you), but rather than nice, it comes across as disempowering, as if I, or women, need such treatment because of some imagined innate inferiority or something. These men must think they're being gallant and noble, but someday I hope they realize that chivalry is dead and can start to accept sexual equality. "Man of La Mancha" these men should read.
When I was in high school, I dated a guy who was what some people might call "effeminate". (Mother was worried) As our relationship progressed, he slowly began adding some of my clothes to his wardrobe some shirts at first, but then a couple dresses. We didn't have the same size feet, so he wore some of my "larger footed" girl friends shoes. I really didn't think much of it. We were part of "that weirdo group" anyway… Besides, my wardrobe consisted of a lot of my stepfather's old clothes. I did receive a lot of unwanted attention by wearing these clothes. The attention mostly came as comments on the enormity of these clothes on me. People commented that I must have a "bun in the oven". No one ever accused me of being a cross dresser, though.
However, one day after noticing my boyfriend leaving my house dressed in an obviously feminine shirt of mine my mother made the comment that "perhaps he shouldn't be doing that sort of thing so much". Quizzically, I asked, "why not, I wear men's clothes all the time?"
My mother explained that "society" allows the INFERIOR sex (apparently, this meant female) to imitate the DOMINANT sex (male?), but does not find it acceptable when the dominant copies the inferior.
I was perturbed. I considered this view old-fashioned. (I mean really, women, the inferior sex?) Who made these rules? Why was she adhering to them? Why did I have to adhere to them?
Much later, after considering what she said, I decided that my mother wasn't necessarily being judgmental or prejudiced. I realized that she was cautioning us, or more specifically my boyfriend, against behavior that may cause him trouble in the future. And that this caution, as much as she thought she was doing right by us was still old fashioned. Sadly, I was reminded often in life by confrontations with many closed-minded people that she was right for the most part.
Michael's Trans at Work
There's an M-F (Male-Female) transsexual on my floor at work. It's a big office building, with something like 6,000 employees so you wouldn't expect to have one on your floor right nearby, but there she is (I've actually met one other one who works on a different floor, surprising to have 2 in one place like that, maybe more). This poor lass is maybe 6'2"-6'4" and built like a line-backer, but manages to look relatively identical to most of the female office workers there. Still, it's not so hard to tell that she is, or was originally, a man. That's not my problem, but was of course rounds for much of the talk in my office (the trans-lass was down the hall in another department), much of it centering on what a bad female she made by a woman who was ironically, or not so ironically, built very similarly, if not so tall. Apparently the gossip-mongers networked with workers from the office of the trans (whose name I never found out), and found out that trans was a pre-operative transsexual (which means for those who don't know that she's on all the hormones and therapy and living life as a woman, but still has possession of a penis). Well, the trans, whose operation was only a few months away, wanted to use the women's restroom at work, and our office was in an uproar. Particularly, the women, whose sacred grounds were about to be invaded by phallus. They just didn't feel comfortable with a "man" in there. I really wondered how much of a "man" the trans was by that point. I tried to argue that she wouldn't be too interested in peeking at women on toilets, but they'd not be dissuaded. It's more likely, I think, that another woman would peek, out of curiousity or perversion, than a person so disinterested in heterosexual manhood as to change their entire body chemistry and surgically alter their genitalia. That was a few weeks of hullabaloo, and I never really found out what happened. I think the trans was using the women's bathroom, and the "real women" suffered with it, until she got her operation, and now looks and acts no different, but has that o-so-important key to identity installed and operative.
Alecia's High School Boys in Skirts
Back when I was in seventh grade, I attended a fairly small school in Upstate New York. This school held seventh - twelfth grade and still only had a few hundred students enrolled. Being the youngest set of kids in a Junior-Senior high school can be quite intimidating. I remember being teased a bit by older boys, but mostly I remember looking up to the upperclassmen. They were men and women to me. Sophisticated. I really admired and looked up to a few of them. One time really stands out in my mind when I was just overcome with admiration.
One of the rules of the school was 'no wearing shorts until May'. Apparently they didn't want the summer laziness to move in too soon. Some time in the early part of April, a horrid heat wave moved in. Temperatures were well into the high 80's and everyone was suffering. On the third day of classes in the terrible heat, a group of senior guys decided to show up to school all wearing skirts. Hairy legs and all they donned jean skirts, short black skirts and one even wore a tight lycra red mini. Very sexy. Many kids giggled as they walked down the halls, some jaws dropped, teachers faces stern. This was a sight to see.
Turns out they all were called into the Principal's office. Being ordered to change their clothing, the students refused. Their argument was that since no one can wear shorts until May, and the girls can wear skirts, then so can the boys. Obviously this was too much for administration to handle. They were sent home for the day and ordered to return to school the next day dressed properly (pants, "male" clothing).
Once again, the young boys showed up in short skirts, allowing them to survive the terrible heat wave. By now, teachers were arguing with each other, tensions were rising and the students were facing some serious trouble. All because the clothing on the bottom half of their body didn't have cloth between the legs? All this uproar because 'males' were wearing 'female' clothing. These guys didn't care, they wanted to be relaxed, and cool, as their female counterparts are allowed to be.
In the end it all worked to their benefit. Because the boys refused to stop wearing skirts, the school changed the rules and allowed the students to wear shorts. It made them SO uncomfortable and upset that men were wearing skirts that the students were faced with detentions and suspensions and when they saw no other way to end the 'chaos', they finally gave in. It just goes to show how much trouble a guy in a skirt can cause.
People looking at me weirdly when i ask to buy men's shoes, since my feet don't usually fit into womyn's shoes. What i see more of is people excluding men from activities--and the atmosphere is one of acceptance that we keep those people out--to me, that is disturbing...
In the National Museum of Scotland, I went on a tour with a man who said after four females had gathered, "Oh, look, only ladies, oh, what a time am I going to have! He he he." or something like that. Then, about a woman who had a basket on her back, was sewing and barefoot, he commented that he hoped womyn's role in society was *easier* these days. He neglected to notice that men probably worked really hard physically in those days, and why were womyn not qualified for hard physical labor. She didn't look happy, but she didn't look frail otherwise..
Jessica's Toenail Polish
Last summer, I met a guy who wore those sport sandals that I don't care for so much but seem fairly popular. Anyway, it was because of those sandals that I noticed he wore blue polish on his toenails.
One day, I asked an older friend of mine who works in my office what she thought of this guy. She said, "Oh honey, I don't know, I think he might be, you know "AC/DC"". I laughed. I totally didn't get that vibe from this guy at all. When I asked her why she thought this, she explained that it was because he wore nail polish. I admitted to her that I thought he might have been trying to get a reaction out of people, maybe get a little shock value or something by wearing the polish.
I found out later, when he and I got to be friends, that he was camouflaging a (barely perceptible) imperfection in one toenail by wearing the polish. He chose blue because it was a "manly" color. THAT'S IT. Go figure.
Medusa's Dress Code Blues
As a young man, I attended Christian Brothers Academy, where we had a strict dress code to follow. There I had my first taste of sexual discrimination. Which is typically thought to be an institution discriminating against females, but in my case, it was much more against males. Males were required to wear slacks, men's dress shoes, dress-shirt (button-up) with a tie. Females were required to wear dress slacks OR skirts, dress shirts/blouses, OR dresses, with dress shoes (men's, women's or pumps). They could also wear ties, if they CHOSE to. Females were allowed to have hair any length as long as it was neat and clean. Men were required to have neat and clean hair cut above the collar of their dress shirts, no longer. Females were allowed to wear a moderate amount of makeup. Males were required to come to school clean-shaven with no makeup. Females could get away with stretch pants and a lot more relaxed clothing; males had to wear mostly uncomfortable slacks and choking neckties at all times, even in summer.
While I did manage to grown long (unpainted) nails, the thing that bothered me most was the hair length. What was the problem? A man's hair can be long and neat and clean, and in all depictions I've seen of Jesus, the founder of the entire religion of Christianity (upon whose teachings the school was supposedly based) has long hair. I grew familiar, as with some other friends, at being told to get a haircut. Towards the end of my last year there (I think it was the last day of school), me and a few friends (one other male, 2 females) thought it would be cool to all have pigtails. The other male friend was told to take his out in homeroom. My homeroom teacher didn't seem to mind. As I walked upstairs to my first class (blond pigtails bobbing along), I heard a noise behind me which quickly became thundering footsteps. I was violently grabbed and spun around. Brother Michael (who used to work at a reform school and you could tell by his muscular bulk and blustering authority), was standing there red-faced and furious. He screamed, "TO THE BATHROOM, TAKE THEM OUT NOW!!!!!" I sneered something about not needing the bathroom, took out the pigtails and walked away shaking. I guess I didn't expect a reaction that bad, I just thought it would be funny, and slightly against the rules.
I didn't end up going back there for my senior year, I wonder why. I do recall one dress-down day (rare occurences where you were supposed to be able to wear what you want) where several boys wore long black skirts, they were suspended until their parents came to bring them pants to wear. I still get pissed if someone tells me to cut my hair [for being male] like the assholes at Trustco Bank where I applied for a job years ago. The woman (a freaking G.I. Jane brush-cut type) mistakenly informs me "This is a professional environment, you'll need to cut your hair of course." I responded "How short?" (willing to at least consider a slight trim). She stuttered trying to come up with a response, eventually spitting out something about "appropriate length".. Needless to say, I never got a call back, which is just as well, I need to cut down on my cursing.