The "Guy-In-A-Dress" Line
It's at the heart of transgender -- and why people reject the whole transgender idea.
by Callan Williams
"Miss Gay America is about Gay men being Gay men, and the art of female impersonation," said Norman Jones, the owner the pageant, explaining that the policy against transsexuals is key to the pageant's philosophy.
"Otherwise you're a blob of collagen."
this is the great
dividing line of transpeople
some cling to guy-in-a-dress
and after all
or is there no hope
"Transsexualism is a much more profound, deep-seated identity disorder, not cross-dressing as a hobby they do on a Saturday night," said Dr Russell Reid, an English based psychiatrist who sees four new transsexual patients every week. "It's not the same as the gay boys who cross dress and the drag queens - that's a game, they're parody women."
The line that runs though the heart of the transgender idea, at least for people born male, is the line of where being a-guy-in-a-dress ends and where being a woman starts.
People who reject the transgender idea reject it because of their position on being a guy-in-a-dress. For crossdressers and female impersonators, they want to be a guy-in-a-dress, no matter what they do, retaining the position as men in the system of desire, whether they desire straight women or gay men. For transsexuals, they never want to be seen as guys-in-dresses, no matter what they do, retaining the position of woman in their cultural context.
"Identifying a drag queen as a trannie isnít even comparing apples and oranges, itís more like apples and Volkswagens.
as in post-op, pre-op, and often even non-op
recently been very irked to see some well known clubs using the term trannie, or
a transgender woman I believe that itís necessary to educate the public
Though I adore drag queens, they parody women.
are women; women who often have to struggle daily for our human rights.
believe itís high time that when a popular club exploits the transgender
Glorya Wholesome, NYC Party Promoter
In transgender spaces on the Internet, the discussion almost always turns on this issue: does biology and history define us as always men, no matter what we do to change our choices, our role or our body, or are we really defined by what we believe ourselves to be and to have always been?
For trans people, their stand on this issue defines how they approach the world with their own choices. Are they merely crossdressers, just changing clothes? Are they really women, with a disorder of having a female brain in a male appearing body that comes from birth? Are they just doing it for the show? Are they standing up for the right to be eccentric and individual and where whatever they want as a man? Are they demanding to enter women's spaces, with or without surgery? Do they claim there is no real difference between men and women, or do they want to keep separate from guys-in-dresses?
How can we approach this issue in a way that doesn't trigger our fears, push us to try and erase people who have a different position, and find some consensus?
The issue for transpeople-born-female is embracing manhood, not abandoning woman, so it's phrased slightly reversed -- the line is the "really a man" line. Drag Kings and Butches -- and even Les Feinberg -- avoid manhood and cling to their woman identification, for personal, political and sexual reasons.
it's much harder for women to crossdress,
This is the problem: we can't yet change the sex of a human body.
We can, though intervention with hormones and surgery, change the appearance and even some body functions, femaling a male body, but not making it female, as a Texas court recently ruled in denying widows status to a transsexual woman to a man born male, ruling it to be a same sex marriage and void.
Even for transsexuals who claim they were born with a "female brain" in an otherwise normal male body -- a claim that cannot be made on any objective criteria -- have to ask why medical science should not work to fix their brain to their body, rather than the body to the brain.
It's not clear why transsexual surgery should be viewed as different than any other form of body modification, from breast implants to castration to genital nullification, none of which change the sex of the body even when they change some external sexual characteristics.
Being femaled may well add to the quality of your life, give you peace and standing to change your life, make sexual relationships better, even if it doesn't change the sex of your body. Do people of asian decent turn white when they get an operation to open the epicanthral folds in their eyelids and make them more round eyed than almond eyed? Or do they just feel better about themselves, change their appearance to others?
Legendary Miss Iodine works as a boy at a local car dealership.
Iodine reports straight men often blanch when they examine the photo.
Why? Because she is so pretty, they think they might hit on her and take her home.
Does that make them homosexual?
The fundamental differentiation between humans is by sex. We read reproductive sex quickly, and we read it well.
Identifying people by sex is fundamental to control of reproduction and child rearing, which is the primary function of a system of gender. If human reproduction was not based on being sexually dimorphic -- and any species which is between 45-49% one thing and 45-49% another over a very large sample can be considered dimorphic -- then the system of gender, if it existed, would be very different.
If we cannot yet change sex, change males to females, females to males, then the division of people by sex which is fundamental to control sexual reproduction stays fundamental.
Gender is a system of communication that enforces social order around sexual relations, reproduction and child rearing though the establishment and communication of gender roles and expectations. Women are mommies and men are daddies. Since procreation is fundamental to the continuation of the species and the culture, gender is important.
Though gendered expression we advertise the role we are trained and willing to play in the dance of human reproduction. When our gendered claims are at odds with our individual behaviors, social pressure ensues. This is why people who are not firmly fixed in the gender/sex connection, by being femaled if woman or by staying man and male, give political activists headaches.
Transvestism is about changing your clothes.
Transsexualism is about changing your body.
Transgender is about changing your mind.
Every person born male with transgender feelings has to come to a position on being a guy-in-a-dress. Is being a-guy-in-a-dress a fact of life that will always be true for anyone born with a penis and identified as male at birth, or is being a-guy-in-a-dress a total erasure of the truth of who we know ourselves to be?
Whatever we choose, we know that is the line we have to watch, because we run the risk of having our manhood yanked from us because we are a 'femiphile' or we have the risk of being a guy-in-a-dress when people discover our birth genital configuration in any moment. It's this line where the skirmishes occur, this boundary that is policed heavily by everyone involved in transgender.
The premise of SSS has always been to say that just because a man likes to pad his body, dress up, wear makeup and be called by a woman's name, doesn't mean he isn't a real heterosexual man. Many transsexual groups say that "real transsexuals" were never really men, or even really male, that the appearance of functioning male reproductive organs was just some kind of birth defect.
Transvestites argue that if they just change their clothes, everything else stays the same, stays normative
Transsexuals argue that if they change their bodies, their "sex" changes, becomes normative.
Transgender folk argue that as they change their minds, they become more fully themselves, whatever normative is. Some take this to an extreme and say society doesn't need a normative at all, others say that norms are useful, but should only be a starting point, not an end point.
say "I am a normal guy, in a dress."
say "I am a normal female woman, who was born with a penis."
The division between transpeople is not their behavior or their desires, but their level of rationalization and pretense. It is not what they feel called to do, but how they choose to manage and justify those callings.
Do we deny the feelings? Do call them a sickness that needs a cure? Do we sublimate them?
How do we face the pressure to appear normative when we know that we are not normative -- we are males who are called to make choices society has categorized as feminine, as appropriate to women and not appropriate to men?
Do we try and just indulge being a guy in a dress, or do we run from every really being male?
Transgendered people are exceptions in a vast sea of people for whom the idea of social division by genital configuration makes perfect sense. There has never been a society without gender, and the vast majority females like being women, males like being men.
It's easy for transgendered people to know what they hate, what they reject, what they find oppressive, what they want to run from. It's hard for us to know what we want to be, where we are willing to settle and assimilate.
We may be an immigrant to woman, or we may be in exile from man.
you can have lots of
after all, I should
really a guy
There is nothing like that moment when your gender switches in someone's eyes.
It might be the moment the cop reads your license, or the moment the guy next to you starts hitting on you. In that second, you aren't anymore what you believe you are, you have been re-gendered by the observation of another.
There is a choice in that moment: try to reclaim or play it as it lays. Do you assert you are really a man, try to claim you are really a woman?
Jhana Steele, actress and Las Vegas showgirl, replied to a reporter who said she fooled him into thinking she was a woman, "No, I convinced you I am a woman." Part of that is the extraordinary way her body has been feel femaled, and part of that is the seamless choices of a woman she makes, but she doesn't fool anyone -- she just expresses her truth.
crossdressers, of course
Kymberleigh Richards, former publisher of Crosstalk (and not nearly as easily femaled as Ms. Steele), recalls when a twenty-something gent with a set of Lexus keys who was ahead of her in line at the Thrifty Drug turned and said "You're not fooling anyone, you know." Kym replied, "Good. That wasn't the point."
The reason we want to pass as being born the normative sex for our gender presentation is simple: it means we don't have to negotiate the fears of other people, don't have to worry about what people think every time we go into the women's room.
crossdressing is normal, but gays
(and every transperson
no matter how good
being a guy in a dress is
"A fanatic is
If we can't change out
Is trans behavior about concealing your history and biology, or is transgender about revealing your inner spirit?
Is the only choice we have to lie, either to lie about who we were, to lie about our body, or to lie about our inner feelings? Is there a way to tell the truth about both things and not be dismissed as a guy in a dress?
If we do tell truths most people find conflicting, both male and woman, do we become marginalized, written off as weird, freaks, out of society?
How do we create mature models of transgender if transgender stays only an adolescent phenomenon, about change and not about stability, about being a transforming child and not taking a role as a stable parent?
Maybe the ultimate trans operation is having the stick removed from your butt, the rigid pole that we use to hide our true fluid nature, the pole that stops us from becoming all we can be.
i don't identify as a
i do identify as
but what does that
The word ma'am would
choke in his mouth
The drill is the same
Any wonder why
The question for me is the same: How do I feel safe making the choices of a woman? It's a question many struggle with -- being terrified people will feel betrayed if they see us as a woman born female -- passing -- , then discover she is born male and then feel betrayed and lied to.
The choices most trannys (born male) have discovered is
lets read these choices
I am at a workshop for GLBT people and the facilitator insists on calling me "he."
"What am I saying that makes you believe I see myself as a 'he?'" I ask.
"Is it my women's shoes, my women's stockings, my women's dress, my women's makeup, my women's makeup, my women's hair?
is it just the fact you can determine I was born male,
"Can't you hear over my penis?"
does one deal with transpeople?
course, that's how you should deal with everyone.
Is trans just about the drive to change clothes, and not the drive to express something deep within?
Is trans just about being born with the wrong body, and not being born with the power to cross worlds, walk though walls others see as solid?
Is trans just about performing on stage, and not about the performance of gender we make everyday?
Is trans for people born male just about guys in dresses, or is trans about saying that guys-in-dresses aren't really guys at all?
We can't yet change the sex of a body, no matter how many operations and how many powerful hormones we survive.
We can change our choices to transcend history and biology. We can define our role in culture by defining how we perform who we are inside.
Do we try to learn the tricks of the trade and pass, or do we work to actually learn the trade we claim?
I really do love my
my secret dream
I can be a a drag
Gender roles are good and valuable.
Rules are a basis for a stable society.
Transcending those rules, though, and creating new ones, is the only way progress can be made.
guy-in-a-dress is the cleft