Secret Identities and In-Between Spaces
I’m a big mess of contradictions.
I think that from my last post this is probably clear. Some boys grow up to be very nice women who have no fashion sense. It happens.
I deal with the major manifestation of my paradoxical nature every day, though some days are stranger than others. I’ve had plenty of hassles because my legal name is still my old, male one (that changes in January—my name change hearing is set for the 13th), and I still have to sign the old name on a few holiday cards to family members not in the know. Also, some days my voice won’t work well, and it dips back into the male range. This always makes me think of that scene in Spaceballs where the protagonists catch Princess Vespa singing in a very low register, and Barf remarks, surprised, “She’s a bass!” Therefore I’m both embarrassed and snickering.
This is how my mind deals with the pressures of transgender life: constant pop culture references.
Another favorite piece of pop culture I found myself dwelling on back when I spent my entire life outside of work as female was that completely unbelievable transformation of Clark Kent to Superman—just by changing clothes and removing his glasses. Nobody ever caught on somehow. I mean, what if he lost his glasses one day? He’d be screwed! But what I’d do is I’d go through another miserable day at work with everyone treating and seeing me as male, then race out to the car and rip off the massive men’s pullover I was wearing. Underneath lay my secret identity: a women’s top in some girly color or other. And presto chango, male to female, just like that.
I did this while walking to where my wife works one day when she had the car (she works only a few miles from me, I like walking it when it’s warm out). I had on the usual underneath, a purple shirt with a deeper purple floral pattern. What? I told you about the fashion sense.
At some point about halfway there I couldn’t take it anymore, and knelt by the side of the road, took off the loose-fitting men’s overshirt I’d worn to work, and stuffed it into my bag. I looked around—only one person was staring at me with a WTF expression on her face. Close enough. I kept walking, feeling less warm and a lot less oppressively miserable.
A few minutes later I glanced at my reflection in a store window. A small-breasted, thickset woman with long brown hair stared back. Just three blocks before, I’d glanced into a car window and seen a stocky, long-haired, sad-looking man walk by. For a moment I felt this weird elation, like I’d just gotten away with something. I have a secret identity, I thought. Cool!
But then I thought, No, it can’t be that easy. Can it? I’d been taking female hormones for a little under five months at that point, and the effects were starting to show. My facial fat had shifted just enough, and I had developed the beginnings of some actual curves—which the fit of the women’s shirts showed off a bit. The big men’s shirts hid all that, except for the face, but back there at work most people didn’t think of me as anything but male (well, okay, there was that time I was in the men’s room and some little kid came in, then turned around and left, shouting, “There’s a girl in there!” but that was the exception, not the rule). Could it be that I’d hit a point where just a change of clothes completely shifted everyone’s perception of what my gender was? Was that my “Clark Kent taking his glasses off and loosening his tie” moment?
How embarrassing that my secret identity should just be, well, me.
That’s the thing, though. Clark Kent and Superman are the same guy. Yes, duh, we know this. But they’re similar in so many ways, so much so that there really isn’t a solid dividing line between them. Both are good, quiet, simple guys who have relatively straightforward ideals. On the surface, it seems like they’re opposites. But when it comes down to it, the difference is mostly in the way people perceive each of them.
As for me, I’d hit a point where I was so androgynous that all I needed to do was give people enough of a visual clue to put me in one category or another. What does that say about the high wall we think separates the genders, though? I feel like, instead of smashing through or vaulting over, I just sort of… slipped across one day, without quite knowing I’d done it.
Make no mistake, I’m glad I’m firmly on this side of wherever that line is in more than just personal identity now. It’s a wonderful relief from a physical and psychic pressure that had been eating into me for a long, long time, and it works for me. But the whole experience made me think, what if there is no sharp, easy-to-see line to cross? I thought, what if instead of two points separated by a high fence, gender is more like a vast, island-dotted sea?
And, in fact, I’ve met people who live their lives quite happily in this space. I may turn out to be one of them, though my body, brain and heart are all still working that out.
Huh. Maybe I’m less of a paradox than I thought.