Saturday, February 20, 2010

Seeing Myself as the Woman I Am

Although I have been dressing as a woman for nearly 5 months now, it has taken a while for me to see myself as a woman, not as a man dressed as a woman.

Now when I see myself, I do see a woman. Sometimes I even catch myself wondering how other people can see me as a man.

My longer hair does help some but that's not all it is. I think it's mainly overcoming the years of being told that crossdressing is wrong or that I would never look good as a woman and being able to see myself as the woman I am. It's not about trying to copy someone else but learning to appreciate the things that make me a woman.

Another thing that happened recently that boosted my confidence came after speaking in front of a class of 250 undergrads. After my talk, I was discussing it with the professor and she said she noticed that I was saying "I feel," which to her is a very feminine way of speaking, instead of "I think," which to her is more masculine. She asked if I had made a conscious decision to do that and I said no because it's something I hadn't even realized I was doing, it's just the way I talk. I often get asked during the Q&A portions of my talks what I feel is most different about being a woman or what I like more about being a woman over being a man. It's always difficult for me to answer these types of questions because I don't feel that I act all that differently; I feel in many ways that I've always been a feminine person, it just seems to match better now that I'm living as a woman instead of as a man. I may not have ever really known/understood what it meant to be a man.

As good as I may have been feeling recently, life always wants to remind me that others don't always see me the same way that I see myself. This evening I went to see a friend in a community theater production. When I got to the box office to pay for my ticket, the woman behind the counter said "Can I help you, sir?" That little honorific was all I needed to be reminded once again that not everyone will see me for the woman I feel I am.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Transgender Geek

After nearly a month, I'm finally back for a new post. It's always tough for me to get into the groove of things again at the start of a new semester and often makes it difficult to find time to other things, like post to a blog (at least that's the excuse I'm using for not having posted in so long...).

Anyway, I've been wanting to talk for a while about being a transgender geek. By "transgender geek" I mean a transgender person who also identifies as a geek, not a person who is a geek for trangender things (though I may be one of those too since I love discovering anything new related to trangenderism, including films, TV shows, books, blogs, etc.). I touched on this topic a little bit in an earlier post, Cosplay and Conventions on September 18, 2009, but I want to talk about it a little more in depth.

My life as a geek began at a very young age. I remember as a child watching cartoons like G.I. Joe, Voltron and He-Man but those were just preparation for what I consider my first geek passion: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I loved the cartoon and would spend hours playing with the action figures I had collected. The show also featured prominently in my early transgender identity. I remember watching the show one day and wishing I could grow up to be like April O'Neil, the Turtles sexy reporter friend, but feeling I was more likely to grow up to be like Irma, April's frumpy assistant. Dreaming of being a woman when I grew up did not seem strange to me; I was more interested in what type of woman I would be.

April O'Neil

My geek identity continued to develop along with my transgender identity. I've always tended to be more into viusal texts, the Star Wars films, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Audrey Hepbun films, etc., than other forms of expression. I've always been a slow reader and may have felt a little intimidated by the numerous books that made up long-running scifi and fantasy series. I was also really into videogames in junior high and high school, even receiving a scolding from my mother once for having my nose buried in a videogame magazine which she felt would lead me to "never get a girlfriend" (if she only knew at the time what she would be getting upset at me about in the future...). I still play videogames, I do have a Wii, when I can but videogames are usually the first thing to be put to the side when I get busy.

Not long into my high school life I discovered anime and that has remained my main geek passion for over ten years. After twisting my knee at a summer church camp, I was recuperating at home when I first saw the series Sailor Moon. Though I had seen some anime before, Sailor Moon was the first show that seemed noticably different to me. I loved the monster-of-the-week story that expanded as the series went on, the characters you could identify with and, of course, the cute costumes. The series also stood out to me because it featured a cast of female characters in the "boys only" world of afternoon cartoons.

Sailor Moon is a good example of the difficulty I have in separating my geek and transgender identities. For my developing transgender identity, shows like Sailor Moon proved an important milestone by offering female characters to identify with. My love of anime has grown over the years to include many more great shows and great characters. I also regularly attend anime conventions and participate in cosplay, dressing up as my favorite characters and also in my Gothic Lolita finery.

No one's identity can be defined by only one aspect. I believe people need to continue to explore the different aspects of their identity and the way these different aspects interact. I also don't think transgender people should have to hide certain parts of who they are; we've had to do too much of that in our lives. I'm not ashamed to have been a fan of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, to play videogames or to be an avid anime fan. I also don't think that having these passions make me any less of a woman. I hope that all transgender people can be as open about who they are and have been, not having to hide certain parts of who they are to try to fit some idea of what it means to be a woman or man.