When I decided at the age of 26 that I was going to finally gender transition, I was lovingly informed that I had to hang up my heels and become a real guy. One photographer friend of mine offered to give me “dude lessons” (sadly, not a euphemism for having sex with him). Another old friend informed me that transguys don’t do drag, or wear makeup. A small army of FtM folks and their allies I knew said that for the first few years after transition you have to stay a mans man in some way… its hard enough for people to get used to the pronoun change.
So I did. I would dress sharp in 3 piece suits or maybe on a brave day wear a pair of goggles and go a bit steam punk… but that was it. I bound back my breasts, started on hormones, jumped through hoops getting ready for surgery, and always dressed as butch as I could imagine. I found this all hilarious, mixed in with the hilarity. I mean, hadn’t others challenged me into being a high femme woman?
Growing up I didn’t identify femme. I wasn’t allowed to really. I was a genderqueer kid who was taller than anyone else in her class, sprouting up to 5’9” in 4th grade before settling in just shy of 6ft. I was strong, a math wiz, and brainiac. The reality is no one who knew me as a kid was surprised when I came out as debating gender as a teen or finally transitioned in my mid-late 20s. And as the strong brainiac one who would never dream of being under a size 16, it was oh so easy to become a street punk butch dyke.
But I was doubling as a femme fag. My first boyfriend saw it and encouraged it, but the women I dated all saw my size and firmness and boy-ness and went “oh- BUTCH!” The lenses we each wear, right? But that vision from the men I dated of me as super curvy goddess led to that flicker of femme to grow. To simmer. To bubble. And eventually it became this thing I wore, a fine layer of lip gloss under the surface of my being. The thing I broke out and put on high volume when I needed to sneek into a nightclub- breasts first and deep red lips following.
I finally fell in love with a bloke in England who, based on our Dominant/submissive dynamic, informed me I would become a woman. More accurately, a high femme he’d be proud to have on his arm. Well, the lip gloss just beneath the surface was there, so he just scratched and peeled away the outer flesh and built that gloss up to a high shine. Platform boots, velvet skirts, growing my hair out, learning how to do makeup that wasn’t for the stage. But it always was a bit drag queen or costume… which was oddly hot for me. It was femme, but looking back, it was femme fag.
By the time he and I broke up, it had become habit for venturing out in public. Lipstick as my sword, corset as my armor, handbag as my shield. I was still a mix- punk patches, combat boots… I always will be, and I personally believe that all of those things are femme too. Thus when I arrived in the adult film industry, I had a great rack, a collection of heels, over the top makeup… and a career was born.
But 6 years later I shaved my head, and another year later I began discussing my transition out loud. People looked at me and started arguing. But aren’t you femme? Don’t you love corsets, heels, and being fabulous? Don’t you perform, cook, and do sex work?
I had flashbacks to being in high school at my therapists office. I had heard about this FtM thing and decided it was me. She looked at me and said, but don’t you prefer men? Overall, yes, but I sometimes like girls too. But don’t you say you like wearing women’s clothes? Yes, I do, so what. Stockings are sexy. But didn’t you say you are not dysphonic about your vagina? Its true- I like having sex with my vagina.
We’re not interested in creating a fag, she said.
It was all back. You have one right way to do it. That’s it.
It had been 14 months since I had publically come out as being trans, changed my name in the public world, and 5 months after my chest surgery. I was going to a sexuality conference called Dark Odyssey and was going to go to their formal dinner night. Everyone I knew was dressing to the 9s, and I had no idea what to wear.
My orange and black corset tumbled out of the closet.
I sucked in my breath, and heard them all yelling. The friend with the dude lessons. The councilor from high school. The what you should voices.
Girdle. Seamed stockings. Platform high heels. Layers of black skirts, short in front and long in back. Tight corset. Flat furry chest with a black wrap shirt over it to stay warm. Huge wig. Eye shadow. Mascara for miles. Lipstick. And glitter in my beard.
Whatever I am, femme is part of it. And its not about pleasing the world. Its about pleasing myself, and living fully.
A dude with glitter in his beard.