Contemplations on queerness, transness, and other Otherness.

Monday, April 30, 2012

inscribing contradiction: living in-between tranny and faggot

       i’m getting ready to go to the doctor to talk about changing my hormone dosages. i want to find out if it’s possible to maintain my current in-between body.

       A few months ago i looked in the mirror. The act of looking in the mirror is nothing special for me, i do it a lot; at least once per outfit. What was striking was that i realized that i was happy with my body. i was enamored with my tiny tits, the relatively light accumulation of fat around my hips and ass, the lessened muscles on my arms that still left behind some definition.

       This body is a long way from where it was when i started hormones, but it’s also still a long way from where i thought it was going to end up. When i’d started hormones i wanted to get read as a cis woman, to live in stealth. That was the only trans* story i really thought was possible in my life. That’s shifted.

       i began feeling empowered by being trans*. People started seeing me as trans*. Folks began telling me things like “i don’t see you as man or woman, just as elle.” At first this felt unsettling, but as i became more and more comfortable in myself it felt infinitely more affirming than it ever did to be accepted as a woman (although there were moments when that was, admittedly, quite nice). i learned to truly reclaim myself in several ways.

       i’m learning to simultaneously embrace a trans* identity and a faggot identity. Empowerment took deep root in harsh sites of oppression, yielding an incredibly resilient growth. These identities may seem incongruent with one another, yet for me they both stem from the same place of resiliently being things that have been cast violently against me. Rejecting the idea that these terms were poisonous, holding them, cultivating them, led me to a self that feels truly comfortable.

       i started to wonder how to maintain a body in which it was easy to inscribe both of these seemingly contradictory identities. A friend asked me if it mattered if i was visible as both of these things. Her question came from an understandable, even laudable, place of recognizing that identity and presentation are not always the same.

       But i could only say, “Yes, incontrovertibly, i want to be read as both of those things.” First and foremost, this is about how i am able to interact with the world. Whether or not i like it, i have to acknowledge the state of society right now. People read things onto bodies and interact with them differently as a result. Recognizing this reality, i want a body that allows me to interact with the world in the way(s) that feel the best. For me, the least comfortable interaction i’ve experienced is being read as a cis, straight, white man, while the most comfortable is when people read me as a completely unique and deeply queer individual. These moments allow me to feel my interactions are somehow genuine.

       Inscribing both faggot and tranny on my body is important to me beyond rendering my interactions. It’s also about posing a physical, sartorial challenge to what bodies are considered permissible, good, and beautiful. Rejecting assimilationism is of unrivaled importance. After working incredibly hard to reject normative femininity and create my own place, it’s important to me to not strive for a body standard that is based in rigid gender normativity.

       i want my mere presence to raise this question in spaces i’m in. i want to position myself outside of socially accepted gender categories. i want to open people’s minds to the possibility of other ways of existing, and other forms of beauty. This does not just mean creating a new or unique gender presentation, although this is an important component. It also means recognizing that people read genders onto physical bodies. It means acknowledging that i have taken agency in that process by starting to alter my body and trying to increase that agency by attempting to put the brakes on it at this key moment.

       i feel blessed to have recognized this moment as a unique opportunity. Thankfully i’ve found strength in my sense of self as Other, as non-binary, at the same moment that i’m getting read as trans* by almost everyone. Much of this, admittedly, has to do with the way i dress, affect, present, etc. And i am constantly seeking out ways to queer my presentation. But some of it, undoubtedly, has something to do with the visibility of my in-between physicality.

       i’ve also started to notice that i’ve been getting read as female slightly more frequently, and was recently told by someone that i’m “passable” (As unsettling as that moment was, as that word always is, i’ll address it more in a later post). Each time that i’ve “passed” has felt uncomfortable. It always feels like one of the most important vectors of my life has been rendered insignificant. Quite simply, i am not cis and do not want to be thought of as such.

       The slight increase in frequency of being read as anything other than trans* as been alarming, and left me with a sense of urgency. i want to act in time to stop this from becoming my reality. i did not come out only to eventually hide again. This is not to say that trans* people who choose to/want to be read in binary ways are hiding, simply that my identity places more emphasis on trans* than it does anything else and i want that to be visible. Were i to feel more emphasis on being a lady, i would probably feel significantly different, and want to be read as such.

       i also want to retain visibility as a faggot. That is a part of my history and my life as well. At this point, when i flirt with people whom i read to be gay men, it is (at least with those who are more queer and/or open) well taken. i’m still perceived to be a like being in some way. Although i do not identify as a man, i do retain a sense of self as faggot and don’t want to give that up. i don’t want to give up my capacity to interact with the world in that way, much like how i don’t want to give up interacting with the world as trans*.

       After getting stuffed into trash cans while hearing that word, and then coming to embrace it, it’s not something i’m wont to give up any time soon. With trans* (in)visibility, being read as a cis woman would erase my transness. With my faggot identity, being read as a woman would erase my faggotness. This is something that’s been hard to describe to people, who often can’t seem to grasp the idea of a non-male faggot. But for me it is about my history, and also about resistance.

       More simply, this process is about honoring the fact that i’m truly happy with my body. It’s about cherishing the fact that i really do feel beautiful in my own skin. That was the purpose of going on hormones in the first place, so it simply makes sense to try to halt the changes when i’m happy with them rather than trying to achieve some prescribed normative standard.

       Unfortunately, i haven’t been able to find any useful information on this topic, so i’m not entirely sure that it’s possible to balance an in-between body. This lack of information is probably just another case of erasure of non-normative bodies. But after telling another friend about how i was feeling, she encouraged me to call my doctor. It seemed so simple and obvious to just ask and try. So i’m getting ready to go and am hoping for the best.