Reflections on Our Gender Presentation

By Lisa P.

There are certain issues that TG people may be best-placed to explore.  Such as, why are certain things “feminine” in the first place?  For example, why is lace feminine?  Why are little bows, or crocheted flowers on a blouse feminine?  Why are 23 different shades, instead of just 3 colors (blue, brown and black), feminine?  Why are long fingernails and colored polish feminine?  Why is long hair, permed hair, styled hair and colored hair (other than black) feminine?  Why are three-quarter shirtsleeves and three-quarter pant legs feminine?  Why are purses feminine?  Why are side or back zippers feminine?  Why are wedges and high heels feminine?  Why are soft fabrics and hosiery feminine?  For that matter, why are short shorts feminine, shaved legs feminine, dangly earrings feminine, thin bracelets feminine or necklaces with precious stones feminine? 

Of course, anything addressing specifically a woman’s health is necessarily feminine.  But, I was thinking here in terms of attire, style and presentation.  The only clothing item which clearly is feminine (based on anatomy) is the brassiere.  I suppose one could argue that men with gynecomastia (enlarged breasts) should wear them, but the clear need for a woman to wear a bra or a bra substitute is to provide support for her mammary glands. I should add that the opposite is not true, as there is no need for men to have support for their unique bit of anatomy, except when playing sports (if you don’t believe me, explain the current trend to wear boxer shorts, which provide zero support for the male appendage and are akin to “going commando”!).  Over a lifetime, lack of support makes breasts sag, but the male appendage is pretty much just hanging there anyway!

Therefore, I would argue that everything in terms of attire, style and presentation except the brassiere is purely an artificial construct.   Furthermore, I believe it is accurate to say that men (or some men who don’t identify as women) have dabbled at various times with all of the items listed in the first paragraph above as feminine, although not all at once.  Also, it is pretty clear that women have at times rejected some or all of them as well.

Yet, TG people, unlike the men who have sampled some of these items or women who have rejected some of these items, tend to like almost all of them precisely because they are constructed to be feminine and attributed to females or dislike almost all of them precisely because they are constructed to be feminine and attributed to females.

Does it make sense for TG persons to do that?

Here is a thought experiment for you.  Close your eyes and imagine you are sitting in a chair in the middle of an empty room.  You are completely naked (thankfully, the chair is covered in fabric, so you do not have a cold bottom!).  Are you male or female in this mind’s image?  Does it matter?  Only you “see” yourself in this room.  There are no things around or on you to affect who you are as a male or female – you are left with the body you have.  Now, imagine that you must decide to put on just one piece of clothing or one accessory.  Whatever you want will be brought to you and no one will see what it is, or see you put it on.  What is that item?  Why did you choose it?  Does that choice reflect your feeling of being male or female?  Given the context, does it matter?  How does that one item change the way you felt a moment earlier when you wore nothing at all?

The point of that thought experiment is to make it clear that we all create our own version of what it means to be feminine or masculine, in our own heads, all the time.  You aren’t alone in a room all the time, but you are still making the choice of what makes you feel feminine or masculine all the time; it may or may not involve things that you or others view as feminine or masculine.  Likely, you are constantly seeking validation that you have chosen well and that others then see you as being the gender you have chosen.  But, they have their own version of what reflects that gender.  They may reject your choice solely based on their own choices.  They may embrace your choices solely based on their own choices.  How does what they choose to do regarding you have anything whatsoever to do with how you see yourself?  Being female (wholly or partly) or being male (wholly or partly) is simply who you are and it doesn’t change simply because you adopt external things that are deemed by the majority of the population to be aligned with one gender.

My conclusion is this: female or male is a state or condition; feminine or masculine is an artificial construct.  We need to embrace who we are on the inside and everything else should sort itself out.

I have decided for myself that nothing that I am wearing will change how I feel inside, where my inner woman dwells.  I may like, and even seek, your validation of my gender choice, but I don’t need it, as I am whole without it.

8 thoughts on “Reflections on Our Gender Presentation”

  1. Lisa,
    I guess this raises the often hotly debated comment ” It’s not about the clothes !” I have this conversation with my TS friend , she doesn’t think it matters and cites the example of being in a nudist camp . My reply to her is ” Never going to happen !” The broader picture is we use items of clothing to make statements , to express our rank , status and for many of us gender . In the past we reached a situation where we needed women to help in WW1 & WW2 , the uniforms were redesigned into more figure featured styles , the fabrics often softened , it begs the question why ? Part of the answer was to encourage women to join and still look feminine , I’d like to think out of respect for women and what was so wrong with that ? Have we gone too far the other way , do we really need to have unisex uniforms etc .? Is it really politically correct or political madness ?
    To dress as a woman is so different to dressing as a man , the choices are wonderful , women use clothes to make statements , they can be ultra femme or very masculine , for the right occasion very little is off limits , I love the choices I can now make .

    1. Teresa,

      Thank you for your comment. I am reminded of the dictum, “the emperor has no clothes,” as a way to articulate when people see what they want to see and believe what they want to believe, even when the facts beg to differ. I cannot deny the anatomy I was born with. That is a fact. Yet, when we dress the way that makes us feel good, that doesn’t mean we are only seeing what we want to see and ignoring the “truth” of our birth gender. We simply know ourselves well enough to know what affirms us. And the choices truly are wonderful, as you say!

      Lisa

  2. Oooooh, I do love a post that makes me think!

    In the end, I think the start point is societal norms. Sometimes these come out of necessity – wearing bras as you say – and sometimes they are created for one reason or another. The blue for a boy, pink for a girl convention is a prime example of that – there’s absolutely no biological or emotional reason why each of those colours should be connected with a different gender and yet many young boys would reject a pink T-shirt as ‘too girly’ and even as adults, that conditioning is burned into most of us.

    Funnily enough, earlier today I read a post from a contact on Flickr – “I’m not a huge fan of trousers, mainly because they are a feature of my drab life but this silk kimono and top were just perfect with white chinos for a casual summer look” and, on the accompanying photo, the poster looks amazing and not at all let down by her ‘drab’ outfit choice! In the middle of the last century, any woman seen wearing trousers/pants was seen as perhaps a little masculine and yet nowadays we make no such judgement. Conversely, we still see skirts as something exclusively feminine and yet no one casts any aspersions when they see a Scotsman wearing one (probably wouldn’t dare, the Scots don’t mess about!).

    And that then leads to the question of what happens in a future dystopian world where both genders are compelled to wear exactly the same outfit (probably a boiler suit!) and have exactly the same hairdo (hopefully not a buzz cut!)? Does transgenderism die out except for the few who want to change their anatomy because there is otherwise no gender divide to cross over? Or do the individual genders rebel and demand differentiation?

    I’ve perhaps been a little tongue in cheek here but we are very much constrained by societal prejudice that becomes ingrained within us. I remember many years ago seeing David Bowie singing on TV wearing a dark suit with stiletto kitten heels. To him, it was almost certainly a fashion statement; to the rest of us it was ‘hmmmmm’ and, unsurprisingly, that particular fashion statement didn’t gain traction within the male population as a whole.

    1. Amanda,

      We can always count on you to make a thoughtful comment. Your own thought experiment involving a dystopian future is a wonderful supplement to mine. I can answer immediately that I would still be a woman for all purposes that really matter — the way I see myself!

      By the way, I hold that thought in the back of my mind whenever I am forced to live “drably” for too long.

      Lisa

    2. Amanda,
      I had to smile at your comment about the future dystopian world and wearing boilersuits/overalls . I’m thinking about posting a related subject on suitable clothing and making excuses why I was doing drab for certain jobs . I stopped making excuses and bought women’s style work trousers and overalls with brightly coloured work boots , the overalls are piped in red . I still wear makeup and an old wig even if I’m using my chainsaw and axe to prepare logs for my woodburner , even covered in woodchippings the cut of the overalls I can look feminine and dare I say even a little sexy . I guess I’ve gradually shaken off those social prejudices , the majority of women may not attempt such work which means the minority will , so I’ve happliy joined them .

      Lisa,
      That’s important point , “seeing what they want to see ” . People do the recognition scan very quickly , if they see enough tell-tales they will in seconds decide male or female after that it doesn’t matter if your voice is slightly wrong or your hands are too big ( like mine ) . I no longer think about my gender which I feel is important , if you can’t or won’t let the male side go it will often come through .

      1. Teresa,
        More than one person has said to me that they can’t see the male in me, but I don’t think I have gotten to where you are. Two days ago I walked out of a salon after a trim (with my natural, oh-so-gray hair) and while my stylist did a fabulous job and I felt great, when a fellow said hello to me on the street afterwards, I failed to look him in the eye! I am still processing what that was all about, but I suspect I still have a long way to go, and it wasn’t simply that I avoided making eye contact because I am happily married and I don’t like chasers (although both of those things are true).
        Lisa

  3. A great post and I for one am glad we do have the distinction between Masculine and feminine
    Now don’t get me wrong I’m very much in the feminine camp but we do need to have differences
    Yes I agree do the clothes make the man or the women
    No they don’t, we are who we are and I really hope once people get passed the persons attire they will realize that it’s more about the person and who they are inside,
    The outside is just superficial
    When I’m en fem I do act a bit different but I’m the same person on the inside if I were in a suit and tie.
    Which I hate by the way, a dress is way more practical
    Again great thinking post

    1. Rachel,
      You are so right (at least insofar as I am concerned) that being Lisa is very much the real me, but I have my own Lisa way of interacting with the world. It is less “space-centered” and “positioning” which seems to be one way I cope with navigating the world in the male guise.
      Lisa

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