What does it mean for me to be doing drag (in additional to burly*) now that I’m transitioned to living as a woman full-time?
For the record I know of at least half a dozen drag queens here in the SF Bay Area who are/were post-transition trans women. One is a pageant queen, where “hyper-real” femininity (i.e. it’s a really stylized version of “real”), several are costumers who do over-the-top outfits.
Whereas my style was always “woman done up for the stage” rather than “DRAG QUEEN!” My drag mother, who was trans, identified her performing style as a female impersonator (sans the implications of doing specific celebrity), and “female personator” was how I saw my style pre-transition.
But what does it mean artistically now that I’m a woman personifying a “woman on the stage”…. There’s several cisgender women locally who do/have done drag, but their style has been over-the-top (as one of them said, “what’s the point of me looking like a woman on stage”). However, that’s not a style that’s “me.” Kind of a moot point at present since I’m still sidelined with an injury. But something I’m pondering.
That said, given my build (I wasn’t blessed by the androgyny fairy), short of having an outfit where my boobs are hanging out (when I get implants), so realistically I know I’ll still probably get read as a male-bodied drag queen by audience members who don’t know me. (Which is it’s own set of issues…)
* I performed for as a drag queen for a number of years, before moving into burlesque — which is my preferred art form these days, but as I recover from my injury I’ll be doing drag first, since there’s a lot lower risk of re-injuring myself. And I still enjoy doing drag because the venue for our show has a low stage, which means I can get off it and interact with the audience in ways during a song that I can’t while doing more choreographed burly numbers.
t’s interesting to see how, after almost a year, estrogen is reshaping my body.
Besides some (not nearly enough) boob growth, I seem to have a bigger booty, my shoulders have gotten smaller as I’ve lost muscle mass* (yay!), and I’ve now got underarm chicken wings** — I’m probably one of the rare women who’s glad to see the latter.
* The Olympics will let trans woman compete in the women’s divisions after two years on hormones, because their muscle mass is equivalent to that of cisgender women.
** The underarms are the third area women tend to accumulate fat, along with the hips and thighs.
Since I seem to be in a meditation-on-all-things-trans mood tonight, let me talk about something I’m been meaning to talk about for awhile: the Trans Prime Directive — something that’s one of the ways being T is different than LGB, and makes it much harder to build a “trans community” the way that gays and lesbians (or POC) have.
I was checking out at a store the other day, and the cashier was pretty clearly another trans woman. Her build, her voice, the large hands, etc. like me, there’s a lot of tells, if you know what to look for. I’m sure she knew I was trans. But we never acknowledged that to each other.
Why? Because of the Trans Prime Directive: Thou Shalt Not Out Another Trans Person. It’s never written down or really ever discussed publicly (in fact the name was coined on a private forum for trans people that I belong to), but all but the most socially inept trans people instinctively do it.
So no knowing nod. No asking if someone is a friend of Dorothy, or likes RuPaul’s Drag Race, or they like softball. (Just to be clear I’m referring to ways gays and lesbians used historically to subtly find out if someone was also gay or lesbian while still flying under the radar of straight folks.)
Yes there are trans people who are out and proud — and more and more these days. But there’s also people who aren’t yet out of the closet, living in that gray area of gender non-conformity but with plausible deniability. Others transition and “disappear into the woodwork,” finally able to live their lives as woman and men, rather than trans women or men.
And one never knows which group a randomly-encountered trans person belong to. So we all respect the Trans Prime Directive. Which needless to say can feel a bit isolating at times, and harder to feel a sense of solidarity.
Had a celebratory dinner at a French restaurant where the service is… languid. So I when I asked the waiter for more water, I mentioned that I’m taking a medication that makes me thirsty.
What medication? I tell him. What’s it used for? I pause. Do I tell him that it’s used by trans woman to block testosterone? While I can blend well in a crowd, in up-close interactions I just assume people know that I wasn’t born female-bodied. (There’s a few too many tells.) Usually it doesn’t matter and they treat me as a woman. But outing myself in a random encounter is really uncomfortable — Transgender Day of Visibility be damned. Not explicitly outing myself lets me hold on to the illusion that maybe, just maybe, they’re seeing me as the sort of woman I’d love to be, but never will. Which is kind of a fucked up feeling, but there it is.
So I simply say it’s a diuretic. It turns out he’s just curious because his wife is also on a diuretic to counteract water retention issues. He has no idea he’s asked a triggering question.
That’s what life while trans is like. Random encounters where you have to decide whether you want to be out and proud, or whether you want to just enjoy a quiet dinner in peace and not have to deal with Teh Tranz.
Tomorrow I’m going back to work, and I’m nervous AF about it. (I’d love to take another month off and finally get that recharge time, but I can’t afford to do so — especially since my short-term disability claim has disappeared into the black hole that is the California EDD.)
To a large degree I shouldn’t be worrying. My company, my manager and my co-workers have been nothing but supportive, and I even went to work as a woman for two weeks in December.
That was like a beta test. Many of my co-worker were leaving early for extended holiday vacations, I was out of the office a lot to take care of legal ID changes, and I was just wrapping up a project and didn’t need to interact with other people very much.
Now is the final “shit gets real, really real” step in my transition.
Women get judged far more of their appearance and behavior in the workplace, so there’s that. But I know that — consciously or not — I’m going to be scrutinized about how well I “do woman.”
Will they deep down truly see me as a women? I now really get why it’s common for trans people to switch jobs post-transition. Make a clean start. Somewhere where people will likely know that I’m a woman who’s trans — but don’t have history seeing me as a man.
Then there’s the whole issue of how women are treated differently in the workplace — there’s undoubtedly a huge learning curve about how to handle that. Threading the balance of being authoritative without being seen as a bitch (a particular issue for me because a big part of my job is getting buy-in from stakeholders and the engineering teams I work with), how to handle being talked over, raising an idea and having it ignored until a man says it at which point it’s the best idea evah. And all things I don’t know that I don’t know about.
All I can do is what I’ve done to do date with my transition — keep pushing through. People have called me brave, but honestly I don’t feel brave. I’m just doing what I need to do. But it’s so damn tiring.
Looking forward to a time when I can live life without having to be “brave.”
I’ve only alluded to it, but I’ve been in some pretty serious pain since November thanks to a pinched nerve in my neck.
It was manageable while I was in Buenos Aries for facial feminization surgery, but right after I got back I then had to fly to SoCal and help then I helped my mother move from the house she’d lived in for 47 years into a retirement community. (Mom is quite happy there and has duplex that’s nicer than my house. It is a bit weird seeing your childhood home for the last time.)
Unfortunately, all the flying — as well as not being able to see my healthcare providers who had been treating it — really worsened the pinched nerve problems and I went through six weeks of excruciating pain that couldn’t be controlled with medication (or medical marijuana). Thankfully the pain has been generally under control for the last week and half after a medical procedure. But I’m on the maximum dosage of a (non-narcotic) pain killer, which isn’t the best thing to be on long-term, and they still don’t fully understand what’s now going on in my shoulder that’s continuing to cause pain. The rehab specialist at my regular medical group ended up referring me to the Stanford Pain Management Clinic to see if they can tame it. Which means another round of waiting to get into see the specialists there. Ugh. In the meantime I’m still working with my PT, chiropractor, two orthopedic massage therapist and acupuncturist.
So all my plans of resting and recharging (and hopefully being able to do some spring cleaning) got shot to hell. Aside from all the health care appointments breaking up my day, chronic pain is just incredibly draining. There was one day where my major achievement was that I took out the trash and washed the sink. I’m still far from 100 percent.
But it’s back to work whether I really want to or not.