Subject: Re: the erased questions
Date: Sun 15 Aug 1999 - 13:00:20 BST
We may not know what we are, but we sure know what we are not. When we feel
someone erasing us, or "surfacing" us by assuming we are someone we don't
think we are, that's what gets us hot -- hot enough to tell them to "fuck
I once suggested that the best way to categorize transpeople is by what they
know they aren't. Some of us, years post op, are not transsexuals, because,
like Michael Huffington, even though we fit the behavior, we don't identify
with other people labeled that way.
Maybe that's the definition of a closet, knowing how we *don't* want to be
seen. For most people, you mislabel them, they give you a blank look, laugh
or correct you, but for people in the closet, we attack. Maybe we try to
break the mirror that shows a reflection of us in a way we don't see, or try
to cut ourselves off from those who might taint us by association, or even
become so zealous as a convert that nobody could ever think of us like them,
but when we are focused on how we don't want to be seen, we build walls.
We may have no idea who we are, but we will kill to make sure nobody sees us
as what we are sure we are not, living in a world of defense and reaction.
I used to think I didn't want to be seen as a gay man. I have never had any
desire to be a man in relationship with a man -- there has to be a woman in
there somewhere for me to be happy. Yet, I know that people who see a male
who acts like a woman make the assumption: gay man. I wrote about this in
1994, "Those Heterosexual Faggots," talking about how trans-males were often
queerer than any gay man.
For me, though, working though those fears has been relatively easy. Even in
the early 1970s I knew the gay guys in my high school, helped a guy deal with
his homosexuality when he was going to hurt himself, all that. I know that I
am seen as a gay man some times, and that's OK.
No, the biggest fear I had was never being seen as a gay man, but being seen
as a woman. Desire and deceit are the reasons.
First, being seen as a woman put me out of the system of desire, as I knew
it. While I was never successful as a man who loved women, I knew that I was
NOT a man who loved men, and being a woman who loved women was something that
was not easy or simple. It wasn't until I spent time with femme identified
lesbians that I saw myself reflected. Then, the more I saw myself as a
woman, the more I understood the appeal of the masculine, in butch women and
even in men.
But the real reason that I fear being identified as a woman is simple: I
don't pass for being born female.
When I am identified as a woman, I stand on shaky, terrifying ground. People
can feel fooled, betrayed, can yank out the ground under my feet. It's why I
have always kept lots of tells, believed people see me as a man in a dress.
But it doesn't make me happy.
I never dreamed of being a tranny. I dreamed of being a girl, a woman. My
desire was that simple too.
We don't always get what we want, though. And the one thing we can never
control is the contents of other people's minds, their interpretation of what
they see. We can only do the best with what we have and release expectations
of outcome. We choose our words and actions, others choose how to see those
The question is, though, what do I want?
I know what I don't want, what I fear. I know what I hate, what I fear to be
seen as, what I feel erases me: to be seen as a normative woman. That is
terrifying ground for me. I wouldn't be surprised that it is also terrifying
ground for others, for all the standard tranny reasons: jobs, bathrooms,
love. The issue of lying has always been a big question:
But I also know what I dream. Do I let myself be defined by what I know
myself not to be, or embrace what I know I am in a way that people who
categorize me in a way I don't see myself don't make me crazy, don't get me
I'm somewhat better now. I used to feel the desire to explain myself to
everyone I saw, or more accurately, everyone who saw me. Today I know that
my explanations, my words aren't enough to change people's mind, to change
how they see me. Only being in relationship with me over time can do that.
Yet, I still know the pain of being surfaced, erased, and the fears that come
from that, be they fears of discovery or fears of "guilt by association."
I will be erased by people, surfaced in a way that makes sense to them.
People want what they want, look at the world in a way that they can see it.
"Success is simple," says Robert Schuller, "find a need and fill it, find a
problem and solve it." Success is what we can do for other people, not what
they can do for us.
I like gender. And I'd like to be fixed in it. I want to see myself as
normative, but I do know that people will see me as they see me, and that's
that. No amount of my anger, rage or verbiage can change that. Only time
and my choices can, which is frustrating as hell because I never know what
other people think.
I hate feeling erased. But people see what they see. I know what I fear
they see, have a list of what erasures I don't like, and for whatever reason,
passing has always been on the top of that list.
Today, though, I wonder if I should be controlled by my fears or my dreams,
be in the closet or in the light.
-- the trailer of better then chocolate with a recognizable tranny: 3.5 Mb http://home.planetout.com/images/kiosk/popcornq/quicktime/trailers/betterthan. mov
This archive was generated by hypermail 2a23 : Thu 02 Sep 1999 - 02:40:36 BST