Femininity as Power

Something I have always railed about on this blog is the notion of femininity, conformity, consumerism, and how they all fit together. How you can’t have one without the other.

It’s complex. For so long, women have only had the power that a graceful build, a made-up face and thick, styled hair could give them. The more you strove to achieve physical perfection, the better marriage options you could get, the more money and power you could have, albeit indirectly through your husband.

The few people I have discussed this with in real life have seemed affronted, taken aback by my firm belief that femininity isn’t really power, just a means to achieve indirect power, perhaps. For me, it is true; a view created and colored by the fact I was born with an unflattering build: wide shoulders and hips, broad, flat cheeks lending to a round yet butch face, and thin, worthless hair. For me, femininity isn’t a source of power but a source of mockery. How many people have tried to convince me I looked beautiful dressed up, while they covered their grins with their hand?

I am stuck in the system, a misfit part.  I know what I should do. I should quietly acquiesce; grow my straggly hair back out, buy my way into acceptance with mascara and foundation, and just do what is meant for me. Place myself under the limits of femininity just as so many women before me have. But just as before, when I still strove to be accepted, my true nature will shine out and I will see people hiding their laughter as I cosplay as a woman.

It’s destined to be lonely, because deviation from the norm is seen as an indicator you will harm others. Yet loneliness is also guaranteed striving to match the ideal, and I have no inclination to be Sisyphus, eternally pushing a rock up a mountain.

I will always seem dangerous and weird to others. I will be lonely. But I won’t live what is, for me, a lie. I use the time I would have spent adjusting my appearance to gain power the only way I have available- my mind.

It’s been working out for me so far, financially and somewhat romantically. In terms of generic human connection? As you get older, not conforming becomes a disaster- people no longer assume the best of you. Maybe no one will ever get over the fact I don’t conform, and perhaps my husband will always be my only connection to “normal” people.

It’s okay. The zen of unconditional kindness to others will carry me; I simply need to practice it. I can’t change others, I can’t change the way the world works. I can only change how I react to it.

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Bees and Blank Slates

It’s safe to say my social tendencies are more masculine than feminine. I love making good natured digs at other people, being silly, cursing, you name it. Well, at least I used to be. Now, I just keep to myself.

My social style is off-putting to people who expect feminine responses and behavior. People who expect me to be a lady, a limited state of being and a chafing, unnatural label that I itch to escape.

Instead of letting the men shine in conversation and cobbling together with any groups of women nearby, I tended to think of myself as an equal voice in nearly any conversation, within reason. But I know now that with my level of unattractiveness, there’s an unconscious rejection of what I say, no matter what or how I say it. And that it’s better to stay a lone wallflower then expect an equal say and be disappointed or lump myself with people I don’t relate to and who I have no desire to compete with. Most people are not wired for equality, and that is a hard truth to swallow, since I’ve always thought of myself as a natural egalitarian.

People have mistaken me in the past for someone who is so open to others that she might let herself be tricked or harmed. That has always frustrated me because the balance between protecting yourself and presuming good intent from others isn’t so hard. Because of my experiences with others lately, I would describe myself as more of a weary egalitarian. Still viewing people as blank slates, without any presumptions or assumptions written down, but tired. Tired of it never being returned. The scale has tilted more towards self-protection than assuming good intent, and that makes my heart ache. Because despite my childhood, I still had optimism that people who weren’t my parents could be kind, open, and accepting.

I don’t care if you’re blonde, blue eyed, made up, with perty hair and high heels and the best fashion. I won’t treat you any differently than the unkempt woman wearing sweatpants with snaggle teeth and crow’s nest hair. If you want to be the queen bee in your hive of lady bees, so be it. Bee it. I simply won’t scamper and caper to please. I’ll treat you as my equal.

And that’s all that’s necessary.

Self-Indulgent Prattling

Tomorrow is my first shrink appointment. Well, with a nurse practitioner. I don’t think I’ll bring up the gender stuff, just bring up the symptoms of the depression and anxiety I suffer and how they’re affecting my ability to function.

I think a course of meds may help me. I’ll request wellbutrin to start. No good taking something that’s just going to help me put more weight on. I tend to do very well on stimulants, nearly approaching normal in terms of ability to do things. I was diagnosed with ADD as a child, taking ritalin for a while until they thought I was “better.” I certainly still have executive functioning problems as an adult.

God, I hope they care. I really hope they do. I’m paying them, you know? I’d hope they care. I don’t know if I could take yet another doctor just kind of.. waiting for the appointment to be done.

I feel a discontent when I think about how according to society’s measuring stick, I’ll never measure up. I understand why masculine-leaning females transition to male. The gender binary, so entrenched. You’re a man or a woman, nothing in between. People think they need to be able to visually classify you at a single glance, and god help you if you’re not easy on the eyes. That brief and minor delay of “what are they” is too inconvenient for most.”How do I treat them,” because all interactions must be gendered and appropriate, just treating people neutrally until you know doesn’t seem to cross most people’s minds.

This may sound.. self-congratulatory or dumb, but I am proud of how I treated Noah back in the day. This was a good 8-10 years ago, before I even knew trans was a thing; I grew up in a conservative Midwestern town. I had no idea he was a transman, just that he was ambiguous in his appearance. I never forced the issue. I waited for him to bring it up, and treated him neutrally (non-gendered) until he did. If only I hadn’t had an anxiety attack while hanging out with him once; after that, we weren’t as close, until the temp job ended and I never saw him again.

I need to find like-minded friends. Some form of connection. If I rely on cis people, they may always be baffled by me. The mismatch between their gendered expectations and my NB/masculine-leaning personality leads to discomfort and eventually alienation. “Why is she so weird? Why doesn’t she pretty herself up?” These thoughts (probably) cross their minds. I’m so glad I’ve finally identified the disconnect between my efforts and other people. The revelations of the last few months have helped, considerably. I’ve noticed I have had fewer mentally ill vent posts. The hole is not as deep, and when I fall into it, I climb back out more quickly.

Perhaps I will post somewhere looking for a trans/NB-leaning-masculine penpal. Penpals still are a thing, there’s a subreddit for it I’ve been perusing. If anything else, sign up for a forum somewhere. Though, I’m not about to write letters on *paper*, how droll. Emailpal is better. There’s other options as well. Though I may be too old (31) maybe I could go to my local university’s LGBTQ events. I am an alumnus, so maybe that’s an in. Meetup might have some things too, as well as Craigslist. Craiglist could be.. dodgy though. Even creepers respond to platonic friend postings. They don’t read your posts.

 

Title, Schmitle

When I was about 12, my middle school hosted a “medieval” event, which was a graded project for the students of my year. Dressing appropriately was required. I learned about the event, and dread immediately rose up in me. I knew I’d have to talk to my stepmother about acquiring a dress for a peasant girl. Such was my fear of her weeks flew by. And before I knew it, the day before the event came, and I had no dress.

In a panic, I tore through my wardrobe. Nothing I had was suitable for the event. Except… I pulled out a pair of capri pants, some long cream socks, and a loose white long sleeved shirt. Paired with some black flats and my hair tied back in a loose ponytail, I was the spitting image of a 1700s-1800s boy. Problem solved!

The event came and went. I felt a little awkward walking around dressed as a boy. Not because it bothered me in the slightest, but because I was worried about the reactions of others. Only one other student that I knew approached me, who commented on my outfit and said that I really looked like a medieval boy. No one said anything else, not a peep. And my grade was secured, my stepmother unaware, crisis averted.

Looking back, that could have gone so badly. I’m kind of thrilled it didn’t.

The major city we’re a county away from is having Pride tomorrow. I’ve been pondering meeting people who are trans or non-binary, maybe I could meet some if I attend. Make friends. Maybe not with cis-women; in southwestern Ohio, the likelihood that explaining I don’t really like anything they expect to have in common is extremely high. The chances of an inability to relate is very high. This is, I think, a big chunk of why I cast away The Couple. Figuring out that they needed to relate in proper, gender-specific ways meant that they were never going to really like or relate to me. It just wasn’t ever going to happen, no matter how much I tried. I get it, now.

Pride, though, sounds like a thing. I could at the very least get great photos with my newish DSLR.

I seriously need to get out of SW Ohio, though. Too close to the bible belt.

An Enby I Shall Be

I don’t feel much like a woman. Never have. Being a woman always seemed like some sort of production. Like playing a role in a play. Striving to match in every possible way this all-consuming ideal of the modern, attractive woman. No time to think. No time to enjoy anything else. Just focus on your appearance and social roles.

Ye olde Stepmother thought I was a lesbian because I didn’t seem drawn to makeup, dresses, styling my hair. Given the fact I had no attraction to women, I think she is simply so ignorant that any woman that deviates from her norm is automatically homosexual. A product of her times. And an absolute c*nt.

For a while I thought I might be trans. I remember feeling thrilled looking at before-T and after-T photos, about how amazing these gents looked. T is truly astonishing at masculinizing faces and bodies. I thought to myself: I’m already so beefy and butchy looking, transitioning would be natural. I don’t have any comfort with female social roles. But men’s? Hell yes.

Then I encountered gender critical feminism. I’m not a TERF. But I am a fan of the notion that you can be a masculine woman or a feminine man and not need to change your body. Some need to change their bodies to live, and I understand that. But for me, now I think of gender not as some oppressive cage, but as a toy in my hands.

I now know I’m non-binary. An enby. Someone who lives in between, who can be one or the other or both at any given moment. I don’t have to pretend to be excited at a dress. I can wear tunics with leggings (as close to dresses as I’m comfortable) or a flowy Indian skirt occasionally, when I feel like it, for no reason other than I want to. Or I can wear jeans and a t-shirt. And a flannel shirt. I flipping love flannel shirts.

But it’ll take time to work that confidence. Even now, I hide my lack of interest in feminine things. I wear a wig to work to hide my short pixie cut. I appear to have shoulder length nicely styled hair from 9-5 every work day. Now that I’ve hit my five year work anniversary, maybe I’ll consider going without it.

The world feels like it’s opened up again. I have a label that finally fits.

But am I still a legbeard? Ohhh yeah.

Capillus Brevus es Libertas

So in love with my shorn head right now.

I really do feel liberated. When I cut away my hair I cut away my anxiety over how my hair looks. Can’t worry about having bouncy perfect thick hair if you don’t have much at all. I dealt the death stroke to my insecurity and fear over it.

I’m trying to restrict my feelings of “I can do anything” right now because I worry I might be a bit manic. I wouldn’t be surprised if I was bipolar, I do have mood swings. But for right now, everything feels right with the world. And that is a rare feeling for me to have.

Just.. knowing that I don’t have to poorly pretend I am a feminine female to others and that I can do what I want now, free of fear of judgement.. It’s amazing. Because judgement will happen no matter what I do, no matter how I look. It’s about judgement not even entering my mind. Not even a concern. Giving no facks.

I wear my hairpiece when I leave the house. But I honestly think I could get to a place where I could just out myself as having short hair. I’d like to drop some weight first, with my large build I could easily be mistaken as male. Surprisingly, I don’t really want to look butch, in fact in the last two days I’ve worn more makeup than I have in months. Which is fine. My hair was really the worst thing on my head. And now it’s gone. ::wiggles::

Capillus brevus es libertas. I decide what being a woman means, for me. No one else does. Not magazines, not commercials, not ads, not glamorous women in TV and movies, not the cruelty of other people, not my stepmother, not anyone.

I decide.

A Better Version of Me (Making the Switch)

A warning: This entry is mostly about hair and clothes, things I profess to not be interested in but obsessively rant about. This might be one worth skipping, as it’s more planning and thinking out what I’m going to do.


I’m not likeable. At least, not easily likeable.

It’s something I’m coming to terms with. I know people pick up on the fact I am playing a part, and doing it poorly. I don’t pull off the soft feminine woman thing very well. It comes off strange. People’s guts pick it up. They don’t know what it is, but they assume the worst. That I’m not what I seem, that I might hurt them or behave strangely.

I’m tired of playing girl. I want to be myself. That means no primping, no preening, no high heels or perty dresses. I feel the pressure to do these things and I feel a sense of horror, like being forced into an existence I never asked for.

It’s time to make the switch, to formally and visually signal to other people that I’m not really very feminine. Time for delicious short hair. Time to dress as minimally feminine as I want. As much as I want the short hair, I’m not ready for it yet. I need to drop some weight, since a short cut right now will only amplify my naturally butch look. (Wide shoulders, wide hips, thick arms, thick ankles, no waist, thick neck, large face, large hands and feet.) I don’t want to look butch, but I don’t want to look femme either.

So, I’m thinking July for the cut. Enough time to drop some weight. Maybe I’ll cut it right before we go out west to Colorado for vacation. What a wonder it will be to hike for miles and miles without a thick long mass of hair on my head. And the vacation pictures will be my “coming out.” Haha, look at me making such a huge fuss about having short hair. Most people probably won’t care at all. I’m still deciding what style I want, and I’m not sure what will even suit me. I might go pixie cut, I might go faux-hawk (shorter sides, some hair on top), I don’t know.

As for clothes. The girliest thing that I wear most often is leggings. The closest thing to a dress I wear are tunics and big, oversized t-shirts, mostly over leggings. If I wear a skirt, I wear floor-length flowing Indian skirts. I like these quite a lot, but I only wear them in the summer. Otherwise, I can’t be bothered. I think I will continue wearing these, when and how I want, and if a situation calls for a dress I’ll just laugh and wear nice pants or a tunic over leggings.

I don’t like formal parties, clubbing, weddings, anything that requires strict gender-related dressing. But I’m almost ready to make the switch. To wear dress pants instead of cocktail dresses. I’m lucky that there’s a woman in my husband’s family who seems to be like me. She has short hair, and doesn’t seem girly. And she seems to be well-loved. She even has her own nickname in my husband’s family, “Mitters” short for Michelle. So there’s precedent.

A problem is my husband’s sister, H. She is the biggest princess you’ll ever meet, and has no problems with criticizing anyone who toes the line of “normality.” She reminds me of my stepmother in some ways, petulant and entitled, prone to random rages. I am sure she will comment on my new hair in her way, which is barely disguised contempt. I will be questioned about it by people that know me, my own version of a gauntlet.

But it’ll be better. It’ll be better than this constant unrelenting anxiety that I don’t pass. That I don’t pass as a feminine girly girl, which is what I’m supposed to be. What my stepmother and father told me I was supposed to be. I am in charge of sexualizing myself, not anyone else. No one has that control over me. Not advertisements, not the disparaging words of femme women, not my husband, not blood relatives, not in-laws, not “friends.”

Only me.

Here it comes, the better version of me.

Important Things

I’ve had time to ruminate on several thoughts I’ve had over the last few weeks. Overall, I think my tendency to ruminate is a positive in the long run. Because despite the times I come to bad conclusions, they don’t last. Because I know deep down they are false, a product of pain. My relentless inner pursuit of what drives me, what hurts me, inevitably leads to positive conclusions.

One of my father’s favorite things to tell me was,”You think you’ve got it so bad. Well, my father used to make me go cut a switch from the yard so he could beat me with it.”
I always felt bewildered when he said this. How was the fact he was beaten by a switch as a child related to how I was being abused now? As a cop, could he really say, if you’re not being beaten with a switch then you’re not being abused. Except my stepmother did things that as an adult I’d have zero problems calling CPS over. Now in my 30s, I’m able to translate the things he said to me. It all boils down to “You’re a burden. Don’t you know you’re a burden? Aren’t you ashamed for existing and causing me hardship?”

I understand now that though I was treated as an unworthy burden by my father and stepmother, I was just a child. I had no responsibility for their hardships. I will not feel shame for existing and taking up space. They didn’t want me, and that hurts. Probably will for a long time. Maybe I will always feel hollow. But I can start with discarding the ideas they lodged inside me.

If I could go back in time, to one of the many times he said the switch bit, I would say one thing to him: “I’m sorry that happened to you.” I think it’d blow his mind.

Another revelation. My discovery of gender critical feminism has helped me realize a lot of things. I don’t like the relentless sh1tting on of MTF transgenders the GC community seems to do, but the basics have opened my eyes. I am fine the way I am. I don’t need to alter my body, get chest surgery. The problems I have with my body are the result of powerful self image issues and the notion that since I am more masculine than the average female, I need to physically be male. The problem with gender, sunk deep into the consciousness of our society, is the idea that you have to be one or the other. I can be who I am, as a woman, as a female, and be masculine. I don’t have to live as a man. I don’t have to live as a femme woman either.
If society accepted feminine men and masculine women, there would be exponentially less harm in this world. As an addendum, I am not trying to shame anyone who is trans, who hasn’t transitioned, wants to transition, or already has. I do not attempt to erase or negate trans people, or imply their struggle to simply be is their own fault.

My reality is that I am a large framed, somewhat butch, non-conventionally attractive female. This is fine. I have trouble relating to femme women, exacerbated by the abuse I suffered from an ultra-femme woman. My father accepted and allowed her to do it, because he didn’t value me much, if at all. I embarrassed him. He couldn’t tell his neighbors, co-workers, family about how I was hitting all the feminine milestones. Attractive, dating (anyone), a cheerleader, popular at school. I was a chubby little wallflower with no interest in dating or makeup, who spent hours with her nose in a book or glued to the computer. Not someone that brought glory to him.

Time and experiencing people who had loving parents has made me understand that he wore the mantle of “father” in name only.

Maybe one day I will have a child, my own or adopted, that I can practice unconditional love upon. Not the “you’re a burden, be ashamed” variety my father practiced, nor the “I can’t take care of you or myself, but I love you” variety of my mother. Something whole. Something wonderful.

Maybe until then I can start trying to practice it on myself, and on those I haven’t pushed away yet.

I am getting somewhere. I am, however painfully, however slowly, moving towards a better place. I’ve been doing it on my own. A good shrink would help me move a little more speedily towards it.

I feel relief right now in this moment. A lessening of pain. It won’t last, and that’s okay. Time will help me embed these revelations into my psyche.

The Golden Cage, Pt. 1

When I woke up today, I felt good. I woke up knowing that I can do what I want in life. There just might be consequences.
One thing I can do is disregard some of the roles that are placed upon me. As a woman reaching the age of redundancy (i.e. the age where I “absolutely” have to have children) I feel more and more pressure from others to stop dilly dallying and assume my proper roles.
What roles are these?

  1. Be conventionally attractive.
    1. Arguably the most important for women, according to society, men and women alike. You can be whatever you want, it’s strongly implied, as long as you’re attractive first. If you don’t assume role 1, your competency in all other areas is immediately challenged, moreso than just by being a woman in the first place.
  2. Total domestic responsibility.
    1. I’d like to say that today’s younger men understand they can’t foist all household chores and cooking on women. Perhaps in their conscious mind they think this, but action (or inaction, rather) speaks louder than words. Many young men grow up seeing their mothers do all the chores and cooking, or see their stressed out mothers “nagging” their fathers to help out. So while they casually say,”Yeah, household duties should be shared”, many show their true inclinations by happily living in filth, and eating junk because they haven’t learned how to cook and don’t feel inclined to. They unconsciously transfer these burdens to others who live with them, who won’t live in filth. Of course, #notallmen. #manymen is more accurate.
  3. Being a good wife/girlfriend/SO.
    1. Maintaining a relationship isn’t easy. You cannot neglect your partner’s needs.
  4. Being a good mother/family member.
    1. Children are a full time job by themselves. I don’t envy parents. The addition of spending time with and supporting other family members (parents, uncles, aunts, etc) is also included in role 4.
  5. Full time worker.
    1. Unless you’re already loaded, either by luck of affluent parents or by living with them, people have to work. If they’re lucky, they get a full time job that may or may not pay the bills. If they’re even luckier, they get benefits and health care. Couples with a working husband that makes a great living can often see the woman staying home. Or vice versa. Which is great, I support homemakers. I envy them at times, because the grass is always greener on the other side. But nowadays, most have to work. Including women. In addition to working, they must assume and properly perform roles 1, 2, 3, and 4.
  6. (Optional) Themselves.
    1. Arguably the hardest role to attain, given the time restrictions caused by roles 1-5.

So, I’m expected to fulfill all of these roles, with perhaps the exception of role 6. The one I want most to perform. That one seems optional, and simply gets swept by the wayside early on in life. Women are sometimes accused of not being interesting, of not having personalities, and more and more I come to believe it is because they have thrown themselves full-heartedly into the whole set of roles 1-5, which I dub the Golden Cage. Because there are largely not enough hours in the day to cultivate the self if you perform these roles correctly. They’re between a rock and a hard place – either you are a “bad” selfish woman, or you’re a “good”, self-sacrificing woman.

I think I’m learning more and more I don’t have to be a “good” woman. I don’t have to sacrifice myself on the pyre of social pressure. It’s difficult, though, because maybe more than most I feel a need for approval. I simply have to choose – sanity or approval. Maybe some women don’t have to make that choice. Some women choose these roles and find happiness in performing all of them. It must be nice for them. Because I don’t. I don’t feel happy in the Golden Cage. Never have. Never will.

And I won’t stay there.

(To Be Continued)