Sunday, 16 December 2012

Desert Island Book.

I was asked recently – by the online digital label, Bitrate Audio – to select my desert island discs. (I'll assume everyone knows what that involves, but if not, see here.) For someone who likes making lists, this is always an enjoyable task. I've done it informally numerous times, choices changing over the years, or even by the day. My Bitrate Audio selection (comprising Béla Bartók, Joni Mitchell, Darren Solomon, Björk, Henry Cow, A Certain Ratio, Liza Minnelli, and Klute) can be found here, complete with a photo of me outside a bar in Amsterdam, looking completely un-femme (unless you happen to notice the shaved arms and plucked eyebrows perhaps). The tunes themselves can be played via youtube links and you should totally go and do that right now because they're all great!

Along with the eight discs, the castaway also gets to choose a luxury and a book. I requested a Bösendorfer Grand Piano and Dorothy Allison's book 'Skin: Talking About Sex, Class and Literature' (Pandora 1995).

It's not obvious why Dorothy Allison's writing should resonate with me so much. 'Skin' is a collection of autobiographical essays by a southern United States, working-class, abuse-surviving, radical, queer, feminist, activist, lesbian, femme, parent, poet and author. Comparing all that with my own given descriptors at the top of this post, I appear to have very little in common with her. Queer, feminist and femme – yes, but not in the same kind of way. In particular, my femme is very little like hers. So what is it?

I guess it's this: Allison writes with brutal, unflinching honesty. Her opinions, her thoughts, her beliefs are hard won, anchored in her life and experience. Her truths are messy and complicated, not ideologically rigid. She writes from the heart, with great humanity and great skill. She's intelligent, engaging, provocative, funny, and above all compassionate, courageous and sincere. Her voice cannot be easily dismissed.

I've already posted one extract, from 'Sex Writing, the Importance and the Difficulty', on my tumblog (which I use for such things). Here are a couple more:

My aunt Dot used to joke, “There are two or three things I know for sure, but never the same things and I'm never as sure as I'd like.” What I know for sure is that class, gender, sexual preference, and prejudice—racial, ethnic, and religious—form an intricate lattice that restricts and shapes our lives, and that resistance to hatred is not a simple act. Claiming your identity in the cauldron of hatred and resistance to hatred is infinitely complicated, and worse, almost unexplainable.
I grew up poor, hated, the victim of physical, emotional, and sexual violence, and I know that suffering does not ennoble. It destroys. To resist destruction, self-hatred, or lifelong hopelessness, we have to throw off the conditioning of being despised, the fear of becoming the
they that is talked about so dismissively, to refuse lying myths and easy moralities, to see ourselves as human, flawed, and extraordinary. All of us—extraordinary.
— from 'A Question of Class'.

As feminists, many of us have committed our whole lives to struggling to change what most people in this society don't even question, and sometimes the intensity of our struggle has persuaded us that the only way to accomplish change is to make hard bargains, to give up some points and compromise on others. What this has always meant in the end, unfortunately, is trading some people for others.
I do not want to do that.
I do not want to require any other woman to do that.
I do not want to claim a safe and comfortable life for myself that is purchased at the cost of some other woman's needs or desires.
Essential political decisions are made not once, but again and again in a variety of situations, always against that pressure to compromise, to bargain. (...) Simple answers, reductionist politics, are the most prone to compromise, to saying we're addressing the essential issue and all that other stuff can slide. It is, in reality, people who slide.

— from 'Public Silence, Private Terror'.

I'm not sure whether those extracts are representative of Allison's writing or not. Read the book for yourself and decide. Read all her books. As for me, I've only today discovered that a new collection, 'Conversations with Dorothy Allison' (from 1993-2009), was published earlier this year. Damn, how did I not know about that before?! I just hope the Christmas post doesn't delay its arrival for too long.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Our Different Journey.

The Nottingham "trans-neighbours" site, which I wrote about in this post, is now active. Actually, I don't know if we are – or will be – all from Nottingham(shire). I guess it doesn't matter that much:

Our Different Journey is a small project a group of like minded trans folk decided to put together. Our hope was that we’d collect a few life stories from our community and share them with the rest of the world. Our aim is to put faces and real stories to the subject of transgender life.

The basis of these stories is a set of eight questions gathered and borrowed from the T-Town project of The Gender Alliance of the South Sound, Washington State, USA.

Lynn, one of ODJ's prime instigators, posted her answers on her own blog here. Mine were in my earlier post. I guess these will either be copied across or linked to at some stage (if the former, do I have to provide a picture?). The first set on the site itself is by Petra Bellejambes. I'm just going to highlight one small part of that.

Petra writes: “I have managed over the years to tease apart the threads of gender, femininity and sexuality, weave them back together evenly, and normalize the joy I find in the discovery of the whole me.

Ah, very nicely put! There's a whole world of meaning lurking behind that single sentence. It literally stops me in my tracks to take a breath.

If this is anything to go by, ODJ looks like being a very worthwhile enterprise indeed.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Laurie Penny's masculinity survey.

In the introduction to her 1998 collection, 'A Fragile Union', Joan Nestle writes:

With this book, I offer you the fragile unions that are my life – the life of a fifty-eight-year-old white Jewish fem lesbian woman with cancer living in New York City in the United States of America at the end of the twentieth century. I give you these details not as markers of identity the way we often did in the lesbian-feminist movement of the 1970s and '80s, thinking that if we laid out our particulars, we had cleared away all ambiguity about our lives, but precisely for the opposite reason. Each of the listed elements represents huge worlds of shifting meaning, unending searches for what can keep my love and what has to be let go.

I agree with the sentiment; such words cannot and do not define us. Nevertheless, they do offer an indication of our history, the forces and experiences which forged us, the intersections of our privileges and oppressions. It is to that end I offer my own fragile unions: a forty-eight-year-old white femme queer straight man of middle-class Christian upbringing living in Nottinghamshire in England at the start of the twenty-first century. The reason: to provide context, however limited, for the rest of this post.

Feminist activist and author, Laurie Penny, has recently become interested in men – in particular, in how sex, gender, sexuality and feminism affect men. See, for example, this piece in The Independent back in April. QRG massive have had some disparaging remarks to make about all that (see here), but I haven't mentioned this in order to get involved in that argument myself. It's just another preamble to the real purpose of this post.

Last weekend (6th/7th October) Penny tweeted (@PennyRed) about a survey she was conducting, prompted by the publication and subsequent discussion of 'The End of Men' by US journalist, Hanna Rosin. “So chaps, if I were to do another totally-unscientific questionnaire about the male experience like I did a few months ago, who would play?” and “For clarification: the survey is for anyone who identifies as male, OR who was raised as a male.

Because I was one of the men who responded, because I spent a little time on her questions, and because I don't like to see my work vanish into the oblivion of cyberspace, I thought I'd post my answers up here.

So perhaps the point of my first preamble now becomes clear. In responding to this survey as a man, I respond as one man. I do not speak for "men", nor for other men "like me". I respond from my own experience and from my own history, which my preamble very briefly summarizes. And thus I contribute my own small individual part to the sum of all men's stories, each of which is equally valid and significant. And the conclusions that, in my opinion, can be drawn about men from the sum of these stories are — nothing.

But here are my answers anyway (for posterity if you like), each preceded by Penny's questions in bold – there are 28 of them.

How old are you, where did you grow up and go to school, and what do you do now?
48; Stockport and Nottingham (mostly Nottingham); editor.

Do you think that it's the 'End of Men' - is traditional masculinity at an end? And is that a good thing or a bad thing?
The title is silly. But if an end to "traditional masculinity" means an end to enforced gender roles for men (and for everybody) then that would be a very good thing.

Do you think there is a 'crisis in masculinity?' Has this got worse with the recession and the loss of traditional employment?
No. I think this is a 'problem' largely imagined by sociologists. In my experience, men mostly just get on with stuff.

What are the biggest problems men face today?
For men as a group, in England, right now... I can't think of any offhand. Unless the coalition reinstates conscription or something.

How important is your gender identity to you?
Very. But my gender identity is queer (and femme), not stereotypically masculine, so I think about this stuff a lot.

How does sex affect your experience of being a man?
Errm, not at all. I think it's more the other way round: that as a man I might be expected to fulfil a particular sexual role, a role that I'm not interested in fulfilling.

When do you feel most vulnerable as a man?
When I'm out late at night by myself in an unsafe district. Or when my appearance is overtly un-masculine. But this is vulnerability as a person (and fear of violence) rather than specifically as a man.

Do you worry about being judged by women? How, and in what way?
Not especially. I can only think of one instance where it ever worries me a bit: I have a personal interest in female presentation, so I tend to look at women quite a lot, to see how women dress and present themselves. (Men, too, but men mostly aren't sartorially very interesting.) Sometimes, therefore, I worry about my looking being mistaken for oppressive behaviour. I need a big sign that says: "I'm looking at your clothes not your body. No, really!"

If you could change one thing about being a man, what would it be?
About being a man: nothing. About being a man in society: an end to all gender stereotypes.

Tell me what being a boy meant to you as you grew up (if relevant).
Only that I wasn't "allowed" to like or do certain "girls' things". I did them anyway, but with various degrees of secrecy.

What, in your opinion, does 'being a man' mean in this society, and how has that changed over the past two generations?
To me, it means nothing at all. I don't accept any limits on human characteristics, personality, behaviour, etc on account of binary sex. How things have changed is that there's perhaps more gender freedom than before, though not enough for my liking.

Time for the opposite question: what does 'being a woman' mean? How do you think things have changed for women over the past two generations?
Again, it means nothing to me. As for change: feminism has made a lot of gains over the past two (and more) generations, but again not enough.

Do you feel pressure to conform to social expectations of masculinity? From whom, and what does that mean?
Pressure, yes, from society at large. But this is because I tend towards gender non-conformity, rather than just being masculine.

Are you a feminist? What can feminism do for men, and what can men do for feminism?
Yes. By breaking down gender barriers for women, I see feminism as consequently breaking down gender barriers for everyone (including men). Men can support feminist issues (where we agree with them), behave in a non-sexist way (why wouldn't you?!), and criticize other men's sexist behaviour.

What aspects of the male experience do you think are least understood by women and by society at large? What do you wish more people knew about men?
Nothing in particular. The only time this arises is when people (women or anybody) make assumptions about men because of gender. Oi! Stop that! Men are not all the same.

How did you feel about women as a young man? Did you have close female friends or siblings?
I'm primarily heterosexual, so this was a significant factor for me as a young man (if by young you mean adolescent). Female friends: one or two. Siblings: one sister.

What do you feel about women now? How do you relate to them?
How I feel depends on the individual woman. Otherwise I mostly relate to people as people.

What about women as sexual/romantic partners (if relevant) - what role does that sort of relationship play in your life?
I'm attracted to gender non-conformity, in particular to deliberate female masculinity (the cultural ubiquity of female femininity makes me tired). At the moment: no relationship.

Have you ever been sexist? In what way? Has the way you treat women changed?
Probably, though I can't think of anything right now. The way I treat people has perhaps changed as I've grown older.

What about sexual consent? Why do you think rape and sexual violence are so endemic in our society?
Consent is paramount. Because people can be bastards. As for rape and sexual violence by men towards women: because our sexist and heteronormative culture defines male sexual aggression and entitlement as normal.

What's your relationship to porn? Do you think it has affected the way you behave sexually?
I don't have a relationship to porn. The majority of porn seems to be visual and promotes a form of sexuality to which I don't personally relate; e.g. it presents sexually available naked women and I'm supposed to want to do stuff to them. My sexuality doesn't work like that. Also, I'm more aroused by language than imagery.

When do you feel most 'masculine' and why? What things that you do make you feel masculine?
I had to think about this one. I suppose anything that involves physical strength makes me feel sort of masculine. This is a cultural product of course: men are stronger than women on average, and our culture assumes a correlation between men, masculinity and strength. For instance, I felt sort of masculine recently when shifting a large sofa about, which other people were struggling with.

Do you ever worry about being misunderstood or misinterpreted because of your gender? When and why?
I don't really worry about it. But when it happens – when people make any assumptions about me because I'm a man – I tend to get cross.

Do men experience sexism? In what way? Can you give examples from your own life?
Certainly. When men are assumed to do (or not do) or be (or not be) or think anything specific because of gender. (In that regard, some feminists can be outrageously sexist.) But mostly this is just an annoyance; it doesn't have that many definite consequences on my own life. Or to put it another way, I can mostly count on male privilege when I want it.

How does race affect your experience of gender?
As a white man in England, not much.

How does your job (or lack of a job, if you are sick or out of work) affect how you experience your own gender?
My job – editing – is culturally fairly gender neutral, so it doesn't affect my experience of gender. Especially as I work from home, so there's no work environment.

How do you think knowing a woman will be the one reading these questions has affected your replies?
Not at all.

And finally - What have I left off this survey that I should have asked? Is there anything else you want to talk about?
No, there's nothing else for me right now.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Gender – a fem(me)inist position.

In simple webspeak, THIS:

There's no question that sex-role conditioning in our male-dominated society is one of the primary means by which women's oppression is perpetrated. Gender systems (which sex roles express), however, are not intrinsically oppressive. What is oppressive in our society is the linking of biological sex (female or male) to gender identity (woman or man), gender or sex role (feminine or masculine), sexual object choice (opposite), and sexual identity (heterosexual). Barbara Ponse calls these correlations “the principle of consistency.” It is this system, and the denial of any other construction of gender, on which sexism is founded. The problem is the correlations, not the specific components.

What's oppressive about gender, defined sex roles, in our society is that they are limited to two, rigidly correlated with biological sex, and obsolete, in a complex industrial society, as an expression of who does what work. The sex-role oppression that feminism means to criticize is rooted in the social restriction, the male=aggressive=breadwinner and female=passive= housewife model of heterosexuality; traditional heterosexual sex-roles are but symptoms of that restriction. Gender per se is not the problem, and I think it impossible, as well as pointless, to try to rid ourselves of it.

— Lyndall MacCowan in Re-collecting history, renaming lives: Femme stigma and the feminist seventies and eighties; from 'The Persistent Desire' (ed. Joan Nestle; Alyson Publications 1992).

Thursday, 6 September 2012

It's just stuff.

NB The headline is not a new thought. It's not even a new thought for me. But it's one that's been raging in my head since yesterday.

This was prompted by a piece in The Guardian’s 'Comment-is-free' section about the new 'Lego Friends' range. 'Friends' is a new set of Lego for girls, incorporating five girl figures who like girly things like make-up and clothes and ponies and shopping and...

Okay, to be fair to Lego™, the products also include the 'Heartlake Flying Club' (where the girls can fly aeroplanes), and 'Olivia's Inventor's Workshop', 'Olivia's Speedboat', and 'Olivia's Treehouse' – yay! go Olivia! (who is “good at reading maps, navigation by the stars, building things, computers”; who wants “to be a scientist or an engineer”; and whose favourite colour is pink) – so they've clearly thought about it some.

The Guardian piece – itself prompted by an online petition “Tell LEGO to stop selling out girls!” – vacillates liberal-ly between "Oh, this pink stuff for girls is pretty suspect, isn't it" and "but should we really be policing children's imagination?"; while the comments – never read the comments! – see the usual outpouring of "girls and boys are different so there", "feminists are stupid and should shut up - lol", and "but what about the kids, what about the kids?!" My own contribution BTL was (mostly) this:

As for pink lego: it's the marketing of it as “girls’ lego” that's stupid. Lego is just stuff. People are always far too eager to attribute gender to stuff that's just stuff. Stop that already! Let children – girls and boys alike – play with it (or not) if they want to. I know that as a young boy I'd have been very happy to play with pink lego and all the paraphernalia. I liked that sort of stuff then, and I still like it. Because it's not “girls’ stuff” or “boys’ stuff” – it's just stuff.

And that's the thought which has been on my mind since then. Because why is this stuff being gendered at all? Why is anything gendered? “This here is girls’ stuff; that there is boys’ stuff.” What on earth?!? Is everyone bonkers? Are we all five years old? It's just stuff ffs!

Well, that's my thought anyway. Neither original, nor particularly profound, but still... I think I'll make it my maxim from now on. Perhaps I should have it put on a t-shirt, so that if anyone ever gives me nonsense about gender in future, I can simply point to it:

IT'S ... JUST ... STUFF !

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

14th August 2012.

In one of my answers to ‘Eight Questions’, I mentioned that 15th August 2012 is a significant day for me. Because on that date I will be 48 years and 247 days old, the exact age that my famous relative came out. That day is now tomorrow.

Yesterday I spent time with my mother and sister; and one reason I did so – apart from the obvious one of spending time with my mother and sister – was to start ‘the conversation’.

“While we've got a moment, there's something I need to say...”
“Can I ask you both something: I've been thinking about coming out and...”
“Did you know that on Wednesday I'll be 48 years and 247 days and...”
“Can I just... You both know I'm a transvestite, right?”

It was a good plan. By speaking to them together I'd avoid having to do so individually, while they would have each other for moral support should they need it.

Several opportunities arose during the course of the day. Natural lulls in conversation where I could have spoken into the silence. I took none of them. I wanted to speak and yet I couldn't. I couldn't, even though I'm 99.99% sure they both know already. In short, I totally bottled it; at least it certainly felt – and feels – that way.

The problem for me is (as I related in ‘Eight Questions’ and earlier in ‘Stealth’) that we don't talk about this; we've never talked about this. There's a great big wall around this, and it's a wall almost entirely of my making.

Over the years I've made it very clear (without words) that I did not want to talk about this. For instance, when I was a teenager, and my mother found a nightdress I'd neglected to hide, and she tried to talk to me about it in a lovely “it's okay if this is what you like to wear in bed” kind of way, I sat there like a stone and thought about running away from home, until the extreme uncomfortableness eventually dissipated. And later, when she discovered me in bed actually wearing a (different) nightdress, she knew better than even to try and talk about it. So we didn't talk about it then; and we haven't talked about it since. And at other times, whenever conversation has headed even vaguely in this direction, I've deliberately steered it elsewhere.

So now there's just this wall.

But this is the thing: I no longer feel like the wall is really shielding me but that it's shielding them. When I tried tentatively to broach the subject a few weeks ago, the wall was propped up from the other side. Also (as I said in ‘Eight Questions’) my shelves are openly full of trans-related books. These shelves are mounted on the wall above one of the twin beds in my bedroom. Both my sister and a family friend have slept in that room, in that bed beneath those books, when they've come to stay. And so far, no one has said anything; no one has asked why those books are there, why I have them, what they're for, what they mean. Is it because they're now nervous of the answer? (The books indicating it's about more than just a boy wearing a nightie in bed.) Or because they think they already know the answer and are respecting my privacy? (Which would be so frustrating!)

In a lovely piece about his own cross-dressing, David Torrey Peters tells how his girlfriend “borrowed my laptop to check her e-mail and noticed an online transgendered support group cached in my web browser. She rotated the laptop towards me and asked with a raised brow, “Um…what is this?” I could have laughed it off, or explained it away, but years of compartmentalizing my life had drained me of the energy. At the sight of the screen, an incredibly fast-moving exhaustion travelled across my body like the shadow of a plane flying above. She stared, expectant. “That's me.”

I feel that lack of energy more and more. That inertia, that closet-weary, soul-sapping, fed-up-with-it-all-tiredness of separating different parts of myself from each other.

So now what? Can I continue to take (what seems like) the easy option and wait until someone finally does ask and then just say “yes”? Or will that asking never occur again? Is the wall now everywhere (like Sylvia Plath's ‘Bell Jar’)? Do I have to dismantle it myself and sod the (possible) consequences?

Any advice gratefully received. (Even if I won't necessarily follow it.)

Or perhaps I should just ask famous relative.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Switcheroo. an ongoing project by Canadian photographer (and dance music DJ), Hana Pesut, documented at sincerely hana. Switcheroo consists entirely of ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos – first, of people in their own clothes, and then after they've changed into each other's. The overwhelming instance is of a male and female couple switching clothes.

I was alerted to Switcheroo by a piece at GMP entitled "A Confrontational Gender-Bending Experiment", a headline guaranteed to get my attention. Pesut herself, however, provides no explanatory text, so it's not apparent what her motivation is. Is it a political, cultural, satirical or comedic statement? Is she saying that men and women can wear each other's clothes, or that they can't? That clothes are gendered, or that they're not? That men have more style, or that women do? Is she saying anything definite at all? Perhaps not. Perhaps Switcheroo just seemed like a nice idea and she's running with it. Or perhaps the absence of documentation is the point: she's deliberately not saying anything about what it might mean, not drawing any conclusions, to allow the viewer to bring their own perspective to the photos and come to their own conclusions (if any).

Okay, so. As a cross-dresser, as someone who already finds cross-gendered expression perfectly acceptable, including aesthetically, my main interest is in how the couples look – and for me the results are varied. Sometimes after the swap, they don't look very good at all; sometimes the couples look okay, sometimes they look better; sometimes they both look better in ‘her’ clothes, sometimes they both look better in ‘his’; sometimes that's because the various clothes look good or bad whoever's wearing them.

One reason some couples don't look good ‘after’ is their significant difference in size, with (usually) the men being larger than the women. The changed clothes are then too small for the men and consequently look a bit silly. They'd need to be a size (or three) up for any meaningful assessment to be made – though the women often manage a certain ‘urban’ cool in their now baggy clothes. As for the couples looking good or better: rather than take my word for it, judge for yourselves. The following switcheroos (click on the couples’ names) seem good to me, even if that's a subjective judgment which says more about my own fashion sense than anything else...

The couple both look good after the swap: lina & jim, emma & ejede, west, ainsley & leila — though ejede would probably look good in anything.

They both look better after the swap: clayton & alpha, christina & philip, daniel & hayley — especially daniel & hayley, who look like tourists before; whereas after, they're the epitome of cool, to my eyes anyway.

They both look better in her clothes: dustin & shmoo, maryanne & dmitry, vij & andy — vij should seriously think about throwing his own clothes away.

They both look better in his clothes: steve & monika, garret & judy, brenna & javan — with a nice range of female masculinity too.

And those are just a few of Pesut's switcheroos. There are dozens more on her blog (she's been doing them for over two years now). Here are another three: the first set; a five-way switcheroo; and meeshelle & nathan (who looks totally rad in that dress).

What do you think? :)

Friday, 22 June 2012

Sissies, Trannies, and Jeffreys.

The recent furore over radfem2012, at which Sheila Jeffreys was scheduled to speak, has had me returning to her writing and, specifically, to her 2005 book, 'Beauty and Misogyny'. As I've posted elsewhere (than on this blog) Jeffreys does talk a lot of sense: about agency, the nature/absence of choice, compulsory heterosexuality, and so forth; and her idea of the beauty industry as promoting “harmful cultural practices” to women is a powerful one.

Some of the issues Jeffreys raises are indeed worthy of consideration. However, the lens through which she perceives everything – that the basis of society is the oppression of women – leads to some very dubious conclusions, as she takes her theoretical framework into contexts where it doesn't apply. Nowhere is this more apparent than in her conception of trans issues, outlined in 'Transfemininity: “Dressed men” reveal the naked reality of male power'. In this chapter (and seemingly in all her writing on this subject) Jeffreys reduces every facet of trans to the notion that it's all about men getting off on femininity and the supposed subordinate nature thereof. She therefore regards trans women as transvestite men and equates transvestite men with male submissives and castigates us all on that account.

Other than stating that trans women are not transvestites and that everything Jeffreys says about trans women is therefore utterly flawed, I don't intend to examine this further here. Instead, I'm concerned with her views on transvestism – her main interest by proxy – to explain why her views on this are also erroneous. The essence of Jeffreys’ thesis is set out in her first paragraph in which she makes several unsupported assumptions:

— “Beauty practices and femininity go hand in hand but they are not essentially the properties of women.” This much I can agree with – while noting that beauty practices and masculinity are increasingly going hand in hand too, and they are not essentially the properties of men either.

— “[W]omen do not choose femininity but have it thrust upon them.” Once again I agree: women (and girls) do have femininity thrust upon them by society (or patriarchy, if you prefer) and this is oppressive. Compulsory gender is often oppressive, whatever someone's sex. Compulsory gender roles are oppressive. But I think it is the social enforcement of gender – in particular the arbitrary and discrete attribution of aspects of human gender to binary sex – that is oppressive, not gender itself. In other words, women can express femininity without being oppressed. And men can do so too without being oppressive.

— “Femininity is sexually exciting to the men who seek it because it represents subordinate status and thus satisfies masochistic sexual interests.” This, on the other hand, struck me as being so completely off the wall that, at first, I was at a loss as to how to react. Nevertheless, breaking it down into its constituent parts, there are some partial truths to be found. “Femininity is sexually exciting to the men who seek it”. Yes, it can be. “Femininity (...) represents subordinate status”. Yes, it can do. “Femininity (...) satisfies masochistic sexual interests.” Yes, it can do. These statements, I concede, are sometimes true individually. But combining them – to insert between them (as Jeffreys does) the words “because” and “thus”, as though they followed logically on from each other – creates a fallacious whole. To see why that is involves considering why the separate statements are sometimes true – and the reasons are not in general as Jeffreys supposes.

“Femininity is sexually exciting to the men who seek it” – is sometimes true, but nowhere near always true. Femininity may simply be personal gender expression and not sexually exciting at all. But if and when it is true has nothing to do with the subjection of women or the regarding of women as a subordinate class. For example, femme (the main topic of this blog) is an erotic as well as a gendered identity and hence has the intrinsic potential to be sexually exciting (depending on circumstances). There is also the fact that, for men, the expression of femininity is, with few exceptions, culturally taboo, and taboo can often be sexually exciting. And then there is the consequence of taboo, that of repression, the relief from which (by the desired gender expression in this case) can be exciting too.

“Femininity (...) represents subordinate status” – is partly true. That is, in a male-dominated society where masculinity and femininity are differences culturally inscribed on men and women, femininity does, in those terms, represent subordinate status. It is clearly in this sense that Jeffreys regards femininity as subordinate and hence rejects it. But that doesn't mean femininity is inherently subordinate, only that (patriarchal) society regards it as so. People (of any sex) can express femininity, can appropriate cultural symbols of femininity, without being or feeling at all subordinate, especially if their gender identity incorporates it.

“Femininity (...) satisfies masochistic sexual interests” – is true in certain contexts. In BDSM, for example, a submissive will often adopt a powerless persona, such as infant, schoolboy (for male submissives), prisoner, servant or slave. Throw in gender play as well and you get (from the male perspective) schoolgirl, maid, and so on. This gender play may be based on the denial of identity (emasculation, say), thus heightening the submissive's feeling of powerlessness. Or it may be incorporated for its own sake, which is where “masochistic sexual interests” intersect with transvestism – in particular in the persona of sissy maid, which incorporates an exaggerated ‘femininity’ in a submissive role.

But even then the truth is not as Jeffreys perceives it. Firstly, in BDSM, femininity is not at all inevitably submissive; it can also be dominant; or unrelated to any power position (i.e. separate, rather than being based on something else). And secondly, even if it is submissive, the gender play may yet have its own motives. For instance, for a sissy these motives may spring from the need to express a culturally proscribed femininity, the negative products of which (may) include guilt and (fear of) rejection. Within a command and obedience scenario, these products are negated. There is less guilt because personal agency has been removed (due to obedience), while (the possibility of) rejection is pre-empted (because of command).

And the above explanations only apply to instances where Jeffreys’ “masochistic sexual interests” is taken literally. In most cases, I would suggest, submission is not really a factor. Instead, the “forced” feminization fantasies (which she finds on numerous websites) are equivalent to ravishment or ‘rape’ fantasies, a quick google-search for which brought up the following description on queer erotica author Aurelia T. Evans’ blog: “The rape fantasy isn’t about rape at all. It's about being overwhelmed, about being swept up in something you can’t control, being forced to feel pleasure ... but within the fictional (and thus, fantasy) world, it’s under your control. It’s still your choice.” Quite so. And forced feminization fantasies often incorporate a ravishment element too. In this erotic fiction, the submissive element provides the background, the catalyst, to the fantasy, which is imaginary in every sense. The impetus is being ‘made’ to experience the forbidden feelings you crave within a safe environment: that of your imagination.

Not that any of this will cut much ice with Jeffreys, who takes an equally dim view of SM and butch/femme, and who does not believe in gender except as an oppressive patriarchal construct, and hence (presumably) does not recognize that any need for gender expression exists. Well, on these matters I think she's wrong.

Which doesn't mean Jeffreys is always wrong. There are no doubt instances where, and individuals for whom, what she says holds true. (And, like a good tabloid journalist, she has certainly made it her business to try and find them.) Furthermore, her criticism (later in the chapter) of the relationships between heterosexual transvestite men and their wives has validity – in particular of situations where men perform masculinity at work and femininity at home, expecting their wives simply to acquiesce. Feminist criticism is quite applicable here, as it would be in any situation where male privilege and a false sense of entitlement are so apparent. And as Jeffreys rightly notes, transvestites’ wives are often worse off than usual in this respect. Not necessarily because, as Jeffreys thinks, these wives are inherently conservative and invested in patriarchal gender roles (though some may be), but because their own gender and sexual identities (may) respond to their male partners performing (some sort of) masculinity, so the appearance of male femininity may be decidedly unwelcome.

On this subject: although there are many reasons why transvestite men conceal their need to express femininity, in the context of relationships such reasons, however understandable, amount to dishonesty, in my opinion. If they have performed masculinity during courtship and (perhaps) over many years of marriage (often overcompensating with overt masculinity), then transvestite men have no justification for expecting that their (suddenly) declared femininity will be acceptable to their female partners. (Though that doesn't mean it won't or can't be, as Virginia Erhardt's book 'Head Over Heels' verifies.) But this has nothing to do with Jeffreys’ fundamental thesis. It just shows that the rigid enforcement of social gender rules has repercussions – and that some husbands can be jerks whatever their desired gender expression.

After that digression, in her final section Jeffreys asks the (for her, rhetorical) question: “Transfemininity – Transgressing Gender or Maintaining It?”, reiterating once again that “Femininity is exciting because it is the behaviour of subordination” and, further, that “it is because it is the behaviour of subordination that it cannot be preserved.” From my own perspective, femininity is not intrinsically the behaviour of subordination, so any move to eliminate it is unwarranted (never mind being hopelessly impractical). Instead, what is required is the negation of gender stereotyping, so that people are able to develop their gender freely and are free to express it as they need or wish. As for Jeffreys’ question itself, I think the answer is pretty much “neither” in all cases:

— For trans women (with whom Jeffreys is primarily concerned at this point) the question has no relevance, since trans women are not inevitably feminine; their gender is as variable as that of any other woman. (Jeffreys merely confuses sex and gender here.)

— For male submissives transgression does occur in a sexual sense, in that maleness is disassociated from stereotypical expectations of sexual dominance. Sissies might appear to render this ambiguous by coupling femininity with sexual submission, but it is still in essence male submission. In either case gender transgression is not really the point.

— For male transvestites cultural gender rules are certainly transgressed, but that doesn't imply any real gender transgression either. As Jeffreys’ selective evidence indicates, some transvestites (like anyone else) can have quite ‘traditional’ views on gender. (A penchant for cross-dressing is no assurance of progressive values.) Moreover, transvestites’ default stealth (i.e. closetedness) rules out meaningful transgression for most of us, whatever our politics. The best that might be said is that transvestites are potentially transgressive. If we were all out and open about our (varied) gender expression, so that the assumed correlation between femininity and femaleness was shown to be false, we might well be gender transgressive. But, with a few notable exceptions, we mostly aren't.

In conclusion, I think that Jeffreys’ basic contention (restated here) that transfemininity consists of “men adopting the behaviours of a subordinate group in order to enjoy the sexual satisfaction of masochism” is essentially false. All the testimony she presents in support of her thesis can be explained in other, more appropriate ways. It seems then that, as Roz Kaveney aptly put it, Jeffreys “has a historian's ability to accumulate evidence, but shows remarkably little ability to interpret it.” In other words, despite all her expostulations on trans issues over the years, Jeffreys has contributed very little of actual significance. In this respect the third chapter of 'Beauty and Misogyny' is no different from anything else she has written – and I suspect that, failing an unlikely and unprecedented change of heart, her forthcoming co-authored polemic, 'Gender Hurts', is set to be more of the same.

Monday, 21 May 2012


Feminist blogger Clarissa writes: “Male clothes are kind of boring. There is an obvious gender imbalance here.” — from 'Halloween Costumes'

And: “If women can wear pants and suits, there is no reason why men shouldn’t wear dresses and skirts.” — from 'Should Clothing Be Gender-Specific?'

The latter quote comes from a post about Michael Spookshow's 'His Black Dress', a freestyle fashion blog. Michael explains:

To me, a fashion freestyler is anyone who wears what they want to regardless of preconceived societal opinions. In the context of men's fashion, for me this mostly relates to men wearing dresses, skirts, tights, and high heels, all garments that are currently considered strictly women's clothing. A freestyler is not a crossdresser, at least not in the traditional sense of the term, as he does not try to pass as a woman. A freestyler wears a dress and a pair of heels as a man. (...) Freestyle fashion isn't about fantasy, or simply getting dressed up and taking pictures. For me, real freestyle fashion is worn out on the streets in every day life. — from 'Thoughts on Freestyle Fashion I'

Michael posits a freestyle continuum, from Braveheart (kilt wearer) to androgyne (blurring male/female), placing himself as follows:

As we approach androgyny we must first come into the area I fall into, men who ignore the gender label on clothing. This man will wear skirts, dresses, tights, heels, whatever, but will still keep his appearance male. He believes that clothing has no inherent gender, and that it's silly to put such restrictions on fabric. Speaking personally, to me it's about men having a full range of expression and experiences. — from 'Boys in Dresses: A Primer'

Possibly Michael's continuum could be extended into the more feminine side of things, heading for CD and TV. Following straight on at the androgyne end might be Alex Drummond's grrl-mode. Alex aims for a specifically transgendered presentation, using wigs, make-up, skirts, accessories and so forth, combined with a beard and an undisguised masculine frame. I'm not certain whereabouts I belong. And how about genderfuck? But anyway...

A couple more extracts:

Social perception defines what is viewed as masculine or feminine, and men are expected to stay within the masculine box. However, I think it is silly, and even outdated, to cling to such preconceived notions. At the end of the day, a dress is just a piece of fabric, cut and sewn into a particular shape. I just don't understand the need to put a gender label on that piece of fabric, to say that only girls can wear it. — from 'Boys in Dresses: Ignoring Labels'

Once we strip away the gender stereotypes and labels on clothing, what are we left with? A dress on its own is neither male nor female, it's just fabric. When someone says, "Dresses are for girls.", they are really only projecting their opinion onto that garment. — from 'Why Fashion Freedom is Important'

This is pretty much the position I've been approaching (see this post). So is freestyle for me? I'm not sure; there's rather more to it in my case than just clothes. But I like the attitude of freestyle: I'm going to wear these because I want to, so sod you and your stupid gender rules. Yes, I can certainly relate to that. Gender can be such a pain. As @quarridors tweeted earlier today: “Life would be considerably easier if I could just successfully opt out of the whole thing without everyone seeing it as a really big deal :/

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Eight Questions.

On 30th March last, Lynn @ YATGB set a set of questions, writing:

So the other day, I stumbled across an art project concerning trans people: T-Town: Transgender Neighbors. Each page, if you like, was a small photo of the person in question and then a short interview. Each interview question was repeated to the next subject and it gave a short, potted history. (...) Having read though the original site's questions, I boiled them down to something like this:

(The questions and headings are in italics and bold below, preceding my answers.)

Lynn's idea is to do something similar for Nottingham and the project seems to be progressing nicely. From a prospective neighbour's perspective, it's been both interesting and unsettling delving into the past and writing about it, but I've finally finished – so here it all is:

When did you first feel trans? How did it make you feel? Did you embrace or run from it?

The "when" part of that is a bit difficult. I was trying on my sister's clothes as early as 3 or 4, but I hardly had a conception of being trans (or femme) at that age. I can't remember how it made me feel either, only that I felt compelled to do it. I suppose you could say I embraced it, in that I never tried or wanted to stop (with one brief exception mentioned below), but I quickly understood that it was something for a young boy to do secretly – and especially, whenever I wore girls' knickers to school, that no one should ever find out.

Adolescent coping
How did you cope with growing up? What about puberty? How was school, or teenage life?

Teenage life was mostly "new wave" music, left-wing politics, and hanging out. Trans-wise, I was still wearing my sister's and mother's clothes in private. I started buying my own around 14, when I ventured into Stockport from my Gran's and spent my Christmas money on varied lingerie. It boggles me now that I ever found the nerve to do that. G*d knows what the women at the counter thought (okay, one might hazard a guess), but they served me without saying anything that I can remember and I got away unscathed, relieved and happy.

At 18 I had my first serious relationship: with a bisexual girl of the same age. After a while I told her about my cross-dressing – I actually (bless) wrote her a letter – and she was very nice about it. I was crazy in love with her; but I was inexperienced and immature and consequently rather a jerk. She ended it after about six months. The cross-dressing was, I think, partly the reason, as I'd gotten carried away with the sudden freedom and inflicted it all on her (though the jerk factor certainly figured too). The rejection I took extremely badly, which included "giving up" cross-dressing and throwing all my stuff away. Stupid. Before too long I'd started again and have never made the (expensive!) mistake of purging since.

Early Life / University / College
Having 'grown up' - at least physically, how was life? Did you fit in or fall out? Did you stay home, work away or go to Uni?

Mostly I stayed home. I was unemployed (by choice) for several years after leaving school. Eventually I went away to study architecture in London (coincidentally my ex-girlfriend's sister was there as well), but dropped out after a term and came back to "study maths" at Sheffield instead, travelling in from Mansfield every day. The inverted commas are because I actually spent most of the time studying chess. (I later scraped a third by memorizing key formulas and proofs in the days before each exam and applying them at the table, thus learning that you can get a degree with very little work, just not a very good one – unless you're John Nunn or someone perhaps.)

A short burst on what you do and how you think it has shaped you (for better or worse). Is there something you long to do?

I edit chess books (so the time spent studying chess instead of maths did come to some good), which involves me sitting at home at the computer all day. This has sheltered me from trials and tribulations to a large extent, though whether that's for better or worse, I'm not sure: it's lessened the effects of this type of thing, but at the cost of never needing to deal with it properly.

No, there's nothing I really long to do... although if there was an Open University course in gender theory available, I'd be quite interested in doing that, seeing as I know so much about this stuff already.

Single, married, long term relationship, divorced, happy to be single?

Single. I live with my mother (my father died six years ago) in a house owned by my uncle. For me the essence of singledom was best expressed in an episode of Inspector Morse, where he was asked whether he minded never having married, and he replied: "sometimes I mind". And that's about it: I'm happy being single; I like being single; except for sometimes, when I don't.

Coming Out
Have you? Would you? If so, how was it? If not, why not?

Yes and no. I was deeply in the closet for a long time, albeit more in my head than in reality – in that, although a lot of my family and friends knew, and I knew they knew, and they knew I knew (etc), it wasn't something I wanted to talk about at all. So I was in the closet with the door open as it were. (Think of a young child with their eyes tightly closed and their fingers in their ears, going "you can't see me, you can't see me".)

Nowadays, with family and older friends, the silence is more mutual. We've never talked about it; because to do so, I guess, might change something between us somehow. Personally, I think it'd be better if we did, but I'm still nervous of broaching the subject. For close family I'm being quite silly there because it's right out in the open anyway: my wardrobe is full of women's clothes and my shelves full of trans-related books for everyone to see. On the other hand, "famous relative" didn't come out (as gay) until he was 48 years and 247 days, so I reckon I have until August 15th to prevaricate yet.

The Way Forward
What's next for you? What are your hopes - trans, or otherwise?

What's next: I don't know. Hopes (trans): To be completely open about who I am and not regret it. Hopes (otherwise): That my sister's illness won't finish her off anytime soon. Dreams: To live in a world whose rules of gender are far less rigid.

Words of Wisdom
Anything you'd like to pass on to someone trans?

If that means advice: Embrace who you are as soon as you possibly can.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

MaleFemme Reddit.

Yesterday evening, when checking my blog stats (which I do quite regularly), I discovered an influx of visitors from an unknown source. Hmmmm. Unexpected referring urls/sites usually turn out to be spurious and suspect, the source links activating the protection software: "This site has tried to install Trojan (whatever); your computer has not been infected." You learn soon enough never to click on them. But yesterday, for no clear reason, I did and was taken to and this message:

This post is just a placeholder to keep the lights on. Think of it as a pre-launch. I will get a full introduction up Sunday. Right now I just want to give a few links to weblogs I have found useful to read about male femme, and make an open call for ideas from all interested redditors about what they want r/MaleFemme to be.

And the various bloggers in the links comprised Asher Bauer, Andrew O'Neill, femme guy!, and me. Well, goddamn!

So what is Reddit, first of all? From the FAQ: "Reddit is a source for what's new and popular on the web." and "Reddit is made up of hundreds of sub-communities, each focused on a specific topic." Okay, clear enough. And now someone's started a MaleFemme sub-community. Awesome! The founder, who has the username Winterlong, asks (elsewhere) for signal boost:

Hello. I found a lack of groups on the internet specifically for “femme, effeminate, faggy, non-masculine and gender-non-conforming guys and the people who love them”, so I’ve started a group on Reddit. I am trying to publicize the group, and soliciting ideas for what people want it to be. Signing up on Reddit is super anonymous, with even an e-mail address being optional, so it could be a great safe forum for male femmes and similar male people to get support and connect. I would be very thankful if you could mention the group in a blog post.

Yes, I can indeed. The group is at — "a reddit for peer support of male femmes and discussion of the male femme identity. Male femmes of all sexual orientations and cis/trans male genders welcome."

I've signed up (as MFJonathan), along with 77 other readers (so far). I'm looking forward to the conversation with some excitement :)

Sunday, 18 March 2012

More on "women's" clothes.

Last June I wrote (in this post): “if most aspects of human behaviour are not inherently gendered, why should inanimate objects attached to humans be gendered? Why should the majority of human clothing be designated either as male or female? What in fact are women's clothes?

Nine months on, I'm increasingly taking this view: that the entire construct of "men's" and "women's" clothes is just so much bullshit. (Even those designed for specific body-parts.) I mean really.

This may seem like a strange view for a cross-dresser to take, since I'm hardly coming at it from a neutral position: the gendering of clothing has always been fairly important to me. Indeed, it's important at a deep emotional level that my clothes are "women's" clothes. But intellectually... it's a load of crap, isn't it?! Why should we, as individuals or a society, be insistently gendering pieces of fabric by garment, pattern, style, texture, etc? The more I think about it, the more ridiculous it seems.

Going back to last year: in December I read Sandra Bem's 1993 feminist opus, “The Lenses of Gender: Transforming the Debate on Sexual Inequality”. Okay, Bem may not have been, shall we say, "fully up to date" on trans issues, but I'm not going to critique those bits of her book here because I love the rest of it. Her basic premise is that gender is distorted by three artificial cultural lenses: androcentrism, gender polarization, and biological essentialism — in other words, that male perspectives are taken as standard; that all aspects of humanity are divided according to binary gender; and that these perspectives and aspects are determined by biology and hence immutable — and that these lenses perpetuate a dystopian gender reality, in particular for women and sexual minorities. If you want to know more about these matters, you should read the book itself; I've mentioned it solely in order to quote one passage (from "The Construction of Gender Identity"; p150):

Although the terms sissy and tomboy do not apply to adults who have crossed the gender boundary, the asymmetry between male boundary-crossers and female boundary-crossers is as strong as ever for those who have left childhood behind. This is why a woman can wear almost any item of male clothing—including jockey underwear—and be accepted socially, but a man still cannot wear most items of female clothing without being stigmatized.

The heavy-handed suppression of impulses in males that are culturally defined as even slightly feminine—including what I see as the natural impulse to adorn oneself in vibrant colors and silky textures—makes it extraordinarily difficult for many men to acknowledge the existence within themselves of desires that have even the slightest hint of femininity; the layers of their psyches are thus filled with the kinds of repressed impulses that cannot help but constitute a continuous internal threat to the security of their gender identities.

Well, we could probably debate the relative truth of all that for quite some time, but again I'm not going to. Instead, I just want to highlight this bit:

the natural impulse to adorn oneself in vibrant colors and silky textures

These twelve short words – virtually an aside – leapt at me from the page. Because: Bem thereby degenders clothing, posits femme expression as human rather than female (or merely a stereotype) and negates cultural prohibitions at a stroke.

Bravo! :)

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

META Magazine.

The first issue of the digital META magazine came out a couple of weeks ago. It looks glossy and bright (design by Fernando Safont) and... very promising. Just the cast list is impressive in itself: Paris Lees, Roz Kaveney, Jane Fae, Del La Grace Volcano (!!), CN Lester, Dru Marland, Jennie Kermode. As the subtitle proclaims, it's a magazine by t-people for t-people, where "t" stands for "trans". Paris Lees expands on this in her editorial:

What do we mean by “trans” though? You probably have your own definition, but we use it in the most inclusive sense; covering all types of genderqueer, genderless, transsexual, gender variant and gender non-conforming people, and also those with a trans history, loved-ones, family, friends and allies. It’s an idea which is sometimes expressed using ‘trans*’, but we’ve opted against this asterisk. This is partly a question of style, but also a matter of principle. We believe that everyone should feel welcome under the trans umbrella, regardless of punctuation. Roz Kaveney wonderfully outlines this broad concept of family on Page 25.

Indeed she does — in her strong piece "Cat Herding" (definition at Urban Dictionary), which concludes: "So here we all are at META magazine – passing men and stealth women and trans dykes and genderqueer bois and neutrois and two spirit people and hijra and galli and katoi and the rest. We may not be able to stand each other, but we are all still family." Nicely put.

For the rest, there are: features on Justin V Bond, Lewis Hancox, Steffi Moore, Céline Sciamma, Diane Torr; articles on Gendered Intelligence, gender-free parenting, queer bodies, the trans "community", the word "tranny"; columns on binary finery (this time American Football and baking), clubbing, media watch, personal problems (agony aunt), and queer culture.

And all for the completely unprohibitive price of £1.99 (or £9.99 for six issues). I got it at pocket mags. Alternatively, there's an edition available for an i-app.

I'm already looking forward to META #2 :)

Saturday, 18 February 2012


Damn. The first anniversary of my first post has been and gone and I didn't even notice. Or rather, I knew it was this month but thought it was later on. Whereas, checking the date just now, I see it was February 7th, which was a week last Tuesday. Oh, well, never mind.

So, how has it all progressed...?

Reviewing the first year, I think the reason (“related thoughts”, etc) given in the first paragraph of that first post, ‘Why this blog?’, still stands (though perhaps I should have said “especially me”). I've found it extremely useful working on the 26 posts (now 27 posts), drafting, redrafting, editing, reediting. The mere fact of putting something in a public arena for other people to read, to judge, requires you, forces you to be far more rigorous about it – at least it does me. And when it comes to personal matters I'm much more coherent writing than talking.

Looking through the first year stats: By far the most viewed post has been the ‘sexual fantasy’ one. I guess that's because it contains phrases like “sex with men” which get picked up by search engines – in which case readers may have been disappointed by its actual content, since it's not really very steamy.

My own favourite is probably ‘Femme clothes, women's clothes’, about which I have become more and more convinced since writing it. (There will be another post on this topic in due course.) Other personal highlights include: the penultimate paragraph in ‘Pronoun trouble’ (which sums up my own problems with social gender); and ‘Reading my way into femme’ (which should be self-explanatory).

More stats: Monthly traffic peaked in December at 1093 hits (and no, I don't track my own pageviews ;)). Google is (of course) the highest referrer, followed by T-Central and Samantha's Blogspot. Thanks Calie, thanks Sam.

Thanks as well to anyone who's read anything I've written, and especially to everyone who's commented on anything. Although I'm primarily writing for myself, it's nice to know that it's not completely in a vacuum, that some people are at least slightly interested in what I've had to say.

Here's to Year Two :)

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Nottingham Invasion.

Has there ever been a dedicated t-night in central Nottingham before? I can't remember. There's Chameleons, of course, which has been around for years and provides a safe space for (mostly) MTF cross-dressers on alternate Thursdays. But they're quite a way out of town, which is difficult for those of us without cars. (Never mind that I'm otherwise engaged on Thursday evenings.) And there's Recreation, which started (again) last year. I do go to this fairly regularly (Wednesday evenings in the city centre are more convenient), but it's more of a support group than a social event and caters to different needs.

Now, into the vacuum has come Nottingham Invasion, organized by Samantha Hewit and Maddy Watson, scheduled for the third Friday of every month (the first being last December), meeting at the New Foresters and then moving on to other illustrious venues. And it's really taking off. Apart from the locals, it seems people are already travelling up and down from London and Durham. Which just goes to show.

I didn't make it to the first two Invasions, but I'm planning on going in February — if I can solve three problems: #1 (logistical): how to get there and back; #2 (personal): fear – the prospect of going anywhere to meet up with people I don't know always fills me with trepidation, no matter how nice they all might be; #3 (sartorial): what to wear.

Solutions: #1 Go on the bus (though this creates its own problems) or stay overnight (probably not). #2 Go anyway (to do anything else would be feeble). #3: Hmmmm...

As I said in a previous post (and in the comments thereto), I'm essentially always cross-dressed, in that all my clothes are off the women's racks, if never so overtly as to cause an adverse reaction. This time I should clearly get in the spirit of things and be more overt. But if I don't want to parade myself through the village (and I don't), I'll have to change when I get there and the facilities for doing that are somewhat lacking. My one saving grace is that, unlike (I'm guessing) most other Invaders, I don't intend (or want) to present as female at all — femme, not female, remember — so I don't have to worry about wigs, cosmetics, body shaping, or anything like that. So perhaps all I need is a skirt and shoes in a bag for a quick change in the toilets.

Perhaps a velvet skirt and some gothy shoes.

This is beginning to sound like fun :)

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

male femme on Twitter.

I've now entered the Twitterverse. @malefemme is my (highly original) handle, in case anyone wants to follow me – though I don't really have much to say: 69 tweets in three weeks, and nothing of consequence so far.

It just seemed that things were happening, trans/gender/queer-politics-wise, over there. So I signed up. And it's true, there is a nebulous community of sorts. And ongoing discussions: #transchat , #queerchat , #MNGW and suchlike. And Jasper says he's building a PostGendered Twitterverse, which could be interesting.

Whether I'll stick with it, I don't know. It takes a definite commitment following everything – increasingly so as my Following list builds up (currently 130). But I'll keep going for the time being at least.

See you on the darkside perhaps :)

Sunday, 1 January 2012


I didn't post much last month because I was busy elsewhere: finishing a big editing job and arguing online with anti-feminists about feminism. Yes, I know the latter is nearly always pointless. We come in with our opinions already preset, so that all we're doing is trying (and failing) to convince each other that we're right and they're wrong – until, sooner or later, we get round to trading insults, and usually sooner than later. In fact, very often people don't waste any time, they just get on with the insults straight away.

Nevertheless, I thought I'd write something about it all here, setting out my own perspective on feminism as a gender-non-conforming man, away from the arguments as it were (and if they followed me over I could always delete them). To this end I started Googling for anything related to "feminism" and "transvestite" – and after a while I came across this:

I don’t consider the way I cross-dress to be emulating any kind of ‘proper woman’, it’s just that it’s pretty hard for me to emulate the ‘tomboyish feminist welder/bike mechanic’ of my dreams without looking actually more masculine than I already do.

That wasn't quite what I was looking for, but it got my attention and I went on reading:

I think I have a hardwired notion that it is desirable to be a girl. I also have over the years accepted and internalised the fact that I cannot be a girl. Therefore it is desirable to be like a girl, and because of our hugely gendered clothing split, the easiest way to achive that is to wear the clothes of a girl. If I looked more feminine, I think I would probably act a lot more feminine, but as I don’t want to try and fail to pass for female, I ground what I do in an acknowledgement that I am male. The identity I project outwards is therefore feminine male, rather than woman. I want to dress as ME, not as something I am not.

This came from the same blogpost: Issues of authenticity and ‘womanhood’. The blogger: Stand-up comedian, amateur occultist, musician, metalhead, and out transvestite, Andrew O'Neill.

After that I went through the entire blog from the beginning (October 2010), nodding emphatically and enthusiastically as O'Neill laid out his thoughts on coming out, being out, passing, femininity, binary gender, labels, language ... as he talked about harassment, phases, heels, fashion, records, grind(core), noise, steampunk ... as he referenced Eddie Izzard, S.Bear Bergman, Andrej Pejic, Genesis P.Orridge ... basically ticking my boxes one after another.

As for my title, that comes from this post: Gender-punk and consumerism, which is partly about labels and partly about buying pink handbags. All very nice :)

Finding a blog where you agree with almost everything is like a big virtual hug. And it's especially warming after you've been engaged in vehement online disagreement for however long. I may come back to the arguments at a later date; at the moment I don't feel like it. Instead, I'll just add Andrew O'Neill's splendid Postmodern trannyblog to my blog list and make sure to go and see him next time he's in Nottingham – whenever that might be. Apparently he did a Pride benefit here only a fortnight ago and I missed it :(