It’s been a while since I’ve posted one of these. And just as I realized that… one presented itself to me. So… In another installment of “out of the mouths of”, I find that I am not at all alone, nor am I completely crazy.
Last summer I made the acquaintance of someone I’ll call Clark. Emily had wanted me to meet her as she is online friends with Clark’s wife Dana, and according to Emily, Clark was beginning to identify as trans-ish or perhaps gender-nonconforming, or queer. I could read between the lines. I was quite sure I wasn’t going to like this Clark fellow one bit. I felt the underlying message behind Emily’s desire for us to connect, that Clark was being trans the *right* way and maybe I could be persuaded. Anyway, I begrudgingly met this guy and of course we were like twins separated at birth and hit it off immediately. The reality being, Clark identifies very much the same way I do, so either Clark has soft-coated things for the wife or Clark’s wife has heard what she wants to hear about how Clark identifies.
In any case, one of the things Clark and I talked about was clothing. Clark attends more formal and social events than I do and actually ended up having a suit made to fit. Clark said it was one of the best things money could buy. Clark said the suit fits like a glove and feels *right*. Not to mention the boost in self esteem and curbing the gender dysphoria craziness. Make no mistake, this is a men’s suit. It is simply tailored to fit Clark. Anyway, Clark changes up the shirt and tie and is good to go. Clark gave me the name of the company and also suggested less expensive ways of going about getting a decent suit for myself.
Last week I received an email from Clark. Clark and Dana were invited to a friend’s wedding (two women). Clark was to be peripherally “in” the wedding and talked to the friend getting married about wearing the suit. The friend was completely fine with it. Clark and Dana went and Clark was awkwardly surprised to be one of the only clearly *queer* looking people in attendance. Clark’s email said, “I felt like I stood out like a sore thumb. All the guys and kids were staring at me not knowing what to make of me.” Sound familiar?? It got worse for poor Clark though. After the ceremony, during the passed appetizers, a man approached Clark, complimented the suit and then said, “So, what do they call that? A gender bender or something?” Clark was stunned and of course completely shamed. Clark’s email went on to describe a spiral into shame and self-loathing I know only too well. I almost cried reading the email.
It wasn’t surprising to me. Actually it quite validated my own feelings and experiences. I don’t think anyone intends to be mean when questioning us. At least I really hope the intent is simple curiosity. But the question always comes out a bit like one asking, “Why is your dog in a baby carriage?” With the distinct air of curled-nostril condescension and repugnance. And the truth of the matter is that we are judging those people with their dogs in strollers. Well, at least I am pretty sure I am (though let’s be perfectly honest… I would never ask). And I know that if I were to simply respond, “I like how I feel and look dressed like this”, the judgment might be (at least momentarily) dispelled and the questioner, who was probably only curious and not judgmental to begin with, would simply shrug and move on. Although as I play this through in my head I realize that quite often the person doesn’t let it end there, but pushes presumptuously ahead by explaining (with the thinly veiled irritation of one explaining to a child why they cannot do something clearly stupid) that it is a MENS suit. The problem is that I rarely have the wherewithal to not care what others think. The question, even the hint of judgment, rattles me. I have felt so wrong for so long, perhaps I’m not qualified to judge myself feeling right? I’m really going to have to work on that.