Undressing transgender

There are days when I dislike my body. When I wish it were thinner, taller, ‘sexier’ or tighter. When I am hard on my body. When I force it to do sit-ups and squats even when it is tired and sore; when I criticize and scrutinize it in front of a mirror like a prosecuting lawyer would a suspect in a courtroom. I pinch at my body’s excess flesh and deprive it of birthday cake and second helpings. Yes, there are days when I dislike my body but one thing my body and I have never disagreed on is the correctness of my gender.

Never in my 19 years of existence have I felt that the sex of my body and the gender of my brain do not correlate. Never have I wished that my body were anything but female or desired to cut my hair short and wear men’s clothes, (although I am a sucker for flannel and veldskoens).

There are some people however, who have spent their entire lives wishing to be seen the same way they feel in a member of the opposite sex’s clothing. One such example is Stephan Burt, a married man, father and respected businessman, who “likes (his) life as Stephan just fine, so long as (he) gets to be Stephanie now and again.”

In an article in the London Review, Burt speaks about his love of jewellery and feminine colours and says that he could go without cross-dressing the same way he could go without music or fruit. After reading that, I realised how important wearing what I like is to me.

Every day when I wake up and stare groggily into the depths of my wardrobe I decide how I am going to present myself to the world. Sometimes it’s a pair of royal-blue tights because I’m feeling bold, other times it’s a bandana because my fringe is looking frighteningly close to a thatched roof and sometimes it’s a pair of leopard-print, skin-tight leggings and studded boots because bitch-I-am-fabulous.

When choosing these items I consider the weather, my mood and logistics, (is it possible to wear a beanie without looking like I’ve thrown a Pick ‘n Pay packet over my head? And other vital concerns.) During this process, I may change my mind because I’m looking like the love child of David Bowie and Courtney Cox or simply because the ensemble looked better in my head. However I have never changed my outfit because someone may beat or kill me for wearing it. I have never had to think twice about people staring at me for wearing makeup or nail polish. I am free from judgement, (apart from when I wear big shirts and shorts and get orderedby a train ticket salesman to “put some bloody pants on.”)

And that’s exactly what people like Burt go through every time they step outside in something that is considered “incorrect” for their gender. When I think about the joy and sense of self I get from putting on mascara, bracelets and perfume, I can only imagine what it must feel like to have society look down on you for dressing in a way that is true to who you are.
I like being a woman. I like Ryan Gosling, lingerie and short skirts. I like experimenting with green eye shadow and hair styles. And if someone told me that any one of these things was “unnatural”, “wrong” or tried to and stop me from continuing to do them, it would be like someone telling me I could no longer be myself.

Of course people are more than just their gender and physical appearance but certain things we do and habits we pick up are because of our gender. And for that to be considered unacceptable is to consider a particular human being unacceptable.

There will be many more days when I dislike body. When I condemn its oversized feet and desire to consume copious amounts of hallumi cheese. But on those days I will remind myself of the liberty that both my body and mind share: the freedom to present myself in whatever way I please without being labelled an oddity or publicly gawped at by society. I am free to be me in a deer-stalker hat and my gran’s beads the same way a man SHOULD be free to be himself in a LBD and a woman herself in a tailored suit and cufflinks.

Let’s dress the way we want to dress, and not be confined by the restraints our gender presents.

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