Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Reluctant Rebels - A blog by CiCi Kytten for Suddenly Fem

Not long ago, I was having dinner with a friend of mine from Down Under, internet latex darling Nicci Tristan. We were reminiscing about our lives in tg/cd world.  We chatted about our childhood, and coming out, and all of the anxiety involved.

“Reluctant rebels,” she said. “That’s what we are. Reluctant rebels.”

I think there are a lot of us in the gender non-conforming community that can identify with that phrase.  Most of us didn’t set out to be social revolutionaries or gender outlaws.  For most of us, that’s the last thing we wanted.  We don’t have a history of political or social activism.  Most of us have led fairly quiet, mainstream, hetero-normative lives.

But something wasn’t working for us.  Something was off.  Sometimes it took us a long time to figure out what was going on. Some of us are still trying to make sense of it all. Still trying to determine where we belong on the gender spectrum

We never set out to cause a stir or upset the conventional “normalness” of our lives.  Some say that gender-noncomformists are driven by a need for attention. (And some of us do adore attention.) But many of us do not. Many of us don’t particularly enjoy making a fuss, upsetting our friends, or causing uncomfortable conversations around the dinner table.

And yet here we are.  A group of fairly conventional people from fairly conventional backgrounds behaving in some pretty unconventional ways. Calling into question all manner of social traditions and beliefs, and sometimes challenging the very mainstream values that we grew up with -- and have always believed in.

I don’t know about you. But for me, this has caused quite an emotional quandary. For me, this trans phenomenon… for lack of a better word… seemed very odd and alien when it first presented itself.  And yet something about it seemed entirely natural.  It seemed like second nature.  But it wasn’t second nature.  It was my “first nature.” It just took me a long time to figure that out.

My “first nature” was hidden from me at a very early age. Not by some insidious plot.  Not by homophobic or transphobic feelings on the part of my parents. No, my first nature was hidden from me by centuries of rigid gender roles assigned long ago in countries all over the world – adopted and embraced by millions, and poured into the societal soup that became small-town America in the 1960’s and 1970’s.

What really blows me away, however, was the realization of just how young I was when my mind was shaped and my thought processes began to form. It took me until the age of 40 to realize that what I considered to be my basic gender instincts (to act and behave in a masculine way) were not actually instinctual at all. They were learned behaviors -- learned behaviors that were taught to me by my family and friends and society as a whole when I was a toddler.  Perhaps even an infant.

I’m sure some gender-specific urges are hard-wired into us biologically.  (I’m way out of my element when I try to talk of science.)  But it seems to me that the large majority of my behaviors were taught to me. Programmed, perhaps.

No one ever presented me with a list of do’s and don’ts for my behavior.  Or a list of male traits and female traits.  They didn’t need to.  The minds of young children are like sponges. We soak up everything.  We’re learning sharks – hunting and digesting everything in sight.  And everything in sight told me that I was male.  I was a boy – no different than my three brothers. I had a penis. I had short hair. I played sports. I was a boy. And I would grow up to become a man.

Those lessons were not to be questioned. They were as clear and as concrete as adding 2 + 2.  Factual. Scientific. Indisputable.

Or so it seemed.  

Today, as we emerge into mainstream society, the world is starting to take a second look at gender and gender roles. People are calling this trans tipping point of the current trans empowerment movement.  (NOTE: There were other key moments and brave individuals long before any of us. Look them up!  Know your history!)  But in today’s movement, the media points to celebrities such as Chaz Bono, Laverne Cox, and Caitlyn Jenner... or to the increase in trans-related news stories, films and television series... or to major strides in new legislation for the LGBT community as a whole.

But if you ask me, it all started with you.  The non-famous, non-political, non-rebels of the trans community.  The cd/tv/tg girls who one day decided to get off their computers and get out into the world. Or to the clubs. Or to trans events. Or Pride events. Or to the local convenience store or gas station. 

I’ve heard countless stories from girls whose first nights out were nothing more than a quick trip to the late-night drive-through.  Can you relate? You got in your car under cover of darkness – totally terrified – and drove around the block to some 24-hour fast food joint. You never got out of your car.  You barely looked the geeky teen-aged clerk in the eye. And then you zoomed right straight back home.

And you weren’t even hungry! As you drove, you were hoping that nobody saw you -- while simultaneously hoping that everyone saw you. How good you looked!  How femme you looked!  How daring! It wasn’t much of an outing. Not much of an adventure. Just a quick drive around the block. But you did it. And as you did it, you changed the world.

I sincerely believe that.

Nicci Tristan
Gina Bigham

Another really good friend of mine, Gina Bigham, coordinator for cultural arts at the Los Angeles LGBT Center, once told me that her activism was the simple act of stepping outside her front door. And being visible. And in a community of reluctant rebels -- a community that needed (and still needs) visibility -- that act of stepping out, showing our faces, and making our presence known – even if it was only to an unsuspecting, pimply-faced, teen-aged geek in the drive-though window at Micky D.’s - may have been the most important and most courageous act of all.

That was your tipping point. And the world hasn't been the same since.

Take care out there.

Stay safe. Stay smart. Stay sexy.


Glenda Bingyi said...

Loved reading the blog I can so relate to what you are saying. Certainly don't see myself as a rebel or someone tipping the scales of society's acceptance but on my first outings felt that I was worth the effort and not someone that should only ever bee able to express herself inside the four walls and closed windows of her house. I recall that first trip out as equal parts fear and exhilaration. With each new goal and boundary crossed I still have that feeling. Keep up the good writing hon

Danielle Roberts said...

great article I love reading your blogs I can remember my first outing it was terrifying and exciting at the same time. I wondered for days why it was so exciting? was it because for the first time in my life, I was being honest with myself ? I was breaking all the rules that I was taught growing up as a male? thank you ms. kitten for your insightful writing, you always make me look inside myself for answers. and we all crave answers, why are we like we are ?

Triesste said...

Very well said as always Cici, and at the moment, very relevant for me.
My name is Triesste, I am a performer with Tokyo Closet Ball-look us up on FB.
Today I was informed that, some photos from our Halloween show have been seen by
a few members of the `conservative wing` of our family. Basically-well I knew this was
going to happen at some point. I am going to be back in the U.S. for the holidays, probably with a lot of explaining-multiple times-to do. It`s the `manure hitting the turbine` moment
I was hoping to avoid but, made nearly impossible by performing in front of audiences, and photographers. Like my fellow performers, I have causes I believe in. I think we all support greater diversity and better representation. But none of us are confrontational, none of us are prone to podiums and loudspeakers. And this is among a group who perform in public. It`s an expression of our curiosity, our creativity, and at the end of the day, our humanity. Japan in particular is a place where, as long as you are not overtly interfering with someone else`s life, pretty much anything goes. I know we are all thankful to be able to do what we do without being threatened, or worse. Anyway pardon my rambling-I think things back home will be just fine. Eventually.

Selina said...

I love your voice. You write beautifully, but it's the content that hits me in the heart. It's not easy to sustain a blog. The first 15 or 20 columns can flow pretty easily, but it can be hard to keep the energy and the ideas coming. You are very, very good. Thank you for your voice and for almost always saying the things I'm thinking but can't find the words.

prissydeanna said...

thanks for all the great articles.
my firs time out was when I was at a motel. I went outside to the vending machine area in a short satin tutu, and high heeles and satin top. I bought a coke, which I never even opened. I stayed in the hall for a while, and hoped that there were cameras into the lobby desk. I was excited the rest of the evening. even though nothing happened. I am planning on coming out more in the future. it is so exciting. thanks again girls

Unknown said...

Well said Cici and i can def relate to the issue of having to wait till my 40's to get past my hesitations and explore this wonderful side of me more due to social learning. I wouldnt think of myself as a reluctant rebel, as ive always been someone who speaks up and have been an environmental and anti war activist. Its great that getting more in touch with our feminine sides helps more sisters speak out, as we need that. I dont know when my first time outside completely en femme, as i wear some clothes and makeup underneath, but i know i am getting much closer by hearing stories as your own. Thanks for sharin. Samantha Jane

Danielle Bear said...

Dear Cici, I've been very lucky in the fact that my family all know about my gender and have accepted it even as a child,but as for the rest of the world that's a very different matter. Being from the deep south I had double issues(race&gender) working against me but your description of that first night out was spot on!,that was me. Since then my career has allowed me to be who I really am and I've met so many people who I've transformed into "Little Monsters" and they have turned out to be very outgoing in the community both LBGT and Straight - I'm very proud of them - and yet they say "If it wasn't for you I wouldn't have had the courage to do the rallies and activities ". I certainly don't feel like a rebel,but since I'm Louisiana maybe I am.=)

Anonymous said...

This article is an inspiration for me to go out in public tonight. I've driven around in the dark and filled my car while dressed, but tonight I will interact with someone while fully dressed as a girl.

Anonymous said...

i think this the usual comments when stepping out..It's so scary but if you dress to blend you will see how easy it is & how great you feel..just do it & the second time will be easier,,you can step out & never say anything to anybody & still have a great time,,take a magazine & sit somewhere at the mall & read,,show your legs off with style & a pretty pair of heels will always keep their eyes off your weaker points,if any, you can sit there & really have fun & on the 1st time,,sit somewhere close to the entrance & as the more confident you feel the braver you become..when you master the voice then you can really do your thing..so just do it & go for it..it's great if you have a person that is doing the same,have fun & enjoy your beauty..aliceloveu1397@gmail.com....

Peter Elphick said...

Thanks for the chat Kitten.I got a busty blonde for christmas off Amy last time she gave me hugs and kisses like now.I can't wait to get the blonde and will switch to the estradiol injection next time I see the Doc.They would let me have the fini but what am I going to do with the blonde.

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Age of war said...

Dear Cici,
Please feel free to share. I'm very flattered. And i wish you the best on your journey. It is never easy. And every step forward is a victory!
Red Ball

Alice Taylor said...

Thank you for your post, I look for such article along time, today i find it finally. this post give me lots of advise it is very useful for me

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