Thursday, June 11, 2020

Strutting Away from Shame

By Hannah McKnight
There are a zillion ways someone like us can identify as. From the day I learned the word I identified as a crossdresser. When I heard the word transgender I felt it encompassed me more, but it was years until I identified that way. I define transgender as anyone who is outside of the traditional gender norms. A boy who wears eyeliner or paints his nails? Someone killing onstage in drag? A man who wears panties under his three piece suit? I believe they all fall under the bright pink transgender umbrella. Under that umbrella is a term that probably describes who I am the best: I am bi-gender.
I present as either HE or SHE. Yes, there is a little crossover such as wearing panties in boy mode or sleeping in a nightgown, but most of the world sees me in either patent black stilettos or in work boots.
When I make that beautiful transition from one gender presentation and identity to another, I am aware of how much I am changing physically. I have my thigh pads, my hip pads, my breast forms, my hair, both body and wig. My makeup causes my eyes to pop, my face is contoured, my lips painted a bright, glossy red.
But for as many things I can and do change, there are parts of me that no matter what I do, they cannot be altered. I am tall, I have large hands, I have broad shoulders. These are my most "male" features. Yes, I can minimize my shoulders visually, I COULD skip the heels (I will never skip the heels), and I could hide my hands more.
Before I go any further, I wish to clarify that no one, absolutely no one is too tall, too.... anything to be beautiful, to be a girl, to identify however they want. I have met cis-women who are taller than me, even in my highest heels. And I have some high heels.
But these are the parts of me that if I COULD change, I would. I don't believe in passing, of course. As I said, no one is too tall or anything to be a girl. There are no standards that one needs to meet in order to be feminine.
I used to not feel this way, though. I used to think I was too tall to go out, too tall to wear those heels. But it wasn't my height or hands or anything one could see that was holding me back. What was keeping me home was my own thoughts and doubts and fears. Eventually I got tired of strutting around my living room and finally went out that front door and never looked backed. And I thank god every day for that decision.
The more I went out, the less self-conscious I was about my height, my hands, and everything else. Of course people stared, I'm fabulous But kidding aside, people stared because I am wearing a bright pink dress, I am (probably) overdressed for the mall, and I am a transgender girl. Of course people will stare. And when I say stare, it's more like a double-take. They see me, they look again, and we all move on with our lives.
Each time I go out, I feel more empowered than I did the last time. I am conquering an unseen force... my doubts, my fears, my dysphoria. Each time I walked through the front door of a museum, theater, dress shop I was walking away from the part of me that said I couldn't, or shouldn't, do this. Dressing is empowering to me. Going out is empowering to me. Wearing those heels that make me the tallest girl in the city is me saying that no one, not even me, is too tall to be a girl. I am tall, I am an amazon, I am a goddess, I am a six foot tall girl, before the four inch heels. I look down (literally) on those who hate me. Let's see them walk in these stilettos.
If being en femme is not empowering I don't know what is. We are being true to ourselves, despite the world wanting us to suppress who we are.
People are going to see me. Let them look. Let them stare. It doesn't bother me a bit. I spent $80 on a makeover, they better look, lol.
When I feel and look beautiful, I feel I can take on anything. Dressing (for the most part) has always felt empowering to me. Yes, mastering walking in stilettos and being able to do winged eyeliner feels as if I am conquering something, but the real strength comes from letting ourselves listen to this part of us. Accepting and embracing who we are when almost all of society says to stay in our gender lane. We are told to not wear pink, don't wear that skirt, don't paint your nails. We listen for a while... and then some of us stop listening to THEM and we start listening to HER. That is the victory, that is the empowerment.
But before we can feel empowered, many of us have to face the opposite: the shame.
I do not think we are born feeling shame when it comes to wearing or identifying with anything feminine. I believe we are taught this shame. Boys are told not to cry like a girl, boys are mocked if they throw a basketball like a girl, run like a girl, bake like a girl... we are taught that being a girl is something we should be ashamed of. The damage this does to us is severe, not to mention the damage this causes girls who overhear this type of ridicule. We hear these horrible things in our childhood, often right around the time we are starting to pay attention to what we feel, and what we want to wear. These feelings of shame can be entwined with our wanting to wear that dress, those shoes.
This side of us is wonderful. It is nothing to be ashamed of. There is nothing wrong with us. We are all goddesses. We are women.
And fear? Of course we're afraid. I'm afraid of the stem of my heel snapping, I am afraid of my stockings getting a run in them. Joking aside, I am afraid of being harassed. As powerful as I feel en femme, sometimes a snide comment can destroy my confidence. It doesn't happen often, but it does happen. I am afraid of being attacked, of course. I am afraid of being seen by someone I am not out to, especially if that someone is not someone I want to be out to ...ever. It's natural to be afraid. It's normal. But fear is not something that we should let control our lives. Rather, we can mitigate it. Afraid of being seen by someone you know? Go to a different town. Afraid of being attacked? Go to a very public place (which is scary in a different way), but I feel more at ease in a crowded mall than anywhere else. Afraid of your stockings running? Keep a second pair in your purse. I know I do.
Just like there are a zillion ways we can identify, there are countless feelings and emotions this side of us can bring. Sometimes we feel them all at once. My legs tremble with fear at the same time my skin tingles with joy when I step out. It's exhausting.
There is no shame in who you are. There is no shame in beauty, in being feminine. Being true to yourself is the most powerful thing you can be.
Love, Hannah

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