Saturday, October 30, 2010

Have a fun Trans-eve!: Halloween's invitation to be transgender in cross play, gender bending, cross dressing and more

Welcome to the night and weekend where trans is IN, trans-eve, or Halloween,the time when gender bending doesn’t get you beaten up but picked up or winning awards. It is the night for feminine loving men to go Rococo!
Trans, the T in LGBTQI, is short for transgender and covers an umbrella from the effeminate and feminine male, and Drag Queens, like the ones who rioted at Stonewall, getting gay, lesbians, bisexual AND T rights out in the open. But also includes the largest group which are heterosexual males who like to cross dress, as well as variance in gender roles, gender play, gender identity and gender perception preference. Presentation, or gender identity has nothing to do with sexual orientation, which is often misunderstood, as many famous female early cross dressers were as heterosexual as the majority of men (most married), like Dr. Mary Edward’s Walker (who won the Congressional Medal of Honor as a Doctor in the Civil War, 1868) to Katherine Helpburn (the heartthrob of so many baby-dykes)and now, the Butch Clothing Company has launched this year, selling to women who want to wear men’s clothes. Gender presentation, or even identity has nothing to do with orientation (gender is how you see or want others to see you: male, female, or a mix, while orientation is who you are attracted to sexually).

Transgender acts as an umbrella term for those whose gender identity or gender presentation for periods of time or completely do not mesh with the assigned birth gender. It has later evolved to include those who do not conform to gender norms. The term was created by Charles Prince who created Tri-ess, a group for cross-dressers as different than the medical term ‘transsexual’ (those whose assigned birth gender or body does not match their gender identity and take steps so that the two match, which can include medical such as hormone treatment). Charles Prince created the term because cross dressers and drag queens were being mistaken for (medical term) transsexuals and said, I “know the difference between sex and gender and have simply elected to change the latter and not the former” (changing the gender not the sex – it is if you ask a Drag Queen backstage if they are male or female, they will say male, even if they spend 75% of their time dressed and perceived as female). The umbrella though includes those who identify as trans, which ranges from cross dressers, genderqueer, Drag queen and kings, boi’s, transvestites, those who live cross gender and androgynous (and, of course, transsexuals, and those whose gender identity is not aligned to their birth assigned gender)

For Halloween, this is in North America, almost a ‘free zone’ for gender variation expression and behavior, particularly cross play and genderplay, where through clothing, appearance and/or behavior you are not your identified (for example, your birth) gender. For example, when we went to Japan we went to a ‘Butler Café’ where the Butlers were actually women doing gender play. But as two lesbians, we saw ‘Butch’ and so didn’t understand how in a society where even the food is gender designated (dark chocolate pocky is ‘mens’ while sweet and strawberry is ‘female’ – men drink: coffee, while women drink: milk tea), that this was a living stage of gender play. So the goth lolita’s, ultra femme, come into this café (which is female patrons only), where they are greeted, fawned over and have some male patronizing over what they have bought or are wearing, and how pretty they are by the gender playing Butlers. The Bulters, though biologically female, when on the job and website are socially male, and talk as men (while for us, we were thinking, ‘Butch women’ and missed the fun entirely). Thus the café is all hands covering the mouth and shy flirtation to the favorite Butler who develops a flirtatious fantasy gender play with a frequent patron.

Halloween offers a lot of fun opportunities this time and type of play, as regular restrictions don’t apply, and if all the girls want to wear those white wedding dresses, then a few of the boys might want to be ‘brides’ for a night as well. Of course, if you are going to pick up your girlfriend and plan on doing some gender play, and maybe later some gender play roleplay it is best to let her know BEFORE you show up in the tuxedo.
There is also, ironic gender play, where one dresses very BADLY as a sailor scout for example. However, I can say that since you have the chance of fantasy and gender play, might as well go for ‘HOT!’ and girls in traditional male uniforms tend to be pretty hot. A warning: if you are just trying this out first time you can pick the wrong outfit BIG TIME, this is what females learn between 13 and 15, that though you LOVE as an outfit and it looks amazing: it might not look amazing on YOU. This is why you have those pictures of you in outfits that just aren’t your body shape. Avoid that and take a friend who has some fashion sense and say, "No, it's great, but it's not YOU"!

The other advantage of Halloween is that it is accepting, and femme boys can be femmes, and butch women can be gender boi’s. Linda is what we call a ‘lapsed femme’ in that she isn’t exactly ‘butch’ but rather just a REALLY lazy femme who gave up on jewelry (“too much hassle”), never learned make-up (“Why do I always have to wait while you put that…..STUFF on?”), and ends up buying what is comfortable even if it is in the men’s section (hint: if in a discount shoe store, your size is out and you rush to the men’s shoes to see how they look, you might be heading into ‘lapsed femme territory). Ironically she went as a ‘Butch’ one year and was told she was unconvincing, while as a ‘lapsed femme’ she is often assumed to be Butch. But as Linda would say, “So…it’s comfortable.” (yeah, and some of us are more comfortable femme, as I often have ‘I will dress, wear earrings and blow dry my hair into a style even if I don’t go out’ one of the standards of self will and self pride within a chronic illness). I'm not sure 'lapsed femme' counts as transgender, but it sure is easy to make a costume: Linda, "I'll wear this guy's sweatshirt and my dockers"

Me: "What is your costume exactly?"

Linda: "Relaxed."

For those who want to give cross dressing, gender bending or genderplay a try this year, usually it is males wanting to dress as females so beyond the ‘shave, shave, shave – like legs! PLEASE!’, I recommend using this Kay Cosmetics guide to going from a 2 day beard to a stunning beauty: highly recommended as the directions are accompanied by 12 pictures showing the exact change from Rob to Allison. Or if you want to try female impersonation/drag, use some of ehow’s tips. Or you will end up with this kind of difference (cute guy makes cute girl in gown with bunny ears while school girl is out of proportion, no wig, no make up, and well, skary).We have all seen scary cross dressing on Halloween, and why? Because guys don’t want to admit a little gender play can be fun? Newsbreak: the secret is out, okay? 20-30% of men acknowledge they cross dressing regularly for pleasure (singer G-Dragon announced he does – read the comments, which are very interesting), and only 45% have said they have never done it (women 20% for pleasure or other reasons, but then, as pointed out, gender bending for women is a lot more blurry). So put the embarrassment on hold for a night and if you are going out girl, go for it!

I mean, sometimes it is all about the attitude. Like her, it is sort of obvious about the woman but wow, got the male body set, use of space and sexy man vibe going on. But for those who want a bit more clothes on, ehow has a basic guide for gals who want to be guys for the night (think boxers, pressed breasts). And sometimes it is about the body and gait. How you walk tells the world your gender (men tend to take up more room and don’t move aside while women take up less room and move aside for males). In walking your hips, biology (the ‘package’) and social influences mix, so if you are cross dressing as female and guys are bumping into you, it means they ‘read’ you as female – same with how far the arms are from the body. For a fun minute or two, click here at the Biomotion lab, where you can see the difference clearly in how the two genders walk and also how weight and size change your gait (it has arms, hips, knees feet and head – really fun to move the slider and see the changes we recognize on the street). Click on ‘lines’ if you want to see as a stick figure. For women, the arms don’t go full extension, and for guys they do, the same with smiles (smaller for female, full on for guys). This is why a girl who loves horror films, team sports, belches and can keep up at a ‘chug a lug’ beer contest is known as both ‘dream girl’ and ‘one of the guys.’ But then, you can always go as a GOTH girl, which lets you love horror films, sports, plus you get to carry a plushie as well as things like knives or small chainsaws (a Hello Kitty or Emily the Strange Chainsaw is best)

However it goes, have a great Trans-eve, Halloween and maybe, if you want, you can send me pictures (I wanna see!). Be creative, because even if you always wanted to win a beauty pageant (though you are a guy, and this is your night to be Miss Billings, Montana). But your fashion friend says fru-fru dresses and speeches about wanting world peace aren’t for you, despair not, I bet you could still be a Zombie Beauty Queen!
Have Fun, as this short video (2.5 minutes), The Sweetest Thing, to celebrate love, life and being who you are is about. Takumi, the younger brother of Mai (the heroine of Mai Hime anime) has a bad heart and needs a risky operation but isn’t interested in burdening his sister. He’s a feminine guy who likes his pink apron and cooking dinners, cakes and packing cute lunches. Akira is his roommate and has a few secrets, the first is that he is a Ninja (one who saves Takumi, and Takumi is gushing about this ‘cool ninja’ to his roommate). The other secret Akira has is that he is a transmale which has caused him to hope for love but not expect it. When his secret is found out, he flips, and realizes that all this time, getting to know Takumi (who makes him cute lunches) he has fallen in love. In Japan, the ending of the name (-chan for females and –kun for boys) lets you know how individuals are seen by each other. For Takumi, it is always Akira-kun (boy), for whom he decides to go ahead with the surgery, ‘because you gave me a reason to live’. These are teens having stutters, the anxiety, and the excitement of just being around each other of a first relationship.


tinarussell said...

Cool, cool!

Just remember, “transgender” includes us transsexuals (that is, binary-identified transgender) as well as the genderqueer, cross-dressing, etc. We’re a big community.

Diane J Standiford said...

I play every day. YaaaaaaaaY

wendryn said...

This is one of the reasons Halloween is a good thing - it lets everyone free for the night to be whatever they want to be. That doesn't happen much in this society.

I'm afraid that tonight I'm going to stay home - there's a conference today and I'm going to be exhausted. I hope you have the energy to do something fun if you want to!

Elizabeth McClung said...

Tina: I had a 'duh' moment, I didn't realize I didn't make it clear that though the term Trans/transgender was created to move away from the 'medical' term, transsexuals, binary transgender and two spirit are included in the umbrella.

Diana: Whee, I wish we did, get some gender play going on here then suck the care workers in!

Wendryn: I don't think I will be able to dress up - too bad, I wanted to trick or treat! Yes, one night when being free to be your dream or desire is a-okay!

cheryl g said...

Very cool post!

I loved the pictures and the links. The biomotion site is really interesting.

Halloween is my favorite holiday and I love all the gender bending that happens. Hooray for Trans-eve!

Jaimie said...

I hope you have a fun (and healthy) Halloween!

Baba Yaga said...

Ah, 'lapsed femme' is a term I must adoptn. Sounds more interesting than 'lazy'. Other than that, here's to freedom to dress in an way which suits, at any time of year.

JaneB said...

definitely cool!

But does 'lapsed femme' imply there WAS once a femme Linda who liked the details??

A a proponent of 'comfortable dressing', I'm not sure if it's that women have more latitude with gender presentation or that our current idea of male dress includes nearly all the comfortable options, so opting out of heels and faffing in favour of sweatshirts and trainers is seen as a gendered choice when it is just a HUMAN choice about wearing practical clothes as opposed to pretty-but-not-practical ones?

It all confuses me!

Elizabeth McClung said...

Cheryl: Thanks, I really liked the biomotion site, changing the same body mass from lumbering to petite just by elbow, arm, hip and shoulder movements.

Go gender-bending! And happy Trans-eve! (It's like Pride night, where all can participate).

Jaimie: You too! I think, nap then, um, something involving a trapeze!
(I wish!)

Jane B: Well, there was a Linda who used to wear panty hose and complained EVERY DAY (I mean EVERY DAY) until she just quit many years ago, and same with wearing skirts ('too much bother'). As for heels, I had to BUY her some a gift because she had never had any (like 3 inch ones) and now she does small heels with BOOTS - But yes, I think it is no accident that the first 'trouser wearing women' were those who worked shoveling coal as well as other heavy industy - high heels and archeology trenches in the rain do not mix!

deadrose said...

Yeah, Halloween is the Goth Christmas, and the GLBTIQ Christmas, (ie: biggest holiday of the year) so if you're both, it's a fine fine holiday!

I apparently learned the body mechanics early on, because I've been able to transform how I move as long as I can remember. This may be one of the reasons I was mistaken for a boy so much when I was younger (well into my 20s), and can easily switch from male/butch to female, to Asian female mannerisms. I go into an Asian store and I turn Japanese, I bob my head, I duck my eyes, I bow if it's appropriate - and it's just automatic. Conversely, if I put on my paratrooper boots, my stance widens, my arms rotate so the backs of my hands face forward more, I laugh loudly, and generally come off as butch (way too much on top to pass as male anymore)

I love that sort of thing, how little changes can make such a difference in how others perceive you.

No Halloween fun for us this year, I'm just sitting home giving candy to the occasional kids coming by.

Neil said...

Well, don't *I* feel like the odd one out here. :)

I'm straight, and cross-dressing would look silly on me, since I refuse to get rid of the beard (yeah, I know you hate them, so it would never work between us, dear).

But I'd bet that finding high heels in men's size 14 would be easier than finding size 14 winter boots in Regina! Shoe stores are starting to make me feel a certain kinship with Sisyphus.

The biomotion lab was interesting. I've bookmarked it for future study.

But the photo of Katherine Hepburn is disturbing to me. She looks too much like Michael Jackson for my comfort level. Not a Jacko fan, here

You might want to check the queendom site that you linked to, Beth. I suspect it may have changed since you were last there. That's if you saved the URL from a while ago. It didn't seem much like a gender-bender's site to my straight eyes.

I hope your Halloween was slightly more interesting than ours: we had 15 kids at the door, and no partying for us.

Love and zen hugs,

Elizabeth McClung said...

Neil: The site link for Queendom has been corrected, I wonder if they change it every few days? It is a site for mass surveys. The survey question is: "Have you fantasized as dressing up as a woman?" (or man for the women's quiz). With me: About 36% do regularly for pleasure, 9% do so 'for other reasons', 8.6% because 'they want to know what it feels like to be a woman and 6% haven't yet but would like to try. 39% have not.

Women had 64 who had not and would not (but again, what exactly that means for women these days is unclear), 12% for other reasons, 8% for sexual pleasure, 9.5% because they want to know what it feels like to be a man. While 7% would like to try - survery has 2.5 times the number of men answering.

Size 14 are about 48? Getting the length would not be the problem, but probably the width, since women's shoes are standard medium - but there is an entire street in London that has specialty shoes for women in large sizes, while Nordstroms carries up to womens' 16. Then there are the on line shops. Also, puma's line of 'driving shoes' tend to run unisex, so does Converse, listing only sizes, regardless of gender. So, in Regina, yes, might be difficult, but online, not that much - as they can always be made to order (using a foot last).

There are several notable bearded crossdressers, Blackbeard probably the most famous (I am not sure if Jack Sparrow totally qualifies). One was the governor of New Jersey I think, felt he had an uncanny resemblance to the Queen and dressed to match.

Busy, but no trick or treating here, alas.

Deadrose: that is really interesting, what do you think influenced your early mannerisms? Did you have various male and female role models you would be likely to pick up traits from? The acceptance of our family of behavoir is probably more strict that most deportment schools - I know that it still vexs me to see the salad fork closer than the dinner fork to the plate - and I don't think I was allowed to put my elbows on the table while eating for the entire time I was at home.

Baba Yaga: Yes, lapsed femme has a solid following - my grandmother was definately NOT in that school, I think she did an hour of make-up before breakfast, it was like having grapefruit and my egg in my eggcup with an actress/school marm - I still remember the day I got banned from the house as she asked me to put the coffee grounds in the soil of the rose garden: I went to the balcony, upended the percolator and chucked the coffee grounds 20 feet down atop the roses. She gave me the look of open mouthed horror she probably gave for serial killers, passing gas in company and saying the S or F word.

deadrose said...

Beth: I think it was simply observation. As a kid, I felt terribly out of place, like I'd been left by the fairies or a passing UFO. I pretty much had to learn to pass as a regular kid.

This meant that when I discovered acting, I was a complete natural at it, I acted every day so that I wouldn't be a total misfit, just another geek. When I wasn't doing anything else you could usually find me somewhere public, people-watching.

I learned that characters weren't just for plays, I could sort myself into different personas with different mannerisms depending on how I wanted to be perceived.

Of course, most of this was utterly subconscious. I still do it too. Put me in a room with a bunch of British expats and I will soon switch mannerisms and word patterns to match. A room full of Japanese girls, or middle aged dykes, same thing. Hanging out with the guys, I become a guy. I've just always done it. It's strange.

Kate J said...

Glad to know there's more to Hallowe'en than pumpkin lanterns and kids trick-or-treating. Cross-dressing sounds a lot more fun anyway... whether you're gay, trans or even straight-but-open-to-new-ideas-and-a-little-experimentation!
By the way, following the previous post and my comment about not knowing what to say to someone who is dying, I saw my neighbour again today, and asked him about his treatment and how he is feeling. Thank YOU for that, Beth!
Love and peace...

SharonMV said...

Thanks for the fun & informative post. I'm probably a lapsed femme, but not by choice. One of my goals when I can go out shopping again is to buy make-up. I have none at all as it was literally too old & I had to throw it out! Heels are difficult because of various impairments. But I do like them.

As for a gender-bending outfit, I don't think I'd be very successful being short, plump & just not the right shape. But it would be fun to try. Maybe men's pajama's or dressing gown, since I'm mostly at home anyway.

My sisters & I used to dress up in my Dad's navy uniform for Halloween sometimes. We had the button front bell bottom pants, his pea coat and sailor hat.


Raccoon said...

Hrm. I stayed home and gave out candy. I was disappointed with the turnout, though. 34 kids this year. Last year it was somewhere between 80 and 90. So that left me with somewhere around 200 pieces of chocolate.

Oh, whatever shall I do?

Aviatrix said...

There was a teenage girl at my door on Hallowe'en, I think an older sister of the genuine kids, but still in costume with a candy bag. She had drawn an elaborate mustache on her lip and I think wore a fairly formal men's jacket. I don't remember whether it was with pants or a skirt: she was behind the other kids. It was early enough in the evening that I was trying to name everyone's costumes. After I'd been corrected for my zombie guess on the kid in front who struck the most unnerving dead-eyed pose in tattered clothing (he was a scarecrow), they helped me out and just said what everyone was, identifying the girl as a "he-she."

It was the wrong venue for a taxonomic discussion, so I'll just have to wonder what exactly they meant.

Tui said...

What a great post! You bring up so many interesting points. My ex used to get annoyed because every now and then, guys would call me up to help them cross dress. He'd say, "Are you in the Yellow Pages, or what?" Actually, I wouldn't mind being in the Yellow Pages. I love playing dress up with any gender.

This year, a good pal asked if I'd help him dress as a woman for Halloween. Alas, he moved a week before. I did help him find the perfect shade of lipstick before he left. I just don't know if he'll ever get to wear it.

A lot of women I know would find it more scary/uncomfortable to dress more femme, than to dress head to toe in their husband's clothes.

I need to check out your links... I love before/after photos! :)

Denise said...

Thanks for this post! I love when people talk about gender, especially since I fall into the genderqueer category. I'm a queer woman who walks and talks in a mannish way, but is undeniably female-bodied unless I dress it up a lot. I actually did drag on Halloween, as part of a show. And I love it. Gender is a playground to me, and I love queening it up or becoming a stylish or frumpy dude. I especially love mixing and matching bits of both: Men's pants with 3-inch heels? I'm totally there. And I wear my wingtips (bless Goodwill thrift store!) when I go dancing dolled up and ladylike. It's all a costume.

I have a hard time understanding people who are extremely rigid in their gender expression, honestly. They frighten me a little, when they try to apply their rules to me. I'm a little sad that they don't creep out of the little box, too scared by the swirling, delightful confusion that I live in. I do my best to politely ignore it most of the time, and encourage people to come play as opportunities arise.

As always, I love the pictures you included. :)

lolita dress said...

Cool! Thanks for sharing.