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Monday, April 3, 2017

Deep Thoughts from the Trans Workshop(s)

Over the past few days I've participated in a local trans related event at my alma mater.  This started with a small-group round table discussion and then a couple days later there was a full-day program.  This is usually a very mixed event but this year was mostly attended by trans people.

There was a drag performer there who gave a wonderful presentation regarding the interplay between trans folk and drag performers.  This is a very nerve-striking issue for me because more and more often it seems like younger, newer, and/or more "social justicey" trans folks go to great lengths to try arguing that drag performers and crossdressers not only cannot identify as members of the trans community, but are inherently problematic or transmisogynistic.  This is absurd and ahistorical, a subject I may soapbox about later.  The drag performer was the MC at a drag show later that night during which time she included an educational session for folks in the audience who didn't understand the difference between "drag" and "trans."  I also learned that some of this tension is more two-way than I'd initially thought... see, I've seen this from the trans side, with trans folk resenting drag performers (especially drag queens) for their portrayals of women, use of the word "tranny," and a lot of other things.  What I didn't realize was that drag queens often also resent trans people who continue to perform, because after hormones and surgeries they wind up being able to achieve certain looks with little effort and then soak up tips that would otherwise go to people who have to put in a lot of work (the presenter did, by the way, acknowledge this as ridiculous).

The show itself was a very different type of drag show which had a lot of nontraditional drag in it... not just drag queens and kings, but a lot of nonbinary performers as well as people performing as their lived genders but as gender-swapped characters.  I'm thinking about asking if I could perform next year (maybe the year after).  I had interest in trying to do female drag after transitioning into a man, but now that I'm off hormones and have long hair and decided to forgo surgery I know for a fact that if I were clean shaven I would wind up with dysphoria again until I got a fair amount back.  But I was greatly inspired by Scott Heierman, a bearded drag queen comedian who was on America's Got Talent, and I think with my full beard, general hairiness, and sweet moustache in combination with a lot of very feminine elements (contouring makeup, doing my hair extremely feminine, heels, glitter, etc.) I could make a really cool look, and I can force myself to be not-shy enough to perform.  Just need practice.

Part of the discussion was about how part of the viewing experience when at a drag show is mentally trying to figure out what's "real" and what isn't.  This makes it almost kind of a game for me... as my body combines so many elements that are genuinely me.  I don't need a wig to have very feminine, long hair.  I don't need to glue hair on my face to get a beard.  I don't need to stuff a bra to have breasts.  So I could go up there while changing my body shape very little, maybe add some lashes and nails (my partner suggested a glitter beard, haha), and achieve a look that would be delightfully confusing to people who don't know me and my journey.  I'd just need to sort out whether I want a more male-read or female-read song.

In non-drag subjects, we were talking a lot about the monotony of stealth and of invisibility and stuff like that.  The main presenter here was a good friend of mine (we met before he came out, so we go way back) who is currently on hormones and is quite well "passing" as I am.  The thing about passing really well when you crave being a part of trans communities, though, is that it gives you a level of invisibility and a high stress level.  I have a full time job somewhere I'm stealth, and while it's not very difficult to find out I'm trans if you know where to look, I get a lot of anxiety over it anyway.  There's also an issue with people in the trans community treating you as "less than" if you either don't pass well enough or you pass too well.  I don't really have either problem anymore, but I know a trans man who talked about how he felt pushed out of a community effort he helped found because he was too masculine and passed too well... there's an expectation in some communities that you look a certain way, and either not trying to pass as a pre-hormonal trans man or passing too well after both wind up being liabilities.

Oh, I met some friends I hadn't seen in a while.  They'd shown up to the rally I wrote about, but one had just had top surgery and wasn't able to move to where I was to say "hi."  We had some good discussions and found he'll be coming to a queer support group I attend, so that'll be sweet.

There was more to it, but I think most of it will come later at some more relevant time.

Anyway, happy trails,
-- Jackson