Keeping Up Appearances: Walking Between Worlds

September 9, 2010 at 1:41 pm (Walking Between Worlds) (, , , )

Recently, my partner [Scin] reconnected with an old friend she knew here before we all took off for college. Her friend has become a friend of mine as well and I really connect with and like him. The point of interest here is this: prior to actually meeting me in person, and based solely on photos, he asked Scin if I was in transition. I was not at all offended by this. I was, however, and oddly, surprised. Then, I began to wonder…

I found myself wondering if other people just assume that I am transitioning or that I intend to, or if they wonder why I have not, and simply do not ask. I think it is clear that a primary point of this blog is to have a safe place to discuss my experiences—both positive and not so positive—as a highly androgynous lesbian with a lot of male energy. I talk frequently about how it feels, that it is like walking between worlds, having foot in each realm at times, but never really belonging fully in either. I also talk about this way of being in the world as a large part of my spiritual disposition, that I see it as a kind of gift, the purpose of which I am not always clear about, but which I am willing and happy to explore. It has been my lot in life, since I was very young, to confound the gender binary—often without ever intending to or trying very hard. Pretty much all I have to do is be myself and leave the house. It is a condition which has given me much and which has caused me a fair amount of pain, frustration and discomfort. It has also put me in danger at times.

As a result, I have developed a set of instinctive, self-protective skills and traits to cope with my daily condition. My way of being in the world is such a part of me that I have to push a bit to become conscious of the things I do, how I do them, and what they do for me. This whole thing with the question about transitioning set me to examining, again, my perception of myself as well as the behaviors and traits I have adopted. And, I started trying to look more objectively at photos taken by Scin and others. The past few days have been like peeling a personal onion: I know it is an onion and understand it for what it is, but peeling away layers seems to give way to a renewed understanding of the thing—its characteristics, its form and function, its identity. These are the things I have discovered.

How I see myself the past few days:
One thing that hit me squarely is that I am finally looking more my age. A few more character lines and wrinkles have appeared. So, the boyish look is blurred a bit by the signs of age that suggest I am not an 18 year old boy. Yet, I am not so masculine or haggard by my age that I appear to be a 40-something male. I think this confuses people more now than it did when I was so much more baby-faced. Before, people automatically assigned a male gender to me and assumed I was much younger than I was. I have never been deluded into thinking that I look like the average female. But, for years, I thought of myself simply as really butch but obviously female if a person really looked at me. In recent photos viewed with a little more objectivity, I can see that I do look traditionally male more than anything else. I see, lately, how male I really look through the eyes of those who do not know me, looking through the shades of the gender binary.

You know how it is. You see yourself every day. You live with yourself. You do not see what others see. No one does. At least not without a conscious effort. This personal blind spot is enhanced, I fully realize, by the things I do instinctively and as a matter of course to soften my life and get by with minimal discomfort or violence.

Things I do to get along in the world and compensate:
Over the course of my life, I have become very open and accessible. I speak first in new situations. I engage people and am really quite outgoing. [Still clear about boundaries, but open and friendly.] I have also developed a versatile sense of humor and will often poke fun at myself [in healthy ways, not in mean ways] in order to keep things light. I wear small earrings rather than the larger, thicker manly silver things that I tend to like. I make friends, if only for a moment, everywhere I go—even in the grocery store. The main thing I have learned to do, however, is create safe, familiar, and comfortable environments. I eat at the same restaurants. I get gas at the same places in my town and others. I shop at the same stores for groceries, clothes, and whatnots. In a light-hearted way, I make people familiar with me. And, I come to know people enough to endear them—to ask how the day is going, remember names, ask about the family, joke around and be open. I make myself accessible. I am likeable. This, by the way, takes energy. But, I realize, it has given me much to be this way. I have made lasting friends. I have a sense of home pretty much anywhere. And, I am alive. Had I not developed these traits that are, really, who I am, I would not have faired so well in some situations. And, like all of us who need to, I have a well-developed sense of when to fight or flee. I know how to close off and keep vigilant as well. These traits are not false; it is who I am. But, it did require the removal of some walls, some chips off my shoulders, and a fair amount of trust in the universal flow of things that it is OK to be this way. The result of my way of being is that people are put at ease; once I speak, my gender is clear. No one has to guess. And, I come across as warm and non-threatening. [Even though I can be a huge threat when I have to be.] We all survive in ways that work for us.

So, I have discovered on new levels how insulated I have made myself, if only within the blanket of my own personality and by treading lightly on the earth. The upshot is that I have come to see myself as one tends to see oneself—familiar and focused on other things like being too thin, or wishing I were taller. Aware of my less than feminine appearance, but used to it, accepting, and not focused on it until something happens. More significantly, however, is that this relative sense of home everywhere has dulled my awareness of how I am perceived by others who do not know me. And, possibly, some who do. I really do wonder if people want to ask about transitioning and do not in order to be appropriate and not offend me. I don’t know and likely never will. I do know this: I think I see myself a bit more clearly. And, while I like what I see, I am paying a bit more attention to the reactions of those around me. I am trying to strip away some insulation. As the old saying goes: know thyself. Sometimes, that means being willing to try to see what others see. Sometimes, we learn the most about ourselves through the views and input of others. Of late, what is clear to me is that others see me as I am—a butch woman who appears more masculine than feminine on the binary continuum, and who happens to have a fair dose of masculine energy. I can live with that. And, I am hoping that a greater awareness will help me find a clearer understanding of any greater purpose that might be served by my experiences in the worlds I inhabit.

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