The Be All was held in Pittsburgh this year. I couldn't attend, but interesting stories are coming back from the participants.
Some of the people at the Be All are not trying to pass as women. Instead of presenting as women, they are presenting as men in dresses.
Meral Crane showed me a photo of a person at the Be All. The person in the photo looked like any other crossdresser: dress, wig, makeup. Too small to see in the photo, however, was a name tag reading "Glenn." Another button read "I am not a woman." Glenn is using his male name, male pronouns, and apparently the men's restroom.
Another person presented some of the time as Dee Dee, but upon meeting Glenn, changed his name tag to read David. I understand he did not wear a wig or makeup for the remainder of the conference.
Many of the participants expressed surprise, and discomfort, with the presence of men, presenting as men, with different degrees of trangendered presentation. It seems ironic that, in a safe space gathering of people intended to be supportive of gender variance, some people were not accepting of this presentation. But it was different, and it's natural to have trouble accepting difference. The general public has trouble accepting our differences, too.
Dr. Richard Docter gave a moving speech about transgender acceptance. At the end, Glenn and David asked, publicly, about their being chastised for their presentations. Dr. Docter eloquently responded that we should accept all gender expressions not just our personal favorites.
Rachel Miller wrote later in her "Our Gender Family" column (#12, July 1998) that she "was so moved by this sequence of events that I washed out my great head of curls created by Rachel Galen, removed all my makeup, replaced Rachel with Richard on my name tag and went to dinner wearing my best Nordstrom dress. I was never more my true self than on Saturday night. It just felt right."
Transgendered men presenting as men in skirts is not new. It's been going on for centuries. For some reason, however, it is shunned in the transgender community. Despite this lack of acceptance, I occasionally encounter a crossdresser with a male name and not trying to pass.
Earlier this decade, I met a different Glenn on CD-FORUM, an Internet mailing list. Glenn describes himself as a "bearded straight male public transvestite computer programmer. ... Needless to say, with my full beard I don't pass. (The line that seems to best set the mood for imagining what things are like for me is the one I hear often from small children in the grocery store: 'Mommy, that man is wearing a dress!')" He signs his e-mail "Glenn".
At an Interweave conference (the GLBT organization of the Universalist Unitarian Church) last November, I met Bill. Bill wore a beautiful gown, heels, and hose. He wore light makeup and earrings, with no facial hair. His hair was long and brushed straight back, with a fluffy style that was very appropriate for a woman. His hairline was receding in a typical male pattern, leaving no doubt he was a man. I told Bill how much I admired his courage and presentation.
So what's happening here? Is a movement of men in dresses emerging?
In my role as a transgender activist, I find myself entering unknown territory. I am out as a crossdresser at work, and people are mostly polite about it. I have been to work at Lucent facilities as Mary Ann on a few occasions. (More on this in a future column.) This seems to be almost a first. Many transsexuals have transitioned at work, and we understand how we would like that to go. Crossdressers crossdressing at work is almost unheard of. But I like to think that in 50 years, it will be commonplace for crossdressers to be open about who they are, with crossdressing occasionally at work to be accepted.
Next month we'll explore the paradigms of dual identities or men in skirts, and how they fit into society.
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