Last month I wrote about men who wear dresses and still consider themselves men. This month, we explore the paradigms of dual identities or men in skirts, and how they fit into society.
As the first visibly open transgendered person at Lucent, it's important for me to be a role model. I present the same crossdresser paradigm that we use within the transgender community. When I present as Mark, I use the name Mark, the men's pronouns, and the men's room. When I present as Mary Ann, I use the name Mary Ann, women's pronouns, and we're working on the restroom issue. This is how most other crossdressers I know are, and it's important that I give the straight public the right impression of us.
In the course of presenting alternate identies, I find it's very confusing to others, and even to myself. If I meet a person face to face as Mary Ann, then an hour later I get e-mail from the same person to Mark, do I sign the reply Mark or Mary Ann? Which voice do I use on the phone? How do I convince women who work routinely with Mark to accept Mary Ann in the ladies room?
If we look to people born female for guidance, a totally different paradigm emerges. History is full of stories from the 1800s of females who dressed and passed as men, for some social advantage or because they were more comfortable in that role. But today there are very few female crossdressers. Most people born female either identify as transsexual and live full time as men, or present as women. Those who present as women choose attire ranging from evening gowns to blue jeans. It seems that, over the 150 years since Amelia Bloomer pioneered pants for women, women have settled on equal opportunity and freedom of attire while keeping one name, one set of pronouns, and one gender.
In my case, a great deal of my presentation as Mary Ann is only done so I'll be more passable. I would not choose to wear makeup, or have two voices, or worry about pronouns, if that were not necessary to be accepted by the public, and by the transgender community. If I were not expected to pass, I'd do what I'm doing right now in my home, wearing a dress, women's sandals my hair brushed back but clipped in a feminine style, earrings, calling myself Mark, using my male voice on the phone.
What will Utopia be like in 50 years? Can the world change so much in so short a period of time? Perhaps. I recently saw a photo directory of Bell Labs in Columbus from 1965. It had row after row of men with short haircuts, jackets, and ties. One woman was near the back, and one man had the guts to wear only a shirt and tie, with no jacket. Today, the same building has a range of people from dress shirts to shorts, with neckties so rare they draw a comment. So much change in 43 years.
The transgender activist community is setting sail for Utopia. Which destination shall we sail toward? In 2048, do we want to have dual identities, like Supergirl and Clark Kent? Do we wear skirts as men, much like women wear pants today? Do we fight for a gender-blind society where your anatomy is no more important than your hair color, and just as changable? Do we wall off separate parts of our lives, presenting entirely as men to some friends and entirely as women to others?
I want all crossdressers to think about this issue. In the coming months, I will be conducting a survey, on the Internet, and on paper. I need to know what you want, so I can fight for it. I also want to hear from those of you who are not crossdressers: spouses, supporters, transsexuals, etc. Where do you think crossdressers should be in 50 years?
It just might be that we wind up as men in dresses. I think other people may eventually accept us that way more readily than they accept a dual identity. It's sure a lot easier on them.
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