by Ed Mitchell
I have been asked to write about my experiences as a transgendered AMAB (assigned male at birth) individual in relation to masculinity in modern society and it has thrown into light the question – what do we mean by masculinity, and what do I personally, believe masculinity to be?
One of the main issues that transgendered individuals face is that of ‘passing’. For the uninformed, being able to ‘pass’ essentially means that a transgender individual ‘passes’ (or is ‘read’) as the gender that they want to be seen as. Passing is a big cause of anxiety for transgendered individuals; I myself sometimes fear going out when I present as female in case people see through my attempts to hide my biological gender. The act of passing, then, acknowledges the fact that the dichotomy of femininity and masculinity must also exist.
Whilst presenting, I have at times felt guilty for adhering to traditional aspects of femininity, as to me, this reinforces my unconscious ideas of what I believe femininity is and what I define as ‘feminine’. For example, I now talk more openly about fashion, makeup, cooking etc., and I don’t feel embarrassed by drinking cocktails or walking around with a face covered in makeup – all things which are traditionally seen by more conservative parties as ‘feminine’. My original idea for this article was going to be an examination about how perceived aspects of masculinity influence me and affect me whilst I am trying to pass, but after mulling this over for months (life has been busy), I came to the conclusion that the notion of masculinity and femininity is bullshit.
Now, a case study: I was embarrassed to order beer whilst I was trying to pass as this was in my mind (and probably most of society’s), not considered a feminine drink. I have heard women slam each other for drinking a pint, calling it ‘unfeminine’ (one girl literally moaned to me about a friend of hers that orders pints, finding it embarrassing as it ruined the whole ‘classy woman’ image her friend was trying to present). Unfortunately, transgendered individuals uphold this binary of masculinity and femininity because of how important passing is to some of them. I realised that if I, as a transwoman AMAB, want to be a strong feminist, even if I am worried about passing due to something as trivial as my choice in poison, I have to subvert and challenge traditional ideas of what is perceived as femininity.
I didn’t choose to transition to become a caricature of a perfect woman: if I want to wear a shirt and jeans, I can; if I want to be sexually promiscuous and not just be submissive, I can; if I want to drink a goddamned beer, I can drink a goddamned beer. I will smoke, drink, and fuck, and no one can challenge me on this. If people think this is ‘unfeminine’ for a transwoman or if it casts doubts about my birth-assigned gender, I raise my metaphorical middle finger to them – if I were male none of this would be a problem.
The upshot of all of this is that I now believe, even when I am in ‘boy mode’ (when I’m not presenting as pre-hormones as it is not possible, or safe, for me to do so 24/7), I should still feel comfortable in doing whatever I want. It is not just me though, this should extend across the male and female spectrum as well. I have spoken to a few individuals that feel that they should transition or are unsure about their gender identity because they like things society perceives as ‘feminine’ – like cute things, or wearing women’s clothing for sexually submissive reasons (I could talk for hours how this is harmful towards transgendered individuals and is actually birthed from sexist ideas, but this isn’t the time or place). Perhaps far less people would feel ashamed, or need to transition, if we just chucked out our perceived notions of masculinity and femininity.
So guys, if you want to wear some eyeliner or mascara, don’t feel so insecure that you have to call it ‘manscara’ and ‘guyliner’. If you want to wear more traditionally feminine clothes, don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed about it; it doesn’t mean you are any less of a man. Girls, if you want to be vulgar, swear, or neck a couple of pints every now and then, in the words of probably the finest performance artist of the 21st century, ‘just do it’. Hopefully Jaden Smith appearing in the latest ad campaign for Louis Vuitton’s women’s wear is a sign of good things to come.
Though – and I know I’m stereotyping here – if you’re a guy that just wants to listen to grime, wear sambas, and smoke camels whilst drinking a can of red stripe, that’s also fine. Just don’t shit on other people’s life choices for not aligning with yours, or be creepy and misogynistic (hypocritically I’ll probably label you as a fuckboy).
Whilst ideas of masculinity and femininity do exist, they should be shattered and challenged by cis-gendered individuals, trans-gendered individuals, and any individual of any other gender identity.
Ed Mitchell is a writer hailing from a town near Brighton. Their main interests are films, sexuality, comic-books and pop-culture in general. For more opinions and a copious amount of tweets about films, follow them on Twitter: @Edwin_Mitchell.