Thursday, December 4, 2008

Thoughts on Gender and Halloween

Over the years my relationship with Halloween has become a lot more complicated. As a genderqueer and transgender identified person, it is an odd holiday and can be difficult.

From what I have read, and experienced, for a lot of GQ and trans people, at first Halloween is your favorite holiday. Because it's the one day a year you can dress as your preferred gender and feel safe going out.

And as you get older, it becomes your least favorite holiday. Because it's the only day of the year you can dress as your preferred gender and feel safe going out.

As I have for the last few years, I attended a BDSM/swingers/fetish play party this year. There were a number of people that appeared to be cross dressing. (And even that term is suspect. You aren't cross dressing if you are dressing as your preferred gender. So it's a difficult topic to even discuss.) But several people appeared to be bio males dressed as women. And probably for a variety of reasons.

People dress in the clothes of a different gender for a variety of reasons.

  • It's the clothing of their preferred gender.
  • It gives them an erotic thrill.
  • It's humiliating.
  • It's taboo.
  • It's funny.

And it's hard to know the reasons someone is dressing the way they are.

The DSM makes the distinction between cross dressers and trans people. Cross dressers are the ones who get an erotic thrill from it. But I reject this distinction.

I get an erotic thrill from putting on a corset and miniskirt. But I'm pretty sure most cisgendered women get a thrill from putting on a corset and mini skirt too. It's part of what those clothes are designed to do. Emphasize your sexuality.

But I also prefer to wear women's clothes around the house. And I don't get much of a thrill from wearing women's jeans and a woman's polo shirt.

So I think it's a lot more complicated than pop culture or the DSM will have you believe.

I find it curious that I've never discussed gender with anyone at a play party. Not that play parties are a place where deep issues get delved into, but still, you'd think it'd come up at some point.

Once someone asked me which pronouns I prefer (which was awesome, and I was unsure what to say), but that's about as close as it's come.

This is not an accusation against anyone. I find that I have no idea how to bring it up. I get totally tongue-tied. And I'm usually pretty comfortable talking about any subject. But I have yet to discuss gender with anyone at a party.

I'd like to learn more about some of the folks that seem to be cross dressing, or are GQ, or trans, or, well, I don't actually know. Because I've never talked with them.

Maybe it's because it's still all so new for me.

I've always known I had gender issues, but chose to ignore it for years. Which we all know doesn't work.

But for years the only images of trans people I saw were people who were either the butt of a joke or the victim of a crime. And often in places you wouldn't expect. I loved the movie A Mighty Wind. But Harry Shearer's character ended up being a transexual. Really? Just for a cheap joke at the end of the film. Was that even necassary? No. But it's always good for a laugh. Put a guy in a dress.

And I've avoided the serious movies about trans issues, like Boys Don't Cry. I really have no desire to see a movie where a transperson is killed. The whole idea that this is almost a sub genre sickens me. I know it serves a purpose to educate people about how awful transphobia is and that it should be stopped. But really, it's not something I want to be exposed to. I have enough fear of hatred and violence. I don't need to see it in full color on the big screen.

For that reason I love Ugly Betty. The transsexual character is not a victim and is not a joke. She's a person with a complicated story line. It may not always be the most flattering or accurate portrayal, but at least it's not just a cheap joke or a victim role.

And so it's for similar reasons I have a complicated relationship with the BDSM scene.

In the last few years I've finally started to embrace my gender and get more comfortable with who I am. And that is in large part thanks to the BDSM scene. It's one of the few places I can dress as my preferred gender and go out and feel safe.

Also, from going to play parties and conventions I've learned that there are a lot of people who are attracted to people who are gender variant. I had no idea. As I say, from only watching the mainstream media I assumed everyone hated transpeople. I don't think I've entirely internalized it, but at least I do know that a lot of people are attracted to other forms of gender expression. And that has been very liberating.

But as I say, I'm never quite sure why others are dressing the way they are at parties. Especially at Halloween, when many people dress as a different gender for a laugh or other dismissive reasons.

This year I felt it more than previous years. So I went as a cat. I dressed in leopard print, bell bottom women's pants, a leopard print bra, a lion's tail, lion-paw half-gloves, and a lion hood. So I was both gender queer and species queer : )

I might continue this for future Halloween's—dressing as a cat.

And then, in a couple years, maybe I'll have a post lamenting that no one in the mainstream culture accepts furries and how Halloween is the only time of year you can go out as your preferred anthropomorphic creature and feel safe.

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