There was a time in the not too distant past, when I was in the habit of stopping for a snack at a certain convenience store that had, to say the least, some rather unusual people working as clerks. One in particular gave my dishwater blonde brain a real workout. I’m sure that most, if not all of you, remember a character from several years back on Saturday Night Live named Pat, who was supposed to be the essence of androgyny. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that this person at the convenience store was the inspiration for Pat. I honestly couldn’t tell what body parts might have been hiding beneath the clothes that would give the answer to my curious question; “Which is it?”
What few words this person uttered were in a voice tone that was absolutely indistinguishable as either male or female. The basic body motions were male but there was no sign of a beard. If it was a man he certainly had a number of very feminine characteristics and if it was a woman she definitely had quite a few very masculine attributes.
In the process of processing this data I began to wonder how this person appeared at their initial job interview. Did he/she dress in a manner that more readily identified her/him as either male or female? But then on further consideration I realized that it really didn’t matter what this person appeared like at that interview. If it was actually a woman attempting to pass as a man, why in heaven’s name was that my gut level assumption?
The answer to that question was very simple to arrive at. Our society finds it quite easy to accept a genetic female dressing or living as a man but not a genetic male dressing or living as a woman; and that goes far beyond women wearing pants. It is, and has been for a long time in our society, perfectly acceptable for women to wear pants. For the most part those styles that are intended for women to wear are noticeably for women. No normal male would be caught dead in a woman’s pants suit for instance, because they are definitely feminine. Most women’s fashions that involve pants are definitely feminine. However, the issue here in the convenience store is not a pair of women’s Wranglers. The clerk in question definitely had on men’s pants and wore them like a man including the wallet on a chain. This person also wore a man’s western shirt with snaps instead of buttons and the short sleeves were rolled up a couple of rolls like The Fonz of Happy Days used to wear his sleeves.
At this point my mind wandered back to a place I’d worked in the past where there were two women who dressed extremely male and acted extremely male. Why, I ask, it acceptable in our society for a woman to dress as a man and it is not acceptable for a man to dress as a woman?
This is certainly not a new question and I am certainly not blonde enough to think that I have stumbled upon a new thought. However it seems to me at this point in time, that we have rounded a bend in the river, and what I’m about to say is strictly my opinion, based on observation.
Gay men are virtually indistinguishable from straight men on the basis of their appearance and clothing and for the most part their demeanor is indistinguishable from straight men. Lesbians however appear to me to fall into three basic categories.
There are those who, like gay men, are pretty much indistinguishable from straight women. They dress the same as straight women. They wear jewelry and makeup. Their demeanor and actions are the same as their straight counterparts.
The second group I’ve observed, are somewhat non-descript. They’re seldom, if ever, seen in a skirt or dress. They wear women’s slacks, extremely sensible shoes and blouses or tops that are not in any way considered frilly. Makeup is practically non-existent and if their hair is short it’s not too short. If it’s longer it’s generally in a ponytail.
In the last group are those who, aside from the sexual preferences in their bed partners, are in every other way female-to-male-gendered. They wear men’s clothing. Most of them have men’s haircuts and will quite often have the body attributes of an ordinary overweight construction worker. And that, at least to me, is where the rub comes.
In this world, as it is, having come as far as it has, men are still considered the top drawer by society in general, so it’s assumed that a woman dressing as a man is acceptable, because after all she is reaching upward to a higher status. She may not be appealing in her appearance and she won’t be held in lustful reverence like a normal appearing woman but that’s all right. In society’s eyes, at least she is trying to improve her station in life.
A man dressing as a woman is obviously moving the opposite direction. I wonder how much of most women’s disdain for a man in women’s clothes is natural, the way God intended it. How much of it is the result of society’s emphasis on the superiority of being male or how much of it could be the lack of desire for a woman to attach herself to a man on the way down. In other words, if there was no history of male dominance and no societal edge to being male would it make any difference what you wore; what gender identity you expressed?
I look forward to the day when the freedom to be who you are, is truly limited only by whom you feel you are. Can you, just for a moment, imagine what it would be like if dual- or trans-gendered men were as acceptable as Rosie O’Donnell, Ellen DeGeneres, Janet Napolitano, former Congressman Barney Franks or Rhu Paul. It’s almost impossible to wrap your mind around it isn’t it?