True confessions: I take provocative photos of myself and post them on my Facebook page. And this behavior intersects with my life in any number of interesting and troubling ways.
I’m gender-fluid. On completely outdated inventories of gender stereotypes, I test out about 60% female. And while my gender identity is subject to change, when I’m a woman, I’m a woman. I want to look like a woman.
That’s more than a whim for a trans woman. In some situations being able to “pass” can be the difference between life and death. And while the straits are rarely so dire for me personally, it can make the difference between an easy, pleasant day and a tense, uncomfortable one.
On Facebook? Among friends and family, I’m openly transgender. I don’t have to pass as anything but me. But at the same time, it’s a (relatively) safe space for me to present myself in ways that I might not be quite ready for in everyday life… like being sexy.
I am, as they say, of a certain age. I had no chance to be a young woman. Now that I’m openly expressing the feminine side of my nature, I am quite displeased to find that time has already had its way with my body and I get to start all frumpy and middle-aged.
To hell with that. To quote Kindergarten Cop, “I don’t wanna be a policeman! I wanna be a PRINCESS!”
So some of my photos are really quite staggeringly age-inappropriate. I’m playing catch-up. Perhaps if I reach 100 things will be more balanced. Or not.
I have never felt comfortable with my physical appearance, and consequently I never put much care into it. Part of this is inherent to being transgender, but presenting as a man, I never felt I was any more than average looking. I’m by no means a stunning woman, but with the right light and the right camera angle, I clean up pretty good. Consequently, the more I feel I have the potential to be attractive (in any gender presentation), the more care I take to bring out that potential.
Which leads right into…
I’ve always been a feminist, even before I embraced being femme. I thought I was a pretty good one, though I definitely had some cringe-inducing lapses. But being out in public on a regular basis as a woman, I get a whole new perspective on everything from the male gaze to the physical limitations of women’s clothing to how casual endearments from strangers can reinforce social hierarchy. The things I studied in the abstract are coming back with new, visceral force.
So here I am,
posting sexy pictures of me on Facebook. From a transgender perspective, I’m reinforcing the stereotype that you can’t be successful as a trans woman unless you’re an ATTRACTIVE woman, and concurrently empowering the trolls who claim that transgender women are nothing but fetishists. From an age perspective, I’m enabling ageism by presenting a youthful presentation as more desirable. From an appearance standpoint, I’m pushing the idea that my looks are more important than who I am as a person. And from a feminism perspective, I’m not just inviting but actively participating in my own objectification by catering to the male gaze.
To say I’m struggling with these issues is an understatement. I have no answers for the challenges I’ve posed… and if I did, I suspect they’d just be rationalizations. I may be a bad trans woman, a bad elder, a bad model, a bad artist, and a bad feminist all rolled into one bad bundle. And yet, I still want to smolder. It FEELS empowering. But is it?
Am I doomed to be a hypocrite until I burn my bras and trade my satins for sweatshirts? Or is that just exchanging one set of expectations for another, with neither representing the authentic me? Is there a legitimate framework in which I can have my cheesecake and feminist too?