|Presentation of the Self in Everyday Confusion
||[Nov. 11th, 2016|12:02 pm]
Transitioning into liminal space
|[||State of Being
Moving away, for the moment, from thoughts about national politics (though thoughts about trans issues stemming from that election are the inspiration for these thoughts):
I just reread my post about being a queer, agender person who passes easily for straight and cis-male. There's a big part of me that feels like claiming those identities is unfair because I'm doing it from a position of privilege. I don't have anything like the strength of will that a transperson who deals with daily transphobia does. I can take up femininity when it suits me, in safe spaces, and pat myself on the back for my bravery, and go back to being a plain old cis-male until next time.
A month or so ago, I wore a skirt in public for the first time. I was at a party at Posi's place, and he and my dad and I were all going to go grocery shopping, but I hadn't brought masculine clothes. They both encouraged me to just wear the skirt I had on, and I did. I felt intensely self-conscious and somewhat fearful while walking through Big!Lots. Beyond that, while I felt some of the feelings of liberation that I've read about people feeling when they finally muster the courage to wear gender-appropriate clothes that don't match their biological sex in public, it was not the most prominent feeling. I guess at this point, having thought about the experience from time to time, I'm still not sure how I feel about it.
Analyzing this now, I realize that I am, again, prioritizing others over, or at least equally with, myself in this thought process. Yes, I could just wear the things that make me happy and not give a damn about what other people think. But that feels selfish. If I can use my presentation and appearance to fight bigotry, maybe I have an obligation to. But if I allow obligation to shape my presentation of self, is that really an authentic presentation? And if I'm not presenting my authentic self - if I wear traditionally feminine trappings as a biological male for reasons other than that they simply feel good and right to me - what does that mean for trans people whose relationship with those trappings puts them between a rock and a hard place in a way that I will never experience?
Some trans people talk about how wearing the clothing of their bio-sex feels like a costume. I feel some of that. If it were totally up to me, I'd occasionally be wearing pigtails and skirts and painting my nails fun colors. But taking on some of those elements of feminine presentation *also* feels like a costume. But maybe that's why Erving Goffman's "Presentation of the Self in Everyday Life" struck home with me. I can't escape the point of view that everything I wear - literally everything - is a costume. It is a costume because it is shaped by my understanding of social custom and expectation and how I want to fit, or not fit, within that system. None of it is the true me.
What does one do when one doesn't actually *have* what feels like an internal, unmutable, personal identity that one feels one needs to express? Can I wear anything that makes me happy, or, as I've felt through so much of my life in so many other ways, am I always an outsider grudgingly allowed into the periphery? Am I part of all groups, or none?