Obvious

This may seem obvious to the rest of you, but I’ve had a major revelation tonight.

I’ve been reading Judith Halberstam’s Female Masculinity – just started it, in fact – and I’ve been looking forward to reading it since I was given it – so much so I hurried through the end of another book (yes, about gender too) I’d been reading.

And then I came to this, on page 28:

Because female masculinity seems to be at its most threatening when coupled with lesbian desire, in this book I concentrate on queer female masculinity almost to the exclusion of heterosexual female masculinity.

My enthusiasm dropped like a lead balloon, then, but I read on:

I have no doubt that heterosexual female masculinity menaces gender conformity in its own way, but all too often it represents an acceptable degree of female masculinity as compared to the excessive masculinity of the dyke.

And there you go: not only is she not talking about masculinity in heterosexual women, but she managed to get a dig in about how “acceptable” my masculinity is. (Tell that to all the boys who wouldn’t date me, and all the kids who called me dyke over the years, Prof. Halberstam!) So not only did I not find validation, but found its opposite.

I’m sure for a lot of you, finding stuff about drag queens (or even crossdresser erotica that ends with the CD being sexual with a man, or the stories about how most MTF transsexuals end up dating/marrying men, etc) had the same effect, the same kind of let-down, the hope of finally reading something about yourself only to find, in fact, the author is precisely not talking about you.

What I realized is that in some ways, this is my connection to crossdressers: of being gender variant in a heterosexual context. In fact, one young TG just came on our boards trying to figure out where to meet girls who might like his gender mix; I spent most of my teens and early 20s trying to find a guy who liked women who weren’t models of prototypical femininity, and let’s just say: I found a lot of friends, and not a lot of dates. (I did get asked out by women an awful lot, though.)

Although I probably knew this at some level before now, the actual experience of opening this book with expectation – that I might learn something about who I am and how I fit in – came to an abrupt and unsatisfying halt: oh cool this is about – well maybe it is – no she doesn’t seem to be – oh, it’s not about me at all… like the judges on The Muppet Show.

After writing damn in the margin, I kept reading, and found out that the clitoris was officially discovered in 1559 when two Italian anatomists . . . gave the organ a name and ascribed it a function (p. 60). So far, aside from the academic writing style (which makes me want to take out a red pen) it’s chock full of goodies like that one, despite the fact that I won’t find any answers to my own questions in it.

In solidarity,
Helen

Helen Boyd

is the author of My Husband Betty and She's Not the Man I Married.