Have You Always Had That Mustache?

Marcel Duchamp pins the mustache on the Mona Lisa (1919).

Marcel Duchamp pins the mustache on the Mona Lisa (1919).

Now that I’ve had top surgery, I’d like to stop thinking about what to do next and settle back into my butch/transgender self. Without feeling pressured to be on some trajectory with an endpoint. WIthout being swept away by someone else’s idea of the transgender narrative.

The pressure to keep going is subtle. The unspoken assumption is that next year I’ll be taking T and using the men’s room. That transition has a starting line and a finish line and once the starting gun goes off all the participants are full speed ahead on the shortest path. There is no place in that race for a meandering half-baked genderqueer person.

An acquaintance ran into me on the street and we chatted. Later, she asked Donna how long I’ve taken testosterone for (I don’t) and if I’ve always had a mustache. Yes. I’ve always had what I refer to as my “Fu” but no one said anything about it until I changed my name. My Fu is most prominent on my upper right lip. I neither want my Fu to spread and grow nor do I want it to disappear. I’m fond of it. I never shaved, plucked, or bleached it (chin hairs are another story). 

I’d like to regain my patience with whatever it is that I am doing. I lost it in the build up to top surgery, when I was overcome by that feeling of MUST DO THIS NOW. Now there is no rush to do anything else and the quietness makes me uncomfortable. Should I be doing something else? Is it really OK to stop here? I completely understand guys who are in a rush to transition and who want the changes to come as fast as humanly possible (voice drop, muscle mass, jaw square, facial hair). They want to look definitively masculine and be consistently read as male.

I can’t say I’m satisfied with how with how I’m read by other people. I feel misgendered regardless of whether I’m called Sir or Ma’am. My appearance confuses people.

RIght now I feel as trans as I want to be, and as butch as I want to be. I want to keep tinkering until I get the right balance of internal and external gender expression.

Sometimes I feel an internal pressure to transition, mostly due to self-doubt and the fear that if I don’t transition I will never fit in. I can imagine comfort in following a path, a set of directives, with an endpoint of M. I have the awkward deportment of a tween; not comfortable playing with the children or conversing with the adults. It is a lonely place.

Newton’s Third Law of Motion says that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. As soon as I start thinking about organized standardized medical transition my rebellious self asks “Who made the rules and why should I follow them?” And ultimately I don’t.

Every morning I brush my teeth and look up in the mirror. Lately I’ve noticed my Fu, and wondered why it is there. For every trans person like me who likes their mustache or is waiting for one to grow in, there is an equal and opposite trans person wishing their five o’clock shadow would disappear. And we are all looking in our mirrors trying to make the best of it.

Marcel Duchamp as Rrose Selavy.

Marcel Duchamp as Rrose Selavy.

Notes: Marcel Duchamp was an artist associated with Cubism, Surrealism, and Dadaism, although he avoided being labeled as such. His art is gender-bending, playful, and punning. The photo is by Man Ray, and is of Marcel Duchamp in the created role of Rrose Selavy – which, like any good drag name, has multiple meanings. In French it transliterates into “Eros, c’est la vie” i.e. “Eros, such is life.”

21 thoughts on “Have You Always Had That Mustache?

  1. genderneutral

    so nice to read this. I think I am not writing right now for this very reason. Feeling in that tween place. Feeling misgendered as either sir or mam. And just plain wanting to simply be without thought or worry/anticipation of what next. I bow down to your inner wisdom that guides you to follow your own path as it unfolds.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      My inner wisdom often feels like a combination of self-doubt, circular reasoning, procrastination, indecision, and special-snowflake-ism. I just don’t think I would feel anymore authentic posing as a straight white guy – and part of me enjoys messing with peoples desire to box me into lesbian or straight guy.

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  2. Lesboi

    The tween place is difficult. As I’ve said before it’s not a place I want to stay but I salute you for being true to what’s right for you. Being patient with yourself is the best thing you can do for yourself. I’ve never had a lot of body hair and the T is slowly helping with that but I’m still a bit jealous of your fu. Even though I think I want to end up in the M category just for comfort there’s still a lot of discomfort to deal with. I think the trick is to find that place where you can be you and find comfort.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      The one thing I really don’t like is that because gender is seen so binary, there is no easy way to drift into maleness – sooner or later you have to make a declaration/decision about which way to go. It feels like it requires a bunch of cliff jumps – getting to top surgery certainly felt that way. I’m not crazy about being a tween in public, but I’m comfortable inside, which is different from how I’ve felt most of my life. P.S. I just emailed you back.

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  3. krisalex333

    Thank you for wording this for all of us in that betwixt and between place, which seems will be my home till I lay down my head the last time. Have you ever thought of publishing your posts? You have a gift of expressing complex emotions clearly. I’m sure a lot of confused and scared trans people who would not otherwise read your blog, will benefit. Take care.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Never published, but have thought about it. One of the things that keeps me from doing it is that I feel like I keep shifting slightly, and I hate the thought of publishing something and by the time it comes out I’ll feel like “that was so last year” that I said that. The nice thing about a blog is that it is like a journal and people expect you to keep thinking and evolving.
      The one thing I don’t do is I don’t self promote and I don’t get out on social media – I also don’t write posts with a lot of key-words or phrases. However, I’ve gotten some readers who googled butch or trans? or things like that and found me which is cool. But we are a pretty small niche market.

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      1. Jamie Ray Post author

        Perfectionism and fear of failure is a bad combination (along with being competitive). Also it is hard to take myself seriously as a writer since I am an engineer and English was my weakest subject.

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  4. SashaQ

    The first time I heard the word transgender, it was in a talk that included a picture of a train going from one side to another with no stations in between the binary ends…

    The talk was helpful in many ways, as I finally had a good word to describe myself and discovered other people who had some of the feelings that I do, but that section about the train was very daunting – I always knew I wasn’t a woman, but equally I know I’m not a man either, so I’m fairly happy in the middle with my faint blond moustache and young boy’s beard, with mannerisms that are not often classed as manly, so I can mostly cope with my dysphoria, but I am very aware that the metaphorical train stops at more stations than just two…

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      What an odd graphic for transition –
      I prefer the term transgender rather than trying to specify genderqueer or non-binary; it is really about how I choose to handle it and the kind of transition I’m muddling through while choosing not to go for full out M.

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  5. tsoihawk

    Oh, how I relate to this. The pressure to be “this” or “that”… the struggle to maintain the values formed outside of society…. it is a lonely place, until I read a post like this that speaks my language.

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      1. tsoihawk

        Yes, I know! I identify when I see 2 women together as a couple, and I don’t want to be ousted from that, either. Such a tight rope!

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  6. The Final Rinse

    I totally forgot about your top surgery!
    So what you are saying is that it was tough to be in-between, so now you have gone and done something to make yourself even more in-between-er?
    That’s all right … so have many of us.
    I challenge that I face, and that you may face as well, is to reconcile my dysphoria with an inner peace. How can one be happy yet unhappy at the same time? How can a person feel satisfied with their life, and yet have things in their life that they are unsatisfied with? How does one feel full when one is starving? How can one feel blissful living in an unjust world, joyful living in prison?
    I am so sorry about the big existential questions. But transition is purely an issue of existence.
    Be brave.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      It sounds odd to say I cut off my breasts (no innocuous euphemism of top surgery here) for inner peace, but it is true. I did it for myself, and I don’t think it is very noticeable to anyone when I am fully dressed. But I know, and it definitely feels right even if it throws me further into the vortex of betweenness.

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      1. The Final Rinse

        I really like the bluntness of “I had my breasts chopped off.” There is something about observing your own behavior in the starkest way possible that allows you to stand up to all of the rest of the world who will certainly judge you in the harshest possible light.
        I don’t wear t-shirts. But if I did, I would wear one that says “I had my balls chopped off for inner peace.”
        🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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