Last week at work, in the middle of the afternoon, I pushed my chair back from my desk, and said “It’s time for the seventh inning stretch.” What I meant was, I’m bored, and I’m going to get another cup of coffee and walk around the office. It is exactly what my dad used to say when he got up from the couch, during a commercial, for a snack.
There are many facets to my gender expression. Where did they come from? How much came from my dad and my brother? How much of it did I learn by osmosis? How much by imitation? Is any of it genuinely authentic?
I adored my dad and I was envious of my brother. My dad was squishy. He was masculine enough for a middle class Jewish man with a desk job in Manhattan. He was an avid Met’s fan. He watched as many baseball games as possible. When it wasn’t baseball season he talked about pitchers and catchers and spring training. He taught me how to watch the game, and, indirectly, how to talk about coaches, players, umpires, fielding strategies, rules, and stats. I still, obviously, pepper my speech with baseball idioms.
My brother was a masculine enough couch potato. He watched a lot of sit-coms, drank a lot of generic cola, and listened to music while he pretended to do his homework. He was a laid back teenager, probably because he was stoned most of the time. Once he discovered music he stopped following sports.
I tried to like the music that he listened to, but I didn’t. Our tastes were different. Instead, I embraced his obsession with collecting records and high-end stereo equipment. When he started drinking beer I drank his brand (Budweiser).
Unfortunately, I copied his personal style, or his lack of style. Levi’s, T-shirts, and plaid flannel shirts from Dave’s Army Navy. I went to his barber to get my hair cut. All before I came out as butch. When I left for college my wardrobe was identical to his. Navy blue.
I don’t remember explicitly trying to mimic his body language and comportment, but my movements are like his movements. I resisted adults “correcting” me to take my hands out of my pockets, keep my legs together, and smile. My mother wanted to send me to etiquette lessons so that I would learn to walk and talk like a lady, but they were too expensive. She hated that I clomped around like a Clydesdale.
I still don’t put much thought into how I walk. I walk briskly. I don’t know how other people see me, but they move out of my way on the sidewalk.
I’ve often wished that I looked and sounded more masculine. I’ve assumed that if I took testosterone I would look and sound different, but I’d be the same person I am now. I’m not interested in turning into anyone else. Either way, I’d still want to talk about food, music, the Mets, queer stuff, and dogs. Either way, I’d still be squishy, and masculine enough.
Notes: Julia Serano writes brilliantly about being an unconventional trans woman in this excerpt from Excluded, originally published in the Advocate, titled Gender Is More Than Performance.