This is a guest post by BW reader Jack Kaulfus, who also blogs at www.jackkaulfus.com and teaches writing in Austin, Texas. In this post, Jack writes about the experience of passing--and not passing--as a Texan man.
I discovered the term "transgender" in the late ‘90s, and since then I have cultivated a complex, contentious relationship with my gender identity. I’m pretty visible as a butch woman, but over the past few years, I’ve been taking a low dose of testosterone in an effort to bring my physical body more in line with how I have always wanted to look. As of this writing, I don’t plan to ever fully transition to male, but walking this androgynous line has offered me perspective I never thought I’d experience.
I am 35 and I live in Austin, Texas, where queerness is usually celebrated in the community at large. I’m lucky to be here where I can walk this line in relative safety, without excess fear of physical violence or verbal harassment. I should add that I’m white-skinned, educated, and from a middle class background. That has a lot to do with my relative safety as well, especially in the south.
The places where I pass as male are typically the more dangerous places to be seen as queer--small towns and suburbs of bigger cities. I think I’m usually shunted into a default category of male because my hair is short, and I’m usually with my long-haired partner and her two kids. I’m always surprised when I pass for longer than a few seconds, but if I do, I am offered a tiny peek at what it might be like to walk the world as a white Texan guy with a pretty wife at his side. It’s very different from the way it feels to walk around as a visible queer with a pretty wife at her side. Here’s what I notice I get when I’m out in public, passing as a cisgendered male:
I don't pass every time, but I pass often enough to feel the absence of those small privileges when they are not extended. I have come to believe that walking around my life as a visible butch woman requires a certain resignation to public invisibility on the whole. I’m here, I’m queer, and you probably don’t want to a) sleep with me, b) invite me to play on your ultimate frisbee team, or c) flirt with me in hopes of a large tip. I am recognizable as a human form--not necessarily ignored--but I definitely don’t register the same way a white, straight, cisgendered male does.
I don’t have a vested interest in becoming that which I am not, but poking around in places where I am comfortably welcomed and valued (either as a butch woman or as a cisgendered male) definitely heightens my awareness of the privileges I take for granted every day.
BW note: You can read more of Jack's writing at www.jackkaulfus.com. If you're interested in writing a guest post for Butch Wonders, email me here.