Transgender: Learning the Right Swagger

Back when I was working as a photographer, I did a photo shoot with three drag kings, women who were going out dressed as men. They were young, probably in their early 20s, and hadn’t been exploring their gender identities for very long. The most interesting thing for me to observe was how they slipped back and forth between gender behaviour that seemed male, and behaviour that seemed female.

All of them were dressed in suits, and they had carefully created facial hair for themselves. As we went around town they tried to walk with a particularly male swagger, and when they sat they tried to sit in that open way that men do: legs apart, one arm stretched out over the back of a chair. But then, when I started to sit like that they would respond to my masculine posturing by suddenly crossing their legs, or moving their hands down into their laps.

The point of the story is that being male or female isn’t as easy as putting on a dress when you usually wear jeans. It’s not as easy as growing, or cutting your hair in a particular way. It isn’t even a matter of having an operation, or taking hormones. Obviously all those things matter, and they have to be considered choices. These three kings were just beginning to discover how they wanted to present themselves to the world.

What I mean is that people who have been taught their whole lives to act a certain way, walk a certain way, talk a certain way, and sit a certain way, have to work hard to learn the opposite of what they have been taught. A woman who wants to take on male gender characteristics needs to study the way men move. She needs to study those things that men do naturally, and without thinking about it, and retrain her muscle memory to be a different person.

Many people, of course, feel all along like they have been a gender that doesn’t correspond to their birth organs. Boys and girls feel like they ought to be opposite to what the world tells them to be from a very young age. For these people, acting and moving in the way they want feels like a never ending battle against the forces of normality. It can be emotionally difficult, to say the least, to keep swimming against the stream.

When you know who you are inside, though, no force in the world should stop you from finding your happiness. No amount of doubt, or hate should hold you back.

9 Questions about Gender Identity and being Transgender

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