I wanted to dress like a whore. Well, not quite.
I went to U’s party on 31 December, the memorable night she got together with D. Last night was her birthday party, and next week she will move in with him. At Hogmanay, I wore a mini skirt and a rather demure top. Yesterday I went shopping with my hostess S down Kilburn High St and got a lace front human hair wig for £35, (amazing) and a black thing of lace, beads and sequins loosely tied between the breasts, showing off flesh around the navel, and a lace pair of shorts. Worn without a bra, it is not something to wear on the Tube if travelling alone. Alas, no photographs.
I wanted to be out there. I wanted to celebrate myself as a sexual being. I wanted to show off my bare legs, and my midriff, because women tell me my legs are a good feature, and women are the people I want to attract. I do not want to hide myself away. I also wanted to experiment with this: it is just not the way I have dressed, before, even at tranny dos. N thought I looked as if I were trying too hard (she really dislikes my usual wig, too). U, whose long skirt beautifully shows shifting impressions of her legs, appreciated me, and leant me a chunky silver necklace, more suited than my Moonstone to the ensemble. “The bedroom is the place to be,” she said. “No, the place to be is the room I am in,” I replied.
It is a summer party, starting about five pm, and most people are dressed fairly casually. There are about 25 of us in the flat, about half of whom I know. Bloke in shirt and slacks comes up to me and says, “Hello, I’m Tim.” I’m Clare. “So, you’re trans then.” I was astounded, and not in a good way.
Later, I am chatting to Paul, a DJ with Jazz FM. “I’m Paul, by the way.” I’m Clare. “So, why did you choose that name, then?”
I was irked at that. Second mention, and I wonder if it has something to do with my way of self-presenting. He refused to admit that he had realised I had changed my name because I am trans. He started telling me that a lot of black people of his generation had changed their names from slave owners’ names to African names. I was so irked that I did not point out I am white- he can see that, after all. He says he interviews people. Monica, his seven-year girlfriend, joins us.
Third conversation: S tells me how she had a girlfriend 16 years older, twenty years ago. After they had been together for a year, she was looking through one of her partner’s books and a photo fell out of it. They fought over the photo but she ran with it to the bathroom, and there realised that it was her partner, presenting male before transition. S had not realised until then that she was TS. S found this a dealbreaker, thinking her partner had been dishonest, but the partner explained she had been advised by her therapist to put “her male life” completely behind her and live in the present moment. S left her. This shows that passing to an amazing extent- for a year in a lesbian relationship- is possible, making me feel worse.
Paul said I should have said to Tim, “No”, or, “What do you mean by that?” Well, I was a bit surprised when he said it. “What did you say?” I could not remember. Why should it matter, anyway? Because it is loaded. It means most to me, it is my life, but it means things to others as well. And he put me in a box.
Don't define me before you have even talked to me!
The day before, someone had chosen to unburden himself to me about his cross-dressing experiences. I tried to encourage him, saying it was alright, no big deal, if that is how you want to relax you go ahead- jumping to conclusions, really. Responding too quickly out of my stuff. His tone of voice had given some indication that was appropriate, but he might have wanted to celebrate it.
Around eleven, there is a mellow late evening feel. Eva comes with her friend Michael, a musician with a keyboard, and we jam, two guitars, a flute, and some of the rest of us singing voicelessly.
Oh look, my glass is empty. Let me go and fill it up.
Energy returns. I dance close with U, and then with Jack. I feel wide open, and weep. The weeping helps me get into the present moment. Jack sees this. I feel he is giving me something beautiful, the space to seek to dance spontaneously in his arms, following not leading, rather than play-acting, assessing and judging how I am dancing and thinking through, intellectually, what I should do. This is an animal, feeling-based activity. I am almost there- I weep again, in frustration.
Not quite a whore- a whore would wear a skirt rather than shorts. As N pointed out. If not all of it gave me pleasure, the party certainly gave me a worthwhile challenge.
What do I want from such a conversation. “So, you’re trans, then?” It is not safe to assume that this is a man to whom I can unload my own angst and be comforted, or even explain so that he will understand and affirm me. It would be easier if I had really internalised that being transsexual is a blessing. I do not want a sterile verbal joust, trying to get the other to state a position and then challenging it, but I would like to make it an exploration of his Stuff: “What do you mean by that? What do you think of that?” And be prepared to withdraw if necessary.