I have decided that there is a serious need to teach pluralism in beauty and fashion. I’m not talking about feminizing “androgyny,” and I’m not talking about heaving a person across gender lines to the extent that his/her full on gender expression/identity is imposed upon, either. I’m talking about serious, honest to God pluralism. The kind that opens our eyes to see more than One, OR the Other, at any given time.
Pluralism is, after all, that thing where more than one experience or presentation occurs ia a given moment. Some people experience this phenomenon once in a lifetime when confronted by a tacky-looking, humor born, bearded drag queen on TV. Others experience it every day at work as they/we change the way they/we speak to match the linguistic styles of the mainstream world employed around them/us. From nine to five, grammar is re-shaped and re-cultured like a fake pearl vanity top hiding the beauty of true copper underneath, until finally they/we are able to relax at home with a family that looks and sounds the same as they/we do, surrounded at last with effortless acceptance and familiarity.
And some of us experience it 24/7, never matching even the biology that produced us, constantly translating, “tolerating,” living, breathing, and even resolving conflicts within ourselves about things as seemingly insignificant as whether to brush the bangs up or down that day before facing the dichotomies of the world yet again, and trudging home with no reprieve from the onslaught of the gender specific assignments of The Others around us who fail to see us as plural, organic beings rather than as the failure of someone or something to either “choose to fit in,” (translation: “comply with the psycho-socio-cultural constructs of others”) or to “stop trying to be a—“ fill-in-opposite-sex-traditional-gender-expression-specific-noun” (translation: “comply with the psycho-socio-cultural constructs of others”).
Here are some of my personal favorites:
“You would be such a pretty girl, if you just put on a little make-up and grew your hair out…”
(Translation: you make yourself look so ugly – what the hell happened? P.S., I’m still trying to make you into a “girl” in my head, so don’t bother trying to command the same kind of respect/benefits/room for error that I afford to “boys.”)
“You say you’re an actor, so why don’t you just dress the part for work and make life easier on yourself?”
(Translation: your entire life is invalid, who you meet and how they perceive you doesn’t matter so long as you “fit in,” and compromising your mental health by way of pretending to be someone/thing that you’re not five days a week every week for the next 30 years your life is a viable option because I personally don’t want to be inconvenienced with challenges to my own psycho-socio-cultural constructs.)
“It’s a choice you’re making to dress the way you do, and you must – MUST – accept the fact that until you start wearing appropriate clothing, you will never be able to keep a steady job, and that’s no one’s fault but your own.”
(Translation: you’re ugly, your mental health is invalid, you’re a loser, and you’re intentionally doing it to yourself because you’re irresponsible and won’t comply with my personal psycho-socio-cultural construct of what you’re supposed to look like. P.S., I don’t want to hear about it, either.)
Last week, I tried a new hairstylist. Three haircuts later, I have finally given in and zapped myself again with the home ‘do clippers. Don’t get me wrong, Mary was great. She gave me three very good haircuts. But all were full and fluffy and wispy and pixie-like and feminine.
I walked in there wearing a pair of paint splattered Levis and a t-shirt that said “East Coast Lesbians Festival” on it. What the hell was she thinking putting my head in a dress? (And not in a good way…!)
So I went home, waited for it to dry, looked in the mirror, cried for about 3 seconds, and broke out the clippers. Yes, there was a small fit involved. In fact, I have yet to clean up a few of the items that hit the floor while I was sweeping the shelves clear to make way for flying hair. And, of course, there was the small matter of the Vanilla Mint flavored Listerine bottle whose top was apparently not screwed down properly the last time I used it – but hey, at least my hallway smells like minty fresh breath now, instead of cat pee.
This experience does parallel that of thousands of tomboys and gender dysphoric folks across the nation: what are we supposed to do about something so skill intensive as getting our hairs cut? Not everyone wants a clipper style home ‘do. Heck, I wasn’t after the clipper style home ‘do myself – if I had been, I wouldn’t have sought a stylist in the first place. The fact is, my eyes are beginning to age a little, and I’d like a little more hair. Apparently, that’s simply not an option for people like me, who soar across the gender expression continuum on a regular basis. There are those lucky enough not to be growing a prominent nose mole on the gardens of their faces as I am, and who can simply go Sinead without a second thought – lucky things that they are.
Some of these women even look damn sexy with Sinead hair, and don’t even lose an ounce of beauty under such harried circumstances (couldn’t resist), but I’m one of those who will be called “sir” until my hair is at least six inches longer than it is right now. Frankly, I’m okay with that part. It’s the part where I don’t have a choice that bothers me. The part that says I must, must, must have a haircut that screams either male or female, no matter what. The part that says I made the “choice” to “try to look like a man” instead of “dressing the part” and “growing [my] hair out” in order to “keep a steady job” and look like the “pretty girl” I “could be” instead of…
Instead of what, exactly?
Instead of looking like me?