While I am, for all intents and purposes, an “Out” transsexual woman, there are certain occasions upon which I take care to, if not hide my status, then at least downplay it. As I have touched-on before, I am not explicitly “out” to any of the students in my laboratory section; I have also made the conscious decision not to directly inform any of my professors (although I suspect that surely they must have figured it out by now).
On those occasions when I feel the need to “cover up,” I do so by wearing what I consider to be “gender-neutral” attire: formal wear, generally, that is tailored for women, but does not (except upon closer analysis) look altogether different from male attire. Unfortunately, I have found that, between my labs, meetings with my supervisor (and, ugh, Former Landlady), and a bunch of students who just drop by my office to chat about subjects in cosmology*, I have had vanishingly few chances of late to just be myself.
You see, there’s an inherent problem with aiming for “gender neutrality” in North American culture: namely (at least as far as I have seen) anything that is not explicitly for women is ‘general,’ and therefore, primarily for men. That is to say that, for all intents and purposes insofar as clothing is concerned, there is no “neutrality” in between the genders. Say, for example, that you are a male-bodied person: if you are wearing pants (even if these are, in fact, ‘lady pants’), then you are properly attired. If, of on the other hand, you are wearing a skirt** then you are dressed like a girl. For those of us transwomen who are not especially ‘femme’ to begin with***, it’s problematic at the best of times. Throw in the need to cloak your identity, and you begin to feel that you are losing yourself. Plus, I might point out, there is not even an illusion of “gender neutrality” when it comes to summer wear…and it’s getting rather hot.
I suppose I could always just say “bugger it” and show up to my next lab or committee meeting in full-on female attire, but at this point, I just want to finish without needlessly complicating my affairs.
*Don’t get me wrong, I love my students because they actually care about their subject, but I wish I had specified office hours that were better-defined than “literally every hour that I am in my office.”
**While not being a huge hairy Scotsman
***Seriously, my biggest female role models in the media are probably Rachel Maddow and Frasier’s ex-wife, Lilith