When I was in 7th grade I got my first "boyfriend". His name was Spencer. We ate lunch together for a solid two months, and I'm pretty sure he looked at me in homeroom at least once, so I guess you could say things were getting pretty serious. Valentines Day approached and as was expected, all the girls got their boys gifts and vice versa. I got him Axe Phoenix body spray. (circa 2003 anyone?) I remember before I gave it to him I continuously smelled it wishing I could wear it myself. "That's for boys" I was told and when the day approached I begrudgingly handed over the cologne.
I didn't understand it. If it's what I wanted for myself, why was I being forced to give it away to someone else?
Even before that I would walk through the mens section of department stores to stare at the ties and sweaters, imagining what they would look like on me. I'd sneak off to the colognes instead of the perfumes and smell each one until I found one I marked as my favorite. I learned about the wide spread collar and double windsor knot for fun and in Home Economics class (yes, I went to private school) I preferred to learn to change oil and a car tire with the boys in leu of sewing and baking with the girls.
I was often told to go change my clothes and "look like a girl". At first I was forced into dresses by my mother, not that I blame her one bit because I don't think a backwards hat and basketball shorts was appropriate for nice dinners. However, with time I realized was being forced to "look like a girl" by something even stronger than my mother's desires - my own insecruties.
Throughout law school I would wear a pencil skirt and heels. Why? Because that's what all the girls in school did. And to be honest I knew I looked really good in them. But inside I was still that little girl, sneaking off on shopping trips with my friends to smell the cologne and stroke the ties gently with my fingers as I'd pass through the mens section in the department stores.
A few years ago when I officially "came out" I was desperately afraid of being seen as "too masculine". I'd almost over compensate for my "gayness" with femininity. "I'm a girly girl who likes girly girls", I'd say, hoping to avoid the stereotype of gender roles at all costs. Outside I looked like an attractive young woman, but inside I felt like a clown parading around for the entertainment of others, or a mime, mimicking the movements of a real person but unable to speak. The truth is I was never a "girly girl". I just didn't want to be called a dyke.
Last month I went to The Great Gatsby Party. When I first learned of the party my brain began to race. What color dress should I wear? Where would I get the heels? What would my head piece look like? I quickly googled "Great Gatsby costumes" and of course Leo DiCaprio popped up in dapper attire as the first results. "I wish I could wear that", I said to myself.
And then hit me - why the hell am I not wearing that? Here I was 28 years old and deathly afraid to be the person I've always wanted to be. I toted this banner of confidence but inside I was a coward, deathly afraid to reveal my deepest desire to myself, let alone the world. And so, my quest took a turn. "Tuxedos for women" lead me to the perfect little company - Little Black Tux. I took the plunge and ordered the tux.
As soon as I tied that first knot in my bow tie and looked at myself in the mirror it was as if I had seen someone for the first time. There, staring back at me, was beautiful, handsome, woman. Putting on that suit was the best thing that's ever happened to my sexuality.
Now, I confidently walk into the mens department at stores. I wear suspenders on New Years instead of little black dresses. I wear briefs instead of thongs and no, no I don't wear makeup every day. I did finally buy that cologne - for me. (And no, it was not Axe Phoenix. Luckily the world has evolved since then.)
in the end, I am grateful to live in a world, and specifically a city, where this is an acceptable form of living. Because holy cow does it feel good to feel good in my own skin for once. Don't get me wrong here - I am not in any way confused about my gender or my gender identity. I am now and have always been a woman.
But I think our society is finally starting to scratch the surface of what that word encompasses. Sometimes it doesn't mean heels and skirts and lipstick. Sometimes being a woman means riding your longboard in Brooklyn on the weekends and kicking around in a snapback.
Sometimes, women wear bowties.