“We re all born naked. Everything else is drag.”
When I first began considering transition, I asked an online trans community how I should act female. I explained how I have acted professionally for much of my life and was interested in the behaviors, movements, gestures and vocal patterns that just scream female. This question was met with almost universal criticism.
“Acting is phony!”, “Don’t act. Just be yourself!”, “It is very rude of you to ask such a thing, we don’t act this way, we ARE this way.” And so on…
These almost unanimous replies came from a community of MTFs that make ten or more threads a day about whether or not they, “Pass” as female. As if how you look is all that matters.
A few posts ago, I talked about how easy it can be to offend a trans person or step on an invisible social land mine. This reaction to my question is a good example. Even trans people can offend their own community far too easily.
To many trans folk, transition is very much about looking like the woman they have always known they are. I would be lying if I said that was not part of it for me. Yet, I am much more interested in BEING the woman I have always known I am. And that requires acting.
The root of the word acting is act. It is the same as the root of the word action. To put it simply, you must do the actions of the person you present as to be perceived as that person.
Nobody is born a police officer. But when a person grows up, if they start doing police officer things, like applying to and going to the Police Academy, wearing a badge and uniform, driving or riding in a police car, issuing tickets, and eating a missive amount of doughnuts… if they start doing police officer actions, they are seen as a police officer and they become a police officer in the eyes of others.
What a person does has at least as much to do with how they are perceived, as how they look. If I put on a police uniform, drove to the beach, and spent the day swimming and building sand castles in uniform, nobody would take me seriously as a police officer. Frankly, I would worry if they did.
Male to Female trans folk often over compensate before they transition. They join the military about twice as often as cis (not trans) folk. MTFs often take up body building, car racing and other, “Masculine” activities in order to hide their true feelings.
I never really did. I took up acting at a young age. A hobby which, at least in America, does not often attract masculine men. Particularly in grade school and high school, there tend to be many more females in the theatre than males, and amongst the males, there tend to be a much higher than average amount of homosexuals. What I am getting at here, is theatre is a great place for a straight man to pick up chicks. Kidding… sort of.
I was never good at sports. Never hung out with the Alpha male crowd. Was a virgin well into my 20’s. Looking back, I did very few manly things in my life. I am rather short, not very strong, often wear my hair as long as I can grow it… well before transition this all was true.
So, much to my surprise, when I have come out to people, I have never heard someone say, “Yeah! I thought you were trans. Something was certainly up.” Instead I am met with, “You’re kidding! Wait… really?” or, “I had no clue. I would have never guessed it.” or, “But you make such a good man! Are you sure you are trans?”
All I really did was present someone who looked and acted a bit like a hippie. I like music. I like books. I like pot.
Well… I also made a helluva drunken asshole when I wanted to… and sometimes when I did not want to. I have been known to reprise that role from time to time even now… but it is much less frequent.
So, now I have started my transition from male to female. It is thrilling, frightening, humorous, sad and several other adjectives.
I have really enjoyed how being on the right hormones for my brain has allowed me to just be myself. I am not too worried about how I present, nor am I too concerned with how I act.
And yet… when I present in more feminine ways, I am treated as more feminine. When I am treated as more feminine, instead of trying to behave extra manly, I notice my behavior begins to adjust towards the feminine as well. Also, I notice I like this new pattern. It just feels right.
I have never been a manly man, and I will never be a girly girl (I am way too old), but I do enjoy this journey towards being female. It just fits like a well worn glove, like an old brown shoe, and many other similes.
I can see now why many trans folk thought my question about acting female was silly. The best stuff just comes out slowly and naturally.
There are things that will require conscious effort. Voice in particular. Talking in a female register takes practice for a baritone like myself… but imagine coughing or even sneezing in a female register.
Certain, subtle gestures and mannerisms will take some practice. Females tend to walk differently than men, but the differences can be over exxagerated to the point of mockery.
These subtle action cues are just as vital to how the world genders a person as what the person wears.
It is not the goal of most MTFs to be seen as drag queens. Drag queens are a wonderful and different beast entirely. Still, RuPaul’s quote from the top of this post rings true. So does Shakespeare’s.
All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time, plays many parts.