Sunday, August 10, 2008

Flatland revisited: the androgyny strain

As a breastless woman, I am plagued by concerns about my appearance that go beyond ordinary vanity. I worry that in clothing, my flat chest will draw attention and even offend (see previous flatland post) and that out of clothing it will upset children (perhaps adults too).

As if those issues were not enough to keep a woman in her nightie, there's another I wrestle with. As a tall woman with short hair (it's so scanty post-chemo that growing it out isn't an option), big feet (my mother once told a shoe salesmen, "I'd like some shoes for myself and some boxes for my daughter") and a flat chest, I sometimes feel as if I have just two alternatives: wearing a dress and looking like a transvestite, or wearing jeans and being mistaken for a man.

Indeed, when Other was in the hospital, an aide repeatedly addressed me as "sir" even though I was wearing a bright pink skirt and silver earrings. That incident pissed me off, since obviously, even if I wasn't successful, I was clearly trying to pass as a woman, and the damn aide should have given me the benefit of the doubt and indulged my harmless fetish.

It's not that I have anything against cross dressers—or men—but there's something about having my gender identity misunderstood that creates dissonance for me. I'm a truth teller (o.k., I've lied to Other about how much I spent at Daffy's, but that's my greatest sin), and to perpetrate a misconception about myself, even inadvertently, bothers me.

My relief at my disease-free survival trumps my petty clothing concerns, and every day I am consciously grateful to be pain-free and alive, so in a way my daily wardrobe struggles are a reminder of my wonderful good fortune. But sometimes I forget to see them that way.

No comments: