It would take long to tell the story of how I decided one day to transform into a man. Until now, I only did so for a few hours at a time.
The point of no return was the moment I understood that gender, being a man or a woman, is little more than wearing a costume and acting on it.
I knew it instinctively, before reading Simone de Beauvoir or knowing about Judith Butler, although of course both of them helped me understand it in depth. I knew it through the living testimony of other people, to whom their identities was a daily fight against a world trying to drown them all the time.
I felt it in that inner trembling I could never silence, in that choking sensation followed by rage every time someone told me what to do, or how to be, for being a woman. None of them asked me if I wanted to be a woman, or if I had chosen to be one, and they probably never asked themselves what a woman is in the first place. They didn’t wonder how, they just knew it.
And that’s something I can’t stand.
It all began when I learned of a Drag Parade being organized. For those not familiar with the terminology, a Drag Queen is a person dramatizing an exuberant femininity, while a Drag King is a representation of masculinity. The personification is usually made by someone belonging to the “opposite gender”, although it is not a requirement.
The proposition awakened my curiosity and my sense of adventure, which now that I think about it were my identity’s survival weapons all along.
My first transformation was a solitary one, doubtlessly one of the few moments I felt completely alone with myself.
I first created a draft of a character in my mind. I chose a metalhead, because I felt comfortable reviving my teenager adoration for Megadeth and Iron Maiden.
It was also a perfect excuse to show off my long curly hair.
I even chose a name for him, from a username I once used in music forums: MetalWarrior
I began by wrapping my breasts with two bandages, like those used in boxing. I’ve never done it before and I needed several attempts until I got a firm bandage which also allowed me to breath normally.
When I was a bit more skilled at bandaging, I added a tan-colored bandeau to keep the bandage in place, obtaining a more comfortable, lasting and discreet result.
I then proceeded to brush my hair to give it a messy appearance. This increased my hair volume over three times, so I dampened it a bit with water and kept it in a tied bun for a few minutes.
The result was way more untidy than I intended, but I decided a guy wouldn’t be very worried about it (although I know a few metalheads which clearly don’t follow this rule).
The third step was drawing me a beard.
This caused me a brief self-debate. At first I felt it was unauthentic, something like going too far in “faking” and identity. On the other hand, when looking into the mirror I perceived it would be hard for me to pass for a man with the delicate lines and curves of my face, at least within a society which marks them as feminine.
I finally came to think that if I can wear lipstick and eye shadow to “transform” into a woman, there shouldn’t be a real reason for me not to draw a beard, even if it was in front of myself alone (o, maybe, precisely because of it).
I started with a brown eyeliner and drew a Van Dyke-style beard. It turned out too reddish compared to my hair color, so I added a few shades with black eyeliner. The effect wasn’t very realistic, but it wasn’t bad for a first attempt.
For clothes, I chose a Blind Guardian T-shirt, gift from a metalhead I dated for a while, and denim Bermuda shorts I inherited from a neighbour who gave away part of his wardrobe before moving to the Patagonia.
It’s really hard to describe what it felt like to see myself transformed in the mirror.
Even when it was something I wanted and worked for. Gender is such an intimate part of our identity, that changing it feels at the same time as nakedness and some sort of mutation.
It felt vertiginous, like being half-way through jumping from a cliff into an endless abyss. Slowly, I began to recognize myself in that image, and it was nearly as strange as before. I barely began to measure to which extent I’ve been taught to look at men and women in very different ways.
I understood I was taking one more step on the road which strays away from what common people can comprehend and accept, and my feeling of loneliness grew. Would I ever be able to share this with my family, my friends and loved ones? How much rejection could I cause to those who were already uncomfortable with my hairy armpits?
Before me lay a path which disappeared beyond the horizon, and even today I don’t know how far I can, or want to, follow it. I didn’t feel then, and I don’t feel now, like it was a process to become a transsexual man. I don’t discard that option either, and in the end there’s only one way to find out about it.
After all, I’m not afraid to walk away from the crowd or being misunderstood if that increases my freedom to create my own identity. In the words of Robert Frost:
My first transformation was no more than another brick for building an answer to the question: who am I?
I’m not a woman who wants to be a man, that’s for sure.
I’m more of a person who wants to be a man or a woman, or both, or neither, based solely on my desire.