Jul 27, 2009

Cross Dressing and the Workplace

I had not intended to occupy Petra’s scattered mind too much this beautiful Monday. There is a living to be made after all dear friends. A trap was laid though and I fell in while checking up on my Google Reader page. There I came across another page of interest, the wonderful Jillian Page. She is a journalist and blogger who is documenting her complex, complete and often happy M2F transition here at Patent Pending. She is bravely, and necessarily “out” to her employer and co-workers, and has been, on the whole, well supported in her journey.

I encourage you to follow her.

I found Jillian’s post today (linked
here and excised below…) really thought provoking. Perhaps you will too. …

...So, what about trans people who don't view themselves as transsexuals but just want the freedom of gender clothing expression? Would they experience the same level of acceptance in Quebec and Canada as I am experiencing? Is our society ready yet for a genetic male who shows up at work one day in femme garb, the next day in male garb, and the day after in a combination of the two? ...

Well, didn’t that little musical question knock me off my billable tasks? Quickly retrieved thoughts from just under my wig cap are organized here for your consideration and commentary.

M2F cross dressing is already visible in many office settings, but sadly in my experience, limited to Halloween. 2 sub-species of the rarely seen male cross dresser are commonly spotted in Autumn’s riotous annual flowering:

  • Homo DragQueenulous – the well adjusted and well accepted gay male in the office who takes full Halloween license to punctuate and celebrate their liberty with a well crafted and usually fashion-forward and office-appropriate outfit. Homo DragQueenulous will certainly not have to buy lunch that day, and will in many cases be tipsy and amplified that afternoon. Often, Homo DragQueenulous will delight in playfully coming on to straight males in the office who they suspect harbor latent homosexual tendencies and are known to have a pronounced blush reaction. In short, Homo DragQueenulous will hit on every guy in the joint. Homo DragQueenulous will, against all odds and logic, maintain their legendary ability to get things done, and will, in a serious wig, heels and skirt bitch out and shame shirkers and slackers without any self doubt or sense of irony.
  • Homo Draghumorous – the senior manager secure in family and corporate position who leverages the day to display fabled ability to poke fun at himself in false display of sensitivity to the female of the species. Homo Draghumorous will cultivate a full weekend of sandpaper quality facial stubble to ensure that audience knows that the effort is solely and wholly “for the teams morale”. Homo Draghumorous is often at the very apex of the organization and possesses enough power to give it (power) up for moments at a time without suffering any damage. Homo Draghumorous will not be able to see his own feet all day long as a result of comically oversized breast prosthesis, likely fashioned with help of wife and water balloons.

The rest of us suspect that both Homo DragQueenulous and Homo Draghumorous will have much more interesting nights out (and in) than everyone else, with the possible exception of the young, normally shy one in accounts payable in the suprising cat costume (or was it the cute devil outfit?). Who knew she had such great legs?

And everyone resets to the normal and expected and accepted surface appearances and behaviors on 1 November for another year. Cross dressers wistfully on the sidelines the whole while for the most part.

As much fun as these hi-jinks are, they are arguably a set back to the possibility of broad acceptance of, or general indifference to cross dressing in professional settings. Cross dressing becomes a gag line. Serious, heartfelt “Femulation” remains beyond classification. Seditious and dangerous, and yet not to be treated seriously. Just beyond the pale and not invited back in.

Typically, I am a pretty upbeat cynic. But not on this issue. If there is a day that I am able to cross dress around co-workers and clients without limiting my career prospects, it is likely the same day in some inhospitable, apocalyptic future where everyone dresses the same. Picture those synthetic, Star Trek One-sies and that’s the very best you could hope for. I would not welcome that day. Vive la difference, even at the expense of choice and fulfillment for this cross dresser. This genuinely motivated, sincere in imitation and always aiming to flatter the feminine in all of us, cross dresser.

Some other day I will put some thoughts together on actively limiting career prospects with the express purpose of being a freer, fuller, better cross dresser. But I have a paying gig to manage just now.

How about you? Throw a few pennies of thought in the comment box would you darling?

Cheers - Petra


Jessica De Leon said...

It certainly would be something to be able to show up at work in drag one day and drab the next, allowing us to fully express ourselves along the gender spectrum.

Leslie Ann said...

Yes, the horrible irony of Halloween. If you want to do serious gender expression on that day, forget it. Everyone will wonder how you got to be so good at walking in heels. A fine day for drag, but not for the closeted crossdresser.

chrissie said...

um.. Am I missing something here?

People dress up in drag at work, for Halloween?

Is this an American thing?


Petra Bellejambes said...

Well, yes Chrissie! Lots of sightings on Hallowe'en here if you look in the right places. Its not entirely about the kids and candy.

This blog post may ring true for readers and friends from the US of A, and Canada, but seem a bit odd for the 1/3rd of you hailing from elsewhere.

Nice material for me to ponder on and pound out sometime closer to 31 Oct.

Cheers - P

Ellen said...

OMG. I missed this one! Along the lines of another comment, a few years ago in lieu of a Halloween dress-up, my wife arranged for us to attend a Murder Mystery Theater at a local, classy restaurant. This was to be sorta retro in theme and costumed participants were very welcome..... I did a mean Marilyn in a long gold lame' dress that fit the curves. My wife had arranged to meet a co-worker there with his wife. I was about the only costumed participant! I was quite embarrassed, especially when John commented to my wife that it looked as if I had done this many times before! I could have died. I asked my wife if we could leave, we did and her friend John told her the next work day that if we had stayed, I would have definitely won the best costume prize. Would it have been worth it?


Petra Bellejambes said...

Of course Ellen it would have been worth it to stay and accept your sash and tiara. Or whatever prize was on offer. But I do understand your reluctance.

I can think of a time when the invite I responded to said formal dress, and I dusted off my tuxedo. Of course I was the only man in a tux. I looked terrific (yes, a tux does that), but felt a fool for standing out.

Clearly you stood out in this room. Perhaps your discomfort was only partly attached to your display of feminine feathers to people not entirely prepared for it, and very attached to NOT being in a setting with enough birds of the same feather.

To borrow a term from high stakes poker though, when you are in full femme, you are "pot committed". Keep yourself in the hand next time. Don't blink. I believe the other guy will blink first.

Genetic women have a way of making that happen that cannot be too far out of reach of the CD or TG.

Lastly though, the food was probably ghastly and its a better thing that you skedadled....

Zosimus the Heathen said...

I can relate to the last two comments, as I too have been in situations where I've really stood out by virtue of my dress*. In my own case, however, I've relished the attention that that's gotten me. To be sure, it usually makes me feel a bit self-conscious at first, but I quickly get over that, and have found that, with the right attitude, not only have I been able to get away with standing out, but the other people present have admired me for my non-conformity.

On the subject of workplace cross-dressing, while Halloween isn't something that we make a big deal out of where I live (Australia), I've still cross-dressed at my own place of employment (an aged care facility, or, more specifically, the kitchen thereof) on more than the odd occasion, and have never encountered any problems because of it. I've worn some pretty androgynous stuff on "staff casual days" (something we have on the first of every month), as well as at the annual staff Christmas dinner, and other special occasions such as Melbourne Cup Day (which takes place only a few days after Halloween anyway). I also often turn up to work in pretty feminine-looking stuff (although we have a uniform, I don't change into it until I get to work), and have even incorporated various pieces of women's attire into my workplace uniform, such as a pair of ladies' pants that used to get me the occasional compliment (but which I've sadly outgrown), and cute little pink disposable shower caps (that I wear for hygiene purposes, and which have occasionally led to people thinking I'm actually a girl!). So, yes, it's all been good in my own case.

*The most notable being various formal events where I've gone dressed up as something that could best be described as "king of the pixies" (no, really).

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