Mar 2, 2010

The Cross Dresser on the Ramparts of Change

This post has been fermenting in the recesses of my brain for some time now, and has been uncorked in part as the result of a recent post on Gabrielle Hermosa’s blog. There, you will see the old pictorial of our species emerging from the muck, slowly shaking off fins, sprouting limbs and finally assuming a decidedly female form at the natural end of our possible progress. Nice bag in hand too.

Many of you are old enough to remember parts of the sixties. One of the more memorable cultural events of this tumultuous time was what was then known as the “Women’s Lib” movement. From a fashion perspective, things started off poorly in my mind with bra burnings. Tragic as the loss of countless innocent foundation garments to the angry bonfires of revolution was, change was clearly in the air, and change and I are old friends.

The bra burnings were a stunt, but there is always a kernel of substance within a stunt. The substance of the movement was that the rules were stacked unfairly in favor of the fellows, and that much needed to change. Broad challenges to gender role definitions and the status quo here and abroad were accepted and engaged.

Laws did, and continue still, to change. Most public sector and many private sector employers adapted their organizations to remove barriers to success in the workplace. Academic life here stateside was forever changed by the adoption of NCAA Title 9 rules mandating equal funding of women’s athletic programs. Elementary school curricula changed to mitigate gender biases in approaches to education. New role models in media, and on the streets we grew up on emerged. And new generations have been born and grown to adulthood with a different set of gender ideals and expectations than the ones we slightly greyer folk inherited in our youth. All good, and mostly great in my view.

Women now more commonly occupy more senior positions in more industries. A majority of college students in this country are female. The industries that depend on muscle-power are dead or dying. The industries that depend on brain-power are (relatively) thriving. Yes, wage gaps and all manner of subtle and not so subtle barriers to full and equitable participation remain, but those barriers are under siege everywhere. Again, hurray, says I.

Change has rough edges. Fashion for some time favored mannish fabrics, curve free silhouettes, and dull pallets. God awful shoulder pads even had their day. Overt displays of femininity, both behavioral and on the surface or were penalized. Avoiding the suspicion that the successful women was either dazzling or sleeping their way to the top was job one. We seem to have thankfully emerged from the worst of that. Femininity, surface or otherwise, is not inconsistent with success. All of this is arguable of course, and forgive me my broad brush strokes here. They are in service of a point. You ready?

The validity and the value of the female experience is sought, accepted and acted on, on it’s own natural terms more now than at any time in my experience. I suspect that this trend will continue. As it does, as the pendulum swings, as tides reverse, as societal plates shift and groan (ed. and as my metaphor hip-check the crap out of each other) a certain amount of displacement is bound to happen. The value and the necessity of a purely, brawny, traditionally male skill and sensitivity set is bound to diminish. We already feel this reality in many aspects of our daily lives.

My wonderings on the matter go like so: Do men more inclined, as I am, to discover surface and interior elements of our “femininity” have a shaved leg up on the competition?

This is a serious question. I am not interested in a revolution that makes it acceptable for me to take a meeting in a pair of heels rather than a nicely tooled brogue. I am not interested in working for an organization where my ability to mount the org chart (figuratively, dear friends) is dependant on my ability to smartly accessorize a pencil skirt and blouse ensemble. I am interested though, in providing value, and getting paid for it, where the demand is greatest, where my competition is disadvantaged, and where my skill sets are well adapted for the need.

I have a client whose customers are 99% female. The founder and CEO of the organization is about my age. Her prototypical customer has a college education, leads a growing family, and has growing economic power. The product my client sells to her client is a highly emotionally charged gift. Men do not get it, or buy it. I strategize with my client on how to engage better with her perfect prospective customer.

I am the only male outside consultant / contributor to her businesses growth. My client has commented, surprisedly, that I “get” the business, and that I understand her customer. This is a key to my continued utility. This reinforces a personal belief I have that the Cross Dressing is merely a surface aspect of a bigger, whole, true me. This really makes me happy and then I want to go shopping with my client. But not really. OK, I do. I could help her out a little. In the meantime, we are able to help each other out with our businesses in a way that could not have happened 20 years ago.

I do not have 20 years of work ahead of me, but you might have.

So dear friends, over to you. Do you believe there is something that you have, beneath the surface, integral to your worldview that you can leverage to your benefit? Are you better enabled than most of your workmates to understand women, work with them, work for them, learn from them, and make their world better? Does your secret endow you with secret powers?

Comments welcomed, as are business referrals if a marketing consultant with a uniquely cultivated view of the female consumer is required.


Anonymous said...

Very well stated and yes, we do have an edge on those guys out there. There is obviously a reason we were given certain gifts.



Jenny said...

I certainly find myself talking as Jenny to women, both customers and whom I'm working alongside in my work environment. It seems to work well and I have established rapports with quite a few which has certainly not harmed our business relationships. I have no idea though how they see it from the other side. They certainly have no idea I'm transgendered so do they see me as a bloke who's chatting them up, a bloke who genuinely has an insight into their point of view or simply a bloke who might have gay tendencies? I'm fairly certain there are people I've worked with who might have detected something of the girl about me as a result because the first remark of an ex-colleague I came out to was that she wasn't surprised.
So yes, I see having a female side as useful in the world of work. After all, without it I'd be forced to talk about golf or something and that really would be tragic.

Staci Lana said...

Since graduating from schools, I have been in the workplace for over 30 years and in all but one of the places where I have been employed, my closest co-workers have always been female. (The one exception was my first job, which was in a male-dominated department in a male-dominated company where there were no women I could relate to.) I just naturally gravitate to females for friends and confidants; most of the males I have worked with are just too male for my taste. So, go figure!

Leah said...

My chosen profession is composed by majority of male species. Only a few ladies make it in this field. But I found an edge over them in the sense that I can talk to the clients in a female's point of view. They love to deal with females especially the brides who can understand their needs. I am passionate about their wedding like they are... they can feel the sincerity and they know that it is not just plain marketing tactic. My only secret power is my genuine smile.

I had fun reading this... I agree, you cross dressers have a big edge over the other guys.

Have a great day Petra! xoxo

Couture Carrie said...

Really intriguing post, darling Petra! I only wish I had secret powers...


KD said...

I agree with coutre carrie. What a very interesting post.

Gabrielle said...

An excellent write up, as usual, Petra, and you have touched upon a subject of great personal interest... or should I say have touched upon a few of subjects of much interest (within the feminine spectrum and societal "norms").

Thank you for the nod, btw. :) I'm happy my somewhat lighthearted article helped you hone in on your thoughts for this write up.

I'm tempted to get into my usual array of rants about how females in society (generally) have chosen collectively stray from the feminine path, in terms of outward appearance - at least in context of what is feminine to me, and many within the transgender spectrum. I agree with you 100% that it is often those of us who are genetically male or started out as male, who seem to don the most feminine styles - styles that many women have minimized in their own closets to a high degree today. I've (sadly) pondered a future in which the greatest display of femininity in the western world will be put on by people like us, rather than those blessed with feminine features built-in by design and who (in my opinion) look most stunning in feminine styles and fashion.

In regard to the special powers I posses as a result of having a strong feminine side... in my case, it is probably my ability to empathize with the troubles of others (an attribute more common among genetic women than men, at least in practice) and of course, my extraordinary "difference" from the norm (of men). Growing up as an outcast and "freak", I understand all too well the isolation and hardship it can cause. I can relate to not only a "feminine" perspective in many ways most men cannot (or will not), but also to others who have lived troubled lives because of feeling like an outcast themselves, be it because they are trans, or simply could never fit in otherwise.

Of course, there is the obvious - there are so many aspects of women that I can and do appreciate so much more than most men. From hair and makeup, to clothing styles and "feminine presence" - I often find myself admiring the beauty of women in ways much richer and deeper than most men. There is a true appreciation for feminine beauty and all that goes into it. Perhaps that is more superficial or more abundant on the surface, but when one takes into account that I can enjoy moments with my the woman I love in ways that most men will not with theirs (browsing female magazines, shopping, etc.), there is potential for a much stronger bond between my wife and myself, not to mention female friends.

I'm not sure I've found anything that gives me the proverbial "shaved" leg up as a result of my femininity, at least not in a business sense (not yet), but I have found new meaning in my life and also helped others find meaning in theirs (mainly amidst the confusion and troubles of other transgender folks). While it does not pay the bills (or pay at all), there is a sense of gratification in knowing I have helped ease the suffering of others out there - those who suffer needlessly in a society that has yet to truly allow people to simply be who they are **BY DESIGN**.

Lynn Jones said...

I'm fascinated over what the core business of your client is! :)

I'm not surprised that you 'get it' and other guys don't. I feel that we - trans folk - have a foot in both camps. Not from a 'oo, I wear a skirt too' point of view, but deeper, right down in the internal world view.

I don't think being trans singles me out to be special - I think most people have a talent of some sort. If you're lucky, you find it early on and get to enjoy it.

Great post, BTW.

Anonymous said...

Great post, but I can't agree with you that this --

"The industries that depend on muscle-power are dead or dying."

-- is a good thing.

Manufacturing is a major key to wealth in an economy... and we're only now beginning to see the damage after millions of jobs have been lost overseas and unemployment (the real number, not the gov't figure) climbs past 20%. Not everyone has the brains for a brains-based economy. Lots of folks are happy to use their muscles... but there are fewer and fewer places to use them.

Not all change is good.

Petra Bellejambes said...

Dear Anon - very glad of your visit, and especially that you took the time to comment. A couple of notes.

I did not say that the loss of our manufacturing base is a good thing. Nor do I believe that it is a good thing. It is merely true that this has happened.

The article in the paragraph that I was saying "hurrah" for was the largely successful ongoing battle against gender bias in the workplace.

As to change, on a personal level I believe change to good. Period. I must believe that in order to square my experience up with a general requirement to be happy.

On a societal level, like you, I do not believe that all change is good. We agree. As I said in this post, change has rough edges. Clearly, change leaves tragedy in its wake too.

I am heartened though that we are tending more towards a balance of power and influence between the genders in our human family. I believe that the decisions we make collectively in our near future vis a vis trade strategy, environment, labor law, and etc., will call upon the perspectives and sympathies of the fairer sex more than has been the case in the past.

This likelihood will engender change that is easier to believe in. And that I cheer for, and say, speed the day.

Thanks sincerely for your comment.

Subscribe in a reader