I’m having trouble with trousers.
I can’t imagine how I ever found them really comfortable. I shall – within a year – but for now I only wear them when it’s really necessary, even though a lot of the time I’m the only woman in a skirt. They are, as well, an unwelcome reminder of how I used to be, and they remind me of self-restriction, denial, tension, drab – and obligation.
More to the point, I’ve been asking myself how much I ‘wore the trousers’ when I had a wife and family. I never wanted to, and it didn’t come naturally, but I think I lived in a shared expectation of some primacy. I regret that it was my career (or more precisely, job) that took precedence. I regret that as a couple we were not better balanced at having our own lives beyond the home. I was the one who took art classes, I was the one who took up music again and was out all the time. I was the over-working campaigner for five years. In every way I was the one ‘on top’. Some of that was expected male privilege, which now I reject fiercely. So yes, trousers remind me of expectations, and of a position that I feel sometimes quite angry about having to take. They remind me too that my PSO was denied advantages and earnings because we accepted this default, and whilst she will get half my lifetime pension, and has a rewarding if difficult job, her earnings and job security are poor.
I also find that I am aware, not just of lost ‘male privilege’ (which I never wanted) but of the same expectation of being second-rank (welcome to womanhood, I hear you say!). Oh how feminism kicks in when you belong to the other side! I intend to write soon about radical feminism (and the TERFs who pour such vitriol on trans women) because I do understand many of the arguments. Feminists wear trousers a lot more than I do, but I wear the assertiveness.
Getting on top of things again
I am now also part of two communities that are both quite new to me. I am a transsexual woman, and I am lesbian. In the first, many of us just revel in finding our femininity. After 55 years a skirt feels pretty wonderful, and we late-lifers desperately want to make up for lost time. It’s not sexy, it’s just so damn right. In the second, many of us (dare I, please, say ‘us’ and be included?) wear trousers. And I still don’t feel like being ‘on top’. I want my rights, I don’t want to be second-rated simply for being a woman, but I want to be wanted. I want to not have to take the lead … and I don’t want to be the hunter in finding a new life-companion; I want to be found.
Poetic interlude: what it felt like to be in the wrong role. Lying in bed.
But the thing is, I don’t know how easy it is going to be, as a feminist skirt-wearing lesbian, in being taken seriously. Do I make myself less attractive by being attractive in the way I feel comfortable? Will it always still take trousers to be wanted? Do I feel attractive being more feminine because I am conditioned by heterosexual society? Do I have credibility in being trans-woman-lesbian?
I feel attracted the same as ever. I feel the desires and needs, the yearnings, hopes and longings. In fact I am attracted, but feel I cannot as yet voice it. And I am afraid if or when I do, I will not be genuine enough, without making someone feel their own identity is being compromised, in the same way my PSO was. Will I always change anyone who gets too close to me – unless I wear trousers?
Friendships with legs
Life will never be the same again. I assumed the traditional approach of getting a partner, getting married, playing the part, making a couple. And it worked, it really worked. I never got so itchy that I moved outside the marriage, but I had no other deep friendships until quite late on. I remember saying to one girl friend after we moved into our final family house how ‘I wished I was a girl so we could just have an evening out’. A married man with another woman isn’t an easy option, and maybe it would suggest to itself greater intimacy, because that’s what potentially sexual friendships can be like, and doubts are sown everywhere.
And now? I have all the freedom I might want – and I am worried about trousers! There are people I know who might have been more attracted to me (if available) as a man, who now feel much safer just as friends. And there are those who might be attracted more if I had always been the woman I am now. And again, there are those who find me ambiguous as I currently am, and will feel more comfortable when all is resolved in a year’s time.
And yet I am yearning for some commitment, for the opportunity of mutual love, for affection, trust, for once again ‘being at home’ with another. I talk with friends about ‘being ready’ for another ‘relationship’ – by which I guess we mean exclusivity and daily sharedness.
How will I know when I or the other is ready? When we are both wearing trousers? Or when I and the other are feeling emotionally stable and know that what we want is a new and different and desirable way forward? I feel the whole path forward is going to be quite different from what I have expected before, and from what has been expected of me. I don’t even want to be the one who directs a new relationship or is presumed to know how it should be; I want real equality this time. I want a clean slate and no presumptions.
I just long for that first kiss – again.
But today? No trousers.
PSO: Previously Significant Other
TERF: Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist