[box]What follows is a speech given by Wendi Danielle Pierce at the 1989 Texas T-Party held in San Antonio. Pierce was the chairperson of the International Foundation for Gender Education (IFGE) Board of Directors, and – at the time of this address – had just undergone SRS with Dr. Biber in Trinidad, Colorado.[/box]
I would first like to thank you for asking me to speed before this very impressive assemblage. Through events like this one, we all get a chance to crow a little and share our ideas, views and dreams.
We are only here fora brief period of time and in the last few yeas I have come to realize that time is a precious commodity. We spend so much of our lives hoping that moments and events will someday happen, or that we will someday be in a situation or position, and we lose sight of the the fact time is moving. If some of our dreams do come true (and sometimes they do), time becomes our ever present adversary. In my case, I have had a life-long dream fulfilled with respect to my desire to live and be accepted as a woman. I have made this transition in my career, in my private life and, in my budding public life. I am accepted and enjoy relating to society in this new role, and my life has gained new meaning.
I feel fortunate in that I possess certain qualities and attributes that have helped me to achieve my dream; my stature, my appearance, my voice, my gutsy nature, and probably my strongest attribute – an inner desire, almost an obsession, to be all I can be. We all possess the capacity to all we can be. We may not all reach that summit, or grab that brass ring, but there are many achievements or steps in our life that are in line with our ultimate goals, and they can give us comfort and satisfaction as we move along. These steps on the ladder of life can also be very rewarding. They can give us the confidence to reach out a little farther to open the envelope, possibly even to try other things that we never felt could accomplish. When looked back on, steps on this ladder can be very satisfying in themselves, steps like accepting one’s self, sharing emotions long locked inside, reaching out establishing lines of communication, and the capacity to accept others and to judge people on their merits rather than their faults. These steps can all be rewarding and admirable attributes for us to attain and nurture.
I must apologize if I seem to preach at times, but these are concepts that I feel very strongly about, concepts which I enjoy sharing with others. I feel that many people in the gender community are overly concerned with the fact that when in the alternate-gender role, they are not accepted. My first efforts to come out of the come out of the closet were probably similar to your own. Some of them met with disastrous results. I remember one time when a friend and I entered a Denny’s at 3 am. We were verbally assaulted by a drunken cowboy. We hastily retreated out of the restaurant, but he followed us and continued to pursue his loud and abusive verbal attack. I did a lot of soul searching after that confrontation, asking myself, “Is this really worth it, or am I fighting a losing battle?” As a result of the incident I resolved that I would continue my growth and not let that person’s attack destroy the fulfillment of a dream I’d had since childhood. I came to realize that this new and very desirable lifestyle would be the toughest challenge I might probably face in my life, but the reward, if achieved, would be worth all the humiliation and frustration.
I, as a transgendered individual, feel I am little understood by society in general and when discovered for what I am, I present a number of foreign and sometimes uncomfortable ideas to people. These ideas or concepts range from the simple face value things such as not knowing how to address me or simply feeling that I am weird, to some very deep and sensitive issues such as a person’s own insecurity. My adoption of this alter-gender persona might also seem as I have become a traitor to masculine society.
Now I look back at old photos of myself and find it hard to believe that I felt I looked good enough to even contemplate coming out. Our self image is obviously tainted by what we want to see, not what a casual observer might see. The dichotomy here is that in order to measure our progress, we need the feedback being in public can provide. Therefore, in order for us to survive and move forward, we need to develop a tough skin and establish ways of dealing with rejection. If we become good students, and learn from our mistakes, we will make progress, progress is learning how to be “read” as the gender we desire to be, and progress in our own personal growth and self-understanding.
I was a good student. I was also, and still am, a good observer. I learned very quickly that my confidence level was a large contributing factor to my acceptance in this new role. Confidence is something that shows itself in many ways. Confidence is something that takes time to nurture. Confidence is something that one just cannot simply turn on. It has to come from within and it has to be genuine to be accepted. Confidence tells others that we are comfortable and that our persona is genuine. Also, when we exhibit confidence, it tends to mask faults that might otherwise destroy the image we want to project. How does one go about gaining this paramount trait? The key is practice, and perseverance. When a round is lost, when we are “discovered”, an analysis of the situation, events, and our appearance should occur. If possible, the person or persons who “read” us might even be approached and asked what gave us away. Obviously, this type of query is only possible if we have attained a certain amount of confidence. If possible, though, the information we might attain could help us to correct the problem, so that it will not happen again.
Appearance is not the only thing we as cross-gender individuals need to concentrate on in order to successfully achieve our goals. These “other things” contribute to the successful adoption of a feminine role, either full or part tune. Many of these points are very subtle points. Again, I am not speaking of the normal, “like a lady” body language, voice, or appearance topics. These are givens! I am speaking of the little things, attitudes, and attributes that are the cement holding the image together. Without that cement the large blocks are shaky and a little pressure in the wrong direction will cause the whole structure to crumble into ruins.
What are these “other things”? Take the typically boastful masculine “I can top that” attitude. Males have this drilled into them all their lives, starting in many cases with their fathers’ stories about their past experiences. Women too, but it’s not usually a contest to see who’s the “king of the hill”. Males are also prone to making sure everyone knows about “it”, kind of like an animal repeatedly marking territory. Women are usually more content to tell a few people and wait for the word to spread. Men are apt to be into “things” while women are more apt to be involved with relationships, feelings, and emotions. Women freely discuss their feelings while men don’t.
Generally relationships are key to a woman’s happiness and state of well being, while for men relationships are subservient to career, physical accomplishments, and other creature comforts. Women are influenced by their emotions to a higher degree than men. Men are taught not to show emotions, not to let their vulnerable inner self to show. Being the strong person, Being the strong person, able to fight battles and protect the home front, even if it is only one’s self image, is difficult if not impossible when one is vulnerable. Why then have so many women succeeded in the social structure? l feet the key is not the openness of one’s emotional being but the understanding of this being and the ability to understand the emotions of those around us. Being sensitive to others and relation to them appropriately, is a feminine approach. This it the one single attribute that will mark a person as feminine in a social environment.
What other “things” contribute to a person being identified as feminine? Attention to detail comer to mind. Details apply to our lives in many ways. Detail can be the arrangement of a room. Detail can be the inclusion of persons at an event. Detail can be the way one’s clothes fit or the color coordination of an outfit. Neatness and cognizance of detail can do hand in hand, but one is not synonymous with the other. I feel neatness is an innate trait and cognizance of detail tends to be more of a learned behavior. Being cross-gender individuals, detail is very important. Details are the things what will make or break that alter image that we wish to pursue. This is a kill we must endeavor to gain. Are there more “things”? You bet! Aggressiveness and arrogant behavior are not usually acceptable as female traits. Assertiveness and being confident are alternatives that will not draw much attention to us. However, there is a fine line that we as trans-gender individuals should not cross, lest we be singled out for closer examination, and possible discovery. Aggressiveness is a trait that males are taught will bring them success and praise all their lives, and it becomes so incorporated in a male’s personality that it can be very hard to suppress. Also with aggressiveness, usually comes the need to dominate, to tell others what is “right”. When the urge to do this is present, one needs to take a moment, analyze the situations and ask oneself, “Is this being assertive or am I being the male aggressor again?” If the latter is the case, we are not truly adopting the stereotypical feminine role and might be singling ourselves out for closer investigation. Remember our actions are just as important as our appearance, and in most cases our appearance places us at a disadvantage. Therefore, our actions must be carefully chosen and controlled. We may feel as feminine as any natural born woman inside, but physical attributes, male hormonal governed features, and years of indoctrination in the male way of thinking and acting, are very difficult obstacles to overcome.
I’m not saying that we must throw away all our male attributes in order to become accepted as a feminine individual. I say this for two reasons. First of all, in most cases, this type of purge probably is not possible. Secondly, as Virginia Prince has said, “We need to play the game with all our marbles.” Initially, we do have to concentrate on perfecting feminine traits, but the old masculine traits will always be part of our nature. Locking them up inside with no chance to express them will only create new frustrations. When we have reached the point where we have established ourselves, are comfortable, and are understood by an individual or group, all our traits should be allowed to surface. Now the complete person will have a chance to grow. However, if we are to succeed, we have to initially tilt the scales and concentrate on the stereotypical feminine traits. The reward is our acceptance as the feminine persona we desire to be. The alternative is discomfort, ridicule, and possibly public humiliation as a “guy in a dress”.
So far I’ve talked mainly of us as individuals. Now I would like to address a few issues we collectively hold in common as a group. We, as cross-gender individuals, are faced with a general populous that for the most part is ignorant of our desires, drives, and needs. Generally, they are ignorant of us, and therefore are not concerned. This changes when they are exposed to members of our community. Due to a lack of background and insight into us and our drives, etc., they are quick to label us with derogatory names such as sick, weird, even demented. When people are faced with activity that is foreign, possibly even repulsive due to their programming by society, they can even be hostile and abusive. Anyone who has had contact with society while in a cross gender role, usually in initial attempts at going public, has run into this to some degree. The stronger people are programmed by society, and the stronger they accept society’s arbitrary rules, the more difficult it is to enlighten them to our special desires and needs.
This is our lot. We can face it, or we can try to ignore it. As members of this community, we owe the spokespersons of the community in general a debt. We owe our support to those in the community that have taken up the task of educating society in general. They are the ones that are fighting the ignorance in society at large, and are smoothing the way for people like ourselves. They are the ones that are taking the chances in order to educate Joe and Mary back in Nebraska that we are people, possibly a little different in our needs and desires, but none the less people, deserving the same respect they show their next door neighbors. For all they know we may be their next door neighbors. It is through the efforts of this small group of spokespersons at a national level, through the efforts of our local outreach and through our own contact with society in general that education process continues.
You may feel that a specific national broadcast or the efforts of a specific local group are not in line with your personal gender identity. This might be true, but the gender spectrum is a continuum, and for each of us, there is a level that we feel comfortable somewhere along this continuum. Gender contentment may be satisfied with an occasional outing while cross-dressed, it may be living in the opposite gender role full time, or it maybe SRS. We are all individuals and we all have different levels that we consider satisfactory along this line. None is more correct than another. No position on the gender line carries more weight than any other. We need to keep this in mind. We need to respect the needs and desires of others in our community. It bothers me when one member of our community shuns or is negative toward another member because that person is content to be at another point on the gender line. The comments typically are, “I’m not like that,” or, “They look ridiculous.” The truth is, we are all very similar inside. Our position on the gender line may be different, but we still are members of this community.
When we ignore or are negative toward a portion of our community, we are no better than the segment of the population in society at large that is abusive to our community in general. We may for one reason or another, not wish to actively support or become visibly involved with some segment of the cross-gender community, but, on the other hand, we should at least passively support that segment and the community in general.
Support can be in many ways. It can be the subscription to a newsletter or national publication, it can be the support of a local group, it can be the willingness to participate in educating the general public. We all need to be involved. We all need to recognize the fact that we do belong to this community and will benefit from the efforts of those who are trying to make our nature, our desires, and our needs known to society in general.
Thank you all for letting me speak to you this evening. Now let’s all GO FOR IT
On gender stereotyping: I feel that some might be tempted to scoff at some of the things this orator shared as being quaint when viewed through a 2012 lens. However, I encourage readers to keep in mind that the speaker is giving voice to her end of the 1980s perceptions as they might apply to a crowd of transgender people gathered together in a 1980s version of San Antonio, Texas.
On community: For all of its appeal to gender stereotypes and archetypal imagery, the speaker gives voice to some genuine trans community values. The last 5 paragraphs of this speech capture a spirit I find time and again. There exists a simplistic linear meme that claims that the development of inclusively communal values and calls to action popped into being sometime in the 1990s and that a “transgender community” was then formed around this shared political identity. The meme simply isn’t supported by the historical record. (eg 1972, 1973)
Terminology: I’ve noted the use of “cross-gender” before. Here we find that cross-gender is being used synonymously with trans-gender. Additionally, here we have a post-op transsexual woman identifying herself as a “transgendered woman” as Christine Jorgensen did (79/85 and 82), but in this usage, it seems to me that she means the term as a community identifier in the same way the term was used years before (1984).