I discovered a glaring deficiency in my wardrobe shortly after I moved to Seattle. My coat is a Texas coat. It was adequate for the occasional cold snap back home but I just don’t think it’s gonna cut it up here. So, I headed over to the local Goodwill to find me a coat.
Their coat selection was enormous. I probably spent an hour going through first the women’s coats and then the men’s coats searching for just the right one. Unfortunately, the perfect garment alluded me. Oh well. I wandered around the store for a bit seeing if anything jumped out at me. While strolling through the shoe aisle, a man brushed past me. I didn’t give him a second. Once he was past me a bit, though, I noticed something odd about the way he was dressed. He was probably in his late 50′s, about six feet tall, with a monk’s bald patch and hoop earrings in each ear. He had a weather wrinkled face, a big, bulbous nose, and bright red lipstick on his lips. Over his flanneled shoulder he carried a black purse, and at the end of his blue jeaned legs, he wore black high heel shoes.
I’ve been told that I can be a bit closed minded. I try not to be but sometimes I just can’t help it. While in theory I find nothing wrong with people dressing however they want, actually coming face to face with a middle aged man (who was obviously a man) dressed in women’s accessories took me by surprise. I might, and let me emphasize MIGHT, have seen a man dressed thusly in Austin, I would never have seen a man dressed like that in Marble Falls. I mean, you can get your ass kicked for looking like that. I went through a period where I didn’t want to shave my legs and you should’ve seen the looks I got. It’s just not done. The men look like men, the women look like women, and the queers live in Austin. And of course being queer, I hightailed it to Austin as soon as I could.
I have certainly seen my share of drag queens. I lived in San Angelo in the late 80s. In fact, that’s where I came out. I had a number of gay male friends who were drag queens. Some of them were quite good. I even got makeup and clothes tips from them. Well, they tried to give me makeup and clothes tips. By the time they got to me, that boat had sailed. I was doing my best to perfect the baby dyke look. The look consisted of a mullet with the hair on top of my head spiky. Button down Polo style shirts with the collars starched up tucked into Wranglers with a snuff can impression on the back pocket. I didn’t dip snuff but I spent hours rubbing the pocket with the can in it so it would look like I did. Why this was fashionable, I have no idea. Mine was not to question why. Mine was simply to look the part. On my feet were slightly scuffed (just slightly, mind you) Ropers boots. That was the dyke uniform of 1988. My drag queen friends didn’t stand a chance.
So anyway, I understand the difference between drag queens and transvestites. Drag queens are usually gay men while transvestites are usually straight men. My first reaction to this man was Wow, that is just weird. And in all honesty, my second, third, and fourth reactions were the same thing. Why in the world would he want to dress that way? I mean, if he was trying to look like a woman, he failed miserably. It would have been like my father-in-law dressed in drag. He could never have passed as a woman. And then I thought why in the world would he want to wear the most uncomfortable parts of women’s clothing?
All this got me to thinking of my own prejudices. I typically dress in what would once have been considered man’s clothes. I never, repeat never, wear dresses. I don’t wear makeup. I only wear boots or sneakers. When I can get away with it, I don’t wear a bra. In years past, I would have been ridiculed for dressing like that. So why shouldn’t this man be able to wear anything he damn well pleases without having to deal with people laughing at him or worse. Why was my first inclination upon seeing him to look around and see if anyone else had noticed? Had I met the eye of anyone thinking the same as me, we would have smiled and shaken our heads in that “Boy is that dude weird” kinda way. Had I been in Texas, I have no doubt that’s what would have happened. Living in Seattle, though, no one seemed to give him a second glance.
So why was my reaction to him negative? What do I care what he wears? What finally dawned on me is that I was jealous of his blatant disregard of anybody else’s opinion. To leave your house wearing clothes you know might get you laughed at or beaten up is the ultimate “fuck you” to society. To boldly be yourself no matter what anyone else thinks is a most courageous act. I was jealous that I don’t have enough strength to be totally who I am without caring what other people think. I have a really hard time breathing through my nose. I wear those nasal strips at night when I sleep and boy has it made a big difference. I will even keep it on after I wake up until it falls off or until I leave the house. Once I leave the house, though, it comes off. I’ve commented several times that I wish I could wear them all the time because it really does help my breathing but I won’t because I’m afraid of people’s reactions. I care what total strangers think of me. It matters to me that Mary Sue at the Albertson’s doesn’t think I’m a nut job. I’ve never seen her before and odds are I never will again so why should I care what she thinks? Why are we taught practically from birth that other people’s opinions matter? That total stranger’s opinions count for so much?
I have stopped caring what others think about me in several areas of my life. I am an out and proud lesbian. I dress comfortably even if it’s not anywhere near close to being stylish. I talk loud and laugh louder. I’m a huge Xena nut and I’m a sucker for good sci fi. I like video games and I don’t even try to hide my inner 14 year old boy. But I will not leave my house wearing a nasal strip. I also won’t wear high waters or anything with lace.
One of the things I’ve learned along the way is that nothing is really about anybody else. It’s all about me. My reaction to that man in the Goodwill had nothing to do with him. More power to him if that’s how he wants to dress. My reaction had everything to do with me and my own feelings of envy. Maybe someday I’ll have the strength to leave my house wearing a nasal strip on my nose, my skanky holy old t-shirt with no bra, my shorts with big bleach stains on them that are so comfortable and my ratty flip flops. But then again, there’s a big difference between strength and just plain stupid. I think I’ll just stick to wishing I could leave the house like that because, really, who wants to see something like that?