I’ve been talking a lot lately about the difficulty I initially had being feminine after going full-time. I’d spent all my life being conditioned to avoid femininity, and to see it in a very negative light as it related to me. This made it really tough to enjoy femininity, or to explore womanhood.
Eventually, I did overcome it. I lost that self-consciousness, and learned how to just enjoy myself. And how. This is a common theme with transgender women. Naturally it doesn’t apply to all of us, but a significant number spend the first few months of full-time being hyper-feminine, wearing nothing but dresses, and putting on full makeup just to go to the store. Part of this comes from a fear ‘of looking like a transgender person’ or of being misgendered, both of which can be anything from demoralising to downright dangerous for you.However, a large part of it is that after being isolated from it for so long, you start to develop a deep urge for it, which can be difficult to control. It’s similar to how after long bike rides I get home and drink about three water bottles, or how I’ll feel like eating everything in sight if I don’t have the time to cook lunch and have to wait till dinner to eat again. Perhaps it’s more similar to how much more exciting drinking alcohol can be if you’re regularly told you cannot have it. It feels like a fun way to go “fuck you!” at people who tried to control what you did.
It goes a bit beyond that, though. When you’re a transgender woman growing up without femininity (or a trans man not allowed to be masculine) you’re not just being kept from doing something you want to do, you’re also being forced to repress part of who you are. The best simile I can paint for it is perhaps trying to keep a beach ball underwater. The harder you push down on it, try to keep it from surfacing, the more it’s going to try to escape your grasp; and when it finally does, the more you kept it down, tried to suppress it, the more it’s going to fly out into the air and leave the water behind.
This works on another level too, since after that initial surge, the ball will fall. Now, it won’t go underwater again unless someone tries to do that again, but it’s not going to be as high as it was a few seconds after being released.
Something similar happens with transgender women. We’re so desperate for femininity that at first we just fly way, way up and become almost a caricature of femininity, all exaggerated features. I like to call this the ‘teenage girl’ stage. We’re finding our feet and starting to define ourselves as women, and figuring out what kind of women we want to be, and what womanhood means to us in the first place. It’s natural that we’ll want to experiment with an extreme of femininity before settling on something more natural.
I want to talk about this today because in two weeks (to the day) it’ll be a year since I came out and started presenting full-time as a woman. I’ve had time to explore femininity, and then let myself decide how much I wanted it to be a part of me, and in what ways.
Femininity is not a single thing, easily defined. In fact, different women can find their femininity in different ways, and act, look, and talk in a completely disimilar manner from each other. Some women are naturally mothers, and define themselves largely through that. Others seem more ‘tomboyish’ but still identify as women, and find femininity in their life. Etcetera, etcetera.
When I was thinking of a title for this post, I decided to choose the Greek goddess of femininity. The name that instantly came to mind was ‘Aphrodite,’ so I wrote that down, then proceeded to start on my post. After a few paragraphs, I stopped and thought: “Wait… Aphrodite?”
A quick Google search showed me Aphrodite is most definitely not the Greek goddess of femininity, because there IS no Greek goddess of femininity. (There’s not a god of femininity either, if you’re a smartass.)
Interestingly, the first three names that came up when I was trying to find out who was the Greek goddess of femininity were Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite.
I like this.
Like I said, some women are very maternal, to the level it becomes a defining characteristic for them. I could see women like that identifying with Hera. Other women are like Athena; not define inherently by being mothers or particularly girly, but still being women, without a shadow of a doubt. As for Aphrodite… I reckon I mistook her for a goddess of femininity because that’s the kind of woman I’m discovering myself to be: a more girly sort of girl, someone who fits certain ideas of beauty and youth.
(Before continuing, let me just say I am most definitely not a scholar of Greek culture, and my interpretation of these goddesses might be completely off.)
Of course, dividing people into boxes is a bit silly. Sure, I might consider myself a woman similar to Aphrodite, but I also have plenty of Athena, wise and strong, and even some of Hera, wife and mother. We all do, and with every other form of femininity. No one is simply one type of woman, since we’re all complicated human beings with complex personalities and identities.
I’ve just been thinking about this a lot lately. My initial enthusiasm for femininity has faded, but I’m still fairly feminine, in that Aphrodite-y sort of way. After a year, I’m really enjoying learning about my hair, and buying (literally) a half-dozen products to make it look healthy and pretty. I’m still thoroughly enjoying makeup, and going shopping for cute clothes is still a treat for me.
After the life I led with that whole side of me being locked down, I suppose I’m just surprised to see just how much that femininity was always a part of me. I used to consider it a small part of me, but I’m starting to see it was more like a glacier; there was a tiny part of who I was that could be seen from above, but most of who Lily was, and is, was hiding below the surface.
A friend recently told me I was her mental image of femininity.
That’s such a weird concept to me. I mean, I kind of love it, but as someone who was raised male and has only really been allowed to explore femininity for a year, it’s not something I expected.
It’s nice, though. I’m glad I get to be myself now 🙂