It was about four years ago when I started noticing the growing number of transmen in my Park Slope, Brooklyn neighborhood. It’s not like a TransGreyHound dropped off more passengers, I just opened my eyes to an evolving reality. I felt the connection that I’ve long felt with my queer brethren – common ground upon which deep and empathetic connection can develop. And, yet, their scraggly beards and burgeoning muscles confused me.
As a butch dyke approaching 50, I’ve long struggled not only with homphobia born of the time and place in which I was born, but the butchphobia that walked hand in glove with it. But my life is bigger now. Many of the demons that dogged me have begun to quiet. In that space, I recognize a yearning to reach back to younger queers emerging in to their own glorious self-determination.
While I spent decades fighting internalized homophobia, four years ago I chose to lean even further in to internalized butchphobia and transphobia. The first thing I read was Female Masculinity by Judith “Jack” Halberstam. My biggest take-away from the chapter entitled, “Butch/FTM Border Wars” that transmen didn’t feel like “other” to me. Instead, I deeply related through the imperative I feel to transgress gender each day in my own way, most obviously by embracing men’s fashion. The world in which I walk doesn’t care if I’ve got “original plumbing” but many seem to care deeply that I’m sporting a Windsor knot.
DapperQ’s tag line – “Transgressing Men’s Style” – came from this insight as did my title: Transgressor-in-Chief. (As a recovering fundamentalist Christian, I also revel in theological slant of transgression.) I don’t presume to know the world of anyone but myself. But dapperQ was established in order to build what I describe as a “transgenderational” divide between the gays of my generation and those advancing Pride 2.0. Since I set myself on that path, especially since I launched dapperQ, my trans and butchphobia has evolved profoundly. I revel in the company of those whose very presence, even five years ago, I would have spurned.
Imagine my surprise (old dykes will get the Holly Near “hit” song allusion) when Murray Hill asked me to be a celebrity judge for the Mr. Transman contest he launched last year. Last week, I had the honor of judging the second annual contest as well. Over two years, I’ve been empanelled with gender champions like Kate Bornstein, Jennie Livingston (director of “Paris is Burning”), Rocco Kayiatos and Amos Mac who co-founded Original Plumbing. (I spent the day of Mr. Transman on a He Said/We Said shoot with guest photographer Leslie Van Stelten that included Amos and is sure to blow your mind.)
Of course, I couldn’t be more impressed with how Murray Hill is bridging the transgenderational divide through his glorious annual pageant. These dapQSnaps of the crowd (I’m pictured with my buddy Sam) speak more brilliantly to the joy of self-determination than my words ever could. But don’t think I’ll I won’t keep trying…