The IDKE Story

So a trannie and a butch lesbian walk into a bar...

June 18th, 2007

In my last post I mentioned IDKE and said that it had been the only place where I'd come across vehemently anti-transsexual sentiment. It was just one girl, but since being reminded of that incident it's been kicking about in my brain for the past couple days. So here's the tale.

When the International Drag King Extravaganza came to Austin, I volunteered to help out so that I could get in for free and get the swank t-shirt (that I left in America, damn it), but there wasn't much to be done so mostly I ended up just chatting with other volunteers. There were some interesting nuggets for trannies at IDKE, but mostly it was for butch lesbians who like to dress up like men on occasion, and lesbians who like those lesbians.

I felt like an imposter, frankly. I'm perfectly happy hanging out with lesbians in the context of the greater gay community, but I'm not comfortable at all in lesbian-only events. They look at me and see a girl in boys' clothes, assume that I'm a butch, and I've learned that lying by omission is preferable to enlightening them. When they find out that I'm not part of the club, just watch the walls come slamming down; they don't bother to decide what I am, straight female or gay man, but they know I don't belong there. They act like they've been tricked, like I'm fucking around with their gaydar for kicks. Even Antonia, the lesbian that I made friends with in Tokyo, turned distinctly chilly when I first told her that yes, I was a crossdresser, but I was still into guys. (Though a couple beers later when she asked for specifics and my explanation made it clear that there's absolutely nothing easy or heterosexual about what I am, she eased up again.)

Now it's not like anyone's going to call me on it -- I look the part and it's not like they check to make sure you hate cock when they check ID -- but I can never ignore the niggling thought that if I were what I wanted to be, I would be extremely unwelcome there. I've seen MTFs welcomed with open arms because they're joining the great feminine sisterhood, and most FTMs at least still dig girls -- meanwhile I'm trying to sneak into the boys-only club, and making do with the girls-only club when I can't have that.

But this being IDKE, I was under the mistaken impression that it would be teeming with trannies. Transsexuals are just one step away from drag kings, right? So as I shot the breeze with another volunteer, it had occurred to me to keep the digging dudes thing on the down-low, but not the trannie thing. I made a passing reference to getting hormones eventually, assuming that there were enough other trannies running around for it to be unremarkable, and was completely unprepared for the strength of her reaction.

"Wait," she said, abruptly halting me mid-sentence so she could backtrack to the trannie thing. "Why the hell do you want to do that?"

I was taken aback. Well obviously, because I was a trannie, and transitioning is -- by definition -- what we do. I can't remember what I said, but I'd been caught too far off-guard for sarcasm and it was probably just a statement of the obvious like "Uh... because I want to be a guy."

She immediately launched into a passionate diatribe, wanting to know why I felt like I had to transition. What was wrong with being a girl? Why did I feel like I had to become a man? Except as you may have guessed, she didn't really want to hear my answers because she already had her own. "All these gorgeous dykes," she said plaintively, which was incorrect but an ego boost, "who think they want to cut off their tits and become guys."

Now a drag king extravaganza was the absolute last place that I would have expected to find myself on the defensive about the transsexual issue. But she'd inadvertantly thrown me a line by assuming that I was a lesbian, because while butch girls who like girls have their pick of the litter, butch girls who like guys... are mostly shit out of luck.

"Ah!" I said. I'd weighed the drawbacks of outing myself as not-a-lesbian vs. the difficulties of trying to explain this without giving her the whole picture, and decided for full disclosure. "But you see I'm not a dyke -- I want to be a dude, but I want to be a gay dude. 'Transfag' is the word for it."

It is perhaps ironic that she was the only one who didn't get on my case for liking cock; she was too busy strenuously objecting to the trannie thing to notice.

"Great! You can do that without transitioning too!" she insisted, which was when I stopped giving any merit to the words leaving her mouth.

Uh... honey? I realize you don't have much experience with men, but straight guys aren't into me since I look like a dude with my clothes on, and gay guys aren't into me since I look like a girl with my clothes off. (Like I said, limbo is a lousy place to be.) Would you be interested in a non-op MTF who wanted to be a lesbian but looked like a man? If you expect gay dudes to be into me despite having a wholly female body, then why the fuck aren't you willing to be into FTMs who've made the switch? At least they have the right genitals.

Essentially, she was attacking the issue heavy on passion but light on logic. She wasn't looking at my situation and telling me that transitioning wasn't right for me, she was insisting that all FTMs should stay female and trying to shove me into her idealistic shoebox.

It occurred to me today that religion works the same way. Not in their blanket condemnation of homosexuality, but in the way they argue their legitimacy: We have The Answer, they say, and it doesn't matter one bit what your question is. For Christianity the answer is "believe in God and Jesus, pray, make your decisions based on the Bible." For this girl, the answer was "don't transition." She backed it up with a lot of rhetoric that painted transsexuality as an unwise decision that I was likely to regret, a bandwagon that all the gorgeous dykes were jumping on without giving it any thought, that being female was glorious and being male wasn't anything close to the hype.

Except... no. I wasn't rushing into it, I was setting my jaw and resigning myself to a very long period of indecision while I tried to puzzle things out. For me, being female wasn't living up to the hype. Yes, the grass looked greener on the other side, but I'd been edging there and liking what I was seeing. And if this were a bandwagon, I was on it by myself. Her rhetoric had no bearing on my situation, as rhetoric seldom does. It's only the people who can't shake the hypnosis of well-chosen words that would be swayed by it.

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