What’s in a Label?

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I have labeled myself with many different things over time.  I started with transvestite, moved on to cross dresser, adopted gender non-conforming, and now am using transgender.  It almost gives the impression that I have moved through some sort of stages of being transgender, on what some may reference as a transgender journey; like, yay, I get to go on vacation now that I am TG!

Really, my journey has not been in moving along some sort of destined path to womanhood.  What it has been is a struggle of attempting to figure out who I am, how to live with it, and how to describe it.  For my entire life I have behaved in ways that have not been consistent with my gender but I have never had the knowledge, the vocabulary, or the confidence to talk about it.

I actually never really thought about it that much.  I knew I liked to do it.  My wife knew about it, and was totally fine with it.  Really I had no purpose in being able to explain to anyone who I am and what I do.  I had learned to not let others know about this horrific secret of mine.  I lacked any sort of confidence whatsoever.  This lack of confidence and misplaced fear prevented me from being able to understand myself, and from being able to see others for who they have the potential to be.

Thus it was quite shocking to watch Eddie Izzard performing his show “Dressed to Kill” on HBO.  Here was a normal looking person, out in public, dressing as a woman and not hiding the fact that he is a man.  Nobody was chasing him down with torches and pitchforks screaming “kill the monster!”  I was enamored.  He refers to himself as an executive transvestite and I thought it was a great fit to explain what I do.  When I first started reaching out to the online community that is how I identified, and I really tried to stick with it.  Unfortunately, while I identify with Izzard’s use of executive transvestite, that is not really the picture that comes up in most other’s people’s minds.  What most people do imagine is well exemplified by most of them images returned from a Google search.

I thought that maybe a better word, a more politically correct term, and maybe a better socially understood term would be cross dresser.  At least it sounds so much less clinical.  What am I?  I am a cross dresser!  It sounds like I’m having a party.  Something fun and exciting, so of course, why not do it?

Unfortunately for me cross dresser cannot fully explain what I do and who I am.  For in my journey of self discovery, my cross dressing is secondary to my gender non-conforming behavior.  That is really who I have been, ever since birth.  I have never wanted to transition to living as a woman, and I still don’t, I enjoy cross dressing, but at heart I am a gender non-conformist.  With cross dressing, I attempt to present as a woman. With gender non-conforming, I present as a male, but with traditionally female things, like having my fingernails painted or wearing my diamond and sapphire wedding ring.

Which all leads up to why I identify as transgender today.  I mean, can you imagine attempting to explain the above with everyone I speak to about this?  It has been a journey in discovering some adequate vocabulary to describe me, but really the only thing that has really changed is the word I use to attempt to explain who I have always been.  Transgender seems to explain it well.  I personally consider my gender to be somewhere between male and female.  I have no interest in transitioning, I figure if I did it would be a waste of time as then I would cross dress as a man!

For the most part, transgender works very well to describe me.  Most people seem to understand it well.  If there was one thing though that I wish, would be for the public to understand that transgender is truly an umbrella term that covers a wide variety of people.  If you really want to know how someone else identifies, the best way to proceed is to ask.  But try and not be like the doctor who asked if my “bits” were still intact and functional!  When I told him yes, he looked to my wife for verification!

Image from: The Gender Book

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Hi, I’m Nadine Spirit and I have been a lifelong gender non-conformer. I have always understood that I am a bit different than most but it was not until sometime in my thirties that I came to understand that I am transgender. While I spend most of my time presenting as a male I am always presenting in a gender non-conforming manner. 

I started my blog, Unordinary Style, with the idea of being able to show a stylish side to those who identify as transgender. Since that time my blog has evolved into showing my personal style, discussing a wide variety of transgender topics, as well as posts about my personal life. My personal style continues to evolve as I attempt to continually push myself to pick stuff off of the racks, take it into the dressing room, and try on as much as I can. I am a firm believer in ignoring tag sizes, never paying retail prices, and due to a terrific allergy – that nickel should never be in any jewelry!

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2 Responses to “What’s in a Label?”

  1. Dust. Wind. Bun.

    Hi Nadine! This was really interesting to me, as I never thought of other non-cisgender identities falling under the trans umbrella, as you say – I would have given them all more of a “nonconformist” label, I guess, to try to make the generalization more clear in my mind. But it makes sense, and I’m glad you’ve found a place, term, and identity where you feel happy and feel like you belong. (Oh, and, I checked out your style pics on your blog: you are super cute and stylish so good job there also.) Thanks for teaching me a thing!

  2. Brennan Young

    Great article. Too short! Definitely fits into the “I could have written that (but didn’t) category. And btw, love your blog.