The pot of gold at the end of the trans rainbow- I caught the woman’s bus…

Miri
7 min readJul 1, 2023

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For more than 60 years I felt like the dog chasing a bus. For a dog, seeing a bus going by is an overpoweringly attractive object, and… well…. he has to connect with it somehow.

In my case, my bus, that went by every day, was the identity of a woman- a vision clamoring for union, but which I barely knew the outline. I could see the shiny surface, and somewhat consciously ignored the grimy road splash. I knew the bus contained a lot of people who were different, but they all had to be happier in the bus than I was watching it go by.

So I tried to imagine being on the bus, and in particular, to dress like the people who got to ride the bus.

It has been a long imaginary ride. See https://medium.com/@therealphil/a-crossdressers-journey-d7b3da67b629

Many crossdressers and other gender diverse people are on a sequential quest — first to free themselves from gender prison, and then to acheive a coherence of inner and outer gender in a way that is natural for them.

The quest is severely distorted by binary gender norms, embedded deeply in every aspect of culture and intertwined with/interfering with every thought and feeling we have.

We have a fuzzy goal — our progress is difficult and the path confusing-. We wonder which feelings are genuine to us and which are we trained to have. We try to look ahead but there are too many details to imagine. So we do what we can.

We try to express gender through clothes or behavior, and we try to articulate pronouns and new social statuses. But it is a minority project- the larger society is a huge ship moving along with a majority of people feeling that the ‘right’ choice [for various reasons] is subscribing to and enforcing the binary concept.

I am 72, and married 37 years to a partner who rejects my views and embraces the binary norms. So a personal struggle with the dominant culture of gender binariness is my lot. Despite this, I made the leap- catching the woman’s bus.

It is much fuller experience than I expected.

I am grateful to say that I realized a great deal of freedom- so much freedom that now I can feel huge swaths of emotions I had learned to ignore and suppress. I find myself able to care more intimately and with more awareness about the welfare of others. Now I can see men with the eyes of a woman. But I also feel the day to day ordinariness of being a woman, and the many forms of social control, the restrictions suffocating individual blossoming of women. Like other women, I feel myself considering to what degree I have to tolerate and work around them. I feel the weariness of women.

I can easily escape, and pass as a man. It is easy for me since I look like one. But it isn’t satisfying to escape, because my internal identity is still as one of the women.

I genuinely feel myself in the matrix of women — and not as a ‘not really a woman’ man aspiring or wishing or jealous. I know that few women around me will feel I am part of their matrix of women. I am keenly aware I do not have a female biology, and all that comes with that. I also did not have the social enforcements placed on women placed on me, and occasionally the suppressed pain of those enforcments in their lives will spark anger at me for wanting to have some of the good things about being a woman without having to have all the traditional bad things as well.

I can escape, and they can’t.

But when I am not escaping, I have the same view of my options and corresponding social stresses and costs as any other woman. Because being a male-bodied woman is undefined in our culture, I am classified by others as some form of deviant, and the discussion in observer’s minds shifts to how harmful I might be. The binary of gender is rooted in the binary of sexual reproduction, and the division of labor required in prehistory for survival of children. Men are dangerous. And that is true.

I am peaceful and ordinary, and it is pretty easy to avoid pushing people’s buttons. If I am wearing a pretty dress, it is still obvious to anyone I am harmless. But the costs of being a friend of a gender non-conforming person are still too great for most people to choose willingly. The very few people who are unruffled by my gender identity are my lifeline and I am very grateful for them.

Granted, one can argue whether I am a type of man or type of woman. It is possible that I am a type of man, and my sense of identity as a woman persists because the emotional wholeness and expressive freedom I feel now is still best represented around me in women.

However, it feels more accurate for me to say I am a woman who was blessed with a man’s body to be used for all the the evolutionary value of the secondary sex differences of men. Deep, deep, down my psyche says ‘woman’.

I am happy to pay the costs for the benefits I feel from unifying my psyche at last. I hope that one day that male-bodied women will have a positive place in the social order, but I am not waiting. I am very content to know who I am and accept minority status as inescapable.

A male-bodied woman is still undefined in our culture, and therefore I am classified as some form of disordered deviant in society. That does’t feel correct to me.

Identity is, of course, our inner life.

I simply let myself be the woman I feel I am- inside. To let the feelings I actually have blossom.

I just stopped feeling that because I am male I am somehow not eligible to feel what I feel. I let the simplicity of my feeling womanly be all there was to it. I go out in the world as a male-bodied woman. I am not trying to pass as a female woman.

I enjoy without embarrassment the fun of a swishy dress and the lightness of my walk. It is no longer a transgressive or desperate act — just a very natural claiming of space in society as legitimate, as harmless, as expressive, as a contribution.

I discovered that the sky didn’t fall. People more or less tolerated me and were polite, in deference to my not asking anything of them at all.

I also discovered that when my attention was on something of interest, whether a conversation or a scene, I lost my focus on and awareness of my dress and shoes and purse. This was a shock- and kind of disappointing. I had spent years wishing I could be wearing a dress and — the pleasure could just fall away that fast?? And, when my attention returned to them, they were no longer magical.

But there was a pleasure as well in realizing this was the actual experience of women. A dress is great in certain situations, but it has its own demands with respect to modesty, and to economic pressures, One cost of looking pretty is time devoted to avoiding getting the fabric stained or damaged by being caught on something. I found that the visual messages of my clothes were very specific- and it was as if I had a loudspeaker on! I felt all the unspoken social connections and a lot of expected self-corrections in the eyes of women around me. It was an irony to find I was thinking about what to wear in terms of how my choices were going to be read by others- as a woman. Wait- weren’t women just — uh- free??

A cascade of additional revelations began.

I became aware of all my female sisters who also have to make the best of bodies which vary from cultural idealizations of females.

I noticed I am not the only woman whose spouse is not responsive to their sexual feelings. I have also felt the negatives of having feminine sexuality- the awful feeling of being casually hunted, used, or objectified.

I can clearly see and feel the stratification of society by gender. Life and opportunity looks very different to a woman. Men’s expansiveness pushes women to occupy less space, though there is some compenstion found in that space holding a tenderness and care for each other. Men’s assertiveness and implied violence against resistance requires women’s deference. Where and when to challenge any of these is not a simple thing.

Gender roles are the rules of a game to be played, and game theory applies- each person adapts to the game and plays according to a multitude of temperamental and contextual factors. Women and men play the hands they are dealt.

Lots of young people are proposing new social constructs that modify or eliminate some of the traditional roles and rules. Despite that, gender inequality remains high. Despite the logic, women’s calls for equal participation and power sharing still go more or less unheeded, or are suppressed, in most societies. I can feel the mix of resignation, frustration, and clarity that this is a long running and unnecessary tragedy of lost human value.

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I no longer care if someone thinks of me as a man or woman, because I have the qualities of both. I feel gender as both an identity and as a performance, as a biology and as a psychology, as an ephemeral set of sensations and as a story I tell — as if it were not ephemeral.

And, as to any feminist woman, it is obvious to me that society would be much better organized and productive if individuals were allowed to find their place in the array of possible gender roles.

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Miri

We can all help each other a lot by freely expressing our gender