Back in about 1992, had you looked at my legs you would probably have seen something like this:
Before you say anything, just a quick comment on the one on the right: I don't like it any more than you do, but since at the time I was in denial about having that but wasn't planning to do anything about it, yes, I'm afraid that is there. The one on the left is of course a different matter.
It was because of this disconcerting appearance that in spite of possessing these:
or rather very similar predecessors in blue and purple (I've only just taken this photo), I rarely wore them, and when I did wear them they'd be under a pair of trousers, or, very rarely, maybe twice, with a pair of shorts. Consequently, I didn't explore this and just gave up after a bit.
The odd thing about that is that I could very easily have done this instead:
which would've covered up the offending area, although nowadays it's no longer necessary, but for some reason I only did that on one single occasion in April 1991 and then just stopped.
Why did I just stop? People, even Vicky, approved, of my image change, but I lost my nerve and resorted to just wearing leggings and crop tops, and a few floral things, op art things and slightly long things, for the next eight years, and of course went back to the usual boring stuff quite a lot. It is in fact really obvious that if you're wearing leggings and you're of that section of the population which will have a possibly unsightly bulge as a result, it makes sense to wear either shorts or a skirt on top. Yet I did neither, over that whole time. Why?
The answer is a bit sad really. On that legendary occasion when I wore a dress to a wedding reception, most people were fine, and some people were in fact very encouraging, but a couple weren't. One of them was a woman who said, not to me personally but to someone else, that she thought I would've known better than to do that and that she was disappointed that I "of all people" would have done that. She also asked if I was "coming out" as gay. This is the kind of reaction I had expected all along. The other person was my late lamented friend David, and just as an aside, I can't just let that pass - I still miss him, I still think about him and how much he has missed, and I wonder what would have become of him had that bastard of a virus not carried him off along with God knows how many millions of other people in the meantime, but it did, and here I am in a world without him.
David said, in his inimitable style, "...and it wasn't even a very nice dress!" He was right, it wasn't. I was struggling to find something which covered most of my body and I was freaked out by the buttons, because back then the button phobia was still in full swing and in fact I hadn't worn anything with them for many years at that time.
Therefore, those two people with their disapproving comments were enough to stop me from even thinking about doing that again for a couple of decades, whereas all the other positive comments, one of which was from Vicky herself for God's sake, weren't enough to persuade me that it was a good idea, that I should follow that intuition that it just felt normal and perhaps pursue that feeling of normality further and ask myself why that was. Instead, I changed my mind about what I was doing and just sort of skulked in a gully of the uncanny gender valley for twenty years, in the meantime enduring the taunts of bigoted and damaged people in the street for no good reason. In my early twenties. Getting on for three decades of not being who I was because of that.
But you see, this is the thing. Underneath it all, although I may not have been actively depressed in mood for all of that time, I still thought depressively. Even an approving comment handed down from the pedestal of the great Vicky herself was not enough to get me to see the light. Instead, I only noticed the disapproval, because that's what depression is like, and even if you are not down emotionally at a particular moment, you still have the habits of thought which are liable to pull you back into it if other things go wrong. Moreover, another factor was probably negative expectations. If I wore plain black leggings back then, on the whole I would be laughed at by the general populace. If, however, I wore the psychedelic style as depicted above, people would kind of laugh with me, and that's the key. Whereas ridiculing oneself is not necessarily a good way to go, although I still think it's important not to take oneself too seriously and have a sense of humour about these things - after all, given my turn ons I would've thrown myself off a bridge by now if I hadn't had a sense of humour about them - the fact that pushing it just a little further and getting a more positive result wasn't enough to encourage me to go all the way, so I just didn't. In fact, a lot of the time I just stuck to the boring leggings, which is weird because I got more stick for that than when I wore the more interesting ones. This is because, in the face of the evidence, I expected the flack I got when I dressed androgynously to get worse if I went the whole way into feminine territory, as I would've seen it in those days, and in fact to get my head kicked in on a regular basis. In fact I thought this right up until last year when I actually finally did it. Counter-intuitive though it was, it was also a rational conclusion given the experience of getting harassed less when I pushed it further, yet I never did it.
Really, this post is not about what some people might refer to as cross-dressing. It's really about depression, and how that traps you in patterns which keep you down and in a well of misery even though the key out of them is right in front of you. I paid no attention to what Vicky and her friend Tonia said but listened avidly to Sharon and David. I didn't even pay attention to my own experience of getting kicked and spat and sworn at when I wore the black leggings but smiled engagingly at by all and sundry when I wore the multicoloured or op art ones. And the basis, in my conscious mind, for those decisions which were a kind of psychological trap, was that I shouldn't do these things because I had to take it on faith that a small minority of women who disapproved spoke for the majority because I had no access to their experience. This thought was being had by a mind generated by a brain which I now realise is clearly female, in spite of not necessarily being socialised in this way. A woman's eyes were looking out at a world where she was being picked on and bullied not only by men, but also by her own gender under the guise of pretending to speak for all women, all because of her depression, caused largely by the very fact that her brain was in fact female and wasn't getting the right chemicals because she lacked the organs in her body which were supposed to provide them and therefore make her mentally healthy.
Now I'm not just going to swing back against that because I recognise that that victimisation was something which I did to myself. I had the choice not to allow that to happen, and the restriction of this discussion to the area of gender politics shouldn't be permitted to cloud that issue either. The trap was of my own making, and although it can be impossible for some people to get out of it without at least a helping hand, some of us are lucky enough to be able to see this for what it is and find our own way out. Once we've done that though, we cannot justify picking on the people who are still in the trap and saying it's their fault. I am lucky enough to have escaped, and I just want to point out how, and why I stayed there for so long. I look back at that now and I want to kick myself, and I've wanted to do that ever since the day last year when I looked at myself in the mirror, saw that to myself, the person who counts here, the one who can lever herself out of her slough of despond, the hormones and the rest had just made her look normal, the way she should've looked all along, and thought about all the wasted years of unhappiness and guilt that had preceded that moment. And then moved on and looked at the brighter future.