October 29, 2008

Boys, and Secrets

A girl at work jokes that I now have a fan club. And not one for being a bearded lady. Just one for being a lady.

Since my last update, I've been made aware of two young men who've made expressions more serious than humorous ruminations about my buttocks. Two admirers in as many weeks--I can't make that stuff up. One was in some of my college classes, and rarely spoke to me at all in the three years we spent in the same major. The other came into work to visit a friend and noticed me nearby.

The sad thing is that after the initial flush of pleasure at being noticed, my second or third thought invariably is, "I wonder if they know?"

We are our own worst critic. When we look in the mirror, we easily see our flaws. And no matter how little we study the people around us, we still expect them to see our imperfections before anything else. That's just the way it is. And so I figure that anyone who looks close enough can see through the make-up to even the faintest stubble, and will link what they see to being a beard on a woman. I know the likelihood of that is rather small, but there have got to be some incredibly observant people out there.

Would knowing influence their initial attraction? If they still tried to initiate the relationship, would it be because they really could overlook the idea of a bearded lady, or would it be because they like the idea of being the more attractive half of a couple?

These are separate ponderings from once a relationship has begun and how the revelation would influence his feelings then--but not totally unrelated. Just unrelated enough to go in a different post.

In the staff room today some of the ladies were talking about how their own personal emphasis on appearance affects their lives. One of them is an obsessive compulsive, and won't go out if she doesn't feel that she looks her best. She looked across the room at me and said, "Don't you be like that."

I smiled, sipped my soup and thought how much my appearance affects my life. It's more than just loathing going out in public. It's wondering if every human relationship has or will be influenced by the way I look. You don't have to have hirsutism to know how that feels.

But I wonder if it's actually better or worse when it's factor that is often well hidden, not readily noticable like other things society deems as blemishes? For the first while to seem normal, and then to reveal later that their impression of you is not entirely true?

Best to just think of the compliment of being noticed, even from a distance.

October 15, 2008

Care to Trade?

If we play six degrees of separation, I'm connected to a teenage girl who purposely tries to give others the impression that she has a beard. Apparently, she's the sort of lesbian who prefers to take on the masculine role. I really don't know her at all, but I was inwardly surprised and fascinated to hear about a young lady who tries to affix colored pencil shavings to her chin.

My own opinions about teen angst versus real gender dysphoria aside, I wonder how she'd feel if she were saddled with my--well, whatever it is that's causing my particular affliction? Would she be thrilled to wake up in the morning and have no control over what grows through her skin except to scrape it off and cover it with makeup if by chance, that day, she doesn't want people to perceive her as masculine? Basically, would she envy what I have, even on the simplest level?

It's bizarre to think someone would envy that. Obviously she's trying to look like a man and not a woman with a beard, but hirsutism could be like a permanent costume. While we ladies admire each other's figures or hair color or style, noses, lips, and eyes, even fingers and toes, some woman out there might wish they had my beard.

I can't say whether or not that makes me feel better, but it sure makes me chuckle.

October 8, 2008


I received an astonishing, rather back-handed comment at work last week. It revealed to me that someone in the office has been observing my rear end, and not hating what they see. At first it stunned me, then my reaction swung from flattered to mortified for a full hour afterward.

It's fall, which means the weather turns immediately and inexplicably grey, and though the falling leaves are beautiful, the sky and air are filled with unfriendly frost. This is the time I resume zombie mode; sleeping in as much as possible, letting my hair dry the way it falls, wearing the comfiest clothing. I cease to make the same effort to look good, though I always, always cover up the beard. And not making that same effort diminishes the way I feel about myself until I cease to even think about it and just focus on getting the job done every day. So to receive a compliment, even one veiled in jokery, lights a fire under my apparently shapely behind.

I buffed and shaped and put a french manicure on my toenails. I started wearing contacts and earrings again. Shaving my legs (up to mid-thigh at least--I'm inspired but not miraculously so) to wear skirts. The rush of looking good had been exhilerating--I wanted to perpetuate the feeling.

It can be a rare thing in this life to get a compliment, with people encouraged to be more private and withdrawn lest they get stepped all over. It made me think not only of how important it is to receive them, but how important it is to give them to other people.

Another girl I work with is very self conscious about her skin. When she jokes about it, you can tell it's bothering her. And of course, I think she's crazy. Even if her complexion gets uneven, her skin works so well with make-up that you'd never notice until she pointed it out. And I can't say, "At least you don't have a beard." So I focus on other positives when she gets frustrated. It's hard to tell whether or not it helps, but we all like compliments, even if we only laugh and wave them away the moment we get them.

So as tempting as it is to dwell inside ourselves, languishing in the belief that there's something inherently wrong with us, sometimes it's good to realize that whether bearded or not, others are feeling the same way. And they could really use a kind word or a hug.

October 1, 2008


Last week, Isis went home on America's Next Top Model. So disappointing, whether you're part of the transgender community or just like rooting for the underdog.

The judges said they thought she was withdrawing more and more as the competition went on, afraid of standing out. Can't blame her, with some of the recent challenges requiring her to show more than she might be comfortable with, and certain people in the house feeling that she didn't belong there. When Isis reflected on how she felt she had a stronger backbone, I found myself thinking, what if I was in her shoes? As in, living in a house full of people who knew my secret, and were not required to accept me on the basis of being family or close friends. How could I cope with living each day knowing nine or ten other people might be constantly judging me? The fact that Isis volunteered to do it is pretty brave.

As I've said before, I can't relate fully to the challenges of people like Isis. What I can identify with is having a physical secret that, if known, would not just call into question my attractiveness, but my gender--my "correctness" as a human being. It's not "right" for a woman to have a beard, not normal.

Of course, people might not think those thoughts exactly. They might just think "Ew" and move to the other side of the street. They might phase me out. They might tell their friends and have a good laugh. And how bad would that be, really? To let the close-minded people think their close-minded thoughts? It would weed out the undesirably acquaintances pretty efficiently.

In theory.

In practice, who wants people to think negatively about them? Everybody--everybody--wants to be accepted.

So Isis left the competition because she was reverting into a shell, shying away from the brazen attitude that could have brought her closer to success. There could be a lesson there for all of us who are ashamed of ourselves for our so-called imperfections. If Isis had continued on and reached her goal, becoming a top model, what would people have thought of her then? There would still be some who would wrinkle their nose at what she used to be, but in the eyes of society as a whole her perceived imperfections might be eclipsed by her fame. Famous people can get away with anything and still be liked and accepted by some.

But what about the rest of us? What if the greatest success we could wish for would be a home, a car, a job you don't hate, a loving husband, maybe children, dogs, a hobby you're good at? That's hardly the bringer of imperfection-eclipsing fame.

So, guard the secret and cope in silence? Or be open and deal with others' censure? Probably depends on if you're happier as a private person, or a public one. And on a great deal of courage, too.

Either way, though, you do not want your challenges to stop you from doing what you love to do.