Girls can wear jeans and cut their hair short,
Wear shirts and boots, 'cause it's OK to be a boy,
But for a boy to look like a girl is degrading,
'Cause you think that being a girl is degrading,
But secretly you'd love to know what it's like,
Wouldn't you, what it feels like for a girl?
That's the opening of "What It Feels Like for a Girl" by Madonna. Released in 2000, those words have struck a chord with me ever since. Although I have never thought about what the meaning of the song is, I have interpreted the introduction and applied it to my thoughts on cross dressing and transgender people, and I think it is true to a degree. I associate with a diverse range of people, and the female-assigned people I know who dress or live as men have a much easier time than the male-assigned people I know who dress or live as women. The former is more socially acceptable, and that disappoints me.
Referring back to the Madonna lyrics, I actually wouldn't want to know what it feels like for a girl, or what it feels like to be a girl. I do support those who do, though. If a man chooses to dress as a woman, then that should be accepted. It's an expression of who he is. And if someone makes the brave decision to transition from male to female, then that should also be supported.
I know a male-assigned person who dresses as and lives as a woman full-time, and she also identifies as a woman. When going out in public, she is often ridiculed, and people stare at her like she's a circus freak. She doesn't care. As far as she is concerned, she's living life as she wants to. Obviously, I applaud that, but I don't like to see people being ridiculed.
I also know many women people who wear men's clothing. Nothing is thought of this, though. It is seen as normal, and some people even see it as cute. I see no difference between men wearing women's clothes and women wearing men's clothes. I accept both as norms.
I think part of the issue is that male-assigned people are expected to behave like men, whatever that means. I am a man (obviously), and although I like having a beer and watching football, I also like to dance to "Wuthering Heights" while pretending I'm Kate Bush. Is that what behaving like a man is? I have no idea, and my belief is that people should behave in any way they choose to, as long as it does no harm to others. I think that's a fair way of thinking, right?
If I want to wear a dress or a skirt, then I should be able to do so without fear of ridicule. Who says that those clothes are exclusively for women anyway? I think it's a bit narrow-minded, really. All clothes should be for anyone to wear and should not be designated as exclusively for men or women. I am aware that my view will be seen as too progressive or even mad by some, but, again, I think I am being fair.
Another example is the little boy who likes to have his toenails painted. Some people have said that only women and girls should have their nails painted, but I disagree. Men have been wearing makeup and painting their nails for a long time, and even I have been known to indulge myself. But it's not about being gay; it's about expressing myself as an individual. The child I refer to doesn't consider sexuality when wanting his nails painted; he just wants it done because it's what he likes and how he expresses himself.
By now you have probably worked out that I am not a fan of heteronormative ideals. I detest them and reject them completely. I think that society also needs to drop those ideals if there is to be true progress. Times are changing, and things are better for trans people now than they were in the past, when they were subjected to electroshock "therapy," but there is still some way to go. The trans women and cross-dressing men I know still have a difficult time. Ridicule is still rife, and it's not acceptable.
So what can we do to help? I believe that we all have a social responsibility to assist in breaking down stereotypes and heteronormative ideals. We can stand alongside our cross-dressing and transgender friends as allies and stand up for them. People power is the only way that things change, and we need to stand together as a community to ensure progress.
Boys can wear skirts, grow their hair long and wear heels, because it's OK to be a girl.
Follow Daniel Browne on Twitter: www.twitter.com/MrDanielBrowne