Facial Hair: Fantasy and Reality
What makes a man?
Sex is (most unfortunately) all too often heralded in popular culture as one’s initiation into manhood, but facial hair is a much more striking sign. A beard or moustache is such a strong signifier of maleness that little else can contradict it. I enjoy the parody and glamour of drag king make up, or eyelash glue does do the trick (so to speak), but a lack of facial hair combined with a moderate height of 5”5′ means my gender is read as that of a boy, not a man.
I grew up from a generally accepted tomboy into a much less accepted tranny boi, but will I want to be a boy forever?
T is often regaled as the journey into manhood for the transguy, for precisely these reasons. Sometimes I long for the relief of passing. Although, of course, it comes with its own pains.
Physically it is not yet possible to trans ftm in the way it is mtf. And it is prohibitively expensive. This reflects the still misogynistic nature of trans surgery, which privileges the male body and creates it as ‘unimitatable’, while it treats the female body as easily (re)constructed, yet for the most part ‘untreatable’.
When someone ‘misreads’ me, I usually turn away in the hope they won’t reconsider as it is in the so-called ‘realisation’ that violence manifests. Or mockery. Or cruelty. The liveability of a genderqueer life is always in question. It can be straining, stressful, frustrating, and sometimes, well, terrifying. As well as daring, fun, fabulous, subversive and socially treacherous.
Hard muscles. A flat chest. Bulging pants. These are things I dream of. But what would it mean for my maleness, my manhood, to be sculptured by surgeons? Kate Bornstein argues that to move from F to M or M to F doesn’t reinforce a binary concept of gender, but rather creates transformation itself as the meaning of gender. Here she carries the legacy of Simone de Beauvoir, that one is not born a woman but becomes one: gender is the act of becoming. And I agree. But the fact remains that the maleness of my body would be crafted and re-created according to standards of gendered beauty that I, theoretically, disapprove of and have for so long openly rejected. This is troubling.
As I have said often to my fellows on the subject of embracing male privileges: one always has the choice about what kind of man one becomes.
Right now my masculinity doesn’t necessitate surgical intervention. But when I gaze at the flat, hard pecs of a guy at the gym, when I watch beads of sweat gather on his chest hair, his grimaced jaw shadowed with stubble – I wonder if I will hold out forever.