My need to be as much of a woman as possible is, in part, a product of my sympathy for women and the guilt I carry for the way men have treated women, historically. I had a huge gender dysphoria flare-up five or so years ago when my family and I were staying in a cabin in the Shanendoah National Forest on the way home from seeing the sights in Washington DC. Hanging on the inside knob of the cabin door was one of those vintage “maid service, please” tags. On the tag was an image of a maid – pretty, pouting, and put-upon. I wanted to steal the tag and take it home, but I just stared at it for a good thirty minutes, took pictures of it, and photoshopped it instead. I have tried to find this classic image on the Internet, but have not been able to, so, if you like it, you better steal it from me.
This image speaks two thousand words. First, it reminds me of how uniforms, up until very recently, used to be such a common way to define roles. I have never had occasion to wear identifying dress, and I long to, for I am a person who feels so much more comfortable in social situations where roles are clearly defined: teacher/student, waitress/customer, maid/lady-of-the-house. In the nebulous world of parties, mixers, and meet-and-greets, I am lost, hopelessly awkward because what people see when they look at me is not what I see or feel when I look at myself. I used to have a uniform of sorts, a beard, which helped me tremendously, defining me as a manly man, but I have shaved it off, determined to lose that crutch. Also, this image reminds me of the role typically taken by the female – the servant, the helper, the come-behind – the role in which I feel much more comfortable. Lastly, the dejected “I-must-accept-my-role”expression on the maid’s face makes me swell with sympathy and identification.
Gender dysphoria never leaves me alone, but sometimes it completely consumes and overwhelms. My therapist said controlling your thoughts is key to controlling your emotions, but I have tried to stop pushing down thoughts like I did that day in the cabin in Shenandoah National Park. I can’t fight it anymore. I don’t wish to.