February 21, 2011

In which I pass for a girl

[In addition to all of our awesome visible and identifying columnists, we also have some awesome anonymous columnists that for one reason or another must use a pseudonym not their full name (and pseudopic?). Details on anonymous columnists here.]

My post is a day late because last night, I was still in Washington D.C. with my mom. She and I spent the weekend together for my birthday, exploring museums, eating amazing food, and having "girl time."

I actually had fun. Like, a lot of fun.

I was panicking a lot before I left. I had intended to come out to my family long before now, and hadn't seen my mom since before I started going as Lawrence pretty much full-time on campus. (I'm out to two of four professors now, and to my boss. Possibly this is also why I was panicking; I was pretty emotionally drained.) I resolved to be myself as much as possible, though, and only packed my most masculine clothes. I also got my hair cut just a few days before leaving, so I was as butch as I could get without binding.

And... it was fine. She didn't say anything. Last time, I got some flak for cutting my hair so short-- but this time she just talked about how happy I seemed these days, and how glad she was that I was finally enjoying my life. She asked how things were going with my girlfriend. It was the kind of experience I've always wished I could have with my mom, but never really did. It was also completely surreal, because it was so different from being at Duke but it only took an hour in the air to get there.

The strangest part was that I didn't even mind when strangers called me ma'am, even though it happened all the time. All last week, it was like little ma'am-meteorites were smashing into me and cracking me into a million pieces; I came out to a lot of people in a desperate attempt to get it to stop.

I think the difference is that in DC, I wanted them to read me as female. I mean, I didn't want it, but I also didn't want anyone to out me to my mom. They were accurately reading the gender cues I was trying to give them, so it was all right.

Of course, I'm back on campus now, and back to wishing people could get it right. I'm already struggling to remember how I felt yesterday, because I've sunk back into being Lawrence. I couldn't find the binder I wanted this morning, so I'm keenly aware of my breasts under my polo shirt. For just a few days, I was oblivious to this feeling, and although I don't think I could have maintained that facade for too much longer (it was just as psychologically uncomfortable, in entirely different ways), it was nice to take a bit of a break from my usual crises.

As always, I love getting questions in the comments. What's on your mind?


  1. Awww, and as always this was really interesting and well-written. =) Your line about "ma'am-meteorites"...well, that just makes me think that much more about the gender assumptions I'm making daily. Thanks again for writing!

  2. Lawrence,

    I do enjoy your posts. When you told me yesterday that you enjoyed the trip, I'll admit I didn't understand. Reading this makes me see how oblivious we can sometimes be to the signals we send (does someone want to be called ma'am?), and also how receiving those signals can radically change getting through a day.

    Keep on writing, and above all else, keep on being you.