Flashbulb moments; distinct events imprinted in vivid detail to our memories. With uncanny precision, people seem capable of recalling the most intimate aspects: where they were, who they were with, even what they were wearing. From the day Kennedy was shot to watching the towers fall. Each of us has been affected by some historical event.
We experience these phenomena individually as well. Small in comparison to those of global significance; but, no less influential in shaping our lives. That first kiss, the day your child is born, the loss of a loved one. Of the infinite moments we pass through without consequence, only a precious few remain forever with us.
For a transgender woman, such as myself, there exists a plethora of these unforgettable moments. The life changes involved in transitioning from one's assumed gender into your authentic self is full of unavoidably unique and challenging experiences; benchmarks, for any indelible occurrence.
From coming out to family to that first dose of hormones. While not every trans woman follows the same path, of the transgender women I've known, they all share a similar flashbulb moment. The day they first went out into the world--en femme.
In contrast to many of my contemporaries, I cannot say for sure when my first moment of stepping into the sun...was. It's not that I am without any important days which have been burned into my mind, quite the opposite; I have too many. For me it is a matter of semantics. What does it really mean to go out as a woman? How do you define that? What makes one instance of a feminine outing deserving of being my first?
Let's back it up for just a second to explain this issue in (possibly) simpler terms. I've been an avid reader of different philosophical schools of thought for much of my adult life. In regarding the fully femme situation, I turn to the Greek "Sorites Paradox" in which we are asked to imagine a heap of hay. One at a time you remove a single piece. At what point then, does it cease to be a heap? Is it a matter of a single piece? Most would say no. Therein lay the paradox. There is no discernable difference between what is and isn't a heap. The reality is, that it is always down to perspective; how we define our world.
Now whether or not I am en femme when stepping out the door, can never be as simple as "This time I wore lipstick". As in the Sorites Paradox, there cannot objectively be any one thing which qualifies my femininity. Hence my confusion when people ask me about my first time out as a woman. Idealistically, there is no proverbial first. Instead what I am left with are a series of firsts. My first time wearing a skirt; my first time in skinny jeans, or my first floral top. (I hate floral tops by the way)
The only appropriate barometer by which to judge my own femme status has to be, well, me. No one on earth can definitively define my femaleness. Only I possess such power; It's called free agency. From a certain perspective, I could say the day I was born, was my first day en femme. After all, from my point of view I have always been a woman. It just took a while for others to see it. Yet I imagine such an answer would not satisfy most people.
But why not?
If, as a trans woman, I have always in one sense or another identified as a woman, why single out a moment much later in life as my first? The reality of this transgender trope is that it is a deceptive question. It is never so simple to create a narrative to your experience when your audience is not even in the same theater. Often in the trans community we shape our language and craft our lives in ways that the cisgender community can comprehend. Employing dialogue borrowed from cis-normative society when no serviceable analog exists.
"When was your first time out as a woman?" what we're really saying is...
"When was your first time out where others saw you as a woman?"
Now, my feminine status is far removed from my control. But that's what we are doing when we ask such questions. I do recognize the need for a trans woman to obsess over whether or not she is seen by others as a woman. It always comes down to safety, and the desire not to stand out, to be different. However, things are changing.
There is a growing movement in the trans community to find our own language. One which services us. It is lead, in part, by the youngest members of our movement. Those seeking to find our own place in society, our own trans narrative. It is in the spirit of this paradigm shift that I rebel against the notion that my first time en femme, is defined by the external trappings of a culture held in a binary world. That it is their perception of my femininity which validates me. That my worth is only in my ability to conform to their standards.
Who I am; how she is quantified, should never rely on the machinations of those unqualified to perceive her.
When was my first time out as a woman?