The old adage says you should not judge someone until you have walked a mile in their shoes. And there is a reason this saying has stood the test of time and proves to be a shared experience found across cultures. Most will never have a chance to truly walk in the shoes of another; to fully grasp and understand the magnitude of a lifetime of experiences, feelings, emotions, and cultural cues. Unlike many people, I can say that I have walked almost a mile in someone else’s shoes. You see, now and then I dress and attend events in drag. By no means am I a regular, but my experiences in drag have allowed me to channel my femininity while also reminding me just how difficult navigating gender norms can be in our society.
Most have never experienced the wonder of dressing in drag or revel in the ability to take on a feminine persona and walk up a literal mile or more if you so chose in someone else’s experience. Painful heel after painful heel; yet there is a freedom in the experience. You can embrace a different definition of sexy, a new way of being pretty, and opportunity to observe how the world reflects back what you do. In this appreciation of the power of the feminine, I'm allowed a quick run into the reality that it is to be a woman in this world and operate outside of my queer controlled bubble. Outside of the place where we celebrate, embrace the look of certain bodies, and love what you can do through the conscious construction of your body. However, that same bubble that will also drag you for not displaying the accepted perception of beauty or femininity.
I, the boy who grew up to be a man, and who sometimes dresses as a lady has found a beauty that makes me shine. Still, I am reminded that this is the real world. Even in moments where everything seems okay, danger and hostility lurk just around the corner.
I question the way people look at gender role in their lives and the troubling normative ideas of how we view men and women and how it shapes identity. We invest in a collective narrative that seeks to oppress us all. Laid bare to the rest of the world, the real world, in the space of a 10-minute walk down the street looking very feminine and trying to get out of a little more out of my painted face and great wig, I was punched in the gut with a reminder of the world. Two men decided that they needed to yell at me from their car. Deciding that me minding my own business and bothering no body, was a problem for them. Apparently, my look at that moment aggravated these men to the point that they loudly questioned me existing in a space and with an aesthetic that didn’t fit their worldview. It is in these moments, that one is met with the reminder that this place is not ok. Hostility can be broken upon the back of a feminine body for simply existing in a space, is very real and sad.
This piece is not meant to be an awakening moment. It is not meant to force you to say 'oh my God, I get it.' The piece is to offer perspective to individuals who may not understand why we fight for gender equity in the country and why feminism is a must have piece of our conscious. Ensuring people have basic human rights and are treated with dignity and respect, regardless of gender identity, should be guiding philosophy of a world we live in. And that men of all strips need to come to the table to ensure we get to that point.
The #metoo campaign on social media offered women an opportunity to share experiences of harassment, violence, assault, etc. at the hands of men. Out of the shadows, this campaign forces men to examine how we can hold ourselves and other men accountable for the actions they take. Men are the biggest contributors to the sexism in our society. Without a focused effort toward equity from our end, we too will consign generations more of #metoo. Let’s take action to allow people just to be able to walk these streets.