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from the bend-justifies-the-scenes dept.
Gender-Bending as a Spiritual Practice
To bend and shape is a Witch's prerogative and charge. If there is a goal inherent in the learning of any Magickal process or system, it is to familiarize oneself with tools that will add to one's ability to apply these skills. In this article, I will provide the interested reader with access to some of these tools.
From a historical perspective, in many elder cultures the queer was the medicine person. The balance in a person of indeterminate gender or ambivalent sexual orientation was seen as a positive quality, bestowing certain skills to the "crooked" individual that did not come as easily to the straight and narrow. In this context, the practice of bending can be applied to fostering the growth of those parts of you that see differently, appear differently, hear differently and feel differently. Let the thoughts that come to you from this new perspective serve as a guide towards becoming a fully functional being with a goal of transcending gender.
Gender-bending is one way of cultivating an ability to shape-shift, as well as an opportunity to confront and rise above fears and limitations. There is a lot of charge to this practice, and anything that raises power has the ability to produce energy in one form or another. Bending can bring one to an experience of passing through the veils and journeying to the other side.
Another Magickal application of bending is exorcism. Undoubtedly, the first few times you bend, you will be amazed at the negative internalizations of the opposite gender that come to the surface in the guise of your alter-ego. Having these views of the opposite sex out in the open will create doors to the possibility of releasing negative patterning or opinion regarding gender interpretation and limitation, and has the potential of contributing to the healing of your relationships with people of the other gender, and your relationship with your own internalized wo/man.
My Heroes Have Always Been Androgynous
I have always been most inspired and delighted by "boys who do girls who like girls who do boys who like girls who do girls who like boys who do boys" or some such, to loosely quote an old Blur song. Or more accurately, I have always loved boys who looked and acted like girls and vice-versa. Drag Queens, Dykes, Queers and the Elven few who are little of either polarization have always lifted me to a place of examining assumptions about who these people are, and therefore, who I am and who I want to be, or at least be seen as.
When I was about 11 I saw a young person of Gothic persuasion at a Pagan gathering. S/he was wearing a long black skirt and slightly tattered shirt, was slender, had pale white skin and long black hair. For the life of me I could not determine this person's gender. I was intrigued by this waifish person, and more than a bit intimidated by the fact that I could not rely on any training regarding interaction. We all have patterning regarding how to interact with people of either gender. And what do we do when a person demands from the outset, "See me, not my gender"?
David Bowie is at the top of my list of gender-bender iconography. His glam-rock persona Ziggy Stardust opened the minds of generations to the power of gender play. Bowie, as an out and loud bi-sexual phenomenon busted the barrier of sexual personae. His glitter, big hair, outrageous make-up, and sleekly styled suits and dresses rushed in the tone of '70s sexual permission; he was whoever he wanted to be, and was, at all times, beyond the static confines of gender.
The next generation of pop-cult phenomena brought Annie Lennox (a girl who does boys), Boy George (a boy who does boys), Cyndi Lauper (a girl who does boys) and Prince (a boy who does girls). Simultaneously the New Wave and Gothic genre carried the movement with boys who did boys and girls who did girls, where both genders looked little like the temporal construct of either.
What I Have Learned From and Through Cross-Dressing
At 19, I cut my long red fiery Faery mane and went slouching into the world of androgyny. It was an attempt to get people to see me, not my hair or my gender, first. I was a very active political activist, and at the time was living in Germany in an Anarchist Squat. In this sub-cultural enclave, it was not unusual to see women with little or no hair, so my transition was relatively easy. At least it was until I came home to the USA and had the perceptions of family and friends foisted upon me. The first thing my young sister said to me was "You look like you've been in a concentration camp!" My mother was heart broken at my apparent denunciation of my woodsy roots, and a number of my (mostly male) friends at University refused to be seen with me. But the Gulf War was raging, and the politicos I began to spend all of my time with were amazing. For the first time I felt really heard by men, not just looked at, and the difference was astonishing.
For 5 years, I kept my hair at varying levels of short. I trained in Martial Arts and Weight Training. I was a strong woman, who was often (even in make-up) taken for a young (gay?) man by strangers. I felt much more free to walk the streets alone at night. I knew how to walk like a man, wore 'man' clothing, and bulky jackets helped -- along with a studied slouch -- to hide my breasts, the only real give-away of my gender. There are some very funny stories I have collected of my experiences of being of indeterminate gender (an old woman trying to bring me to Jesus, little children asking if I was a boy or a girl), but those may be told another time.
Finally, I decided to take it all the way. For Hallowe'en of '95 I dressed in drag three nights in a row. My persona grew on me. The first night I was Pierre, a decidedly foppish boy who liked boys. Pierre was into formal attire and formal manners. My first night was a night of exploring moods and 'tudes regarding the incorporation of trans-gender expression into a smallish and select group of friends. Many of those present at my party were in their teens. The boys took out all the stops. Many of these young wo/men were in full discovery of the freedoms of the libertine side of femininity. These boys were, for the most part, being the woman they wanted to date. The most remarkable thing was the fact that all of a sudden, boys from rural California were flirting with each other! Ass pinching and a variety of other touching, as well as comments ranging from the mock-prissy to the profane were coming out of the bright-red lipped mouths of young men.
The girls at this party were on the verge of quietude. It seems to take girls longer to get into this realm of shape-shifting. Perhaps it is that the idea of taking on the male role is not as enticing to young women as the idea of being an attractive girl is for a boy, and if you think about it, girls are sort of required by society to try to "pass" on a somewhat regular basis. Notwithstanding, there were some fiery young women at this party, and they, also, were getting into it; mostly with each other. My mother was present, and she did the true "gender-fuck." She was dressed in racy lingerie and a full suit. She had glasses on (very bookish!) and funny money in her leather bag. She spent the night invoking the tycoon, and somehow ended the evening with one of my best girlfriends sucking her toes.
The second night was a costume party in town. I got more submerged in my persona for this one. Tonight I would be Johnny, a mechanic. I manifested a heavy five-o-clock shadow and subtle wrinkles, wore a baseball hat backwards, dirty jeans and a workshirt, and I packed wood. Well, not wood exactly . . . it was a condom filled with hair gel and tied to my thong underwear.
I showed up at the party, and was avoided like the plague by the crowd of folks hanging out near the front door. The funny thing was, these people were some of the same ones who'd been at my party the night before. No one returned my greeting of "Hey. What's up?" The young women either averted their eyes or gave me the Ice Queen stare. Lesson number X: I finally knew what it really felt like to be a guy. Or at least this kind of guy -- the one that I had avoided for years myself. I passed, and I was lonely.
The third night I resurrected Johnny for a party on the rural community of Greenfield Ranch. My whole family was there, and this was the land of my growing up. To this day, certain people insist that I was not at that party. My father sized me up, and even skirted me on the path. When it was time for family photos he said "Who's that guy?" to my brother. He laughed like hell when he found out "that guy" was his oldest daughter.
The Invisibility of the Unknown Man
Through cross-dressing, and especially passing, I learned a lot about the nature of male/female interactions. As a man I did not have my space invaded nearly as much as I do on a regular basis as a women. I use the techniques of creating a boundary that I learned to this day.
On the other side of things, I learned that it is not easy to get into a conversation or even initiate contact on any level as a guy. Especially as the guy that I manifested. I left the experience of prolonged cross-dressing simultaneously envious and piteous of the breadth and boundary afforded men.
Applications; Why, How And Where To Create An Event Devoted To Deconstruction Of Gender
5 Reasons You Should Create an Opportunity to Bend Gender:
Where To Do It:
Throw a theme party. Create a safe space for experimentation. Have 50 of your closest (and most adventurous) friends over. Play dress up. Do a cross-dressing shopping spree. Have a dinner party. Go out for cocktails.
Please Note: Use common sense when cross-dressing in public. Know the social climate of the local you choose to experiment in. Sad as it is to say, we all know that many people have low (no?) tolerance for people who push boundaries, especially where gender (and therefore sex) is concerned.
How To Do It . . . or: Packing, Passing, and Playing
1. Don't Forget Your Bestform!
Under-garments: Women; sooner or later you'll want to pack. Socks are not the best material. If you own a strap on harness, there are great (and very life-like) dildos on the market today. (Call Good Vibrations in SF or Berkeley, or Grand Opening! in NY for up-to-the-minute info on the best toys on the market.) If you don't own a manufactured harness, you can fashion a low-tech stand-in out of a set of pantyhose or a single thigh-high stocking. This is one of those things that is easier to just do than to explain how to, but I'll give it a shot. First tie the stocking to itself to create a thong-style (up-the-crack) undergarment, then create a grommet-like opening in the front and insert the dildo through the hole. Mess around with it till it works for you. Another trick is to hang a substance (hair gel, corn-starch and water, pudding, etc.) filled condom over a pair of thong underwear. This is a great technique, lending you life like, sort of squishy cock and balls. You may have to adjust your package from time to time, but that just makes it more convincing, right?
You may or may not want to bind your breasts. If you do, a heavy-duty back brace works well. Especially if your breasts are on the large side, try to find something reinforced. A Girdle should work on the same principle, though I have not yet tried one. Ace bandages don't work too well if you are busty, but work with a smaller bust-line. There are other methods; like duct tape for example, but I don't recommend these unless you are also into s/m.
Guys; You know you want to have breasts! When choosing your bra size, take into account your frame. Make it look believable. Measure your chest and get the right band size, to start with. Then experiment. Try to find a few bras of different cup sizes at your local thrift store. (If you are embarrassed, find a girl-friend to shop with you. This is a good idea anyway, as she is likely to know more about bras than you do.) Try them on in the privacy of your own home. You can stuff them with what ever you like, but if you get really into it, you can purchase your own outside-the-body silicone product breasts through a number of women's magazines. This '90s product is called "Curves," 'cause that's what they'll give ya!
2. Tortured Beauty
Guys: Shaving is always a nice touch. And I don't just mean your face! Using a set of electric shears (also known as hair clippers) before the razor is a good bet, especially if your hair is long and/or coarse. For full effect, shave your legs, bikini line (including your crack!) and arm pits. A nice set of sheer stockings, fancy panties and a stylie bra look better without the distraction of hair. This may make you feel incredibly sexy, or just GODDAM naked. If you really want to experience what it is like to be a woman in this culture, the 3 hour bathroom routine (shaving, lotion, make-up, hair . . . for Goddess' sake, at least you don't have to deal with the tampons!) is not to be missed. At least once. (Please note: Be prepared for a couple of days of itchiness as your hair grows back.)
3. The Clothes Make The Wo/Man
This is where you can get entirely creative. What kind of guy/girl do you want to be? Exotic? Sophisticated? Slutty? Strong? Pick a theme, a hero to model yourself after, or just a set of clothes you like and set to undertaking the completion of the transformation. Remember to accessorize appropriately. Empty your wallet and pockets into a purse, or vice versa.
4. Give Good Face
Make-up is the finishing touch. If you are not versed in application, consult a friend. This is the best tool you have to help you to pass. If you're in the process of becoming a man, a five-o-clock shadow can be created with a mix of eye-shadows, or with burnt cork or charcoal. Try to make the shade of your shadow just a bit darker than your hair. Darkening the lines in your face will harden your look a bit, and you can accentuate certain features through use of a dark blush. Bring out your jawline, set your eyes back a little . . . mess around for a while and see what works.
In the process of becoming a woman, take it easy is the first rule. Apply a foundation on your freshly shaved and moisturized face and neck. Lip-liner works wonders to create an appearance of fullness in the mouth. Line just outside your natural lipline, then fill it in. Apply lipstick over the liner. Make sure the colors are a good match. Go light on the eyeliner, but heavy-ish on the mascara. You may want to try false lashes. Draw attention away from strong features.
Afford yourself plenty of time for this step. 45 minutes to an hour is not out of the question, depending on how involved you want to get.
5. Gee, Your Hair Smells Terrific!
If you're in the process of becoming a man, remember, less is more. Pomade, gel or nothing at all are the traditional styling products that men use. Tie long hair back, or leave it down, or hide it under a hat.
If you have short hair and are becoming a woman, invest in some hair accessories that work with your image. Little girl barrettes are a "in" now, and there are any number of more sophisticated styles available at your local drugstore, grocery, or beauty supply. If you can, leave some bangs over your forehead to hide any signs of aging, unless your look is inspired by Georgia O'Keefe, in which case, proudly show your wrinkles, and don a crumpled Stetson or some-such. You can also get styling products and sculpt your hair into a Twiggy look, or a Betty Boop inspired style. Long hair can be fun. Try out styles ranging from pig tails to Madonna's new straight and textured look. Perhaps you'll fall in love with your new look.
6. Fun Toys to Change Your Look
Enjoy the Trip!
Who are you? Stay present with your new persona. S/he undoubtedly has something to teach you. Take sometime to process your realizations post-bend. This experiment has the potential of bringing up some heavy issues, as well as shedding light on your existing mindset regarding gender and/or sexual orientation. Also, be sure to enjoy the experience. Flirt, strut, primp, pimp, camp, vogue and play. Have a wild ride!
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