This post is part of the Beauty of a Woman Blogfest run by the delightful and talented August McGlaughlin. Check out the official blogfest page to read other posts and enter to win some fabulous prizes. Picture credit: “Watercolor beautiful girl. Vector illustration of woman beauty salon.”
Why do I wear a mustache during sex? Because I’m playing with gender. Because I’m being me. And because I’m also being Steve-O Bing.
When my partner Jacob came out as transgender last year, I didn’t realize how deeply it would affect my own identity — I was simply too focused on helping him live his truth. But my own gender identity started to shift, and it continues to do so. As our therapist so wisely told us, “Coming out as trans can queer the whole family.”
How true! Never have the words, “Hello ladies!” hurt me more deeply. Never have gendered bathrooms filled me with such dread. Never has the quest for a vacation destination been so limiting — safety must always come first. Yes, since Jake came out I have written letters to supermarket chains asking them to train or retrain their staff to use gender-neutral language; I’ve interrupted conversations to say, “Actually, that’s not the right pronoun…”; I’ve told accountants, “My partner is trans,” and I’ve told phonelines, “Actually, he’s down under a different name.” I’ve shed tears and kissed tears away.
Above all, I’ve felt profoundly proud of the man I love so deeply.
But other things have happened too. I cut my hair short! I bought a neck-tie! I developed a complex relationship with lipstick! I’m attracted — wildly attracted — to a man, which means I’ve started to identify as pansexual. The term “gender non-conforming” feels comfortable to me, and yet sometimes I wonder if I’ve “earned” it enough, as if I don’t have the right to call myself that, as if my cisgender existence won’t permit it. On the Go Deeper Press website (the erotic press I co-run with Jacob) we proudly proclaim that we don’t police identity, yet I seem, bizarrely, to be policing my own.
Sometimes I kneel on the bed and cry, wondering why in the world people say, “Oh isn’t that just like a man?” or “We girls have to stick together!” or “Men are one way, women are the other.” Mars? Venus? There are many planets out there — probably more than we can count.
But often these days, I feel more wonderful than ever. And sometimes, when I feel that way, I’m wearing a mustache.
“Listen,” I said to Jake one day. “I realize you’re changing, our sex life is changing, and your identity is changing. If that means your attractions or fantasies shift too, let me know, okay?”
It was a scary thing to say because I realized he might say, “Actually, yes.”
And in some ways, he did.
Jacob held me tight and did the brave thing, as he has so often done over the past months. He said that yes, his fantasies were changing. He still wanted me as much as before, but he also felt attracted towards guys. It wasn’t that he wanted to fall for a guy or have a relationship with a guy, or even go off and have sex with a guy. But guys were appealing to him — more than that: sex with another man for pleasure intrigued him.
So we talked. We hugged. We talked some more.
And that’s how Steve-O Bing was born.
Steve-O Bing is a happily married Brit who loves football and canned beer. (That way, I make the most of my British accent!) He adores his wife Glenda, but he can only truly relax when he’s “hanging with the lads,” because it’s a “mental thing,” a “relaxation thing” — this he can’t stress enough. He’s a laugh a minute. Football trumps all else. He has sex while keeping half-an-eye on the game. His wife doesn’t know he has sex with others, but Steve-O doesn’t really consider what he has with the lads as sex. For Steve-O, he and his boy lovers are “just mates.” And did I mention he has a mustache?
No, I’m not posting a picture! But you get the idea.
And you know what? It’s liberating! Steve-O doesn’t have my politics at all. He’s all about the gender binary — he lives it and loves it and rarely thinks outside of it. And he can’t get enough of my partner. They’re crazy about each other in a very physical, macho kind of way — a way “the girls just can’t understand” according to Steve-O Bing.
It’s drama, of course. Pure play. I delight in it. So does my partner. It’s a dream we get to share and it opens us to each other. It lets us take this world that is so attached to gender roles and mash it up and stick it in a bucket and use it to paint rainbows.
Kate Bornstein wrote that “…gender is not sane. It’s not sane to call a rainbow black and white.” Beautiful, right?
So remember, please, that you can be any color you like. Today, you might be red. Tomorrow, perhaps purple. And tonight, while I’m being Steve-O Bing, perhaps you’ll be someone too.
And you know what? Sometimes, I wear lipstick with my mustache.
Jake says I’m super-pretty that way.