Then one day, in Turtles records on Wrightsboro Road in Augusta, GA, I remember my friend Marc and I were shopping for CDs of our favorite bands; mostly grunge, a little heavy metal, a little punk. I saw the Garbage CD for sale and said to my friend "The chick from that band is cool." It was a big moment for me. I was admitting a chick from a band, a band with a bright pink album cover, was cool.
|Pink feathers? It's like they were trying to actively discourage teenage boys from buying this.|
So I didn't buy Garbage's album. Instead I took the slightly safer route of buying the cassette single.
|Some people called them cassingles. An early portmanteau.|
Then, came the day at Body Shop in the mall, when I decided to buy a black faux leather mini-skirt. Pleather. One weekends I started wearing my skirt with fishnet stockings and combat boots, eyeliner and lipstick out to the local punk dive corner where all the freaks and geeks hung out. It was an androgynous look and it worked. My girlfriend at the time didn't have any issue and even bought me a garter belt for a birthday present. Black or red nail polish became every day wear for me and I even pierced by own ears with safety pins one day in study hall.
Slowly I started acquiring dresses, cheap ones from the slutty teen stores at the mall. I had long hair and I would dye it dark red, deep burgundy, even purple. When we went out, I would start to go less androgynous and more full on girl mode, letting my female friends do my makeup. I'd secretly borrow 4" black heels and fur coats from my friends' moms' closets and eventually their racier dresses too. By the time we were sixteen or seventeen my female friends and I would go out, realizing we could get into certain types of bars with lax ID policies. It frightens me to this day, but I remember we'd go to the payphone and call a friend's boyfriend to come pick us up and take us home. He'd be drunk and we'd get in his car anyway. We were beautiful and stylish and fun, but we were not smart.
I've felt transgender my whole life. But there was something about Shirley Manson that made me feel bold and powerful enough to get out and explore my female side. Suddenly I wasn't ashamed of these feelings any more, they didn't need to be buried. I could express them.
It was her fearlessness I think. It was something I'd never seen in a woman before. Most of the women I'd seen in media growing up were either matronly prudes like Aunt Bea, bimbos like Kathy Ireland or weak little submissive mice like June Cleaver.
Shirley was bold, powerful, fearless and still incredibly feminine. She gave me the strength to come out a little bit, to embrace my own femininity and let me understand that femininity didn't mean weakness or submission. Being a woman could be awesome and empowering and you also got to rock some seriously cool clothes.
And thank you for helping me realize that even a confused boy from Georgia can grow up to be a cool, fashionable, brave woman too.