Friday, October 20, 2017

My Halloween Costume

I don't care about Christmas, or Thanksgiving, or Arbor Day or even the Feast of the Blessed Thevarparampil Kunjachan (which, by the way is held each October 16th). No, the only real holiday I care about is Halloween. For me, Halloween has been a time that I could present female without worry or fear. 

Growing up, my dad was insanely religious. He believed that Halloween was a Satanic holiday and therefore my sister and I were not allowed to have costumes or to go trick or treating. Sure, some years there were church sponsored "Harvest Festivals" where kids could go dressed as Bible characters and collect candy, but it just wasn't quite the same. It wasn't until high school that I actually got to go trick or treating for the first time. 

As a grown up, I went as a "girl" a couple of times, but last year ended my ability to do that. Once you are a girl, going as a girl seems a little too meta, even for Brooklyn. So for my first year as a bonafide girl, I went as Rey from The Force Awakens, and so this year I thought I'd go to the Dark Side. 

I mean, any costume where you get to carry a light saber is a great one right? Plus I always loved steampunk, so I thought I'd combine them together and go as a Steampunk Sith Witch? No I don't like that. Sounds too much like a sandwich. A Steampunk Sith Lady? No, unlike lord, lady has become too generic. It doesn't sound impressive. Then I remembered that if I lived in the Star Wars universe I wouldn't want to follow Jedi or Sith rules. So I am officially a Steam Punk Rogue Jedi. Evil, but not following anyone's rules.

For steampunk elements I have my corset, along with a Victorian lace choker and some lace half-gloves. And of course goggles. I really wanted this one steampunk skirt and a lace cloak, but together they would have been $250.00, which is more than I really wanted to spend.

Maybe one day. But for today, I picked up a black vinyl skirt at H&M, along with some fishnets and wore them with a black tank top and some boots I already had. Instead of an expensive cloak, I instead used a bit of scrap black fabric left over from another project. Plus I had to get the red light saber that lights up and does the sound effects. Of course. 

On Sunday I put it all together for the first time. Kath and I tried to think up some good "Star Wars-y" places in Brooklyn, but couldn't really come up with any. Though I do think the big relief statue behind me looked like it could fit in Star Wars. 

Unfortunately, the lighting wasn't too great outside. So I figured I'd take a few pictures inside instead. 

Well, I now have my costume ready, two weeks early. Yeah, I'm really into Halloween. And I've got two parties coming up, so I'll have lot of opportunities to show off my character. And of course get loads of pictures. 

Monday, October 16, 2017

How to Halloween for Transgirls

Halloween is my absolute favorite time of year. Not only is there an abundance of candy and there are plenty of opportunities to party. Plus, you get to dress up in a costume and be whoever you want! Maybe that's why transgender people, gender-queer people, and crossdressers love October so much. When you're not out to the people in your life, Halloween gives you a chance to dip your toe in so to speak. You can present with your preferred gender expression in a safe and accepting environment. And for one night you get to be your real self without anyone judging you. It's amazing. It cab be your transgender Halloween costume adventure.

Before I was out, I spent at least two Halloweens where my costume was "a girl." So, that is of course one option if you're still not comfortable being out. All you have to do for that is to dress up and then go out. It's so nice because you have the safety of being able to laugh it off if you need to. "Ha ha. What a silly thing for me to dress up and look beautiful. Ha ha." For many of us, this is our first time actually presenting in public or with friends and family. And as everyone who has worn this "costume" can tell you, it feels wonderful.

If you're already out, or if you want to step up your game, you can wear a women's Halloween costume. I would venture that I'm not the only one who saw cis girls out in their cute costumes and felt a pang of intense jealousy. Little skirts, petticoats, thigh highs, crazy makeup, who wouldn't want to want to join in? There are so many fun options.

In general, I enjoy making my own costumes, but let's face it, sewing is not for everyone and sometimes you get that last minute party invite and may only have a day or two to find a costume. So if you're planning to go the store-bought route, here's some things that'll hopefully help you to look your absolute best for both tricks and treats.

A-line costumes or costumes with petticoats will help give you a feminine silhouette and the illusion of hips. Thankfully there are a lot of options for Halloween costumes with A-line skirts. It's practically the default after all.

Supergirl Costume

Just remember that a lot of times the photos on the package are going to show the costume being worn with a petticoat. But the petticoat's probably not in the package! You have to buy it separately if you want to achieve the same look.

Red Riding Hood Costume

Your sexy little red riding hood costume or sexy systems analyst costume isn't going to look right unless you buy one these too. But, as someone who has owned a petticoat, they are quite fun. 

Ursala Petticoat

If you're self-conscious about your body shape, you may want to stay away from skin tight costumes. Yes, I know, they are going to look so great in the package illustration and of course you want to look fantastic.
Catwoman Outfit

But, remember, these are basically just full body tights and leave little to the imagination. So, hey, if you're bold and want to do it, then yeah, wear a kick ass skin tight costume. But, for a lot of people, you might want to remember that the picture is a professional model who probably hasn't eaten carbs in a decade and then on top of that she's Photo-shopped. 

Cortana Costume

If you're self-conscious about your shoulders, you might want to avoid outfits that might make your shoulders look larger, say with giant poofy princess sleeves. Of course, we all want to be princesses (and many of us are really princesses on the inside and always have been), but I know I personally dislike outfits that make me feel "big."  

Fairy Godmother Costume

One other thing to consider about a costume is your own movement. A gigantic poofy gown, while awesome and beautiful may end up being a drag at a crowded party or heck even while trying to get in a car. Yes, it would be totally beautiful and if you want to wear it because it makes you feel beautiful, then yes, rock that dress. But just be warned you'll be saying "Sorry, excuse me" a lot. 

Cinderella Dress

If you're gonna rock some high heels, be sure and have a pair of flats on hand. After hours of trick-or-treating or partying, you're dogs are going to be barking. Bring a bag that's big enough to allow you to stash some nice flats for later in the evening. Your feet will thank you. 

Always remember that the sizes for store bought costumes are estimated. Caveat emptor. Some stores may allow you to try costumes on. When it doubt go with the larger size. Be sure and ask if you're unsure about what size to get. Also, read the package carefully. Items in the photo, such as shoes and accessories, may not be in the package. Also, you don't want to accidentally get a dog costume. Again. 

Who Doesn't Love Dog Costumes?

But of course, these are only suggestions. The fun of Halloween is that you can be whoever you want to be, even if it does involve a costume with big shoulders.

Civil War Nurse Costume

Or for some reason you want to be a Civil War nurse. Though hey, props to the costume company for finally realizing that nurses are medical professionals and not sex objects.

Now get out there, b the awesome you you've always known you are, be safe, and have fun!

Friday, October 6, 2017

Supergirl: A Transgender Girl's Thoughts

Like I think a growing number of Americans, I'm kind of tired of superheroes. It seems like there's way too many TV shows and movies and  they're all pretty formulaic. But, I had run out of shows to watch, and I thought I'd give the CW's Supergirl series a try. At first, I thought it was a bit of a Buffy the Vampire Slayer wannabe (BtVS is one of my absolute favorite shows ever). But the performances on Supergirl were good, especially Melissa Benoist who you could just tell was having a ton of fun with the role, so I kept watching. There's no more Buffy after all, so even a watered down version was worth sticking with. Needless to say, I was wrong and I got hooked pretty quickly. And now Supergirl is a show I love. It's brought me to tears many times with its amazing portrayals of strong women. 

The biggest reason that I love this show is that it has used its story lines as metaphors to discuss important social issues like the refugee crisis, immigration, xenophobia, and of course, LGBTQ rights. With the third season of the show coming out soon, I thought this would a good time to discuss how I think Supergirl touches on the transgender experience in ways that really resonated me with me, even if that wasn't necessarily the intention of the writers. 

In the first episode we meet mild-mannered executive assistant Kara Danvers. The only thing is that Kara has a secret that she can't tell anyone. No, she's not transgender. She's actually an alien from the planet Krypton. Unlike her famous cousin, she's not out as who she really is. For her whole life, Kara has had to hide who she really is. But, when a plane carrying her sister threatens to crash, Kara realizes that she can no longer hide her true self from the world.

We then see Kara struggle to find the courage to come out to friends and coworkers. We see how being her real self changes her relationships with those in her life. She's overjoyed to be able to come out to her best friend Winn, but worries about what will happen if she comes out to her crush James or her boss Ms. Grant. Kara's own sister thinks it's a bad idea to come out, that people will judge her or that she won't be safe.

Kara struggles to accept who is she really is and to understand what that means for her identity. When her loved ones tell her hide her true identity, when the world seems to hate her for who she is, we see Kara work to meet every challenge with a smile.

As a transgender woman, Kara's story in the first few season one episodes really resonated with me. When Kara felt the joy of coming out and being her real self with her friends, that reminded me of the happiness I felt coming out transgender to my friends, or being able to hang out and let people see the real me. And yes, I know the fear and worry of having to hide who you are. If my boss finds out will I lose my job? If my significant other finds out will they dump me?

And of course, there's also something else that a lot of non-LGBT people don't see. Despite the challenges in our lives, we are often expected to face them with a smile. And that isn't always easy.

Later in season two, Kara's friend Winn began dating Lyra, an alien woman. After they hook up the first time, Lyra is worried that Winn isn't really interested in her a person, just as an experience. Apparently a lot of guys in the show's universe like to hook up with an alien girl just once as a fetish but aren't actually interested in treating them like equals. It reminded me of the guys in our universe who are quite affectionately called "tranny chasers." And I've known of many transgirls who have worried about being treated as an object or check mark on a list rather than as a human being. Thankfully Winn was not that kind of guy and actually liked Lyra as an equal.

With the story of Kara’s sister Alex, Supergirl gave viewers the most realistic coming out story arc I've ever seen. Alex develops feelings for another woman Maggie. And while Alex is pretty sure she knows she likes Maggie, she also isn't really sure what liking Maggie would mean for her life.

My heart broke watching Alex explain to Maggie how she had never really liked dating or being intimate with men and thought that that was just how she was. Slowly, we see Alex come to terms with her own feelings. As Alex comes out, we see how coming out means risking rejection from important people in our lives, be they romantic partners, family members or others. Actor Chyler Leigh did such a great job that almost every other scene in this story arc brought me to tears.

What Supregirl really did correctly, and I think uniquely, was show a character who was confused. Too often, when a character comes out we see someone who absolutely knows they're gay and fully understands what that means. But for many LGBTQ people, coming out is a long, slow process that starts with confusion, and then proceeds to only more confusion.

When Alex comes out to her sister Kara, she seems to answer almost every one of Kara's questions with a "I don't know." Coming out doesn't come with a guide or a road map and neither do our identities. I grew up knowing I felt something, but without having the language to really be able to express what it meant to feel gender dysphoria or be transgender. If I would have honestly answered the question "Are you gay?" I would have had to say "I don't know." Figuring out who you are is a long and difficult process and I love that Supergirl showed how messy and difficult this process really can be.

Growing up in a marginalized group, finding positive media portrayals of your group can be nearly impossible. In that vacuum, metaphors can become an important surrogate for a discussion on the struggles marginalized groups face. So I've always found transgender themes in music, or movies, or TV shows whether or not they were there on the surface. In Supergirl I found a show that I think really resonated with what I was feeling as a transgender woman. And I'm looking forward to seeing what the third season brings.