I thought about going out presenting as a woman today. I really had too much work to do, but even if i hadn’t it would have meant spending over two hours on my presentation. It’s mostly makeup, but it’s also showering, shaving (face and chest), brushing teeth, deodorant, picking out clothes and getting dressed. Every couple of weeks I need to spend an hour shaving my legs. I usually don’t bother painting my nails unless I’m planning to present as a woman all day. Today, instead I skipped all shaving, brushed my teeth, showered and dressed in about twenty minutes.
I know this difference is not just because I’m trans. The line, “But it takes me so long just to figure out what I’m gonna wear,” in “Manic Monday” resonate with non-trans women because our society polices women’s presentation much more strictly than men’s. Laura Topham spent eight hours getting the “Essex girl” presentation, and a lot of it was procedures like hair extensions and spray tan that full-time Essex girls don’t get every day, but the average woman spends more than twenty minutes a day on her presentation. Even many men spend more than I do to go out as a guy. When I was in high school, a friend of mine would be in the bathroom for hours.
But my female presentation requires more than the average woman, and if I had transitioned it wouldn’t take as long. I would have gotten permanent hair removal, so I wouldn’t have to shave anywhere near as much, or put on so much makeup, and hormones would have reshaped my body to some extent.
If I had chosen to transition in my twenties my shoulders probably wouldn’t be as wide, so I wouldn’t have to be so careful about my clothing choices. In fact, when I first started wearing women’s clothes in my teens, I wore anything I could find. I never wore makeup, because I didn’t have much facial hair until my twenties. Going out in public has also raised the stakes. When I was fifteen, my presentation time was about ten minutes.
The presentation has always been part of my enjoyment of presenting as a woman. But not two hours of it. Not worrying that if I miss a spot on my foundation I might get sirred or even beaten up. Not worrying that if I nick my ankle I’ll have a scab for days and a spot for weeks. Not worrying that if I get my tuck wrong I’ll be uncomfortable for hours.
But of course, I will be uncomfortable for hours, because wearing heels and nylons and makeup and “foundation garments” is uncomfortable. On top of that, even a good tuck is uncomfortable, and so is a padded bra and enough makeup to hide a beard shadow. Some people put up with that every day for years. I’m okay with it once in a while.
I know some of you transitioners who are reading this are thinking smugly, “I don’t have to shave. I don’t even wear heels or makeup most days! I’m a -” Yeah, we get it. That was the point of this post. The point is that this presentation fatigue is a factor in decisions to get permanent hair removal, to take hormones, and even to get genital surgery. Presentation fatigue is a factor in transition.