Ever wonder what it’s like to live as the other gender? No, I [Lisa] am not announcing my upcoming plans to transition. But traveling through countries where gender is a very binary concept, people tend to automatically label me as a man.
The misconception of my identity has been most evident in South America where daily greetings are dictated by gender. Upon meeting someone, women kiss other people on the cheek. But when a man meets another man, a firm handshake replaces a kiss. Numerous times I’ve been offered a handshake by a man only to have to pull him and respond with a kiss on the cheek instead.
Even when I’m not faced with the “to kiss or not to kiss” debacle, gender pronouns remain an issue. I can’t tell you the number times that Jenni and I have walked into a restaurant or a hotel and been greeted with “Hola amigos.” As soon as I hear “amigos” instead of “amigas,” I know that they think I’m a man.
Deciding how to react can be a challenge. Often times, I correct people and say, “Soy una mujer. Yo se que soy diferente.” meaning “I am a woman. I know I am different.” In this way I try to open up people’s minds to alternative ideas of gender. But sometimes I get too darn tired of explaining myself, so I pretend not to notice.
The hardest part of all this is trying to maintain my own sense of confidence and esteem while others whisper about me behind my back (or sometimes in front of my face but in a different language). Of course the self-consciousness creeps in. I’m someone who hates being the center of attention in general and hates to stick out.
It took me most of my teens and twenties to gain the confidence to stop hiding behind feminine pretenses and start dressing in a masculine way that felt most natural to me. Living in San Francisco, I felt validated by other butch lesbian friends who presented themselves in the same way. That’s when I finally got the guts to cut my hair into a fohawk and wear the clothes I wanted. As a consequence, I have to say that was when I scored the most dates when I was single. I don’t think it the hairstyle caught the attention of others as much as my comfort in my own skin.