It suggests a movement toward or away from, as if one’s been juggled out of place and is waiting to land back in the proper basket. A still photograph of a motorcyclist, caught mid-air through a jump, a dolphin between leap and crash, a fluke. Pin the tail on the number line between points A and B. If a train moving at 720 breaths per minute departs from girl at age twenty-six, how many surgeries will it take to reach her destination? To find the answer, it is necessary first to slide the weight back and forth on the scale until one finds a floating, a perfect balance. Feel both ends of the see-saw pull, sigh matter-of-factly into place (feel feet beneath, cold on the black metal). Once this understanding, this balance, is achieved, bring both ends of the railroad track around, bend it into itself to kiss its own tail. Then watch the train rumble around in the grass fenced in with iron. Not a spectrum, in other words, but a playing feld. Not a one-track motion, but learning how to rest, explore, enjoy the scenery of the between-places.
1. Sports Bra
Unlike other brassieres, which have a tendency to come adorned with frills, wire, candy colors, and shelves of jelly padding, the purpose of this bra is not to preserve and present one’s breasts as a gift, like a cupcake stand. A sports bra is worn to prevent movement – or rather, to prevent the sashaying, flourishing way certain parts of a woman’s body linger a little too long behind the rest of her. It snaps lazy, flabby members of her ranks to attention, puts them in their place, out of the way of her choreography, so that straight lines may be achieved.
To be born with breasts is not a handicap, nor an injury. But some ankles need the tight embrace of tape to stand upright, to run, to bear the collision of a body’s weight against the pavement. Bookmark the end of the bandage with two fingers, wrap around the torso, and secure with the fanged metal barrette. Do not think about women strapped down to hospital beds, needles pumping fog into their arms. Do not think about tiny brambles of cotton sticking to sores and welts as you change the dressings, stained yellow and brown. Picture instead a ballerina’s foot – not a compromise with pointe shoes, but what is needed to keep moving.
3. Control Top Pantyhose
“Control top” seems all too appropriate a title. Once used to corset bellies spent and sagging from childbirth, still used to sculpt a silhouette into imagined lines, like a vase for water. Snip off the legs and shift the control up from womb to breasts. The unhemmed edge may begin to slacken and curl up, like corners of pages in damp places, or the spines of leaves. Be mindful of the way skin rolls when hunched or arched, as tugging adjustments to this region may be a dead giveaway. Luckily, all women’s clothing is deeply woven with the intent of secret-keeping.
Lay down the dresses. Lay down, even, the pants and the flannel shirts fitted to your old shape, size, flavor, your former thesis. Lay out your most masculine clothes and present to them your new body. Pluck the girl scent off the lapels and trace their outlines, empty and new. Imagine the way they will hang like fresh laundry on your beams, upright and sleek as a letter Y.
Male bodies take up more space in the world, but less space in their clothes; that is, they have fewer shelves to snag on. Multiple layers and busy patterns will gladly help smuggle one’s curves. Minor adjustments to the choice of undershirt or the sling of jeans will help set the appropriate tone (there is a diference between dressing masculine and dressing man). Purchase a pair of dress shoes a size too big and stuff them with condoms and pipe tobacco.
Consider setting and character motivation before choosing a tie; when in doubt, always refer back to the canon. Consider the chewing-tobacco-elbow-grit of blue coveralls and torn Bruce Springsteen jeans with red bandanas in the back pocket. Consider the sneer of leather biker jackets, zippers, combat boots, the suggestion of a switchblade tucked in the ankle. Consider suits: three-pieces, sleek satin, coattailed tuxedos, baggy zoot suits with canes and fedoras. Consider Frank Sinatra and Justin Timberlake gliding across the floor.
Remember that, at the end of the day, the outft is little more than a title, a mechanism for grounding. Remember that much more can be accomplished with a smile than with layers and layers of tapestry.
If you have already stepped into dyke hair, a butch cut, a bulldagger ‘do, you are (for once) among the lucky ones. All that’s needed is some wax, gel, pomade, Elmer’s glue, egg whites, shoe polish – something to make it stand upright and say if it’s a show they want… Spike it like a ferris wheel, what is this game, if not a carnival? Slick it into soft serve swirl, faux hawk like a Midas gold eagle, gilded Moscow onion towers. What is a king, if not royal?
If, on the other hand, you wear it long like a woman, consider following the motion to wear it long like a man. Catapult into rock star with a Zeppelin mane, stars-and-stripes bandana to hide the track marks; pelvic thrust toward a time when golden tresses could hold hands with a Les Paul and a well-sculpted bulge. Otherwise, sleek it back into a ponytail (e.g. poet, professor, buccaneer, incense, medicine man, samurai, stoner, motorcycle, comic books, dream catchers, colonial blacksmith).
Hats and bandanas are also skilled body bags, full of secret pockets to tuck away excess. Even better is an airtight hairnet to sneak it under a wig; nuts, bolts, bobby pins hard at work behind the scenes. Feel, then, how singularly you swivel, point A to point B, and remember the clockwork reasons military men stay clipped and buzzed, skull-tight caps on swimmers like bullet heads. Remember tales of ancient women who carry centuries of secrets in their hair. Clip the secrets back, and you could be anyone you wanted, as fresh and blank as a swimming cap.
Despite the decades of work done to subvert the perception, women still carry in their faces a certain delicateness, a drawn quality, beauty pointed in precise directions. Women’s eyebrows, therefore, become calligraphic, like the thin profle silhouette of a bird’s wing, arched in flight. Like a crooked come-hither finger when raised. Passing as a man requires a brutishness that starts in the wrinkle of the brow. Men’s eyebrows are all bristle and brush handle, scrubbing things. Color them in, thicker, darker. It will feel at first like making yourself ugly.
Five O’Clock Shadow
The easiest course of action is eye shadow – assuming, of course, that once you had been that type of woman – a real woman – with dresser drawers full of palettes, powders, creams, capsules of smoke and mirrors. In which case, hiding behind layers of dust will seem nothing new, painted ladies who feel kinship with murals and blackboards. Gray or black; be sure to use matte, not shine (unless you wish yourself a Tin Man). Mix with loose powder and rub all along the jawline, spread, even, darken. It may feel like rubbing dirt on your face. Picture, instead, hazy static, whispering, I could if I wanted to.
Finally, texture is achieved. Attach crepe wool with spirit gum, brushing away the excess, letting it drift down like ashen leaves. What remains is fullness, is man in three dimensions, is new topography. This is no longer painting a name across the surface, but sculpture, volume – building from the bottom up. It will feel like rubbing your face in a hedge. It will feel like a joke. Then, a costume. And then, at last, like a dress – something to put on in order to feel beautiful.
Sling low, sweet chariot. Make way, clear the roads of your pant legs for this new presence, thy kingdom come. Make way in BVDs, pocketed briefs, banana hammocks, blackboard and charcoal with cupped palms to catch hanging fistfuls of clay. Dildos provide rubber function at the ready, a one-to-one translation, potential energy sparking secretly. Stuffed condoms give another approximation. But never underestimate the power of a rolled-up sock. Even this heart-sized, cotton thing will feel new between your legs. You will fnd yourself holding it, the way an amateur thief’s fingers futter to his pocket at a loud noise.
Press it up against your mattress. Remember pressure, the pleasure of giving and watching. Sit back and hold it upright; imagine receiving, looking down instead of throwing your head back into your shoulder; imagine scratching your chest as you watch her. Imagine big shoulders and strong arms as you hold her hair.
As you prowl the sidewalk, cross the stage, lights hot and bright on your face, on the front of your pants, feel it hanging, shifting with each step, strapped tight into shorts. Armed and ready, standing at attention. Soon, you will fnd it affecting your walk, longer lunges that land like declarative sentences. Make way, clear the streets. You will find your pelvis stretching wider as it remembers cowboys in cigarette jeans lounging astride leather saddles. Thy kingdom come. Swagger forward, dipping with every other step, heel-toe. Lope forward in straight thick lines, a coughing pickup truck, more shoulder than hip, more engine than oven. Drive forward into the spotlight and stand on sturdy beams. Grab the bulge and hear the high-pitched screams and squeals from long-haired women in the audience, slender arms in the air, flailing for you. Catch the kisses and catcalls with a snarling nod. You are steel and broad shoulders. You are sleek snaps and gliding punches. You are swing and knuckle and hard. You are a marvel.