BECOMING ANDREW: STARTING PUBERTY AGAIN

Time is moving fast and I have the feeling more and more that I am going through puberty for the second time, adjusting to new growths of body hair, a new awkwardness in social relations but this time I am silently hoping that my voice will drop!  Andrew is now my permanent state, there is no time off this submersion in my new identity and the daily reality of life as Andrew…. so what do I do differently?

WORKING OUT…

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Well it turns out Andrew likes to go to the gym. After signing up four weeks ago and getting himself a training regime to go with it, it has become an integral part of his life, running for a bit under an hour and then weight training at least three times a week has become the norm. Going to the gym is the time I feel most authentically masculine (whatever that may mean), wearing black football shorts and bearing by now an abundance of dark leg hair I feel committed to getting in shape and building muscle in a way I never have before. Andrew outdoes Abigail at the gym, running easily for an hour, something that Abigail would have given up on after 20 minutes. I surprised myself the other day by running 10km without much effort.

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I guess I am a little overwhelmed by the fervour with which Andrew has taken to going to the gym.  How is this change in outfit or this shift in mentality having such a difference? Perhaps it’s the absence of make up, exotic clothing or playing with hair do’s  – none of which I was so aware of doing before but now see how integral they were to me.  Now I turn to the one thing I can play with appropriately within the norms of masculinity to which I am attempting to adhere – my body. Post shower I find myself no longer staring into the mirror examining my skin or grooming by hair but instead flexing my arms or legs examining the small but steady changes. I am researching better workouts, bulk buying protein shake powder, reading blog entries on how to best build muscle as a vegetarian and thinking how I must push myself more.

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TOILET TROUBLE

As much as I have embraced the gym I have rejected the changing rooms. This can be easily done as I live less than five minutes walk away – however it’s not the proximity causing me to abstain but the quandary about which to use. As Andrew I would not like to use the female changing rooms, however to use the men’s is (at least for now) a step beyond my passing ability. I have a similar problem when out and about in bars, cafes, museums and the like with which toilet to use. Where possible I use the disabled toilet but in ones absence I vary between the two.  In each I feel like a fraud sneaking in and out as quickly as possible. I am in limbo.  I am hoping my confidence will be boosted as I am learning to pee standing. I hope to use the men’s more consistently, like a little boy who stops using in the ladies with his mummy!

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SEX: YES PLEASE!

In initiating this project I wanted to reflect on male gender norms and behavior. In taking on my identity as Andrew a natural step would be to be interested in women to fulfill a heterosexual, normative ideal. However the more I become Andrew the further I wade into the murky waters of Andrew’s sexual identity. This blurriness is summed up clearly in the statement ‘I hope Andrew’s gay’.

At least for now, that wish seems to be fulfilled. Andrew does not seem altogether good with women – on a recent night out, albeit with help from a smooth moving wingman, Andrew was attempting to chat and flirt with all the confidence of a 12 year at his first dance.  One rather beautiful girl leaned forward to ask me my name again – I repeated it was ‘Andrew’ and added ‘it’s complicated’. A short and rather unsatisfactory conversation unfurled, as I causally tired to explain my recent name change and that I used to look much more like her, to which she replied ‘so normally you’re straight’. It was tricky to know how to reply, when the startlingly obvious thing to me was that the clothes you wear do not dictate your sexuality. But it also gave me an insight into the fact that as a female identifying as a man, for many I had the assumed label of lesbian.

TINDER

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Since my lack of passing as male to women in the public was failing it was time for Tinder, the dating application based purely on name, age and picture and an initial specification of own gender and whether you are interested in meeting males or females. As with all those a little desperate for affection I clicked ‘like’ to every woman to see if I would get any matches, with rather depressing results. Matches were sparse, and I began to wonder if the ones that did match were using a similar strategy! Is Andrew really so undesirable to women? I then turned to wonder what luck Andrew would have with men and it was a whole different story. I had to become much more discerning in my likes. As someone who has typically had relationships with men, to flirt or chat with men is my own norm. However, these men were not chatting to Abigail but Andrew. I may have passed a little too well as I have had to rejects two offer to go for coffee.

So whether Andrew is seen as a lesbian woman or a gay man, any way you put it Andrew is queer. So much for Andrew fulfilling the norms. It’s funny, as Abigail identifies as queer but is perceived to be heteronormative. In other words, Abigail does not look ‘queer enough’; or in the words of a French man, ‘what have you done! You were so sexy before!’

Words and Images by A. Liparoto

Artist’s Statement on BECOMING

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