Luisa Zissman is a fascinating one. Of late there has been much furore surrounding the Apprentice runner up and her behaviour in the famous luxury media-prison that is the Celebrity Big Brother house. A contradiction in terms she has been branded as a ruthless fake, a bitch, while her own personal mantra is seemingly "just be yourself, otherwise you will never succeed" (c.f. Luisa Zissman, Heat, 2013). Like so many before her, Luisa is obviously of the optimistic view that this whole "being yourself" lark is as easy said as it is done (I only chose Luisa because I'm OBSESSED WITH HER).
But here's a massive problem for me; I too am a staunch believer in self expression, but what happens when this self that you're being doesn't in fact fully translate into every sphere of your life?
I was born male, but as a result of my education, my friends and something inexplicably internal, I don't feel male. I don't want to undergo gender reassignment surgery because I don't feel like a woman either. So I guess I'm a form of trans which I would unfortunately have to label, in this world of never ending labels, as 'gender nonconforming'. I am however happy with my penis as an entity, and I know that I am mostly attracted to men, so I guess that also makes me a homosexual. At this stage, after years of some turmoil and considerable trans/homo/anything-outside-the-box-phobia I feel at ease with this large part of who I am, until it comes to sexual desire. Here's the hurdle at which my identity trips and falls. Here's where Luisa's theory flops.
Now, I am very aware that I am lucky to be gay in the UK now, and we are so lucky that spaces such as gay clubs exist, however the sexual systems within which we move in these spaces are problematic for someone like me: here, I feel as though I don't sexually belong. With the rise of the 'straight-acting gay', and our potential to marry (which I am of course pro), it feels as though the gender binaries within sexuality are solidifying. If I am a man and want to bonk men then I, if labelling, could say I am homosexual. If I am a woman and want to bonk men then I could say I was heterosexual (...and so on).
But if my gender is fluid, yet my sexuality not, how do I know who to bonk? More to the point, how do I know who wants to bonk me? Despite wearing dresses, kimonos and heels almost every day, my facial structure, voice, and facial hair (to name a few) are still signifiers of my birth sex being male. People often find the juxtaposition between this broad shouldered bearded dress wearer rather baffling, and this is much heightened in a space where judgements are made on external appearance alone, such as a night club. I wonder if I dressed like one of the members of 1D (marry me Zayn?!) then I would feel less like a sexual outcast and more like a man who wants a man who gets a man (although no doubt a whole new set of identity issues would creep out of the woodwork were this the case)?
Clothing, accessories, shoes, glasses, tattoos and hair style, to name a few, are all part of something I think of as 'instant identity': these are the things that people form an instant judgement about you from. This visual code, which most often the person has put together them self, forms a readable set of categorisable signals from which you can glean something about a person's identity (be it sexual, professional, or social).
We can of course edit this, to make our identities harder or easier to decode. An explicit example is handkerchief coding which arose in the 1970s. Here was a process whereby homosexual men would wear colour coded handkerchiefs in their back trouser pocket to signify their sexual preferences. So someone who wears a bright yellow hanky in their left back pocket likes to give golden showers, but were the hanky in the right pocket, this person would like to receive them. Simple right?
The difficulty, however, arises when your handkerchief can't be found on the colour code - such is the case for myself and many of my trans friends. The problem is that there is a difficulty in marrying the way I feel most comfortable with the want to be sexual, sexy and have sex.
I guess Luisa does have a point though: being 'yourself' must eventually lead to success right? I'll just have to wait to find someone who loves gender non-conforming me for gender non-conforming me, handkerchief or not.