Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Feminine Differential - Code Switch

Joni Mitchell - Clouds 

Code Switching is the modifying of one's behavior, appearance, etc., to adapt to different socio-cultural norms.  More precisely it is the use of one dialect, register, accent, or language variety over another, depending on social or cultural context, to project a specific identity.

Most of us learn this early as part of our desire to pass. We very quickly become aware of our need to blend for safety, and acceptance.  

There were aspects of presenting as female I never comprehended until my first public outings. The video below goes into this. Fear gripped me on my first outings, however I saw these feelings as my intense fear of being ridiculed for my humble presentation attempts. Then one evening walking into a mall, the cat-calls from a large group of teen boys were very intense; bordering on threatening. This was "Street harassment" or as we know it now, sexual harassment. Wow, a new kind of fear.   

The situation reversed just a few evening later. A feminine differential I never realized.  That evening getting out my car, I watched a woman ahead of me cower and walk rapidly for the store entrance. It was simply my presence as a male that evening she saw as threatening.   

Maybe I (we) have seen clouds from both sides.       

Code Switching


  1. When she said that code switching is so exhausting, I thought out loud, "That's an understatement, sister!" My natural tendency has always been to have a more-feminine
    behavior pattern. As a child, I was constantly lambasted by my mother for how I talked, my giggling, my smiling, my walk, etc. I think she thought I may have been gay. I wasn't, though. I was a girl! That may have been worse than being gay, however, so I worked constantly to effect a more-masculine behavior. Although much of it eventually became an acquired habit, there was still that constant awareness and checking of myself. Many years later, when I finally unleashed the woman inside of me on occasion, I found it to be more and more difficult to do the necessary code switching between male and female.

    It's been such a relief, these past few years, to not have to keep check of my behavior. Having had been a code-switched-male for so many years has left me with an acute awareness, however, and I doubt that will ever go away. Still, it's a wonderful thing when you can find that your cloud does, indeed, have a silver lining!

    1. Thanks Connie - a very insightful thought. Me too to the code switching...

  2. When does 'code switching' become 'Behavior Self Censorship'?
    Connie has a great point that such effort is not only exhausting, but a probable source of ones own DEPRESSION!
    The constant effort of 'looking at ones self', through ones mind, from an imagined external perspective is ultimately a negative and unproductive effort and I feel, on my own behalf is a source of various mental health maladies.
    As an engineer, this type of behavior closely resembles computer program, or electrical circuit which is stuck in a 'feedback loop'-- just going around in circles... Something to be avoided.
    It has taken me a long, 60+ year journey to simply live from from my own 'heart and mind' and avoid those who wish to impose their opined sensibilities of what and how I should act.

    1. Thank you Velma - As an engineer and programmer I know exactly what you are talking about. The feedback loop is exhausting with the effort to be the gender you are not. We become actor in our own drama.

  3. Well, I'm nowhere near an engineer or computer whiz. I'm not a rocket surgeon, and I understand softWEAR much better than softWARE. :-) I am a musician, though, and I understand what a feedback loop is. Singing on a stage along with amplified instruments is difficult, because one can't stay on key without being able to hear oneself. So, we use monitor speakers to amplify our voices to a level that, at least, allows us to hear ourselves amongst all the other sound. There's often a fine line between hearing what's needed and the feedback screech that can occur when the microphone picks up the amplified sound from the monitor, forming a feedback loop. Sometimes, lowering the volume may rectify the problem, but I've found that it's more often the frequency that needs equalization. The acoustics are also affected by the room and the people in it.

    Of course, it is the positive feedback from those people in the room that is most important. I guess that all of this sums up my trans life!