Isla Fisher: smiling all over
New Year. Time of new beginnings. I’m running my hands over my body while repeating, “I’m a girl! I’m a beautiful, sexy girl! Please, God, make me a girl!”
It’s a prayer, a prayer of transformation. “Please, God, make me a girl.” Somehow the statement of ‘fact’ doesn’t work (“I am a girl”), even when intoned like a mantra – for this is about wish-fulfilment through transformation fantasy. It’s a direction of travel; the destination is unattainable. Remember Susan Stryker’s description of transgenderism as a “movement across a socially imposed boundary away from an unchosen starting place”.*
I wish I could say it: “I am a girl”. But I’m not there yet. Perhaps I never will be. Some crossdreamers see the gender of their ‘inner selves’ as being female, as if through crossdreams they’re recovering a state of rightful being; for me it’s more about becoming.
Is your crossgender identity something that lies dormant within you, a state of being, simply waiting to be uncovered and given expression? Or is it something you become, by erotic thought-experiment, self-hypnosis, feminizing your body and appearance or experimenting with hormones?
I smile involuntarily at the touch of my body. Or I will myself to smile, knowing that it triggers endorphin release. The actress takes her seat opposite the talk show host, adjusts her dress, crosses her shapely legs – as if her whole body is ‘smiling’. I am her. The soprano steps out onto the stage at the start of a recital; smiles at the audience to lift her confidence. Sometimes I am her too.
While reciting the prayer I’d like to be able to cry. Her personality is the opposite of mine in so many respects. She is emotional, and the emotion often comes out in tears. My tear ducts were blocked in late childhood (when, like every brave soldier, I was told that “boys don’t cry”). If I could undam them, it would be a breakthrough to the other side, regardless of what the tears express – joy that the illusion is so convincing, frustration that the illusion is so fleeting. How does one induce tears? I know actors use several tricks: they prevent themselves from blinking, so that their eyes water; they screw up the features into a ‘crying’ face; they put Vick’s vapour rub under the eyes. If the tears flow, will the emotion flow in their wake?
So perhaps there are two stages to breakthrough? First, I smile. Then I cry. Crying is the bridge, for it begins with the cry of frustration and morphs into the cry of happiness when you land, however, temporarily, on the other side.
“Please, God, make me a girl.” What’s God got to do with it? you ask. Call me superstitious, but I still have a soft spot for the old boy (or girl). “Time and again,” writes Richard Dawkins, “my theologian friends returned to the point that there had to be a reason why there is something rather than nothing.” Yes, the great god-basher agrees, but the First Cause must have been something simple, not “a being capable of designing the universe and of talking to a million people simultaneously”.** Well, I hope my simple deity is listening, amid the million other clamouring voices, to this simple prayer: “Please, God, make me a girl.”
*Transgender History (2008), p50
**The God Delusion (2007), pp184-5