Belgian Diversity Campaign a Step in the Right Direction

Belgian Diversity Campaign

In 2002, Charles Anders, published 'The Lazy Crossdresser.' It’s a bible for those who want to cut corners when getting dolled up. However, the concept is one I've struggled with for the best part of my last ten years as Inésita. Why? Because any male-to-female cross-dresser simply cannot afford to be 'lazy' if she wants to 'pass.'

Let me explain. Take for instance one’s visage. Unless you are an artist (and even if you are) an hour will quickly fly by, prepping and painting the face, raising the eyebrows and putting in those fiddly contact lenses. If you want skin that’s soft as a baby’s bottom, then you’ll need a 45 minute full-body wax (ouch, and don’t forget the side effects: the rashes, the sensitive skin and the week-long spots that others don’t see). Then there are the false nails which will give you more feminine fingers and hands but which have a tendency to fly off the moment you reach for the steering wheel or dive in your handbag! A good twenty minutes (and plenty of tape) are required to put one’s marbles back where they came from and its ten minutes delicate asset management every time you visit the loo in order to ensure your manhood remains safely out of sight. Breasts, cleavage, wardrobe, deportment, voice…the list goes on. There’s that much labour involved one would have grounds to hire a personal assistant! Respect with a capital ‘R’ then to those who persevere.

Time and effort-saving shortcuts are an alternative of course and Charles Anders will put more than a smile on your face throughout his nine chapters and 150 or so pages of amusing advice. However, in applying those tips and tricks, I’ll be the first to state every cross-dresser runs the risk of endangering their safety, security and dignity. A recent statement from Trans Gender Europe on social inclusion through sustainable transport showed that 79 percent of trans people in an EU-wide survey reported harassment in public, while 43 percent of trans respondents in a national Belgian survey felt “less well treated” in the street.

That’s why in my view, one's appearance and demeanour is absolutely key to being taken seriously - it's everything if male-to-female cross-dressers and transgenders wish to be accepted, that is, to pass. Why? Because society’s tolerance has yet to reach a level where ‘the lazy cross-dresser’ can feel comfortable greeting one’s neighbour in the street, addressing a supervisor (or a subordinate) at work or when paying the bills at the post office.

Imagine my surprise then when I stepped out of the metro last week in one of Europe’s most diverse cultural melting pots that is Brussels and am struck by a campaign poster in which two of the happiest-looking cross-dressers smile down at me! For all intents and purposes it appears the pair have just swapped clothes, yet their attire reflects the campaign objective perfectly: respect for diversity.

For this campaign, the Belgian trade union behind it, ACV/CSC Public Services, cannot be praised highly enough. However one chooses to express oneself, they have a right to be accepted accordingly and more posters like this would be far from amiss. They would help make Charles Anders’ ideal a reality and save the likes of me and thousands others risking life and limb when their beard stubble starts to show or their stilletos get stuck in the cracks in the pavement.

My only criticism? A one week campaign simply isn’t enough – especially with 2013 being the European Year of Citizens. Regrettably, by the time you read this, it will (almost) already be over…