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Gender Bending Changed Me

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Halloween offered me an opportunity to do something I’d never done before, be a man. I’d decided to go to the Halloween parties I was invited to as a cowboy, not a woman dressed as a cowboy, but as a totally convincing man. I pulled it off and it was quite an experience.

I’m five foot ten so my height certainly helped. I took on a persona and an attitude, I had the walk, my voice is already low so I could just lower it a little more and I’d probably pass. I’m not a particularly masculine woman, but I’m not extremely feminine either, I’m right in the middle.

Kattbirthdaycropped

One of my friends and neighbors, Mike McCarty, is a special effects makeup artist. In a half an hour he transformed me into Cowboy Katt! I thought I kind of looked like a cross between David Cassidy from the Partridge Family and young Clint Eastwood – okay maybe in my dreams!. I strapped my breasts down with an ace bandage and wore my friend Bruce’s shirt, vest, holster and six shooter. It’s a big gun and I holstered it right in front of my crotch. The black leather chaps finished the look and I wore the cowboy boots I often wear, whether it’s on my horse or on the dance floor.

Cowboy Katt

My first stop was my very close friend Val’s party. It was surprising to be mistaken by my closest friends and neighbors for a young man. They thought I was a young guy who was dressed like a cowboy for Halloween. One of my close friends thought I was a girlfriend’s 25 year old son! I had a badass attitude and refused to smile. I knew if I smiled I would be more easily recognized and I was having too much fun being anonymous and being a guy. I love eating like a man, I could just shovel food in like I always really want to, but as a woman I tend to tone down in front of people.

I was so in character, I actually started to feel like a particular kind of guy and I found myself looking at people in a very superficial way. I was checking out women based solely on how they looked and I had no interest in guys at all.  I found myself not thinking too deeply about anything. I also noticed I didn’t rush to do anything quickly or have even the slightest urge to please anybody.

Cowboy Katt & Val

Women act differently around men. A woman would walk by me, she’d give a little smile and then look down and almost scoot past. I think women are more relaxed with each other; we don’t divert our gaze that way, although we do scoot to get out of the way even if we aren’t really in anybody’s way. I realize some guys do that too, but not the ‘manly’ ones.

I left the party at about 9 pm to head on over to the Cowboy Palace which could be described as a redneck country bar.  But it’s a very friendly, wonderful redneck bar as redneck places go. I parked a block away and swaggered over. I felt powerful. Nobody was going to bother me.  And – interestingly, it felt perfectly right to be alone, walking a block to a bar.  No little womanly trot across the street, I sauntered.

I walked-in solo, pushing through the swinging saloon doors like a cowboy. Those mean doors always hit me in the ass when I’m wearing a dress. This is a bar full of regulars, so a few heads did turn to check out the new guy, no one recognized me and heads turned back. People I knew very well, looked right at me and took me for a man.  Diane, the waitress, called me Steve. My friend Bruce was on the dance floor and he recognized me imediately as I was wearing his shirt, vest and great big six shooter. His eyes widened, then he nodded with approval. We normally dance together a lot, but he did not come over!

I stood not far from the dance floor, both feet solidly on the ground my thumbs tucked in my holster, and I felt perfectly comfortable, “not knowing” anyone in the place. I was not at all self conscious in the way we women are. As women we don’t feel comfortable standing alone, amidst strangers in a bar, we feel vulnerable, exposed in some way. I felt perfectly fine. I felt like a man. I wasn’t thinking too much, wasn’t second guessing myself. Now you might think that being dressed like a cowgirl might have also had a like effect, but since I am often dressed as a cowgirl in real life, I’d have to say it wasn’t the costume or even the gun giving me this swagger.

I saw a female friend of mine and gave her a sexy wink, she got flustered, quickly diverted her gaze and then looked in the opposite direction – she was with her boyfriend afterall. Or perhaps I’m not as goodlooking a man as I think I am!

I tried it again with another close friend who was also with her boyfriend and it happened again.  But then another firend, Odette, came over, looked me right in the eyes and said, “Katt?” Her voice sounded shocked. I asked her to dance, told her I’m a terrible lead and could she backlead? – She did, and I looked like a guy who could actually make his way around a dance floor, so I danced with a few more girls.  Then, I cruised the bar a little; a couple of young girls had their eye on me and as I went by they posed and showed me their stuff, pushing their breasts up and looking alluring.  Wow. Is that what we do?  Yes, it is, we give the guy a signal, so he can make the move. As I got back to my stool, I thought, I’m gonna have to make that round again!

I stayed in character the whole night sitting like a man, talking like a man, drinking whiskey. Many girls came over to sit on my knee to have their pictures taken. Guys bumped into me and stepped on my foot without apology. A bouncer shoved me and told me to get out of his way and he wasn’t even heading off trouble or bouncing anybody.

Then Bruce came over. He just couldn’t help himself. We dance very well together and he said, “May I have this dance?”  How could I refuse?

Jaws dropped as we glided and sailed across the dance floor two stepping to Hank William’s Jr’s, “It’s  a Family Tradition”. There were looks of confusion, looks of shock, some disappointment from the young girls who seemed interested in me. Bruce was even ‘dipping’ me at the end of the dance.  Unbelievably, most people HAD NOT figured out I was a woman. At one point, I had the thought, ‘I hope nobody beats us up in the parking lot later’, and I made Bruce go dance with some girls. He’s too good a dancer for a cowboy and I wasn’t helping his reputation any. I went off to dance with pretty Pam dressed as Frankenhooker and Lori the dominatrix.

Cowboy Katt & Bruce

Later in the night, many in the bar had heard that the young cowboy was actually a woman — And men became absolutley facsinated. Straight men were staring at me as if mesmerized. A big handsome guy that I know to be a cinematographer said, “I photograph people for a living and you’re good.” He stared some more, then added, “I really want to kiss you. I’ve never wanted to kiss anybody with a beard before.” Then he did. And it wasn’t just a peck, I had to push him off.  (Later, he had the nerve to pull my gun out of the holster; like a true man, I have no sense of humor about that. He is no friend and I will never forgive him.) My pal Gabriel (dressed as a slave) asked for a picture kissing me and he really locked lips too. I guess we all like what a little taboo.

Gabriel kissing Katt

Bruce and I walked out together.  We had now been accepted and whether I was a woman or a man and even in this cowboy bar, it didn’t seem to matter much.

Today as I write this, I went to hang up the shirt Bruce loaned me, there are red lips imprinted on the sleeve. Kisses I never knew landed.

What I want to take away with me is that sense of security, confidence in being totally alone, unrecognized, and yet feeling all right — Nothing wrong, it felt good, it felt right, it felt powerful. Now can I do that without a six shooter strapped in front of my crotch?  You bet!

11-2-13 It’s a week later and I realized how much being who I now think of as “Matt” changed me. I attended an event in Beverly Hills as a voting member of the Academy.  It took place at the Annenberg Theater and at 10:00 AM, cocktail dresses and suits abounded. I showed up in my slightly dented Saturn which was not only dirty, but full of flies. I’d parked next to a trash bin with my windows open and at least 50 flies took up residence inside my car. I tried to get them out by opening all of my windows on the freeway, but many were still there by the time I pulled into the self-parking area. A young lady in a black cocktail dress and stockings, holding a walkie-talkie informed me that the lot was full, I would have to give my car to the valet (complimentary, of course). I felt horrified and somewhat embarrassed, but only for a split second, then  I asked Matt how he felt and he swung the car around, pulled up right in front of that beautiful new building and gave the valet a wink as he handed him the keys to a car full flies. I guess Matt’s inside me now and he doesn’t care what anybody thinks of his badass self. 😉

What does this experience have to do with being a woman in the entertainment business? I think that sometimes we still see ourselves as outsiders. Strange, but true. I’m the last person to say we NEED our inner Matt to suceed. As a woman we are enough, but perhaps it’s helpful to tap into him, embrace him, sometimes and know that we BELONG and should feel comfortable anywhere we choose to be.

Katt Shea

About Katt Shea

Writer/Director/acting coach - credits include: "Poison Ivy" and "The Rage, Carrie 2"