As a man in America, it’s difficult to establish who you really are within a culture that is so dominantly bi-polar. Men are supposed to like certain activities; women are supposed to like others. For example, men are to like football, and beer, and telling dirty jokes. I don’t like any of those things. Men aren’t supposed to enjoy delicate beauty — flowers, clouds, design, architecture. Of course, there are exceptions, but you know what I mean.

My interests are often what would be considered feminine, but not expressed in a “feminine” way. I’m a graphic designer and photographer; I enjoy beauty. I don’t enjoy hunting and fishing — I don’t like killing other creatures.

Recently, I have been enjoying the craft of painting rocks. I apply pastels, glitter, then, when done, place them along the way when I walk my dog. I’m hoping that those that find these rocks will enjoy the beauty I’ve created. I would not be surprised if those that find them think that a woman painted them, nor would I be surprised if those that find them and enjoy their beauty are female.

My photography is of beautiful things. When I share them on Facebook or Instagram, it is women who predominantly “like” them.

When I was younger, when I was physically fit, I spent a good deal of time dressing well. In public, my clothes were appropriately male, but well appointed. I was too sublimated to venture into wearing anything feminine — in public. If, in private, I ventured across the great divide, I thought myself to be deviant, and I was totally in denial about what that meant about who I really was.

But now, much older, living alone, I am starting to come out — not as a gay man, but as a man who has a strong “feminine” aspect. I no longer see the world as made up of pure men and pure women. There is a range of identities between pure male and pure female — if there are such things.

In our culture, it is ok for women to wear traditionally male clothing — jeans, flannel shirts, work boots. But for a man to wear traditionally female clothing — skirts, dresses, stockings, silky underwear — it is verboten. That is why someone like me who is somewhere between male and female must wear such clothing in private. I do so, not to LOOK like a woman; I don’t wear wigs or other such items in an attempt to “pass” as a woman. Instead, when I wear a skirt in private, for example, as I’m working at my computer, I just feel more like me. When I wear a nightie to bed, it just feels “right.” Such behavior was once thought deviant, and I, too, felt guilt in doing so. Now I, along with much of the culture at large, accepts this desire.

Clothing defines us in so many ways. If we were all naked all the time, then there would be no need to have clothing be compatible with who we are. But we are not naked most of the time. We must wear clothing — at least in public. And often in private. Sure, at its most basic level, clothing protects us from the elements, but if it were only that, then we would all wear sack cloths. But instead, we wear clothes that make us feel comfortable, clothing that is compatible with who we are. I, for one, can’t do that in public. When I’m out and about, I don the requisite male attire — khaki shorts or blue jeans, button-down shirts, male shoes. But that is not me. Belts? What a silly accessory! I prefer a silky skirt, with a delicate blouse — not to look like a woman, but to look like me. So, in private, I can be me — I can be naked (the core me), but if I cover my naked body with clothing, I prefer to wear what is compatible with who I truly am.

Fortunately, we are a “two-layer” culture when it comes to clothing. Undergarments aren’t seen in public. So I can wear a frilly pantie, tights, a camisole — and no one will know. To have such undergarments next to me allows me a measure of being who I am in public. Of course, there is the fear, especially at an advanced age (I am 70), that I might have a stroke or a heart attack and be taken unconscious to the emergency room. There, they will find what I have next to my body. Will they care? Probably not; I’m sure they have seen it before. But it still is an anxiety that I live with, especially in a small town where I am known by many of the nurses and doctors at the local hospital.

Will there come a day in our American culture where we will be allowed to wear clothing in public that expresses who we are? That freedom is already afforded for women. Not yet for men, alas.