Gender Diaries: Mack Dihle
As the world continues to push against gender constructs, the conversation around how people are identifying themselves is constantly evolving. Each week, MILK.XYZ will feature a guest editor writing about their specific relationship with gender and where it intersects with fashion. This week, we feature model Mack Dihle.
“Stand up for yourself, but not against others.”
My loving and talented girlfriend quoted that the other night in response to me writing this gender diary.
I take low-dose testosterone. There, I said it. That felt weird and scary! I’m a masculine of center lesbian, gender non-conformer. What you don’t know, is that I wrote two other FINAL drafts and never said the actual word “testosterone.” It’s true. I’m so utterly afraid of what impact that has on everyone in my inner circle, my enormous spectrum of LGBTQAII fans, family…you name it. There’s only one person in the end whose approval matters, and that’s the person going through it.
The word “testosterone.” I still have a hard time calling it that. For a little over 7 months now I’ve began to slowly and methodically measure and monitor T-levels with my doctors; transforming into the amazon I’ve always felt like deep down within.
This transformation has come after almost four years of intense personal research, questioning expert doctors for the knit and grit, and having long meaningful conversations with trusted diverse friends with similar journeys yet different goals. I know there are unpredictable outcomes and risks involved with anything and felt informed enough to finally take that leap of faith and calculated risk for myself and only myself.
My shirts and suits finally fall perfectly in place and are filled out just right when I walk on the runways during New York Fashion Week. When needed, my voice is gentle and higher around women who are caught off guard when I enter a bathroom. When on the job, my voice is low and direct with conviction and gusto while in my police uniform. Musically speaking, my voice has dropped one whole step lower with tenor under tones. With the luck of genetics, monthly blood tests and monitoring with doctors: I’ve managed to stave off unwanted facial hair and deal with minimal acne.
I think back to what led me to finally make the decision to temporarily take low dose testosterone as a MOC 35yr old lesbian.
I think back to 1992, I’m 9 and wiggling my way through the hamburger shaped playground tunnel toy at the McDonalds in New Baltimore, Michigan.
My gal pals and I had just won our soccer game and so we celebrated every win at this particular McDonalds. I remember being much taller, lanky and never caring what my hair looked like. My friends wore pink, flirted with boys, and hair in perfect double French braids. At one point they got ahead of me inside the play tunnel. In this tunnel maze, I accidentally turned into a blind corner hat dead ended into two boys sitting there in their green camouflage pants and shirt. They stared at me in an awkward long silence. Then stared again but more intensely this time at my long knotted curly hair and dirty knees covered in grass stains.
The one boy bluntly said “Are you a boy or a GIRRRRRRRRRELLLL?!” It felt like I had blinked a hundred times in wondering why he would ask such a crazy question when I’m clearly a girl….RIGHT?! I look like a girl, RIGHT??? I….look…like….a…WAIT. My head turns and I spot my gal pals in their French braids with pink ribbons and giggling in a way that only girls do. How come I didn’t giggle like that? I HATE PINK. Why do I hate pink? Why can’t I wear camo prints like those boys? Man I’d look good in camo. Why is my mom always saying we’ll go to the Army Surplus store on Selfridge Air Base, “some time.” My mom convinced me for a few years that “sometime” was a special holiday on the calendar and I’d have to wait until it came around. To this day I search for a calendar with an official “Camouflage Day.”
I’ve been extremely frustrated over the years from having mild scoliosis, osteoarthritis in my lower spine, a formerly torn rotator cuff and an inability to gain weight easily on a tall lanky, thin-boned, lactose intolerant, ectomorph-frame. I LOVE weightlifting. Since I can remember, I’ve wanted to be like a heavyweight bodybuilder: massive tear-drop shaped muscles on the outside of their quads, and rounded delts for days. My ideal superhero body is that of a Belgian horse who plays rugby.
Low-dose “T” has finally given me the strength and confidence to see results and become the Amazon I’ve so longingly admired in many of my Mesomorph (naturally muscular build) friends. I feel at peace now. That running script in my mind that I was weak, ugly or inferior has vanished.
Nothing makes me happier these days, then feeling like that inner amazon I’ve always dreamt of. My body finally fills out a queer tailormade 2-piece suit, that then gets paired with gender-neutral leather boots, short faded haircut and gig-line perfectly lined up with my tie or bow tie.
This is me; trying to be brave and hold space for all of us on the gender spectrum who are going through a journey of any kind that’s scary. I see you, I hear you and I acknowledge how important your unique existence is in this world.
Images courtesy of Nadia Oussenko
Stay tuned to Milk for more Gender Diaries and see our previous installments here.