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Tootsie, Directed by Sydney Pollack

Columbia Pictures, December 17, 1982 (US)

Screenplay: Larry Gelbart and Murray Schisgal

Starring: Dustin Hoffman, Jessica Lange, Teri Garr, Dabney Coleman, and Charles Durning

I’ve always been considered effeminate. I don’t mean in a like-to-play-with-Barbie kind of way. Nope. I’m gentle, without enough man. Tackling other boys on grassy fields to grab ahold of pumped up pigskin has never been an interest. I tickled the ivory instead. Read books. And took fastidious care of my hair.

Snide remarks were muttered behind my back over the years for certain. The insults spoken to my face never bothered me much, thanks to a levelheaded sense of self. Non-conformist from an early age, I never desired to play a part, at least not until a fond appreciation for theatre, wouldn’t you figure, kicked in during college.

Michael Dorsey (Dustin Hoffman): I was a stand-up tomato: a juicy, sexy, beefsteak tomato. Nobody does vegetables like me. I did an evening of vegetables off-Broadway. I did the best tomato, the best cucumber. . . . I did an endive salad that knocked the critics on their ass.

Pink is for girls. Blue is for boys. Yellow is for anyone in-between. My favorite color is green. The preference makes sense, if the color wheel correlates with a notion of frivolous classification.

I’ve never been called a jock. Most often, I have no clue about which teams made the playoffs, cups, or bowls. Nor can I command the cups and bowls in a kitchen to prepare a decent meal. I do, however, sew a mean button.

Beer tastes great, especially on a hot summer afternoon. I also drink wine. Red wine—even when eating fish. A bold Cabernet, Pinot, Shiraz, Malbec or Bordeau compliments every occasion. White wines are for women.

Relax. Everyone purports a stereotype now and again.

The perfect cocktail isn’t sweet or fruity, so I’ll order a Chopin gimlet at the bar. Neat. Always neat (and tidy, of course), unless I’m drinking a dirty martini. Pride won’t get in the way of enjoying a mint julep or a sidecar rimmed with sugar. To hell with convention!

Once, for Halloween, I dressed like a woman. Wouldn’t it be apt if this were the point where I declared feeling liberated by a skirt? That for the first time I felt comfortable in my own skin? At ease in my mother’s waitress uniform, more like it, but I can’t. The end of October in the Midwest can get chilly, and I wore a pair of checkered polyester pants under the dress to keep my legs warm. Topping off the costume, a coarse wig sat askew on my head, hiding well-conditioned hair underneath. Despite a concerted effort to appear glam, I looked like a layered, trashy mess. I was prettier as a dude.

Dorothy Michaels (Dustin Hoffman): Yes, I think I know what y’all really want. You want some gross caricature of a woman to prove some idiotic point like … like power makes a woman masculine, or masculine women are ugly. Well shame on the woman who lets you do that or any woman that lets you do that. And that means you, dear.

Hearing me speak, you’d notice that my voice isn’t deep. I wish I sounded more like Morgan Freeman … and looked a whole lot more like Brad Pitt. I do not desire smooth, silky legs, although I’m not hairy by any standard. This brute is too delicate for traces of barbarism.

I keep fit and have strong, broad—meaning wide, honey—shoulders. My torso tapers down to a trim waist. Others have remarked how my frame rocks a suit. I wouldn’t be caught dead in high heels because at a height of almost 6’2”, pumps crossover into excess and ruin the lines of a Hugo Boss.

Designer goods accentuate my wardrobe. Save the generic labels for someone else. Placing importance on material things may come across as superficial, except fashion matters. Ask anyone who’s seen Sex and the City, a show that I freely admit to having watched. On the subject, since I know you’re wondering, forced to choose, I’d have to say I’m most like Charlotte: a girlie girl.

Raging Bull is one of my favorite films.

Categorizing me gets complicated, particularly when gender roles keep evolving. New words like metrosexual and manscape enter the lexicon, as men take razors to their bodies at the same time I kick the Bic in an attempt to grow sideburns—six months of trying that resulted in a faint fuzz on the side of my face with more gaps than those between the generations trying to hash out what makes who what.

The debate over masculine vs. feminine rages on, as though the two are intrinsically locked at odds. For me, the distinction blurred long before the day I ripped through my mother’s closet. A generous perspective on perceived differences between the sexes may one day acquaint you with a better understanding of my nature. Better yet, you may learn something about yourself.

Michael: Look, you don’t know me from Adam, but I was a better man with you as a woman than I ever was with a woman as a man. You know what I mean? I just gotta learn to do it without the dress.