How clothing revealed my gender

I started estrogen yesterday! Besides feeling a little fuzzy, no changes yet but I’m really enjoying the symbology of my rebirth being on the first day of Spring.

As I’m beginning a kind of transition that people seem to be taking more seriously, I am thinking about some of the ways that “I knew” I was transfeminine. And one of the biggest ones as an adult was clothing.

I have never been that comfortable in masculine clothing. I mean I’m perfectly fine wearing jeans and a t-shirt for doing dirty work or walking the dogs. But the more formal I had to dress, the more uncomfortable and out of place I felt. It felt like I was putting on clothing that didn’t belong to me and didn’t fit my body.

For years I experimented with options to see what felt comfortable. As a kid I didn’t really think about it too much because when I was allowed to choose, I wore the jeans and t-shirt uniform. Or something practical like cargo pants when I went hiking so I could store my camera lenses. I never felt like anything looked good on me so I went for utility instead. And it was hard to disentangle my discomfort with more formal clothing from the discomfort around the situations I had to wear them in such as fundamentalist churches and cult conferences. Although I did know that wearing ties made me feel like I was being strangled, and not just in the physical sense.

Once I started having office jobs where I had to wear collared shirts, I bounced around between styles for awhile trying to find something that worked. I eventually found I felt best wearing purple so I settled on a lot of that for awhile during my “preppy” phase. But it still didn’t feel natural. I also got really bored with how few options there were for masculine clothing without accessories so I found myself collecting more and more different outfits and shades of drab pants in order to mix things up as much as socially acceptable. Everyone already thought I was gay so I was afraid of getting too adventurous about bright colors at that point.

As I got farther away from fundamentalism and more involved in LGBTQ rights as what I called a “gender nonconforming ally” at that point, I lost some of that fear of being perceived as gay. I was in a straight monogamous marriage with a woman at that point so I guess I felt that people would stop questioning me. Though as I adopted more inclusive language like calling my spouse with her gender neutral name “partner,” it didn’t do much to allay the rumors at work.

I did eventually start wearing more and more bold colors. I got brightly colored pants and fun patterned shirts that ended up being read as pretty gay. And that was the closest I came to feeling comfortable in masculine clothing. I also enjoyed the increased compliments on my appearance I got as people started reading me as more gay. Part of that was definitely the quality of the outfits I was putting together but some of it was probably due to working in women dominated fields and dressing in ways that made it more socially acceptable to comment on clothing.

Then, as I got more involved in polyamorous community and started dating other queer people, I began to realize that there was more to my identity than I was allowing myself to consider. And as I began to see myself as genderqueer, I experimented with more androgynous outfits at work. The problem is that for someone whose body is read as male to look androgynous, it is hard to dress formal. So much of what we perceive as androgyny is white, thin, AFAB (assigned female at birth) people dressing dapper or masculine of center. So on days I wanted to dress androgynous I had to dress down. And whether it was because of that or because of the change in gender expression, I realized I was getting less compliments at work and it felt like people were less likely to talk to me in general the less I fit the binary.

So I stopped pushing the boundaries as much at work. But once I escaped my marriage with a person who was ostensibly fine with queer people around her but not with any expressions of queerness or transness in her spouse, I started dressing more femme at home. It took me a long time to find things that fit me and looked good on my body (and that I could afford) but I slowly began building a wardrobe of clothing that felt much more gender affirming. And the more I wore dresses and cowl neck sweaters and tight pants, the more comfortable I felt.

In the moments when I was dressing femme it felt like I had shed the exoskeleton that was too tight and constricting my body. It felt freeing not just in an emotional sense but in a very tangible physical release as well. And that’s when I knew I was making the right choice and that I could never go back.

Because of a terrible new boss, I had to switch jobs right around the time that it was getting pretty hard to keep dressing masculine. And based on the advice of some other trans women, I interviewed in clothing that was as masculine as I could stand at that point. Which pretty much meant my gayest outfits. It took 6 months but I finally found a job and on my last day at the old job I wore a dress to say goodbye.

On the first day of my new job I outed myself to my new team as nonbinary and was amazed at how quickly they started using my pronouns. But I kept dressing as masculine as I could tolerate while I settled in. After 7 weeks I finally got the courage to talk to my supervisor about clothing and started dressing in the more androgynous outfits again while I worked on building up a wardrobe of professional femme clothing. There was some initial shock as they realized just how trans I was but it quickly faded into normal for them and now I only get compliments at work.

So the moral of the story is, if you never feel comfortable in the options you are “allowed” to wear, there might be something under that you need to explore. I am in love with femme clothing and I am so glad I have a place where I am affirmed in that expression at home and at work.

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Gender euphoria

The flipside to the gender dysphoria I often talk about is that sometimes when I’m feeling really good about my body and identity I experience the glow of gender euphoria.  Today is one of those days I feel sexy AF! I’m loving the outfit I’m wearing and how it emphasizes my gorgeous legs. My shirt makes it look like I have great breasts and it shows just enough chest to make me feel good. And I’m wearing the shoes that never fail to get compliments. Some days it feels great to be me.

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Range of emotions

It’s amazing the range of emotions about gender that I can have just in the space of 90 minutes. I was almost late for work this morning because the first outfit I tried on was pinging my gender dysphoria and after hemming and hawing for far too long I finally decided to switch outfits. Something about the loose fitting slacks and the way my shoulders seemed to stand out just wasn’t working for me. I felt bad about not being able to wear an outfit that was probably really cute, at least according to my partner.

But I ended up switching to some tight fitting jeans, a floral top, and my black heel boots and now I feel sexy as fuck. On a whim I grabbed my new subtle lipstick as I walked out the door and I was feeling so confident by the time I got to work that I applied it in the men’s room. It felt so wonderfully subversive which for me is what being genderqueer is all about. Now I feel powerful and confident in my gender and appearance. I’m glad I listened to my feelings and took the time to change this morning.

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Am I really Nonbinary?

gender-questioningIn between all the politics, I’ve been spending a lot of mental energy lately thinking about the most difficult question in my life so far. Am I nonbinary because that is who I truly feel like I am or is it a compromise because I don’t feel like I can access womanhood in the way I want?

At times I definitely feel a very strong sense of a gender that is clearly not masculine or feminine but exists as a tangible middle ground. Very genderfull instead of agender. And as I’ve said, there are things I like about being in the middle such as having a beard.

But there are definitely parts of me that at times can feel very strongly that all I want to be is a woman with everything that goes along with that. Since I was a teen I’ve consistently wished I could just snap my fingers and make that happen. But the reality is that I need to make a choice. Do I want that badly enough to accept all the costs, challenges, and risks of medical transition?

What I do know is that I have a lot of fear about the path towards that and still not feeling like it is enough once I’ve gone as far as money/science allows. What I want more than anything is the ability to bear a child. But even assuming they were willing to do uterine transplants on trans women, that still would require a C section and a whole lot of money. I want to have breasts and the kind of chest that I can be proud of in the mirror. And I want a vagina and a clit and the ability to have multiple orgasms. But every time I think about what it would take to get there, I question how badly I want those.

First of all there is the money part. How can I justify spending that much money on myself when there are so many urgent problems that need solving? But I know that is a double standard because when it comes to other people I’m all for helping them get that surgery. Secondly there is weathering the awkward part of transition where I haven’t gotten there yet but it’s too late to turn back. And then of course there is the social risk because I’m pretty sure I could never pass even if I wanted to. And now more than ever that is becoming a dangerous thing.

A few months ago my plan was to start a hormonal transition in the next couple years after having a baby with my anchor partner. That would permanently give me feminine breasts as well as at least temporarily allow me to see how I like my brain on estrogen along with the softer skin and more feminine distribution of body fat (less belly, more hips). But now I feel very unsure about doing that until a certain demigogue is out of office. I still have the ability to hide as pass as male if I need to which would be much harder once I start down that path.

Part of why this is weighing on my mind more is because of politics certainly. The world is a very unsafe place at the moment for a trans person and it feels like a lot of doors are starting to close making me feel more claustrophobic and without the options as accessible to my explorations. And part of that is probably my upcoming wedding. When I imagine myself in a wedding dress I have a hard time imagining that in my current body. That moment more than any is where I wish I was less hairy, had a smaller frame, had hips, and most of all, some cleavage to speak of.

This weekend I’m going with some trusted friends to try on some wedding dresses. I’m trying to brace myself for the dysphoria that is almost certain to arise. I’ll try to report back how it goes and maybe even share some photos.

For now I know I don’t need to have answers to these questions. But I sure am getting tired of shedding tears over them so often.

Unsubscribing from gender

Some days I really wish there was an opt-out button from this whole gender thing. I wish there was something I could wear, some way I could act, or something I could do to avoid the whole concept. Some way I could walk in the world for even just a day without being perceived as either a feminine man or a failed attempt at being a woman. I wish the me that everyone saw reflected what was really inside.

Being transfeminine and hairy is hard. Walking through the world in a skirt and a beard is exhausting. Trying to figure out if and what physical modifications would diminish my dysphoria is overwhelming.

I feel stuck. I’ve come too far to stuff it all back in a box and keep pretending to be a man. And I’ve never felt like I could become a stealth trans woman even if I wanted to. So instead I am trapped in this almost indefinable middle area that is only widely accepted in queer community.

Every night when I pick out the next days outfit there is so much that I have to think about. How will my body feel the next day? How much dysphoria will I face and which body aspect will it be this time? Does my outfit sufficiently cover the “inappropriate” parts of my body? Is this work appropriate? What meetings and VIPs will I encounter tomorrow? Will I have to go out in public beyond my own company? Will I have to walk/bus and if so how dangerous are those neighborhoods? Do I have the coat/shoes/accessories to make this work? All things I couldn’t possibly decide at 6:30 am before coffee.

So when do I get a break? When do things get easier? Will they ever?