All throughout my life I have been unintentionally and subtly reminded how different I was. Not different in a bad way, just different. I remember being in high school and the guys in my class would talk about seeing a girl’s cleavage because of a dress she wore to the homecoming dance. I just wanted to hear more about the dress. Strapless? Was there a slit up the side? What fabric was it made of? How did her makeup look? How did she wear her hair? TELL ME ABOUT THE HEELS.
But instances like this started before I was a teenager, even before grade school. I knew I was unique because not every boy wanted to dress up as the princess in kindergarten. I did not want to be the construction worker or the doctor. No hardhat or stethoscope for me, I wanted the pink gown and fairy wings.
I still do.
I was six and I was transgender.
I define being transgender as any deviation from the traditional gender and societal norms for the gender we are assigned to at birth. Yes, this is a broad perspective but I like that it can cover quite almost all of us. Whether you are a drag queen, a part-time t-girl like myself or you just enjoy panties or painting your nails, we are all under this inclusive umbrella.
Under this definition, I have always been trans. Even before I knew how to spell it, I was transgender. And I will still be transgender in ten years from now. This isn’t something we outgrow. If you’ve been reading my ramblings for a while you know that the hill I will die on is that this is not a phase.
As I made my way through junior high and high school, I would try on anything I could. It wasn’t long until I gravitated towards lingerie. After all, what is more feminine than a beautiful bra and matching panty? What is sexier than pairing it with a garter belt and stockings? Is there any secret more fun than wearing cute panties under your regular clothes? I loved underdressing. I still do. Your perspective may vary, but I think of panties as a way of connecting to my femme self when I am presenting as male.
I added heels and dresses once I had my own apartment. I slept in a nightie. My tiny wardrobe would grow and then get purged and then grow again. These days my shoe collection, makeup shelf and wardrobe is larger than I had ever dared to dream.
I am beyond fortunate.
I don’t think anyone will know why they are trans. I mean, there are signs and moments in one’s life that can pinpoint when they knew they were not cisgender. There may have been feelings that they were born with the wrong body but trying to come up with why one felt this way is hard to do. I don’t know why I wanted (and still want to) be a cheerleader instead of a football player, but there it is.
Growing up boys my age were constantly labeling things as ‘boy things’ or ‘girl things’. Whether it was jumping rope or what side of the table you sat on for lunch, there were things boys did and things boys did not do. Of course, this hasn’t changed much now that I am an adult. Men don’t typically exfoliate because I guess men don’t do that? Really? Don’t men have…skin? Black coffee is for men, pumpkin spice lattes are for the ladies.
However nothing is more divisive in terms of gender norms than clothes. Men do not wear leggings. Men do not wear camisoles. Men do not wear things like this:
Of course, these outfits may be on the more extreme side of the feminine societal norms. I don’t think that a dude rocking an evening gown is the same thing as a dude taking care of his pores. There are many cis-women who do not want to wear heels and dresses. You don’t have to want to wear a dress, but you should know you can if you want to.
I believe that I will never know why I am who I am. It doesn’t keep me up at night though. I love who I am, I have long ago embraced and accepted myself. You should do that for yourself, too. I don’t ask myself why I am who I am.
What I do ask myself is do I wear what I wear because I am transgender or am I transgender because I wear what I wear?
Going by my definition of what being transgender is, I would still be trans if the only thing I owned was the nightie I wear to bed. Accepting myself as transgender has given me the confidence, and in a way, permission to wear whatever I want. There are some of us who want nothing more than to wear that red dress we saw at the mall. But we just can’t do it. Buying that dress means that we are entering a new world. We would cross that line from “I wonder what it’s like to wear a dress” to “I own a dress”. Sure, it might be hanging up waaaaay in the back between your old football jersey and suit, but you are one step closer to knowing what it’s like to wear one.
If we look at clothes on a spectrum for what is traditionally for boys and what is traditionally for girls, dresses, lingerie, mascara are among the things that will be very much on one side. Tuxedos, beards, and, I don’t know, jock straps are on the opposite end. These are all items that are typically highly genderized. Spellcheck is telling me that ‘genderized’ isn’t a word, but you know what I mean.
There are clothes in my closet that I think are, and should be, right in the middle. Things that I believe I would wear even if I weren’t transgender. I do not think clothes should be for boys or for girls. I roll my eyes when I go shopping and I see the section for “Women’s Dresses”. I mean, they’re just dresses.
When I go to bed, I think about how good it feels to wear my black nightgown. After a day in a suit or jeans, wearing a simple nightie feels like the ultimate freedom. Physically and in a way, emotionally. Gone are the trappings of “male clothes” and power suits and neckties and wingtip shoes. Gone is the socially accepted uniform that men are supposed to wear. All is left is a simple, but beyond beautiful nightie.
You probably know what I mean.
I have clothes that I wear regardless of what gender I present as. I have “boy jeans” and “girl jeans”. I wear both in male mode. The boy jeans have pockets and the girl jeans are softer. I have “boy shirts” and “girl shirts”. The differences are minimal. One has a v-neck, the other a scoop.
When I am home, I slip on leggings. I love leggings. LOVE them. Everyone should wear them. I accept that most men will never know what its like to wear an evening gown, but I believe things like leggings and nightgowns are things men would wear if they tried them on.
But they won’t. No matter how much they want to. They are “for girls”. They are in the same category as moisturizer, Taylor Swift songs and pedicures. Sure, a boy COULD enjoy these things, but they are FOR GIRLS.
Accepting myself as transgender and believing that there are no such thing as girl things and boy things has given me the confidence and security to wear whatever I want, whether it is eyeliner, a nightie or a little black dress.
So, do I wear what I wear because I am transgender or am I transgender because I wear what I wear?
12 thoughts on “Crossing the Line”
Thank you for a well written and articulated explanation that, like Popeye said “I am what I am”. It is nice to look at the age old conundrum of what came first the chicken or the egg.
I get your point about a store sign noting “Woman’s Dresses”. I think, however, that the term “Woman’s” is to denote larger sizes and to contrast that section of the store from “Misses Dresses”.
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“They’re not women’s clothes. They’re my clothes. I bought them.” – Eddie Izzard
I so totally agree about leggings, I love them! I’m especially fond of the plush sleep leggings from Garage when I’m just relaxing at night, they’re so comfy with just the right amount of warmth. We all love to dress up to the nines from time to time, but when I’m sitting around the house, leggings are a prime choice.
I’m also an underdresser. I think it keeps me connected to my inner self as the day passes by and, to be honest, I prefer the material and comfort there as well. I just find that a lot of men’s clothing is, well, coarse and I really appreciate fine material. The feel of the cloth is the first thing I check when I look at clothing, even before the price and, for the most part, women’s wear beats men’s every time.
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Do I understand your excellent post Hannah because I am transgender, or does understanding it make me transgender?
While it is safe to say we are all different, there is something universal about being transgender such that so much of your story resonates with us.
But unfortunately I think only those who are so blessed or cursed understand. Fortunately there are allies who can at least accept that which they don’t fully get.
Really good post Hannah. Thank you so much for sharing.
Loved the pictures. You really do have great shoes 👠.
Love the post. Love the peach and white outfit. Amazing.
I underdress daily, and dress completely for a weekend or two a month. (Wife is very supportive, but I suspect work would not be. Religious MIL not at all. 🙂 ) More matronly than attractive, but as was said above, I yam what I yam. Weekends are enough for me, at least for now. I’m old, so I know that things always change.
The feeling of slinky nylon nighties is amazing, as you are aware. I also found that flannel nighties with delicate trim and embroidery makes me feel pretty. And then I found a secret that lots of women already know. If you stand over the hot air register in a long flannel nightie, you will be warmed up and made to feel all comfy in just a few moments.
I do have a little bit of an issue with the designation of trans. While I love the inclusiveness of it, I have gotten in trouble with people who are changing gender with hrt and surgery. They have told me in no uncertain terms that I am not trans, and calling myself trans is a slap in the face to people who are truly trans-gendered. I don’t think it is, but to respect their feelings, I stopped calling myself trans and stick with crossdresser or xdresser.
I know, their problem is not necessarily my problem. But if I can keep them from thinking that I denigrate their struggle, I will. But I think that’s my choice, and I would not want anyone to think I am telling them what to do.
(currently sporting pink nylon panties with lace trim, a lace scoop net camisole, and dark nylon thigh highs. All under a gray pinstripe suite, pink checked shirt, J. Garcia necktie, black dress socks, and black wingtips. And feeling happy about how the cami hugs me. I’m always aware of the hug.)
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Adeline, I suspect that those “trans” individuals that said you weren’t one would also defend themselves to those that say you can’t change your gender by telling them that it is what they know and feel in their mind. It is the same for you – you feel it and know it in your mind. You are trans. There is nothing that says you must go through xxx surgery, or even use xxx meds.
Hannah, This is a wonderful post that does an amazing job of explaining what it means to you to be transgender. What you write about feeling different from the other boys from an early age and having an interest in what the girls were wearing very much reflects my own experience.
I never told anyone that I wanted to wear those “girl” clothes (or that I secretly wore my mom’s and sister’s at home) and thought that I would “get over it” once I got married. Of course that didn’t happen. I am now in my 60’s and wish that I had the freedom to express my femininity like you do, but it would cost me my marriage.
The compromise we have is that I occasionally dress on my own (DADT), but I am a daily under dresser. It is very important to me, symbolic, to wear feminine clothing next to my skin throughout the day. I know who I am. I don’t concern myself with “not being trans enough” because I know that often (like for me) the extent to which we outwardly express gender has a more to do with life circumstance than how male or female we feel in our brain.
You are such a great spokesperson for people like us. I appreciate the time you take for this blog. It empowers me! I’ll bet the HuffPost would publish this “Crossing The Line” piece if you submitted it to them—you deserve a wider readership. Sometimes I think you are “preaching to the choir” as you share your thoughts with your mostly trans readers. Thank you, Nancy
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Well said, Hannah. About that last question – my own opinion is that we are who our minds tells us we are, and to be emotionally healthy we dress as our minds tell us is comforting. Of course, I have always felt that the egg clearly came first. Just another way I am “different”, and I have been aware of it since kindergarten.
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I wear skirts, dresses, heels and lacy lingerie for the same reason women enjoy them. They make me feel pretty, elegant, graceful, delicate and feminine. I would argue that these feelings are not exclusive to women, but are an important part of the human experience. They are part of what makes us symbolic creatures. I am certain the world would be a calmer, gentler place if all men felt free to indulge in the feminine sartorial aesthetic.
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