I have no idea why we are who we are.
No one does. We’re all the same but we’re all so different. Not because we are trans, but because we are, you know, HUMAN. Anyway, I think many people are quick to over-analyze who we are or attribute trauma or familial history as to why we wear what we wear or identify how we do. “Oh, you like to be a girl? It’s because you had a bad relationship with your parents”, and the like. Please. I do not believe that we are who we are because it is a conscious decision or something born from something that happened in our childhood. It’s simply the way we are, or as Lady Gaga put it, we are born this way.
From time to time I wonder if I am transgender because I like to wear lipstick, stilettos, pencil skirts, and panties. I also wonder if I wear lingerie, eyeliner, dresses, and heels because I am transgender. Which came first? I don’t know. But I do think about clothes a lot. I love love love wearing “girl clothes”, even in boy mode. Working from home in a pair of leggings and a femme t-shirt? Amazing. Sleeping in a nightgown? Bliss. It’s times like this that I think that maybe, just maybe that this IS all about clothes. But then there’s also the side of me that loves being en femme. I love makeup, the hair, the skirts, everything. I love seeing HER in the mirror. She is me and I am she and that is that.
Yes, clothes make the girl, at least this girl. Wearing a cute dress in boy mode is not the same as wearing the same dress en femme not only visually but also just, well, you know what I mean.
As pointless as it is to wonder why we are who we are, I still find myself thinking about it, especially when I am drawn to a new outfit. I bounce the whys of who I am back and forth for a bit and then come to the same conclusion that I have come to for years… that there is no answer.
At least I didn’t think there was until the other day! I realized it IS all about clothes.
Sort of. Kind of. I mean, yes, but no. It’s kinda sorta both.
Walk around the baby section of any department store. You’ll see onesies with phrases on them like “precious little lady” and “cute little man”. You see pink diaper bags and blue baby blankets. From the moment we are born (and even before), the arbitrary concept and social construct of gender is assigned to us. We don’t have a choice what color socks we wear but whether they are pink or they are blue will have a huge impact on how we are seen and treated. Soon we are being told that boys don’t cry and girls are pretty. The song “What a Good Boy” by the Barenaked Ladies address this in a brilliant and sad way:
When I was born
They looked at me and said
What a good boy
What a smart boy
What a strong boy
And when you were born
They looked at you and said
What a good girl
What a smart girl
What a pretty girl
We’ve got these chains
Hanging ’round our necks
People want to strangle us with them
Before we take our first breath
As we are raised, we are given toys and books and clothes that match the societal perception of what we should wear and read and play with based on our genitals (which is REALLY messed up when you think about it). We are being taught that THIS is for boys and THAT is for girls. But if you don’t want to play with trucks or wear pants but you want to play with dolls and wear dresses then we may start to wonder that maybe, just maybe, we are not boys after all if that is what boys are “supposed” to like, wear, and play with. And of course, if we’re not boys, then who are we?
All of a sudden, our perception of gender and identity are thrown into question. We begin the lifelong (ugh) journey of wondering who we are. If we look at gender as binary and we don’t want to do the things boys are supposed to do, then are we girls? I never felt like I was a girl, I just wanted to look like a girl and dress like a girl sometimes. As our perception of gender evolves and we realize that there are more than two genders we find that we can identify differently than BOY or GIRL. This can be comforting and this can be overwhelming, but at least there are options.
We are taught PINK is for girls. We are taught MAKEUP and NAIL POLISH are for girls. And yes, we are taught that (deep breath) panties, bras, lingerie, nightgowns, stockings, dresses, gowns, skirts, blouses, bodysuits, stilettos, high heels, mary janes, ballet slides, wedges, heeled boots, jewelry, leggings, lace, mesh, blouses and a zillion other things are for girls. Therefore, these things are synonymous with girls. Or put another way, synonymous with not being a boy.
If boys are not supposed to wear panties, then I don’t want to be a boy. That’s not to say that I want to be a girl, I just want to be me. Panties, dresses, makeup represent my gender identity. When I see a cute skirt I am reminded (not that I need to be reminded) of who I am, or at least who half of me is. Pretty clothes, cute heels symbolize one of my genders. A side of me that makes me happy. I like who I am. I like my gender identities. I like being reminded of who I am and femme clothes do that. Clothes are a connection to what we love, what we want.
I will never know why I like what I like to wear. I mean, nightgowns and leggings are comfy so there is that. But let’s face it, a gaff can be uncomfortable sometimes, strutting in 4 inch stilettos will likely get painful after a couple hours. I don’t wear heels because they are comfortable. I mean, the heels I wear (well most of them) are worn because they fit well and don’t kill my calves right away, but I wear heels (and everything else) because of how it makes me feel. I feel powerful, beautiful, strong, brave, pretty, happy, calm and, well, feminine. I like feeling these things.
I don’t know why a dress makes me feel that way. Probably because wearing a dress (and being en femme) in public represents that I am accepted and embraced my gender identity. I am who I am and I am confident in my identity. Being outside en femme means I have gotten past the doubts and fears that held me back. It represents I no longer think about passing or blending in. I have conquered so many things that held me back.
A dress can be a souvenir. There’s a dress in my closet that I purchased to celebrate the first time I went to the Mall of America. When I see that dress I am reminded of what I overcame that day. I have a matching bra and panty set that I bought when I had a bra fitting. I think about that night every time I wear it. I remember the time my mom met Hannah and the pink heels I was wearing that day. Clothes and memories and experiences forever entwined. Clothes and identity are forever linked. It is about clothes. It is about makeup. It is about heels. And hair, and necklaces, and nail polish and so many things.
Until a piece of clothing represents something, be it gender identity or a memory, it is just fabric. But when we give that fabric the power of symbolism, the power of identity, then it becomes sacred. Things without meaning, without association are unimportant and are just things. A wedding ring is just jewelry if it doesn’t represent love and commitment. My male friends do look at a dress the same way I do. To them, it’s just fabric. To me, it is everything because of what it represents, what it reminds me, what it means to me.