I have a question regarding wearing female clothing while presenting in boy mode. I ask because I like to wear something female specific even when presenting in boy mode. Currently I am wearing women’s jeans and just picked up a pair of women’s combat boots that could pass for men’s shoes. I struggle to find footwear that would not be too feminine that I can still wear. What are some options that can be displayed as gender neutral even though the clothing is made for women?
I wear femme clothes in boy mode mostly because they are more comfortable and softer than boy clothes. Femme jeans are soooo much more comfortable than boy jeans. The fit is better, the fabric is softer…. I just wish the pockets were a TINY bit bigger. My femme jeans look very much like boy jeans but there are some subtle difference. The same thing goes with leggings. I have boy leggings and girl leggings and I exercise in both of them, but the femme leggings are so much more comfortable. But like my jeans, if you know what you are looking for you can tell they came from the section of Target that most men don’t shop in.
I think some of us wear femme clothes in boy mode because we are… well, testing the waters so to speak. Will anyone notice? If they do, will anyone say anything? If they say something, will they care? Will they make a fuss about it? If they notice but it’s not a big deal, perhaps we have found someone we can be honest with.
Shoes though… well, there’s not a ton of options. Most femme shoes are super cute but often times practicality is exchanged for the cuteness of them. If I wanted to wear femme shoes in boy mode I would avoid anything with a heel, obviously. This is one of the of those instances where you can see a shoe and your first impression is probably the same impression most people will have. If you look at a shoe and think it’s a little too femme, chances are most people will think the same thing. If you’re fine with that or if that’s look you’re going for (or you don’t care what others think), then go for it.
A long, long time ago (well, 1999 but lately last week feels like a long, long time ago), Brad Pitt appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone. This was not surprising as he was (and remains today) one of the biggest celebrities in the world. What made this significant was that he was wearing a dress. The interview showed Pitt in other dresses and on one hand, yes, it was a celebrity possibly trying to be “shocking” (OMG A BOY IN A DRESS) but he also talked about how comfortable dresses were and that he predicted that men would be wearing skirts in the future.
I’M STILL WAITING, BRAD.
Of course I know now that no one will ever “let” me wear what I want, and even if it becomes, well, not acceptable but perhaps less weird for a boy to wear a dress it won’t be in my lifetime.
But at the time I was thrilled. Perhaps a little naive or insanely optimistic but when I was 24 I thought perhaps it WOULD be acceptable for me to wear a skirt. Not presenting en femme mind you, but me in boy mode wearing a skirt. I had hoped that surely the biggest, manliest actor in the world would help shake off the taboo that people with my anatomy would be allowed to wear a certain piece of fabric. But of course this didn’t happen. But it’s not his fault. Even if he wore a skirt every day for the rest of his life it probably still wouldn’t change the world.
But the world doesn’t need to change (and it won’t) for you or me to be “allowed” to wear a skirt or whatever else we want to wear. It’s never going to be okay.
There’s no question I love love love all things femme when it comes to clothes. I present as either boy or girl as someone who is bi-gender. But even presenting as a boy I am likely wearing something femme even if it’s just underdressing. I sleep in a nightgown, I wear leggings in boy mode, sometimes I have painted toenails. Would I wear a skirt in boy mode? Of course I would.
So, why don’t I? I could and I do at home, but why not running errands? I don’t know. I suppose I wouldn’t want to be seen or recognized. I am more nervous about being seen in boy mode wearing a skirt than being seen en femme. I am less recognizable as Hannah, I think. I also don’t want the attention as a boy. In some ways it’s more common to see a t-girl at the store than seeing a boy in a skirt.
I started to think about all this the other day when the new issue of Vogue came out. On the cover we have one of the biggest celebrities in the world… and he’s wearing a dress. Harry Styles is rocking a pretty amazing gown and it looks so fun to wear. As expected social media blew up and took sides. One side is all about support and recognizing that clothes are just clothes, the other side talks about how men should be manly or whatever.
I don’t want to say I am more cynical than I was in 1999, but I didn’t have the same sense of optimism that I did back then. I mean, YES, part of me was hoping that maybe this time, this cover would slowly start the gears turning to shifting the genderization of fabric and colors but realistically it won’t.
So, what will it take for it to be “okay” for a boy to wear a skirt? Again, it being okay is not realistic, so I’ll stick with less weird. What will it take for it to be less weird for me to go to the store in a boy t-shirt and a skirt? Not some celebrity, I can tell you that. It will take US. Normal, non-celebrities to start this movement. When an actor wears a dress, by and large the public just rolls their eyes and says that Hollywood actors are just trying to get attention or they’re just being shocking or controversial. If boys want to wear skirts, we can look to the fight that cis-women fought for the right to wear pants. No one said it was okay, they fought for it.
I don’t listen to what “they” say when it comes to presenting en femme. But I hold myself back from blurring gender norms in boy mode. And that’s silly. We can’t listen to what they say. I tune out a lot of opinions and perspectives. I don’t listen to people who think the earth is flat or that vaccines don’t work or don’t think girls shouldn’t play video games, why should I listen to someone saying that boys can’t wear a skirt?
Life is about choosing your battles and your crusades. Part of me wants to fight the war of… uh, BOYS CAN WEAR SKIRTS but in many ways I have chosen my fight of representing the bi-gender community. I’ll let others fight for this. Of course, I could just wear a skirt and forget about any world changing movement. But like I mentioned earlier, it’s a little more… exposing than I am comfortable with. I would rather be noticed as Hannah than seen by someone I know wearing a skirt. And honestly? I think about my wife in all of this. There’s no question that this side of me has caused her a lot of stress and worry. In the early days it was the stress of where all of THIS was going. Soon it was the fear of being seen and recognized. It was a fear of being assaulted by someone. I don’t want to put her through anything else. I feel enough guilt about this side of me as it is.
Don’t misunderstand me, she is wonderful and supportive. She understands this side of me as much as it can be understood. She knows how important my gender identity is to me. But the side of me that wants to wear a skirt in boy mode? Despite everything I’ve written about it, it’s really not that important to me. It is not crucial to my identity. Sure, I wish it was “okay” but really, I’m fine. For me, it’s not worth putting her through any potential stress. Honest.
No, Brad Pitt didn’t change the world. Harry Styles won’t. But you might.
The latest article with blogger, trans-activist and fashionista, Hannah McKnight is now available on our Learning Center! Hannah’s blog discusses more in-depth her life as a self-described T-girl. In past articles for our Learning Center, Hannah has discussed her gender identity evolution and journey towards self-acceptance, coming out to friends and family, and coping during the lockdown.
Now, Hannah begins to focus on the physical side of things! When we start to build a wardrobe, how do we determine our body type? In her newest article, Hannah talks about which types of clothing are best-suited to certain body types, so we know which styles will help us to best express ourselves. Read it now>>
I love being dressed and time knows no limits. I have noticed real girls complaining about heels, hose, and bras, and can’t wait to get them off while I enjoy every minute I spend in them and regret when I finally must disrobe. Are these articles of clothing really that miserable? I have listened to women from grade school to adulthood complaining about all these clothing items as well as makeup and long hair and shaving their legs while I sit there and wish I could be in any of their places. I have been wearing hose and panties every day, as well as a bra and breast forms whenever I can and have yet to find them intolerable and instead prefer to be in them. So, Hannah, is it just my clothing fetish or do real girls really not appreciate the pleasures of being female?
There’s…there’s a lot to unpack here.
For starters, all girls are real girls. I’m guessing you are meaning cis-gender girls, though.
I have a family member who has a really cool job and it requires him to travel. And he travels EVERYWHERE. One day in New York, a few days later he’s in Japan. And when he goes to these places he does cool stuff. One day I asked him how amazing it must be to have his life. He said he is grateful to have the life he has, but it’s not as glamorous as it looks. The travel gets tiring after a while, living in hotels, no stability, no real way to plan the rest of his life from one week to the next and of course he misses his family terribly. Listening to him gained a new perspective on something I was originally jealous of. Traveling once in a while is fun, but every week it gets a little tiring. The thrill wears off.
What I am trying to say is that someone’s experience is usually different than how we think it is. Yes, we might wonder why women don’t wear heels and dresses and stockings all the time since they are “allowed to”, but it’s not as simple as that.
T-Girls have a unique, and often personal and intimate relationship with clothes. Stilettos, bras, stockings, corsets, are thrilling for us. Slip on a pair of heels and I am walking on air… for a while. Of course, when I am at home and relaxing I can wear a pair of five inch heels all day and there’s nothing quite like it. But when I am out in the real world, well, it’s not as fun. At a recent photo shoot Shannonlee and I walked miles… on sidewalk, pavement, brick roads, up and down stairs, on gravel… and it didn’t take long for my feet and legs to hurt.
My strutting devolved into smaller steps and by the time I got home I was very happy to slip off my heels… and my bra, my gaff, and my stockings. I was happy to wash my makeup off, my false eyelashes were drooping a little. My earrings were pinching as well. It was getting hot and my wig was sticking to my skin. My foundation was melting a little and my eyeliner and mascara were smudging, despite using a primer and a setting spray. I probably looked a little silly, and I knew it. I felt a little silly.
As much as I loved being en femme, it was a lot more comfortable once I changed. Yes, I wasn’t cute and boy clothes are soooo boring, but nothing pinched anymore.
I dress to the nines because I heart it. I underdress because I love lingerie and it helps me stay connected to my femme side. How I dress is my choice.
But not everyone has that choice. Speaking in very broad terms, society has expectations as to how a girl should look, how a girl should dress. Whether this is a real dress code or not, many people (mostly men if we are being honest) expect women to be in full makeup and wear heels. Of course, that’s easy for someone to say if they have never worn heels or an underwire bra before.
And just as a t-girl can have an emotional relationship with clothes, cis-women can as well… but it’s not necessarily as fun as ours is. Women have been objectified for years and expecting to dress a certain way or to smile for is an example of that. Some women wear nylons or heels because that’s the unofficial dress code, if you will. Or in some cases, it is the official dress code. Most people don’t enjoy being forced to do something or wear something. Everyone should have the choice and the freedom to wear what they want to wear. I mean, isn’t that what a t-girl/crossdresser is all about?
I know we would love to wear what we want, when we want. Guess what! All women want that. If a girl wants to wear pants or a leather skirt or a cape, then they should. But like I said, it’s not always a choice. As hard to believe, women weren’t allowed to wear pants in the Senate until 1998. Sleeveless dresses and blouses and open-toed heels weren’t permitted until 2019. Being forced to wear (or not wear) something takes a lot of joy out of getting dressed. It’s a reminder that you are not allowed to wear what you wish. I’m sure many of us can relate to that.
Anatomy can play a big part in whether or not you’re comfortable as well. Yes, my wife and I both wear bras but my bra supports my breast forms which have hardly any weight at all. Her bra supports her breasts which is not the same thing as supporting forms. Same with heels. She and I can both wear four inch heels but her feet are much tinier than mine. A four inch heel on her creates a much more vertical arch than a four inch heel on me. Of course her feet are going to hurt before mine. Of course she’ll be ready to take them off before I am.
I love smooth legs, but is it a pain to shave them? Of course. Well, maybe pain isn’t the right word, but hair removal is a lot of work. Whether it is taking time to get my brows threaded, having certain parts of me waxed, or shaving other parts of me, it is a time consuming process. And yes, I bitch about it once in a while.
And! Being who I am is expensive. I’ll buy a bra to treat myself, my wife buys one because she needs one. She’ll pick out a cute one, sure, but I don’t really NEED one, despite me thinking I do 🙂
To paraphrase the common saying, the gender is always easier on the other side of the closet. Have you ever had a girl say to you (in male mode) how lucky men are? They don’t have to shave their legs, look a certain way, dress in a certain style, color their gray hair… society has different expectations of someone based on their gender presentation. It looks easier (and in my experience, it is) to present as male.
As for whether this is a fetish or not, only you can answer that.
But I do know that looking a certain way takes a lot of time and a lot of work. I don’t think it diminishes the joys of being a girl or as you said, being female. I think a girl like me dresses for different reasons that some girls. I dress how I want because I can, but some cis-girls feel they must present a certain way. I think most people like looking cute or attractive, and for many people how we dress and our physical appearance can be impact our self-esteem and our confidence. But goodness, how I choose to look takes a lot of time and work.
We can’t forget that although a girl like us may wear the same things as our wives and sisters, we don’t always have the same experiences that they have. I know some cis-girls who would love to wear more dresses but they hate how some men (I know, I know, not all men) will comment or look down (or up) their dress. If I was constantly being leered at or catcalled when wearing a skirt I would want to stop wearing them too. I am sure we have all heard stories of girls getting sent home from high school because the tank top was distracting the boys. Christ. No wonder some girls don’t want to wear certain clothes.
Walking a mile in heels is not the same thing as walking a mile in every women’s shoes, if you follow me.
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.
I really liked your coming out day post. You mentioned running in femme leggings. That is something I’ve been keen to try. Could you share what type of leggings you wear and maybe the design/color? I like the idea of wearing something girly but not attracting too much unwanted attention.
As for running, I wear a simple pair of black femme leggings. I have other femme leggings that I wear in boy mode that have some faux leather texture to them, for example. Anyone who wears leggings will tell you that they are perfect for everything, especially working from home. But when I run I wear leggings that tend to blend in with “boy” workout clothes. They are nothing fancy or overly feminine. I bought them at Target and the brand is Champions, I think.
Yesterday was probably the last warm autumn day In Minnesota for the year. I was SO happy the weather cooperated because I had a photo shoot for En Femme‘s fall line.
Shannonlee and I shot pictures in downtown Saint Paul and it was such a fun shoot. My favorite location was when we snuck into a newly renovated hotel that used to be a girl’s school a million years ago that they say is now haunted. Spoooooky.
I used to think the only way I would be able to leave my home en femme was if I passed. Knowing I would never pass (not that there is such a thing) I thought if I blended in I would be ready to brave the world.
I see blending as a… hm, survival method, and it was in this perspective that gave me the courage to enter the real world.
My sense of fashion, however, does not lend well to blending and I have just embraced it. Certain colors, patterns, and prints just scream LOOK AT ME. Of course, being as tall as I am AND being trans I am going to be noticed so I may as well wear what I want.
Sparkly, silver dresses do not help a girl blend in. It requires an insane amount of confidence and hubris and the ability to shut out the stares to wear a dress like that in public. And that’s what I did at last month’s photo shoot.
This was for a project a friend of mine is putting together and I’ll share more details as they become available. For now, I hope you enjoy the photos!
The latest article with blogger, trans-activist and fashionista, Hannah McKnight is now available on our Learning Center! Hannah’s blog discusses more in-depth her life as a self-described T-girl.
In past articles for our Learning Center, Hannah has discussed her gender identity evolution and journey towards self-acceptance, coming out to friends and family, and coping during the lockdown.
Now, Hannah begins to focus on the physical side of things! When we start to build a wardrobe, how do we determine our body type so we know which styles will help us to best express ourselves? Read it now>>
I was just wondering how you figured out your femme style? You always look so good in the clothes you pick out for your shoots. Was it a lot of trial and error or did it just come natural?
Also does your boy style have any influence on Hannah’s style?
We discover our style by trying a lot of different clothes. Which is super fun (and expensive). When I moved from simply underdressing to actual real clothes, I was drawn more to formal wear and little black dresses. To me, there was nothing more beautiful than a gorgeous gown and nothing more classic than a little black dress. The thought of getting dressed up, and I mean REALLY dressed up was so exciting for me. A beautiful dress, amazing heels, perfect accessories, flawless makeup… the only thing missing was a place to go.
The more I dressed and the more I left the house the more I became drawn to other styles. I would never say I dressed casually, but going to the mall in an evening gown really doesn’t work. I started to wear less formal dresses but dresses that were still cute and feminine. A feminine dress might seem redundant but dresses that were cute and stylish. I think you know what I mean.
Once I lost weight and became more comfortable going out, my wardrobe started to reflect my confidence. Since I also stopped caring about “passing” and accepted that as a six foot tall t-girl I was never going to blend in, I decided to wear whatever I wanted. These days I love bright dresses, I love eye-catching patterns, I love floral print dresses, I love clothes that show off the parts of me that I love, such as my legs.
So yes, it was a bit of trial and error (we learn by doing) and a bit of coming naturally. I started to look at what girls were wearing a little differently and I thought about WHY something was cute. Sometimes it was the dress itself sometimes it was what she wore WITH dress. A casual t-shirt and a jean skirt paired with stilettos is really sexy sometimes. A tight black blouse with a hounds tooth skirt with knee high black boots is an amazing look. For me, it takes more than the clothes. I have to feel comfortable in them, I have to feel confident in them. Without comfort and confidence the outfit, no matter how cute, just doesn’t work. For years I was drawn to dresses that had thin, spaghetti straps but I never felt comfortable showing that much skin, especially my shoulders.
As a boy I would never say (and no one would say this either) that I have any sense of style. Most of the time it’s a t-shirt and a pair of jeans. I work from home (even when we’re not in a global pandemic) so I rarely have to dress nicer than that. But men’s fashion isn’t that exciting to me. It never really changes. There’s really never anything that men wear that I am drawn to. Men’s fashion is boring and overly practical. Hannah’s style is in many ways the opposite of what boy me wears. When I do go into the office, it’s khakis and a dress shirt which is about as boring as you can get. If Hannah went to the office it would be, well, something like this.
After a week of boring clothes, it is liberating and exciting to wear something bright, something pink, something fun, something sexy. I don’t think too much about it, but you bring up a good point. Hannah’s style might be a reaction or response to days and days and days of boring boy clothes. When I did go into an office everyday it was always the same shirts and the same three pairs of dress pants. The options as to what Hannah could wear to work, or anywhere, is endless.
Perhaps Hannah dresses the way she does is because wearing a dress and heels doesn’t happen every day. If I lived full-time or transitioned would I still wear super cute dresses and heels each day? Honestly? Probably not. I imagine I would have more casual dresses and skirts and more leggings in my wardrobe than I currently do. As much as I love love love looking super cute it’s a lot of work. 🙂