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How can I make gendered clothing feel more androgynous?

Updated: Mar 13

Q: Hi! About six months ago I figured out that I am genderfluid. I have come out to a couple of my friends but not my parents. My cousin is getting married in two weeks and it is a formal event. I am afab and I am struggling with what to wear to the wedding. I tried to bring up the option of wearing a suit to my mom but she wasn’t too happy about that idea so I ended up buying a gown I will wear. I’m worried that I will not be feeling super feminine that day. The gown is very form fitting which is fine if I’m feeling feminine but I’m worried that I won’t be and on top of that seeing people in suits and feeling envious of their bodies will cause me dysphoria during the event. I was wondering if you had any advise on how to make myself appear more androgynous should I not be feeling feminine that day since I don’t have another outfit option.

S: Full disclosure, I can't speak from directly relevant personal experience on this one because at the time when my parents had control over my clothing, I didn't even really know that trans people existed, let alone that that was why I was so confused and miserable. So I'm going to do my best to give advice anyway, but if any readers have more to add based on your own experiences, please comment or write in and we'll share it.

I can think of two angles that might help. One is to reframe how you're thinking about clothing so that it is not correlated to gender; this happened to me gradually over time and has ended up making me feel comfortable and even euphoric about clothing that used to make me feel dysphoric. In this case, you're not wearing a dress because you're a woman or feminine; if you do feel more masculine at the time, you'd be a masc person who happens to be wearing a dress that day. Either way, you're genderfluid regardless of what you're wearing in a given moment. This mindset may or may not click with you at all, but it's something that some people feel and so I wanted to mention it.

A more practical answer to your question is kind of an application on the paragraph above. If you're a masculine person that day, what does it look like for you to wear a dress in a way that you can enjoy or at least endure with minimal pain? It's not women's clothing because you're not a woman. Maybe this means you wear underwear and shoes and a belt that feel more masculine, or one earring and no makeup, or style your hair a certain way (or don't at all), or steal someone's tie and vest during the reception. Maybe you go another direction and treat the outfit as drag or a costume, intentionally dressing up as society's idea of a gender that isn't your own.

I know these aren't particularly satisfying answers; you're in a difficult situation, and it's reasonable to feel upset about it. Being forced to present in a certain way is awful and definitely a valid cause for dysphoria! So it is possible that you won't be able to feel comfortable that day. Another thing you might try at the event is to notice what looks you find appealing and note them for trying yourself later, so you're distracting yourself with potential future gender euphoria instead of focusing on the current moment.

K: It's probably good for me to start out my being upfront that my parents never exerted control over what I wore growing up (I wore suits and floor length vinyl dresses to high school, and wore 5 inch platform boots to my high school graduation) and I didn't know I was trans then, so I haven't been in this position. I should also add that I think I've only been to 3 weddings in my entire life, and none were for family, so I don't super know how weddings work, if I'm being honest. Without knowing more about your situation, it's hard for me to say whether or not you are in any position to get out of wearing the dress. Saying your mom "wasn't too happy with the idea" could mean a lot of things. I know some friends whose parents were not happy with them wearing suits to weddings, and they did anyway, and the stress from their parents complaining was less than the stress of wearing a dress. I also know some people who were in the opposite position. Whether or not you can get out of wearing the dress depends on a lot of things like finances (are you financially independent from your parents and can you afford to get a second outfit or return the dress), support at the wedding (if you do or don't wear a dress, do you have anyone who will be attending the wedding with you that will make things easier?), etc. You're in the best position to know that, and since you didn't discuss how to get out of wearing the dress, I'll stick to just talking about your dress-related options. I agree with what S said. The dress is just one aspect of the outfit, so hairstyles, accessories, shoes, maybe wearing shorts or a binder under your dress, etc. are all areas you can explore if you're not feeling very feminine on the day of the wedding and if disconnecting gender from clothing isn't getting you far enough. I also wonder if there are things (movies, music, etc.) that get you in the mood to present more feminine? I'm not genderfluid, but sometimes even the music I'm playing when I'm getting ready can help hype me up for feeling better about an outfit (I sometimes wear mesh, skirts, makeup, and wigs for queer events and it is a lot of fun if I think of it as a performance, but as an everyday thing it would make me feel dysphoric for sure). Do you have anything like that?

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