“At least you can wear halter tops. I have manly shoulders,” Regina George infamously groaned in “Mean Girls” as she stared at her reflection in the mirror. Meanwhile, Cady Heron stood watching, examining every girl-coded corner of Regina’s lavish pink bedroom with amazement. Complaints like “I hate my calves” and “my hairline is weird” to Plastic’s glare at Cady, as they waited for her contribution to the self-loathing routine. their collective disgust. The Plastics supports the misconception that femininity is synonymous with constant striving for perfection, but Cady knows nothing about this story. “She’s like a Martian,” they said.
Transgender people often walk a narrow line between wearing what feels authentic and what keeps them safe from scrutiny.
The Plastics are the epitome of cisgender, the opposite-sex feminine, and Cady is their candidate. I have witnessed this dynamic countless times as a trans woman and I find Cady a fitting representation of how trans women extend the cis limits of femininity. . As it turned out, Regina was right: I also felt like the halter tops drew attention to my shoulders, which were wider than the typical skeletal structure of AFAB people (designated female at birth). Tight pants, miniskirts, and shorts were also nightmares that brought my attention to the mysterious bulge between my legs.
I’ve always thought of transgenderism as an algebraic equation: starting on hormones, avoiding masculinity, and undergoing GCS (gender confirmation surgery) are all equivalent to some grandiose idea about women. . And, to balance the equation, I needed to multiply the female items in my wardrobe and subtract the men’s items – a calculation that confused me.
In 2015, I opened my wardrobe and stared at the first feminine item I ever bought: a pair of women’s tight faux leather pants that I wore until the seam ripped. I told my family that, since I was relatively small for a boy my age, I would fall in love with men’s clothing. They know this is true; I wore baby jeans all four years of high school, which justifies my reason. The leather pants were an easy start to seeing their son dressed in women’s clothes. Over time, I’ve added basic heels and floral t-shirts, totaling six feminine pieces in my wardrobe.
When I wear those leather pants now (yes, I still have them), I wear a shirt long enough to cover the crotch, to avoid the prying eyes of strangers. I often feel the need to hide my transgender body in unwelcome places. And, let’s face it: transgender people are not welcome in most spaces. I never had to think about this when I was wearing pants as a boy. Transgender people often walk a narrow line between wearing what feels authentic and what keeps them safe from scrutiny.
My own life experience and gender dysphoria convinced me that the halter top didn’t suit my shoulders. Many cis women also avoid them, which is comforting: I’m not the only one. But that sense of relief is shattered when I remember that transgender bodies are not treated like transgender bodies. If a transgender woman is “timed,” meaning her being transgender is noticed in public, those around her will scan for traits that indicate she’s “born is a son”.
I turned the sidewalks of New York City into my runway as I strode to my NYU classroom. It always takes me an hour to choose the perfect outfit but often opts for the same pair of nude heels, white skinny jeans, a crop top, and a light jacket in 20-degree winter weather. There’s nothing more important to me than proving to people that I’m “unstoppable,” even if it means risking hypothermia and burying my heels in the snow.
Masculinity in women doesn’t determine how pretty they are, but we’ve been taught that it does.
A year after I transitioned, fashion influencers like carli bybel led me to a solution to my snow heel problem: she paired cute sneakers with a two-piece suit from bare wardrobe. I was a little late to realize that I could still feel feminine without the patent pump. Two-piece sets, however, present another problem. Mocha leggings don’t leave much room for imagination when there’s volume between your legs. I had to start stuffing.
A YouTube video suggested duct tape, which I didn’t realize was quite dangerous. I picked up some at a hardware store down the street from my college dorm and went to work. I endured the pain of the duct tape pulling away from my skin just to be able to wear leggings without judgment. Trust me, it’s not worth it.
I’ve just spent two years adjusting my body to a standard that doesn’t even give me sexual arousal. I did everything Plastic recommends: I hid my “many shoulders” from my halter top, bought hair extensions to cover up the “weird” parts of my hair, and wore leggings so I could show off my slim calves. . It was as if the features on my body, all tied to masculine standards, were somehow not pretty.
Masculinity in women doesn’t determine how pretty they are, but we’ve been taught that it does. It took me seven years and a lot of stamina and independence to refute that fallacy.
Now, I put myself first. I don’t put it anymore unless I really want to and I do it safely using Tuckituppp: a transgender-owned business that prioritizes trans comfort. I’m proud that my sneakers are now more than the high heels in my wardrobe. I created my own expression of femininity, which I should have been looking for a long time.
To the transgender people reading this, I ask you to be patient with yourself. You can bookmark chapters in your story in your own style, and the journey is worth it — no matter how long it takes.
Image source: Courtesy of Madison Werner