I bumped into a friend on the bus home from work the other day. This person is someone who I’ve known for a while (I used to work in a school they were a student in, that we have both now left) but never known personally until recently, someone who has got to know me quite well through reading my blog. They said to me on the bus that ‘all of my posts on social media are amazing and really helpful’ so I thought I would write another one that was aimed at what else we spoke about on the bus and touches on something I wrote about in my previous post: Confidence.
So, part of my (and everyone else’s) coming out process is building up the confidence to start dressing as your chosen gender in public. I feel like I managed to get this right for myself so I’m going to attempt to pass a few tips on to anyone ‘still in the closet.’
When I eventually knew that I was going to be coming out publicly as transgender, I started to buy clothes that I hoped I would feel comfortable wearing outside the house. I had a load of stuff I would wear in the privacy of my own home but none of it was stuff I would wear out, I guess you could say I started out as a ‘cross dresser’ (I fucking hate that term, by the way, literally makes it sound like guys can ONLY wear guys clothes or vice-versa and to dress like a girl/guy is a sexual fetish which is absolute BULLSHIT for 99% of transgender people).
I started to replace my mens jeans with girly skinny jeans (took me a little while to actually start working out my size but I soon learned that no two clothes shops size things the same and I can be anything from an 8 to a 14) and began wearing them out straight away. No one really noticed except for my partner at the time (who knew I wanted to come out anyway) and my friend Lily who told me she liked my new jeans. I started wearing girls underwear at the same time simply as no one would ever know I wasn’t wearing boxers. This was the most liberating thing EVER and I would encourage anyone who’s considering coming out to try this because you are literally the only person who would know and it is a huge confidence booster and anxiety killer after doing it for the first time.
After a couple of months of this I started swapping the skinny jeans for plain black leggings. I’d team this up with a long t-shirt so at a quick glance they would just look like black jeans. No one really noticed again but if anyone did, they didn’t say anything to me. After that it was tights under jeans or leggings to get used to them, then a pair of boots with small heels on, then I started replacing my jackets with girly ones. I stopped cutting my hair and shaved my beard clean off, later wearing foundation and concealer to cover up the shadow. I started adding a pencil skirt or bodycon dress under the t-shirts when wearing leggings and it was around this time that I came out as gender fluid and announced I’d changed my name. Ditching the leggings for tights in the latter outfit by this point was easy, as I’d taken super small steps with my outfits each time I left the house.
The clue is in the title when transitioning between genders. It’s normal for a transition to take time and trans people – for all our battles – have the luxury of choosing this time frame. Making minor changes to your wardrobe will also make it less obvious for outsiders if/when you do come out, as you’ve kind of already started to transition long before announcing it. I was dressing ‘differently’ for almost a year before I publicly came out and my dress sense is now more or less unchanged unless I’m going out for drinks and want to look and feel extra femme.
Which brings me on to the next point – actually going out dressed differently. This for me was simple. I had a small group of friends who I’d told that I was going to come out as trans sometime in the future. They were supportive (obviously, all your friends will be even if they don’t fully understand at first – be patient with them as they will be with you but be prepared to answer some questions) and decided that these friends would be a good group of people to start dressing differently around, knowing they would ‘have my back’ if we were at the pub and a stranger wanted to try and have a pop at me. This has never actually happened (and I live in a small market town full of narrow-minded people) but it was infinitely helpful knowing I had a small group of friends around me that would stick up for me if things went sour. Safety in numbers and all that.
As my hair grew out I started to wear it in space buns or tied back under a bandana. This was immeasurably liberating being able to do, as well as something you can easily cover with a hood or take down altogether if you step out and decide you’re not ready for a femme hair style in public. To be honest, hair tied back under a bandana is really practical for anyone with long hair and after a while I ended up doing this to work all the time long before I came out publicly. I always used to wear a hat so no one seemed to even notice.
Nowadays, a year on from coming out fully, I don’t bat an eyelid about dressing like a girl unless I’m having a particularly dysphoric day (see previous There’s No Need To Panic post) which is a testament to taking your time with transitioning and making small changes at a time. Both of these things make the whole process less of a shock to the people around you which will in turn help with your process altogether.