Buying women’s clothes, as a man

Behind me in the winding queue, an old man started singing. “We three kings of Orien Tar, one in a taxi, one in a car…” I turned round, and completed it. “One on a scooter, blowing his hooter” and he pointed to the button on his electric mobility vehicle. He was thinking of Christmas, he said, because his wife was buying presents.

-Those look nice. Are they for you?
-Yes. I was looking for a pair of warm Granny slippers, and was pleasantly surprised by these, I said. They are fluffy inside and out, ankle-boots, black with lots of tiny gold-coloured metal bits like stars in the night. I also got socks.

Well. With his head at the level of my waist, he would notice my narrow hips first, and my white shirt and skinny jeans would not indicate I was female. Even my breasts- I was wearing breast forms, then chicken fillets, then padded bras, and sixteen years after starting hormones I finally started wearing an unpadded bra- would not indicate otherwise, when I turned round. So he started a conversation. I don’t mind speaking to people in the street, and he wasn’t actively unpleasant, just a bit mocking.

No real problem. He wasn’t loud, or violent, or scornful, and had he been I would not have been cowed; but he saw me buying slippers, and thought to remark on it. So, it’s almost all right, not quite normal, still remarkable but not entirely unpleasant: as an androgynous or effeminate man, I could buy styles I like, not have to alter my body, and suffer no more than a few impertinent remarks.

There had been a man over by the sale rail, looking through women’s garments. Final reductions were up to 75%, and I saw a pretty t-shirt for a fiver. I queued for the fitting rooms. All were occupied, and I thought of saying to the woman that I could try it on in the corridor. After all, there are no men here. She said someone would be out in a minute. Then I looked at the shirt again. I had thought it looked a bit small for the size 16 marked on the coathanger, and the label inside says it is 8. I did not try it on.

It is a lovely day. I cycled back by the stony track, saying good morning to the occasional walker or cyclist. There’s a Primark there, I could get a coat quite cheaply, and even Marks has cheap lines, jeggings for £15. A. was complaining that Marks had closed in Nupton, and it’s also closed in Kettledrum. You could get a bus to the out of town shopping centre, but it takes an hour. I would rather the shops were in towns, and as for online shopping, how can you get clothes to fit?

In the pharmacy, I asked the pharmacist if she could recommend a doctor from the local practice. She could not, she was not allowed to, she said. She thought I objected to one because he had dismissed my being trans. I knew that from her sympathetic tone and words she used which I cannot precisely remember. In that case, it was not specifically about being trans, possibly about being seen as unimportant, but that was her assumption.

7 thoughts on “Buying women’s clothes, as a man

  1. Shopping can be problematic. Fortunately I have found a retailer which is inexpensive and supplies reasonable quality in fashions which suit my style. A young lady works there who is familiar and entirely comfortable with my requirements.
    I also visit an avant garde designer who creates unique but realistic and accessible designs which are neither feminine nor masculine. Perfect for my situation and tastes but a little expensive and rather formal in character.
    I am grateful for having found people friendly to my situation, but it has taken an awful lot of upturned noses and looks of distaste and even disgust to find them.

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  2. The first time I shopped for women’s clothing was at a thrift store, about 35 years ago. It was a few days before Lent (I obviously was not planning on giving up cross dressing for 40 days and nights). I had, all ready, my “excuse” for my purchase, which was partly grounded in truth. I was playing in a band at the time, and we did have a gig lined up for “Fat Tuesday,” but we were not cross dressing as part of the festivities. The young woman cashier bought my story, but my mistake was that I also included the name of the cafe, and she actually did show up that night. I had to make up another story about how the other guys lost their nerve, and I asked if it were possible for me to return the items I’d purchased (made my story more plausible, so I was thinking). I never did return anything, but I probably worried, irrationally, until Easter that she had figured out my ruse.

    The truth was, and is, that few people really care that a man buys women’s clothing. I should have known this in the thrift store, as the only other person going through the racks in the women’s department was a man with a full beard. At that time, though, I was even concerned about what he might have been thinking of me! (I did have some thoughts, however, about how womenswear and beards made such a horrific look) 🙂

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    • I don’t like women’s wear and beards either, except perhaps on cis women. I don’t mind buying clothes, whether I am read or not. His head, after all, was at my waist level, so he saw my most mannish sign. But, he saw fit to mention it, as if my idiosyncrasy makes me public property.

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      • Being restricted to a wheelchair would give one a different perspective altogether. I’ve found it to be the case, often, that a person who is different can feel they have a license to be less sensitive to others. I once was the target of a whole gaggle of misogynistic comments from a man. When I challenged him, his defense was that he was as gay as they come, so his statements could not possibly be considered misogynistic. They were, though, and terribly so. What really surprised me about this incident was that he, initially, had not read me as a trans woman. Not that it should have made any difference, and I told him as much as I walked away.

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        • I don’t know how legible you are- is he a person of ordinary observantness, or just completely self-absorbed?

          Not a licence to be less sensitive, perhaps, but lacking the luxury to be sensitive. He feels his own life is hard, so feels less sympathy for others. I want to feel sympathy however difficult I am finding things.

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  3. Well, I suppose I have had some good days when I have been “passable.” This man was, at least, socially unaware, but pretty self-absorbed too. The fact that he felt himself to be entitled to belittle women because he was “as gay as they come” is more disturbing to me than the remarks he made.

    While I was living in my “Great Suppression” between the ages of 17 and 34, one of the coping mechanisms I used was to become intolerant of others’ differences. I felt that, if I were bucking up and trying to be normal*, everyone else should be doing so, as well. To be honest, my intolerance wasn’t restricted to those years. In my effort to hide my gender identity – and the shame I felt from it – I have said and done things in the past for which I am totally ashamed today. For the past eleven years, though, since I first exposed my vulnerabilities – both physical and emotional – I have tried to be as tolerant a person as I can be. I have found an empathy that I had covered up, which, in turn, has elicited some empathy from others. I think that you have to learn to listen before you can really be heard, and you have to own your vulnerabilities before others will look past them.

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