Take the last Xanax.
May 10, 2013 8:27 PM   Subscribe

that was endearing. and heartbreaking.

Is the experience a common one, for trans* people? I have no idea.
posted by Fraxas at 8:41 PM on May 10, 2013

For trans women and male crossdressers, yes, it can be a pretty common experience. (Not all trans people are sanctioned against wearing feminine clothes, of course.) Summoning up the courage to shop for feminine accoutrement the first time can be really harrowing.
posted by jiawen at 9:06 PM on May 10, 2013

I never got past step 3. And then I realized, I honestly wasn't actually sure I wanted to anyway.
posted by Foosnark at 9:09 PM on May 10, 2013

That article is incredibly sweet, funny, and sad. Thanks for posting it.
posted by medusa at 9:34 PM on May 10, 2013

The fear and anxiety is familiar to me, but I was lucky in that I was already out to my sister the first time I tried to buy women's clothes. She took me shopping my first time and I was able to calm myself down every time I felt like running away by clinging to her.
posted by The World's End at 9:40 PM on May 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

Thank cheebus for Amazon, which finally brought to everyone what the video porn industry has been giving horny dudes for so many years: a plain padded mailer stuffed with all your secret desires. Seriously, you can fit like 40 thongs in one envelope!
posted by carsonb at 9:41 PM on May 10, 2013 [3 favorites]

That was a good read. I didn't find it sad, more awkward and self conscious but not sad, and yes, funny. Baby steps, take baby steps.
posted by shoesietart at 9:41 PM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

13. Find something you think is nice. A brown, soft cotton knee-length thing that will drape in a flowing, subtle manner on your body, maybe, swishing around over a pair of tights, perfect on a cool fall day. Or something white, made out of impossibly thin fabric, with bright green flowers and green lines running along the sides, narrow at the top and widening to the bottom just below the knee, like something you might have seen a girl wear to the park in high school, sitting cross-legged and laughing with the skirt barely draping her knees, while you sat in huge jeans that seemed to billow around your legs, perspiring in a thin sweatshirt (you’ve never liked showing your bare limbs) feeling, again, that clumsy bloated-ness. Watching the skirt’s thin white zipper sway by her right hip as the lower inch of the skirt flutters in a light breeze, looking with a confused, implacable desire that only much later did you recognize as envy.

14. Anyway, find something like that.
no thats cool
I was planning on crying tonight anyways
posted by aw_yiss at 9:45 PM on May 10, 2013 [10 favorites]

There were parts that clicked for me, but I've always had better luck with dresses than separates. Dresses just look more feminine, they do some of the work for you. You'll make things a lot easier for yourself if you slim down before you start shopping. As much as I'd love to be a big, fat, curvy girl, fat just goes to the wrong places on most male bodies and it can really butch you up. A really skinny person tends to read as much more femme, and it really opens up your clothing options. For years I got by by just finding cute dresses in "small" that had a lot of stretch to them. Usually I didn't even try stuff on, I just saw stuff I liked and I knew my general body shape, so I winged it.

The whole skinniness thing is kind of an ugly, rarely-spoken drag truth. I truly love curvy women, and I love eating, but in order to read as more feminine, most trannies are better off starving ourselves. Some heavier trannies can really make it work, but it's rare. For most of us, every extra pound of chub makes us look more like Will Ferrell as Janet Reno.

Back in the early 'aughts I used to have remarkably good luck with the clerks in Charlotte Russe and Hot Topic. (This was back when Hot Topic was a mall goth store. A few years ago they went scene kid or something that was definitely not for me, and then the last time I looked it seemed like they'd changed into something else again.) In both stores the girls would often clock me as a tranny pretty early on and they would get so into it. They would want to set up a dressing room for me and talk about fit and color and stuff. Depending on how confident I was feeling that day it was either wonderful or mortifying, but looking back I think it's terribly sweet. They wanted to fuss over me, which is something I think we never really get enough of.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 10:07 PM on May 10, 2013 [20 favorites]

McSweeney's articles always seem to be gripping. I was going to say I had a similar experience trying to buy a nice pair of outdoorsy pants at an LL Bean but no. It was not at all the same.
posted by chemoboy at 10:12 PM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

The whole skinniness thing is kind of an ugly, rarely-spoken drag truth. I truly love curvy women, and I love eating, but in order to read as more feminine, most trannies are better off starving ourselves.

It works both ways. I generally prefer a butch look, but I'm a big girl with big (frankly, ginormous) tits, and I just can't wear most of the dude clothes that I'd really like to wear.

Not that I can wear most women's clothes, either. The fashion industry does not cater to people with curves.
posted by restless_nomad at 10:18 PM on May 10, 2013 [10 favorites]

It's great, and very much in the same style and same vein as Lorrie Moore. (See "How to Become a Writer")
posted by exlotuseater at 11:24 PM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

After this ask I went shopping for skirts in a fairly rough department-store type shop. It was... ok. The staff were mainly friendly, though I did get a touch sketched out when I was lead across the store to the gents' changing rooms and caused a fairly loud conversation about whether I could take the clothes I'd picked out into said changing rooms...

I was, however, a male-presenting dude who was looking for a fun outfit for one night. I cna't even imagine how much more stressful it would have been if I'd had so much of my identity tied up in it. This was a fantastic read.
posted by ominous_paws at 11:28 PM on May 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

The whole skinniness thing...

I'm sure that's right. But shoulders must be a problem for a lot of people. I am normally a fairly average to geeky looking person, but if I put on a dress I suddenly look as if I've got huge square shoulders. I suddenly look much more masculine. I look like some bastard who's put on a dress so he can get into more fights.
posted by Segundus at 11:36 PM on May 10, 2013 [4 favorites]

I look like some bastard who's put on a dress so he can get into more fights

...fancy dinner sometime?
posted by ominous_paws at 11:39 PM on May 10, 2013 [7 favorites]

I'm an egg-shaped blob with a huge fat torso and such a tiny butt that I can't sit comfortably on damn near anything, and yet somehow the one article of clothing I've found that can make me look feminine is an old-fashioned princess-seamed dress that laces in the back. I've never found another dress like it--nothing's cut that way these days, not even with the fifties styles that came back after that British royal wedding I wasn't paying attention to.

I still can't shop for women's clothes alone, although I get my nails done regularly at a local salon, where the nail artists adore me and the patrons copy my color selections. I don't know why buying clothes is so much harder.

Also I have such ridiculous shoulders that I can't carry a bag over one, and shoulder pads actually make me look better.
posted by darksasami at 11:40 PM on May 10, 2013

That was a really good read. This part :

Don’t look in the mirror. It’s not helpful. Depending on how strongly you feel about this whole thing, it very well may not be helpful for a long time.

is gonna stick with me for a while.
posted by donnagirl at 11:41 PM on May 10, 2013 [3 favorites]

Yeah, fuck mirrors. There are none in my flat, save for the small shaving mirror in the bathroom which is sadly still necessary.

I pass pretty badly, so buying clothes is always at least somewhat nervy for me. It's gotten better than it was (because holy fuck it was mortifying) but I'm still really glad for the ability to send my boyfriend to the tills for me, or at least letting him do the talking once we're there.

Oddly, I find that I can get women's trousers that fit me well so much more easily than I ever could with men's. I have a pretty big arse, and that's just not something any bloke-trousers are cut for in this country. Women's, sure, no problem. Tops are a different matter. In Denmark, fine, no problem. Here in the UK, by the time I've got a large enough size that my shoulders fit, and sleeves are in the ballpark of long enough (never properly long enough!) I'm wearing a tent designed for someone with twice my torso circumference.

I'm still terrified of dresses, mostly because I fear I'd look like A Man In A Dress, and beyond that, I guess it's some sort of jantelovs-self-policing thing, like 'what the hell gives you the audacity??' or something. It's a little hard to explain. There's also an element of trying and failing is worse than merely failing because you clearly didn't try (to look particularly feminine, in this instance).
posted by Dysk at 12:57 AM on May 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

Thanks so much for posting this.
posted by Wuggie Norple at 1:42 AM on May 11, 2013

"looking with a confused, implacable desire that only much later did you recognize as envy."

...and mistook for love
...And married her
...and had children
...and built a career
...and built a life together
...and then realized
...I'm trans

I don't even know how to approach shopping yet. I went to the Gap and hyperventilated. Walking past Forever 21 and American Apparel explodes a sparkle tsunami of delicious excitement with a nauseating undertow of debilitating anxiety.
posted by Annika Cicada at 1:47 AM on May 11, 2013 [15 favorites]

I just want to say, all you trans people have bigger balls than I (even though you might not want them). You do this shit that other people don't even think about dealing with, and you keep doing it, and you make it work. Bravo.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 2:19 AM on May 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

Great post and discussion. The tone of the article is a remarkable blend, I think.
posted by Mngo at 4:13 AM on May 11, 2013

"the one article of clothing I've found that can make me look feminine is an old-fashioned princess-seamed dress that laces in the back."

Hmm. Have you looked into corset tops, or just plain corsets? Even at my skinniest, I almost always wore a waist-cincher. It really helps.

"I generally prefer a butch look, but I'm a big girl with big (frankly, ginormous) tits, and I just can't wear most of the dude clothes that I'd really like to wear."

Have you tried binding? I mean, not for everyday wear, but for those special occasions. Even a good sports bra might get the job done, depending on what sorts of clothes you're talking about how butch you want to look.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 4:42 AM on May 11, 2013

That was sweet and funny and it felt very, very true.

I can't even imagine how difficult it must be for transwomen to buy pants. I'm cis and proportioned pretty averagely and I still can't for the life of me figure out how to buy pants.

I have to say, though, if any of you are looking for something that will give you a little bit more hip than the gods did and do that flowing fabric thing and you either a) can sew or b) know someone who can, make a 50s-style circle skirt. You know, like a poodle skirt, only not made out of felt and without the poodle. (Unless you really want the poodle, I guess.) With an elastic waist that you can pull over your butt. My mom made me a couple of these when I was in high school; she just safety pinned the elastic on the inside of the skirt's waistband so I could expand or contract it without undoing more than one seam. If you make it out of a light, soft fabric it feels absolutely amazing and flowy against your legs. I think some people add a petticoat too. Here's a tutorial that uses exposed elastic, but there are lots of tutorials to do them other ways too. They seem to be a pretty easy project that a lot of people like to make for kids. (I don't really know very much about sewing or technical terminology for it, so I could be making some mistakes in how I am explaining things here, but if anyone wants to try it I can either take pictures, draw pictures or ask my mom.)
posted by NoraReed at 5:47 AM on May 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'm really liking the others in the series as well.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 8:57 AM on May 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Is the experience a common one, for trans* people? I have no idea.

I don't know about common. My own partner's experience was very different. He is a female-to-male transsexual who transitioned almost sixteen years ago. His transition was very hard on me at the time, though sixteen years later it's sometimes hard to remember why. I will never forget, though, the first time we went shopping for men's clothes for him for work. He usually wore men's clothes for casual wear--he was a butch dyke, and tended to jeans and black t-shirts, much as he still wears now. But shopping for women's clothes for his job as a reference librarian at a library with a professional dress code was always horrible. He'd be so stressed out looking at skirts and blouses, buying women's shoes--much like the person in the article, really, though for different reasons.

When it came time for him to transition at work, we went to the men's department of a big department store. He was like a kid in a candy shop, looking at dress shirts, trying on suits, going wild for ties. (He works at the kind of job now where they wear jeans to work, and he likes that, but for awhile early in his transition he reveled in dressing with Manly Splendor, and really enjoyed dressing in suits for work, and dressing up to go out from time to time). I remember watching and seeing, not only how happy he was, but more importantly, how relaxed he was. How easy and right it was for him to be shopping in that department. And I could feel some of my own distress and confusion over his transition slip away.
posted by not that girl at 9:32 AM on May 11, 2013 [13 favorites]

That was a very enjoyable read - thanks for posting it, loquacious. Plett is a talented humorist who can find the universal experience in a fairly uncommon situation: who hasn't been anxious or self-conscious when shopping for clothes? Probably not to the same extent, but clothing is a huge part of our image and identity, and most of us can remember being awkward teenagers trying to figure out who we are and how to dress the part. I'm cis enough, straight enough, and don't-give-a-shit enough that I have it about a million times easier than Plett, but I still winced in sympathy at a lot of his* experiences (while laughing out loud). I still really hate shopping for clothes.

I'll second NoraReed on making your own clothes if you don't fit mainstream styles or sizes. It takes persistence to get good at it, but it's satisfying to make things and (for me at least) less agonizing than running the retail gauntlet. Skirts are easy! Especially gathered skirts with elastic waists - a few straight seams and you're good to go. MeMail me if you're in San Francisco and you'd like some local resources or suggestions.

*apologies if this is the wrong pronoun - it's written from "the young man's" point of view, so I'll go with that.
posted by Quietgal at 12:30 PM on May 11, 2013

Yeah this is one of my favorites and I am really happy to be reminded of it. I didn't realize she had written so much else, though!

I thought this other column of Casey's about her father was particularly beautiful and touching ("Believe it or not it’s not because you’re my 'boy' or anything remotely macho. It’s probably more in line with the same kind of fears that you yourself have … But Casey, I’ll love you to bits if you’re a woman").
posted by en forme de poire at 4:02 PM on May 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

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