Whenever I’m in formal or professional situations, I perform what I call “binary drag” where I make myself look as conventionally female as possible. I hope to have the gumption one day to show up to an event or interview wearing a suit, which I got fitted for but never bought.
“Wait, aren’t you supposed to be a trans woman? Why are you wearing a suit?” I imagine folks asking, as I flash back to all the ways I’ve been gender-policed over the years. The thing is that I transitioned for myself, not to fit some pre-conceived idea of how gender is supposed to work. I’m happiest being a woman, but I also find the binary gender system deeply oppressive, and dressing in “men’s” clothes on occasion helps me cope with those feelings. Also, I don’t like being read as cisgender.
If it weren’t for the threat of discrimination, harassment, and violence, I’d prefer to be read as trans because it’s who I am. I benefit enormously from being read as cis, but it also makes me feel erased, and that people’s respect for my basic humanity is predicated on looking and acting cisgender. For me to be accepted, there has to be huge numbers of trans and gender-nonconforming people like me who are not. I want to wear clothes that identify me as trans not just for myself, but to emphasize that none of us should have to look like cis people just to be accepted in society.
*Meredith’s pronouns are they/their or her/hers, in order of comfort.*
Feeling deep ambivalence about how we dress is something the trans and gender non-conforming communities experience acutely, but it’s not just about us. We’d love to hear from everybody about how we navigate self presentation each day.
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