The 20 Minute Uberfrau: The Little Black Dress and Other Transgender Reflections

Love is a shop floor.

Fiona Evangeline Leigh
Prism & Pen
7 min readJun 22, 2023


I almost went arse over tit just now.

Just awake, I was off on my frizzy way to check for mail at the bottom of the stairs. I’d just opened the door to my apartment when I tripped over something in the murk. Well, would you look at that? An unusually conscientious postman had placed my Shein package and an envelope containing my new passport just outside my door.

How fabulous. What a way to start a day, almost being felled by change and glamour. There’s a metaphor in there somewhere. I gathered them greedily in my arms like Gollum finding her precious and retreated into my apartment, my ISEQ index suddenly at an all-time high.

My passport looks cool. My face in the photo looks as fresh as the booklet itself. I flicked through the clean empty pages, inhaling its newness. It’s another reminder that I’m starting life all over again. The greatest thing about surviving the collapse of an identity, a life, and the old mangy ways is the blank slate you are given if you have the resilience to work for it. Apparently, that’s what I have, a gold medal that I can engrave myself at my leisure. That’s no mean feat. I don’t think I fully comprehend the enormity of what I’ve achieved. Not yet at any rate. And there’s more to grapple with and explore.

By the way, the Shein order was fab. If you want to see how fab, my Insta is fionaleigh23. I make little celebratory reels parading in my new finery. All are welcome, sequins optional but preferred.

As I was writing an article last week, it struck me that I had no everyday dress. No little black number I could go to the shop in. I’d been so busy styling the ideal notion of myself, obviously a cocktail party aficionado, that I wasn’t putting as much effort into the everyday me.

So, on Wednesday I bought a simple black dress at work. And, in a fit of Magellan fever, put it on in the locker room. Now was the time, surely, to bob around town with my girlfriends doing errands in my little black number. It made sense. I had my Girlies around me who were only too delighted to play my ladies-in-waiting, and I’d long since discovered there’s safety in numbers. The day was gorgeous, and it was time to take the plunging neckline. There was birdsong in the locker room. My girlies trilled their approval and marveled at how good my body is. Talk about praise from Caesarea. Once I established I looked great, or at least presentable, out we went into the shop floor and then the world.

The place was suddenly crystal clear after donning the dress.

There was no confusion, the whole do-they-see-a-man-or-a-woman conundrum was gone. A rush of wind tousled my curls as I stuck my head above the parapet. It was like putting on glasses with high index lenses. I’d been foraging around for stray hangers to hang random items just five minutes before and I wasn’t that person anymore. The dress had a voltage all its own and I was jolted out of my comfort zone.

Maybe world leaders, politicians etc. would do a better job debating in drag.


Out we strutted into the shop, the customers still in a collective heat stroke because the sun came out. It’s fascinating the way Irish people behave in these unprecedented hot summers — like primates discovering fire, they were. Holidays and bargains jostle for supremacy in their minds and they’d lost the plot, filling their baskets with dazed looks on their faces. I kept a watchful eye out for reactions, perfectly aware that they didn’t matter but primed for ridicule all the same.

I wasn’t long waiting for it.

Two lads had a seizure of giggles over in the men’s section. My hackles went up. They weren’t laughing at me, were they? They were like bucking Broncos pealing with laughter. We met another friend who was working her shift and we stood talking, me pretending to be bewitched by the conversation. The two boyos were still in the fits over along, like they’d been struck in the face by something utterly absurd.


This didn’t go down well. My gut throbbed darkly. My time in secondary school blew across my soul like a raincloud over the sun. Two handsome young lads had short-circuited at the sight of me for all the wrong reasons. I felt a tad pathetic. Life outside the dress had seen me as a pretty civilian, gendered properly nine times out of ten. Put a dress on and WHAM! a side order of mullock to go with the sudden exposure. The girlies were oblivious to it all. I was on a different plain altogether, and for the first time perhaps saw the stigma society puts on us T-girls.

I shook myself. Screw them. I had the new name, the new identity, the new everything, putting on that dress was a part of my destiny, my journey, my basic human right.

Blah, Blah Blah.

Off we fucked on our errands. A trip to Boots etc and then an iced caramel latte outside a cafe where we ogled lads as they passed. After a while the trip home in the black number felt enervating, and I went upstairs to the bathroom to change.

I still needed to work on myself, to get to the level where this shit was something I took in my stride. It’s their problem, not mine.

It happened again in the queue at Tesco.

This lad blushed at the sight of me, whispered something to his friend and giggled. What is it with guys, anyway? The Old dirty ones sing songs when they see me and the young ones titter like schoolgirls. And there I go again, giving my power away to the male species, a set I’ve never understood. Yet I pine after them. I want to be seen and appreciated by them.

China and Thailand had given me that. The guys there lost their frickin heads at the sight of me. I felt like a Bardot with a neural tube defect. I soaked the attention up like the town drunk. Once I got the taste of recognition, I wanted it all the time. Every foray onto the street was an exercise in dragon chasing. I guess it’s the legacy one has when you had a father who didn’t love you. It leaves a hole that can never be filled. There was an innocence to Chinese men, a real fetish for white skin and a pretty face. They gave me what I’d yearned for since the dawn of time.

Irish lads are a bit savvier and therefore, tough nuts to crack, no pun intended. I’m trying to love myself and ease the sense of locked in syndrome I sometimes get. That I am an outsider incapable of being in a relationship. Not being loved or nurtured as a child affects you for the rest of your life and it certainly wreaked havoc with mine.

And maybe I just had the misfortune to witness two lads having the craic and it wasn’t me at all, but I doubt it.

Whether male or female I’ve spent my life on the outskirts of romance. My girlies are all pretty and fresh out of their teens and have never had cause to doubt a young guy’s attraction to them. Other areas of their lives might be a confusing mess but the looks of cute boys are rapier sharp and clear through the hormonal twilight.

The shop floor is like a modern take on Dangerous Liaisons. Another famous outcast, the poet Patrick Kavanagh called it the “wink and elbow language of delight”. I spot the meaningful looks and non-verbal communication between the sexes. It makes me feel bad sometimes. I’d never had that growing up. What’s wrong with me? Why doesn’t anyone want to do that with me? Whether I’m a boy or a girl the situation is the same. So its my issue right? Me and a friend were discussing relationships one day and she thought that being Trans made it difficult to have a normal relationship.

I agreed. 100%. There was a time I wouldn’t have had.

I thought I’d solved my age-old problem of being unable to have a meaningful relationship with a guy by changing gender. Then the boys would see the light. And not just one man, the entire bleeding lot of them. There’s a very thin line between a spinster and a glamourpuss. I walk around like a diabetic in a bakery half the time. The pavements like conveyor belts of ever shifting tasty treats. A bang of sugar when an eye like a glazed cherry shoots out of the crowd to recognize me as some form of dessert too. A passing moment where I feel the joy of a homecoming Queen. It’s as addictive as heroin, so it is.

I was wrong and that’s okay too.

I’ll figure it out in time. I’m far happier. I have a future with this here dame, Fiona Evangeline Leigh. I went into all of this with the notion that — well, if I’m going to be by myself for the rest of my life, I’ll do it as the best version of myself I can achieve. The ideal state is to be enough for myself and then perhaps the world will finally catch up.

I’m re-booting and updating daily.



Fiona Evangeline Leigh
Prism & Pen

An Irish writer, transgender woman and singer currently living in the Republic. Has just completed a memoir Marabou Barbie.