I noticed how I am getting more comfortable with shopping in the men’s section the more I do it. I know this has got to be easier for me than my male friend shopping for women’s lingerie, but, well, we all have our fears and insecurities, especially when we act outside of gender norms in public.
I used to go shopping for women’s lingerie with my male friend who preferred to wear such items. We would pretend we were a couple shopping for me. The first time I even held the money, and the panties, and made the purchase. Over time, he has become more comfortable with this, and as I have been transitioning to more masculine dress as of late, he sometimes accompanies me into the men’s section too. It’s quite a fun little escapade. Sometimes we sneak each other a peak of our transgendered underpants waistbands at a stop light on the way to the movies. That’s truly what friends are for!
I was at the mall last night and I happened into Express, for me a pubescent butch’s wet dream (I’m actually in my thirties, but as I come out a little queerer, a little butcher, I feel as though I am going through another sort of puberty). They were having a sale, and I finally got to buy a sweater! I have been attracted to the sweaters of some of the men at work. I compliment them on their sweaters, and even go so far as to ask where they get them. One very sweet man kindly motions for me to check his tag every time I do this. He has quite a collection from Banana Republic. I poke my head in that store from time to time, but find the prices overwhelming and the sale racks usually slim pickings. Long before I started even coming out to myself as butcher than I thought I was, I have been drawn to the gorgeous colors and crisp attire in the men’s department at Express. Which reminds me…I must get myself to a Structure, if that still exists. I used to date a guy when I was in my 20’s who had knit boxers from there. I loved them. I pretty sure I loved them much more than what was in them. It’s exciting letting myself do what I want, and buying new knit men’s boxers! They feel so good in my big baggy Lucky jeans. My crotch just feels so comfortable and free, like I am in pajamas! But back to Express - what a display they put on - what a palatable palette!
I noticed last night that I entered the store and shopped in the men’s section with slightly less insecurity and self consciousness than I have thus far. I remember some times throughout my teen years, and even perhaps my early 20’s, when I shopped shamelessly in the men’s sections. Somehow there were threads of style fads back then in the 80’s and 90’s that made it cool for women to shop for the men’s boxers to wear as sexy little summer shorts, or big flannel shirts to look a little grunge. Car-harts were also quite acceptable amongst hippie, artist, and outdoor leadership crowds (all of which I frequented at some point or another) in those days, and probably still today. In the fluctuations of my fashion sense over the years, I have certainly owned my share of men’s department clothes.
I have always felt a certain satisfaction in going right ahead and doing something generally assigned to the gender other than which I was assigned at birth. I liked to beat the boys on the soccer field (I grew up in the early 80’s, and before high school, for me there was no such thing as girl’s soccer). I instead was one of three 9th grade girls on the primarily 7th grade boys’ soccer team. I always wondered if we truly were good enough for varsity, but didn’t make it because we were girls. Even on JV the coach kept us (the 3 older girls) on the bench most of the time. In any case, whether at a team sport or out at recess, I prided myself on doing not only what the boys could do, but for trying to do it better. When my younger preteen brother started using foul language in front of (and perhaps with?) my father, I followed suit, even when it was met with shock by my father. When I have to go to the bathroom and there are single room separate sex toilets, I will head straight into the often empty men’s room. I kind of like the confused face I might see on the way out.
So why, after all of that, do I still feel shy in the men’s department? I still feel shy there, because I still feel shy claiming a butch identity. For a long time (most of my early “out” years), I shied away from butch and femme culture as I saw it re-enacting the hetero gender binary. I also didn’t think I fit into either category, nor was sure I was more attracted to one than the other. It has only been in the last year that I have really let myself even begin to transition into a more butch identity. Sometimes I wonder if I am really butch enough to be butch. I wonder if I deserve to be butch. I wonder if there is some definition out there of butch that I don’t fit into clearly enough, and am afraid to name myself as butch. I wonder sometimes if I am butch then will I only date femmes? Will those I am attracted to be attracted to me? Will other butches ever be attracted to me and want to date me?
All of these questions and all of these insecurities line my identity, and somehow make it even harder to buy a sweater.