Toronto
3 min

Dressing the part

Boy clothes don't make a boy transexual

ACROSS THE STORE. Tera Mallette likes to department hop. Credit: Mark Bogdanovic

I bought boy pants.



In and of itself, that isn’t very much, I suppose.



I’ll just look like most every other dyke I know, half the straight grrrls… and some of the boys.



But I bought boy pants, even though it often feels like I spend half my time trying to convince everyone I’m a girl. And that makes it hard.



I don’t get to just walk in there and buy the boy pants. It’s not that easy for me. I’m a transexual. I’ve got a whole whack of issues when it comes to clothes.



I’ve got to go into that store and buy girl clothes. Because if I buy boy clothes, I’ll look like a boy, I won’t look like a girl.



Or people will say, “So you’re not really a transexual. It was just a phase.” Or they’ll say, “if you’re so comfortable in boy clothes, why didn’t you just stay a boy?”



So I try and pass. Disappear. To avoid questions like, “Are you a boy or a girl?”



I wore skirts. And make-up. And heels. And hated it.



Perhaps some people like the idea of a uniform of gender, where boy and girl are as plain as pink and blue. No mauves, no burgundy, no green, no yellow, no other crayons but the two that come in the box. No stepping out of rank, no little gender fuckers.



But I think the clothes can’t make the woman. I am more than the sum of my wardrobe. I know that. So I bought boy pants. And it doesn’t seem like much. But there are all these issues, all this baggage, all these rules.



It’s hard because it hurts. It hurts when someone makes a mistake, when someone calls me a sir, refers to me as “he.” It’s annoying if it’s a stranger, heartbreaking if it’s family, or a friend. I could say I don’t care what the world thinks, but I don’t live in a vacuum. I do care what others think of me. I want them to see me for the me I really am.



To walk across that store, to the other side where the boys are buying their clothes, I have to confront all of that. I have to confront the possibility that I’m confirming the suspicions of that salesgirl who eyed me on the way in, with sir on her lips, but not sure.



I have to deal with the possibility that I might be sacrificing my passability for politics, or comfort, or cost. Political because it questions a bipolar gender system, because it denies others the power to tell me how to dress. And truth be told, there are plenty of people who have definitive ideas about how I should dress.



I have to be a bigger person than the stereotypes that surround me. It’s hard to do that when the legitimacy of your womanhood is continually being challenged on all fronts, directly and indirectly. Especially if you don’t pass, or aren’t trying.



I get absolutely sick of being the understanding one. I get sick of telling the person at the counter that it’s ma’am not sir. Sick of debating the managing psychiatrist, who thinks transexuality is all about becoming what your attracted to, rather than what I think it’s about: the idea of disembodied, multiplicitous gender.



It’s as if my entire world revolves around my passing, my ability to disappear and look “normal.” I’m not moaning about my passability, I’m not fishing for compliments, but there’s this inherent insecurity, lurking in the shadows, that if I don’t pass, I won’t – or even can’t – be accepted as a woman.



I could say it’s my own issue, some internalized form of transphobia, but it has a very real re-enforcement from the outside world. Part of it comes from that real need that most of us have to belong, but it also comes from the team of doctors that were so determined to discover if I was being truthful about my “condition.”



There’s this rule book that every trannie adheres to. Betty-Crocker-cookie-cut-out-girls. With that kind of constant affront on your identity, you hold on to what you can, grasp it as tightly as possible. You end up anchoring your identity in superficial things like clothes, trying to remove any questions as to what you may or may not be.



It’s not an easy thing to overcome, and some think that’s the way things ought to be. But if I’m not a real woman, what the hell is a fake one?



There are things I like to do, things I want to do, things that I do, that are not “womanly.” Am I supposed to give them up, and play with the patriarchy only for the passability? Is passing something I even want to do? It’s not very empowering to be a woman if you have to follow all these bullshit rules.



Some of the most beautiful women I’ve ever met broke every one of them. Some fall within those parameters, but do so on their own terms. They are all beautiful.



So I bought the boy pants.



Because being a grrrl, is more than what you wear. In fact, the two things have absolutely nothing to do with each other.