“I get this one in pubs a lot: people (mostly young men, I’m afraid) think I must have lost a bet and am wearing a dress to the pub as punishment. Why else would a “man” be wearing a dress?

“Well, I am not a man. I am big, I am wide and I am hairy – I can’t change that – but I am still a woman.

“I think this comment really says a lot about many people’s persistent and erroneous assumptions about gender identity and femininity. Somehow, I guess I don’t “pass” in the right way. More disturbingly, this question seems to assume that femininity is inherently bad, that it is somehow “degrading”. I think 50%+ of the planet would beg to disagree. If being who I am, expressing myself in the way I feel comfortable, and feeling fabulous while I do it, is a punishment then I’ll cop to whatever crime gets me that.

“The presentation of gender – everything from clothes, to speech, to dress – has always been a social construct. I wear a dress and make up both to validate my own feelings about my gender, and to reflect my internal gender through my appearance. It can be the difference between the bartender calling me “sir” or “ma’am” (I don’t honestly know why they need to use either, but that’s another point entirely). These small forms of validation are enormously helpful in giving me the courage just to get out of the house in the morning.

“I understand that cis people don’t always know how to speak to trans people; they can’t feel sure that someone in a dress necessarily identifies as female. In this respect, they are right (never assume you know someone’s pronouns/gender identity). However, the jump to assuming that I lost a bet erases trans people (including me), betrays a misogynistic belief that being female is somehow ‘degrading’, and ultimately makes my day that much less pleasant.

“So, dear people in pubs, let us not assume we know each other’s genders or reasons for dressing in a certain way. Let us ask politely when we need to know, just let people be at all other times, and always respect boundaries and privacy.

“In the end, who cares what someone’s wearing to the pub? At least they’re wearing clothes…”

Photo credit: Rowland Goodbody
Editing: Rowland Goodbody and Harriet Evans

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