13 June, 2011

Hyper Femininity in the Trans Community

Today's post may upset a few people, but please finish reading before blasting me too hard. As always, comments of any kind are always welcome.

Perhaps I'm standing in a strange spot, here. Perhaps my perspective is a little off - or even a lot off. But there's one thing I've noticed among transgender/transsexual women is something I've called, for the time being, Hyper Femininity. Let me explain, ladies.

Scenario: You just came home after a long day (or in cases like mine, night) of work, and all you want to do is get out of those damn clothes and have fun (disregarding for this scenario whether or not you're even out or dressing at work, doesn't apply here). But, it looks like none of your favorite hangouts are open, and you have some shopping and errands to do. Damn responsibility... *angrily shakes fist at empty space*

So you walk over to the closet and think about where you're going and what you're doing. Nothing glamourous, that's for sure. Do you grab some jeans and a simple top or T-shirt? I know I do. The Trans Hyper Feminine, however, due to reasons I cannot explain, grabs a nice dress or skirt. Like, with a very bright pattern, a full accessory spread, and plenty of stone/sequins works on it. What gives?

Are we so insecure in ourselves and our womanhood that we have to overcompensate? Is there something masculine or butch about slacks or jeans? Let's face it, they're a lot easier to deal with, especially if you have your hands full on a windy day! So where's the shame?

It's something I've seen time and again, and I don't know why. Believe me, I'm not a skirt-hater or anything; I wear one on stage all the time. But let's be realistic; most cis women would grab the T-shirt to get this job done. It just makes sense. Cis women don't feel the need to overcompensate for something like that; what makes trans women different?

I've even been attacked by trans women for wearing jeans to a trans club! You would think this is a joke, but this has happened many times. Suddenly I'm not as authentic, not "trans" enough (whatever the fuck that means) or not trying hard enough...even though this particular club is held in a dive bar, a place where, if it were not a trans club, would make me look ridiculous.

Perhaps I'm missing the point altogether. Maybe it's just me, I'm not qualified to speak because of my casual/soft-butch-with-hair identity. I don't know. Maybe someone can enlighten me? What's the appeal in looking ridiculously over-made-up for the situation?

Note: I know that I have trans men reading this as well, but I chose not to cover that side because I, in my limited experiences with trans men, have not seen the inverse (hyper masculinity) be even noticeable among the guys. Again, if I'm wrong in that department, feel free to let me know.


  1. While I don't have a lot of experience with other transwomen, I do tend to agree with you. Half of my wardrobe are t-shirts and I wear jeans and flip-flops all the time. If I'm going somewhere nice, I'll dress nicely. If I'm taking the kids to swimming, I'm going to dress as comfortably as possible. Skirts are nice, but not all the time.

    You're not missing the point. I promise you they are.


  2. It depends on the person. You may be right that some transwomen hyperfeminize out of insecurity, but that's a really rude generalization to make about anyone who is purposefully dressing well. Some of us like clothes and take pride in our appearance, and there is nothing wrong with that.

    I'm not a T-shirt and jeans person. Some people default to comfort and may only dress fashionably if the situation necessitates it. Some of us default to fashion and may only dress for comfort if the situation necessitates it. If I'm going exploring an abandoned building, yes, I'm going utilitarian, but on a day-to-day basis, I'm definitely more of a skirt person, at least this time of year.

    Back when I was presenting male, I wasn't a T-shirt and jeans person either. I was a damn well dressed man, and now I'm a damn well dressed woman. My default wardrobe is what some people might call dressing up, and when there's something special going on, I have a next level to go to, things I wouldn't wear just anywhere. So keep in mind, when you see someone out who is - by your definitions - "dressed up," that's fairly relative. If you typically wear jeans instead of pajama pants when you go outside, perhaps even jeans without holes in them, then by some people's standards, you are dressing up whenever you go out.

    You mentioned that the way you dress is how "most ciswomen" dress. I don't care how "most ciswomen" dress. I don't feel the need to imitate the average ciswoman. Out of curiosity, if you see a ciswoman dressed nicely for no apparent reason, do you question her motives so harshly? This is one of the most frustrating things about being transgendered. No matter what you do, your gender and everything to do with it is under a microscope - apparently both from cisgendered people and from transpeople. I mean, what now, do I have to purposefully dress down so people don't accuse me of trying to overcompensate for some imaginary insecurity? At what point can I just dress how I want and be left alone about it?

    Or maybe I’m misunderstanding you. Maybe you’re talking about people who dress differently than I do, but in general I look around and I’m one of the more “dressed-up” people in any given place. It was hard to find random shots on non-event days, but here's fair examples of how I dress on a daily basis:


    http://i1139.photobucket.com/albums/n560/Rhiannon2012/Average%20Day/BrookvilleMysteryDoor.jpg (And can someone explain this door to me?)

    And since this is kind about the random, no-real-reason attire, here's a random shot just taken of what I'm wearing today (it is like a million degrees out). http://i1139.photobucket.com/albums/n560/Rhiannon2012/Average%20Day/DSCF1271.jpg

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but I feel like even this is the level of fashion you're criticizing.

    So, you asked regarding how you dress "Where's the shame?" The answer is, there is no shame, and I have never written anything shaming people for dressing the way you do. Now regarding how I dress? Where’s the shame? Why are you writing something shaming me for it?


  3. I can understand your point of view of jeans and a tee to be comfy. Heck I'll come home from work some days and laze around the place in just my undies and a tee...or even sweats, GASP!

    BUT, that doesn't mean its wrong for someone to want to wear skirts or dresses around the house. I can relate to that too because there was a time when doing so helped me feel more feminine....there just came a time when I didn't need it anymore to help me feel feminine....I felt that way without =) But that took time and changes.

    That aside, why does someone being hyper feminine have to be bad? or invalid? or wrong? If that's how they feel and want to express themselves, what is it really hurting anybody else?

    In the same way, why should you be attacked for wearing jeans to a trans club? Just as wrong, IMHO.

    Since transitioning, I've made it my mantra to remember that just as some people may never understand me and my journey....in the same way I won't always understand other people either...but that doesn't mean that what they are living/feeling is any less valid. Everyone is different.

  4. You answered your own question with your use of the seemingly mandatory Cis and Trans as descriptives... Woman are woman are woman... or they're men! So I put it back to you! Who are the Trans? Well as is well documented both empirically and experientially, The lions share of the "Trans Community" are cross-dressers.. and yes, for them it IS all about the clothes... So if one is going out enfem then one has to wear the clothes that do it for them! For the tiny minority left, it's about being a woman and once the angst dies down, it becomes about being a comfortable and practical woman!

  5. From what I'm reading so far, I can see that my communication skills need a little more work.

    To make VERY clear: I did use the words "Where's the shame?" And when I did so, I meant, "Is there something shameful about casual attire?"

    Nowhere did I intend to make this about any one article of clothing or of anyone's individual dress style. Obviously all of our standards are going to be a little different.

    I, too, wear skirts around the house; I have a couple of numbers that I wouldn't wear anywhere else, but they're comfortable. Great for laundry day. When I get home, I might post them up.

    The bigger picture that I did say was, "Why would you want to draw that much attention to yourself?" And I would say that to any person, gender be damned. At the same time, I now begin to realize that for some people, perhaps that is the intent all along. For that, I am sorry. Judgment was never my intent.

    I also never intended to sound like hyper femininity was a bad thing at all! However, it begins to cross a line when people begin to talk down to their peers just because they don't dress well enough. I never meant to sound elitist, my intention was more, "Can't we agree to get along?"

    But I can see that I did not make that clear earlier. I will not take the post down or edit it, simply as a sign of good faith that I'm willing to take a hit. Integrity is pretty important to me, and I'll admit when I've made a mistake.

    Individual comments: Rhiann: Is that a leather jacket with that skirt? Nice touch!. Shit, I should try that sometime. Oh, and the wife wanted to add, for her: No idea what's up with that door, either.

    Debra: I feel like you and I are on the same page, but I made it harder to understand than it needed to be. You make a good point: We all go about this differently. I don't want to be attacked for wearing pants at work, and I shouldn't, and nor should I or anyone attack others for wanting to look their best by their definition.

    Mz: I'll be the first to admit that as much as I can try to include the cross-dresser point of view, it's not something I'm any good at. I've been rather infamously knocked down by a few good CD friends of mine in the area. At the same time, for most MtF CD's that I'm familiar with, they tend not to dress at all for the minor errands I was referring to in the body of my post. So, I guess I just assumed the situation wasn't applying to them. And you know what they say about assumptions, for that, I'm sorry.

  6. Having read your point of view as well as those of the people who have posted comments,I thought that I might put my two cents in.

    As a transwoman, I love that I have many options of dress available to me and my attire is a reflection of how I am feeling at the time. I am equally comfortable in jeans and ballet flats as I am in a fancy dress and heels. I truly enjoy dressing up and down. While you won't typically find me in the supermarket in a cocktail dress (unless I need to buy something quickly when I am on my way to a fancy party), when I run errands,you may find me there in jeans or a casual skirt. There is no rhyme or reason as to what I will be wearing other than my whim and feeling at the time that I am getting dressed.

    My femininity does not depend on what I am wearing, rather, it is who I am. I just love that I am able to be myself and that includes being able to dress however I want.

    The bottom line is that I don't judge others as to how they are dressed and others should not judge me. Just accept that I am just expressing who I am and how I feel.

  7. Well if the core message is that haters shouldn't hate, then that's a good message.

    Actually, that was a denim jacket, I'm kind of in a shadow there, but a leather one with the pink would look cool too.