Sensuous in Satin

Reflections on Transgender life

Do you wish women would dress more femininely?

Posted by Adrian • Friday, March 20. 2015 • Category: Being transgender
In the New York Times Sheela-Marie Padgett says:
“I do feel like sometimes I have to be more feminine than anyone else,” said Ms. Padgett, the onetime New York City Ballet dancer. “There have been so many times when I’ve been on the street and I realize I’m the only one in a dress and heels. I reach for those things that are more feminine than a genetic girl would go for. The stakes are higher for me because I wasn’t born female so I don’t take it for granted.”

Which may explain why many of those who discover they are transgender also like to wear high heels and skirts. But here is my take on over-dressing.

If you take a broad perspective and look at women throughout the world you find that femininity is socially constructed and differs greatly. There are aspects of femininity that a society defines through dress and others that are reflected in the behaviour and personality of women. I don't want to re-open the bottomless discussion on "what is a woman" - so I will restrict my observations to feminitity expressed through dress.

When I started exploring my gender ( that also was a long time ago!) I had a very narrow view of what femininity looked like. It was a view cultivated by observations from the other side of the river - where I had been trapped all my life. At that distance the characteristics of womanhood that could be easily spotted were high heels, skirts, stockings and makeup. These physical characteristics were re-enforced by my early exploration within a support group - a group that had only recently relaxed a rule that members must wear skirts or dresses to meetings. Putting on a skirt and heels developed into a feminisation ritual, a periodic purging of maleness and an invitation into a new more feminine world. My dress rules were derived from examples of extreme feminitity in the media; so the heels got higher, the skirts got shorter, and you could say that over-dressing became the norm. I knew I was more feminine because I was wearing clothing that men don't wear. And everyone I met in public knew I was transgender because to be honest I would often have looked like a groom dressed as the bride's mother.

All rituals have their place, but this "dressing" one just became inconvenient with time. I found that the preparation to become feminine with its ever increasing list of associated tasks made it difficult to go out in public. 2 hours to get ready and 10 minutes to buy the milk! So I drifted with time to a broader understanding what it meant to be feminine.

The new feminine was modeled more on everyday women in our society and it didn't require a ritual. In came the slacks and casual tops, out went the stockings, heavy makeup, and all those painful heels. And because I wasn't defining two different lives by the clothes I wore, I started feeling far more engaged with my femininity, for more of the time. Now, I don't want to pretend that all I have in my wardrobe are slacks. I still enjoy the opportunity to celebrate my femininity by "glamming up" for a lunch with friends, or an evening out. But I don't feel any the less feminine when I'm not in celebration dress. You might expect that seeing me heading out to the shops in a T, slacks and flats with hardly any makeup would be a recipe for being 'read' and abused. But you will have to take my word for it, the opposite is true. Perhaps that has something to do with the way I feel inside now. A feeling that broadcasts my feminity other than through dress and appearance... but that is something to explore in another blog entry!


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