What you wear should reflect who you are. How you express your gender through clothes and accessories can change how others act toward you. People often judge how trans and gender diverse people look and dress. Some people judge how we look more than they judge other kinds of people. If you want to, you can make your life a little easier just by thinking about what you wear. Some of us would rather wear what we want and not worry about others! That is your choice!
Some of us are only able to express our gender by ourselves, because we are not out to others yet. Wearing clothes you want can be a great way to lower your stress or bad feelings (called dysphoria in disease models). It is also a great choice for people who are questioning their gender. It also gives you a chance to try on things you might not wear in public.
Some of us wear the clothes we want at home, or maybe only in a private part of our home like our bedroom. Others do it out of home in a hotel room or other place with privacy. In the past some people had to buy clothes, then throw them away after they wore them only once. That is so sad! There are other choices now so you do not need to waste all that money.
You must think about where you will keep the clothes you have if you do not want others to find them. Think of it like hiding money. Do not pick places people will guess or might find by accident:
- back of your closet
- under your bed
- school locker
- work desk
- car trunk
If you can not keep them at home, you have some options:
- a trusted friend’s house
- a private locker
- a storage unit
Some of us choose to go out in public while we wear things under our clothes, like a compression top or the underwear we want. This is also a great choice before you are out, but there is a chance someone could find out and tell others. You need to think about that before you to do this.
In safe spaces
Some of us find safe places where we can express our gender. This could be with a trusted friend or relative if you are out.
This can also be at conventions, gender-friendly bars and nightclubs, private societies, parties, and so on. There are even people who offer gender-friendly services like in-person personal shopping and gender-based image consulting. All of these can be fun ways to wear the clothes you want.
Some of us find creative ways to wear what we want, like costumes at performances, theme parties, school dress-up days, and so on. Holidays like Halloween or Mardi Gras or events during Pride Month are a great chance to try something fun like a costume.
Some of us like to wear things that would not be OK at school or work. Finding safe places to wear what you want can be fun, and they are out there!
Safe spaces can be great choices for those who are not out at home, school, or work, but there is a chance someone could find out and tell others. Someone could take a photo or video of you, or they could tell someone you do not want to know. You need to think about that if you choose to wear the clothes you want around others, even in a safe space.
Unless your school has a strong dress code or uniform, you can wear all kinds of things as a student. Have fun trying new looks!
Dress codes or uniforms
Be sure to read your school’s dress code rules and follow them. Many schools have the rules online. If not, you can get a copy from the office at your school. Ask a parent or guardian to help if you can not get it. Every school is different. Here are the rules for Los Angeles public schools:
All students shall be required to show proper attention to personal cleanliness, health, neatness, safety, appearance and suitability of clothing for school activities. In every case, the dress and grooming of the student shall not cause a distraction from or disturbance in any school activity or interfere with the participation of a student in any school activity; or create a hazard to the health or safety of the student or others.
Clothing, jewelry, and personal items, such as backpacks and book bags with language or images that are vulgar, sexually suggestive, discriminatory, obscene, libelous, contain threats, or that promote illegal or violent content such as the unlawful use of weapons, drugs, alcohol, tobacco, or drug paraphernalia, are prohibited.LAUSD (2015 PDF)
Most schools have a dress code, so make sure what you wear is OK. Some students in our community have had problems because their school said their clothes were a “distraction” or not “suitable.”
If you have already come out to your parent or guardian, they can talk to your school leaders about your gender and dress code issues. They may even be able to get the policy changed for you.
It can be hard not to be yourself at school, but that will not last forever! If you can not dress how you want at school yet, there are lots of fun ways to dress how you want outside of school:
- at home
- as part of an activity like a performing art
- with trusted friends
- after school
- on weekends, holidays, and seasonal breaks
Dealing with mean people
Some people may say mean things about what you wear. The best thing to do is ignore them, but if someone is making you sad or scared, you may want to talk about it with friends or trusted adults.
Before you are out
Be sure to read your company’s dress code policies and follow them.
If you are not out at work and need to keep your job, you should play it safe with what you wear. For trans women, you probably should not make big changes like earrings, long painted nails, makeup, and “feminine” clothing until you are out to your boss. It will not make people accept you more to give them “hints” like this. Wait until you are ready to be out to your family, friends, and coworkers. People will notice many changes even if they do not say anything. You may get outed before you are ready. You want to stay in control. Do not “test the waters” unless you are ready to be out. You could have problems with coworkers, customers, service providers, vendors, and so on. It may even give your employer time to make a plan to demote or terminate you and saying it is “unrelated” to your gender.
After you are out
Once you are out at work, you should still play it safe with what you wear.
If you have a uniform at work, make sure any gender-based things you want to add are OK with your boss.
If your workplace has a dress code, be sure to follow it. This is a big deal if you meet face-to-face with customers or clients. Dress like coworkers who are close to your age and position. For instance, if you are a 35 year old bank manager, your wardrobe should reflect that. If you want to wear things at work that are not OK at the job you have, get a job where you can.