Affirming my Gender: The Crazy Things I Do

I’ve been wearing men’s clothes for a while.  The next step was underwear.  After several pairs of what I already had got holes, I decided to take that next step now.  My grandma would have bought me women’s underwear, but I was determined and said I didn’t need any.  So I had to go buy some briefs.  The 3-pack inexpensive kind–I’ve always worn the women’s version of such things.  The medium size would fit.  But to buy them, I had to go off campus.  This is where my overactive imagination kicked in.  We’ve all heard the horror stories of gender nonconformers being harassed.  I was imagining vivid scenarios of cashiers refusing to ring up my order, or store security violently kicking me out for being a perv. Granted, this was extremely unlikely to happen in Ardmore, but I was still irrationally concerned.  So I tied down my boobs with an Ace bandage.  (I know you’re not supposed to, but it doesn’t actually feel worse than wearing a bra one band size too tight.  You just make sure the bandage only wraps your upper back and then breathe with your stomach muscles, that’s all.)  That plus a winter coat and loose jeans removed the most obvious aspects of my physical gender.

So I get to Ardmore.  I haven’t gotten to go before; I’ve had Saturday drama rehearsals all last semester.  Now, off the Blue Bus, I realize that Suburban Square only has the fancy (expensive) chain stores–no Target, Kmart, Walmart, or Dollar Tree.  Nothing I can actually afford, in other words.  It’s 5 minutes till the last bus, I’ve got $10 in my pocket, and the lowest priced packaged briefs I can find are $22.50 at Bananna Republic.  I realize that if I use my debit card, it’ll be pretty obvious I’m not a boy.  “Screw this, I’ll keep walking.”  I resign myself to taking the SEPTA.  I’ll buy some little gender-neutral thing and get cash back for the train fare.  It’ll probably cost less than an ATM surcharge.  So I get onto Lancaster Avenue in Ardmore, and walk Philly-ward parallel to the train tracks for a few blocks.  I see a sign for a Five Below, and nearly get myself killed crossing the street to get there.  When I get there, I see that the store is temporarily closed and will reopen on January 31st. I check the Rite-Aid next door.  The only men’s underwear there is Depends.  And the aisle smells.

I go back down the street in the other direction.  There’s a million restaurants, hair salons, and specialty stores, but nothing cheap and generic.  Certainly nothing that looks like it carries underwear.  There is, however, a “SPY SHOP” advertising surveillance equipment.  I dismayedly wonder who buys it.  I keep walking.  My ears are freezing.  It’s maybe 35 degrees out, and windy.  I use my scarf to tie my hood around my head.  I keep on walking.  Suddenly the stores look familiar.  I’ve been here, I realize, to get breakfast after a cast sleepover.  Haverford College should come up in another half-mile, and the evening Blue Bus route runs from there to Bryn Mawr.  But before that, there’s a CVS.  A big one.  As big as the supermarket I shop at.  I defy death/cross the street again, and run in, trying very hard to walk like a man.  Along the back wall, there’s underwear!  I grab a three-pack of Hanes tidy-whiteys.  At $8.49, it’s a little more expensive than the women’s underwear next to it, but not very much.  They have undershirts, too, but only in L and XL, not M.  Oh well, another day.  I pay for the undies, mumbling at the cashier in the lowest voice I can muster, and walk out the door.  Not a moment too soon.  Hardly am I out on the sidewalk when this unraveling sound comes from my chest and I suddenly have what Mx. Punk (see the Rainbow Gender Punk link on my blogroll) calls “massive cupcaking.”  My scarf covers it up in the front, but I couldn’t pass from the side, though I’m not entirely sure I could before, for that matter.  I can’t do anything about it here, so I trudge on toward Haverford.  There, in Magill Library’s bathroom, I attempt to fix the Ace bandages (yes, I was wearing two, a six-inch and then a four-inch left over from when I sprained my ankle), and eventually give up and put them in my backpack.  I’ve got a minimizer bra on that I bound over, and I can’t tell whether I look flatter with or without the bandages.  I go type this post in the Magill infohub while I wait for the first evening Blue Bus.

So I walked several miles in freezing weather with my chest bound with Ace bandages to get underwear appropriate for my internal gender.  Yeah.

Posted in Queer Life, Queer Stuff
3 comments on “Affirming my Gender: The Crazy Things I Do
  1. Buying underwear for the first time is a harrowing experience to be sure. After a while, though, I learned that (at least in my city) nobody in retail really cares who’s buying what, just so long as someone is making a purchase.

  2. doubleinvert says:

    I used to write a shopping list. That way, I could pretend I was shopping for my (then) wife, daughter, or even my mom even if I was using my debit card.

    – Connie

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