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.