Not All Girls Are Expected to Be Feminine
For girls of many cultures & class backgrounds, “female socialization” means being expected to be strong, self-sufficient, and resiliently womanly.
Before I transitioned, I spent two or three years wearing nothing but dresses. I favored silky sheaths and kicky, brightly patterned skater dresses with open, flouncy skirts. I wore them over bicycle shorts or leggings with low-cut tennis shoes, but they were still quite impractical for any kind of strenuous labor or even office work. It didn’t matter. I wore them anyway, day or night, summer or winter, while at my desk or on a run, no matter the situation. I kept my hair long, and I bleached it at home with hydrogen peroxide and sunlight.
Other people didn’t really love this. You could say I was performing femininity, which in someone assigned female at birth you’d think would be desirable, but most people looked sideways at it because it was so over-the-top and frivolous. I was freezing cold in the winters, constantly risked revealing my underwear when I sat down in the summers, too underdressed for any job interview, and too playful in my silhouette to be taken seriously or even found all that attractive.
My coworkers and friends were baffled by the relentless dress-wearing. Boyfriends didn’t much care for it, and complimented me whenever I switched to anything more practical and sporty. The women in my family, all ardent wearers of loose t-shirts and practical blue jeans, remarked at my newfound girly attire with confusion. The only people who seemed to like it were my littlest girl cousins. They marveled at the swishing of my skirts, grabbed at my flower-patterned fabrics, and remarked to their mother that I was like a princess.
I dressed this way because it was comfortable — the soft cotton and gentle elastics of those cheap $20 dresses soothed an Autistic nervous system that couldn’t stand rough textures or structured tailoring. I found it far easier to get dressed in the morning when the process was as simple as pulling a single garment over my head. My dresses were predictable, yet…