Each turn felt like the next step in a death march. The flow of the tires like the beating of a drum, turn, thump, turn, thump. I wring the tissue I brought in my hands, tearing it to bits and allowing them to fall to the floor of the car to be picked up later with regret.
The car makes its last turn into the parking lot and the last beat of the drum falls. I hesitate to take off my seatbelt buckle, allowing my body to relax as much as possible, breathing deeply. Finally releasing myself, I open the door and slip out of the front seat on to the ground.
“You ready to get stuff for school? You could really use a few new blouses and a nice pair of jeans,” my mom said from the other side of the car. “Um, yeah, I guess,” I say as I fake a smile and answer.
Entering the store, I feel my body stand still, contemplating the sides – women’s, men’s. Pulling one way to please my mom and pulling the other to please myself. My mom questions why I stopped and pulls me away, wanting to show me something in the women’s section.
I can feel my body start to sweat and my mind race; you ugly faggot, you nasty tomboy, you trashy lesbo, the words and terms fill my head. I feel the heat of confusion and anxiety and it pulls me away from myself. I feel my body moving and function, but my mind is gone, gone away with the feeling of true dysphoria.
I pull out my phone and try anything to distract myself from all the clothing and pain around and inside me. “Paige. Paige what about this? Are you even paying attention? God, why do I even try to help you?” My mom pulls my mind back a little and I confess I wasn’t even really looking.
I put my phone back and wrench my neck to look at the thin sheer shirts that draw attention to the chest, the tight jeans to show off legs and butt, the tall boots for height and sex appeal.
I try to breath deeper to calm myself, new words flow mixing with the painful insults – This isn’t for you. Why can’t we just go over there? Is it that bad for me to want to wear other clothing? I continue to question myself and listen to the insults roll around as I try to find something to please my mother. I see something simple: a plaid shirt that, if worn just right, could pass for a men’s shirt. I pull it off the rack. “What about this?” I show my mother the garment.
“Oh, yeah, that’s cute, you know, wrap it around your waist with a little pair of cut-off jean shorts?”
“I don’t know, maybe, or I could just wear it?” I say with the least argumentative tone possible.
“I guess so, sure” she says and keeps walking.
She doesn’t understand and doesn’t want to. She doesn’t know what goes through my body and head every time we do this. I try and explain, but it’s no use. I walk the horrid aisles every time, losing myself and hoping once we leave, I regain some of it back.
As stated in pieces before, even simple things for a transgender person can be very difficult. Most people love going clothes shopping (especially if someone else is paying), but for a transgender person, going shopping can be very dysphoric; the same can be said about wearing clothes.
Clothes are one of the biggest ways people express their identity, especially gender. Some transgender people can dress the way want and others are not so lucky. These people may have many reasons to not dress to their gender, such as money, fear or they just choose not to.
No matter what, when it comes to clothing, never judge a person for what they are wearing. Never assume someone is a girl because they are wearing a dress or a boy because they have baggy shorts on. The best thing you can do is ask; the most respectful thing you can do is ask.
Pan Norkiewicz can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org