Ok so I have been thinking (and you thought that smoke in air was from the volcanic eruption). Those of us who inhabit this world in both male and female form no doubt have shopped for various items when en femme and en homme.
Speaking for myself, I am comfortable shopping for some items no matter how I am presenting, but other items are a little trickier. For example, I have bought groceries, pastries etc both en homme and en femme. No problems there. I have bought lingerie en femme and en homme, again, no problems there. It seems (somewhat counter-intuitively, perhaps) that lingerie is the easiest item for a closeted crossddresser to purchase in a regular store. I have bought women’s shoes both en homme and en femme, however I was far more comfortable buying these en femme than en homme. The same is true of ‘ordinary’ women’s clothes (dresses, tops, leggings etc). I have never tried any items of women’s clothing or shoes on when en homme: it just feels ‘a step too far’ and I also feel less comfortable shopping for these items when en homme than I do en femme.
I have never bought men’s clothing when en femme. This is because the need has never arisen and why on earth would I waste precious en femme time in the (boring) men’s clothing areas? I wonder how I would feel there? I have shopped for clothes for my children when en femme and that felt fine and these sections are often (usually?) right next to the men’s wear sections, so maybe that is an indication. Societally it is quite common for women (especially middle aged and older women) to buy clothes for their husbands, so it is not uncommon to see a woman in the men’s wear section buying trousers, belts, button up shirts, underwear and vests. The converse is most certainly not true. You almost never see a man on his own in the women’s section of a store. Sometimes you will see a bored and faintly embarrassed man on the periphery as his wife (?) shops, but this is far from common and you almost never see men on their own actually looking at the clothes. I also suspect that most men wouldn’t even understand the sizing ‘scale’ of women’s clothes let alone know what their wife’s size is (I suspect many men are unable to understand the difference between a 36C from a size 12). Also, who would shop for their wife? Gasp! Someone may think you are a crossdresser or something! No, rather get her something useful and romantic, like an iron, or something.
Anyway, I digress. I have never shopped en femme for ‘masculine’ products and nor have I bought men’s toiletries whilst en femme. I have however bought everything from makeup and beauty products to sanitary towels and nail polish whilst both en femme and en homme without issue. I wonder though, how would it feel shopping for more masculine toiletries and similar items whilst en femme? Would I feel awkward buying (for example) a razor marketed at men whilst en femme? What about things like condoms or shower gel ‘for men’?
It is frankly a little strange that we should even consider shopping as in any way a gendered experience. Why does it matter who buys what products? Does it matter to anyone else or do we just feel awkward doing this? I think that there is in fact an objective reality to this. I have Facebook friends who are on hormones in transition etc who have been forcibly removed from a store for using the women’s fitting room to try on a dress, so there is probably something to this. I know I certainly feel more awkward if I am in the women’s section when en homme and I do feel that the other shoppers and the sales assistants are wary of me. I am made to feel like am intruder. I do not get the same feeling when en femme.
How about you? If you are cisgender do you feel odd, awkward or otherwise strange in the ‘other’ gender’s section of the store? Do different types of shopping experiences elicit different emotions and experiences? Obviously, many women complain about negative experiences in male dominated spaces (such as hardware stores, mechanics etc) but what about other retail spaces? I must say having bought makeup (as a gift for my spouse, so I needed advice and assistance) whilst en homme, I was treated far better (with respect, dignity etc) by the female sales assistant than women generally seem to experience when being served by men in ‘male spaces’ (such as hardware stores etc). If you are transgender what are your experiences? If full time, did you notice a change after transition? If you are part time, how do your experiences tally or differ to mine? Are there differences in different towns, countries etc?
This may not be the most important issue confronting us, but I do think it may point towards the way a society reacts towards gender, gender issues and our place in society. Or I may just be delusional. Either way I think this is an interesting topic and I hope you do too. Looking forward to your responses.
PS I have deliberately avoided addressing the issue of gendered products (toiletries, razors etc) as that would make this a very long post! I am aware of the issue, but I think that may be a matter for another day…
Daniella, thank you for your motivating post! Maybe I start from the end: Yes, of cause the local society has a big affect – every country has its own gender rules that even differ depending on the part you’re living in. I.E. here in Germany you have a more conservative society in Bavaria (where Catholic church is more important) as in the eastern parts, where socialism successfully fought Christianity and a big change happened to everybody’s lifes after 1989. But I guess the most important factor is the city. Here in Berlin are living so many not gender conforming people, so it’s the most relaxing place regarding the topic. Hamburg with its harbour and Nightlife is also quite open, but even in cologne with its big LGBT community it’s less anonymous, because it’s a more like a big village. Actually here’s my first conclusion: I would say, it’s all about anonymity. If you are an unknown stranger, the chance is bigger, that people see you as you are, and not as they think you should be. If your area is more familiar, they might know you, or your family etc. and you might get a problem.
I have as a (fetishistic) transvestite quite similar experiences as you describe, but why do you think it’s a step to far, trying any items of women’s clothing or shoes on when en homme? If you have a locker room you can try on everything and then decide going out and presenting yourself. I personally like to change in public – starting a shopping tour en homme and ending en femme. But maybe my “en femme mode” as a genderqueer person, who doesn’t want to fit into either the male or female box, allows that more easily than it does for other people. I like to present myself as a boy in nice girly clothes, that irritates some people and doesn’t attract attention to others, depending on what they see in you.
So where is the step to far? Is it because of your country and the society? I think – living in a very open minded town – en homme you can shop whatever you deserve. Many genderqueer people talk about male dominance in society and that not conforming is often easier for men than it is for women. But I hope that it can be the same the other way around.
I really like your other perspective – shopping male items en femme – because it brings me to another thing: buying male drugstore products en femme might not be nice, if you present a woman, but isn’t it great fun to shop en femme in a craftsmen shop – whatever your en femme mode is?
So here’s my second conclusion: I think it’s all about your personal mode. Do you want to fit, or not? And here – see my first conclusion – it’s the local society that can help you being yourself. I hope, that on day people just look at you and try to see your inner self, and not the familiar roles they are used to know. Then you can buy everything en femme or en homme, because the external is not important anymore.
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