Sunday, September 23, 2012

They're For Me!

Lane Bryant - Atlanta

Today, I am happy to present another guest post by Paula Gaijkowski,

As transgendered people, many of us lead lives filled with guilt, fear and anxiety. One of the areas where this affects us greatly is shopping. Whether you are a closeted crossdresser or an experienced girl out and about on a regular basis, you can still harbor anxiety when looking for a new dress, lingerie or shoes. Even now, after going out on a regular basis in cites all over the U.S., I still sometimes get butterflies in my stomach when walking into a store.

Before you can even consider going out into the world, you will need clothes to wear. There are two ways to shop for clothes: either dressed as a woman (en femme) or as a man (in drab). I’d like to discuss shopping in drab especially for our emerging sisters who want to start building their own wardrobe.

So many girls are embarrassed or fearful about going into a store and buying women’s clothing. Let’s start with a rhetorical question, what you are doing? Answer: You’re buying women’s clothes for yourself. Now that may be atypical, but you certainly aren’t alone. Sales associates I’ve spoken with typically see two to three crossdressers a week. So what is it then that keeps you from asking for that LBD in a size 18?

I was fearful because I had not made peace with the fact that I was transgender. I felt that there was something wrong or bad about me. Deep down I was ashamed. By admitting it to a sale associate, I opened myself up for their disapproval of who I am.

Then it dawned on me. I am 52-years-old. I am hard-working and have a successful career. I am financially successful, I am a dedicated husband and father. I give back to my community and I am active in my church. I strive to be caring, kind, and thoughtful. I don’t drink or abuse drugs. I am honest and trustworthy.

This is a part of my personality that has caused me shame and anxiety for years. There are medical and biological reasons for this. It doesn’t make me an awful person, it means I’m different. I won’t feel bad about myself anymore.

Others have lost their power to judge me. I realized that being transgender is no different than being left-handed. One of the best ways to free yourself from these fears is to confront them head on by doing some shopping. Dress Barn, Lane Bryant and Fashion Bug are great places to start. These stores are TG-friendly and have been frequented by our community for years.

When you’re shopping in drab I recommend that you dress nicely. Wear clean, pressed clothes, be clean-shaven and smile. Don’t show up to try on dresses in dirty work clothes. If I am in drab, I like to wear an almost androgynous look, a black knit top and black or khaki pants. You want to depict a positive image. It helps if the likeness they see is a nice man verses, “This guy looks creepy.”

Young sales associates are familiar with transgender people. They are typically informed and probably have friends who are LGBT. They often are the most enthusiastic and even seem to embrace the diversion we present to them. Smile, be polite and don’t waste their time if you are not going to buy anything.

Remember you are not the first crossdresser in this store; they want your business and want to help you. If you’re worried about being recognized, find a store away from home. Some of the stores that actually have official transgender-friendly policies are MAC Cosmetics, Nordstrom’s, and Macy's. Fashion Bug, Lane Bryant, Dress Barn, and Payless are all known in our community for being helpful. That being said, the worst reaction I ever heard any crossdresser getting from a sales associate was indifference. For example: “You can check over there.”

Here’s an illustration of my most recent trip to a Lane Bryant in New England. I was in drab and had not shopped there before.

Sales Associate, “Hi Good Morning, Can I help you?”

Paula (Smile, I always smile!). “Hi I’m shopping for Capri pants and a top… they’re for me.”

Sales Associate, “Do you know your size?”

She didn’t even hesitate. It went great from there on. I bought a nice pair of white Capri pants and asked if I could try them on and also tried several tops, but didn’t like any of them. The sales associate asked me my name and told me hers and was excitedly throwing tops over the dressing room door for me to try on.

One of the most liberating moments in my life was for the first time uttering those words “they’re for me.” When the words came rolling off my tongue, the world stopped; I could hear the clock ticking and the hum of the air conditioning. I had visions of alarm bells going off and a SWAT team bursting out.

Instead I got a smile of approval from the sales associate and a 1000-pound burden of guilt was lifted off my shoulders. I had given myself permission to be transgender. It was an epiphany. The problem was in my head, once I got over this I was able to move forward with my evolution as a woman.

If you want to grow, the only way is to take that step. You have to make a decision to move forward in your journey. Don’t feel you need to do this; perhaps you are comfortable where you are now. I personally had reached a point in my life where the guilt and anxiety was suffocating me.

Presenting a convincing feminine image takes work, planning, discipline, and dedication. If you do nothing, nothing will change. You will be stuck in that cycle of guilt and regret. If you decide to take that step, you will find that your fears were unfounded. This was my experience and also dozens of other girls I have talked to. We all wonder, “What were we afraid of?”

After some time, you will have stores and sales associates that become your favorite. My girlfriends and I all look forward to visiting our own much loved sales associate or preferred cosmetic counter for the latest arrival. When you walk through the mall next time, take it all in, the beautiful dresses, the trendy outfits, the pretty shoes and the gleaming cosmetic counters. Then ask yourself "Who are they for?"

Now you know the answer: “They’re for me!”


  1. I couldn't agree more. Whenever I'm shopping in drab and I'm asked by a shop assistant I nearly always reply that the clothes are for me. In London recently I had a marvellous experience with a small independent store. The shop assistant not only let me try on clothes but also brought alternative outfits and sizes to the dressing room.

  2. Like Veronica, I couldn't agree more. But I still don't feel comfortable shopping in drab for myself. Luckily, after a vacation where I spent much of my time en-femme (while in SF, then in Chicago), I've lost much of my fear about going out "pretty" near home.

    The other day, as I was driving to a party (where my friends would be seeing me en-femme for the first time, I had problems with one of my thigh-highs staying up, and decided to pop into the Lane Bryant in a nearby mall to buy some hosiery. Choosing my package, I went to the cash register, paid for the stockings, and was pleasantly addressed as "Maam..."

    True professionals will treat you with respect if you are confidant. (Now, if only I could get more confidant talking while dressed pretty.)

  3. Fantastic advice Paula! I now buy all my clothes en femme and I've gotten nothing short of stellar service. You look great too!....Joanna

  4. Paula,
    The act of admitting to the public (e.g. a sales assistant) that one is TG is indeed a freeing one. About a year ago, I was dressed en femme and had been for several days. I needed a haircut for the coming work week. So, dressed in a skirt and tights and not wanting to change clothes, I went into a Regis Salon and asked for a haircut. Then I mentioned that it would be for my male hair under my wig. I asked if it was a problem and they said no. So in the middle of the salon, I took off my wig, got my short male hair washed and cut which meant that I walked around the salon without my wig. I didn't see an eye raise nor did anyone say anything. The woman that cut my hair was happy to be in a picture with me and we had a lot of fun. They charged me for a woman's cut but who am I to complain?

    To your point though, be up front, put people at ease - the worst thing for them is to be guessing what your motives are - and be at ease yourself being who you are.

    Great post BTW.


  5. It could not have been a better write. Admitting the lingerie was for me opened up the whole conversation about fabrics, brands and styles. Serious girl talk. At the close she encouraged me to embrace my feminine side as the gift it is. That kind of broke the ice in my life and have not looked back. Life is short, to many pretty things out there to make you feel right.

  6. OMG! I'm transgender and left handed! yikes!! lol

    Thanks for the pep talk and another great post Paula, you are so right in that we all unnecessarily give power to people other then ourselves and this is what causes our fears. It because of people like you that we as a part of society are making great strides.

  7. Well, I'm 62-y/o and I'm hard working and have retired. I'm considered in the lower classes financially, but independent nonetheless. I'm also a husband and a father. I give myself to my community but I'm NOT active in my church. I strive to be caring, kind, and thoughtful and while I do drink, I don't abuse drugs or smoke. I think I'm honest and trustworthy.

    Too bad many others (usually men) only want to see me in the dim light of the bedroom, and all to often I willingly go with them! I have to contend myself that they have no idea what they're truly missing.

  8. I also wanted to say the article was well written. Kudos to Paul for writting and Stana for posting!

  9. Dear Paula and Stana,

    Yes, a very nice article, indeed! Last week, I attended the wonderful SCC (Southern Comfort Conference) in Atlanta. I was extremely comfortable on many occasions last week going "en femme" everywhere (CVS, Publix Supermarket) and shopping at Sephora, Macy's, Dillards, etc. at the Perimeter Mall near the SCC hotel. I did have a first time experience for me -- trying on a number of dresses in the changing room at Macy's. Although I think they "clocked" me as TG, all the clerks were very friendly and helpful, and always referred to me and my friend (also "en femme") as "she" and "her". All in all, a wonderful experience.



  10. A very good post and one that merits re-reading on a regular basis. It takes time to learn that most of our fears are in our own minds.

    For many of us growing up confused about clothes and gender we had an almost magical relationship with many things that were exclusively feminine such as dresses, shoes, makeup, ligerie, etc. Even now with more experience and comfort there is the 'magic'. This 'magic' is not something that is felt the same way by GGs. A retail clerk can handle dresses and skirts all day long merely as part of her job. For some of us merely handling these garments in a department store is electric.

    Once again this was a great post and the comments from the other Femulate readers were spot on. Thank you all.


  11. Yes - handling these garments is electric for us. I'm not sure if it's the idea of tasting "forbidden fruit" or it's the idea that we're finally free to be ourselves. Maybe, it's one in the same idea - we've been suppressed by mainstream society, and we feel good as we break out of these cocoons.

    1. Yes, so true, the first time I worked the up courage to shop in a small lingerie shop to buy my first pair of lovely black tights, I asked the lady for tights, by this time I was so nervous I was shaking, she just smiled polity looked me up and down, went and came back with some, she questioned me and got me to feel them and it was if they were hot, my hand was a blur.
      To this day I believe she knew they were for me and I regret not coming out to her, it would of made the last fifteen years more comfortable