|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!”