A few months ago my wife and I spent a few days in Reading, Pennsylvania visiting friends and shopping in the outlets there. My wife has become more accepting over the years and I had so much fun buying lingerie at the Vanity Fair outlet. Imagine a room the size of a gymnasium filled with bras, panties, nightgowns, slips, foundations and every other type of lingerie. I literally spent half a day picking out a bunch of stuff and this time didn’t have to hide it from my wife. That was great; however, I also needed socks to wear every day.
I made my way out of Vanity Fair and over to the Gold Toe outlet. Here they sell socks of all types. In my daily male drag, I like to wear women’s trouser socks. I like the thinness of them and I also like a sock the goes up almost to my knee. For that reason, I always buy women’s socks.
So I went into the store and told the older woman that I am looking for a thin sock that is knee high. She directed me to the men’s section where there was a “Gold Toe over the calf style.” These socks were thicker than I like, were ribbed and outrageously priced at $16 a pair.
So this is where it gets interesting and kind of fun.
I thanked her and meandered over to the women’s section and found a huge selection of what I want in all kinds of colors and priced much lower.
She comes over and announces “These are women’s --- men’s are over there.”
In times past I may have become flustered, but I found her gender regulating to be amusing. An impish smile came across my face as I responded.
“I know. These are exactly what I want.”
She lowered her voice as if to save me embarrassment and whispered “But these are for women.”
The tenor and tone of her voice communicated much more; you’re a man, wearing anything feminine would be wrong, even degrading.
My smile and amusement caught her off guard and disarmed what could have been an uncomfortable exchange.
“It’s Okay,” I said while chuckling a bit, “These are the socks I want. The fact that they’re women’s doesn’t bother me.”
Like the church lady on Saturday Night Live she responded with a “Very well then,” and moved on.
She was a sweet lady and was only trying to be helpful and for that reason I wasn’t embarrassed or offended. When I went to check out, she asked if I found everything I needed. I nodded my head, said “Oh yes, perfect, this will be fine.”
Professionally and politely, she completed the sale; however, I suspect she was just a bit disappointed that I was leaving with women’s socks.
I want to contrast that experience with another while buying pantyhose a few weeks ago.
I love Hanes Silk Reflections pantyhose and have worn them for over 20 years. After a weekend camping trip, I was passing the outlet center in Kittery, Maine and decided to make a quick stop to buy pantyhose for my upcoming trip to the UK. The Hanes Bali outlet had just opened and was empty and quiet on a Sunday morning. The sale associate was about 30 years old and dressed in a casual skirt and top.
I flashed my friendliest smile and let loose with a “Good Morning.”
When she asked if she could help me, I replied “Yes, Hanes Silk Reflection Pantyhose.”
Without being the slightest bit phased, she led me down the aisle to the Silk Reflections. I noticed we were at the regular sizes and I needed the plus size.
“Oh!” I blurted out, “I need the plus size.”
She directed me around the corner and with a smile, “Here you go.”
I spent the next few minutes trying to make some decisions; the pantyhose were now $24 for a pack of three and my budget was only going to allow for one pack. I was trying to decide between Jet Black and Barely Black, in addition, I was having trouble finding all the sizes.
I popped my head over the display and asked, “Can you help me? I’m having trouble finding sizes. “
She strolled over. “What’s up?”
“I need 1X; I found it in the nude, but can’t find it in any of the blacks.”
While she rummaged around in the display case she asked, “What color black, Jet or Barely?”
She hopped up and proudly held the two 1X packages in her hands. “Here we are.”
With my index finger held against my pursed lip, I considered my choices.
“I’m not sure what color I need. I don’t want to spend $45 on pantyhose today, so I have to decide on one.”
I noticed she didn’t hesitate when she asked
“What are you going to be wearing with them?”
I replied without thinking,
“Mostly printed skirts with black in them, but I also plan on wearing a black suit one night.”
She held one package up higher and said, “Go with the Barely Black. It works with everything. Jet Black is really for like a formal, black cocktail dresses and such.”
I took the package from her, thanked her profusely, while making our way up to the register. She asked if I needed anything else or had a frequent buyer card. I paid, she thanked me and wished me a nice day. Off I went with my new pantyhose.
Time magazine recently ran article titled “The Transgender Tipping Point,” which highlights the progress made by transgender people all over the world. These two shopping events could not have demonstrated that tipping point more clearly. My dear sweet friend at the Gold Toe outlet was clearly tied to the old paradigm of gender rigidity. However, the clerk at Hanes Bali was clearly comfortable with me buying pantyhose and discussing outfits for my trip as a woman.
The struggle for transgender rights is far from over. I urge us all to remember that each and every one of us is a role model, advocate, and educator. We must be thankful for people who fought and sacrificed before us. You don’t need to be highly visible or carry a sign in the Pride parade. You can do something as simple as supporting a girlfriend with a kind e-mail or standing up against a bigoted transgender remark at work.
Transgender people have always been part of humanity. They are part of the human experience, instead of condemnation, it’s time to open our minds, to begin learning, to begin understanding, then accepting and finally celebrating!
Cecil and Avery femulate to attend a womanless wedding, circa 1955.