The problems with gendered clothing

Or else why I feel like we need to move to have some clothing marketed as a unisex range, with more mix and blurring of the lines

I walk into a shop. I immediately default to the mens section. Female clothing is to be forbidden to me. Not by any rules, not by any men in uniform mandating that I, an apparently cis-gender male (I’m not but we’ll get to that later) only go to male clothes, but by societal expectations. Yet my eyes are constantly drawn to the ‘forbidden fruit’ the cute female tops. The jackets, the cute prints. But I tell myself no, not today. The shop is too busy and it’s too close to home. Maybe when I go to a city where I can blend in and be anonymous.

Sweaters hung up on a clothing rack for sale — Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

For many years after I realised I tended to feel more comfortable in my skin as a more masculine presentation, I was that focused on proving I was “trans” enough, that I was “masculine” enough to be “allowed”, to prove to some gatekeepery system to let me go on hormones, to let me have the operations I needed to feel comfortable in my own skin, that the whole concept of shopping in the female section was abhorrent to me. Oh in those times I was a man, I had to buy the manliest clothes, I had to smell man, I had to have facial hair as man, I had to be MAN!

But more recently I found myself identifying more and more on the non-binary spectrum. And more and more feeling trapped and smothered by societal expectation. The more I found an identity I’m comfortable with the more it frustrates me that clothes are gendered. That men can’t like bright colours and cute prints because they’re for girls. More and more I find myself fighting against societies expectation I shouldn’t want cute things, and more and more I hate it. I want to buy clothing that resonates with me.

One morning I went to my local supermarket, early enough it’d be quiet. I didn’t have to talk to anyone. I brought clothes that resonated with me from the male and female section. I got the home, sneaking past the sometimes draconian guardianship of my mum — she wouldn’t understand it took her 7 years to accept her daughter was her son — and slipped them among my wardrobe. I hoped she’d be away all day when I put on one of my new shirts, sleeveless, lightweight, perfect for dealing with a heatwave. The only identifier it was female was the style of cut.

It’s a me wearing part of my clothing haul

Mum didn’t go out that day. She caught me coming downstairs for more Dr Pepper. Her only words were “that looks like a girls top”. Without thinking I shot back “Clothes shouldn’t be gendered, it’s comfortable, it’s light weight and I like it, it resonates with me”. Yet despite that response it again brought to light the struggle I’ve been facing. Clothes are gendered, and I don’t understand why. I think it’s for marketing purposes, but honestly who can wear what has flip flopped from male to female and back again throughout history… maybe, just maybe it’s time that in case of clothing there needs to be less focus on everything for male or female, things like t-shirts, shirts, jeans, why do they need to be marketed as “female” or “male”, other than maybe the females have a slightly different cut, have a slight emphasis on the bust, or a lighter fabric.

I’m not saying abolish gendered clothing all together (though that would in truth be nice!) but, maybe as a compromise, as a first step, a change I’d love to see is a range of clothing that is just unisex. That has soft pastel colours, cute prints, differing styles, inspirational quotes, cursive script, and gives everyone a little bit more variety.

Because I don’t understand why clothes have to be gendered, maybe you can educate me, as other than to support capitalism is the really a need for it? I recall growing up female the many times I’d shop in the mens section because the female clothing was too focused on dresses and skirts and things I would never really be seen in, maybe that’s why I find it so confusing as to the fact that it feels like men shouldn’t be seen shopping in the womens section unless it’s a gift for their partner.

Writing about: LGBTQIA+ Issues || Mental Health || Short Stories. Demi-male, trans-masculine — They/Them pronouns. Can be found at —

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