27 May

This might seem like a weird area of my body to focus on with regards to gender dysphoria, but recently I had to shop for clothing to attend a wedding in and I realized I have a thing about my shoulders and collarbone.

Bare shoulders and a bare collarbone are not neutral. Unlike other items of “women’s” clothing that happen to fit my body, I can’t find neutral/masculine details to tilt me away from an overall feeling of pretending to be a woman that I’m not. Exposing that part of my body in public is unabashedly feminine. Guys may go around with a couple of shirt buttons undone, but unless there’s exercise or sex involved, you don’t see dudes going into events with shirts that show their collarbone from shoulder to shoulder.

You might be wondering why I bothered looking at anything that would leave my shoulders bear. To be honest, I just don’t want to melt, and it was also the more economical option. The wedding is going to be on a hot summer night. Dresses expose skin in a socially appropriate way that also allow for greater cooling capability. Plus, I own no other formal clothes I can wear without a binder, and you would have to pay me a decent amount of money to wear a binder for an entire wedding on a hot Southern night. What can I say, I overheat easily. A dress was also going to be less expensive than finding an entire suit.

So I scoured. I’m plus-sized, so I shopped online. And shopped. And shopped. I swear, the fashion industry has a grudge against the lingerie people. Even in plus-size stores, where people tend to be bigger in the chest region, there are an absurd amount of clothing options that don’t allow for wearing a bra at all because of open or sheer backs.

Finding a dress that was less than $50 and also would let me wear a bra, while being appropriate for an evening wedding, eventually convinced me that it’d be easiest to find something strapless. I’d link to the $30 dress I ended up getting but it’s not on the website anymore. Considering I won’t have the occasion to wear this dress more than a few times, I am thrilled with it — mostly because of the cost, but also because it’s not hideous. I do like how it looks.

But there’s still the shoulders and collarbone issue.

It was in the mail when I started realizing how important that was to me. The idea of wandering around like that leaves me feeling very vulnerable and very aware of my shape and how it doesn’t conform to the body I expect to have when my eyes are closed.

Practically speaking this was solved in about five minutes by finding a cropped sweater to wear that covers my shoulders. But it was still a strange moment, because before that I had never really given a second thought to my collarbone. It’s not really something that I’ve seen people talking about before. Though this is possibly due to me never hanging out in non-binary spaces.

Getting older means that I’m getting into more situations where “t-shirt I got off a thrift store rack” and “jeans” are not really clothing I’m allowed to wear. At this point, my dream job would allow me to wear said t-shirts and sweatpants all day, but we can’t have everything. I am at least lucky enough that Girlfriend is a fashion type and will dress me if I request. (Yes, I’m going go be one of those people. I have no shame.)

Adult clothes are going to inevitably trigger my dysphoria a lot more than the clothes I got away with wearing in school and undergrad. I hope that at this point I’ve finished discovering what body parts make me wary, but I never would’ve predicted my collarbone being one of them, so I can’t say for sure.

It did occur to me, while writing this, that I’ll have a loophole in the fashion industry’s grudge against bras after my top surgery. I won’t have to worry about wearing a bra at all when I want to wear feminine clothing. Take that, nebulous and unknown nemesis.

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