I’m small. I wear a size 4 in jeans and a size 6 in so-called women’s shoes. For years, I tried to make women’s clothing work, buying the least feminine shirts and blazers in the dullest colours. I once asked the owner of a local women’s clothing store if she’d stock some androgynous items. I’d be a loyal customer for life if she could help me out. I’d pay upfront for special orders. Whatever it took. Her answer was a firm no. She purchased in bulk, and there was no market for those kinds of clothes in Regina. Nothing for a gender-bender like me.
Pretty much the only masculine shirts that fit me are boys’ size XL. So one day I swallowed my pride, took a deep breath, and walked into GAP Kids. A full-grown adult about to try on children’s clothes. It was humiliating. Despite my best efforts to avoid the salesperson, she came over and asked if she could help me find what I was looking for. I held out a baby blue, short-sleeved collared shirt and a grey cardigan.
“Can I try these on?” I asked sheepishly.
I was nervous because the last time I’d asked for permission to cross a gender norm, I received death threats. I’d gone to a barbershop to get a “hard part” — the kind of classic men’s cut that traditional barbershops specialize in. They refused, telling me they only cut men’s hair. So I did a couple of media interviews to highlight what seemed to me like a pretty straightforward case of discrimination. After the story aired, I woke up to hundreds of online comments, tweets, and direct messages attacking my character. One man wrote that I should be shot in the uterus. Another said I should be raped.
When I asked to try on boys’ clothes that day, the salesperson was caught off guard but eventually led me to the fitting area. She didn’t return to check on me, but I didn’t mind. I was having the time of my life, taking selfies in the fitting room looking handsome AF.