Leap-Frogging Into Gender Non-Conformity

Dear Dear Queer, do you have any advice on getting up the confidence to do gender non-conforming things, like not shaving your legs and armpits when you’re afab or painting your nails and wearing make up when you’re amab?

Well from personal experience, I kind of started small and built up! For me it was nice because it was somewhat subtle and it allowed me a lot of room to figure out what felt right to me. I know a lot of cis girls who laugh about not shaving their legs in winter, but when winter ended and shorts became a viable option again, I just abandoned my razor. A huge key – and I’ll keep saying it over and over again because it is at the forefront of self care – is checking in with yourself to see what you like, what you want to change, etc. Like, I typically shave my armpits just because I don’t like the way it feels, and I keep my nails aggressively well manicured, but I would definitely still say that I’m a pretty gender defiant person. Wear and do what makes you feel happy and healthy and affirmed, and find confidence in the fact that you’re reaching a place where you can find out what you like, not what other people want you to like. Even within gender binaries, nobody does gender the same. We are not Stepford wives.

For AFAB people who feel obligated or pressured to shave their legs, I just have to say you’ll honestly be very surprised with how little people care. From my own experience, I’ve never even gotten a weird look and I tend to show off my legs. The only comments I’ve ever gotten have been positive so I would try not to get too wound up about it. This might be a product of me living in the Pacific Northwest, but I’ve been to Texas, Southern California, and all over the midwest and northeast and have yet to experience a negative reaction. So that’s nice! Let your hair grow out and take time at home or wherever to sit down and feel the hair on your legs and love the way it looks, or at least the statement it makes, if that’s what you’re going for. Confidence is a huge key, and affirmation from outside sources won’t matter a ton if you don’t have an inner foundation. The more concerned with whatever gender-defying action you’re taking you are, the more people are going to be drawn to it as something out of the ordinary. Drawing the spotlight to whatever you’re doing isn’t going to help you feel comfortable in doing it. If I wore shorts and kept darting my eyes to my legs or kept trying to hide them, that would bring in a lot of unwanted attention when in reality it’s pretty likely to slip under the radar.

AMAB people are not as lucky, and I won’t pretend that they are! Regardless of assigned or perceived gender, presenting as more masculine will always be more acceptable than presenting as feminine for as long as we live in a male-biased society. If you’re AMAB and want to start playing around with feminine forms of expression, there are a ton of ways to very subtly weave perceived aesthetic femininity into your look (polish on your toes, nude makeup, incorporating less “masculine” colors into your palette, etc). That said, and this is where all of my friends who keep up with this laugh out loud, have you seen Harry Styles lately? My dude is currently pullin’ off and has been seen with nail polish and earrings and sparkly boots (they were so pretty!!) and rings and necklaces and wedge heels and these gorgeous scarves around his head and nobody is blinking an eye. This goes for AFAB people too but knowing there are successful gender-defiant people out there doin’ it both casually and loudly is a huge comfort and reassurance and I think it makes it less scary.

I hope this helps in any small way, and goooooood luck!

Oly