Written By: Noa Livneh
While there are more than 700,000 self-identified transgenders living in the United States, understanding their daily life is a struggle for most of us because we can’t put ourselves in their shoes. . . or can we? For an entire week, I wore stereotypical men’s clothes and shoes during school hours. The experience completely changed the way I perceive gender. As a full supporter of people’s freedoms, I had never really understood what transgender people go through to become who they are comfortable being. I was no longer on the outside—I finally had the chance to learn what life is like for girls and boys who feel as though they are living as the wrong gender.
Tuesday was my first day in my new clothes. In the car on the way to school, I began to feel uneasy, not because the men’s clothes were uncomfortable (because, believe me, they are way more comfortable than tight jeans and a typical blouse), but because the outfit didn’t represent who I was. My wardrobe is my form of expression; it’s the way I want people to perceive me. We are so used to wearing the same thing everyday; putting on clothes that were the opposite of “me” became unnatural. I felt practically naked, 100 percent vulnerable. As the day went on, it got more uncomfortable to be in the men’s clothes. I noticed the stares. Although no one offended me, I realized that if I were truly serious about expressing my gender choice through these clothes, my self-esteem would completely sink, not because they would be making fun of my clothes, but because they would be making fun of my true self. It felt as if no one supported me. The ones who didn’t know me wouldn’t look me in the face—they just gave me a weird facial expression and looked up and down at my outfit. My closer friends were much more vocal, saying things like: “Noa! What the heck are you wearing?” or “Noa, is anything wrong? What are you doing?” Some even guessed on the spot that it was an experiment. I believe that their comments were so forward and even rude because they already knew how I dressed on a regular basis. Sometimes I had a hard time not telling people that it wasn’t really my wardrobe and that things would go back to normal in a week. However, most people who are trying to determine their true gender identifier would not want to say that their clothing choice is just a phase.
Those comments and looks surprised me because I didn’t think that Gunn would be so judgmental. I have always been very proud of my school because there is an overwhelming amount of acceptance, but I never had to be on the receiving side of the judgments people make. I felt as if I had been put on a pedestal and the whole school was observing me, watching me walk from one class to another. I was disappointed to find an enormous number of students who made me feel uneasy in my temporary wardrobe, whether they said anything to me or not.
All in all, the entire experiment proved to be a success in that people took notice of my transformation. It’s hard to judge whether they were taking notice because it’s not my usual attire or because I was actually wearing men’s clothes, but nonetheless, the reactions I got made me feel unwelcome in my own body. As accepting as Gunn is, I still believe that there is still an underlying vibe of prejudice and judgment that will only go away with greater awareness.