I guess one thing I didn’t really expect about coming out was how much free-er I feel now. It’s like I now have permission to be myself, to be the person I know I am and not the person people have expected me to be. Before I came out, before I spoke the words “I am a woman”, I felt like the thoughts and feelings in my heart were visible to the world, and that if I didn’t hide myself behind “man” thoughts and male postures people would somehow be able to tell. I’ve spent waay too much time in my life practicing being a man, looking at the men I grew up with and hung out with and worked with and trying to figure out why it comes so naturally to them and not to me. I’ve never felt comfortable in my skin, let alone clothes. And I think people are able to tell.

But this weekend I made a change. I was in town looking for some new socks and I popped into H&M, and at the one near me you have to walk and take an escalator through the women’s section. Usually I have a sly glance at whatever’s on the racks near the door and then make a beeline for where I’m “supposed” to be, but on Saturday I had a crazy thought:

It’s called the “women’s” section. I am a woman. Therefore...

I grabbed some stripy socks from the men’s, then practically skipped back to the racks of dresses and skirts and shirts and all. I didn’t really know what I was looking for - just something that I wanted to wear, whatever that was. Then I saw it - not just a dress, but the dress. My dress. Black, to the knee, with short sleeves and a high neck rimmed with a white collar. A little flare-y skirt bit at the bottom. I had to have it.

*Not the actual dress, but actually very close - mine has white banding on the ends of the sleeves, and is made of a more textured kind of fabric :)

Then I remembered dress sizes are a thing. I never really thought about what size I am before - I know my size in boy clothes, so I was figuring one size larger for women’s, but I had forgotten about numbers. Yikes. So after a few minutes of comically trying to size myself without being obvious about it, I settled on the larger one, paid for it (and the socks), strode proudly out of the store and...tights. So I went back in, bought a pack of semi-opaque tights, and re-strode somewhat-proudly out of the store. As I ran the remainder of my Saturday morning errands, I held onto that red plastic H&M bag handle with a death grip. I was not going to be separated from my dress.

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When I got home, I practically threw my groceries in the fridge, and went to try the dress on. I ‘borrowed’ one of my partner’s bras, pulled the dress over my head and struggled a bit with the tights (I’m a grown-up, I swear!), and once everything was on I turned to face myself in the mirror.

I don’t really know how to describe how I felt. It’s hard to know what a feeling is if you’ve never felt it before, but for the first time in my entire life I looked at myself in the mirror and felt happy with the way I looked, felt like it was me reflected back and not just a soulless body. True, pure happiness. In boy clothes, I always feel like fidgeting and tugging at my clothes and have to check myself in any reflective surface - in my dress, I felt so normal, so natural, like I knew what I looked like and was happy with it. Where I would normally nitpick every little detail, seeing myself in my dress all I could think was “this is how I’m supposed to look”. I spent a good five minutes just gazing at myself, from my toes to my shoulders and back, turning and turning back to see from every angle. I was beautiful and free.

I spent the rest of my day in my dress, and all of Sunday too. Every time I caught my reflection or saw myself in my peripheral vision, I remembered just how pretty I looked. No more self-consciousness or discomfort - for a few precious hours this weekend I was able to trick myself into feeling like I had the body I was meant to have. Yeah, I have broad shoulders and a stuffed bra and a far-from-curvy figure, but so what? I am a beautiful woman. It took a dress and one look in the mirror to prove that.