A few months before I accepted I was trans, I had an experience which didn't fully resonate with me for what it was about at the time.
For some context... I always used to hate collared shirts. Of any kind - business shirts, polo shirts... anything. The more masculine it made me look, the worst it felt. Same was true of suits and tuxedoes, but a much larger degree.
The only time I ever wore collared shirts was as an over-shirt.
I used to wear them not for fashion reasons, but because I hated my body and often felt uncomfortable wearing just a t-shirt. I wanted something to hide how gross my body was (to me). When it was too warm for a jacket, I resorted to an over-shirt.
Thing is, I actually quite like the look of a loose over-shirt and a tee underneath. And yet the look always felt 'wrong' on me. It bothered me, immensely. I was deep in denial about my gender dissonance, so I was just confused. "Why can't I feel good in this, when I appreciate it on other people?"
(The same was true of suits and tuxedoes - when my friends dressed up, I'd be amazed at how awesome they could look, and it was this source of absolute shame that I could "never look that good", in my own mind at least.)
When my old over-shirt went missing, I begrudgingly went to go find another. I always liked ones with military-style shoulders - the one you can pin ranks to. They just seemed to fit mentally with my thing for camo and other mil-chic. (Something I still like today.) Result? I went to a disposal shop.
There I began to browse shirts. I kept thinking, "Look, fuck it. Get something nice. Pick a shirt you feel you look good in. There has to be ONE."
I began to browse. I finally found a Gondwana dust-coloured shirt. The kind you'd see a park ranger or a zookeeper in, if it had a name tag and a park badge sewn onto it.
It reminded me of Indiana Jones.
So I glanced at styles, found one that I thought looked good, then took it back to the change rooms.
Now, I always hated change rooms. Because they're gendered - in large department stores, anyway. But in small places like op-shops or disposal shops? I felt more comfortable. Nobody eyeing me as I went in, like at Kmart or Target. Nobody whose stare was making my dysphoria go nuts, even before I knew what that was.
So I went in, and tried the shirt on. To my surprise, there was NO way it was going to fit on me. It looked about the right size, but I was completely wrong.
Then I figured out why - I'd picked up a women's shirt.
I felt a deep rush on embarrassment, and got it back to the shelf to pick another few from the men's section, hoping nobody had seen me browsing in the women's section.
I bought a men's equivalent, but it never quite worked for me. Didn't seem right.
It remained an overshirt I'd wear on occasion, but disliked as much as the others.
Only a few moments ago, as I found it while unpacking from my recent house move, did I remember this moment clearly.
I had grabbed for a women's top, because to me it looked nice. I had no idea I was browsing in the women's part of the store - I just saw a piece of women's clothing... and wanted to wear it.
Next time I have money, I kind of want to go back to that op-shop, and buy the shirt I'd eyed off enviously... it'd probably fit now. I've lost enough weight, and my body is more than feminine enough to fit nicely into fitted women's shirts.
I want to see myself in it now, and not just in my mind.