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Exploring My Identity and Gender Through Fashion
"We all deserve to get dressed for the day with confidence, and that starts with what's underneath."
By Mere Abrams
Growing up in the Midwest, in an area populated predominantly by white cisgender people in heterosexual relationships, I quickly picked up on the fact there was a particular way of presenting and being that was considered acceptable, which came in the form of blending in. Standing out was only a good thing if you excelled at reinforcing gender norms and sex-based stereotypes. At the young age of 5, I recognized the things that I gravitated toward didn't match the choices of my peers that were assigned the same gender.
Looking back on this time, I do not recall my gender non-conformity being a real choice — it's just what felt right and was appealing to me. But the messages I received from society led me to see this in-born trait as something to be tolerated and that I was expected to outgrow. So that's precisely what I tried to do as puberty ensued. Based on what I saw around me, I understood the task of adolescence as a time to learn how to embody socially-praised versions of my assumed gender. Little did I know that focusing my energy here would lead me down a path in the opposite direction of self-understanding. If I could go back and tell my younger self one thing, it would be that the tasks of childhood and adolescence are to develop skills, relationships, and knowledge that allow you to figure out who you are and what you're passionate about — and all of the options are on the table, no matter what labels or descriptors society attaches to them.
I allowed the labels society attached to the things to deter me from what felt right to me for far too long. Due to the repressive gender norms and stereotypes that surrounded my childhood, it wasn't until my 20s that I mustered up the guts to finally wear the underwear and clothing that allowed me to show up in the world more authentically and find a sense of congruence in my gender and presentation. When I first began wearing underwear and clothing that affirmed my gender, it felt as if I was putting a puzzle together, and these were crucial pieces I'd been missing since childhood. I felt a new sense of comfort in my skin and confidence in how I looked.
For most of us (on most days), one of the first things we do when getting dressed involves putting on underwear — especially if planning to leave the house. This small act can set the tone for the day ahead. It's a moment to connect with your body, consider what's on the schedule (as well as the weather), and ask yourself how you're feeling. This all informs what we ultimately decide to wear on a given day. It's how we express ourselves and want to show up in the world. For some, getting dressed is somewhat subconscious, while it's incredibly conscious for others. For some, getting dressed is enjoyable, while it's a daily challenge or struggle for others. Given the time we spend and the frequency at which we as humans engage in the practice of getting dressed, perhaps we should treat it as an intentional ritual through which we affirm our sense of self, our values, and how we want to show up in the world. Each layer becomes a chance to honor how you feel and who you are on a given day. But that would only be possible if we all had the options we needed and deserved. At Urbody, we create those options for people of all genders and identities. Urbody is gender-affirming underwear and activewear brand that designs gender-inclusive collections by and for the LBGTQ+ community that address the fit, functionality, and style needs of those across the gender spectrum. Urbody created its own sizing and grading system built to fit trans, non-binary, and gender-nonconforming folks. We all deserve to get dressed for the day with confidence, and that starts with what's underneath.