Transgender formalwear?

  • Article by: AMY DICKINSON
  • June 21, 2009 - 5:04 PM

Dear Amy: I am a transgender twentysomething with a bit of an etiquette problem.

Biologically, I am a female, and I do not plan on surgically transitioning into a male.

It can be difficult to explain my identity to people who are not familiar with the transgender umbrella.

While I am comfortable wearing men's clothing or dressing androgynously, and I'm able to pass as either male or female should I desire, I am at a loss for what to wear at weddings and other formal occasions.

I'm at the age when I'm increasingly invited to weddings and am being told by (straight) friends and (straight) family members that I must wear a dress. For me, this would be absolutely humiliating and is just as absurd as telling a man to attend in a dress.

I would not want to cause a controversy, offend anyone or in any way distract from what should be someone else's very important day.

My initial plan was to try to find formal women's clothes that were not dresses, but I haven't found anything appropriate. My current plan is to avoid all weddings in which the couple would not want me unless I'm in a dress.

I'm worried about situations in which the couple getting married would be fine with my attire, but other guests might disapprove.

Should I ask the couple's permission? Or should I just wear a suit and be prepared to explain myself repeatedly, accept snide comments from ignorant people and risk making a scene?


Amy says: I have never heard of a wedding where the hosts told the guests what to wear (beyond the basic "formal" or "cocktail attire" guidelines), and it's perfectly acceptable for a woman to wear a pantsuit to a formal event. You might be making too much of this.

I agree with your sensitivity about upstaging the marrying couple or somehow causing a "scene," but it seems to me that anyone who knows you well enough to invite you to share a sacred event would also realize that you always dress in trousers. (I've never seen Ellen DeGeneres wearing a dress, and she always looks stylishly appropriate.)

You should not ask the marrying couple's permission to come to their wedding in a nice suit, but if they ask what you'll be wearing you should tell them.

If your attire is going to be a problem and if you can't bear to be dressed otherwise, then send your polite regrets.

If you behave and are dressed appropriately and are cloaked in your sparkling personality, you'll be fine.

Send questions via e-mail to Amy Dickinson at or by mail to Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Av., Chicago, IL 60611.

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