For gender non-conforming people, dressing for summer is a whole new challenge

Summer is supposed to a time where we can relax, enjoy the sun (if it ever arrives for more than a week) and relax in spaces that for the rest of the year are cold and dreary but for many the sunshine comes at a cost, an increased risk in physical and verbal abuse.

As a non-binary person, summer sees an increase in people taking non-consensual photos of my body, and people taking it upon themselves to lift up my dress or skirt to see ‘what I am,’ which is incredibly invasive and unacceptable.

It took me a long time to realise I was allowed to dress however I wanted. I always used to dread the hotter weather because it would mean I would be faced with the yearly conundrum of whether to feel comfortable in the hotter temperatures and face an increase in street harassment, or cover up and feel swamped by the London summer heat.

This increase in harassment is trans misogyny, a clear ignorance and prejudice towards gender non-conforming people, and continues this idea that we are just ‘men playing dress up’.

This notion of ‘dress up’ is something people see as entertainment or for other people’s pleasure, therefore the comments and reactions to my body are seen as valid because people presume that my expression is for their benefit.

But two years ago I decided enough was enough. Why should my mindset change so dramatically in one time period of the year, when the rest of the time it was firm in the belief that I can, and will, wear anything I want, and not feel ashamed or embarrassed for it?

I decided to take the plunge and wear mini-skirts, dresses, mesh tops and bralets and really just embrace my identity within the summertime, and it felt great.

I had never felt so empowered and engaged with my body when I was getting dressed. I’d look in the mirror and feel sexy, and beautiful and evolved, and that’s what I loved the most. I was able to look in the mirror and see progress and evolution in my identity, and I felt so proud of that.

But taking that outside was a whole new ball game, and for so many of us having that positive internal dialogue with ourselves is what gets us through the increase in street harassment.

Feeling like we are showing too much skin, or being too femme or too masc in our expressions in the summer because of the reactions from other people is something we all need to realise is not our problem.

We are all allowed to share and express ourselves to the world when it’s hot, however we want to. If you decide to wear cargo shorts and a vest top, and I decide to wear a lace bodysuit and a mini-skirt, then we should allow each other to do so without over-sexualisation or fetishisation.

It’s hot. Yes I look better, but it doesn’t mean that people can abuse our bodies just because we’re able to feel comfortable in the heat and also pull a groundbreaking look.

This is a very specific problem to women, and trans and gender non-conforming people – even more so for trans and gender non-conforming people of colour, whose bodies are still subjected to such prejudice and mistreatment in the world we inhabit.

This also goes for plus-size people, queer people, trans women of colour, and all marginalised groups that are held to society’s unrealistic standards of beauty – much more so than their thin, cis or straight counterparts.

It’s dehumanising to be told that you can only look a certain way in the peak of summer if you’re the size of a campaign model. It’s not appropriate or ethical from brands’ perspectives to be highlighting their summer wear without showing a plethora of bodies in it, because we are the ones that are buying it.

What’s important is that allyship needs to take a step up during summer, because the violence towards our bodies also steps up.

If you see it, stand in and help us out. We are just trying to remember that feeling when we were in our bedrooms that morning, feeling empowered and beautiful and evolved, and how that felt before the world told us we aren’t allowed to look so.

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