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Surjodeep Dongare

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By the time I realized I was trans, it was 2003 and I was just out of college. 4 years prior, I'd left the conservative little town where I grew up and moved to the LGBT haven of Atlanta, GA. I was still close to my family, but I was also fully financially independent. For me, it felt like my life was finally my own. I could go where I wanted, do what I wanted and forget what anyone else thought about it.

In hindsight, it was the perfect time in my life for me to discover that I wanted to make a drastic change.

Don't get me wrong, I was still nervous about coming out. What if my family didn't accept me? (Some of them didn't.) What if my friends rejected me? (Some of them did.) What if I got fired from my new job? (I didn't, but it wasn't exactly a healthy work environment.)

Despite my worries, I knew that what I felt was the truth and I wasn't about to let any of my fears stop me. So I jumped and never looked back.

I honestly don't have any regrets about the way I transitioned. Yet, I also know that a lot of people's coming out processes are really different than mine. Right now, trans representation is at an all-time high. Of course, we still have a long way to go, but it's a lot easier to see what the possibilities are. YouTube and Instagram are teeming with other trans folks sharing their glorious stories.

Today, it's not uncommon for someone to discover their truth long before they leave home. Because of this, there are a lot of reasons why a person might know that they're trans but are unable to act on that truth. Perhaps you have unsupportive parents. Or maybe you're afraid that you'll be bullied at your school. Or perhaps you're just not ready to come out yet, plain and simple.

You should never let anyone else dictate your coming-out timeline. Coming out is your choice and your choice alone.

But that doesn't mean there aren't things you can do to make yourself feel better while you're in the closet. This is the first article in a series of articles inspired by @transmasculinehelp. These articles will cover a variety of topics for guys who just aren't ready to tell the world they're trans.

In this first article, we cover tips on how to shop if you want to shop from the men's section of the store, but can't. We hope it brings you some relief.

Just a quick note here that we are by no means saying that masculine-identified people have to dress in any particular way. We firmly believe that anyone can wear anything regardless of their gender identity. Your sartorial choices have nothing to do with your validity as a trans person. This article is meant to specifically help guys who want to dress in a way that society sees as more masculine but who can't shop at men's stores.

This might seem like a no brainer, but you'd be surprised. It actually took me a really long time to realize that I liked the way clothes looked on my body when they're a little boxier. I'd been out for many years and on T and still buying medium shirts. I hated the way I looked in my clothes and thought that it was just because I wasn't cis. In my head, my "trans body" made it so clothes didn't look how I thought they should look. In reality, I just should have been wearing larges instead of mediums.

I blame this partly on GQ Magazine.

Let me explain.

There was a time in the not so distant past when many cis men committed the "fashion crime" of wearing everything several sizes baggier than they should. As a reaction, men's fashion magazines implored readers to size down. This constant narrative led me to believe that tighter clothes were proper and fashionable. What I failed to realize is that there's a difference between wearing something that FITS loosely and wearing something that clearly doesn't fit.

Start by going one size up from what you normally wear. Your clothes should have good movement around your body. You shouldn't feel as though you're stumbling over excess fabric, but your clothing shouldn't hug you either. You're not being shot into outer space and you don't need to be cinched into your clothing.

Tighter clothes are generally read as more feminine and looser clothes will have the added benefit of hiding any curves you don't want the world to see.

Unless you are shopping for yoga gear, there's a good likelihood that you'll be able to find gender-neutral clothing and accessories at sporting good stores. Sometimes the colors will differ, but there is almost always black, grey or white available.

Basketball shorts are one such option. There is very little difference between those sold in the "women's" section and those sold in the "men's" section of the sporting good store. And these days it's perfectly acceptable to wear basketball shorts off the court. You don't even have to be a basketball player to rock them.

It should be noted that any shorts that hang past your knees will make you look shorter. This might not be ideal for shorter folks, but if your dysphoria is triggered more by tight short shorts than your height, then basketball shorts are your jam.

Joggers and Sweatpants can often be more gender-neutral as well. Also, unlike basketball shorts, you don't have to worry that wearing them will make you look shorter.

Athletic watches are another sporting good store item that is shared across the gender divide. My whole family actually wears the same model Fit Bit - mom, dad, sister, and I.

What is tartan you ask? Tartan is a pattern of crisscrossed horizontal and vertical bands in many colors. It's often incorrectly referred to as "plaid" in the US. Honestly, if you're more comfortable calling it "plaid," we're not going to judge you. But plaid is actually a large piece of tartan cloth - like the ones that kilts are made of.

Anyway, tartan shirts are generally easy to find on both sides of the shopping gender divide. This style of shirt had a fashion resurgence in the 1990s, that never really went away. The initial rise in popularity coincided with the burgeoning grunge music scene. But today, they're considered a fashion classic. This means that tartan shirts are almost always available.

In the fall and winter, you'll see tartan flannels pop up everywhere. And in the summer, lightweight cotton shirts with this pattern are hard to miss. The best part about tartan is that the striping can help hide your chest in a way that a solid shirt cannot. The pattern also makes the gendered differences in cut less noticeable.

Button-down shirts come in many different styles and color. They can also be found at thrift stores. For folks who are just discovering themselves and want to overhaul their image, thrift stores are a great option for guys on a budget. Like flannels, the center button line draws the eye and can hide any conspicuous lumps you might have underneath your shirt. Eyes naturally travel up and down the centerline of your body instead of focusing on your chest.

If you aren't binding yet, but still want to find ways to hide your chest, wearing layers is often the best way to get the job done. Unfortunately, this can mean wearing lots of clothes even when it's blazing outside.

Knowing this, you may want to fill your calendar with indoor activities in the summer: movies, bowling, hanging around the mall. In fact, these places often keep the AC blasting, and you'd be cold without the extra layer.

For layering that effectively hides your chest, hoodies, oversized sweatshirts, and jackets are obviously great for covering up. Hoodies and sweatshirts, in particular, tend to be the same no matter which section of the store you're shopping in. It should be noted that tight versions of any of these aren't going to do you any favors. Like we said go for one size up from what you normally wear.

A jean jacket is also a fantastic outerwear choice. People of all genders have been rocking these for decades and there are virtually zero differences between those marketed to men and those marketed to women.

When it comes to layers, the general rule is the more you wear, the better you can hide your chest.

The boyfriend trend started over a decade ago and thankfully for closeted transguys, it's still going strong. Specific clothing items may come and go within that trend, but "boyfriend underwear" is fairly mainstream these days. I recently saw Hanes selling this style of underwear at Target. It doesn't get more mainstream than that. These super-simple boyfriend briefs are also a good choice.

In addition to boyfriend underwear, these days it's not too difficult to find boyfriend jeans, boyfriend chinos, and boyfriend blazers.

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