World Wide Wardrobe
For members of the transgender community, clothing swaps on Tumblr help alleviate the pressure of shopping.
WORDS BY Xhevrije West // ART BY Colleen Lowery
Ryker Wyatt gazes into a mirror, hating the reflection he sees. He’s preparing to go to work as a crew member at Dunkin’ Donuts in Lindenhurst, N.Y. He reaches into his closet for the uncomfortable binding he wears to conceal his breasts. After struggling with the bandage he wraps around his chest, he finishes dressing and leaves his house, barely breathing, in a body that’s never felt like his own.
Since he was in 10th grade, Wyatt, 21, although born female, knew he was male. Wyatt wants to wear men’s clothing, items that signal the gender he knows himself to be. But women’s clothes fill his closet, because it’s difficult to find men’s pants and shirts that fit his more feminine physique.
“Tumblr is known for its acceptance of diversity and LGBTQ activism, so it’s a great place to start,” Wilkins says.
Wyatt found a solution to his clothing problem while researching transgender support sites online. He came across Clothes for Trans, a Tumblr page dedicated to helping transgender people acquire clothes as they go through the transition process, which, in Wyatt’s case, consists of taking testosterone to lower his voice, accelerate his muscle growth, and grow facial, chest, and underarm hair. He also sees a counselor a few times per week to obtain written permission to undergo breast removal surgery.
Founded in March 2014 by Nicholas Wilkins, a queer cisgender male — which means he identifies as male and his birth certificate says male — Clothes for Trans quickly gained more than 2,600 followers looking to donate and swap clothing. “Tumblr is known for its acceptance of diversity and LGBTQ activism, so it’s a great place to start,” Wilkins says.
Clothes for Trans is the online equivalent of clothing outlets that cater to transgender customers, like Saint Harridan and Tomboy Tailors. Users are able to subscribe to the site and post pictures of their clothing and accessories they want to donate or swap. Other subscribers are able to view the clothing and contact the poster directly.
“You can be yourself on the Internet before you can be yourself in person,” Widmer said in an interview with Time.
For people like Wyatt, being able to shop online without fear of being stared at or ridiculed makes the transition process easier. “I like the idea of giving and receiving. It’s rewarding for everyone,” Wyatt says. “I love giving my female clothes to someone who really needs them or cannot go out in public and buy them due to the negative reactions they may receive.”
Teagan Widmer, a 25-year-old member of the transgender community, created the app Refuge Restrooms, which identifies gender-neutral bathrooms. Widmer says the anonymity and comfort the Internet provides is vital for transgender users. “You can be yourself on the Internet before you can be yourself in person,” she said in an interview with Time.
Michelle Wexelblat, a clinical social worker and therapist, whose clients include those struggling with identity issues, says many transgender people suffer from “internal transphobia,” also known as “the fear of oneself.” This fear keeps many transgender people from truly being themselves, especially when shopping for clothing to match their identities.“They make female tuxes, but there are no male ball gowns,” she says. “There is a stigma that comes with men shopping for women’s clothing, and I find that women get more flexibility and acceptance in society than men.”
Wyatt stands in front of the mirror. This time something’s different. He’s wearing a long-sleeve flannel shirt and a pair of tan cargo shorts, all items he’s just received in the mail from a donor on the Clothes for Trans Tumblr site. He smiles, feeling more like himself than ever before.
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