If you follow me on Twitter, you may have seen some photos of me in lingerie. You may have enjoyed them a lot, and I hope you have. You may also have wondered to yourself, “How does all that work with being nonbinary?” and if you have, this post is for you.
My gender is complicated. I find it difficult to explain to cisgender people, and even some binary trans people, how my gender feels. I find it easiest to explain in somewhat abstract terms, with reference to fairies and princesses, but a lot of people don’t know what I mean when I say, “Today, my gender is a boy princess,” or, “I’m an ineffable, ethereal being whose gender is as intangible as the wind.” Nonbinary people often do, and I’m grateful for that, but it’s hard to put words to my gender in a way that doesn’t make me sound, um, nuts.
That said, I’m moving away from the idea that I have to justify my gender identity to anybody. Being nonbinary doesn’t necessarily mean gender neutrality; for me, it means genderfluidity, which includes moving from femme to masc to too-tired-to-have-a-gender to gender experiences I don’t yet have the words for. That means, surely, that I’m allowed to express myself in as femme or masc or tired a way as I like, and that includes lingerie.
Lingerie doesn’t make me dysphoric. Knowing that people will read me and my outfit and my body as “female” makes me dysphoric, sure, but bits of fabric on their own don’t. I wear lingerie a lot in kink spaces, where people’s approach to gender is a lot more forgiving than it is in the wider world, and I thrive on the attention that my outfits garner me. In some ways, it’s an affirming experience, and one I treasure.
Lingerie, for me, can be femme or masc. When I see a man in lingerie, I don’t see the lingerie as femme; I just see it as a way to highlight that person’s body, the curves of it, the enviable strength in testosterone-influenced thighs. When I’m feeling masc, lingerie can either feel neutral, or it can feel like a small, sexy humiliation, a vulnerability, a way of someone (or multiple someones) seeing my body, eyeing it up and evaluating it… It can feel sexy in a dangerous sort of way to be masc and in lingerie. I don’t play a lot with forced feminization, mostly because I’m not prepared for the dysphoria I imagine it would bring me, but the humiliation comes from much the same place: a little alarm bell ringing that says, People are looking at me! I have toyed with the idea of forced feminization, and even wondered whether it would make me feel more masculine, since I would be starting at a place of not-feminine, but the risk of psychological hurt and weirdness keeps it in the “Maybe” section of my Yes/No/Maybe list.
I do experience some femininity, though, and lingerie is super affirming for those days. Pulling on stockings or wriggling into a lacy bodysuit feels like suiting up into my superhero identity, Confident Morgan, who likes their body a little more than I do and who can seduce anyone, given enough time. I often do my makeup along with wearing lingerie, painting myself into the ultimate, glittery femme fatale. I think I like the performativity of it, and again, drawing eyes onto me to make me feel either empowered or vulnerable. I also think it’s very cool that lingerie gives me access to both of those emotions, depending on context (including my gender feelings for that day).
The short answer to the question at the top of this post is, “It’s complicated.” Gender is complicated, and lingerie will remain gendered in our culture whether I experience it that way or not, meaning that other people will perceive my gender in a particular way when I don my latest Lovehoney purchase. But I love playing in that space, both as a way to affirm my inner femme and as a way to subvert people’s gendered expectations of what lingerie “means”, especially when I feel like a fairy prince in my new negligee or bodysuit.