This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Riya Jain. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

6 Lessons I Learned About Feminine Clothing As A Crossdressing Straight Man

More from Riya Jain

By Riya Jain:

I’m a straight guy in my mid-20s who developed a love for women’s fashion around the same time when puberty struck. I’ve been extremely lucky to have some fun gal pals who share my excitement for dress-up and have indulged my feminine side. These young women have shared their entire wardrobe with me, right from exquisite anarkali suits to bellies and from accessories to make-up. Also, I’ve been quietly picking up women’s clothing in malls and trying them on in men’s trial room, admiring the look for a few seconds before taking them off and putting them back in their place. My years of experience dressing up as a woman would, and all the knowledge I’ve acquired about women’s fashion gives me a distinct advantage. I understand women’s clothing better, having walked in their shoes, literally.

It’s not that I ever lacked respect and appreciation for women, but this has given me insight which makes me appreciate them even more. Here are a few lessons I’ve learnt along the way:

1. Expert Knowledge In Women’s Clothing

I’ve become kind of an expert in women’s fashion. I have friends who insist that I go shopping with them when they want to buy an outfit or shoes. I’ve had friends and sisters who drag me to malls with them or exchange links of dresses and shoes online to select what to buy. This makes me a darling to these lovely women. I can’t even recall how many of them have told me it’s such a help and relief to have a participating shopping partner like me who knows fashion and is happy to accompany them even for window shopping. Most of my guy friends hate “wasting time” shopping whereas I just love checking out the new collection in every section on the women’s floor. I am these girls’ go-to shopping partner. We bond over this stuff big time! I know what a boatneck neckline is, what halter-neck means, the difference between block heels and cone heels are, and that one should rather wear petticoats with zipper instead of the old-fashioned drawstring (‘naada’) for sarees that will be draped tightly. Some of my friends even ask me to recommend blouse designs. And I keep egging them on to go for typically feminine looks. I had one conservative friend get a backless blouse stitched, and she loved it.

2. Being Sensitive To Time Required For Makeup

Poking fun at women for taking time to get ready is an act of ignorance. When my friend put makeup on me the first time, I was amazed to learn how much effort goes into applying makeup. You need a steady hand to make sure you get the eyeliner right, and equal on both the sides. Such a task! You just can’t rush it. Eyelash curler, then mascara in a zig-zag motion; upper lashes, lower lashes. and there is kaajal, of course. Adding colour to waterline, such a sensitive part. Then there is eye shadow, blending which requires utmost care. A little eyebrow pencil too. All this takes so much time and effort. And we’re done only with eyes by now.

3. Being Aware Of How Complex The Art Of Makeup Is

Full make-up, with foundation, compact, contouring, lip colour etc., is a work of art. And these things take time. You can’t rush it. I learned it when I was made to sit quietly as my friend explained what she was doing to my face and the right way to do it. Sure, it takes time, but the time and effort is worth it. Don’t guys go crazy over beautifully done smokey eyes or that neat-winged eyeliner or beautiful kohl-rimmed eyes? And only somebody who has applied nail polish can understand what expertise it takes to get a great, smooth finish.

4. The Difficulty Of Maintaining Makeup

Maintaining that makeup is another task in itself. Eat something and the lipstick needs touch up. Can’t dare rub or itch your eyes because you can’t afford to ruin your eye makeup. Just ‘deal with it’. This requires you to be conscious of yourself which takes effort and commands respect. I understand your trials and tribulations, ladies.

5. Not ‘Delicate’, Just Gentle

Some guys like to poke fun at girls for acting ‘so girly’ or so ‘delicate’. When my friend put me in her partywear anarkali suit, with its full net sleeves and net dupatta and heels, there was no way I could continue to be my brash masculine self. With all these flaring dresses, you cannot have a devil-may-care attitude. One needs to be careful. In my typically masculinr look, I’d rush to you instantly if you called me. En femme, I’d need to turn my head slowly. With those heavy jhumkas, you cannot afford to be brash and jerky. Being delicate and gracious is the need of the hour. And there are heels, of course. (I’m talking about stilettos, not wedges, since they are so easy I could do taekwondo in them.) With high heels on, do expect us to walk gently, not gent-like. You’d know only if you ever walked in heels yourself.

6. Appreciating The ‘Skill’

I’ve had the pleasure of being draped in a saree once, although only for 15 minutes. Trust me, it’s not a cakewalk. Particularly, when it’s draped tightly (like my friends draped on me to highlight my curves). I found myself taking baby steps when I was in that saree. I was left wondering how these women I see at parties glide around effortlessly in sarees and heels. I was filled with awe and respect for their skill. Yes, I think it’s a skill and I’ll be mighty impressed with you if you have this skill.

Until I myself started dressing up in a more feminine manner, it never occurred to me just how much effort goes into dressing up. So now when I see a gal pal whose eyeliner is on the spot, I ping her and compliment her on the job well done. If I see a friend merrily strutting around in pencil heels, I tell her I’m in awe of her shoes. They all seem mildly surprised that a guy would even notice such things. They thank me for noticing and some have even told me this appreciation feels good. The same bunch tells me I’d make an excellent boyfriend/husband, given how sharply I observe and acknowledge the things girls do and make them feel good through my sincere compliments.

While many girl friends to whom I have told about this dress-up affinity of mine have gotten scandalised by the revelation, I’ve been so lucky to have the ones who take delight in my adventures. I’m one ambitious individual. I’m keen to try on a saree again and I want to be able to walk freely in them. Chiffon, georgette, silk, I want to try it all! I’m also eager to try on a dress and soak in the feeling with bellies or with heels. It’s a challenge I’ve set for myself to walk freely in pencil heels. I hope to get the time and opportunity, and most importantly, sporting gal pals, to pull off an adventure, yet again.

You must be to comment.

More from Riya Jain

Similar Posts

By Bhaskar Choudhary

By Devyani Rabindranath

By Ungender Legal Advisory

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below