Superman and I have one thing in common. No, it’s not looks, I am a lot more handsome. And I definitely do NOT wear my underwear on top of my clothes.
What we have in common, is wardrobe changes over the years.
The changes to Superman’s wardrobe is actually quite interesting, even if you are not a Superman fan. The site, The Man of Steel: History of the Superman Suit has a nice pictorial view of how the costume had changed over the years.
In the movie, Man of Steel, the outer red briefs have been removed. In the original Superman comics, these briefs were a holdover of strong men costumes seen in Victorian era circuses, casting Superman as a symbol of strength and masculinity. In its stead, the suit for this movie was equipped with a molded protective cup that certainly seems to present the Man of Steel as more prepared for battle than a simple pair of spandex briefs.
As I have mentioned, my wardrobe had similarly changed over the years. Being a comic book character, Superman had no say over his costume, just like I had little to no say over changes to my wardrobe.
When I was a toddler, my mom dressed me in very cute little smocked dresses.
Later, when I started school, I had to wear a school uniform – a dress, winter and summer. We tried to have pant suits instated for girls, but the school board and parents were far too conservative. Only after I had left school, could girls wear pant suits. The only highlights of my school uniform, were the tie and blazer, which I loved. I could not wait to get home after school to dress in my beloved shorts and jeans to become Superman, James Bond or Lancelot.
I hated the thick black stockings girls had to wear during winter as part of the school uniform. And Sundays there was the obligatory dress, hat and stockings. I never prayed as hard as I prayed in church for the service to be over so that I could get home and take off the loathed outfit.
I never rebelled openly against society and religion forcing me into these detested clothes – by then I only experienced the pain, confusion and loneliness of dysphoria.
When there was an opportunity to dress up, I always chose to dress as a boy or a man – a fake beard and mustache made from cotton wool made the finishing touches. This is also when the clown in me emerged!
When I started working, girls and women did not yet wear pants to work. It was a South Africa in which the Protestant Church ruled and governed, even in Parliament. I wore my skirt suits, pantyhose and heels with revulsion, escaping after work and over weekends into my beloved jeans and shorts.
When B moved in with me, being more than a decade younger than I am, she threw out my whole wardrobe – “Old fashioned!” she cried as each piece of clothing or shoe flew from the wardrobe. She made me buy a whole new wardrobe and I entered the fashion world for the first time. Only then did I become aware how much like the proverbial “old maid” I had dressed – my mom was no help with fashion, she was 46 years older than I was. Female friends I did not have.
For the first time I started wearing pants to work – what a relief! As I gradually discovered my own identity and grew into the person I was, my clothes changed. The skirts went first, closely followed by all shoes with heels, until I had only button up shirts and pants left in my wardrobe. These were steadily replaced by more butch clothes. B watched the transformation, but did not say anything, she knew about my battle to become and express myself. Ankle boots and sneakers became my footwear in winter, but I still dreaded summer. Summers in South Africa are hot – freaking hot – and I had been wearing sandals to work – the last female couture still in my wardrobe and a huge thorn in my dysphoric flesh.
The one outfit the designers planned for Superman which never really took off (pun intended!), but which I really like, was the jeans and lumberjack boots look. The Superman that appeared on the cover of the 2011 re-launched Action Comics #1, is wearing lumberjack boots and jeans with patches on the knees. The familiar “S” logo looks the same on the t-shirt that is the upper half of his costume, but the cape appears to have shrunk in the dryer.
So, after my top surgery, the new Superman-me tackled the sandals issue – they had to go. No matter how hot it gets, I was not going to wear those feminine sandals again. To my surprise, this was something that B could not digest. She even made a few appointments with her shrink to discuss her pro-sandals and anti-boots issue. Of course top surgery came up in their sessions as well and I realized again that she went through as much trauma, possibly even more, than I did with the operation. But whereas to me it was a dream come true, to her it meant just another brick society would be able to throw at us.
She told me later, after the sessions, that her shrink had said that he takes his hat off to me for daring to live my dream and even if I wanted to wear gumboots (wellingtons or water boots) to work, she should let me be. And apparently she has crossed that bridge. I can wear my lumberjack boots, she says.
We’ll see. The partners and friends of people who transition, are fighting just as tough a battle as we do. And they need time to adjust while we revel in our new flat chests and strut around in men’s clothes.
Love is patient.