Combating Gender Dysphoria in the Summer

Ella Sharrers, Copy Editor

As the weather gets warmer, it becomes necessary to change up your style to adapt to the weather. While it is not unheard of to wear sweatpants in the beating, 90 degree sun, it is certainly not comfortable, and that is something everyone can agree on. However, for individuals who do not identify with the gender they were assigned at birth, adjusting for the warm weather becomes more challenging than just making sure you have a new swimsuit and shorts to wear on vacation. As the temperature increases, transgender and nonbinary people must combat dysphoria and still dress comfortably while also affirming their identity.

As defined in an article by Island Sexual Health, gender dysphoria is “a profound and painful discomfort with one’s body and social image of gender.” Gender dysphoria weighs heavily on an individual’s mental health and view of themselves, and can lead to drastic consequences. Colder weather allows for layering, which can help trans individuals dress however they feel comfortable. One of the ways transgender people, especially transmasculine individuals, can utilize gender affirming clothing is by wearing a chest binder. Chest binders are tight, constricting items used to help flatten one’s chest. But, chest binders are already rather uncomfortable and restricting on one’s ribs, chest, and lungs; with hot weather, the discomfort becomes even worse. In an article by GenderGP, it is highlighted that “the health risks associated with binding can be aggravated by hot weather. Dehydration and overheating can both cause shortness of breath, dizziness, and fatigue, all of which are exacerbated by binding, and particularly if you are binding too tightly or for prolonged periods of time.” Sophomore Elliot Stevens notes that “chest binding can limit your breathing when in harsh activities and you should never sleep with one on. They can squish your rib cages and can be dangerous to wear all the time.” Senior Cooper Laszlo comments similarly, “I know people who have used one incorrectly for a long period of time and have caused permanent damage to their ribs.” With summertime, the tightness of a binder can come with general discomfort as well, like sweating and chafing. While some are willing to sacrifice comfort to still be able to wear their binder, it is discouraging to see that for individuals who want a flatter chest, they have to decide between sitting even more uncomfortably through hot days than colder ones or forgoing their binder entirely. Forgoing the binder might seem like the easier choice so the person can still be comfortable, but, as junior Hunter Young notes, since “chest binders absorb heat and then become super uncomfortable, [taking it off] can feel dysphoric.” There is another aspect to the struggles of chest binding in the summer: swimming. According to FOLX Health, “If your binder is made from a spandex and nylon blend, you can absolutely swim in it. However, you’ll typically want to size up or make sure that your binder is loose enough to not restrict your breathing while you swim.” While having multiple binders for multiple different purposes is not the most accessible, it is still an option. Stevens says that he will wear a “sports bra and a rash guard” while swimming to try and decrease the dysphoria that comes with doing so, but says, “Sometimes that is not enough.” There is no easy way around the hot weather and chest binder dilemma; the choice must be made by oneself and cannot be influenced by any surroundings.

For transfeminine people, GenderGP comments, “Transfeminine people may not have to contend with binding in the summer, but you should still look after your chest. As many as 80 percent of women are wearing bras that don’t fit, and trans women are no exception. This might not seem like a problem, but ill-fitting bras can lead to back, neck and shoulder pain, and tightness of breath.” Binding may not be the problem, but that does not mean that there are no challenges that transfeminine people face. Transgender women or feminine presenting individuals must find a way to affirm their identities comfortably as the weather gets hotter. The Trans Youth Equality Foundation lists potential options for transfeminine people: “High waisted bikini bottoms can both create a curvier figure and also conceal any bulge…. Bikini tops with underwire can help lift even minimal breast development. Consider using soft pads to create a fuller chest if you are an older youth and wish to do so…. Adhesive breast forms are possible to wear under bikinis that offer more coverage on top…. Swimsuits with horizontal lines on the hips can create the appearance of wider hips.” Also known as “tucking,” many trans femme people will tuck to create a flatter appearance of their pelvis and rid of any bulge. This can be done in many ways, but it is commonly done with tape especially made for the purpose of tucking. Another option is to purchase a gaff or a swim gaff. A gaff is, essentially, a unique type of compression underwear. There are many options of material and sizes, and at the end of the day, purchasing clothing to tackle gender dysphoria is up to the individual and what makes them comfortable. Whether you are transmasculine, transfeminine, nonbinary, or just do not identify with your gender assigned at birth in some way, hot weather and the problems it can present do not make you any less valid. Your comfort is the most important thing, and the opinions of others – while way easier said than done – must not influence what you choose to wear in order to affirm your identity. You deserve to feel as safe and affirmed as you possibly can every single day, no matter what. 

As a nonbinary person, despite my feminine presentation, finding clothes that make me feel comfortable while also helping me look the way I want to the outside eye is a daily challenge. I and Laszlo both agree that our dysphoria increases in the summer. My day to day style is often changing, but my distaste for shorts and skirts is something that has never faltered. The blistering heat of a mid-July day calls for some adjustments to my style and for me to put away the jeans and crewnecks I so desperately cling onto during the cooler months. Laszlo, similarly, says that he is “able to layer a sweatshirt with a sweater vest and long jeans [in the fall or winter]. In the summer, I am basically only limited to a shirt and jorts if I do not want to sweat.” There are some different styles that are both gender affirming and fitting for hot weather. Recently, I have found some longer shorts and loose tank tops that help me feel comfortable and not sweat to death under heavy layers. Stevens mentions, “I like to wear summer dad outfits. Hawaiian shirts and really baggy shorts with a tank top underneath. Baggy clothing is where it is at for people who do not or do know their gender. It keeps everything loose and it flows with the wind.” Baggy clothing is breezy, light, and also able to distract from one’s body shape. For those who are not sure where to find these baggy, affirming clothes, Stevens suggests, “Target and Old Navy tank tops, they are so loose and they are very athletic for those fun summer activities. They have long tank tops and cropped ones. It is so nice and it makes your gender dysphoria disappear.” Freshman Tasha Gilmour insists that all an individual needs to do is wear what makes them comfortable. How you present and express your gender identity is entirely individual and cannot be influenced by those around you or any social norms.

Hot weather is a large factor in gender dysphoria. As repetitive as it gets to hear, I will emphasize that you are not alone. Dysphoria is often unavoidable, but that does not make it impossible to beat. As Stevens declares, “Know that all your dysphoria is in your head and you look killer in the outfit and/or makeup you are wearing. Being who you want to express yourself as doesn’t affect anyone but yourself.” All in all, whether you want to present as feminine, masculine, androgynous, or switch it up whenever you feel like it, know that the only person who can tell you who you are or how you look or feel is yourself. So, wear that dress. Wear that swimsuit, skirt, shorts, baggy shirt, tanktop, wear anything and everything that feels right to you. Do not let the upcoming season define what you can and cannot wear.