What Does a Trans Femme Wear to a Southern Wedding?

Being fabulous shouldn’t be this complicated

Tux jacket with shoulder seam ruffles and bejeweled broach
Q: My partner invited me to his high school friend’s wedding and, excitedly, it marks my first adult wedding for not-my-family. That being said, I’m running into a wall on what to wear. My partner and I are both black trans people; he passes as male, and while I pass most often as male, I identify as femme and appreciate a pretty androgynous gender presentation. High school friend is white, cisgender, straight, and from the sound of it, down with it. She’s friends enough with my partner to invite him and he wants to drive to another state to go to this wedding. That’s gotta speak to something her being accepting, but who knows about family and other guests. A lot of the “how to dress if you’re queer” wedding guides are for masculine-of-center presentation. I’m not interested in wearing a whole dress or going full femme—again, I don’t know these people, and as two black queer trans kids at a wedding in the South, we aren’t trying to push any boundaries this summer—but if anyone has any good options that come to mind, that’d be very helpful.

Alternatively, if sh*t hits the fan and I don’t feel comfortable staying for the whole reception, what is a way to politely bow out without overly stressing my partner? I know he wouldn’t want to leave me in a position where I felt uncomfortable, but I want to support the fact that this is kind of a reunion for the high school friends, since he doesn’t go back home to see them all that often. Should we make a plan before? What would that look that? I’ve already voiced my general concerns to him, but we’re both not sure how our presence is going to go down.

Any and all help is appreciated!

—Not Gay as in Happy, but Queer as in Fuck This

A:

Phew. It’s clear to me from your question you’ve got a whole rainbow of feelings. You’re all, “Yay adult weddings, but will I survive it? Yay fabulous truth, but can I express it?” There’s a super delicate balance, and you’re on a tightrope. Let’s get the basics out of the way: whatever you wear or don’t wear, whenever you leave or don’t leave, there’s no clear “right” choice. I can give you options and break it down, but this isn’t about me knowing better. I don’t. And who knows? All your worries may be unfounded.

That being said, you can’t attend naked. So what’s a femme black trans androgynous person to wear to a white straight Southern wedding? Well, it depends. On one hand you’ve got full normal boy drag, which is maybe your safest bet since you said you generally pass, but might feel inauthentic. Usually I’m a big fan of flying your freak flag high, but there’s nothing wrong with flying it a little low in certain situations. So I get the desire to nix a dress, while still wanting some flair. So for that lovely dapper genderfuck fashion icon, I’d look to Prince, my personal style hero (here’s some of his best looks for inspiration). You could aim for a touch of femme: a shirt with a ruffled collar or flowing sleeves, a little makeup, an earring (or a Yes Homo ring), platform shoes, silk/satin fabric choices, and/or floral/brightly colored/metallic accessories. To the less gender-spectrum-savvy folks at the wedding you’d probably just read as artsy, but I’d see you loud and queer.

But sometimes no amount of “trying not to make waves” is enough to keep shit from hitting the proverbial fan, and I’m the kind of person who loves a backup plan. A wedding is not a safe space. While many, many marginalized folks attend weddings because they want to be present for people they love, so often that includes lots of accepting microaggressions, casual racism, awkward homophobia, etc. Personally, I can put up with a lot to support and spend time with the people I love, but these aren’t even your friends (yeah I said it)! So, yes, if you need to make an exit, I’d say go for it, so long as nobody’s night is going to be ruined. So really I’d make two plans: one for leaving early, and one for walking it off (depending on how bad things get).

I can’t stress this enough: if you’re leaving early, don’t secretly expect your partner to leave with you, and let them know you aren’t going to judge them or punish them for staying. Make sure you have separate ways of getting home (is a cab an option?) or that you’re willing to leave and go hang somewhere for a bit and pick up your partner afterward. It’s not that hard to leave a party early without ruffling feathers—just slip out with minimal goodbyes. You can always say you need to leave early to lay down, which makes me think of someone languishing over a chaise lounge and not at all like someone triggered who needs to practice self-care stat.

All that being said, there’s something romantic about lingering ’til the end of a party together and going home on the wave of the evening. If you’re a little bit sentimental like me, you could also figure out a way to subtlety motion to your partner (like a safe word or a gesture) that you’ll take a little space so they don’t worry (go for a solo walk? Step away? Call someone?) and then come back when you’re slightly recharged.

You got this, NGAIHBQAIFT! Think of this wedding as a fun exercise in boundaries and compromise, with bonus fancy outfits. Fingers crossed that all the fretting is really overkill, everyone is absurdly welcoming, and you forget all about everything, cry over the vows, and generally have a ball. But if not, you’ve got a plan and a supportive partner who is willing to work with you, which is more than a lot of people. Good luck!

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