I've been promising myself that I'll buy fancy undies with my next paycheck for the past year. But each time I pass that storefront window — whether it be an indie shop in Williamsburg or a chain store in Midtown — I just can't manage to pull out my wallet. Buying lingerie as a nonbinary person, or even bringing myself to step into the store to try a lacy little number on, seems to be an impossible feat for me regardless of my financial situation.
I often attribute this to my hopelessly sensitive vagina, which legitimately used to break out into a rash at the mere mention of lace. Although that point is a valid one, however, it's not the whole story. Since our bodies are constantly changing, and there are a ton of sexy crotchless options out there, I should probably test things out to see if my skin will react just as strongly to lace as it has done in the past. The truth is, I often don't feel like I deserve to wear lingerie at all.
The reason for this is that the sexy lingerie I lust after seems inherently feminine, and therefore makes me feel as though it would sexualize me in a feminine (not to mention heterosexual) way. As someone who identifies strongly with masculinity, this sounds quite nightmarish.
Of course, lingerie is for anyone and everyone who chooses to wear it, including non-women and queer folks. There's nothing about a type of fabric or a color that can possibly represent or be specifically reserved for a certain gender. But still, something about lingerie can seem like it might strip me of my confidence in the bedroom.
As a masculine person with a feminine body, and as someone who has sex in unconventional ways due to my inability to be penetrated without experiencing intense pain (shout out to my vaginismus), it's already a bit challenging for me to cultivate and maintain confidence in sexual situations.
As much as I love being kinky and curious when it comes sex, I sometimes shutter when my partner exposes my breasts (a feminine part of my body I feel the weirdest about) or feel guilty about my inability to have "normal" intercourse with my lover who's assigned male at birth. My fear is that wearing lingerie, though it seems appealing in some respects, would only exacerbate this discomfort.
I'm afraid of drawing further attention to the feminine parts of my body with lacy fabric and BDSM-inspired gaps designed to expose the nipples, vagina, or ass. I fear my partner might subconsciously see me as a woman as I make love to them with my lingerie-clad body. Or that somehow the image of me in a lacy bra and underwear will make them long for the penetrative sex we cannot have at this time.
But more than anything, I feel sick at the idea of looking at myself in the mirror with the set on, my nervous reflection inducing more anxiety at the sight of an ever-shifting body cloaked in hyper-femininity. I'm afraid I won't recognize who I am, and return to desperately hiding my masculinity as I struggle through clumsily navigating sex as a "submissive woman" or "sex kitten" — stereotypes that I want to separate from femininity and lingerie, but haven't yet managed to fully.
Realistically, nothing about my gender identity or sex life would likely change with a lingerie purchase. But these storefront windows, displaying all of the beautiful and wildly creative sex looks I'd love to experiment with, have really helped me expose insecurities that I usually try my best to overlook: Insecurities that convince me that something about sex and sex accessories have the power to strip me of my queer identity.
The thing is, I'm endlessly obsessed with lingerie sets. I love all the colors, cuts, and fabric options that exist, and my instincts tell me that these sexy outfits will only enhance and expand my lusty prowess. As someone who genuinely loves trying new things/personas in the bedroom, that sounds incredibly appealing. My deeply ingrained fear, however, is that these garments I perceive as genuinely sexy and fun could end up emulating the "wrong kind" of sexy. By that, I mean the kind of sexy that makes one feel feminine: The feminine lustfulness that empowers so many women.
Odds are that my reflection won't betray me after the purchase of a lingerie set, and my partner will continue to see me as the masculine lover they know and cherish. There also exist more androgynous or less overtly feminine options of lingerie I could look into, many decked out in leather and some creatively-placed holes.
My goal for this summer, like last summer, is to overcome my fear and buy the next panty set that steals my heart. With greater awareness of the fears navigating my discomfort, BS excuses aside, I just might be ready for this body positive and adventurous plunge. And I hope that other nonbinary folks holding onto gendered expectations of lingerie might join me in doing the same.
Images: Meg Zulch