The slightest alteration

Someone wrote…

It’s interesting how even the slightest alteration to one’s appearance can mean the difference between being read as male or female.

I recently purchased a small messenger bag to carry my phone, wallet, etc., and I am finding that I’m now being read as female. I suspect it’s because the strap goes right down the middle of my chest, accentuating my biological figure. It’s also not much bigger than a purse, but was advertised as a men’s bag. I usually pass as male about 90% of the time, but adding this bag to my ensemble has tilted the scales in the other direction. I feel compelled to get rid of it and continue putting things into my pockets.

I’m sad. I loved that bag. Any suggestions for bags that don’t divide one’s chest would be greatly appreciated. Sometimes backpacks are too bulky.

What’s your experience?

And what are you thinking about gender right now?

Posted by on August 19th, 2014 at 08:00 am

Category: your voice 8 comments »

8 Responses to “The slightest alteration”

  1. Anonymous

    I have the same problem. I love those messenger bags. And due to my social anxiety disorder I love to have some little things with me. I always need a bag with me to carry pills, band-aid and stuff. But I don`t always want to use a backpack because it makes me look like a school kid.
    So I am interested in answers and suggestions about manly and adult looking bags as well.


  2. Fernando

    Lose the strap! There are some cool briefcase-like bags with detachable straps. This is the best option if you don’t work at some executive job or something like that. If you do, you could just go for the genuine thing, a traditional briefcase. =)


  3. RsW

    You don’t mention what brand or style of messenger bag you have… so this comment may or may not apply. The brand and style of messenger bag can really alter how they are read. I *love* my Timbuk 2 bags (messenger style… I’ve been using them for over a decade now!), and they are extremely popular where I live (Portland, OR). All genders wear them here (maybe it is just because it is Portland?), and I have always read them as fairly androgynous (assuming the colors are subdued).

    That being said… The key for me feeling comforatable with the bag and how it is read (in comparison to other bags) is that there’s no hiding my chest (until surgery) no matter what bag I wear… I am FTM, pre-top surgery, and my bust is painfully large (DDD cup), so the messenger bag strap is definitely fighting against the extra tissue and there is no mistaking that I was FAAB. I might feel different if there was ever any scenario/accessory/etc that could conceal the bustbeast!

    Good luck on your search!


  4. anta

    Where I live, both men and women use army bags (I think they’re meant for gas masks). They’re durable and reasonably roomy without being excessively big. They’re also easy to mod with pins and suchlike.

    I’ve been using shoulder bags for years, about as long as I’ve been binding my breasts. I’ve always carried my bags so that the strap doesn’t cross my chest (so that the strap is on the shoulder on the same side where the bag hangs), though that may not be a good option in places where it’s likely that someone might grab and steal the bag.


  5. Keller

    I have the same bag strap/accentuated figure problem, but I’ve had some success just adjusting the strap so it sits *over* rather than between. If I have trouble getting it to sit right, I just carry the bag over one shoulder rather than the normal across-the-chest way. Good luck in your search!


  6. MEL

    Two words for you my friends! “leather briefcase” Google it and you will see what I mean. A worn one can look so masculine and classy!


  7. Able--original person posting

    Hey friends,

    I didn’t know/think this post would make it to the genderfork page! Thanks so much for your suggestions. I haven’t returned the bag just because I love it so much. It’s big enough to fit an iPad in it. The suggestion of loosening the strap so it sits on my chest instead of in-between is genius in its simplicity. Wish I’d thought of that! I’ll have to try that as a social experiment. I also think the bag’s size is working against me. Perhaps a timbuk2 bag or something larger would help my case.

    The main cause for worry with carrying a gender-ambiguous bag is using the restroom. That’s where I originally got called out for it: “This is the MEN’s restroom! WOMAN! The MEN’s restroom!” Jarring, but it confirmed my suspicions.

    Maybe I’ll go around wearing it when I’m with somebody. That way they can carry it when I use the restroom and I can wear it the rest of the time, noticing how I am gendered in other social interactions.

    A friend suggested this one thing-carrying option which is just a single belt/band worn over the shoulder that holds only a phone, wallet, keys, etc.

    I’m just sick of having to remove my wallet, phone, and other bulky things whenever I sit down at the risk of forgetting them somewhere.


  8. Anonymous

    I always carry a hoodie or coat with big pockets. When it’s cold I wear it, when it’s warm I carry it. It holds all my crap, and it’s a men’s piece of clothing.


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