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  • Writer's pictureBen Pechey

The power of Trans-exploration

Trainers have been on my mind of late - I need shoes that are fun, but not a hazard to my ankles. Yet I had not realised that trainers could be such a trigger for me when it comes to my identity.

Labels are a huge part of society. They help other people understand us. They can help us access medication or services. They help us find like-minded people. However, they can have some restrictive effects.

That effect is the way labels can feel like a monolith - a descriptive yet prescriptive set of details that chain us to one version of ourselves. This can be socially enforced by others and society- or it can be internally enforced by ourselves.

I find that the labels I use - trans non-binary - create expectations, rules, and mindsets that affect me. This can manifest in strange ways. I was recently reminded of this by a pair of trainers.

Around a decade ago I lived in trainers - I had an impressive collection - and they were the thing I felt most comfortable in. As I began to explore my gender experience, I moved away from trainers to footwear that felt more affirming to me. So I put trainers in a box that felt uncomfortable, not for me to enjoy ever again, perhaps there was some internalised fear that trainers are coded masculine.

I kept seeing New Balance 327 trainers - and I really liked the look of them. But trainers were in my ‘not for Ben’ box, a confusing gender no person land. So I stopped myself from trying them - because I was worried it would be leaving my trans non-binary label - leaving myself behind.

Now I must impress on you - the genderless nature of all clothing and footwear - and so the irony of labelling something as not for me as a trans non-binary person is not lost on me. I was delivering a talk about authenticity, and it hit me. Nothing should ever be off the table when it comes to desire - well except maybe Cannibalism - and it became imperative again to me once again that exploration was always a benefit for all of us.

So I found a pair on Vinted and 3-5 days later I have the trainers you can see today. As I paired them with these divine Karen Mabon silk pyjamas, I realised that my identity is constantly evolving. Who I am, and who I have been, makes me who I will be. My journey with transness is not fixed, nor is it limiting, it is expansive and enjoyable.

So by putting trainers on, I am no less trans, no less of who I am. Instead, I am more like myself - the only person I have ever wanted to be. That is the power of trans exploration.


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