Oct 7, 2023
What is Gender Euphoria and Gender Joy?
If you’re exploring a gender queer identity (nonbinary, gender non conforming, trans, and many others), then you have likely come across the term ‘gender euphoria.’ In many ways, this term can be understood by what it stands in opposition to, which is gender dysphoria. Gender dysphoria is commonly defined as the ‘conflict between the sex you were assigned at birth and the gender you identify with.’ It manifests in many ways, emotionally, physically, and mentally. Hearing the pronouns used to reference you and feeling they are all wrong. Feeling profound discomfort when wearing a dress, or when certain gendered stereotypes associated with the sex you were assigned at birth are used in relation to you (for example, the presumption if you are AFAB that you like to paint your nails, that you care about attracting male attention, or other old school archetypes).
Gender euphoria, on the other hand, is the opposite of that feeling of discomfort. It’s the feeling of embodiment and joy, a resonance and alignment with how you feel in your body, how the world perceives you, and how you identify. It has many definitions, but perhaps the simplest one is to feel ‘right’ in your gender.
Gender joy is another term that applies to this feeling of rightness. The two are often interchangeable, though there can be some subtle nuance to how they are used. One interpretation is that while gender euphoria is more like the ‘high’ of relief after a long period of discomfort, gender joy is the more long lasting feeling of settling into a harmonious relationship with your body and gender. It’s about contentment, about feeling solid in your idea, and the inherent joy in that experience. When you are in a state of gender joy, you don’t even really think about gender anymore–you are just you, happy in your body and in how the world perceives you.
In this article, we are going to explore the history of these terms and what they have to do with clothing. We will use personal anecdotes and stories to help paint a vivid picture of gender euphoria and joy, and provide useful tips and tools for you as you continue on your gender journey.
Gender euphoria and gender joy: a personal story
When I was fourteen, there was a school dance that required everyone to be dressed up. As an AFAB person who didn’t yet have the language for it but had always identified as male, the prospect was horrifying. I had zero desire to wear a dress, or anything remotely female. To do so would have made me feel like I was crawling out of my skin.
Luckily, my story is one that involves supportive parents and teachers–this has often not been the case of trans or nonbinary people, so I am infinitely grateful for that. My parents spoke with my teacher and it was agreed upon that I could wear whatever I wanted, as long as it was still ‘formal.’ I ended up going in a pair of men’s dress slacks and an oversized blazer. I was ecstatic. That feeling, of walking into the dance with my friends and being included in the ‘boys group’ was absolutely a feeling of gender euphoria. I wasn’t squeezed into inaccurate clothing that was a disingenuous presentation of self. Instead, I got to be me. It was glorious.
Fast forward twenty years, and I not only don’t have to worry about being forced to wear women’s clothing, but I get to wear men’s clothing that is tailored for my 5’3”, muscular, but wide hipped frame. In fact, last week, I went on a date with my partner in Both&’s Marlo slacks and Luke sweater and felt a different, deeper level of joy upon catching my reflection in the bathroom mirror. My shoulders were muscular in the snug cut of the sweater. My hips weren’t curvy, the fabric wasn’t pinching but instead creating a square shape. If my experience of relief and elation at 14 was gender euphoria, then the pure confidence I experienced on that date last week was gender joy.
Gender euphoria is freedom from gender dysphoria.
Gender joy is feeling full embodied and seen as your truest self.
The intersection of gender joy and fashion
So what does clothing have to do with gender joy? Well, a few things. First off, clothing is arguably the #1 way wet have agency to signal identity to the world. We all know that it’s impossible for people to really know us just from glancing at us on the street or even interacting with us in a simple conversation. Really understanding another human and their intricate inner workings is a long and deep process, and even then, a lot remains hidden. However, we still walk through the world constantly seeing people and objects and the interactions between them, and our brain does wild acrobatics to categorize everything into associations.
If you are an AFAB, gender queer or transmasc person, then you are familiar with the feeling of wanting the world to perceive you as masc (or male), and that not always working out. Maybe it’s someone using ‘she/her’ pronouns, or giving you a weird look in a bathroom.
Clothing enters the scene as a key component of how gender joy and gender euphoria are experienced because it is a powerful tool in self expression. Please note that gender joy and gender euphoria are multifacted emotional and mental experiences that cannot be achieved solely through one thing, and clothing does not ‘solve’ gender dysphoria. However, clothing plays a huge role in making you feel comfortable in your body and in how you present to the world. If clothing doesn’t fit you or sticks out like a sore thumb, then it’s a nagging feeling in the back of your brain that ‘you don’t fit.’ Conversely, clothing that does fit well and that gives you the desired silhouette that aligns with your gender identity can have an enormous impact on boosting confidence and comfort.
Arguably the company that has done the most work around the intersection of gender joy and clothing is Both& Apparel. In the next section we will explore what they have done, and why it is making thousands of nonbinary, gender queer, and transmasc people around the world attribute a feeling of gender joy to their Both& wardrobe.
Both&’s commitment to celebrating gender euphoria
We all deserve gender joy. We deserve to wake up in the morning, put on clothing that fits, and see our true self reflected back at us in the mirror. It may sound simple, but it can have a life altering impact.
Both& was founded by a trans man who intimately understood the struggle to feel comfortable and accurately seen in his identity. That’s why he decided to stage Both&’s intervention into the fashion world: collect thousands of perspectives from community members to build a crowd sourced fit and sizing system that can make the most people feel gender joy in their clothing as possible.
The first designs were created to solve very specific problems the community faced:
The Khazeel was one of Both&’s first designs. It was made to be the perfect t shirt for someone who is binding/has not had top surgery but wants to have a flat chest. The shirt has dozens of thoughtful design details, including a heavyweight cotton that holds shape and doesn’t cling, a higher neckline so the binder straps don’t show, and side slits for maximum movement at the hips.
A year later, Both&’s tackled the issue with pants. Specifically, the issue of pants that have a terrible fit around he hips, bum and thigh for AFAB people. Both& created a wider waistband to inseam ratio (so you could have, for instance, 36” inch hips, but only a 28” inseam), added 2% stretch to a high quality cotton blend, and added little pads on the inside of the pants, which create a straight line from the high hip to the low hip. This is the area that normally creates the biggest curve on AFAB people.
As a final example, Both& created the perfect pair of swim trunks, with an optional in built packing pouch. The shorts come in a stretchy, vintage style material, with long front pockets that create a square visual, a forgiving waistband, and the perfect amount of room for the thighs.
Tips for Embracing Gender Euphoria in Everyday Fashion
- Build a wardrobe of basics that fit. Even if you have a super flamboyant style, everyone needs a base layer that actually feels good on your body. Build that out, then accessorize and play with it.
- Take note of what makes you feel the most gender joy. Is the feeling of your shoulders and biceps being emphasized while your hips have plenty of breathing room? Is it being able to wear pants without cuffing them? The more aware you are of what brings gender joy, the more you can plan for it.
- Discuss with friends or community online. The transmasc/gnc/nonbinary community online is very active in fashion and loves to share tips and tricks!
Speaking of which, what’s your favourite takeaway from this article? We’d love for you to share on socials and tag us.
Wishing you lots of gender joy!