otterxavier

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Hi all,

A forum member recently PM'd me this question and gave the thumbs-up to share it anonymously. I'd imagine this is relevant to a lot of us who are gender non-conforming. How do you handle professional attire for clinic, school and residency interviews, etc.? What's the norm where you are?

I am an incoming MS1 on the east coast (strong LGBTQ+ ally school), but I am having some issues regarding business casual/clinic clothes.. I am a female, who recently cut her hair because people kept asking if my wife and I were sisters, and am I powerlifter (I am not trying to toot my own horn, but I am built and bulkyish).. I don't fit in most woman's clothes and if I don't wear a suit jacket, it looks ridiculous (would be stigma'ed against most likely)
I am most comfortable in button ups + khakis/dress pants, even in a tie if I were in an accepting crowd, but I am afraid I will be judged for this by not looking like the typical conservatively dressed female (especially with patients)
Do you have an ideas or words of wisdom?
 
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otterxavier

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My response, for what it's worth:

Hmm. It'll vary from place to place, but I'd guess that at a school like you're describing, wearing more traditionally "masculine" business casual clothes would be completely fine. At my queer-friendly east coast med school I see plenty of women wearing button-downs and khakis; a suit jacket or tie is less common, but I doubt it'd be a cause for judgment. (Even from patients -- combination of the power dynamic, the number of other things going on, and the fact that your white coat is way more prominent than everything else you're wearing.)

Ultimately, wearing the clothes that you're most comfortable in (as long as they're suitably professional) allows you to be more confident and focus on doing the best work that you can, instead of worrying about your outfit. That can only be a good thing.

If your school has an LGBTQ+ student organization, they may be able to give you a better idea of what the norm is there. Your school's student handbook probably also has a section about appropriate attire in clinic, which may or may not be gender-specific.
 

giga

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As long as you feel safe doing so, I think it is more worthwhile to wear clothes you feel comfortable and confident in, than to try to wear more "gender normative" clothes in order to avoid judgment from others. I doubt it will be a problem for most patients, although some patients are straight up a$$h0les. Honestly, I don't think it matters what you wear in those situations, some patients are just going to be misogynists or homophobic jerks, but they aren't worth worrying about. As a future physician, you're going to need to learn to set up professional boundaries with patients, and not tolerating disrespectful comments about your gender presentation is a very reasonable boundary to have (granted, it gets a bit complicated, especially in psychiatry and with mentally unstable patients, but the general point still stands). Your classmates are probably going to be so stressed out and focused on their own stuff that they probably aren't going to go out of their way to make your life harder, and in the best case scenario there might be potential classmates who have the same concerns you have, and by being yourself you are signaling to them that it's safe to be themselves as well. Not to say it's your responsibility or a burden you have to carry, but just something to keep in mind as an additional potential benefit.

I've definitely seen people that I assume are assigned-female at birth who have short hair and wear very masculine clothing in both clinical and other professional settings, and as far as I can tell, it has been a non-issue. But I've also mostly only worked in urban areas, so your mileage may vary.
 

DokterMom

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There are several different issues at play, including
  • what your school considers appropriate (I'd ask the LGBTQ liaison or student organization)
  • your own confidence and authenticity
  • and your patients' comfort
I expect you'll have to walk a bit of a tightrope to balance all three successfully. But I think the toughest of these three issues will probably be managing your patients' comfort as you'll be exposed to a large number of patients from a diverse population for a short period of time. They won't have much invested in you, but will want to put you into a binary gender category, even if it's not a good fit. If you identify as female, just not in a stereotypically feminine way, just wear one item that makes your gender clear enough to remove the ambiguity (earrings?), which is probably the most discomfort-inducing aspect.

Is it typical at your school for students to wear a blazer or suit jacket under their white coats? In general, dressy slacks and a shirt under the white coat seems to be the norm. For men, a necktie would be the gender-distinguishing clothing item. For women, the fabric of your blouse/shirt might be the best choice.
 
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mulberry59

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My two cents: I'm a 3rd year med student in New England. I'm genderqueer but visibly AFAB. I've worn slacks, button down shirt, and a bow tie (along with my white coat) and I've gotten nothing but compliments from colleagues and superiors.
 
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Guero

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Bumping for relevance and import in the hopes others will contribute.


Sent from my iPhone using SDN mobile
 
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aconn51

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This is something that I wish had been addressed more where I went to undergrad- the school was fairly unique in that most of the students were in a professional program and there was a HEAVY emphasis on professionalism in terms of both dress and behavior.
On the other hand, the culture at the school was was weirdly conservative for the part of the country where it was located, and professional dress for students who are/were gender nonconforming literally never came up, and I think AFAB students who typically dressed or identified MOC typically stuck to "safe" options like button downs and dress pants.

As to specific concerns about fit, I am starting to discover the importance of good tailoring for having clothes that are both comfortable and don't look ridiculous. I am far from being able to consider myself "built" but per the standards that women's clothing companies (or for that matter the folks that make my uniforms), I'm pretty disproportionate: somewhat broad shoulders, small chest, and (I assume based on the fit of my clothes) probably an A-P ribcage diameter that is somewhat larger than it "should" be.

My best recommendation (for anyone, regardless of gender presentation or shopping in the men's or women's section) is to skip any attempts at buying dress clothes online, fit clothes to the largest part of you, and tailor them so that they fit you well (if you have the skills to do this yourself, so much the better because you get to save on tailoring).
It's not the cheapest option, but if can get clothes that have a classic look then you can keep wearing them for years and you'll look great doing it.
 

killerleaf

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All of the above. Whatever you choose to wear, make sure it fits you well. In this institution, (deep South, more conservative) there are several residents/faculty who wear dress slacks/khakis with button down shirts, no tie, with white coats. of both obvious sexes. the only eyebrows that are raised are when things don't fit well, like a shirt that gaps across the chest, or won't stay tucked in, or pants that just don't fit correctly.
 

DrGoon

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I go to a school in the South so it may be different but you would absolutely make some patients uncomfortable on the wards if you rolled up in a tie.
 
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My two cents. If youre on the east coast, im assuming you'll come across muslims. The only problem you'll have with them is that they need to know if youre a man or woman because the women need to be covered in front o f men. and tgey wouldn't ask. If you can assure muslim women that youre a woman then your gender or sexual orientation or clothes wont matter because it doesnt affect them. this is specific to muslim women though.
 
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otterxavier

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My two cents. If youre on the east coast, im assuming you'll come across muslims. The only problem you'll have with them is that they need to know if youre a man or woman because the women need to be covered in front o f men. and tgey wouldn't ask. If you can assure muslim women that youre a woman then your gender or sexual orientation or clothes wont matter because it doesnt affect them. this is specific to muslim women though.
I know that this is intended to be helpful, but I think that broad cultural generalizations like this have limited utility. A doctor practicing anywhere in the U.S. is likely to have Muslim patients, with a wide range of personal practices around modesty in front of physicians of a different gender. Likewise, the same issue may come up with patients who are not Muslim -- e.g., some Orthodox Jews. I think it's entirely possible for gender-nonconforming doctors to be sensitive to those concerns while wearing the clothes that they're comfortable in -- largely in the same way that any other doctor would. (Is there anything I can do to make you more comfortable? Would you prefer to leave [xyz garment] on / to hold off on changing into a gown until it's necessary? Would you like to have a nurse / a family member present during your exam? etc.)

That may be treading into territory that belongs in a separate thread, though.
 
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Where do you all find your business casual and business professional clothing? I’m a lesbian and don’t feel comfortable dressing feminine, but also don’t feel comfortable in very masculine styles either. I have a hard time finding shoes and tops that are more androgynous and also fit a woman’s body.
Any store, brand, or website suggestions. Would be super helpful!
 

Amygdarya

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Where do you all find your business casual and business professional clothing? I’m a lesbian and don’t feel comfortable dressing feminine, but also don’t feel comfortable in very masculine styles either. I have a hard time finding shoes and tops that are more androgynous and also fit a woman’s body.
Any store, brand, or website suggestions. Would be super helpful!
Sounds like I may be similar to you in many respects and I like professional pants/blazers from Banana Republic and Loft and fitted shirts from Banana Republic. Unfortunately they don't have as wide a variety of shirts as they used to but oh well. FYI they are having a sale right now.
(I'm not affiliated with BR in any way and would appreciate any suggestions as well.)
 

wholeheartedly

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Where do you all find your business casual and business professional clothing? I’m a lesbian and don’t feel comfortable dressing feminine, but also don’t feel comfortable in very masculine styles either. I have a hard time finding shoes and tops that are more androgynous and also fit a woman’s body.
Any store, brand, or website suggestions. Would be super helpful!
I'm built kind of goofy, so clothes are a bit problematic for me. I'm 5'10 with somewhat curvy hour glass shape. My height comes from a long torso though, not long legs. Plus, I have a 6'2" wingspan. So I struggle with finding dress shirts that go below my belt line or that have sleeves that reach my wrists or don't look 3/4 length when supposed to be full length. For casual wear I often get men's shirts or coats. Before I gained a bunch of weight I also had trouble with having a very small waist compared to the rest of me for pant size.

I've done well recently with Woman Within and others in the full beauty group. They have nice range of sizes and fits, so if you don't want something that hugs your curves, but still fits a woman you can often find stuff there.

I got nothing for shoes. I'll kill myself in anything with a heal and have a custom orthotic I need to wear in my shoe.

I prefer tshirt, jeans, and a baseball cap if given the choice. lol
 
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Amygdarya

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I got nothing for shoes. I'll kill myself in anything with a heal and have a custom orthotic I need to wear in
I hear ya. I'm preparing for my residency interviews now and have everything but shoes :(
 
Oct 3, 2017
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I hear ya. I'm preparing for my residency interviews now and have everything but shoes :(
Oh man tell me about it! I ended up collecting across several stores! Pants from New York and company (just some plain slacks - only place that had professional pants that didn’t look like parachutes for my size 12 waist), blazer from J. Crew (only blazer that didn’t make me look and feel like a cardboard box), and blouse from som random department store that is too feminine for my liking but I’m just gunna bite my tongue and wear. Oh yeah and shoes from amazon lol.
It’s like an impossible game! I have a stupid Apple shaped body and carry all my weight in my waist with skinny toned legs, so no pants fit me unless they are low rise - so this mid rise high rise crap for professional attire sucks. And shirts look dumb when I tuck them in so button downs are out. It’s a very unfortunate game hahaha
Not to mention I feel like I have to walk a careful line for residency interviews. Lots of my programs are in the south and I don’t want to come off as “too gay,” but at the same time am uncomfortable in feminine stuff.

Anyway I guess I’m gunna have to start spending the bucks to look how I want to look! Banana republic and J. Crew seem so be the best for me!
 

JMoto

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I did a small study on this even! I finished an internship at a hospital where I had worked twice a week for an entire year. I had a few sets of the same outfit and wore the exact same button up shirt and slacks everytime, eg Zuckerberg. At the end I gave out surveys to the 30 people I saw the most frequently. Not one noticed that I wore the same thing every day though 3 people recalled I always wore blue! So interesting! I was interested as a woman since it seems like women are frequently pressured to spend more on clothing than men who can wear the same suit every day!