Design by Kayleen Dicuangco. Photography courtesy of iStock/Imaxtree
“Part of me wanted to scream my womanhood to the world, but the rest of me still wanted to keep everything secret inside.”
By Estelle Grignon
Date October 20, 2021
During the year I spent in Scotland, I listened almost exclusively to an all-girls playlist. Hits by my role models Charli XCX and Sky Ferreira fuelled my spirits and imagination as I pretended to live the ultimate cool-alternative-girl fantasy of the mid-2010s. But my reality was very different.
Of all the countless musical strolls I went on during those 12 months (and there were many), one will always stand out in my memory. As I was walking back from my job as a French-language assistant, I passed the various clothing stores along Glasgow’s Buchanan Street with my headphones on and was surrounded by women’s clothing. I passed window after window, each filled with countless pairs of shoes, oversized hats, skinny jeans…. You name it, it was there.
And then there was this black dress — an elegant tight black dress with long sleeves — from a well-known fastfashion chain. It looked as gorgeous as it looked comfortable, and for a second, I could see myself in it.
But I didn’t end up buying it. I never even bothered to step into the store — not because it was outside of my budget or because it didn’t have my size. The truth is, I was a woman only in spirit; I wasn’t out yet to the outside world. To my co-workers, my roommate and the staff in that shop, I was a boy — a boy who couldn’t wear dresses.
At that point, early in my gender transition, the thought of buying a “women’s garment” was terrifying. Every step I took toward femininity felt like advancing into the unknown. Part of me wanted to scream my womanhood to the world, but the rest of me still wanted to keep everything secret inside
In my Scottish apartment, I found refuge. I had a giant poster of Lana Del Rey that towered over my bed, and I liked to imagine that, from her spot, she could feel my pain. Like the big sister I never had, she would let me borrow her jean shorts or help me knot my T-shirt. Or maybe — in the most Lana Del Rey move possible — she would gift me with a flower crown, like the one from the cover for her breakthrough single “Video Games.”
Flower crowns are full of symbolism — nature, purity, weddings, a free spirit. But to me, they represented my idol, Lana. I identified with her; I wanted to be her. And the closest path to that was a flower crown.
Coming out really is a process — a long, gradual, tumultuous one.
Because of this, I’d often find myself lying on my bed late at night browsing for the cutest flower crowns online. It felt less scary to buy one of those instead of a dress. And by “less scary,” I mean that it was still very scary. Unlike with IRL shopping, I could take the time to look at every item in secret without worrying about the eyes of perplexed customers. However, when I returned to Canada, there was no flower crown in my luggage. For all the time I spent falling in love with the romantic accessory during emotional bouts of insomnia, I never managed to find the courage to click “Buy.” Not while I was in Scotland, at least.
Instead, it would take another year and a trip home to the province of Quebec before I could do it. Through university, I had the chance to make new friends with whom I grew quite close — so much so that when I finally revealed my secret identity, and my gender transition was met with enthusiastic support. Their positive reactions not only bonded us but also helped boost my confidence. And with this new-found confidence, I finally went for it. I got myself a heavy bright-red flower crown to sit atop my long hair. It showcased my feminine side, but it also represented the point of no return. I knew that the first time I wore it in public, people’s perceptions of me would change forever.
There is this idea that the process of coming out as trans is this single giant life-altering event. But coming out really is a process — a long, gradual, tumultuous one. The first time I wore my crown, the experience wasn’t as dramatic as I had anticipated. Surrounded by friends at a party, I felt safe to debut the accessory. I was still identifying as he/him, but a kernel of truth was out there for those who had witnessed it. During the next few weeks, I wore my crown to other events, often with new people who had yet to see it. My confidence increased ever so slightly each time, as I worried less and less about what others thought.
Five years and some hormone replacement therapy later, my wardrobe looks nothing like it did in my Glasgow days. I own dresses in all colours — not just black — that make me feel good about my body. I also own jean shorts like the ones I wished Lana would have let me borrow. I have been out, proud and legally named Estelle, for three years now.
I don’t wear my flower crown anymore. Its elastic is so old now that it barely stays on my head. But in my journey to become the confident skirt-wearing, curve-flaunting, free-spirited woman I am today, this crown was the first step. It didn’t just make me feel slightly more like Lana Del Rey; it helped me get closer to being myself
This story was first published in FASHION’s November 2021 issue.