Gift Guide: For Your Friend Who’s Transitioning

Wendy Stokesby:


So your friend came out as transgender/genderqueer/non-binary! Yay! The holidays are actually a pretty perfect time to show your friend your support, both by taking that old holiday advice to let the people you love know that you care and by giving them gifts that’ll help their transition. Take care to ask them if they’re comfortable with you gifting something specifically having to do with their identity, but if they are, here are some suggestions for gifts that’ll be useful for someone who’s transitioning their gender presentation.


American Apparel gift card. Or, really, any clothing store gift card. I just like American Apparel because so much of their line is unisex and very neutral. If your friend is genderqueer and transitioning to an androgynous presentation, clothes that are neither masculine nor feminine are going to be tough to find. Recreating your entire wardrobe is an expensive proposition, so any help is appreciated!

Hair styling products and tools. Whether your friend is FTM, MTF, or genderfluid or -queer, hair is often part of the kit and caboodle of transitioning. Cis people get to figure out a reliable hair routine over the course of years and sometimes decades, where people who are in transition have to learn new ‘do ins and outs over the course of months. Put your experience to good use! If you like a particular hair product or tool, gift it to your friend. One of my favorites, for non-binary people and FTM trans people, is J.S. Sloane Brilliantine pomade. It lets you sculpt your hair pretty precisely, but it doesn’t feel heavy – plus it smells good.

A gift card to a salon. This is partially for haircut reasons (see above), but also, transitioning is really, really stressful. Maybe they want a mani-pedi or a facial! It feels really good to be pampered. Make sure the salon you choose is inclusive, of course, because no one wants someone’s hands on their head or face or hands if that person is a transphobe. If you happen to be in Chicago, I recommend Black Hearts Hair House with all my might.

Makeup or makeup tools, if applicable. Makeup is another expensive proposition, and if my teenaged experience presenting female is any indication, it’s not immediately obvious what tools you need for the job. If you have a particular buki brush you love, gift it! As for makeup, if you give your friend a gift card for Sephora, Ulta, or a department store, make sure you go with them when they get matched for moral support, if they want you to.

Perfume or cologne. Isn’t weird to think that scent is gendered? This is another thing that cis people probably take for granted, but for someone who’s transitioning, it’s part of the process of figuring out your presentation. I love, love, love L’Occitane en Provence’s Eau des Baux cologne, myself. It’s woody and subtly masculine.

A purse, briefcase, or backpack. Are you overwhelmed by all the things that people in transition have to think about that comes automatically to cis people, yet? Well, us too! Consider my example: I’ve become accustomed to carrying a ton of stuff around with me all the time, so the idea of going as bare-bones as my husband – only having my keys, wallet, phone, and sunglasses on my person – is anathema to me. How do I carry a bag all the time – that isn’t a messenger bag – and still look neither feminine nor masculine? I’ve settled on a very plain but very modern-looking purse from Smateria, a leather briefcase, and a backpack so that I have options.

A wallet. Same as above – wallets are gendered! A nice slim leather wallet for trans men, a pretty clutch wallet for trans women, and something simple in neutrals for non-binary friends can be a small but meaningful gift. I love the Museum of Contemporary Art (Chicago) store for pretty much everything, and I’ve had particularly good luck with bags and wallets there. I want to buy one of these nice, thin John Boos for Wurkin leather RFID wallets – I just can’t decide which color to choose.

Shoes. Specific shoes if you know your friend has a preference, or a Zappos, Amazon, DSW, or Nordstrom Rack card if not. The advantage of an online store is that your friend can try on shoes in the privacy of their own home, plus Zappo has free shipping and returns. If your friend is in the market for loafers, I’m a big fan of Kenneth Cole.

Winter accessories. It’s winter, everyone needs scarves and hats and gloves, and this is another weirdly gendered thing! If you want to be extra-super nice to your friend, you can pick something out from a milliner or a hat shop, like Sacred Feather in Madison, to get them a hat that’ll last years if not decades. (Seriously.)

Jewelry. Whether it’s a necklace, a bracelet, a tie bar, cufflinks, earrings, or rings, replacing all of your accessories can again be pretty expensive. But it’s the little finishing touches we put on our outfits that can really define our personal style and make our gender presentation obvious. No matter how your friend is transitioning, one cool item is the metallic cuff from Little Wings Designs in Grand Rapids, MI – it’s a neutral gold that’d add oomph to anyone’s outfit.

Original by Rebecca Vipond Brink

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