I started out life being described as bright, but eccentric. And some people cut the pretence by jumping straight to ‘weird’. Socially awkward, and far too tall for my age at every stage of my childhood and adolescence, I was hard to miss and incapable of conforming. I famously turned up to primary school, probably around the age of five or six, wearing every hair accessory I owned all in one go. And despite my efforts, it didn’t get much better.
As I teenager I observed many of the girls I went to secondary school with, sporting highlighted hair, heavy eyeliner and orange foundation or fake tan. I gave it a go and carried it off poorly. I felt like an imposter the whole time, and I could not muster even a hint of faux confidence. And this was only the beginning of my ‘weirdness’ or inability to conform, so I was going to need all the help I could get.
With the last few inches of highlights growing out the ends of my then-long hair, and recovering from surgery-induced nerve damage that had left me partially paralysed on the left side of my torso, my mum gifted my sister and I a colour and style class. I had no conception of what any of this was for, why I needed it, or what the benefits were, but I trusted that mum believed it to be a good idea and didn’t see the harm in trying it out. Although I honestly wasn’t confident that this was my area, or that I was going to be any good at looking good.
The class itself didn’t last a whole day, my sister and I listened, and as the colours were draped across me, even the shades I judged to be ‘yucky’, I could not stifle the inexplicable smile spreading across my face. As my clothing personality was worked out and I was given a type, along came with it words I didn’t know I was dying to hear, permissions I had never received from my parents, aspects of myself that had previously been deemed as inconvenient or inexplicable were finally given order, life, and most of all, appreciation.
It was one thing that I’d come out as bisexual as a teenager, but it took me completely by surprise at the age of 26 to learn that I was nonbinary. Along with working out which pronouns felt best, which name felt best, how I wanted to cut my hair, did or didn’t I want hormones or surgery, was, ‘how do I dress now?’
Initially I had no clue about what I wanted. What was the vision? The big picture? One thing I did have, though, were my colours and my clothing personality. The necklines were still the same, the fabrics, the cuts, the patterns still translated across the gender gaps.
I realised that dresses and skirts were not really things I enjoyed, so I dumped them all into my sister’s old wardrobe and promised myself that if I didn’t touch them for a year, I could throw them all out. I got rid of every pair of high heels I owned except for maybe two pairs. I eventually got to the point of not wearing makeup, or much of it, for a year, to see if I really wanted to invite it back into my life.
I once heard a trans woman tell me ‘all of us who come out later in life have no idea how to dress, and we’ve missed the boat for experimenting as teenagers do, with a little more time to get it wrong, so many of us end up dressing like our mothers’.
For me, whilst I am not a trans man, I was still leaving behind the excess of femininity that I’d been so used to performing, and wanted to introduce some elements of the masculine, but having a father whose clothing personality was fairly different to my own, I didn’t have an immediate role model. So, I started to look for men on screen for inspiration.
By this point my mum had become a House of Colour consultant, and so I was able to pick her brains. On the rare occasion I’d see a man on the TV or in a film I suspected had the same clothing personality as me, I’d excitedly ask her, ‘is he dramatic classic, too?!’ When she answered ‘yes, I think you might be right’, I’d think about him for days afterwards. I’d pick out the elements that had caught my eye, the way he carried himself, the parts of his mannerisms, speech patterns and interactions, and I’d look deep within to find what felt like me, too.
I did go through an awkward teenage-phase of my style, trying things out to see how authentic it felt, or what gave me gender euphoria, or what lessened my gender dysphoria, but it is completely obvious to me that my version was a much more guided journey of self-discovery. It not only gave me licence and confidence to do certain things, it gave me the vocabulary, the parameters, and the tools to navigate my way far more easily than my many thousands of trans and nonbinary siblings who have yet to have this kind of support.
It is my wish that all professionals, all industries, and all individuals can have, or facilitate, these life changing experiences. With joy, ease, and authenticity.
Thank you, House of Colour. Fifteen years ago you made a trans journey easier, and you didn’t even know it!
Mx. Harris Eddie Hill (they/them/their)
Gender Identity Educator, Speaker, Podcaster and NLP Coach
Based in Hertfordshire, UK
To date, Harris has taught and coached over 30,000 people in their mission to educate the general population about gender identity. An entrepreneur and seasoned LGBTQ+ advocate, Harris is dedicated to making every story as familiar to us as our own.