Monday, 10 December 2012

A pansy speaks, part 1

(Originally published in Boys Today! magazine, November 2037.)

Part One: My introduction to pansy

In part one of a series, Daniel Maybright talks about how he discovered a delightful new way of life. 

It started one summer day in 2035. My mum and I were in London for the day, shopping for clothes for me, amongst other things. As we were walking through Soho towards Oxford Street we were struck by the colourful façade of a new shop. We’d never seen a shop like it before: it was a dress shop, but the prettily-clad mannikins in the window were undoubtedly male. At first I thought they’d run out of girl dummies and was going to crack a joke, and then I saw tweens and teen customers wearing the same flouncy dresses trickling in and out… and they were male too.

Obviously I knew a minority of boys had started wearing girls’ clothes, or rather what used to be girls’ clothes. In my home town of Norwich I did occasionally see ‘cross-dressing’ boys openly in the streets. To be honest it was a bit leftfield for me, as I was a ‘trad’ boy by default, i.e. I dressed as boys traditionally do. But you know how a trend waits to happen, and all it needs is someone to take a first step for it to become huge? Among the big stores it was M&H who saw the opportunity, and in 2034 they had launched their New Boy range of boys’ dresses with a famous publicity campaign. You’ll remember how startling it was. Suddenly images of lads looking pretty and happy in skirts and pigtails were all over the place – on TV, in magazines, on posters at bus stops. A high-street chain was making a statement that boys wearing dresses was perfectly OK, and it caused such a furore that ‘newboy’ became the generic term for ‘girlish’ fashions for boys. Seeing the trend normalised like that scared many people. It even scared me. A minority of boys experimenting with a fad is one thing, but boys’ dresses for sale in a mainstream store like M&H? Where would it end?

Daniel before he became a pansy.

Genderquaking aside, M&H’s New Boy range was rather normal: just the contemporary fashion in ‘feminine’ clothes, sized and marketed at boys. But very quickly a more radical trend started up. I’m talking of course about Candyboys, whose flagship store it was that Mum and I were strolling past that day in Oxford Street. Even its shopfront was challenging, with its bright pink paint and glittering silver stars. I went over to look, purely out of curiosity… and it turned out to be the most life-changing thing I’ve ever done.

Candyboys was pink on the inside as well as the outside. It isn’t that big – pansy’s a minority style, even more so a couple of years ago – so the effect of all the dresses, tulle, handbags, ribbons and the rest was overwhelming. It was like walking into the imagination of a little girl from the 20th century who was dreaming of being a princess. I could not believe that this really was a shop for boys. I had to grab a catalogue, read the blurb and peer at the models in the photos before I accepted it wasn’t an elaborate wind-up!

There was a pair of boys shopping near me, and they were billing and cooing over the blouses, dresses and skirts and holding items up to themselves. It’s hard to explain how I felt listening to their chatter: I was really touched by their innocent enthusiasm. Instead of stomping between the racks with a sneer on my face, I saw the clothes through those boys’ eyes. And I saw that the clothes were so gorgeous, they blew me away! The pretty colours, and the tactile materials, and the rustly sounds they made when you handled them. The boys seemed so happy, chattering and fussing in their petticoats, that it gave me a kind of heartache. They seemed to live on a completely different planet to myself.

The loveliness of their world swam through my head as I listened to them and ran my hands with longing over the seductive petticoat dresses. I was fascinated and excited. I’d never worn ‘female’ clothing before and would never have dared suggest to Mum that she buy me any, so perhaps it could all have ended there. Luckily for me, she walked over and asked if I wanted to try something on. It was quite a surprise – she just came out with it!

I remember trembling as I picked out a dress and walked hesitantly to the changing room, not really sure what I was doing. Safe behind the curtain, I held the dress to myself and my heart thumped, it was so exciting. It felt so beautiful that I knew the moment I stepped into it, pulled up the zip and pulled my gauzy underskirts straight that from now on, I never wanted to wear anything else. I was too embarrassed to admit it, but Mum was very matter-of-fact, like it was the most normal thing in the world. She suggested that we didn’t buy a dress straight away, because you need to spend quite a lot of money to put a full outfit together – instead she bought me a skirt and petticoat to start me off. I put them on as soon as we were home and loved them so much I wore them all the time around the house, much to my Dad’s consternation.

I had discovered pansy.

This was two years ago. At the beginning I had a lot to learn. I had short hair; I didn’t know what I was doing; I didn’t have a sister or newboy friends. But I was keen to figure out how to wear pansy properly. Suddenly I was joining online communities, peering for hours through catalogues, going to shops... I was desperate to buy more pansy clothes but didn’t for a couple of weeks. When I was ready, I dragged Mum back to Candyboys, so I could try things on in the shop. The day Mum bought me my first dress was the happiest of my life.

Daniel as he dresses now.

I suppose I should comment on the term ‘pansy’. As Boys Today! readers will know, the term ‘pansy’ started as a term of abuse used by trad boys against any boy who liked wearing girls’ clothes, along with ‘sissy’ and plenty of other unkind things. Then the pansy community very quickly adopted it and made it our own, and now we are proud to call ourselves pansies. The best way to describe pansy is that it’s like newboy, but much more ‘girly’ (which we should call ‘boysie’ now). Newboys wear dresses, but pansies wear especially pretty dresses with flounces and lace frills and bright colours. Newboys wear skirts, but pansies wear full skirts with net underskirts. Newboys wear hair ribbons, but pansies wear great big hair ribbons and hairbows, even bonnets! A lot of newboys are very self-conscious and don’t want to get too ‘feminine’; pansy boys however go overboard on all the lipgloss and nail varnish and bracelets and handbags and other pretty things. There’s no strict dividing line, and I’ve seen boys who are basically newboy who mix in a few pansy accessories or have pretty long pigtails. Some pansies get a bit intense about who is or isn’t a pansy, but my own attitude is more live-and-let-live.

I avoid the term ‘janegirl’ which is the male equivalent of a ‘tomboy’. Janegirl is a dated term that has become popular in parts of the media. Like newboy, it just means a boy who dresses and acts like a girl. But newboys are acting and dressing like trad girls, not as girls are now, which makes the idea of ‘a boy who acts like a girl’ confusing. The last thing we need right now is more confusion…

Some pansies begin by wearing newboy and come to pansy later as they explore their new identity. I was drawn to pansy from the outset: I jumped in at the deep end, if you like. It was all so liberating. That will sound strange because dresses have traditionally been worn by the oppressed sex – and boys are sometimes pressurised into wearing dresses even when they don’t want to. But girls have been free in their fashion choices for decades, going boy-style or girl-style as they please. They won this freedom by struggling for their rights from a world that resisted them at every step. OK, the history is totally the opposite for boys. But I think too many boys are trapped by old male stereotypes. They do badly at school because they think it’s uncool to study hard, and they all wear the same boring jeans and jumpers. For boys, being allowed to wear dresses is amazing. Suddenly the macho rubbish – that pressure to act cool and pretend to be tough – is swept away. It’s like stepping into a fresh, lovely world.

In part two Daniel will talk about how to live as a pansy.


  1. I am glad to see your new story about gender role reversal future.

  2. Awesome cant wait for pt 2 I love pansies lol

  3. je n'y avais pas pensé, c'est vrai ,c'est pas parceque je met une robe que je dois caher mon identité, je suis un garçon et je porte une robe, voilà tout;
    merci cela m'aide bien