Dress is used by transgender and nonbinary (TNB) individuals as a way to develop and maintain identity, whether to reinforce a binary gender code or disrupt social expectations. However, safety issues of living in a society where TNB persons are discriminated against, harassed, and assaulted, and where binary gender violations are met with resistance, creates tension between expression of authentic gender identity and navigation of social systems. A framework for creating an aesthetic identity based on dress and identity development scholarship was created and used to analyze responses from interviews with 90 TNB individuals located in the United States, Canada, and Ireland. Findings revealed the dialectic tension between performativity and safety. The framework explores aesthetic identity through concepts including sensory, cognitive, and emotional aspects of clothing; scaffolding and feedback; role making and role taking; and exploration and commitment. Limitations and future research are discussed.
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- gender identity