nonbinary bridesmaid
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My sister has asked me to a bridesmaid. I'm deeply estranged from the majority of my extended relatives. She's turning this wedding into a family reunion (300+ guests). I thought I had enough to worry about with being nonbinary and potentially needing to deal with gender dysphoria on the day, but many of these relatives are horrendously bigoted as well. Part of me wants to say fuck it and be outrageously myself as a nonbinary bridesmaid… but my anxious self fears for my safety. I'm not out to everyone.Should I ask to be demoted from bridesmaid to “regular guest” status so I can have full choice over what I wear?
Should I ask if I can leave once the ceremony is over so as to avoid conflict?
Should I ask to abstain entirely because of past experiences with relatives?Help!


Hey there! I'm sorry you're having to contend with these issues in such a public way. It's challenging enough in your own community (and your own head!) sometimes. While I can't definitively answer any of these questions for you (they're all so personal to your situation and needs), I did some digging to see what advice I have for each situation that may help you make the decisions…

What to wear as a nonbinary bridesmaid

If you're not out as nonbinary, don't want to come out in that public setting, and want to focus on feeling safe, you're probably better off blending in with the rest of the wedding party, should you choose to remain in it. But this can leave you feeling uncomfortable in your own skin.

This nonbinary bridesmaid (aka bridesmate) had a similar clothing challenge and chose the blending in option:

When my friend asked me to be a nonbinary bridesmaid, I was far less “out” as I am now, and promised that I would wear a dress to match the other bridesmaids, and to cause less of an issue with appearance and her family. She had originally told me and our other non-femme friend, that if we really didn’t want to wear dresses, she wouldn’t make us. I felt okay about it, and it was good to know that the option was there if I couldn’t cope.

They also planned to eventually come out more and bring that into the next bridesmate outfit:

By the time the next person in our friend group is married, I think I’ll be wearing a suit with some femme flair rather than a dress with some masculine flair. I had a great time regardless, and I think I really learned a lesson about presentation and how much small details and accessories make you feel.

Decide on your coming-out timeline and match it with what you're comfortable wearing. Here's a little more help with the outfit issue…

Pulling out of being in the wedding party

The same nonbinary bridesmaid had this to say about backing out if you just can't do it (which is totally okay!). Being a member of a wedding party is always optional. It's an honor out of which you are totally allowed to opt.

I know that many other trans, especially non-binary, people find themselves pressured to present in a way that makes them feel awful at weddings, or having to say “I love you both, but I can’t do this for you” and step back.

Here are a few tips for getting out of being in the wedding party if you think you'll go that route. It does not have to be a big drama…

All of this being said, I can't decide any of this for you, but you should definitely put your needs first. What elements are you comfortable with, what elements are no-gos, and what can you get away with not doing. If you can project yourself into the day and see any kind of conflict, with guests or with yourself, then you're totally fine opting out of the wedding party or even the whole shebang entirely. The worst thing would be having some kind of commotion that forces you to out yourself before you're ready or that causes conflict with your family that you'd rather not have.

If you decide to skip it, plan a special day/outing with your sister to celebrate separately. There's no rule that you can't have many occasions to celebrate a marriage.

Readers: what advice do YOU have in this situation? Have you ever chosen to step away from being in the wedding party or skipped an event to avoid coming out or conflict?

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Comments on Should I be a nonbinary bridesmaid in my sister’s wedding?

  1. I deeply feel for you as you try to decide how to approach this decision. Past experience has definitely created a challenge with your relatives since you have had prior bad confrontations that have you fearful for your safety. As you mentioned, gender dysphoria, I would hope that you are working with professional therapist such as a psychologist who can give you strategies that are more targeted to your needs than a website offering general advice. However, I would suggest working with the bride concerning a celebratory outfit that’s amenable to you both. Perhaps, you would be able to include a close friend as a plus one to support you if you do decide to attend either in the wedding party or as a significant guest with a specific part in the ceremony as a compromise to being an attendant. After all, flexibility is the way to make the ceremony special.

  2. While I fully support your feelings and the struggle it must be to be non-binary in an unaccepting family, I think it’s important to remember what this day is about: celebrating your sister and the love she has with her partner. Talk to her: see if you can find a compromise where you can wear something your comfortable in that won’t cause drama on that day; if that’s not doable talk to her about not being in the wedding. You should be able to be who you are and dress as you wish, but unfortunately (so unfortunately), this doesn’t seem like a safe and comfortable environment for you to do so. But if it’s really important to her that you be standing up there beside her and you can’t find a clothing compromise then I’d suggest sucking it up for this one day and wearing what would make your sister happy. I’d also recommend that you do not ask to leave right after the ceremony, it can be very hurtful. Regardless of what you choose, be present for the day, and try to focus on your love for your sister and celebrating her happiness. Try to put your own feelings of discomfort and dysphoria to the background just for this one day.

  3. I really feel like this is something that should be discussed with your sister. Tell her your concerns. Ask her what she’s comfortable with you doing. Go into the conversation knowing what you want as the best possible outcome and which outcomes you’re willing to accept. Offer those options to her. It’s possible she hasn’t really thought about how this will affect you. It’s also possible that she wants the real you by her side because she fucking loves the real you. Communication is key in all relationships, right? So get down with your communicating sisterly selves.

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