Writing, Identity, & Queer Studies

In & Out, Either/Or, and Everything In Between

Tyler’s Dress

“I did not even consider leaving her room dressed as I was. I was endowed with a sense of propriety, depended on it, for that matter, for the most basic level of survival. I changed back into my trousers and white-shirt and rubbed my cheeks and lips clean. I stuffed the dress and stockings behind the dresser, deciding to keep if not to wear it again, at least for the memory of some power it seemed to have imparted. It had been a day and evening to treasure. I had never felt so extremely ordinary, and I quite loved it.” (78).


Tyler alludes to his non-heteronormative sexuality and non-conforming gender identity in this passage and in several other times throughout the novel. The first time these identities intersect is when he tries on the dress; he enjoys the power wearing the dress gives him. Dressing in traditionally feminine clothing gives him the opportunity to express parts of his self that he has previously been unable to do. He’s never experienced what it’s like to dress as a woman and finds “something delicious about such confinement.” (77) because he has confined this part of his identity for so long. He feels “extremely ordinary” and “love[s] it”. (78) He likes feeling like a woman, but we don’t know yet if he wants to be one or simply enjoys expressing himself as more feminine than masculine. He simply says he identifies as something “in-between, unnamed” (71) and that he hasn’t determined all of the facets of his identity yet. If he had the correct language to speak about his sexuality and gender identity he might be able to define it for himself but he may or may not tell anyone else how he feels. He has not articulated or pondered his desire for Otoh or wearing a dress because he lacks the language to do so.

If Tyler could articulate clearly his identity, he would probably only reveal it a few people. Currently, his closest (and perhaps only) friends are Mala Ramchandin and Otoh Mohanty. He feels some sort of attraction to Otoh and a connection to Mala so it is likely that if he came out to anyone, it would be his two friends. He is speechless when Mala tells him he wants to wear the dress and is at first fearful that she may have figured out his secret. When he realizes she not only doesn’t care if he doesn’t identify as cisgender and/or heterosexual but also wants him to feel happy and wear the dress, he feels a sense of relief and freedom.


  1. I love this passage! Why do you think it is that Miss Ramchandin is so accepting of Tyler? Could it be because of her past, or is she simply unaware? Tyler and Mala share a special relationship, perhaps because they are both “abnormal” and trying to function in a societally “normal” place. I really like the phrase “at least for the memory of some power it seemed to have imparted.” Was Tyler empowered by his sexual liberation, or was he empowered by dressing like a woman? What could this mean?

  2. I really like that the first thing you talk about is power. I feel that power exceeds all efforts and feelings through interpretation of this passage! I think that the most important words of this passage are “consider,” “decide” and “power.” These words suggest decisiveness, control and of course, power.

    One ‘considers’ or ‘decides’ something in reference to the preference of oneself, consequently expressing a sense of power. Often with power comes relief. You touched on the concept of relief when you talked about freedom. In this instance, Tyler DECIDES to become free. It is a conscious decision. This ‘decision’ was first considered, now accepted and cherished in the heart of himself and Miss Ramchandin in the name of acceptance. This ‘acceptance’ rids shame and allows the light of POWER to shine through.

    You did a wonderful job close reading this passage, yet I think that the idea of power is more prevalent than you first thought. The little words within the giant concepts mean the most!

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