During my late 20s I started romantically seeing a woman who had a son that after graduating from an Oxbridge university had a mental breakdown and began identifying as a woman. Three main things ensued: 1) he began also identifying as disabled, taking up a spot on Google’s free coding courses reserved for disabled people, 2) began chasing his mum round the house, hitting her and spitting at her when he felt like it, and 3) started wearing his mother's and younger sister's underwear, stealing it from the laundry pile or out of their bedroom chest of draws.
At a certain point her son started demanding she take him “girl shopping” for a bra as he considered himself to be supposedly entering another puberty, this time as a pubescent girl, due to taking hormones. He had read online that mothers taking their daughters bra shopping was some sort of rite of passage (not one that I recall). Tired of him nicking her underwear, his mother thought this was perhaps quite positive - at least if he had his own women’s underwear he might not steal hers or her teenage daughter's anymore (neither of these women felt they could tell him to stop and all of my offers to have a “word” with him were firmly rejected).
Given that benefit, she agreed. For some reason she wanted me present (for moral support?) during this exercise. After traipsing round a few shops he finally found some frilly underwear that he liked. He of course wanted to try it on in the women’s changing room.
Her son looked like a hipster young man, with long hair and big clown feet. A thin, perhaps slightly androgynous young man, but still an identifiably bog-standard tall, wiry man. He however believed he ‘passed’ as a woman. He did not.
The reaction of other women, particularly the girls in the changing room, was immediate. The young women present had been coming out of the changing cubicles to show their friends or mums the outfits they were considering buying. All began opening the door just a crack to show their outfits to whoever was accompanying them, or they didn’t come out at all anymore. Their looks of discomfort or bewilderedness at his presence went completely over his head. The shop assistant who was staffing the changing rooms at that time had a mixture of alarm and concern which she kept trying to straighten off her face (looking over in our direction a lot, then trying not to look. Busying herself, but then taking another look monitoring how undressed he was getting).
Partly the strength of this reaction was because he had started taking his clothes off in full view of everyone. This young man didn’t want to use the cubicle to change, wishing instead to try things on whilst outside the changing rooms in public view. Eventually his mother cajoled him into the cubicle telling him in frustration “it’s just what everyone does!” She had to get quite cross before he complied. My increasing face of horror at his attempt to undress in the mixed area, rather than privately, appeared to have no effect as he ignored me through out.
Her son kept saying how he felt the underwear didn’t fit him properly. Was there anything we could do? Perhaps he needed a bra fitting! Yes, he said, every teenage girl gets their bra size measured (I didn’t) and that was what he needed. Eventually, as she was somewhat flummoxed, I suggested to his mother that his demand of going bra shopping, if found to be satisfying, would have stopped her attention on the topic and the matter would’ve been resolved. It was therefore important to move the goal posts, to string it out, and require her focus on a new problem to do with his need for women’s underwear. So what he did was change the set of demands (requesting a bra measuring appointment for his non-existent breasts) in a bid to ensure the issue couldn’t be dropped.
At this point, she offered to buy him the underwear or not, but said that was all she could do. If he wanted a bra sizing appointment he’d have to book it himself and go unaccompanied. Her son rejected the new women’s underwear (sticking to stealing his female relatives') and looked dejected. Throughout this entire conversation women in the changing room had been obviously listening in. Everyone was hyper-conscious of his presence. I imagine there was relief when we left.
This young man is certainly disturbed and unaware / uncaring of women’s boundaries, but did not seem to want to look at women in the women’s changing room, but rather force women to look at him (exhibitionism rather than voyeurism). Which made everyone uncomfortable and also forced to act as if we weren’t uncomfortable. No one felt they could openly question this man’s presence in the women’s changing room, not even his mother, nor I, despite both being gender critical. The possibility of an outburst, or being labelled bigoted, often means women go along with things we don’t want to.