Free to Be Me: Transcending Gender & Fashion Norms in the Workplace

By Kirrin Finch
Free to Be Me: Transcending Gender & Fashion Norms in the Workplace

Our good friend Airin Yung (they/them), welcomed us to delve into their world as a transmasculine attorney based in Washington, DC. Over the years, they've not only navigated their personal journey of coming into themselves as non-binary but also what it means to show up for work in a way that makes them feel affirmed. They also share valuable insights into creating more inclusive workplaces for trans, non-binary, and gender non-conforming individuals.

Airin Yung, a transmasculine lawyer sits on an orange velvet couch looking towards the camera with a smile

Can you describe your personal style and how it's evolved with your gender expression? 

My style varies based on the setting, but overall, I enjoy curating cohesive looks that are clean, that play with textures or patterns, and that include expressive accessories and/or footwear. As someone who has been exploring life as a non-binary and transmasculine person for over a decade, my style has loosened. I used to feel the need to assert my masculine identity through very masculine gender expression and clothing. But as I've felt more comfortable and confident in knowing who I am (regardless of whether people also know so) I have been able to be freer in living in the androgynous zone. I wear women's clothes, men's clothes, non-gendered clothes--I just style it to fit me and how I feel. It's more freeing that way. 

Airin Yung, transmasculine lawyer, stands at the top of the stairs in their home in a Navy Kirrin FInch Merino Wool Sweater, Kirrin Finch Gray Georgie Pants, Kirrin Finch Blue Mini Stripe Dress Shirt, and a gray scarf laid around their neck

How do you decide what to wear to work? 

It depends on the day and what I need to be present for--sometimes I am at my cubicle drafting all day, but other days I might have meetings with judges and department directors.  I enjoy curating the level of playfulness to what is appropriate for the agenda, and whenever I have important meetings you will see me in nothing less than a tie and jacket. Wanting to be seen as a transmasculine individual also plays a role in what I choose. I really dislike being misgendered at work (when someone uses "she/her" pronouns for me) and have found that people are much better about my pronouns when I wear a suit and tie. Not that I should have to dress in a certain way to be respected, but dressing in a well-fitted suit and tie definitely helps me feel confident (and handsome, too)! 

Airin Yung, transmasculine lawyer stands outside in their courtyard in a Kirrin Finch Gray Georgie Suit, Navy Crew Sweater, holding a bag in their left hand. Their hair is slicked back and they dawn a pair of glasses

Are there specific clothing items or accessories that make you feel more confident or comfortable in your work environment? 

Well-fitting suiting is super helpful in feeling more confident and comfortable. Sometimes I don't have time to find the all-gender bathrooms and being in a more masculine suit helps me feel comfortable using the men's restroom. I also love all sorts of ties, tie pins, and masculine jewelry! 

How do you handle any instances of misgendering or misunderstanding regarding your gender identity? 

When I'm at work, it can be awkward dealing with being misgendered. When it's a peer at work, I don't mind mentioning or reminding someone of my pronouns in response. However, when it involves someone of much greater seniority, I often have to use other avenues available to me. For instance, to alert my department head of my pronouns, I had to have conversations with my direct supervisor who then could mention my pronouns on my behalf. I have also started conversations about including pronouns in personal introductions and encouraged people to put pronouns in their email signatures--this has all helped decrease misgendering and I think people are becoming more cognizant of pronouns overall. 

Airin Yung, transmasculine attorney, stands in their outdoor courtyard in a navy blue crew sweater, gray Kirrin Finch Georgie pants, and a blue mini stripe shirt

What do you think workplaces can do to better support and accommodate their trans and gender non-conforming employees? 

I think instituting inclusive language practices is the bare minimum. For instance, including pronouns on email signatures, next to your name on Zoom/Teams video calls, in introductions, and on name tags at a networking function. I also think that the use of preferred names and ability to enter your own title (Mx. etc.) on workplace materials is important. These practices might seem small, but when standardized and normalized, they can really make a positive impression when a new trans person enters the work space. On a more physical scale, I think there should always be all-gender bathrooms in workplace buildings or off-site work events, there should not be "gendered" professional-ware expectations including how one wears hair (ie anyone of any gender identity should be allowed to wear formal/business skirts/suits and have hair of any length), and more compassion and understanding regarding gender-affirming healthcare (ie the time, physical, and mental impact it may occupy). Supervisors and individuals in leadership should also be willing to help correct and educate those they manage if employees say something transphobic or misgender someone. It's all about being aware and actually caring about the employees.

Shop Airin's Look 

  1. Light Gray Georgie Blazer 
  2. Light Gray Georgie Dress Pants 
  3. The Vasa Navy Crew Sweater 
  4. Blue Mini Stripe Point Collar Shirt

More About Airin Yung

Airin is an attorney and a photographer. As a queer, trans, Taiwanese American attorney, Airin is invested in health law and justice. As an artist, they are committed to cultivating queer art projects and community spaces throughout DC and beyond. Their most current project can be found on Instagram @queerportraitsfromthepark, an ongoing collection of queer portraits that centers the idea of accessible portraiture for all within the LGBTQ+ community. In their free-time they enjoy hiking with their dog and partner, cooking the spiciest food ever, and jamming out on the violin or piano. You can find Airin on Instagram and TikTok @airinyung.


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