Entertainment

How Collecting Sneakers Helped Me Come to Terms With Who I Really Am


“Got ‘Em.”

It’s been years since those two words could determine whether my day was going to be a good one or a bad one, but even seeing them written out next to each other is still enough to make my pulse quicken. 

For the unfamiliar, “Got ‘Em” is how Nike’s SNKRS app tells you that you’ve just defied the odds and won the opportunity to spend $220 on, say, a pair of Travis Scott Air Jordan 4s—shoes that could eventually be worth five times that on the secondary market.

I used to love collecting sneakers. Whenever someone would ask me why, I’d tell them it was this little moment of victory that got me hooked. Or I’d start talking about basketball, about my love of the game and the people who played it, and how the shoes made me feel like I got to own a little piece of that story. Or I’d talk about resale value, and how shoes could be sound investments, especially if they’re kept in their original boxes.

Yeah, I told a lot of people that I had a lot of different reasons for collecting sneakers.

I lied to all of them.

Because I was lying to myself.

The real reason I loved collecting sneakers was because I was a closeted trans woman, and basketball shoes were the most socially acceptable way for me to obsess over pretty shoes without people realizing the secret that I had known for most of my life. Suddenly, I could spend hours obsessing over shoe colorways. Silhouettes. How they’d compliment outfits. And all in plain sight while privately I struggled with the great question of my life.

I had known, on some level, that I was different from the other boys since junior high. But for the longest time I never had the language for it. Then one day, sometime around my 19th birthday, while living in New York and spending time around honest to god queer people, I started to find that language. Unfortunately, once I found the language, I couldn’t find the courage.

What followed was a decade of me living in various identities that I felt were maybe going to be close enough. I embraced my bisexuality publicly. I embraced talking about the years I spent doing sex work. There were moments where I considered making the leap, but I always convinced myself that I could never be the woman that I wanted to be. I convinced myself that pretending to be a boy was not only the better option, but the only option. So I went about my life. I threw myself into work. I threw myself into sports. Eventually, I threw myself into sneakers.

Now, before the pitchforks come out from those who are all too quick to “protect” children from the “immorality” of transness, I’m not saying that sneakers made me trans. But sneakers, in their own way, opened the door to a world of fashion for me. And even though I worked at this very publication for a number of years, I misunderstood fashion and what it could do for someone. (Which explains why I wrote about politics and sports.)



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