IT'S NOT ALL BLACK & WHITE, EXCEPT FOR WHEN IT IS
A few weeks ago, I wrote this post about why I use the word "queer" to describe myself these days rather than "gay," and I've been thinking about a lot of related things over the last few days. Specifically, I was thinking about the role fashion plays in how we construct our own notions of self, and I was going to do a Twitter thread on it (lol), but I decided that it was going to end up being hella long and went for a blog post instead. So, no, that header quote isn't supposed to be making any philosophical statements. It's more a joke at myself that I tend to wear mostly black, white, gray, and navy. But also I suppose you could say it's a double entendre, because it's also to say that things aren't always (and I'd venture to say usually not) binary.
Anyways, let's get started.
From talking to several of my queer friends, it seems like a common thread running through our stories has been the way we've played with our own personal style as part of our identity formation, often running parallel to coming out. This isn't necessarily the case for everyone, but I know that my mode of dress and how I present myself and my gender has definitely been part of my own process of leaning into my own queerness. As I mentioned previously, I would say that I tend to dress and present pretty androgynously, meaning that I tend to dress and present myself in ways that wouldn't necessarily be out of place for either gender in the stereotypical binary.
I WOULD SAY I TEND TO DRESS AND PRESENT PRETTY ANDROGYNOUSLY
As I'm writing this post, I'm wearing black skinny jeans, a white t-shirt, and a light wash denim jacket, the exact same outfit my sister, my brother, and I all happen to be wearing today. I suppose you could think of this outfit as more stereotypically "male," but there are also probably an equal number of days, especially in the winter, where my sister and I will show up in the same outfit. I've borrowed sweaters from my sister, both my mom and sister will borrow clothes from me, and my brother will borrow things every once in a while as well. All of that to say, I truly don't really feel like the way I dress is confined to a single gender, and that's part of the reason I was saying that I feel like the "queer" descriptor more fully encapsulates who I am as a person.
While I still tend to identify with the male gender, I think calling myself queer puts me more in line with the position I take in defiance to the typical binary gender norms, especially when it comes to Western social constructions of what gender is supposed to look like. I like a good long-line cardigan sweater, even better if it's warm and falls right around the knee or calf. I like a Chelsea boot with a little bit of heel, especially in the fall or the winter (could be related to me being very solidly AVERAGE height, but who really knows). I also like some good rings and a good necklace, because, seriously, boys need to get on the jewelry trends. I'm also learning a lot more about skin care these days, so I like a good clay mask and facial cleanser.
I would venture a guess that our broader Western culture would skew towards categorizing the majority of those things as more feminine, and I suppose they are if you subscribe to that sort of thinking, but to me, they just feel like who I am as a person. And besides, even if they are feminine, why is that a bad thing? Toxic masculinity can go extinct last year in my honest opinion.
CALLING MYSELF QUEER PUTS ME MORE IN LINE WITH THE POSITION OF DEFIANCE I TAKE TO THE TYPICAL GENDER BINARY NORMS
To me, I think it's as simple as just letting people be who they want to be. If that means, boys want to wear some makeup or dress a little more "feminine" or whatever, then let them. And if girls want to eschew "putting on a face" and want to wear things that are a little more "masculine," then let them. And what if people don't really want to subscribe to a gender at all? What if nonbinary is your thing? Well, then let them.
Obviously, all of that is said without taking into account all the ways that the social construction of gender, especially the gender binary, affects our everyday lives, but I'm allowing myself to talk like it doesn't matter, because I'm dreaming of and fighting for a world where it doesn't. I'm here, writing furiously, with the hope that people get to be the people they are, because color blindness or gender blindness or any other kinds of blindness we want to talk about don't really do anything for us. All those components of who we are make us who we are, and I'm fighting for and dreaming of a world where we BOTH get to be just human people AND where we get to be people who are celebrated for all the different pieces that fit together to make us who we are.
I THINK IT'S AS SIMPLE AS JUST LETTING PEOPLE BE WHO THEY WANT TO BE AND WHO THEY ARE
I recognize that this post is optimistic, perhaps recklessly optimistic, about the world that we could create, but sometimes we need a little reckless optimism, especially when we live in a world that's not safe for so many of us who don't quite fit in the boxes of what "normal" is "supposed" to look like.
I'm thankful that, for the most part, I'm at a place in my life where I don't have to be afraid of who I am and where I can be and present as my whole self, but I know that's not the case for everyone. And at the same time, that's what I want for everyone.
And so we resist, and sometimes resisting looks like queer fashion.
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