When I was in third grade, there was this obnoxious boy who used to ambush girls and pull up their dresses and skirts. Most of the other girls responded with elaborate plans to always travel in pairs or groups. (Incipient sisterhood, I suppose.) I responded by wearing pants. Every day. And I got into the habit. I didn’t wear a dress again until sixth grade (except for special occasions like the Nutcracker or something). In fact, for years I insisted that I was never going to wear a dress again as long as I lived. I insisted it right up to Christmas in sixth grade, when I got an awesome mini-dress someone brought me from Greece, and I decided, “Yeah, okay, this doesn’t suck.”
All this may seem deeply weird to people who know me. I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, butch. My visual presentation is almost always unmistakably female. I almost never leave the house without makeup. My go-to outfits are dresses and skirts: that’s what I automatically reach for when I look in my closet in the morning, and I have to consciously remind myself that jeans or trousers are also an option. Even when I do go out in jeans and a T-shirt or tank top, I typically dress it up with a little jewelry. Apart from historical or other costuming, about the only time I seriously butch it up is at the gym.
And I love mixing it up. I love a racerbank muscle tank with a little black skirt. I love an elegant dress with a military-style coat. I love jeans and a tank top with sparkly jewelry and a fresh manicure. I love a severely tailored jacket with patterned black stockings and an almost-too-short skirt. I love a cheerful sundress with knee-high pirate boots. I love sleek, sleeveless dresses that show off my muscles.
I wouldn’t go so far as to call my usual look “genderfuck.” But it’s strongly informed by genderfuck. It’s definitely on the masculine end of the conventionally female spectrum. And I like that. I like taking the usual markers of “masculinity = power,” and saying, “Fuck that. I am all woman, and I am taking these markers and making them my own. Markers of power don’t belong to masculinity or to men. They belong to me. And if you try to take them away from me, I will fuck you up.”
Anyway. I’m not sure where I’m going with this. I guess I just want to say: Fashion and gender — weird. Fascinating. Complicated. Hot. And most of all — big fun.
And I’m curious about how this works for the rest of you. Of any gender or gender presentation. Women who dress more feminine than I do; women who are more butch than I am; women whose gender presentation is more fluid and varied than mine; men who like to play with gender; men who might like to play with gender more but feel uncomfortable with it; men who are happy presenting themselves as masculine but still find this topic interesting; transpeople; people who don’t identify as conventionally gendered; queers; straights… everybody. How does this stuff play out for you? I think this is weird and fascinating and complicated and hot and fun, and I want to know how it is for the rest of the world.