Clothes maketh the…
Throughout our adult life we are all faced with choices about how we present ourselves through our clothes, hairstyles, body modifications etc. While we have choices there are certain social, family and peer pressures which we will be subjected to. Sometimes they can be shrugged off, sometimes we cave in and get carried along with the tide.
I’m butch, I pack and bind everyday but those things are not known or visible to most people so my outward expression revolves mainly around the clothes I wear. The way I dress is distinctly masculine, in fact all the clothes I wear are ‘traditionally’ male; boxers, boots, shirts, ties, trousers, suits etc. I simply no longer shop in the women’s departments, just the men’s but it wasn’t always like that. My personal clothing choices have at times been stilted by outside pressure and for a long time by my own lack of true self awareness.
Any control over my clothing and style was limited during my childhood, by my mother, by the imposition of a school uniform and by the expectations imposed by society on a ‘girl’ child. I remember being annoyed that as a teenager I was not allowed to wear the school tie because of my biological sex. I remember being uncomfortable in skirts or anything that was frilly. I remember with horror the purple gym knickers we had to wear and in my case not only were they purple but they were also homemade by my mother, double whammy! I also remember my favourite trousers and shirt which were certainly more boyish than girly.
Thankfully for the most part my mother kept my hair short but I do remember the torture of reaching a certain age and being made to have a perm because that’s what girls did. The hairdressers was completely alien to me, I just didn’t (and still don’t) understand how I was supposed to behave or why I was expected to be happy about being there. Somehow I missed that and many other lessons in ‘female’ behaviour, rituals and dress code but I did manage to pick up a smattering of male ones.
As soon as I was old enough I ditched skirts, experimented with ties and even spent a period of time wearing men’s suits to work. I discovered Doc Marten boots and combat trousers, had my hair cut into a flat top but still periodically felt the pressure to conform, so there were always a few items of feminine clothing hanging around at the back of the wardrobe. Formal occasions were probably the hardest because this was where the gap between masculine/feminine clothing was most prominent, my inclinations towards masculine mixed with the outside pressure to be feminine resulted in some strange and never psychologically comfortable combinations.
Then I entered my andro dyke phase spending years in a uniform of jeans and nondescript grey or black tops, which were lacklustre, dull and helped me blend into the background. I was dissatisfied and therefore disinterested in clothes and my appearance generally. I’m not sure why my promising start faded away but I suspect it was partly due to the lack of any encouragement or role models as well as little self confidence. When you look all around you and see no reflections of what you are in the media, society or even within your own community it is hard to find a way forward. It was knowledge, encouragement and maturity that eventually led me finally move into a new phase of wearing the right clothes for me. Now I take pride in my outward masculine appearance both through my clothes and hairstyle.
We all express ourselves differently, with varying degrees of confidence and conformity but self expression is a hugely important part of being free to be ourselves. Being confident in my physical outward self has a massive positive and enabling effect on me, instead of shrinking I expand into a larger area, claiming my own space in the world with a certain degree of defiance. I will not modify my style to suit the needs or wishes of others and I won’t feel out of place, upset or cowed despite the stares. But most importantly I will continue to dress in a way that expresses my gender, clothes that are traditionally male, worn on a female body with deliberate and innate masculine intent. This is me and this is how I can best be visible without words or explanation to everyone I encounter regardless of whether they like it or not.