Home > Introduction > Being all things to all people.

Being all things to all people.

December 27, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

Every time I sit down to write something lately, I can’t get the words out for what I want to say.  Or I can but they end up seeming so matter-of-fact.  I like writing prose.  So pardon this blog entry if it doesn’t come out so beautifully.

I am struggling with my fashion sense.  I love dapper blazers, queer haircuts, collared shirts, ties, slim but just slightly baggy pants.  I hate clothing that doesn’t feel like it fits my body.  I struggle to find clothing that fits into a professional wardrobe.  Looking androgynous is trendy right now, so often when I buy the clothes I like, I seem to find something that is placing me into “weekend” clothes, not “work” clothes, even if it is a blazer and a collared shirt.  I’m not sure why it is that it doesn’t look right to me, but it doesn’t.  I compensate by wearing it anyway, but – I hate not feeling 100% polished at work.  I also feel visually inconsistent.  In life, I’ve more or less accepted by now that on some days I will wear tight jeans with riding boots and shirts that show cleavage, and on other days I will pull on a binder or a sports bra and well, a shirt that doesn’t show cleavage.  I wonder what it’s like for my co-workers to see me come in one day looking feminine and the next looking decidedly not.  I wonder if it even registers, or if it creates any kind of cognitive dissonance, or the fact that I occasionally look boyish trumps any days where I look feminine.  Through it all, I get concerned about not being perceived as professional enough.  It upsets me that my constant experimentation with identity – something that pretty much every 20-something does, regardless of sexual orientation or gender, does – is so visible to my professional life, and might be seen as unimportant or as something that should be hidden.

I’ve struggled with how to wear my hair.  After my post “Hair Evolution”, I decided to grow out my hair a bit and return the Justin Bieber cut.  It works when I’m femmed up.  It works when I’m butched out. (Why do these have different prepositions?) Regardless of how I dress, my hair feels incongruous with the look I am going for.  If I’m looking more feminine, I feel guilty for not having it long.  If I’m looking more masculine, I wish it were shorter.

I discussed this with my girlfriend, and I got to the first step.  If I were to describe the style I want, I would want to say, “classic”.  Practical executions of that word in the fashion world are so gendered.

At some points, I feel I need to stop trying to be all things to all people.  My parent’s girl, my girlfriend’s strong butch, attractive to women and to men.  When I say it that way, it almost seems emotionally unhealthy to keep oscillating between the gender presentations I try on.  But I like the way it feels to be each of those things.  I think.

When you first begin playing with gender, or if you are now, how do you separate out what comes from within and what comes from others?

Categories: Introduction
  1. Sadie
    December 27, 2010 at 8:14 pm

    I like that you are writing in your blog regularly again.

    If you are worried about this not being beautiful, you don’t have to worry. I struggle with finding the right words sometimes, too (okay: a lot) but sometimes you just have to accept that no words are going to be perfect. But when you struggle to find words to fit what you want to say, it is because *you actually have something to say*. Say it however you can; most of the time the beauty will flow naturally. If not, it is always easier to fix bad words than it is to fix no words.

    I think that it is natural to express different parts of your personality in different situations. As long as it feels authentic to you to express yourself that way, I don’t think there’s a problem. If it feels good and it feels right in the current context, then go for it. If it stops feeling good, then do something else. Maybe in time you will find yourself drawn to a particular expression that serves as a basis for the way you act in all situations; or maybe you will always enjoy navigating a wider range. You’re the only one who’s going to know what feels right for you, though.

  2. December 27, 2010 at 10:40 pm

    You just completely articulated my thoughts of the past year. In like, six paragraphs. Wow.
    I, too, am struggling to find that balance of, especially through wardrobe, dressing for myself or dressing to be something for everyone. As a butch of my size (embarassingly small) with long hair, I’m constantly having to “prove” my butchess. If I allow myself a break and slide into cargo pants, I feel like I am not butch enough to be taken seriously. If I dress too butch, I worry about how I’ll be viewed within and outside the queer community.

    I think it’s a balance that will work itself out in time….with age? I dunno. As a 20-something butch too, I just hope I’ll have it figured out in the next few years. I hope you’ll have it figured out before me so you can blog about it and help me figure it out!

    Until then, show cleavage when you want to, wear pants that flatter your ass when you want to, and by all means, do whatever the hell you want to with your hair!

  3. J-Rob
    December 29, 2010 at 8:33 am

    Interesting questions you raise. For me I am always masculine of center, but some days I am in cargo pants and a sweatshirt (weekends), some days I am in those same cargo pants and a button down (weekdays in the office), and some days I am in a full on suit (weekdays on site with clients). I am all of those people. I am the guy who suits up and I am the guy who looks like a shlub.

    As for dressing “too butch”, this was something that worried me when I first entered into the professional community. As a management consultant who spends a lot of time in front of clients, I worried that wearing men’s suits (without a tie) might be a problem, but women’s suits make me so uncomfortable I want to scream. So I took a chance early on and opted to wear men’s suits. So far it hasn’t been an issue, even in rural parts of the country (they tend to just mistake me for a guy and I don’t correct them). It’s about 50/50 whether people recognize I am female (which is odd because I am large breasted and I don’t bind); most times I just people use whichever pronouns they want and don’t make an issue out of it.

    • January 5, 2011 at 9:06 pm

      I mentioned to you when you first commented/e-mailed me that I really, really, really value hearing your experiences, because I have professional aspirations like yours. I know my surprise at hearing how much of a non-issue it is for you is a signal of internalized fear, but nonetheless, I am surprised. However, I know that my experience would be different. One because the type of suit that makes me want to scream is usually dependent on what day it is, and two because I am just so baby-faced that I can’t imagine anyone wouldn’t recognize me as female. It’s not just the breasts – the right suits minimize them and I’ve noticed that, it’s…my face and my hips and my tiny hands and my voice…It’s just hard to imagine. Even in a men’s overcoat, if I read as male, as soon as I make sustained eye contact, it’s over.

      Actually, once I saw a handsome suited butch wandering around by the river downtown in Chicago and I imagined it was you. Was it? Haha.

  4. G
    January 6, 2011 at 9:31 pm

    I’m apologizing in advance. This comment got away from me, mostly because I can identify with it so closely.

    I think first and foremost, you have to listen to yourself. I wasn’t ever overly-feminine, but I was definitely MORE feminine when I was younger, and I had a definite transition over time to a more masculine appearance. I once fit into multiple categories you were speaking of: what my parents wanted, what my gf at the time wanted, and what I thought I was supposed to be at work. And while I liked and wanted the approval I got from each of those channels, it was killing me to try to please everyone involved because I felt confused and lost. I was completely outsourcing my identity and confidence.

    For me, I reached a point where I had to prioritize what was most important to me, and that was me and my feelings. Hypothetically, it would’ve been great to have everyone be happy with one identity for me, but that just wasn’t the case. Looking back now, I am no longer my parents’ little girl (in the way they’d like me to be, anyway), I’m no longer at that job that I worked so hard to look a certain way for, and I’m no longer in that relationship in which my gf didn’t love my masculine side. My life evolved right alongside my gender, and I’ve never been more at peace.

    I don’t mean at ALL that you’re supposed to be one identity or another, just that you’re supposed to pick what feels the very best to you in that moment. If that means feminine one day and more masculine the next, then so be it. I think your comfort level and confidence will shine through no matter what you choose any given day.

  5. January 12, 2011 at 10:17 pm

    I didn’t really come into a queer community until about 3 years ago (even though I’ve been out for almost a decade). Girls in skirts told me I couldn’t carry a purse and I started wearing ties and button downs instead of my beloved cleavage shirts. Then I got more comfortable and added heels and hoop earrings, but I lost the purse completely. I dated a girl who liked butchier girls and I wore less make up.

    I don’t know why queer culture makes up these silly rules for each other. I had to fumble around and see what others liked and responded to in my look and what I liked and am comfortable with. I’m decidedly on the femme-ier side but I have a (very) gay haircut, ties and tough guy jackets I love to wear with earrings and lipstick.

    I don’t know that I have separated it all out though. I’ll still tune in to what the lady-I’m-sleeping-with-slash-dating likes and sometimes cater to that somewhat. But I won’t stretch out of a range I’m comfortable in or do it all the time. I don’t know if that was helpful, that was just my experience.

    Also, I love your “Hair Evolution” post. Playing with gender is very sexy. Have fun with it and feel good about it.

  6. Daz
    March 7, 2011 at 2:38 pm

    I know I’m late to the party on commenting since this is an old post, but I just stumbled upon this blog and post and wanted to comment.
    You described almost perfectly how it is that I’m feeling/ where I’m stuggling with balancing between feeling more feminine some days and liking tight tank tops with jeans, and then wearing cargos the next. And then I couple that with a love of blazers and classic styling – but torn between going the men’s or women’s route due to size/fit/styling. I guess part of what I’m trying to say is a) you are totally not alone with this and b) I guess in a way I’m glad to know that I’m not the only person feeling this way.
    Here’s to finding what works and feeling your best however you decide on a daily basis!

    • March 10, 2011 at 7:59 am

      I still get notifications so there’s no harm in commenting late. I still definitely feel this way. Thank you for your comment!

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