A Girl in Mens Clothing

The developing fashion sense of a queer cisgendered woman understanding her identity.

I knew I was gay when I was in high school, but I shoved that truth deep down until I met my ex wife at 23. Years of shaming myself to look more feminine, only to attract the male gaze, created a bit of confusion within.

What does it look like to be a queer woman?

How do I attract both men and women?

Should I stick with looking femme? Maybe I’m more tom boy? Butch? Lipstick lesbian?

My open and understanding family has given me the freedom to embrace my individuality with no restrictions, while my desire to be accepted and liked has placed me into a box.

When I first ‘came out’ I convinced myself that I was a lesbian, because I fell in love with a woman. It all made sense at the time as my attraction to men was dwindling, and the stigma around bisexuality is that it’s based off of confusion, indecisiveness, and experimentation. And although my community, friends, and family accept me completely; I’ve continued to struggle with my identity.

Often finding myself on the outside looking in, and unsure of the way that I’m portraying myself to the world. Always asking; is this even me? Surrounding myself with cis gendered friends who mostly identify as straight adds to the feelings of loneliness and confusion. Why do I feel alone, though? I seemingly have so much support. I’m privileged, white, cis gendered, and able bodied; why do I feel so out of place?

I struggle with understanding exactly what it is that I’m lacking because I constantly feel guilty for even feeling this way. Life should be easier for me, right?

See, though, when we are constantly assumed to be something that we inherently aren’t, we feel like something is wrong with us. Just like how viewing the thin ideal in media can make all of us feel unrepresented; people assuming our sexuality feels like we never get the chance to just be. It’s like I’m either hiding who I am, or I have to make it uncomfortable for the other person while breaking down their generalisation.

If we are living in a world where we assume that everyone is cis gendered and heterosexual, we still have a lot of work to do.

So how do we create change? How do we break the pattern to help us all feel accepted, heard, and understood? We speak up, we share our stories, and we get vulnerable.

Understanding my identity is always on my mind; questioning my pronouns and the way that I dress. It feels so scary even typing these words, as I’ve rarely discussed this with anyone. But I think it’s important to share what we’re going through as we go through it. Not just the polished story with a happy ending; the middle is equally important.

Do I really prefer to use “her” as my pronoun? I do still love a good floral red dress and heels, am I wrong for questioning if “them” feels more appropriate?

Sexuality is fluid, and identities are ever evolving.

What if nothing physically changes and I choose to change my pronouns, will anyone understand?

For now, using “she/her/hers” feels right.

Maybe I'm looking for something else.

Pre quarantine, I’ve found myself drifting off into the men’s clothing section. I sometimes feel like a teenage boy discovering his own fashion sense; unsure of how ANYTHING fits, and wearing shirts that are way too big and baggy (the American in me is showing). I look in my closet and hate everything that I see, never wanting to wear anything because I feel like a fraud. It’s like I’m this watered down version of the person I know that I can be, but I’m still too scared to become. So I stick with the basics like t-shirts and ripped jeans, or high wasted leggings and crop tops. It’s worked so well in the past, no confusion, still girly and feminine, yet casual. But then I get into a researching hole discovering what it looks like to be a queer woman in the 21st century, and I feel like I’ve been doing it all wrong. Cuffed jeans, button ups, tucked in shirts, Calvins, beanies, and snap backs.

I then ask myself; will men even find me attractive if I dress more like them? I can already notice the difference in attention when I throw on a button up blouse, instead of a tight form fitting top. Will women know that I’m queer if I’m wearing a dress? AM I SUPPOSED TO BE FEMME OR BUTCH? Is this narcissistic thinking? Attention seeking? Materialistic?

That’s probably just my privilege talking, relax Kaitlyn, relax.

This may all sound a bit jumbled and all over the place, but it’s only because that’s where I’m at in my mind. Questioning everything, experimenting, and working on building more of a diverse community of my own.

I walk around in this world with ease because I am privileged, but I find myself hiding my sexuality because I am not.

So how do we create a world that is more inclusive?

Instead of saying: “Do you have a girlfriend/boyfriend?”

We say: “Are you dating anyone?” “Do you have a partner or significant other?”

We STOP using the words “gay” and “fag” in a derogatory sense.

We use our gender pronouns in email signatures, and when introducing ourselves in meetings or group settings to create a safe space for ourselves, and others.

We listen without judgement if someone corrects us with the pronouns that they prefer, and we use them accordingly, not making things awkward.

I live in Los Angeles, California and I’m incredibly grateful to be in a position where I can speak up about this without living in fear of being harassed or assaulted. When I discuss these changes that we can incorporate into our own lives, I understand that this does not involve everyone in every country and culture.

But we have to start somewhere.

I’m a woman who’s experimenting with her fashion sense at 28 because she hid who she was for far too long. I wear men’s clothing because it makes me feel more myself, and I wear women’s clothing because it makes me feel beautiful. I share my story for you, because I know that feeling of isolation and loneliness, even when it looks like you shouldn’t feel that way. I know what it's like to read a polished after story and feel like you're behind because you're still trying to figure it all out.

If you are a privileged person with the desire to help create a safe and inclusive world, it is your duty to set the right example.

Change happens with every new story shared and every voice heard. Change happens when we stop making assumptions, create safe spaces for everyone, and use our language to no longer exclude.

We have to keep sharing our story until the new narrative becomes the norm.

We have to keep speaking up.

How will you help?



Photo by Can Şerefoğlu on Unsplash