How To Shine: An Interview With Claire Rudy Foster
The clothes make the man. Or woman. Or gender non-conforming person. Claire Rudy Foster talks to Marcelle Heath about subverting the popular image of nonbinary trans people, playing with queerness in the public eye, and how clothing is a language in their new collection Shine of the Ever.
How does your identity intersect with the way you dress?
Nonbinary trans people are represented as thin, white, and masculine-presenting in advertising and media. Not all of us look like that. One of the reasons I choose florals, bright colors, and gender-neutral smocks or tunics is to subvert the popular image of nonbinary trans people. Masculine people can wear flowers. Nonbinary people can wear tunics or dresses. Not all of us wear binders or modify our bodies.
My understanding that I was nonbinary was a surprise to me: I came out a couple of years ago. Choosing to embrace my identity, especially as someone who’s in the public eye, felt like a huge gift. I get to play with visual representations of queerness and defining for myself what “transgender” looks and feels like on my body. I’m super conscious of this at readings, where I know I’ll be seen by people who may not have ever met a trans person in real life.
Do you write about clothing? If so, how?
Absolutely. Clothing is a language. My characters are people, which means they wear clothes, eat, and speak in ways that reveal who they are. In my new short story collection, Shine of the Ever, clothes are used to show identity.
One character, a trans lesbian who supports herself by doing tarot readings, puts on a special costume when she goes to work. “For readings, I wore my candy-pink wig and painted glitter triangles on my cheeks and forehead. I looked like something from a world where human kinds of trouble don’t exist. My femme power was real too. Its vibe was big and rosy and sympathetic, and people were drawn to it like butterflies to blossoms.” Other characters stomp through my stories in Doc Martens, rip their jeans, and stick safety pins in their ears. They look like what they are: queer punks, dreamers, and everyday people.