Feeling like a woman, looking like a man: on body politics and queer fashion
The problem with the single, pervasive idea of androgyny.
I am queer, I like fashion, and I have spent a lot of my life struggling with body issues just like any (and almost every) woman.
I’ve probably been bisexual for most, if not all, of my life, but I haven’t identified as such for as long; I’m trying to make up for that by having absolutely no chill when it comes to my bisexuality/the queer community. Fashion is something that’s always been important to me. It was a language I spoke early on and a way to communicate when I was uncomfortable with my voice, and there have been countless times I have defended its utility and power to people who are quick to dismiss it as “frivolous” and “feminine” (a whole ’nother issue entirely that I should really elaborate on in a future post). And as for my body, I will spare you the details, but ultimately, my relationship with my appearance is one I still have to work on everyday.
I am a cis woman and I basically present that way; I lean femme, but there are hints of the typically-depicted androgyny in my #look that are crucial to my fashion sense. With both my coming out and my paring down my wardrobe to long lasting, quality pieces, my interest in tailored garments has dramatically increased. But it also makes me think about the major body policing in the fashion industry. I am constantly told that there is one way to be androgynous, and because of my appearance, I can never really be it.
Androgynous fashion is, with rare exception, depicted as tall, thin, white women with sharp jawlines and alternative lifestyle haircuts in men’s suiting.
This is a lot of things I am not. Although, to be fair, it is also a lot of things I am. As a straight-sized, white woman, I am closer to this ideal than others. However, my face is round; only an irrational amount of hours at the gym will chisel it. I like my hair and don’t plan on getting rid of it. And I have breasts, thighs, and short legs that don’t go on for days in trousers.
But I still like suits and blazers and button downs. I want to incorporate them into my wardrobe, and be considered chic and stylish. I applaud blogs like dapperQ for being public, loud, and awesome voices for queer fashion, but I don’t feel represented by it. I’m not strictly masculine presenting, and I don’t see myself in the bodies that are featured — both physically and sartorially. I am not angular. Furthermore, I don’t necessarily want to rock menswear head to toe. It’s disheartening to see a lack of androgyny that incorporates more than just the masculine — you know, the actual definition of androgyny. Androgynous fashion, and frankly, any good style, is supposed to borrow from everybody, and it would be refreshing to see more of the feminine alongside all those suits. Because, to be honest, that is my look.
I’m not sure where I fall on the presentation spectrum, but I don’t think I see it in fashion, even the ostensibly “inclusive” space of queer fashion.
Sometimes, it feels like queer fashion is just as restricted as regular fashion. There’s a type, an ideal, that everyone is trying to look like, and the outfits are just as as similar to each other as fashion blogs run by straight people. It’s disappointing for a few reasons: 1. I hoped for more from a community that’s usually so accepting, boundary-pushing, creative, and diverse, and 2. If I’m ever inspired, the inspiration usually falls flat because I don’t feel like it’s something I can pull off as a woman who doesn’t embody that ideal.
Now, I recognize that some of this is internalized body policing that is not necessarily done intentionally by the queer fashion community. So I also realize that I could say “fuck it” to the demons that tend to run the body acceptance part of my brain, wear what I want, and be then the queer fashion I want to see in the world. But that’s hard, okay.
When you see one beauty ideal in fashion everyday, you turn to the queer community for more diverse representation. But if there’s just more of the same, you don’t really feel welcome to do your thing.
I am trying to do my thing, though. I’ve made my girlfriend promise to take more #ootd photos of me, in an effort to both share my style and learn to love what I look like right now. It’s going to be a process, because that’s how self-love works. But I hope that, in doing this, I carve out a place for myself in the fashion corner of the internet — and show that you need to be neither a size 2 nor a perfectly masculine presenting lesbian to do it.