Clothing, controversy of gendered nature of

Discussions related to nonbinary experiences, identity and expression. 'On topic' discussions that don't fit anywhere else.

Clothing, controversy of gendered nature of

Postby adair » Wed Apr 23, 2014 5:17 am

I just came across this example of a dispute on the internet. From what I can gather, it was between a binary trans woman and a genderless person (among others).

The woman thinks that it's right and good that some clothing (like skirts) should convey that someone is a woman. The genderless person thinks that wearing skirts shouldn't automatically misgender them, but that there's a real impasse there, because skirts can't both gender the woman and not gender the nongendered person. Demanding that certain clothes communicate a certain gender affinity would be requiring people to either misgender themselves or not wear clothes they'd like to wear, which is troubling. (The OP did specifically say that men should be allowed to be feminine, but the genderless person doesn't want to suggest femininity OR female identity, apparently).

Personally, I think that no clothes should be gendered with the exception of those that explicitly convey a gender message. Examples could be:

A hoodie that says "Southern Girl"
A t-shi[r]t that says "Self-Made Man"
A bracelet with the genderqueer flag on it
A necklace with the Venus symbol for "woman"

That way someone can convey gender identity via clothing, but people without such intentions would rarely have them projected onto them. For me this is kind of an "ideal universe" thing--I don't think there's anything wrong with someone dressing in certain non-explicitly-gendered clothing to convey feminine/masculine/male/female/gender-neutral/bigender/etc, because we live in a world where that is a lingo of sorts. I do think there's something wrong with someone claiming to be friendly to all genders projecting intentions onto someone's outfit without having heard or read the person wearing it explain how they see themself in those clothes--or, worse, trying to police someone's gender expression to supposedly "match" their gender identity.

I think there's also a broader question here of how someone can convey their gender identity without having to think about it and vocalize it to everyone they meet, and I think explicit symbols on clothing is one way, but I also thinking that as society and technology changes we'll have others. For instance, right now it's probably possible for many people at a party to have a conversation like this,

<some talk>
"By the way, I'm Matt, what's your name?"
"Tyr."
"Cool name. Would you like being friends on Facebook?" Takes out smartphone
"Oh, yeah, I'm <full facebook name>."
"I'm adding you right now."

And having done so Matt has just gained access to a profile of Tyr that conveys whatever Tyr's gender identity is, and maybe in the future or on other social networks, an accurate description of Tyr's preferred pronouns.

I also think that in a world where gender binarist assumptions are broken down, people will be a lot more comfortable asking about each other's gender/pronouns, because everyone will know that you can't tell anyone's gender by looking at them. Right now some gender normative binary trans people might think it's fine just for skirt = woman rather than broad shoulders = man, or whatever misgendering reasoning is applied to them, but there's a whole lot of people of all identities that that leaves out. (I don't know that anyone in the discussion I started this post by referencing holds the position that skirt should = woman, please don't misinterpret that I'm responding closely to that thread and not going off on my own tangent.)

In short, I don't think any form of coercive gender is right, and that includes assuming anything that isn't an explicit statement of gender is a statement of gender. The same way we as humans are learning that there is no implicit, only explicit, consent to sex, there should only be explicit consent to being gendered. Luckily the stakes, while high, aren't quite as high--I anticipate changing our entire culture around gender is going to take longer than getting people to be careful about not raping anyone.
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Re: Clothing, controversy of gendered nature of

Postby fornorm » Tue Jan 27, 2015 1:27 pm

adair wrote:...
Personally, I think that no clothes should be gendered with the exception of those that explicitly convey a gender message. Examples could be:

A hoodie that says "Southern Girl"
A t-shi[r]t that says "Self-Made Man"
A bracelet with the genderqueer flag on it
A necklace with the Venus symbol for "woman"

I agree with you completely. We need to make people realise the difference between clothing that is specific to the sex of the wearer and clothing that has acquired connotations of gender. Underwear is the most obvious example of the former type of clothing, but narrow-waisted or large-bodiced dresses and tight-crotched jeans might also be included. Almost any other type of clothing can be worn by anyone it fits, regardless of whereabouts they are on the sex and gender spectra.

There is great inequality in this area, it is almost impossible for a woman to cross-dress, for as soon as she wears something that is traditionally "men's clothing", it automatically becomes "women's clothing" because she is wearing it. If a man wears something that is traditionally (at least during the last 150 years) "women's clothing", it is still "women's clothing" and he is liable to be ridiculed, referred to a psychiatrist or beaten up.

This raises an interesting question for people who do not fit the binary gender stereotypes - for how can they dress in a way which is appropriate to their gender? Do they have to restrict themselves to gender-neutral clothes or do they take the attitude that, because of their special posiion, the entire range of clothing is theirs for the choosing.
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Re: Clothing, controversy of gendered nature of

Postby moonmoth » Tue Jan 27, 2015 8:13 pm

fornorm wrote:This raises an interesting question for people who do not fit the binary gender stereotypes - for how can they dress in a way which is appropriate to their gender? Do they have to restrict themselves to gender-neutral clothes or do they take the attitude that, because of their special posiion, the entire range of clothing is theirs for the choosing.


Which is an issue that is very important to me as I begin to more openly express my nonbinary identity.

My own view is that even though I may not be a member of either of the binary genders, the culture I inhabit includes definitions of gender markers, such as clothing. I must recognize that people use these markers to place others within their own gender matrix, and that matrix is overwhelmingly likely to be binary. This means that as part of deciding whether to adopt a form of expression that is gender-marked by my culture, I must consider how others will perceive me as a result, and what my reaction will be. As long as I'm prepared to deal with that, I can go ahead.

So yes, I feel like I can wear anything that suits me, as long as I can explain what suits me about it to someone who asks and accept the consequences. So, for example, my wearing a top with a pattern and flow common to apparel sold in "women's" departments might lead to an exchange like this:

"That's a women's top. You're not a woman. What are you doing wearing that?"
[me] "Thank you for noticing I'm not a woman. I'm wearing it because I like the pattern, and how it feels."
"But you're a man. Men don't wear tops like that."
[me] "Men don't wear tops like that -- you're right. But I'm not a man, so I'm not concerned with what men do and don't wear, thank you."

...after which, I may get some sort of understanding, or puzzlement, or binary categorization, or some form of hostility -- and if I'm not ready for whatever happens next, the top was a bad choice, and I shouldn't have chosen to wear it.

To sum up then, I feel that clothing is "appropriate for my gender" if I understand how wearing it will be interpreted by those I meet, and that the perceptions generated by those interpretations align well with the aspects of my gender identity that are more important to me today. Subject to that, anything I believe in -- that feels like "my clothes" on a given day -- goes for me.
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Re: Clothing, controversy of gendered nature of

Postby fornorm » Wed Feb 04, 2015 3:10 pm

moonmoth wrote:...To sum up then, I feel that clothing is "appropriate for my gender" if I understand how wearing it will be interpreted by those I meet, and that the perceptions generated by those interpretations align well with the aspects of my gender identity that are more important to me today. Subject to that, anything I believe in -- that feels like "my clothes" on a given day -- goes for me.

I knew very strongly that I wasn't a transvestite in the conventional sense of the word, but I also felt I would like to try wearing a skirt. I resolved the conflict by making my own skirt and making sure that it fitted my body shape properly; that way it wasn't "womens clothing" and I gave myself permission to wear it - but I had no desire to impersonate a woman. After a few disastrous experiments, I found that I could get away with wearing a skirt in public without too much hassle, as long as that skirt was a kilt, which men are allowed to wear. I continued to wear other kinds of skirts at home, but never went out in them.

A few years ago, I began experimenting with wearing a very conventional long black skirt at folk dances (and great fun it was, too, with all the twirling and swirling), but I was still unhappy about wearing it in the streets. It wasn't until last May that I finally plucked up the courage to wear a skirt for a whole weekend at a folk festival and discovered, to my surprise, that it attracted less public reaction than the kilt had. By that time I had developed the self-confidence to be able to cope with hassle from the occasional loud-mouthed yob (humour is the best form of retaliation), so I was feeling fairly confident that going 'full-time' wouldn't be as much of a leap as I had first feared.

Several contributors to SkirtCafé had said that a medium-length denim skirt was 'invisible' and attracted no adverse attention, so this was the obvious style to try first. The results were a complete success and 99% of the people I meet either didn't notice it or only made favourable comments. However, at that stage I still felt I was doing something a little bit strange. I knew I was definitely male and heterosexual and not transvestite, so what on earth was going on?

I began 'lurking' on all sorts of web forums, to see which group fitted me best. From SkirtCafé I realised that there was a wide range of reasons for men wanting to wear skirts, so that didn't narrow the field very much. From Angelsforum, I learned what it was to be transgender, but also that I didn't really fall into that category either. Eventually, from reading this and other related websites, I began to feel that 'gender-neutral' probably described my condition better than any of the other labels. Once the light had dawned, dozens of little incidents from my past began to fall into place, further reinforcing the belief that I had finally hit upon the correct answer.

So now I feel I can wear skirts with impunity whenever I feel inclined (which is most of the time). As you have said, our choice of clothing is really only limited by our ability to handle the reactions of the people we meet. I now dress for me, not for them.
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Re: Clothing, controversy of gendered nature of

Postby Th83 » Thu Jan 14, 2016 12:39 pm

I found the hardest part to being non binary is accepting it yourself, once I discovered how I felt comfortable presenting myself in my own style the rest became easier to deal with because people know how and what to expect from you. I'm physically M, in my 30s have long hair et wear earrings, heterosexual and married with children. I describe myself as androgynous and have known deep down for years but it wasn't until meeting my wife that I could truly accept it as she help us with being confident to step outside in public wearing mixed clothing, for example in winter months I more often wear black leggings usually with a form fitting short skirt that either matches my leggings or the t-shirt/jumper I'm wearing that overlaps the skirt, I also wear jumper dresses with leggings also. In the warmer months I either wear a plain kilt or kilt skirt to go with a tshirt and flip flops.
My wife is very accepting of how I dress and although at first she did ask questions such as am I transgender but once she knew I am comfortable with my physical traits etc and realised it was just who and how i am she then inspired me to be comfortable and be me for me and my family and be confident in doing so
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