Monday, October 15, 2012

The Gender Queer Clothing Conundrum

I have a clothing conundrum.  I imagine most other gender queer or trans-identified folks who haven't undergone medical transition (and perhaps even some who have) can relate.  I like to wear masculine clothing.  I pretty much only wear men's pants and shirts.  I know that finding clothes that fit is a big issue for many in my boat.  I'm lucky in that I'm pretty flat-chested and reasonably tall, so it's not too hard to find things that fit right in that regard.  I'm unlucky in that I'm ridiculously scrawny and have essentially zero shoulders, making it hard to fill out even a size small men's shirt without having everything look really baggy.  Shoes are also a problem.  I have smallish to average-sized feet for a female, but very small feet for a guy, which means I'm usually limited to women's shoes.  This is fine for things like sneakers or running shoes, since those kinds of shoes often come in styles that are gender neutral.  It's harder for things like dressy shoes or, say, soccer cleats (I was sadly forced to settle for women's cleats with aqua-marine accents because my feet were too small for the black, red and white men's version.  At very least I was able to avoid the pink ones...).  I have yet to find a pair of men's shoes I like well enough to stick with, and that I think make me look like an adult (mostly when I put on the dress shoes I do have I feel like I'm 15).

But the real problem for me is not fit, it's being read as an adult.  Dressing up in general is a frequent issue since no matter what I do, or how sophisticated I think I look, or how I try to exude adult mannerisms, I get mistaken by somebody for a teenage boy.  My "fancy" outfits usually consist of nice pants, a button-down shirt, sometimes a skinny tie, and sometimes a sweater vest or jacket.  Without fail, I end up in a case of mistaken identity.  This past weekend, I went to my cousin's wedding dressed in gray dress pants, a slim-fitted button-down shirt, a gray sweater vest, and a pair of TOMS shoes.  I had a fresh haircut a la trendy metrosexual/urban dyke and was feeling like I was really rocking Ellen DeGeneres, not Justin Bieber.  Still, I was passed over by the wine pourer at dinner who assumed I was too young to drink.  Like totally, completely skipped.  She didn't even ask me if I was old enough.  Just.  Skipped.  Me. We had to get her to come back to pour me a glass.  This, after she poured my younger brother a glass without a word.  Now, my brother is 22, and easily looks it, but he didn't look nearly as put together as I did (no offense Drew - not sure if you read this...) and could just as easily pass for 18 or 19 as he could for his actual age.  Which I suppose says that I'm not even passing for even 18 or 19 - there might be some wiggle room for underage drinking at a wedding - but am being read as much younger.

So what do I do?  How do I confidently wear the clothes I am comfortable in while providing indication to others that I am an adult?  Is this possible, or do people just see what they see and I should just get used to this until I start to (thank god) go gray or get wrinkly?  Dykes, genderqueers, trans guys, please, I await your advice.


  1. re: clothing - buy online, or at European-y retailers like H&M. H&M makes clothes slimmer and smaller. Gap men's XS is perfect on my frame (or was before I started law school...), but I'm bigger than you. My primary problem is pants - I have hips, and I have thighs - I tell myself the thighs are from biking, but they may also be from law school as well.

    I don't know what size your feet are, but mine are a 10.5(w)/8.5(m). I have a lot of luck with DSW's clearance room, where I find fancy, fancy men's shoes in my size 70% off. And again, the online has a lot to offer. But most only go as low as 7.5.

    re: age, the key is confidence. I have terrible posture generally, but if I'm out at an event where I think someone (especially waitstaff) may mix me up as a man or a kid, I try to sit like I own the table and know everyone. Not boisterous, per se, but as though it's my table and I'm letting other people sit there. Not, like, with words, of course. If I seem in charge or if other people are treating me as though I'm not out of place, then waitstaff generally treat me like I belong, too. In fact, I don't drink, and my problem is that they'll fill my glass even if I leave it overturned and next to the table's centerpiece.

    Also fun fact: the only place I've ever been sir'd is Chicago and its suburbs. I attribute that to servicepeople and ladies in line for the bathroom wanting you to know they know they're right and you haven't confused them; in Minnesota, I think they want you to know they don't get into other people's business no matter how many things they want to say to you right this minute so they just say, "Hi."

  2. A couple of thoughts:
    1. I was at that wedding and was also skipped completely for the wine. Being 56 with grey hair (albeit very short grey hair) I don't think they could have mistaken me for being under age! In my case it was just an oversight - maybe it was in yours as well?
    2. Have you tried looking for junior boys shoes? Not sure what size you wear, but there have to be males out there with your shoe size.
    Great seeing you there!!

  3. Lauren - H&M extra small is my saving grace. Also thank god for Levi's skinny jeans... Working on the confidence part, but I think you're definitely right about it. I've got an idea for another post on that.

    Carol - The wine skippage may have been an oversight but stuff like that happens to me all the time - lots of people perceive me as a teenage boy... So even when it may not be the case, I tend to assume that's what's happening. I should try looking at junior boys' shoes. I'm right on the cusp of fitting into the smallest men's size available, but can't always find them. Good to see you as well! Wish we were still there!


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