Dressing Queer

Image credit: Benjamin Kerensa

I properly learned to express myself through appearance. Teen angst about the way I looked translated into a surprisingly dramatic outward expression; if everyone was looking at me because of my aesthetic choices anyway, then surely I was in control of how I was being received?

It started with a haircut following a high-school length relationship that ended the summer before university. Taking ‘new me’ to whole new lengths, I chopped off the bottom seven inches of my hair and decided to reinvent myself in the image of someone my ex-partner had never

known. Flash forward a couple of years, and an acrimonious break up led to my bleaching my hair eight times (this is bad, don’t do it) and dying my hair bright blue. This carried on, my mood would change, and I would change my hair. Pink, lilac, half orange, half yellow. I’m telling you this because I think it sums up what appearance does for me; it allows me to translate my feelings into something tangible that I can pin down and then examine.

I have what I like to call ‘Dyke Days’. On these days I feel a bit gayer and need some way of reifying it. Because my aesthetic has always felt like the first layer of my personality, when I feel a bit more queer than usual, I dress to it. True, there are points where this falls into stereotype – checked button downs and skinny jeans, for example. But equally, there are times when the signalling is subtler – it’s in the way I do my hair, in which shoes I wear with which dress, or in how my makeup is done that day. Although the expression is overtly physical, it’s an expression of internal feeling; the clothes themselves aren’t explicitly gayer, but I’m carrying myself differently. That’s not at all to say that on the days where I don’t consciously make a choice to ‘dress queer’ that I am any less queer. But as a femme queer woman, I am often perceived as straight and because of this, I often don’t feel ‘gay enough’.

And although there is definitely no such thing as ‘gay enough’, I do sometimes feel the need to literally wear my identity on my sleeve, to make sure that people know I am not the default they expect me to be. My ‘Dyke Days’ link to a wider culture too; queerness has roots in the subversion of norms and gender expectations through the theatre of fashion. Therefore fashion, although performance, also becomes identity.

When the Orlando shootings happened in June 2016 I wore my pride flag like a cape and had someone who had lost a friend in the shootings stop me in The Lion Yard Shopping Centre to talk. It meant so much to me that in a time that was so harrowing for queer people everywhere, we could find and support one another. In this way, dressing queer doesn’t just help me fit in to the queer community; it helps me create it too

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