The desire to “dress gay” stemmed from assuming I “straight-passed” to people in my day-to-day life: my peers, my professors, my co-workers. I spent my whole life surrounded by people who assumed I was heterosexual, and I wanted to take that away from them. (Part 1 of 6).
As a kid, style meant very little to me. I didn’t particularly like shopping for clothes, especially for jeans because I rarely found anything that fit, until my mom discovered the miracle of elastic waistbands. Even still, jeans always fit very baggy, I owned one pair of tennis shoes at any given time up until high school, and I had a headband kick for a little while.
My childhood style combined a mix of gendered norms, from skirts and flowers to lots of overalls. I also exclusively sported corduroys for a phase. Regardless of the specifics, I imagine many people having the same experience with style as kids: it hardly mattered. All through elementary school, my closet mixed a variety of styles for a lack of much care. I scribbled on my jeans with ink pen when I got bored in my fifth-grade classroom and mom scolded me for it. I liked dressing up for the holidays with my sister in my mom’s old dresses from her school-kid days. I liked playing tough and wore holes through the knees of my jeans regularly.
My younger sister and I matched outfits often as kids, something both of us enjoyed at the time but have since ventured far from. Our styles split during middle and high school sometime and veered dramatically after I left for college. Hers turned, predictably, more “girly” but also trendy. A little more for the look and a little less for the practical. Even still, we handoff clothes to each other when we get tired of what we have.
As for accessories and an overall look as a kid, I cared for nothing other than a pair of sunglasses, whose tinted lenses flipped up and out of my eyes when I wanted. And then later on after getting my eyes tested in fourth grade, I started wearing glasses for my near-sightedness—something I considered a curse until finally finding a pair that suited me almost two decades later.
What does style have to do with a queer identity anyway? It’s a question I asked myself for years, especially through the first leg of my identity journey. I’d been sure of one thing: the style I had wasn’t me. My skin already felt uncomfortable and my clothes definitely didn’t help. I’d been wrong about who I was for eighteen years, and it took very little to convince myself that I’d been wrong about my style too. Realizing my identity came with a reconstruction both inside and out.
“How to dress gay” will be a 6-part series examining my style in the following periods: middle/high school (when I thought I was straight), university year 1 (beginning of identity journey), university years 2-3 (trying “gay” stereotypes), university years 3-4 (trying to make my identity as obvious as possible), post university (finding the right style).