Our clothing choices become public declarations of our selvesMax Pixel

Who are we in the clothes we put on each day? Who we are and what we wear are questions that are closely intertwined, perhaps more so than ever in our image-conscious, hyper-connected modern society. While we cannot ignore the fact that the fashion industry has contributed substantially to reinforcing an oppressive gender binary and promoting restrictive and damaging ‘beauty’ standards, fashion has always been at least a little bit queer. From drag performance to butch identity, clothing has become a powerful, and often radical, statement of the self.

We asked for your experiences, and you answered with your own voices:

“Years before I ever called myself genderqueer, I knew I was utterly fascinated by classic tailoring. Menswear gets a bad rap; it can be overly conservative, restrictive and dull. But at its best, there is something very powerful about an immaculately cut suit, and allows me to explore the intersection of masculinity and femininity while being comfortable in my own skin. I am also mixed race, with curly hair unlike anyone else in my family, so blending in has never really been an option!

Although conforming to gender norms makes navigating life easier on some levels, it always feels like a painful compromise. I started wearing a suit at formals in college just over a year ago, and I have never felt more confident. I don't know what people notice when they first meet me, but before my queerness and brownness, I really hope it's my socks.” - MH

 “I started wearing a suit at formals in college just over a year ago, and I have never felt more confident.”

One major hurdle I am yet to conquer in my transition from male to female is trying on ‘women’s’ clothing in shops. Makeup is relatively simple; if applied effectively most people will not notice, and it can really boost your self-confidence. Shopping for it is harder: ‘do you know what you’re looking for?’, ‘is it for your girlfriend?’. It’s remarkable how it suddenly becomes everyone else’s business. It’s all in the branding: baby pink packaging emblazoned with glamorous supermodels.

But I find clothing far more terrifying. It may just be paranoia, but shoppers often look at me as though I am perverted, assuming I like wearing dresses as part of fetishistic roleplay. Then there are the changing rooms. When cordoned off, what does it matter if I have a phallus down there? It is one of the most dated elements of modern consumerism. Why do retailers care anyway? Our money still ends up in their pockets. - RC 

“As a trans guy, I have to be really careful about what I choose to wear. I'm pre-medical transition and so, if I want to have a chance of people reading me as male, I have to wear clothes that one would assume come from the men’s clothing section and that are a couple of sizes too big in order to hide the shape of my body.

Saying this, I try not to conform to gender norms and, when I'm feeling brave and particularly secure in the queerness of my identity, I will wear eye-catching, bright clothing. This isn't a political decision as such, but more of an expression of the fact that masculinity can be much more diverse and colourful than our society currently gives it credit for.” - AH

This year, CUSU LGBT+ is running the Plus Campaign, which focuses on promoting and platforming diversity through representation and discussion. Here at Varsity Fashion, we are proud to contribute to the conversation. Throughout this month, events are also being run to celebrate LGBT+ History Month - further details of events and talks can be found online

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