Femmeing Down for The Man
glitterbitchxx asked: "I’m gender-fluid and work a retail job where I have to look reasonably heteronormative and conservative for customers, with some leeway for fashion.
"I feel really uncomfortable wearing very feminine clothes when I feel masculine, but I don’t want to get questions about looking 'butch.' How would I go about dressing fashionably with a nod to my queerness without stepping outside heteronormativity?"
You might have already looked into this, but if you are in the US, some states have non-discrimination laws for gender identity and expression. Here is a list of those states, and if anyone has a better resource to recommend, please let us know!
So, with the understanding that IT IS WRONG AND TERRIBLE for your employer to question you on looking too “butch” or force you to wear feminine clothes, I have some ideas for you:
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1. Boxers. On your more masculine days, you could wear boxers or some undergarment that makes you feel grounded.
2: Browse the women’s section
Evaluate what are the most feminine clothes you feel comfortable wearing on your most masculine days. For example, if I were in a situation where I needed to look feminine, I would wear hip hugging pants to enhance a feminine sillouette and then hope that I could get away with a men’s shirt. Walk around the women’s section in a store sometime when you are feeling more masculine, and think about what you could stand to wear. If you can manage to wear clothes from the women’s department on those days, you’ll have made huge strides towards heteronormativity! And, as previously discussed, some of these clothes from the women’s section can be quite andro. (Check out this and this)
3: Make up
You could also try putting on make up in a pretty-boy way and see if it would balance out the “butch” clothing. This is not something everyone would feel comfortable doing, but it’s something to consider. I don’t think that make up is inherently feminine. Otherwise those pretty male birds are all genderqueer.
4. Bright colors.
Bright colors and their association with femininity are another social construct with no real grounding. If you wear all men’s clothing, but have a bright purple chinos, people will probably read you as more feminine.
5. Hipster glasses
Seriously, I know your job wants a conservative look, but hipster glasses are so in right now that I think you could get away with them. They have such a bold statement that they would probably detract attention from the fact that you look like a total homo… and also hipsters break past the gender binary all the time, and people don’t question it because they’re hipsters.
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6. Floral patterns. Flowers are another one of those things that we’ve assigned as feminine for no reason. Find a men’s shirt with a floral pattern on it and you can play their game without compromising your gender presentation. HAHAHA.
I hope you found these ideas helpful, and please leave more thoughts in the comments!