My whole life I have been fed the narrative that LGBTQ+ people always, on some level, know who they are. I suppose that is true for me too, but not quite as black and white as I had come to expect. Yes, I had crushes on women. Yes, I had issues with my female biology. But no, I did not put all of this together and realize my true sexual and gender identity until my twenties.
Now, learning who I am in my twenties is lucky. I live in a society that is coming to embrace who I am. I have not had children. I have never been married. I do not have a homophobic family. In short, I have never experienced any of the many pitfalls that might hold someone back from learning or embracing their true selves until much, much later in life. My only suffering came from within; or more specifically the expectations I placed on myself and/or internalized based on societal norms.
Although I was a tomboy in my childhood, rocking a buzz-cut and never electing to wear dresses, a mixture of bullying and puberty led me into a state of hyper-femininity. I grew my hair, and changed my wardrobe to dress in the way I thought I was supposed to, including dresses. I was not one of those super cool kids who wore whatever they wanted and didn’t care what other people thought. I did care. I was scared of it. I was hurt by it. I decided to change in order to avoid persecution; I figured life would be easier that way. I passed.
Now I have reclaimed my identity. As part of a foreshadowing new years resolution, I gave every dress and skirt I owned to my younger sisters. I knew that they weren’t true to who I was. Letting go of these symbols of womanhood was a step in the direction of releasing the inauthentic parts of myself. It was extremely liberating to let go of these items of clothing that betrayed who I truly was. As free as I felt, however, a daunting question then arose: who am I without this clothing, and what does that look like?
I have come to understand that I will continuously be reimagining and rediscovering who I am. I know that I am a dynamic person, and I hope that fact never changes. Understanding the truth of my identity without dresses required finding something to replace them with. Identifying the clothing that I wanted to wear was easy; but finding the clothing I wanted to wear and that fit me was a whole other story.
The quintessential example of my difficulty finding clothing came when I needed to find an outfit for a wedding. I wanted to wear straight-legged dress pants with a button down and a vest. Unfortunately, however, despite being brave and shopping in the men’s section of multiple stores, I could not find anything that fit. I ended up being resourceful and finding a way to use clothing I already had to create an outfit I was happy with.
Once I discovered queer companies like Kirrin Finch, my wardrobe and identity began to blossom. The first time I tried on one of their sweet button ups, I dreaded the inevitable tightness in my shoulders. I hoped this shirt would be different, but I had come to expect feeling uncomfortable. Not only did it fit my body, it fit my person. I had forgotten what it felt like to put something on and be affirmed – not ashamed – by it. Wanting to dress in a way that the fashion industry does not allow, simply because your body is not the kind of body a style of clothing is produced for, is upsetting. It reminds us that society wants us to be ashamed on some level of who we are. Clothing that is made for people like me has relinquished me from feeling like an “other.” Now I can dress how I want to, and the more I do that, the more unabashed I become. I am no longer afraid of situations where I need to look professional. I am no longer afraid of looking dapper. I am no longer afraid of looking like me. Not only do I look more authentically me, I am more authentically me as a result. I am a human, and I deserve clothing that fits my body and my identity equally. I have found it now. Thank you.