"So I’m agender, and I’m going to a wedding. I need formal wear, but neither dresses nor suits work for me. I was thinking of just wearing a waistcoat over a dress shirt and pants, along with a tie, but I’m worried that it won’t be formal enough. Are there any other formal clothing options that might work, or should I just go with the possibly informal outfit and hope for the best?"
- Question asked by Anonymous and answered by Anita Dolce Vita as a part of Everyone Is Gay: Second Opinions.
Your question really hits home for me because my partner is currently in the same boat as you. While she identifies as female, she presents as androgynous. (Gender identity and gender expression are two different concepts. They can be related, but do not have to be.) She is filled with dread whenever we get an invitation to a wedding, graduation, or any other event that calls for formal attire because, like you, she does not want to wear a dress, but also feels that suits are too masculine. Conversely, I get super excited for formal events because I love dressing up and I can never turn down a good excuse to shop for a new dress. While I’m happily pursuing stores in search of the perfect dresses and stilettos and chandelier earrings, my partner is following me around, depressed that she cannot find anything to wear. Sometimes, she gets so stressed that it takes the joy out of attending formal events for both of us, because I feel sad and worried when she’s unhappy at the event and the days leading up to it.
Recently, she and I have been throwing around the idea of having a commitment ceremony. Once again, the issue of what she could wear reared its ugly head; It is truly frustrating that clothing options are so limited, narrow, and binary!!! She and another reader inspired me to write a piece on androgynous wedding attirefor dapperQ. This piece may be a good starting point for you. But, as I mentioned to the reader who submitted a similar question, providing individualized wedding attire recommendations is a bit challenging without knowing the general theme of the wedding (colors, setting, flowers, etc.), the level of formality (black-tie, casual, etc.), location (outdoor, indoor, beach, ballroom, city, country, etc.), season (winter, summer, etc.), and your personal style (preppy, street Goth, hipster, etc.) I’m going to give you a few options based on style. I’ve also created a Pinterest mood board to give you a ballpark visual idea of these recommendations, as well as some pattern, color, and texture inspiration.
You mentioned you were going to wear a vest. However, in my opinion, a good blazer or sport coat can be just as formal and gender-neutral as a vest. (Check out dapperQ’s post on the difference between a sport coat, blazer, and suit jacket.) The typical preppy uniform might look something like a button-down shirt under a navy blazer, paired with tan dress trousers and brown dress loafers. But, you can infuse your own personal style in this traditional, preppy template by adding unexpected touches. For example, if you’re comfortable going bold, wear a button-down with a unique pattern or interesting color, like plaid or hot pink, under your navy blazer. Additionally, instead of wearing a necktie or bow-tie, I recommend affixing an eye catching brooch or collar bar where your collar buttons at the top-center of your shirt. An anchor brooch could really drive home a preppy, nautical theme.
There is much debate about what exactly constitutes heritage style (think tweed, corduroy, patterned knits), but the aesthetic is definitely popular now and one you can use as inspiration if you want to stick with a vest rather than wearing a jacket. Opt for a herringbone vest and, as I suggested above, let interesting patterns and colors tell your style story. I personally really like the combination of tweed vests and red or burgundy colored dress trousers. You can go sans tie and add some cool accessories like a vest pocket chain/watch, collar chain (antler collar chains are a fun option for a heritage ensemble), or a stylish lapel pin. Oh, and socks! Don’t forget that you can get a lot of style mileage out of a good pair of patterned socks.
Musicians, artists, and cool hunters can be pretty good at bucking classic styles. If you are bold, fashion-forward, and like to draw outside the lines, you can get really creative. How about a black blazer or vest paired with a leopard print button-down, teal trousers, a collar chain, a homemade lapel pin, and studded dress shoes? Or, go all out power-clashing in a long, tailored black vest, a pair of plaid dress pants, and a polka-dot or stripped button-down? After all, it’s a wedding…not a funeral.
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"I’m pretty comfortable with myself and my genderqueer-ness when I’m alone, but as soon as I find myself around other people, I start to question my gender roles. I find myself constantly asking, "Am I more masculine right meow? Or feminine?? What am I trying to convey to the world?" Getting dressed in the morning is a nightmare. How do I DEAL."
- Question submitted by Anonymous and answered by Erika Lynn as a part of Everyone Is Gay: Second Opinions
First of all, I’m a dog person, so I would have said “masculine right woof.” But, more importantly, I can relate. For much of my adolescence, my gender presentation and roles were determined by the people around me. Sometimes, I’d try to be really masculine to fit in, and other times I’d try to be incredibly femme to stick it to my parents. But most of the time, these changes were unconscious, and I’d only notice them after the fact, when someone pointed out to me that my behavior changed in different settings. I used to think of this as a bad thing, as a sign of inauthenticity, but as I got older, I realized that having your gender role and presentation informed by those around you is actually fairly common, and can be really good and important.
Gender, I like to think, isn’t so much something we are, but rather something wedo. And we all do gender in different ways. Cheerleaders in layers of makeup, all trying to wear skirts shorter than each other, are doing gender one way. Football linebackers (they’re the big ones, right?) trying to bulk up more than the others are doing gender their own way. Drag queens trying to out-fabulous each other are doing gender their way. To each group, doing gender can mean very different things, and someone existed in all three circles, as a cheerleader, a linebacker, and a drag queen (maybe a character on Glee?), then they would be doing gender in different and equally valid ways, depending on the situation and the people around them.
Now, it does seem like this is causing you discomfort, so I would suggest that when you’re in different settings, look for specific ways that you do gender that you dislike. If you want to change your gender presentation to something you feel more comfortable with, then identifying those specifically gendered things you do in different situations allows you to know what you might want to change; that is, it allows you to know how you can do gender differently.
As for the clothing question, many people, myself included, have very fluid gender presentations, and it seems like you might as well. That question seems to haunt you in the mornings, but actually I do something similar myself. I usually ask myself how I’m feeling, and what I want to do (in terms of gender) today. And from that, I pick out an outfit—sometimes a cute frock, other times a ripped, tye-dyed t-shirt. Either way I’m doing gender differently.
One thing that might help ease any discomfort is to stop labeling different actions as “masculine” and “feminine,” and to think of doing gender in terms of specific action sets and behaviors. For example, “Today, I want to be perceived as rough-and-tumble and tough,” or “Today, I want to be dainty and passive,” or “Today, I want to be tough, dainty and assertive.” These are all ways of thinking about how you want to do gender outside of the gender binary. Sure, the first two could be lined up with “masculine” and “feminine,” but by stripping them of that context, they can be perceived more as socially constructed, as something we create.
As someone who’s genderqueer, you have the privilege of getting to define what gender is for you. Thinking of gender as different sets of actions, behaviors or perceptions rather than as a combination of masculine and feminine traits might give you more personal freedom and alleviate any discomfort you feel with your presentation. It also allows you to look more specifically at actions you do in different groups, and, as I said earlier, this can help you determine which actions and behaviors you like doing around certain people, which you don’t, and which you want to get rid of.
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“I’m currently doing the hand holding kissy thing with the cutest girl in the world ever, but we have a problem. She is my girlfriend, but because I identify as non-binary we don’t know what to call me! *gasp shock horror* Because her calling me captain sexy pants in public isn’t exactly acceptable (IDK why tho) much love from the cap.”
- Question submitted by Anonymous and answered by Tyler Ford as a part of Everyone Is Gay: Second Opinions
First of all, I’m really excited for you because finding the cutest person in the world for you is a really lovely thing.
Now, your situation is actually pretty cool because ultimately, YOU get to decide what you want to be called. If you haven’t already, you and your girlfriend can have a brainstorming session in which you throw around the most creative names you can think of to figure out what resonates with you.
I’m a pretty big fan of “babefriend” or “babe” at the moment, because it makes me feel like the babe that I am. I also like to be called “heart,” as in “this is my heart, Tyler.” For me, it really depends on the relationship I have with a person – I wouldn’t want someone I’d been dating for two weeks to call me their heart, but it’s a totally individual choice. Half of the fun is just experimenting with terms and names. You could even end up with a few that you rotate with!
I’ll leave you with a few more examples just to get the brainstorming session started: “person” (if you watch Grey’s Anatomy, you’ll get the sentiment, but if you don’t it may sound too informal), “love,” and the ever-popular “partner.”
Good luck, Captain,
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"I think I might be genderqueer, and I know my friends would be accepting of that, but at the same time I feel like if I tell them they’re just going to think I’m doing it for attention or to follow a fad or something, esp. cuz one of my friends has just said THEY’RE genderqueer. But like gah im just ugh I WANT TO TELL SOMEONE."
- Question submitted by Anonymous
If I were you, I’d start by talking to my genderqueer friend. I’d literally sit down and be like “Hey TOAST, can i ask you a question” and when TOAST is like “Yes FRIEND” you simply ask “did it feel weird before you told everyone you were genderqueer, I’ve been kind of questioning and wondering and thinking and I don’t know who to talk to about it…”
If TOAST is a decent human being, you’ll feel a lot better. Generally when people think you’re ‘following a fad’ or ‘copying someone’ it’s because someone says ‘i did that first’ SO IF YOU CAN AVOID THAT YOU’LL BE GOLDEN. Plus, it’s nice to start with someone who understands what you’re going through. If that friend is like ‘YOU’RE A COPY CAT AND YOU’RE THE WORST AND YOU JUST WANT ATTENTION.” I would talk to a different friend and say “I dunno what to do because I’m having these questions about my gender and I tried to talk to TOAST and TOAST flipped out!!”
So, you see, your bases are totally covered. That’s baseball language for you’ll be totally fine. Just don’t say ‘I’M GENDERQUEER AND I’M NOT COPYING ANYONE AND EVERYONE SHUT UP’ bc… that’s not nice.
My advice was actually going to be to shout “‘I’M GENDERQUEER AND I’M NOT COPYING ANYONE AND EVERYONE SHUT UP,” sooooo…
En serio, though (that’s Spanish for SERIOUSLY), your own strength in your identity is what is going to help you through this process. There is no test that we have to pass or clothing we have to wear or behavior we have to adapt to “prove” how we identify. No one ever has the right to tell you who you are or why you feel the way you do inside, because each one of us is far too complex to be “figured out” by anyone… we are often too complex to figure ourselves out!
I think you can approach it, initially, from the standpoint of someone who identifies as genderqueer, is worried about being taken seriously, and who has become even more comfortable with themselves as a direct result of TOAST also coming out as genderqueer. It doesn’t at all have to be “COPYCAT MCGOO” but can instead be reflective of the fact that you now feel more comfortable and safe speaking about your identity because you know you are not alone.
At the end of the day, if anyone rolls their eyes or says something to you or behind your back, I would approach them and ask them how it would make them feel if you decided you knew exactly who they were and why. No one should ever tell anyone else who they are. KRISTIN SAYS SO.
"Do I have to cut my hair short to be genderqueer? ‘cause I really like my long hair."
- Question submitted by Anonymous
no? yes? I dunno, I’m not friends with the genderqueer police.
Here’s what I think about identity…I don’t get it… I don’t understand the need for a label, I don’t understand the need for a gender and a sexuality and how those things correlate, I don’t understand why we all constantly fight about the ‘right way’ to be a certain identity. I just don’t get it. I think, the way you identify is the way you identify, regardless of the way you look or act or smell or poop. You are who you are because that is who you are… right?
The fact of the matter is, every word associated with identity has about 4 million different definitions. I know that we perceive certain identities a certain way, but when it comes down to it, nothing is black and white and however you identify is correct. What matters most is how you feel. If you feel comfortable and confident in who you are, who cares what you call it, ya know? If anyone questions you tell them to come and talk to me… *makes mean face*
Dude. No. NO YOU DON’T HAVE TO CUT YOUR HAIR TO BE GENDERQUEER.
I’m sorry for yelling. It’s not meant to scold you it’s just that… well, it’s just that I wish that it was made clearer to all of you out there that identity is something that is personal to who we are and how we feel, and not affected by the way we present or what other people perceive of us.
Now, sure, I make jokes about my proclivity for cats and converse in relation to the word “lesbian” and that I date ladies… but I am also fully aware that the word “lesbian” doesn’t quite sum me up, and that if I wore different shoes and didn’t like animals, I could still like ladies just as much.
Genderqueer means different things to different people, but ultimately what we are talking about is the fact that the labels of GIRL and BOY don’t make sense to you or how you feel in this world. Which makes sense to me because GIRL and BOY are, in many ways, just made-up labels themselves. The length of your hair ain’t got nuthin’ to do with it.
Plus, Jesus had long hair and was totally gender-queer.
(Everyone Calm Down)