things to think about

today i am thinking about: lez fashion
January 29, 2010, 2:11 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

So suddenly I am a visual artist and I have openings, as you do when you are a visual artist. Me and my video art and my friend Quito and her photographs. So suddenly, because of this, I am dressing up again, dressing up but in a “funky” “arty” way. you know what I mean.

And friends, I have gained some weight over the past year. I no longer fit into most of my clothes. So today on my lunch break I went to church, aka Century 21. I needed some suspenders to hold my pants up. I needed a dress shirt, and friends, I needed a bow tie. Or several.

And I got it all, and brought it home, and played fashion to find the best outfit for my opening. And what we arrived on — new grey shirt, grey and black striped suspenders, dark jeans, black boots, orange tie — means that hello, my name is Ariel and I am the most stereotypical lez of them all.

I keep almost making my peace with my new masculine — butch? — identity. I keep almost making peace with my body. And then I cross some kind of line and I freak out and I run away. Some intersection of gender and size and my body and my fashion crosses the line and I go running the other way; I get horrified by myself.

And I was having, as of last night, this whole deep moment of introspection — oh god, is it butchphobia, lezphobia, homophobia, fatphobia, what is systemically wrong with my politics — when I figured it out.

Friends, I was having a bad case of the BAD FASHION PHOBIA.

Here’s what’s wrong with the outfit, as it currently exists. I am wearing a dress shirt and dress suspenders with normal jeans. The normal jeans are the jeans I wear almost every day — they’re dark, and cut skinny, but they’re still jeans with belt loops and everything. The grey shirt is a really nice grey shirt, now the nicest button-down I own. The suspenders are dress suspenders. The bow tie, also formal. The whole thing is a very formal outfit, and I put it with jeans — and so until my mid-stomach, I’m a fancy guy going to a fancy wedding, and from the mid-stomach down I am going to a farm hoedown. BZZT. DOES NOT COMPUTE.

Now it’s easy — I either dress up the pants or dress down the rest of the outfit.

I think so much of my phobia is about being seen as a BAD LEZ. You know, the kind everyone — including the queers — loves to hate. BAD LEZ with some gender but not enough, BAD LEZ with a tie and a t-shirt, BAD LEZ who is never appropriately or interestingly dressed — especially “interestingly.” BAD LEZ who doesn’t actually care, who looks good but not thoughtfully good. My fear of BAD LEZ execution keeps me away from sweater vests and keeps me wary of the sweater-collared shirt combo. It makes me triple check before I wear a tie that the outfit I am wearing can actually support the formality of a tie. And it makes me so wary of things like haphhazardly mixing levels of formality. OH NO. CAN’T BE A BAD LEZ.

There’s some deep lezbophobia that I am working out here that I think a lot of kids I know would do well to examine. I identify as queer, generally speaking, but lately I am thinking a lot about bringing the lez back into my identity. Let’s face it: mostly, I am lez in practice and my gender is one rooted in the world of lez, even if my experience of my gender is still reacting against the danger of being lumped in WITH THEM.

What am I so afraid of, anyways? Being lumped BAD LEZ to me means a failure (of fashion; of femininity AND masculinity); it means being called unsexy (at least in my head, and around my community); it means being called naive or misguided or incorrect; it means being called BORING. I don’t want to be BAD LEZ, I want to be HOT AS SHIT QUEER. It makes me uncomfortable the ways in which I find those two categories to be self-excluding.

And the real red flag — as I think about people who might read this and be offended, I think, “But I don’t mean you! I mean some OTHER lez who is actually bad fashon!” This categoric unwillingness to include anyone I like in this category means that it is a bias, not a real axis of judgement. Telling. Very telling.