I was always a tomboy growing up. Yet, through society and unconsciously because I was hanging out with my femme friends, I felt that I had to show my feminine side more than my masculine side. I've never really had any problems with wearing feminine clothes, but most of the female clothing that I found they didn't really resemble who I felt I was.
I always felt uncomfortable wearing female clothing but never linked it with it not being who I was, reflecting on this I realized this was because of the normalization that the society has put on women for centuries.
Being a woman is being uncomfortable in your skin, in your clothes. It means being in pain, detangling your bushy hair, being slim, waxing your private parts and wearing high very uncomfortable shoes for the sake of the stare of another woman and the gaze of a man. As a Black woman, these discomforts are further routed in race, where various body types, colourism and hair types are topped up to find the acceptance of white people and other black people who have been scarred by the history of colonialism. It was this that I thought was the reason I never recognized myself in the mirror.
Finding out that I was queer liberated me from all these shackles, although at the beginning it scared me quite a bit, as I was and unfortunately still am concerning myself with what others think I have to represent myself.
I went on the internet to find more of myself as a Queer person, I was looking for people who looked like me, I used various internet sites, applications, and blogs. I was quite new to all of this, my knowledge regarding the LGBTQ community was still very limited.
I did not really know much of the spectrums and the gender identities that I could fit in with. The Internet gave me a lot of access to understanding more about the LGBT community. Yet when it came to fashion, hairstyles etc, the only pictures I could find only showed one type of people and these were the stereotypical white, skinny, Justin Bieber haircut-type-of-lesbians. They all had no breasts; they all had little to no curves and most importantly they did not look like me.
It took me a while to find out where the black lesbians were, yet even though I was still very excited that I saw people that resembled me, specifically my skin, I did not find anyone who resembled my body or my personality. It was again the stereotypical no breast, no curves type of studs I saw on the Internet. Besides this, they all represented the type of masculinity that I wasn’t and never wanted to be, the smooth looking licking-lips types, that made me think they were portraying the masculine man that portrait for me the toxic masculinity that women endured in their everyday life.
I always loved the Dapper look, the minimalistic, beautiful suits that fit just right with the ties, bowties, suspenders and the details of the handkerchiefs and cufflinks. As I did not have the courage, the money and was dealing with hormonal problems that made uncomfortable in my body. I started with what I could afford and what made me feel comfortable to start my journey in the social transitioning in who I felt I was.
I purchased several pre-bowties on eBay and wore them to various places. I was very self-conscious of where I wore them. I felt uncomfortable to wear them in the house, just to avoid any stares or questions from my parents that I was uncomfortable to answer, I would put them on after I left the house and take them off before I got home.
For me, my clothing style journey and knowledge about queer history went hand in hand. The more I learned about Marsha P Johnson, Stormé DeLarverie and the queer marches, the more I started to feel comfortable in my skin, my body and my clothing. My social transitioning really showed when I moved to London, the freedom that the people showed me how I could be, made me take a big leap and change my whole wardrobe during one summer. I started wearing binders and boxers, which increased my confidence and lowered my anxieties.
Even though for many of my friends I started to look different, I felt no more like myself. I started wearing ties and fitting white/black button-down shirts. There are still times that I am very conscious about my curvy and according to the BMI, overweight body, but knowing the strong queer women and men who went before me, I am more daring to wear what makes me feel strong.
I have spent countless money and time on finding clothes that made me feel comfortable. I was happy that I could order all the items online, as I have encountered many lingering eyes and sayings ‘you cannot use the male changing room’ when I would go shopping.
My journey is still not over, and I think it will never be, as I will continue to learn more about queer black history and grow as a human being my styling journey will continue to evolve.
Tips for anyone who is on the beginning of their social styling transitioning
Start with what makes you feel comfortable, maybe it is something visible or maybe not if you want to wear something invisible start with a boxer or socks.
If you feel uncomfortable ordering any items to your house, try to see if any of your friends might want to have the items delivered to their home or use the click and collect button on the shopping list.
Go to secondhand shops, you will often not be starred at and you can try all the clothes before you buy them.
What looks good on another person might not look good on you and that is oke, that just simply means that outfit is not for you.
Before entering the male section in a store, say to yourself, I belong here too and repeat it till it feels normal.
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