May 23, 2011 § 9 Comments
I was in TopShop on Oxford Street the other day buying jeans, because I am both super-cool and down-with-the-kids.
I went to the women’s section and picked up a couple of pairs, and took them to the changing room. I’ve tried on women’s clothes in shops before and never had a problem. Usually a breezy attitude and an obvious confidence in my own skin makes people fine with what I’m doing. I also suspect anyone working in a women’s clothes shop is fairly used to penis-owners coming in and trying stuff on.
I was told the changing room on that floor was for women only, and I’d have to go up to the ‘TopMan’ floor to try the jeans on. Now, at the time I was dressed really androgynously. Eye make-up, girly top, skinny jeans. Not really crossing the gender boundary, but definitely balancing precariously on top of it.
I was really surprised that a shop that prides itself on being cool was so un-cool with its policy of gender division.
The question arises: how much more girly would I have to be dressed for the woman on the door of the changing room to allow me in? I wonder if some of the less successful transexuals around have had problems. When I went upstairs I heard the guy in the men’s changing room tell a woman she’d have to wait outside for her boyfriend. I wonder why they’re so strict? Are people fucking in TopShop changing rooms? Is that a thing?
Now, I’m not offended or even annoyed by it, I just find it interesting when these situations come up: when people have to read my gender and make a decision about how I am presenting myself.
I talk in my stand-up about asking a guy working in the HiFi bar in Melbourne where the toilet was, while cross-dressed. He looked petrified, and after some um-ing and err-ing he blurted out “GENTS IS THAT WAY, WOMEN’S IS THAT WAY”. The most diplomatic man in the world! I would have given him a hug, but he was clearly already outside of his comfort zone.
May 17, 2011 § 20 Comments
[EDIT: Due to some of the comments I’ve had I just want to preface this by saying that I’m possibly not as overly concerned about the stuff I’m talking about here as this makes out. I’m generally very happy with who I am and what I’m doing. I just spend a ridiculous amount of time thinking about this sort of thing. And just thinking in general. It’s pretty much my job…]
One of the things I find myself negotiating when thinking about what I’m going to wear is the question of identity.
I am realistic and pragmatic about the society I live in. I accept that our culture uses clothing as a language, and that I will be ‘read’ by people in different ways depending on what I’m wearing. The problem is that people read too much into my cross-dressing. They think I am trying to make a statement of some kind – to assert my individuality, for example, or to advertise an alternative sexuality. To add to that, I am also a metalhead, so I dress in an ‘alternative’ style anyway. When I cross-dress I don’t endeavour to look like a normal, mainstream woman. (I don’t actually aim to look like a woman at all, but that’s a different story…)
When I dress I am always just trying to look like me. To reflect on the outside what’s on the inside. Trouble is, with cross-dressing there are dozens of potential looks to choose from, and it always seems a bit more artifical when choosing between them.
Of course, being a metalhead if I was female I would probably dress in a fairly masculine way anyway! The women with whom I most closely identify, those I’d probably dress like if I were female (my girlfriend; my friend Katia) don’t dress all that femininely, but their inherant femininity balances that out. I need to over-compensate for my masculinity.
Then there’s the kid-in-a-sweet-shop aspect of all the possibilities that open up once you give yourself the opportunity to pick from the other floor of the clothes shop.
I’m still working out what works for me. Which feels fucking weird, cos I’m THIRTY-ONE! If I’d come out when I 14 I’d have got over this annoying stage already. But the fear of looking like a prick means I am still being quite unadventurous in my choices. People like this guy make me feel like a rank amateur:
There are loads of things I’d kind-of like to wear and looks I’d like to try and people I’d happily emulate, were it not for this question of identity. Because to do so would really misrepresent who I am. There is an argument for saying ‘fuck it, who cares what other people think’, of course but unfortunately I do care what people think of me. Some people, at least.
If I was a goth, or a Marilyn Manson fan it would matter a lot less. But I am part of a subculture that values above most things a real unpretentiousness. A genuine expression of who we are. (Which is why I hate poseurs so much. There is a comic who I won’t name who conveniently ‘became’ a metalhead at almost exactly the same time he realised his particular brand of comedy went down particularly well with metalheads. If anything I have the opposite problem. My being a metalhead puts off a certain proportion of fans of silly, surreal comedy…)
To illustrate this rather drawn out point, I present to you THE BELL-CURVE OF METAL PRETENTIOUSNESS*:
A) Into the music, but not into the subculture. Casual Metallica / Slipknot / Iron Maiden fans etc.
B) People who are getting into it. They try hard to fit in, often getting that hilariously wrong. People who wear corsets with skate jeans and put their hair into spikes at the weekend. They are uncool. And I like that. Bands who sell more merch than they do records. And get on the cover of Metal Hammer.
C) Wednesday 13 fans / goths / pricks / these guys I saw in the Red Eye last week who had their look DOWN but all their clothing was suspiciously new and I can’t help but think none of them looked like that last year. People who look too good to be true. 16 year old girls who suspiciously like all the right bands. How do you skip straight from liking pop music to Bathory and Nifelheim?!
D) The more underground metal: death and black metal etc. / Well into the music, but also like to dress up / adopt the uniform. Usually wearing clothes they’ve had since the 90s.
E) People hugely and solely into the music, who think dressing a certain way is a distraction from the pursuit of music. Bands so kvlt they don’t even play live. Noise / grind / etc.
Now, when I dress masculine I sit quite easily in section D, but when I cross-dress I feel I slide into section C. And I hate that idea.
All of this is coming to the forefront of my mind partly because I am about to launch my press assault for the Edinburgh Fringe and I have a few high-profile things coming up like presenting the Metal Hammer Golden Gods (their awards ceremony). So I’m a little bit more conscious about the way in which I am representing myself. And I’m feeling restless and bored with my wardrobe and want to branch out a little bit more and play with other looks.
Let me know your thoughts.
*NB: this is not entirely serious…