SEXUALITY, MASCULINITY, FASHION
WRITTEN BY ANDREW KLINE
NOVEMBER 26, 2019
One foot flung in front of the other. Rushing. Speeding to the next class.
Eyes glimpsing at my pants—then shifting away. Clothing was always a complexity. In middle school and early high school dressing myself was anxiety inducing. I would stare in the mirror, fixating on how the fabric draped over my body, engulfing my slender frame. My face would shift into a stagnant, unsatisfied expression.
A perpetual state of dissonance between outside expectations and introspective fear prevented me from reaching empowerment through clothing. Once I was old enough to grasp my sexuality, I choked it, beat it, and kicked it down. A socialized, smothering set of rules, incessantly restricted how I expressed myself creatively. I looked at my male friends lost, wondering why I was drawn to the way clothing looked on their bodies while I looked in the mirror, slipping into an absent trance.
It wasn’t until I started coming out that I began to feel a release of self-oppression. However, my process wasn’t as linear as media portrayals. I danced between the battleline of euphoria and isolation. Sometimes I advanced, revealing this vulnerability to my friends while on occasion I ducked into the trenches, shivering in fear. When I did make strides in my war, concessions followed. I first wore different colors before plunging into an array of patterns, fabrics, and silhouettes. I remember meticulously slipping into a pair of ripped jeans for the first time. I turned and eyed at myself in the mirror, gliding through space in liberation. No rules, just me, my reflection, and my jeans dancing through the light.
In the wake of these new phases of exploration, I presented myself with more confidence, releasing the set of codes that unknowingly socialized me into suppression. My body was still labeled “skinny,” but I eagerly slipped my legs into these jeans each morning, ecstatic to use my feminine pieces.
Still, on Wednesdays my head was lowered towards the ground. Now, negative sanctions were thrown at me for surpassing my fear of expression. Eyes of males and females. They scanned my body before hastily sweeping to the right. In the end, it came to community—I stayed in the spaces where I made people confused, while seeking reinforcement in the spaces where I was celebrated.
I feel so privileged to be able to attend a rigorous institution like Boston University that not only has an extensive amount of resources for queer students, but also has a student body that affirms my transparent expression. Although, sometimes even my friends are perplexed about my clothes.
“Why do you own women’s clothing?” and, “Are those women’s pants?” are most often followed by, “How do they fit you like that?” At first I’m taken back before a sense of affirmation creeps through me positively reinforcing the newfound relationship with my body.
However, aspects of my confinement remain unhinged—my father and I haven’t reached a spoken understanding of my sexuality. My parents are divorced. When I visit my father, I lie motionless on my bed, dreading getting ready. I’m thrown back into the existence of confining rules. I meticulously throw on clothes that best accentuate aspects of my masculinity.
I am confounded by the implications of this journey within my own queer community. Gay men publicly affirm men who express themselves femininely,but are, subconsciously, less attracted to them. This isn’t a fault of the individual but is, rather, a reflection of patriarchal aspects of our society. We have unknown, insecure internalizations from our time in the closet. The smothering code of rules we were subjected to still remains present.