Posts Tagged ‘Gender Expression’

I feel a little bad about it, but it seems I can never go through a cultural competence seminar about LGBTQ folks without getting annoyed at some aspect of it that I feel the presenter has gotten wrong.

A major one is conflating gender identity with gender expression. So many times I’ve had these trainings teach that gender identity is how masculine or feminine one is, or how much a person fits social norms for being a man or a woman.

NO!!!

That’s gender expression. Someone female assigned at birth may be very masculine and always wear men’s clothing while still identifying as a woman. That woman’s gender identity is “woman” but her gender expression is masculine.

Another person female assigned at birth may be trans and identity as a man, his gender identity is “man”, yet he may still have a feminine gender expression.

Essentially, these two thing can come in all combinations.

Gender identity is really nothing more than the gender one identifies as. The end. There are no rules for it, no qualifications one must meet. There is no test that will tell you your correct identification based on clothing, characteristics, or sexual orientation.

For myself, I am a cis women, and tend to be slightly more to the feminine side in terms of gender expression, though I often feel very mixed in terms of it as in many ways I am. I have many characteristics deemed masculine by society, an many deemed feminine. In term of appearance I’m pretty femme though I still sometimes prefer more masculine looks.

When it comes to how I feel about my gender I actually have a lot in common with many gender queer friends who are faab (female assigned at birth). The big difference though is that they identify as gender queer because of the ways they have felt out of place in terms of social norms for women, and for me despite the ways I have felt out of place in terms of social norms for women, I still identify as a woman.

That’s how it works! Gender identity is personal and based simply on what gender(s) you feel describe you best according to your own feelings and preferences. Often this matches up with gender expression, but it does not always an does not need to.

Photo of my jeans

Photo of my jeans

A little while back I went to a thrift store with a friend and decided to buy some men’s┬ájeans, because I was interested in playing with some less femme outfits.

This pair of men’s jeans has now become my go to pair of jeans… mainly just because they are currently the only jeans I own that both fit and don’t have huge gaping holes in the thighs.

Wearing them though has really emphasized some of the difference between men and women’s clothing. These are things I sort of knew before, but it’s different to hear about than experience.

The First is Obvious: The Different Cut

Like I said- obvious. Though despite knowing that men’s pants were not designed for people with significantly wider hips than waists, it still didn’t help to much with trying to guess what would fit me. Although men’s jeans are sized supposedly with straight forward numbers for waist and inseam, that didn’t help me much. Should I try to find a waist size that is the size of my hips? No, surely that would be too big… But it should definitely be larger than my actual waist size.

It didn’t help trying to guess that the men’s jeans that fit me look way larger than women’s jeans that fit me because of the fact that they are basically straight up and down. The women’s jeans I typically wear have a smaller waistband than hip/ass area, then they are fitted around thighs, knees, and upper calf then either straight down from the calf or slightly wider after the calf. So men’s jeans that fit around my hips look massively larger in every other area.

I think the size for these jeans ended up being about 5 inches larger than my actual waist measurement. I expected them to be a bit on the big side and to need a belt but they actually fit fine without a belt. A bit loose around my waist when standing, but smaller than my hips by several inches still so no risk of falling off. So clearly I was right that I didn’t need to get a waist size as large as my hips, but certainly more than just a couple inches larger than my waist.

Oh, also I wear them around my waist, higher than most of my women’s jeans fit. Because I cannot get used to men’s clothing were the crotch ends up between your thighs.

The Material is Thicker

This is probably the biggest difference. The material is so thick and heavy to me. There are good things and bad things about this, it’s been an adjustment getting used to how heavy they feel compared to women’s jeans because they have a thicker material. Also more material than fitted women’s jeans that I would wear, but even compared to some wide legged women’s jeans I’ve had, these are much heavier because the material is so much thicker.

Like a lot of women my size, I am constantly having to replace jeans because the thighs end up with huge holes in them from my thighs rubbing together while walking and wearing away the material. I find myself wondering how long I could go before that would be a problem with these jeans- I am sure they would last much longer due to the thicker material that seems designed to hold up to wear better.

Now obviously I am working with a very limited and bias sample here. Also for women’s jeans I prefer the stretch material jeans which is a thinner material. But imagining tight fitted pants in the material of my men’s jeans… I don’t think I’ve able to move!

The Pockets are HUGE

Seriously- HUGE! I’ve always known that men’s jeans have bigger pockets, but damn! Even when I have women’s jeans with pockets, and pockets that seem a decent size to me, my phone will typically take up the whole pocket and still be sticking out a little. If I put my wallet and keys in my pocket- part of that is hanging out.

These jeans though- the pockets are almost the size of my primary purse. I have purses that are smaller than these pockets! I feel like I need to put my phone on a string to pull it out of the depths of the pockets. I could fit whole books in the pockets if I wanted to- not that I really want to, but I could! They pocket starts a little below my waist and ends about halfway down my thigh. Now, I’m only 5ft, so that is obviously not as far a distance as taller people, but still. HUGE!

Really the main take away though, and reason I felt like posting this is how much it really makes obvious to me how men’s clothing are designed for function, and women’s clothing are not. Women’s clothing often don’t have pockets at all, or small pockets when they do, because pockets can ruin the lines and look of clothing- no one gives a shit about if you have shit you need to put in a pocket, it’s always appearance over function. The thinner material likely goes hand in hand with fit difference, women’s being designed typically for a form fitting look. Yet it definitely has me wondering about the average lifespan of men’s jeans vs women’s jeans, because I am sure these men’s jeans will hold up longer than my women’s jeans.

I just posted on my facebook about being amused that I’ve pretty much become the stereotypical man-hating, lesbian feminist who wears combat boots.

And I was thinking more about this, and how I wear combat boots all the time these days- but but often with dresses and such. So being femme even though I wear combat boots I don’t look like the stereotype of a lesbian.

Which then got me thinking about being fat, which is often a stereotypical lesbian trait. The awesome Lea Delaria had some asshole comment on her twitter I think it was about how she was a walking stereotype being a fat, butch lesbian.

But I’m fat and femme. And these often feel like contradicting points to me. Even though they are not at all. But if you were to say “fat lesbian” I think most people would be more likely to picture someone who looks like Lea Delaria than Mary Lambert.

Speaking of which, how adorable are they! *swoon*

On the other hand I follow a lesbian page on facebook that primarily talks about femme visibility. It’s cool, but I notice a lot of the time there is stuff I just can’t relate to, because “femme” ends up being used to mean “conventionally attractive”, but the two are not necessarily the same thing. I’m femme. I’m attractive in my own way, but I’m not conventionally attractive. And the biggest part of that is because I’m fat.

#fatfemmeproblems

I’m just going to leave this there because I’ve been drinking and I’m not sure how to nicely conclude my rambling thoughts on this.