Ten years ago, if you asked me about clothing, I would have sprouted out the usual mantra given to midwestern kids: “Boys wear suits and girls wear dresses.”
Well, it’s 2021 and I am goddamn confused.
Before I came out as nonbinary, identifying as male kept me to a certain style. The culture I saw around gender and clothing was much healthier, and I had no issues with nail polish, colors or intermittent nights of makeup, but I still felt like the standard rotation of shirts and pants were the only comfortable options on my table.
But after I ventured into new-to-me they/them territory, my table was subsequently dismantled and incinerated. It was time to reassess my wardrobe.
One of the best things I learned early on was to do what makes you feel the maximum “you.” My choices in presentation all came down to what made me feel right. Gender norms could be shrugged and an identity built seam by seam.
The concept was dazzling, revolutionary and incredibly goddamn difficult to execute. But I’m getting better at it.
Sometimes I feel like I’m lost in a fabric tornado. Pants, skirts, sweaters, dresses whip past me, each presenting itself as the perfect fit designed to make me feel the way I want. But the clothes flash away in an instant, replaced again in a never-ending string of silk-denim-linen.
Questions beat around my head: Am I masculine? Feminine? Both? Neither?
Why not try it all? Grab the storm by the stirrups and ride this wild fashion squall into a new identity.
That’s what half of me says, anyway. But another part of me — an incredibly shy, closeted voice — wants to be tucked into sweaters and out of sight.
The overwhelming number of choices combined with that anxious portion of myself makes my progress in fashion complicated, but no less steady.
Out of the closet I was no stranger to pinks and purples. I saw no gender in color, which for me, at the time, was a big step. It was an introductory course on destroying gender stereotypes. Today it’s ignoring the gender on pants and shirts, though I’m still a step short of skirts.
Originally, I thought my experiments in fashion would end in the men’s section. Now out as nonbinary, a new Everest has appeared.
It’s a dress.
A few months ago, I spotted a cute floral sundress with thin shoulder straps and a wonderfully flowy design.
In a strange way, it kept me up at night. I kept imagining myself in the flowing fabric, glowing in flower print. But I realized other people existed. People who may see me in public and consider the scene of me and the dress as perverted.
The vision is still wrapped in apprehension, though no less lovely. I keep seeing myself in that dress, steeped in euphoria. Every day I feel myself take a step towards it.
For me, new to nonbinary, that is success: hope in the feeling that my day with the dress is inevitable. And beautiful.
Avraham Forrest is a writer from Indiana. They attend Indiana University. In their spare time they enjoy baking and jogging. Follow on Instagram @avraham_forrest.