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I'm working on an autobiographical thingy.  The backbone of this summer work is the proto-blog online diary I did in 1994, Diary:  retrospections which is running on Wednesdays and Sundays for now.  Sometimes there is background information needed to elucidate understanding.  This is one of those.

The previous Gender Workshops are here.

From Outside the Gender Prison:  The Substance of Style
[first appeared in Triangle Rising Newsmagazine, Little Rock, AR, August, 1997]

I was sitting in my office trying to come up with a (maybe somewhat more lighthearted than usual) topic for this month's column (it's more difficult that you might believe) when my supervisor (the chair of the mathematics department at the University of Central Arkansas) dropped by for a visit.  She informed me of several things that she had been visiting with all my colleagues about, but then the subject turned to one about the way I dress.  SHE didn't have any problem with it, you understand (she said so at least four times), but she wanted me to know that some others did.

It seems that there may be some people around here (but not definitely not her), who have a problem with the fact that I almost never wear skirts or dresses (tsk tsk) and that sometimes I even wear shorts (gasp) while teaching and that I never wear a bra (faint).

Okay, so now I have a topic.

First let's have a little perspective.  Shortly after I began my transition in 1992, I was attacked in the local press because I dared to wear skirts while teaching ("a man who wears skirts" was, I believe, the phrase that was used).  I was a symbol of the moral decay of modern society.  At the time, I didn't catch one whiff of anyone around here who was defending me from the public attacks on my character.  And there was damn little private support. forward.  Now I'm dressing in a style that is either not feminine enough or perhaps not demure enough for the tastes of some.  That is, I don't wear skirts or dresses.  My personal opinion is that I don't need to be in anything approaching formal attire to perform my duties as a teacher (I never did when I was living as a male and nobody ever said a thing).  I tend to wear slacks with matching tops, sometimes a pantsuit, and yes, sometimes shorts in hot weather (I do like to be comfortable).

And I do not wear a bra, except on very rare occasions.  As far as I can tell, the reason for wearing a bra, from the point of view of someone who might consider wearing one, is either for protection or to keep one's breasts from sagging.  Well, I don't have to worry about sagging breasts because I didn't have them until I was 44 (besides, perky breasts on a 49-year old are a little out of place).  And I don't have to worry about monthly tenderness.

I guess that brings us to a third reason for wearing a bra (and perhaps for not wearing shorts):  for the benefit of other people.  Could it be that if people see a little jiggle in my breasts or a little too much leg, it offends their sensitivities?   I guess this was what she was trying to say.

So, here I am, trying to think this out.  Should I worry about the feelings of people who showed no kindness towards me when I transitioned?  Do I wear clothes for my benefit or for the benefit of others?

I know the answers to these questions.  While I do care somewhat about how other people feel about me, I dress for myself.  At this stage of my life no matter how I dress, I am bound to offend someone.  Some would prefer that I dressed as a male.  Some apparently would prefer that I dressed stereotypically female.  That's way too much binary thinking for me.  I like to think I wear what the somewhat casually-dressed transsexual woman chooses to wear.  Besides, it's difficult to be demure when one is 6'4".  

So I say, "Shame on them!" if the way I dress somehow causes people to think about sex.  And if the way I dress causes someone to think seriously about gender, then, "Hooray for me!"

© 1997 Robyn Elaine Serven

Originally posted to Robyn's Perch on Tue Jul 17, 2007 at 08:19 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Where is my modesty? (20+ / 0-)

    That was stripped from me when my reputation was dragged through the mud.

    Seriously, I am posting this partially because of the following intriguing comment from kmiddle last week:

    OK. THIS is how to distinguish..

    between male and female...discussions of shopping!

    by kmiddle on Mon Jul 09, 2007 at 05:06:32 PM EDT


    Gender Workshop XXI: The Substance of Style will appear Tuesday
    Diary: retrospection, Wednesday

    by rserven on Tue Jul 17, 2007 at 08:12:28 AM PDT

    •  Definitely intriguing. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      high uintas, Moody Loner, fareast, rserven

      I'm guessing, from your description of your dress, that you don't share the same love for shopping?  That would be a fascinating exploration to try to figure out why.

      It's odd, but just about every woman I know gets an excited look about her when shopping is talked about.  The only exception to this is my mother, who doesn't get excited about much of anything.

      There's surely a cultural component here, so I wouldn't necessarily ascribe the doings of women in my circle to women worldwide; but there are obviously some commonalities there, otherwise it wouldn't be such conventional wisdom.

      •  oy (6+ / 0-)

        i hate shopping.  i really REALLY hate it!  unless I'm going to a fabric store or a hardware store, but I don't often do that unless I have to.  I don't even like shopping on-line.  

        Probably has to do with the fact that I was really broke for most of my young-adult life, and never saw the point of going to a store if I couldn't actually afford to buy anything.  Can't really think why it would be a gender-related issue/behavior.

        'The votes are in, and we won.' - Jim Webb

        by lcork on Tue Jul 17, 2007 at 09:34:54 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  I like to shop online... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Ahianne, high uintas, Caldonia

        ...rather than in public, except when it comes to shoes.  Public malls  are too noisy for me.  I do want to try out any shoes before I buy them.  Unfortunately, most places which sell sandals I like don't have them in my size.  

        So I do a lot of shopping by catalog.  If we aren't careful, we'll have to rent another apartment just for the catalogs.

      •  A possible line of explanation (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        high uintas, rserven, jessical

        which appeals to the evils of advertising, but suggests there's indirect pressure:

        Most of us women are significantly dissatisfied with our bodies.  Shopping provides some relief from that by enabling one to indulge in the illusion that there's something that can fix the dissatisfaction.  E.g., "In a chasmere sweater of this beautiful shade I really will become lovable.  Well, as long as I can find shoes to go with it..."

        There's a great (not perfect) book by Daniel Gilbert, Stumbling on Happiness.  One of his themes is that human beings are not very good at knowing what makes us happy/content.  We believe advertisers who tell us that it is products that will do the trick, and so we buy something.  It doesn't really work for long at all, so we go and buy some more.  

        And if we're satisfied with our bodies?  Well, advertising tells us that decorating a good body will bring us everything a girl could want.

        I don't actually like the "we are all taken in and deceived" kind of explanation, but advertising does appear to work...

        "False words are not only evil in themselves, but they infect the soul with evil." Plato

        by JPete on Tue Jul 17, 2007 at 10:23:45 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Well, they wouldn't do it (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          high uintas, rserven, jessical

          if it didn't get results, right?  It's funny how most of the things that make most of us happy (clothes, jewelry, cars, booze, cable TV, XBoxes, etc.) cost money.

          As trite as it sounds, going for a long walk on a mountain can be much more fulfilling than any of those.  Of course, that's only if you have the right shoes, the right backpack, the right outfit, the right camping gear, ....

        •  I remember reading a theory (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          JPete, rserven, jessical

          that women shop differently because early in our forming of society it was women who gathered the basic requirements for living. Herbs for medicene, whatever greenage that they could find, fibers to make clothing, ect. I don't know if it's true, but in many ways it does fit.

          I watch women shop, sorting through things and taking in the over-view of what's available with a focus that I don't have. I'm an in and out shopper. I hate it. If I need something I go in find it and get out. The only time that I enjoy it is when it's in a hardware store or a thrift shop. I should add antiquing, I haven't done that for a while but I do enjoy that.

          When it comes to clothing, I wear what is comfortable. I hate anything that doesn't feel good on. I have never in my life wore high heels longer than the short time they were required. I wear dresses and skirts in the summer, always with sandals. With the exception of underwear and shoes almost everything in my closet was once owned by someone else.

          I do like to look at beautiful clothing on others. But, I would be perfectly happy if we all wore tunics. Right now I am about two sizes too small for most of my clothes. Chronic Fatigue has caused me to lose weight and I'm dreading the thought of having to buy new stuff. Most of the time you'll find me in an over size tee shirt and stretch crops that I have to keep pulling up.

          "Mr.Treehorn treats objects like women, man." The Dude

          by high uintas on Tue Jul 17, 2007 at 11:41:41 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I like to wear oversized stuff... (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            high uintas, jessical

            ...but then I myself became oversized.  I'm losing some weight, but now my slacks have become too large.  

            Clothes for fall are going to cost a bundle.

          •  The hunther-gatherer society? (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            I guess I worry if we lose the explanations that appeal to social pressures, which do seem intense.

            Did you see the article in the NYTimes (I'm pretty sure) summarizing recent CFS research and saying it is now clear it is not some "all in your mind" thing?  It was very recent.  

            I had a good friend with it, and I saw how tough it is.  I wish you the very best recovery.

            "False words are not only evil in themselves, but they infect the soul with evil." Plato

            by JPete on Tue Jul 17, 2007 at 05:17:03 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  There was a study (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          high uintas, JPete, rserven, jessical

          Of women who read Vogue, half are size 12 or larger.
          Of men who read Car and Driver, only some tiny proportion own an expensive car.

          Fantasy is fun..... why fantasize about what you've got?

          It's pernicious only when it becomes entrenched....

          e.g.  "Wouldn't it be nice to own a Ferrari/look like a model?" is OK

          "If I don't own a Ferrari/look like a model, I am not a real man/woman  or I am not a good person"  

          is not OK.

          Now up: What closet did you come out of? Soon: Race, drugs, and ripoffs.

          by plf515 on Tue Jul 17, 2007 at 11:54:18 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Riki Anne Wilchins (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            high uintas, JPete, plf515, jessical

            ...from GenderPAC:

            For me, a gender revolution... is also about the 16-year-old Midwestern cheerleader who ruins her health with anorexia because 'real women' are supposed to be supernaturally thin and it's about the 'Joe Sixpack' who wraps his car around a crowded school bus on his way home from the bar because 'real men' are supposed to be heavy drinkers.

          •  Thrift shopping teaches things. (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            rserven, plf515

            One of the things I've learned is that the really cheap clothing, Walmart type, and really expensive labels are usually the actual size stated. Mid range priced clothing is usually larger than the stated size. I think it plays to the ego of the buyer who is actually a 12 but thinks she's a 10 because her clothes say so.

            Also, in women's clothing there is really no definable size. I have in my closet jeans that all fit the same and have 3 different size. Off the rack shoes are the same. They might as well throw them all in a box and let you try to find what fits you.

            "Mr.Treehorn treats objects like women, man." The Dude

            by high uintas on Tue Jul 17, 2007 at 12:04:10 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Yeah, I never figured that out (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              high uintas, rserven, jessical

              a lot of clothing (some mens and most womens) is in sizes that have no relation to anything.  12 WHAT?

              There are exceptions: Bras, belts, men's formal suits, some men's pants, some men's underwear etc.

              But it's so ridiculous!  

              When I'm thin, my waist is 34, when I'm fat, it's 38.  Inches.  you know, those things we use to measure stuff with...

              Now up: What closet did you come out of? Soon: Race, drugs, and ripoffs.

              by plf515 on Tue Jul 17, 2007 at 12:09:49 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  I may come back and discuss this. (6+ / 0-)

    If you don't mind me bringing my Second Life av into it, she's the one with style.

      •  Okay. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        high uintas, rserven

        For this comment, me = MoodyLoner Korobase.

        Because I live in a virtual world, where everyone looks about 22, I don't tend to wear bras.

        Besides, it's not like I bounce or sag (although I hear they're working on it) and unless I wear something with some transparency my nipples will remain hidden.

        Also, with fashions in SL being what they are, it's hard to find things that won't show the bra if I wear one.

        Well, when I started I'd wear jeans and tshirt like my typist,  and I'll still wear that to casual get togethers where I don't want to disturb people (YKSL meetups and newbie clinics generally), but at formal events I'll wear a formal gown or pantsuit, for work I'll wear my business pantsuit with my hair up, and out and about I'll wear a halter and jeans or shorts or a light summer dress - perhaps even down to bodypaint and shorts, depending on the weather and my mood.

        I tend to get hit on fairly equally whatever I wear - well, except for the bodypaint. :) but the complaints I usually get - from men and women - is that I'm too prudish and cover up too much.

        •  Personally, I find this fascinating... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          high uintas, Moody Loner

          ...Kurobase.  I'd love to see you post another diary about this.  There are threads in my journey which relate.

          I met a few transpeople who were multiples...wherein with one personality was a different gender.  It has always been difficult interacting, because I first had to determine who was speaking.  I wonder if Second Life wouldn't be a godsend for them.  Different personae for different facets.

          I also had transwomen friends who tried to develop the new personae in MUDs and MUSHs back in the day, but there was this element of addiction that seemed to come along with that.


          •  My typist (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            high uintas, rserven

            gets a little concerned about the threads in your journey that relate. :) Still, people tend to see identity as a static, binary state - this is "I" and that is "you" - when modern theory seems to lean more towards consensus and emergent behavior as the root of consciousness, with several different subselves competing/cooperating to produce a single identity.

            My typist's subselves just have statistics and character sheets. :)

            I think Second Life would be a godsend for multiples - having a different account for each persona. I've also met some transwomen as well, both pre- and post-op, who say that SL has helped them define themselves in their role without having the baggage from their previous lives...but there is the addiction aspect as well.

            Still, the technology is in itself neutral, it's what we do with it that defines it. My typist has said before that he'd buy downloading into me at black-market prices, although personally I think it's more the three weeks a month vacation from pain :)

            I do wish that my typist had come up with a different name for me, so that you could tell us apart better. He tells me he was in a hurry and was just expecting to pop in for YKSL, not have this whole second life (hee!) but, well, we're having fun and it's OK, and when it stops being OK I go back in the files.

  •  It all comes down to this: (9+ / 0-)

    Some people have too much time on their hands.

    I never wear dresses/skirts anymore, unless I'm going somewhere formal. That happens once or twice a year. When I was slim, I enjoyed wearing dresses, but those days are long gone. As far as the bra - lucky you! I have no choice in the matter, as my breasts are too darned heavy NOT to wear one.

    I say, wear what you want, within usual guidelines for teachers, and let the busybodies take a flying f*ck at a rolling doughnut if they don't like it. :D

    -8.00, -7.08

    It isn't easy being green.

    by emeraldmaiden on Tue Jul 17, 2007 at 08:20:12 AM PDT

  •  You remind me that I need to get down to (7+ / 0-)

    Fred Meyer and do my annual clothes shopping. It only takes about half an hour.

    What is interesting to me is your setting here, academia.

    Most of my working life has been spent around labs and fields and other facilities where there is considerable physical labor of one kind or another at certain times. Your diary mades me reflect that rarely have I seen a female techie or lab rat - never mind tractor driver - in a dress. And it is hard to imagine any of them being talked to about it.

    The exception being formal settings, like dinners or even conferences. Then the girls are separated from the women so to speak. Some can pull it off, those that wear "feminine" articles at home. Others obviously are at sea and uncomfortable. They are the ones that probably only own that one dress, and haven't worn it for six months.

    Different fields have each their own dress codes just as surely as they have their own jargon. I wonder if there is more uncertainty about what to do in the academic world? It changes so much over time too.

    I often remember my sister, a bank executive by profession. In her case, a "feminine" look was very much expected. She played along, nice skirts, jewelry, ear rings, the whole works (well no makeup, not sure how she got away with that). There was a closet just inside the front door of her house. She would come in, strip off all the drag and put on her regular jeans and tennis shoes, and then she was home, herself.

    It was downright weird to visit her at work and see her in all that. And you can bet she loved a good drag show.

    What's so hard about Peace, Love, and Truth and Progress?

    by melvin on Tue Jul 17, 2007 at 08:34:54 AM PDT

  •  Here's a quote from one of my favorite artists: (8+ / 0-)

    From the song Little Plastic Castle (Ms. Ani Difranco):

    people talk about my image
    like i come in two dimensions
    like lipstick is a sign of my declining mind
    like what i happen to be wearing the day
    that someone takes my picture
    is my new statement for all of womankind

    i wish they could see us now
    in leather bras and rubber shorts
    like some ridiculous team uniform
    for some ridiculous new sport
    quick someone call the girl police
    and file a report

    Great diary, Robyn.

    Just the basic facts, can you tell me where it hurts?

    by Page van der Linden on Tue Jul 17, 2007 at 08:43:33 AM PDT

  •  i've been thinking about this since last night (6+ / 0-)

    ... when irishwitch posted a response to me in plf's diary about being a target.

    for context, here's the thread.

    and while responding to her, i found myself realizing three things. two are kind of keystone events in my life based on things others said to me.

    the first: what other people say about you is none of your business. this was in response to the lifelong experience of others coming to me to tell me all the gossip that was being passed out about me (which has been substantial).

    that comment hit me like lightning.

    the next: who cares what other people think about you? this was said to me by someone who was (and is) very professionally successful, very honest and ethical, but who inevitably ended up in a firestorm of criticism, often quite nasty.

    then, last night, when irishwitch posted this in the thread:

    [ Parent | Reply to This ]

    • [new] I am not all that good with left and right (3+ / 0-)

    and I am right-handed. Sometimes I wonder if I was meant to be leftie but Mom got to me early (she was left-handed).

    Only problem withbeing a color is that yous tick out among the nuetrals--which can make you a target.

    The last time we mixed religion and politics people got burned at the stake.

    by irishwitch on Mon Jul 16, 2007 at 08:02:52 PM CDT

    and that got me thinking and realizing that some of us are raised to think what others think of us is so, so important, life and death important, while others of us are raised to think that doing the right thing (however that might work itself out) is life and death important.

    or somewhere along the line, we learn one or the other.

    gossip has always been a way to control others. it's universal and, when it isn't happening for the purpose of simply transmitting information [ eg, John Doe died in a horrible fiery car wreck last night!], its purpose is to control the behavior of others.

    yet the real freedom is not necessarily not caring, but depending more on your own inner compass.

    which brings me to an interesting side effect of your gender workshop and your online diary diaries (?): you chose your inner compass. yes, i know, it could be argued you had no choice. but yes, you did, in fact, have a choice. many people live miserable lives because they allow newspaper articles, false information or cherry-picked information, gossip, etc. to control them, and they allow colleagues to come into their offices to try and whip them into shape.

    you didn't and don't. there's an important lesson in this for everyone.

  •  Wearing bras... (8+ / 0-)

    When this started in the 60s, when I was in college--I realized the REAL purpose of them was to hide nipples and prevent jiggle.  The girls who went braless were usually small breasted and wore bandaids to hide the nipples!

    I see nothing wrong with the way you're dressing.  I wore jeans when I was  teaching college English. I'd come int he first day in a tailored suit, then revert to type.

    Now if youw ere wearing HOT PANTS, that might be a different story--but tailored walking shorts like Bermudas?

    The last time we mixed religion and politics people got burned at the stake.

    by irishwitch on Tue Jul 17, 2007 at 08:56:55 AM PDT

    •  Sometimes it got hot in Arkansas. (5+ / 0-)

      Africa hot, to quote Neil Simon.

      I walked to school.  Case closed.

      •  I live in Atlanta. (7+ / 0-)

        It's normally over 90 here in July and August. On a really good summer it's over 100 for a week at a time.

        I went braless back then occasionally--without the bandaids because they hurt to take off. Back then I was a 34 B, so I COULD. Heck I STILL can--at 58 my breasts are pretty up there, and I stopped caring about jiggle or nipples. I DO wear skirts here, because I find them cooler than pants, and I don't do shorts--just don't like the look on my short little self.  The skirts I wear are flowing and thin fabric--no stockings. I also taught in No. FL, where it gets really hot. Only reason I didn't wear shorts was it was a military base, the students were 98% males int heir early 20s, and the fact was I had to look professional to get respect. I was 34, looked 24, and  used to get eyed by the guys.  The biggest fantasy elelment in Top Gun (and there were so many) was the scene where the physics prof comes diddyboppign across the tarmac in 3 1/2 inch stiletto patent pumps 9she'd have sunk into it up to her ankles),  braless under a white T, with a pencil skirt that was very tight and short and black stockings with seams up the back./  And she was so PUZZLED  as to why the guys razzed her.

        But I see no problem in the way you are dressing. Pants are fine. So are tailored shorts. And I strongly suspect you're not strollin' in in a pair of Daisy Dukes with a shirt tied under your boobs.

        The last time we mixed religion and politics people got burned at the stake.

        by irishwitch on Tue Jul 17, 2007 at 09:22:15 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  I'll ask here (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      where else?

      I see women without bras, some of whom do more than jiggle.  Seems to me that would hurt!  I mean, toss all notions of fashion in the trash; if you're large breasted, is it really less comfortable to wear a bra, than not?

      Now up: What closet did you come out of? Soon: Race, drugs, and ripoffs.

      by plf515 on Tue Jul 17, 2007 at 03:55:53 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Large breasts... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        ...which are unsupported are often bad for the back.  Even supported they can be bad for one's back, which is why some women get breast reductions.  [For some reason, I can't picture myself being among them.]

        As to other sources of pain, I learned that I had to be much more careful going around corners.  

      •  Depends. I am a 38 C (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        whichs qualifies for large.  I am 5'4"--but I have a large ribcage and shoulders.  I am quite comfy braless--and I've had no issues posing nude and gotten compliments on that portion of my anatomy. I have lifted weights to keep the pecs in shape, and I am quite comfy in a tank top withotu a bra. I wouldn't go running braless (hell, I wouldn't go running, period), but a sports bra--and not even a particularly rigorous one, has always been fine for dancing. But if I were a 32D, yes, it'd likely be uncomfortable.

        I have back issues--but they're in the lumbar region, not higher up.

        The last time we mixed religion and politics people got burned at the stake.

        by irishwitch on Tue Jul 17, 2007 at 07:16:16 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  It's so hard for me to fathom (9+ / 0-)

    that the human race is so consumed with the superficial, robyn.  "Do you wear skirts?  Do you wear a bra?  If you do, why?  If you don't, why?"  What answer is good enough?  What answer will make the person asking the question feel the most comfortable?  Then the answer is processed, critiqued, judged, and an opinion is formed.  Are we really this shallow?  Yes, some of us are at times.  At times, for as patient and tolerant as I strive to be, I find myself falling back on a line from the movie, "Home For the Holidays."  Charles Durning's character replies to his daughter . . . "Opinions are like *ssholes honey, everybody’s got one and everybody thinks everybody else’s stinks."  I'm not at all proud of the fact that, while I don't voice it, I think it to myself quite often these days.

    I wonder if we'd be quite so shallow and superficial if we'd all been born and lived our lives blind.  I suspect it would eliminate quite a bit of, what seems to be, our overwhelming need to pass judgment.

    Thank you for another excellent diary.

    "Ancora Imparo." ("I am still learning.") - Michelangelo, Age 87

    by Dreaming of Better Days on Tue Jul 17, 2007 at 09:06:10 AM PDT

  •  Well, they wear us down with superficial things (7+ / 0-)

    and the important things get lost in the mire.

    Are you a good teacher?  They don't know or care.  Are you kind to the students?  It doesn't matter to them.  Are you a potted plant who looks like everyone else? fit.  Sorry to sound bitter.

    There is a big difference in the amount of money one has to spend on clothes.  I admit that I spend mine on books instead, but if anyone had complained to me about my slacks and pretty top at night school, I would have had to ask for more money to fit their demands.

    I did order a dress for my class reunion because someone might remember the one I wore five years ago.  If the back-ordered dress doesn't make it, I have a pretty rose top I can wear with slacks.

    Clothes shopping is a nightmare for me. I wish we could all wear bathrobes.  

    "Other cultures are not failed attempts at being you. They are unique manifestations of the human spirit." Wade Davis

    by cfk on Tue Jul 17, 2007 at 09:29:18 AM PDT

  •  I hate when the internet goes down (4+ / 0-)

    I just wanted to say....some doofus from Con Ed cut through a cable or something.  

    I lost internet all morning, still catching up, but will be back.  

    Now up: What closet did you come out of? Soon: Race, drugs, and ripoffs.

    by plf515 on Tue Jul 17, 2007 at 11:40:25 AM PDT

  •  what I thought of... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TiaRachel, rserven, auroraborealis

    ...reading...and I'd be fascinated by your own "underview" on the older diary...was priviledge and peer pressure in relation to gender (of course lol).  I mean...the impression I that women are micromanaged much more than men, and dress is part of that.  No coworker was ever so rude...but I have and do feel as the lone transie that every violated work dress norm will stand out and scream.   So local norms are huge.  I have no evidence or cites but what it feels like is, women's bodies are treated as more public property than men's bodies, so everything I say about that body with my clothes is subjected to additional scruitiny...and as a trans woman, the focus is even stronger.  It's an inescapable part of my professional persona.  And there are...ass-headed enforcers, of course.  The diary reads like someone out preying on percieved weakness and assuming you won't be able to defend yourself.  In my own experience, I and every other woman in a workplace have already thought long and hard about clothing choices and are pretty much continuously aware of the specific tradeoffs in their own case.  


    •  Before transition... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      ...I didn't give a hoot how I appeared, except I liked to somehow display my "hippieness" (moccasins, leather hat, whatever).  I never wore the suit/tie thing.  That was strangulation to me.

      After transition, every item was chosen for a purpose, to communicate something to someone.  I did feel the pressure to wear if I was not "transitioning properly" if I wore slacks.  So I wore a lot of hippie peasant skirts, like this only generally with paisley.  I guess they represented both my inner hippie and the feeling that I was now a peasant in the world.

      Eventually, I felt I was just doing another kind of drag.

      I still have always had some great long, flowing outfits which I have worn on special occasions.  But not for teaching.

      I think I may have jumped the track there a bit from where I originally was heading. :-)  

      •  heh... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        ...I'd agree that it's all gender as performance, of course :)  That doesn't particularly bother me except when the audience is hostile or the play is bad...or I suck at it, of course:}  Generally, it's just an interesting part of being a people.  But I find the public scrutiny to be exhausting, really brutal, though I know many non-trans women feel it, I suspect, just as keenly if in slightly different ways.  

        I gots me my power suits and my black jeans.  If I had more money or were back in the city I'd have everything tailored, I think it's worth every penny in this position.  But since I'm very seldom clocked in jeans, it's extremely, painfully hard to wear anything else unless it's a professional necessity.

        •  I do have this hair thing going on. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          CalifSherry, jessical

          It's a couple of feet long and I haven't the nerve to go for something short.

          •  At 6'4" (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            You might look magnificent in something with the flow of a dashiki. If you find a pattern you like, you can have them made - in fabrics you like - and support a local seamstress at the same time. Or maybe you have a friend who's open for barter.

            As a woman with a body not made for fashion (short waisted, heavy breasted) who has thought about the implications of what we wear in various settings, I'm kind of drawn to this thread. ;->

            Clothes are clues/cues. Social markers, indicating complex things about class, identity, wealth, position, etc. They are not terribly consistent or obvious and reading them is not always a conscious act. As in people don't always know what messages they are picking up from other people's dress or sending via their own.

            So, I'm wondering how anyone knows you are not wearing a bra. I don't imagine you wearing a shirt open to the waist. Can they see your nipples through your shirts? This culture does have a thing about female nipples.

            If I didn't need to wear a bra - I'm one of those who has thought about reduction - I'd wear camisole tops with an overshirt, which could be open to the waist. And I recently discovered a sports bra that can double as a cami. Comfortable.

            My most productive women friends and I, not much liking the consumer role, tend to look for "uniforms." One friend sticks to black slacks and t-shirts in a range of colors. She has a few black jackets when the temp drops or she needs to be a little more business like or formal.

            I'm happiest with myself in my clothes when I can manage a little style and not have to think too much about it. I rarely wear skirts or dresses; haven't for years.

            In my new(ish) job, the code is definitely casual. I've one outfit I can wear when needing to dress up. Mostly I'm wearing black slacks and sweaters. Tops that button in front rarely fit me well. I've become a regular at a local gym and am looking forward to wearing jeans again, dressed up with sweaters and tees.

            Yikes, I do carry on.

          •  French braid (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            Once you learn how to do them, French braids look good, keep your hair out of the way and stay put.

            •  I mostly wear my hair in a pont tail. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              Every once in a while I have a friend who braids it.  I tried doing it myself but I'm rather uncoordinated at it.

              •  Hair has all sorts of interesting gender (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                and power connotations.

                A study somewhere or other found that, in the USA, a huge majority of men liked long hair on women, but a substantial majority of women liked short hair on themselves.....  I forget all the details.  I don't remember, e.g., if they included GLBT people, excluded them, or even bothered to ask.....

                Power.... Men these days tend to have short hair (easy to care for), women longer (well, after all, women have all day to do that sort of thing, right???  /snark).  Way back when all the rich people had personal servants, hairstyles were elaborate....

                And, totally personally, I tend to find pony tails very sexy.  I have no idea why.

                •  I tried different things... (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:

                  ...during my transition.  I went red for a bit, an permed.  I had a good friend John (John is on the left), who was one of the drag queens at the Stonewall when the Rebellion took of the few still alive...who did my hair back in Conway.

                  Now, I'm just letting it be natural.

              •  French Braids (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                take a lot of practice, but once you get the hang of it, it's a lot more fun than pony tails. /encouragement.

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