Written by Sandy McIntyre
For members of the LGBTQIA+ community, what we wear or how we choose to present ourselves can be our only way of self-expression, depending of course on our living and working situation. Some may wear a kind of uniform for most of our working lives so breaking out of that stale uniform into our preferred clothing, or armour as I like to say, can be our only way of feeling confident, empowered and gorgeous.
For me personally, clothing is my armour. It’s the one thing in which I have complete control over each morning. It’s also the one thing that can potentially place me in a bit of strife… especially when I’m a femme-presenting non-binary person. Is this dangerous? 100%. Is it worth it? Absolutely!
Armour: defensive covering for the body especially covering (as of metal) used in combat.
Instead of metal, it’s cotton and silk, sheer tops and exposed chests. In regard to combat, I tend to think that’s referring to our society.
Although changing, society is still an unpredictable environment. We’re taught to conform and to be a certain way as soon as we can say “Mum” or the simplest of pleasantries. The pleasantries that aren’t taught often enough are to be accepting of other humans and to mind your own business. Another thing that needs to be unlearned is that clothing is NOT gendered. Colours of the rainbow are NOT gendered. AND boys can in fact wear dresses.
Throughout my adult working life, my choice of workplace attire has always come into question. When I was living in London, I was called into my boss’s office and was asked why I think it’s appropriate to expose my chest hair. I responded to my then-superior that it’s what makes me feel confident - the same reason she chose to wear heals each day as it elongated her legs and made her feel empowered. Another time I was asked to leave and return home as I was wearing a kilt and had my legs exposed. I was embarrassed and angered. I felt that the system was unfair and that my supervisors preferred that I not be present at work because I presented “male” and it simply wasn’t appropriate, or that it somehow affected the way I could carry out my duties… So, I returned the next day, in the same kilt but with black tights so my legs were no longer exposed. This time, they had nothing to say. I couldn’t have been happier or prouder of myself.
The issue with these encounters is that they were perpetuated by deep-rooted gendered stereotypes, stereotypes which deem me unfit to partake in society. Too often have people attempted to erase my self-expression – the only thing which I have complete control over. In no way is this ever acceptable. No one has the right to tell someone how they should present in their day to day life.
Although I born and raised in Sydney, my Father was born in Scotland. One thing I’ve embraced from my ancestry is the kilt, which historically has been a male piece of clothing and a symbol of honour for the clan to which a man belongs. I feel pride donning a kilt and am my most confident self when I’m wearing one. It also allows me to be in touch with my feminine side, which is my own interpretation.
Like my forefathers who wore kilts into battle, I too wear my kilt into battle. However, the battle I face is an ongoing one with the general public. The amount of stares, laughs and heckles I endure while waltzing around Sydney is both terrifying and motivating. It terrifies me because you never quite know how any interaction will escalate, will I be hurt, will I be triggered? … On the flip side, it motivates me to continue wearing the clothing I wear because it’s obvious that others need to open their minds and ultimately look at me as though I’m wearing something as unassuming as a pair of chinos.
One thing we need to remember while we live our gorgeous lives is that we are in control. We deserve to make ourselves feel beautiful, whether that be in a suit, a tutu, chinos, or in my case, a kilt.
As we navigate this odd world, we need to continually remind ourselves that we are in fact powerful and at the helm of our identity.
Sandy McIntyre <3