Earlier this evening, I came across a fascinating article written by Leela Ginelle of PQ Monthly. It highlights the stigma of men who choose to dress in women’s clothing and how, even in today’s relatively accepting society, it’s still an enormous talking point for people and is still seen as something shameful.
Androgyny has been around since the 70s, with icons such as Adam Ant and Davie Bowie kick-starting the trend of birds’ nest hair and flamboyant make-up, and later stars like Pete Burns and Boy George following suit. It’s even apparent in stars of today: celebrities like Noel Fielding, Tim Minchin and Russell Brand are poster boys for heavy mascara and wild barnets. And lest we forget the utterly fabulous Yanis Marshall – whom you may have seen if you follow ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ – the man famous for teaching boys how to master the art of choreography in five inch stilettos.
But the thing is, as wonderful as it is that there are so many celebrities and well-known faces that are proudly out and proud about their decisions with how they are and what they wear, there is still a lot of backlash when it comes right down to it. Eddie Izzard spoke about how he was beaten on two separate occasions in the space of a year because he wore women’s clothing, and in 2012 a man in Atlanta was savagely attacked by three men – because he was wearing skinny jeans.
It’s quite scary considering that nobody that I have mentioned has actually done any harm to anyone – all they’re doing is expressing themselves freely and being who they are. The internet is one of those places you can easily be rose-tinted by – everyone is generally pretty accepting and people are called out on prejudice faster than you can shout. But outside the safe worlds of Tumblr, Facebook and the internet in general, I’ve found that people aren’t quite as understanding. Stereotypes work both ways: you’re not seen as a man if you dare to wear high heels or dresses.
I speak as a man who wears both.
It’s been a long battle for me, coming to terms with being a man who enjoys dressing in women’s clothes, largely because it was frustrating to try and explain to people that I wasn’t cross-dressing, it was largely just my style. For a long time, I stopped myself from picking certain clothes in case they were ‘too feminine’. It was only when I actually went ahead and purchased my first pair of heels that I thought, ‘Fuck it. Who cares. I like them, and that’s all that matters to me.’ The night I wore them, I got more compliments than I’d ever had.
I’m lucky that I work in a place that is so accepting. I talk about wearing heels very casually now – it makes it easier for people to swallow, my workmates see it as a standard thing – and earlier this year I purchased my first dress, and I wore it out and proud a few weeks ago. Part of me feels like a cartoon at times, and I know that not everyone’s going to accept me for who I am, but that’s fine. The stares and comments are always worth it for me.
I reckon I’m always going to get given a second look by people, whether it’s positive or negative, but it really doesn’t bother me. I’m comfortable enough in my own skin to not let it affect me.
And some days I feel like dressing like a man, and y’know… That’s fine too.
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