If I can wear a tuxedo to a wedding, I would not say no. I love gender-neutral clothes, and I would love to wear a shirt and tie to work. Maybe even add suspenders. A flowy skirt with the hem reaching below the knee can work too coupled with comfy leather brogues. Something right out of the 50s.
I try to wear gender-neutral clothing as much as I can, but it is not always met with approving eyes. And it all started with Ellen.
When Ellen DeGeneres became internationally famous after the debut of her own talk show, she became the icon of this dress style. My dress style. She dons slacks with shirts, blazers, and comfy sneakers to work, and she rocks the look.
Now when I go to work or to a conference in gender-neutral outfits, I look gay to others. I “look like Ellen.” It does not help that I love to rock a pixie haircut and value my comfort above all else. I love motorcycling outfits, for example, and prefer men’s jeans to women’s any day. Old Navy sweatpants bought from the men’s section are my all-time favorite, and my dream is to be able to afford an aviator jacket with a wool collar that I can wear until I grow old.
This makes me look gay, and that is not just me saying this. It is what others presume. While men shoot me confused looks that try to assess whether I look attractive in spite of the attire or not, women size me up and judge immediately. On the other hand, gay men appreciate the look because they presume I am no competition. But this all won’t change my affinity for men’s clothing.
I grew up loving gender-neutrality and appreciating it. Before I was identifiable as a girl, I used to pretend to be a boy so I could play football (soccer) with other boys without getting bullied or receiving special treatment–“Take it easy on her! She is a girl!” I hung out with my cousin who was exactly my age and made him promise not to tell others that I was a girl so I could hang out with the boys like I was one of them. I even had a boy’s name picked–something that I could remember to answer to. I never understood girls, and I never appreciated girl time. I was not into dolls (I thought only boys should play with dolls because girls were all boys were interested in), and I could not relate to girl issues. I hated pink, and I always wore my hair short because I got used to it short. It was curly, and my mother cut it short so she does not have to deal with combing it.
So how did Ellen ruin it for me?
Ellen made this gender-neutral style gender-specific. She removed the neutrality out of it. This fashion statement became associated with her and ceased to be for everyone: Both men and women who are cisgender, trans, and non-binary. Designers took a style for all and slammed it shut in the Ellen compartment. It is not necessarily her fault, but it is a responsibility I hold her accountable for. Ellen can introduce more pizzaz to her wardrobe that would suit her show all while showing that she can have a diverse wardrobe. She can be a bit less like Letterman with decades of suits donned on for his late-night show and more like Meghan Rapinoe who can go from jerseys and soccer shoes to sequined little numbers in hours.
I refuse to give up this style to Ellen, just like I refuse to be tagged with a label just because I look some way or speak some way. I insist on holding tightly to the right to wear gender-neutral clothing all while being cisgender. I refuse to allow anyone to monopolize a style. To me, it is like saying whiskey is only for Scots.