By: Karen Me (they/them/theirs)

Photography by: Serena Pu

My previous article focused on the conceptualization of masculinity and femininity; now I continue my in-queery on how such gendered notions of masc and femme affect the way queer Hoyas choose to dress, as well as their gender performance (what gender others perceive them as).

Grace Smith

COL ‘18

Pronouns: she/her/hers

What clothing are you most comfortable in?  How would you describe your fashion style?

The clothing in which I feel the most comfortable doesn’t particularly take one form nor is it uniformly defined by a certain trend.  Clothing is so acutely intertwined with expression and I believe expression varies. But I also find power in contradiction, a paradigm that defines much of the way I operate, and sometimes a simple pair of sweatpants and a casual sweater make me happier than any fancy attire ever could.

Is there intentionality to your gender expression and how you dress?

I identify proudly and openly as a woman, but I am very cognizant of the fact that my fashion style is often labeled as more masculine.  Some may argue my gender expression doesn’t correlate with my gender identity, but I would argue it does. In dressing in a more masculine manner, in finding myself comfortable with the unexpected, I understand that I am an unusual kind of woman, but I’m so proud of it and who I am, even if it makes me vulnerable at times, and I love what I wear.

What are your experiences with gender performance (how others perceive you)?

Given my more masculine attire, there has definitely been some serious confusion about my gender. It’s something I talk a lot about, and I think I do that as a coping mechanism, as a way for me to deconstruct those misrepresentations to understand better my place in the world. I’ve come to understand that I am a proud woman who dresses in a more masculine way and that doesn’t make me any less of a woman. There is power in contradiction, in normalizing difference, and I hope that others will begin to see that, and find themselves empowered to do the same.

LEXI DEVER

Col ‘16

Pronouns: she/her/hers

What clothing are you most comfortable in?  How would you describe your fashion style?

I’m typically comfortable in tank tops or feminine-cut t-shirts, jeans, and combat boots. When it’s warm, I typically replace the jeans with skirts of various lengths, but I struggle to find appropriate shoes. I don’t know if “Former Florida Resident Who Can’t Handle Seasons” counts as a style… But that’s pretty much it.

Is there intentionality to your gender expression and how you dress?

There used to be more intentionality than there is now. Before, I felt like I was trying and failing to fit in, and I needed to over-feminize myself in order to compensate. Now, I’ve come to terms with how I’m perceived, and as such I’ve found the type of clothing that both makes me comfortable and expresses my gender in a way I am often satisfied with. Not all the time, of course, but often enough.

What are your experiences with gender performance (how others perceive you)?

Using the admittedly problematic concept of “passing” (being perceived as your identified gender rather than your assigned one), I can say that I definitely don’t pass. At least, day-to-day interactions massively skew towards the “hello, sir, how can I help you?”  I used to believe, for better or for worse, that I was “passing as trans,” in that I was perceived as a trans woman, rather than a “normal” man or woman. However, experiences have made me realize I don’t pass as anything other than male– and this has definitely been a major struggle. It’s clear that despite my best efforts, people continue to see me as a man. Which frankly, hurts.

IDA DHANUKA

COL ‘17

Pronouns: she/her/hers

What clothing are you most comfortable in?  How would you describe your fashion style?

I’m most comfortable in dresses and skirts, oversized sweaters, flowy tops and giant earrings.  I’d describe my style mostly as feminine, comfortable, and a little eccentric.

Is there intentionality to your gender expression and how you dress?

I’m a deeply feminine person and I take pride in how my clothing expresses that; as I’ve become more aware of how femininity is treated in our society, I’ve come to embrace a sort of hyper-feminine appearance. However, that comes in conflict with how I have to modulate my clothing in order to accommodate my queerness; I’m constantly trying to marry femininity with queer visual cues, which can be difficult when most stereotypes about LGBTQ women assume androgyny or masculinity.

What are your experiences with gender performance (how others perceive you)?

I’ve found that my gender performance– my clothing, but also the way I speak and carry myself, and the interests that I make public– tends to assign me to a very specific kind of femininity. People offer to carry things for me or assist me in physical tasks, or behave protectively or paternally towards me. I feel that sometimes opens the doors for certain kinds of objectification and harassment by men, as well as erasure within the queer community.

RENLEIGH STONE

COL ‘17

Pronouns: they/them/theirs

What clothing are you most comfortable in?  How would you describe your fashion style?

I would describe my style as dark and soft *laughter*; I typically wear things that are loose enough or soft enough to sleep in. If I can’t sleep in my clothing, I don’t want to wear it at all. I would describe it as “soft dark masc”. My clothes typically come from the men’s section and so the way I present these days is seen as almost exclusively masculine.

Is there intentionality to your gender expression and how you dress?

There is definitely intentionality in the way that I dress precisely because I know I read as “woman” to people. I use clothing to try and counter that perception.  However, because of the androgynous identity and butch lesbians, many people can only conceptualize my gender as “still a woman.” People seemingly can only handle the conceptualization of gender in simple ways that remain in the binary.  When butch lesbians and otherwise straight masculine presenting women assert, “I’m still a woman,” people extrapolate that I, too, am “still a woman”. They extrapolate that to mean everyone is like that, which erases a lot of nonbinary and trans experiences; that’s not necessarily the fault of androgynous people, butch lesbians, or straight masc women, but it’s a detriment in terms of mainstream conceptualizations of nonbinary people nonetheless.

What are your experiences with gender performance (how others perceive you)?

I don’t know, I don’t think many people are comfortable telling me what they really think of me and my gender performance. Most of my close friends see me as “one of the guys” so when I present more femme, which is typically in the summer, they get really weirdly excited about it for some reason.  But when I’m my regular boyish self no one really bats an eye; is it because femininity is generally celebrated on AFAB (assigned female at birth) bodies? I would argue that this phenomena isn’t always the case because plenty of cis women get flak for being “too girly”. Maybe it’s because they perceive it as out of the ordinary for me because they conceptualize my gender to be nonbinary, but more masculine presenting, because of who they’ve known me to be as a person and sometimes I break out of that, so it’s novel to them.


Unfortunately, social norms about gender heavily influence our perceptions of others, when it is important to realize that outward appearance and clothing can also be limited by financial cost; sometimes, people cannot afford to dress in the way they would like to.

At the end of the day, everyone knows themselves and their own gender best, so don’t worry when you see someone in a gendered space that you don’t think fits.  Chances are they are correct, and anyways, who are we to decide?

Posted by:Thirty Seventh

Georgetown's premier fashion and lifestyle blog.

One thought on “In-Queery: On Gender Performance & Intentionality

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