A long, long time ago (well, 1999 but lately last week feels like a long, long time ago), Brad Pitt appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone. This was not surprising as he was (and remains today) one of the biggest celebrities in the world. What made this significant was that he was wearing a dress. The interview showed Pitt in other dresses and on one hand, yes, it was a celebrity possibly trying to be “shocking” (OMG A BOY IN A DRESS) but he also talked about how comfortable dresses were and that he predicted that men would be wearing skirts in the future.
I’M STILL WAITING, BRAD.
Of course I know now that no one will ever “let” me wear what I want, and even if it becomes, well, not acceptable but perhaps less weird for a boy to wear a dress it won’t be in my lifetime.
But at the time I was thrilled. Perhaps a little naive or insanely optimistic but when I was 24 I thought perhaps it WOULD be acceptable for me to wear a skirt. Not presenting en femme mind you, but me in boy mode wearing a skirt. I had hoped that surely the biggest, manliest actor in the world would help shake off the taboo that people with my anatomy would be allowed to wear a certain piece of fabric. But of course this didn’t happen. But it’s not his fault. Even if he wore a skirt every day for the rest of his life it probably still wouldn’t change the world.
But the world doesn’t need to change (and it won’t) for you or me to be “allowed” to wear a skirt or whatever else we want to wear. It’s never going to be okay.
There’s no question I love love love all things femme when it comes to clothes. I present as either boy or girl as someone who is bi-gender. But even presenting as a boy I am likely wearing something femme even if it’s just underdressing. I sleep in a nightgown, I wear leggings in boy mode, sometimes I have painted toenails. Would I wear a skirt in boy mode? Of course I would.
So, why don’t I? I could and I do at home, but why not running errands? I don’t know. I suppose I wouldn’t want to be seen or recognized. I am more nervous about being seen in boy mode wearing a skirt than being seen en femme. I am less recognizable as Hannah, I think. I also don’t want the attention as a boy. In some ways it’s more common to see a t-girl at the store than seeing a boy in a skirt.
I started to think about all this the other day when the new issue of Vogue came out. On the cover we have one of the biggest celebrities in the world… and he’s wearing a dress. Harry Styles is rocking a pretty amazing gown and it looks so fun to wear. As expected social media blew up and took sides. One side is all about support and recognizing that clothes are just clothes, the other side talks about how men should be manly or whatever.
I don’t want to say I am more cynical than I was in 1999, but I didn’t have the same sense of optimism that I did back then. I mean, YES, part of me was hoping that maybe this time, this cover would slowly start the gears turning to shifting the genderization of fabric and colors but realistically it won’t.
So, what will it take for it to be “okay” for a boy to wear a skirt? Again, it being okay is not realistic, so I’ll stick with less weird. What will it take for it to be less weird for me to go to the store in a boy t-shirt and a skirt? Not some celebrity, I can tell you that. It will take US. Normal, non-celebrities to start this movement. When an actor wears a dress, by and large the public just rolls their eyes and says that Hollywood actors are just trying to get attention or they’re just being shocking or controversial. If boys want to wear skirts, we can look to the fight that cis-women fought for the right to wear pants. No one said it was okay, they fought for it.
I don’t listen to what “they” say when it comes to presenting en femme. But I hold myself back from blurring gender norms in boy mode. And that’s silly. We can’t listen to what they say. I tune out a lot of opinions and perspectives. I don’t listen to people who think the earth is flat or that vaccines don’t work or don’t think girls shouldn’t play video games, why should I listen to someone saying that boys can’t wear a skirt?
Life is about choosing your battles and your crusades. Part of me wants to fight the war of… uh, BOYS CAN WEAR SKIRTS but in many ways I have chosen my fight of representing the bi-gender community. I’ll let others fight for this. Of course, I could just wear a skirt and forget about any world changing movement. But like I mentioned earlier, it’s a little more… exposing than I am comfortable with. I would rather be noticed as Hannah than seen by someone I know wearing a skirt. And honestly? I think about my wife in all of this. There’s no question that this side of me has caused her a lot of stress and worry. In the early days it was the stress of where all of THIS was going. Soon it was the fear of being seen and recognized. It was a fear of being assaulted by someone. I don’t want to put her through anything else. I feel enough guilt about this side of me as it is.
Don’t misunderstand me, she is wonderful and supportive. She understands this side of me as much as it can be understood. She knows how important my gender identity is to me. But the side of me that wants to wear a skirt in boy mode? Despite everything I’ve written about it, it’s really not that important to me. It is not crucial to my identity. Sure, I wish it was “okay” but really, I’m fine. For me, it’s not worth putting her through any potential stress. Honest.
No, Brad Pitt didn’t change the world. Harry Styles won’t.
But you might.
6 thoughts on “Cover Boys”
Well the past 2 months. When I am out as male me. I started to wear nail polish. I have been wearing reds, hot pinks and blues. No one cares. But. I dont care what others think. I have had many nice conversations with some lovely ladies wanting to know what I was wearing.
Its been fun. I have a great time talking to them.
Change is slow. But it is coming.
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I’ve wearing more and more gender neutral clothes over the past year and being more non binary it really works for me to fit that need.
Skirts, well not yet but maybe at some point I will.
I do think times are changing and hey honestly if you go out and your not wearing your birthday suit as long as your clothed who cares and who’s going to say anything
Get out there ladies
Some would say, probably not a Scot, that a kilt, by any other name, is just a skirt.
When I was 14, I saw the cover the Bowie’s “The Man Who Sold The World” album (the UK version, not the US version, which was changed because Americans were assumed not to be able to handle a man in a dress–even if a beautiful dress by fashion designer Michael Fish). It changed my life, because I recognized instantly that this is how I felt, and how I wanted to dress (in an androgynous, feminine style, in a very pretty, sexy place somewhere between boy and girl). I’ve been dressing that way since. While in private I am often en femme, in public I wear a mish-mash of boy and girl clothes–pretty skirts, with boy tops, sandals or sneakers, and a cute little hat. I pretty much always have my nails done, and at least a little light street makeup on. Thing is, i never wear a wig, because I don’t feel i need one to feel pretty and feminine. I shave my head, and have lots of pretty hats to wear. Of course, I get lots of looks, and the occasional micro-aggression (had a bad one last winter just before the lockdown). Once, I was even assaulted. At the same time, back before the lockdown, at least one or twice a month I would have someone come up to me and tell me how much they liked my look, which I always appreciate very much. The point is, we must let nothing stop us from being who we feel ourselves to be inside.
Hannah, thank you so much for your writing. Your posts are always very thoughtful, and I know they take a lot of time. Know that you are a source of affirmation and inspiration to many of us. Also, Happy Birthday. Alice.
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You are wise Hannah. See, the age benefit is becoming ever more evident!
Yes, life is not all about me. I am about life and if that life includes partners, family, friends then my actions impact them and me.
That is where wisdom can save the day. A skirt when dressed as a girl may well impact our significant others very differently than when dressed as a boy. In this case wisdom probably equates to sensitivity.
A good post Hannah.