on gender and dresses

Posted on June 8, 2014 by

I am an athlete.

Athletes, as I am discovering, come in ALL shapes and sizes and other things.

Do not let your brain determine who is an athlete and who is not.  It will be wrong.

Now generally I consider myself female-gender nonconforming.  What does this mean?  It’s complicated, but for the sake of simplicity let’s just say this: as a general rule I don’t do pink and I don’t do dresses.

Except lately I do.

Because what being truly me in this body means to me is that I’m living, as much as possible, in authenticity.  I want to really be me, and hell with what all y’all think.

Of course, authentic me does, to some extent, care what you think.  I want you to have as accurate a picture of me as possible.  I also want to honor your limits.  If you don’t want to see random nudity, I want to make it possible for you to avoid seeing it on my website.  I might have it up here somewhere (not yet, but it’s possible) but if I did I would give you the chance to make a choice about whether or not to see it.  Consent, it’s sexy.

But I’m not really willing to change what I do because you don’t like it.

Or because you think something about it that I wish you wouldn’t think.

Which brings me to dresses.

When I traveled to India 15 years ago, I chose to wear Indian clothing while I was there.  In India at the time, clothing was pretty sharply gendered.  But what I discovered is that when everyone wears the same thing, the definition of what that thing means has to get bigger, not smaller.

So people wore “girl clothes” and climbed scaffolding with pots full of cement; people wore “girl clothes” and worked in factories.  People wore “girl clothes” and did everything.

And I realized this: our clothing has become limited in its meaning because we have allowed ourselves more flexibility.  If I don’t feel “girly” I don’t have to wear “girl clothes”.  I can express my inner non-girly-ness by wearing jeans and an oxford shirt and a tie.  (I wouldn’t because I don’t like wearing ties.  but I digress.)

So when I wear a dress, it signals “girly” because I had a choice about whether or not I wore it.  I can play with it, but regardless of what I intend it becomes a public flag about my gender.



Dresses and skirts (and kilts!) are practical fuckers.  As I’ve said recently, dresses are particularly suited to apple shaped bodies (NB: of all genders) because they don’t rely on waist tightness to stay on.   I have a Utilikilt that I love the hell out of because I can do ANYTHING in it,and for some reason it doesn’t fall down like most of my waist-based garments do.  It seems to cinch below my belly.  Shoutout to them for figuring out how to do this a little better.

So now we have a dilemma, if we are practical, which I am.

On the one hand, society has decided that non-bifurcated garments are for people who express at least a certain minimum of femininity. (At some point I will rant my rant about hair on my legs and wearing skirts).

On the other hand, for many of us of many genders, the non-bifurcated (skirt-like) form is super useful.  If you are into draped clothing, it is also hella easier to drape.

My conclusion: practical trumps what the culture has decided.  I have decided: this is what I look like, this is what I wear.

One of the most liberating things I have realized is that I can do any damn thing I want in a dress.

Fortunately utilikilts and running dresses have taken the delicate out of skirts and dresses so I can sit on the ground and run my feet off with impunity.  I’d love to see a cotton twill tunic…

So you may see reviews of running dresses here.  Because I’m wearing them and I have opinions.  And that is that.

What do you think about reclaiming all garment shapes for all people?  Tell us!  Tweet #genderanddresses #iamanathlete