Using that minimalism mumbo jumbo to streamline your gender expression

When I graduated college, suddenly painfully aware of how clothing and debt could accumulate so quickly, I decided I was a minimalist. That lasted all of a few weeks, but for a month or so I was throwing out more than I was buying. But shockingly enough, downsizing was wasteful. Because I was throwing out a lot. But nevermind that, I was streamlining my life and this is what it took!

Then I started exploring gender, and I bought a sizeable amount of masculine clothing. I wore it probably more than most people wear fast fashion, but I’m aware I was part of the fast-fashion problem. Ugh! I hate myself a little. I mean I can’t have been the only person to have ever gone through a phase, but I hold myself to pretty high standards (even if I break them all the time), and that “but other people do it all the time!” excuse doesn’t feel good. ANYWAYS. I had a lot of stuff, is my point. (I am a self-indulgent waste of space, is my other secondary point. Kidding. Ish.)

So I decided I had to find more organized ways to think about my wardrobe, just as with the rest of my life. Because as much as I hate organization (I’m in fact a very disorganized person), organization is an absolute lifesaver. And when my identity is a mess, having a system for where to start rather than catering to my every morning whim, really really helped stabilize me mentally.

So this is a story about getting one’s gender-scattered wardrobe organized.

The first thing i did was look up ALL the ways in which people pare down their wardrobes. There are a lot. But they all come down to a common first step of putting things into three piles based on frequency of wear and/or how much you love the garment:

  • Pile 1: the best things of your wardrobe. Either you wear them a lot or you just love them.
  • Pile 2: the “meh” things. Things that are necessary but that you don’t totally love, or maybe you just never find time to wear them because they’re never quite right for an occasion.
  • Pile 3: are things you never wear or never enjoy wearing (anything that is too small, that causes dysphoria, etc.) Some of these items might be necessary evils (if you’re closeted, if you don’t have anything to replace said item, if you hate non-black clothing but have a dress code for work) but generally these items should be considered dead to you.

This is all well and good, but what about if you’re experiencing hints of gender fluidity? In that case, what causes you dysphoria or what makes you feel joyful may change with the day. Or your ideas about how much discomfort you’ll put up with in an item of clothing will irreversibly shift, and that high-waisted skirt you used to wear now digs uncomfortably into your ribcage. Sometimes I’ll find that suddenly something I thought I liked was not true to me, was a costume all along. Or some days I just feel less feminine than others.

It can be hard to tell what you love and what you don’t. So here’s a modified version of the 3 piles thing: divide it (roughly) by gender. (Note, this assumes clothing falls into binary genders, or that there is a binariness to your wardrobe.)

  • Make a pile of menswear and a pile of womenswear. If something might fit in both piles, put it in whichever pile you usually wear it.
  • I fold my shirts narrow so that this works out, but I divide my dresser drawer into 3 sections and “file” my t-shirts so that I have one column of men’s and one of women’s. Then whenever I do laundry I put the shirts in the blank 3rd column.
  • For hanging clothing, I use the “stack” algorithm (Last In First Out): in computer science, this is a way of cache-ing data: after you access a piece of memory it goes to the top of the pile, and because piles get searched from the top down it just so happens that the data get sorted in order of how often you access them, and that the ones accessed more frequently are faster to access again. This assumes that past behavior informs future behavior… which is how our wardrobes work: typically whatever you wore most recently is also the thing you will be most likely to wear again. Here I put masculine clothing on one side of the closet and feminine on the other; but whenever I’d wear something I’d put it in the rightmost position of my closet and slide everything down by 1. This way I was categorizing my clothing into 3 sections: masculine-only, feminine-only, and any/all-gender-expression-clothing that I wear often work together.
  • Workout clothes are a jumble. I’ll deal with those later.

So there it was, my pseudo sorted wardrobe. On more masculine days, i could easily find what I wanted; on more feminine days, I could easily find something that went with those skinny jeans. The best part of this was that if I pulled something out of my wardrobe and wasn’t happy with it, often switching to the other gender pile resolved the issue. It was a good way of boxing things into gendered piles without limiting myself to wearing only say, men’s t-shirts with men’s shorts.

If you want even MORE structure, you can do a modified-for-gender-fluidity Project 333. The original Project333 involves paring down your *active* wardrobe to 33 items for 3 months; after 3 months, another 33 items. Now if you want to organize by gender, or if your gender is fluid or switches or androgynous, then it might help to do a double-Project333: 33 items of menswear (enough for multiple menswear outfits) and 33 items of womenswear. (This includes clothing and accessories and outerwear.) Use the stack algorithm to see what rises to the top of the pile. And then maybe the next round around, you reduce those 66 items to maybe 50, and then 40, and then 33 combined menswear and womens’ clothing, until you achieve genderfluid nirvana-in-a-capsule-wardrobe a la Queer Household.

janinas-capsule-e1428332778108

Last but not least, Lost In a Spotless Mind’s “Defining Style” series covers how to incorporate multiple styles: if you apply this to masculine and feminine as styles (what elements of masculinity feel right? What elements of femininity?), it might help strategize on how to make sense of your wardrobe. So for me, here are my things:

Dislikes:

  • I don’t like high-necked masculine styles: I prefer open collars and v-necks.
  • I don’t like tight-waisted feminine styles: my waist is high and not very defined which makes non-stretchy waistlines stupidly uncomfortable, and lack room for cookies.
  • I don’t like overly dainty feminine footwear: my wide flat feet need more structure.
  • I don’t like overly saggy men’s pants; I have a butt and I’d like to show it off.

Likes:

  • I like clothing that accentuates my hips and butt; even the mens pants/shorts I have hug the hips and derriere area.
  • I like structure in the upper body area: either through layering or a tailored fit, which can happen in mens clothing or womens clothing, to balance out my slopey shoulders and ample yet not overly perky boobs (anything that makes them look saggy is a nono).
  • I like flattering colors, which I sometimes can find only in the men’s and sometimes only in the women’s. (no pale pink, yellow, blue, or overly delicate hues; but no overabundance of neutrals either)
  • I like flat shoes with structure: sneakers, androgynous/unisex boots, something with some weight to it.
  • But overall, I stick to jeans and t-shirts; knowing this, 90% of my wardrobe (regardless of its gendered characteristics) should be casual.

Given this, I can definitely incorporate both masculine and feminine elements into my wardrobe without going full-on menswear or super dainty. These exercises help maybe not understand myself and my internal gender, but where exactly my gripes are with current trends and how to dress that feels *me* and cohesive. And if certain “feminine” things don’t feel right, that doesn’t mean that *all* “feminine” things will feel wrong. That maybe I can embrace my femininity rather than push it away, that I can incorporate all parts of myself and not just what I think the world expects of me.

That’s it, I hope that helps!If you’ve ever suffered from chaotic wardrobe-related feelings, start breaking it down. It’s not really about the clothes but about getting in tune with how you feel in your body, which can be complicated and difficult and incredibly confusing. So get some structure in your wardrobe, embrace your gender or lack thereof, and be free you beautiful handsome butterflies!

Body positivity is not just for women

“There’s something manly about a big gut, huh?” my brother asked his wife, in reference to a relative’s beer gut.

She smiled as she pursed her lips and cocked her head.

“I guess it’s pretty unhealthy…” my brother responded.

We’re not a skinny family. My brothers and I all struggle with our weight, though you wouldn’t tell by looking at us; we’re all very active. I’ve borne the brunt of my mother’s scrutiny, as a girl, but we’ve all felt it. Growing up with a skinny mother who constantly puts down her looks (and by extension, ours… we have the same genetics… also shut up mom if you think you’re fat then what do you think I am?…I’m not bitter…) really put a psychological strain on all of us.

I wanted to say so much to my brother in that moment: that it was sexist to imply that belly fat was masculine, as if belly fat has a gender; that he should turn his attitude around before his daughter grows up, because she is sure to have her own insecurities; and that a beer gut being unhealthy isn’t the counterargument to “but it’s manly!” (they are separate things).

In many cultures, a big gut on men is indeed celebrated as a rite of passage for married men. There is definitely a cultural connection to manliness. But if you’re going to say that you have the privilege of gaining weight because you’re a man, you had better think about the implications of this line of thought for the women in your life.

That being said, I know the household he grew up in, I know how we all internalize guilt about our bodies; I empathize with him. I haven’t overcome my own body issues overnight; how can I expect my brother to?

I’m working hard on being body-positive myself, but I also want to be an ally for men with body image issues, and that is an entirely different type of body positivity than for women. There is some overlap, but I feel that my experience being a non-skinny woman does not necessarily make me a good ally for men.

There are so many body-positive fashion bloggers, clothing lines, and spokespeople popping up all over the place for women, and while we have absolutely not closed the gap on positive representation for fat women, men with eating disorders and negative body image go largely ignored. “Oh whatever, you’re a guy, you can get away with anything.” It’s true, male privilege is a thing; but that doesn’t mean men’s lives are automatically anything. Especially if we’re talking about the intersectionality of male body positivity and the LGBTQ community. I once had dinner with a group of gay men, several of whom were talking about the diets they were going on in order to lose weight for summer, boyfriends who dumped them for gaining weight, etc. Not every LGBTQ man feels this pressure, but it is a far more pervasive issue than is publicly acknowledged. I don’t even know about intersectionality with other identities. But I will say from first hand experience, jewish guilt doesn’t help.

Even straight white cisgendered fit men like my brother can have issues with their body image; and even if they don’t, they could always be better role models for those around them who look up to them. Healthy self-esteem carries over to everyone in our lives. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

Here are just a few body-positive resources for you menfolk/masculinefolk/anyone to whom femme/female body positivity doesn’t apply:

  • Dressman “underwear for the perfect man”, and other body-positive campaigns for men. (By the way the Modcloth male employees campaign is super cute… especially a quote from one of the guys saying that the confidence of the women in the women’s shoot inspired him to wear a swimsuit for the men’s shoot!)
  • This Bustle roundup. Tons of wonderful masculine fashion inspiration for plus-sized bodies.
  • This Ravishly roundup. Brings to light the intersection between body positivity and maleness in our culture, and the pressure to “man up” when one’s self-esteem isn’t at its best.
  • This “body positivity for guys” tumblr, which specifies itself as “A body positivity blog specifically for all of us male-identified, masculine-bodied, and/or masculine-presenting people of Tumblr.” There are some wonderfully diverse gender presentations on here.
  • This other male body health and love tumblr. Again, very queer-friendly. (Can there be any other kind of body positivity?)

Exercise or don’t. Wear what you want to wear. Be yourself. Male or female, masculine or feminine, cis or trans*, queer or straight… most of us need a little body positivity.

Happy Friday!

 

Book review: “Butch is a Noun” by S. Bear Bergman

Upon recommendation from fellow blogger The Butch (thanks man!) I found another lovely queer book to read: Butch is a Noun (BiaN). The author, Bear, goes into all the ways ze does gender, and I can’t help but hear echoes of Stone Butch Blues, if only because both butches are products of similar societies: both are from New England Jewish roots, and both resist femininity with all their strength. Not only that, but (though SBB does this only tangentially) both books address variety within the butch community: butches who are women, butches who are transmasculine, butches who are men, butches who love other butches, and the oppression they face from within the community.

Now I feel like these books were a product of a much more heteronormative era than we are living in right now, so I don’t relate to much of it. The chivalry. The glorification of performing gender to the point of impracticality. But both books also address the need for such posturing, stemming from the the external pressures to be a certain way all the time, to be consistent in one’s gender, to be always reinforcing gender roles even while defying them.

SBB talks mostly about being one kind of butch, about the pain of existing in an era where norms were violently enforced by the police, about fighting for civil rights and workers’ rights and the struggles of the working class. It was about how civil rights, for workers and for LGBT people, were sometimes one and the same. It was about all these things, and Leslie’s personal identity underwent very little questioning or change. Ze was a butch through and through, refusing dresses, dating femmes, working manual labor jobs. And ze was repeatedly forced to fight for and justify zir existence.

BiaN is about a slightly different life. Bear alludes to rough and even violent experiences, but with the help of hir family and butch brotherhood, she is fortunate enough to write a book that focuses more on the positive aspects of butchness. Absent are the bar raids and police rapes in SBB. Butchness has evolved. Ze alludes to ever-present violence, to butches hardening up as they get older, to the stress of daily interactions; but by and large ze focuses hir writing on the glorification of masculinity, of femininity, of butch/femme dynamics, of a romantic dynamic so often underrepresented in the media.

I will say I still don’t identify with the book’s old-school gender dynamics. Back when I was dating men, wearing dresses and wearing my hair long, I still didn’t find it necessary for people to open car doors for me, to protect me from mud, to carry my groceries, pay for dinner. It made me angry. I learned later to be grateful, to not assume the worst of the male/butch party in these situations, and to just say thank you and slip into the car seat with a smile. But my dad never did any of that stuff for my mom, she didn’t seek it, and we never discussed it: those gender dynamics feel stilted and uncomfortable. So to find a whole queer subculture glorifying these gender dynamics felt surprising to me. And that’s when I realized some people LIKE being treated this way.

Maybe I’m too much a product of my upbringing. My parents are about the same height; my dad is marginally stronger than my mom; they both worked for comparable salaries their whole lives. There was no butch/femme at home. My mom is capable and active and doesn’t wear makeup; my dad does not peacock his masculinity. So for me, the model for masculinity and the model for femininity are hardly different. Maybe I’d have felt differently in a more gender-divergent household. But then I look at my brothers, so comfortable in their masculinity, and I realize we all have multiple influences shaping our gender experiences. But I was always closer to my parents than my brothers were; it’s inevitable that their gender dynamic would play a role in shaping my own experience.

Or maybe it’s because I generally fit into femininity when I want to, and as a result never had to assert my identity as otherwise; Feinberg and Bergman certainly faced much more othering as children, and as a result, discovering who they were rather than who they weren’t created in their butch identity a sense of pride that is freshly asserted every time they interact with the world as a masculine creature. In their time, I would have been a “femme”.

But as far as masculine-feminine goes, and this is something I just never ever related to, both books portray romance between masculine and feminine as this electric dynamic, that being your partner’s opposite was very much a desirable thing, whereas I always struggled with that in romance. The thing about this is that Bear is in fact married to a man. Ze alludes to being a butch who likes other butches, boys, men, masculine humans of various identities, at the beginning… and then waxes poetic about femmes for page upon page, and then squeezing in a few pages about butch-on-butch. To have a feminist masculine writer talk about femmes with such admiration and respect is wonderful and enjoyable to read, for sure; but the balance of butch/femme and butch/butch was skewed heavily toward the former. I’d been looking forward to some more discussion about butch/butch as a complementary presence to the butch/femme, but there was little besides the chapter calling Bear out on the unequal attention to the two dynamics. I eventually started skimming over the parts that were painting flowery word-pictures about butch masculinity and femme femininity because there was so much of it there; almost as if the book itself was conforming. Nevertheless, this is a personal gripe, and it was all very well-done.

Aside from not identifying with their perception of gender dynamics, both Feinberg and Bergman are from New England Jewish upbringings. I didn’t completely identify with Feinberg though because of her working class roots; I was unquestioningly going to college and they forbade me from doing menial summer jobs because we didn’t need the money (though I wanted to because I wanted to feel needed and I was ashamed that I had privilege). Feinberg’s descriptions of factory work and the need for unions and union politics was completely new and eye opening for me. But I thought I’d have more in common with Bergman, because Boston-area judaism has a kind of commonality. It turns out that her family’s synagogue-going habits (vs. my family’s lack thereof) and her family’s gender dynamics and her mother’s pressure on her to perm her hair and wear makeup… these are not things I can relate to at all. Her family sounded wealthier than mine, and indeed in my hometown there was a great divide between us first-generation Israeli kids and the rest of the jewish kids, as well as a divide between the upper-class jewish kids and the middle-class jewish kids. There were many differences that came up yet again in BiaN.

I think more than anything BiaN made me realize how much heterogeneity there is even within that community; my identity as a Boston-area jew intersects with my first-generational status and my middle-class suburban status and, of course, my femme-ish status.

Tl;dr: Reading books about experiences other than one’s own is incredibly eye opening. I found Butch is a Noun to be a wonderful read to follow Stone Butch Blues. The two books are complementary pictures of female-assigned masculinity. I’d love to pick up a book about femme-ness next, or some other female-assigned masculinity besides butchness, to see the queer world through a fresh set of eyes that have seen their own unique challenges. Right now, I give this book a solid thumbs up.

Gender-flexible underthings

I’m very excited about this post. I love talking about underthings! Because I believe in the power of underthings. The articles of clothing that people don’t see have the power to transform us into secret super heroes. And we all know how fond superheroes are of showing off their underwear by wearing it over their outfits (here’s why, by the way; and here’s a better why).

Not everyone cares about underthings; some just want them to disappear on their bodies, and some opt out of them altogether. Whether underthings really matter to a person, either as functional/foundational elements or aesthetically pleasing outfits in and of themselves, is a matter of personal preference. But for me personally, I see underwear as a piece of personal expression that nobody else (or a very select audience!) will witness. I mean, the first masculine clothing I bought was boxer briefs. My first racy bra was something nobody else saw because I was a virgin at the time, but I felt so awesome in it! My fraught relationship with my body is sometimes at its best when I’m wearing nothing but underwear; there’s no “work-appropriate” or “flattering”, there’s just me and my body. And lately, I’ve been experiencing a need to shake stuff up, and not just to bind my chest flat but to wear it proudly.

I’m all over the gender spectrum, but when it comes to undergarments, there is something super awesome about lingerie shopping. For one, many lingerie websites (especially gender-inclusive ones) are starting to include larger models, making for a more accurate (and empowering) shopping experience. When curvy models appear for a special line of “curvy” clothing for some website or another, it’s like they’re throwing women a bone… a curvy bone… wrapped in drapey, ill-fitting smocks. With lingerie, there is no hiding the body behind a black frumpy t-shit–which I mean, how long did it take them to design that?! 3 minutes? Some designer deserves the “biggest slacker” prize for that one. (This used to be my beef with ASOS, but it looks like they have a decent selection. More on ASOS in a sec.)

For another, if you are a sexual person (which not everyone is), there’s something about privately sexualizing one’s own body that is really empowering. Whether that means binders/tanks + men’s briefs, or racy bras + boxers, or all out femme-lacy-glamour, displaying one’s body for the benefit of a select audience (oneself, a partner, many partners) can feel awesome. Or even if you’re not a sexual person, maybe knowing that you can choose your own undergarments–regardless of the pressures you feel to present a certain way when clothed, in a world that wants to sexualize you–can also feel empowering. I can’t speak to the asexual experience, so I’ll spend the rest of the time speaking personally about assuming a sexual experience.

Sometimes when my relationship with my body is at its worst, there is one force that can overpower my body shame: my sexuality. Engaging with said sexuality is a very empowering experience in my own body, whether alone or with a partner. For me to not just be okay getting naked, but to WANT to show off my body in undergarments I choose, which reflect my own personal beauty standards, is a pretty awesome experience.


Since I’m all over the gender maps (some days I bind, some days I go all lace and frills), I wind up doing gender very differently through my undergarments depending on the day. But while my external clothing is usually on the tomboy-femme region of the spectrum, my true feelings about my gender on a particular day are reflected by what I’m wearing underneath.

As far as my current selection: I own zero thongs (they are the makings of the devil), a couple plain bikini briefs, several lace-y but casual boyshorts, some boxer-briefs, and a few boxers (mostly for sleeping). The distribution is about 50/50 men’s and women’s underwear. I also own an even distribution of binders, sports bras, and underwire bras.

I’m typically for practicality, but lately I’ve gone in the pursuit of fun. I wrote once about how I love boxer-briefs, which are predominantly for men but I always pick femme-y patterns for them. Now I’ve gone in search of funderwear for women that also captures the level of androgyny I’m interested in exuding. But a lot of lingerie (especially sustainable eco-friendly brands, and especially androgynous brands) caters to A-C cups, is only available abroad, is perpetually out of stock, or is uber expensive. Maybe, if they’re perpetually out of stock, there’s a sizable market there that someone should take advantage of! Ever think of that?! And ALSO maybe more bigger-chested women want the option of not having pastel-colored lacy padded craziness?! Anyways.

I like masculinity some days, but other days I don’t. But if I force myself to embody masculinity as my way of expressing androgyny, I’m not really being myself. So I’m looking for a better balance to express my gender in an androgynous manner.

So what does androgyny in lingerie even entail?? Best to defer to an expert on this one. The Lingerie Addict says this:

Much of the time, androgyny ends up being defined by absences. The “androgynous model” is often someone with no facial hair, minimal curves, no heavy musculature. To a degree, we “read” people’s genders by running down a checklist of traits like these. Breasts? Probably female. Beard? Probably male. Both? Takes a little more figuring out. When we look at clothing, the ideas are more abstract. We look at fit, color, and design elements to get a sense of what gender the piece of clothing is oriented towards.

Lingerie that doesn’t do the traditional girly moves, or lingerie that downplays feminine-coded parts of the body, definitely is part of my definition of androgyny. But there’s another way for lingerie to be androgynous, and that’s by not just minimizing gender, but by counterbalancing it.

Brands often create androgyny in their lingerie by adding masculine elements to a garment intended for women (or more rarely, the opposite: some feminine detailing on a garment intended for men.) Play Out includes a thick, labeled waistband on their underwear (a typically masculine feature), which they pair with tropical florals and abstract prints which are less gendered. Other companies use contrast piping and Y-fronts on underwear cut for women in order to give it a more androgynous feel.

But masculinity and androgyny are not the same thing. Some people will assume that if you’re wearing all masculine underwear and happen to have two X chromosomes, that means that your lingerie look is androgynous. I don’t think this is always true. Some masculine-of-center folks don’t convey much androgyny in their looks at all: they look masculine, full stop. I think that the exact tipping point between androgynous and masculine (or androgynous and feminine) is a matter of taste and consensus, but often for a look to be androgynous, the wearer has to be balancing elements.

So either you can create androgyny by subtracting feminine qualities or by adding masculine qualities.

In the category of subtracting femininity, the stuff I tend to prefer includes:

  • Wider straps over thin straps.
  • Racerback/T-back over normal straps.
  • No bows, no frills, absolutely NO rhinestones.
  • Minimal lace; mesh is a nonoffensive alternative. Big cutouts and strappy details are awesome as well.
  • Color alternatives to black/white/red/pink, including more masculine/sporty colors like blues, greens, oranges, grays, and browns.
  • Anything but a push-up. PLEASE. DEAR GOD SAVE US FROM THE UBIQUITOUS PUSHUP. This can be surprisingly annoying, but there do seem to be more options these days.

And in the category of balancing:

  • Wearing something masculine on the bottom and feminine on top, or neutral on top and feminine on the bottom, or neutral and neutral. Eg boxer-briefs with a girly bra, or a sports bra with lacy underwear.
  • Wide thick straps and structure coupled with lace
  • Wide waistbands on feminine briefs
  • Lace in blue/green/orange/gray
  • Guy’s shorts and a baggy hoodie with really girly underthings

The Lingerie Lesbian has some examples that I can get on board with. As does Autostraddle.

If you’re curious, I’ve found a few affordable (ish) options to buy stuff, including a lot of Etsy shops. Encompassing a wide range of gender identities and expressions, here they are:

  • OrigamiCustoms on Etsy. My favorite on this list. They are great because they’re eco-friendly, very androgynous in their styling, and also super queer friendly, with several non-boring unisex and genderqueer/trans* listings, for transmasculine or transfeminine folk. Also, they carry a binder in like a million colors!

  • Majorey on Etsy, which have things like this blue/mesh sports bra. About as sexy-tomboy as you can get. They have some really sexy stuff period.

  • IHeartNorwegianWood on Etsy. I know, a lot of Etsy… it’s where it’s at! They carry lots of mesh, leather, strappy stuff, and even some non-black non-leather harnesses which is cool cuz you can wear it with any bra that suits your gender expression or even over clothing. Kindof a cool concept. Skews feminine, though with minimal frills or lace or pink. A really cool tomboy-femme aesthetic.

  • Other Etsy shops:
  • Foxers, a somewhat new shop that has everything from thongs to all-over lace boxers to boyshorts to boxerbriefs to men’s boxers; and just like with Stonemen, the styling doesn’t deviate too much between the “men’s” and the “women’s”, just the cut. They also carry lace bras and sports bras and tanks. They’re not my favorite aesthetic for some reason, but they’re otherwise great and you should check em out.

  • If we’re talking affordable, ASOS is the way to go, for masculine or feminine lingerie.
    • Starting on the masculine side, they have all these fun colorful boxers and boxer-briefs. I love when there are really sexy masculine options (like these) because honestly, are cis heterosexual men the only ones turned on by sexy underwear? Maybe if I hadn’t hooked up with so many guys wearing stretched out, worn out boxers I would still be straight! (kidding!!) They also have non-sexy fun options like this polkadotted awesomeness. My favorite place for affordable masculine underwear.
      • Sidenote: there are other places to buy stuff along same vein as the first pair of “sexy masculine” boxer-briefs, see here and here.
    • As for tomboy stuff/masculine-styled undethings, they definitely deliver, with this and this. It’s pretty great. They even carry some nice Nike sports bras (which I think are pretty ineffective for my rack of lamb, but hot/masculine-of-center and aesthetically pleasing nonetheless.
    • They also have a lot of kink-inspired but not full-on bondage-y stuff that is really hot. Call me a wimp but I don’t feel like I gel with an all-leather harness or explicit bondage-wear; I do however love the straps and the risque styling of some of these pieces, which leave off lace and bows (I seriously think I’m allergic). See here and here and also here. Oh yeah, and they have some great fuller-bust options as well, and their sizes go up to a 40FF.
  • A practical but more femme option for bigger busts, Freya are awesome. So this one time when I had gone up a cup size yet again I went shopping with my mom for bras, and I bought a few of these, plus a couple cheaper DKNY/etc options. And of course, I hardly ever wore the cheap ones and stuck to the two Freya ones I bought. For underwire bras, they are tied with Calvin Klein in my book; yes they’re pretty feminine but they have some inoffensive, fuller-coverage, basic, and sports-bra styles. They’re kindof on the more expensive side, but they sometimes go on sale. Either way they don’t really break the bank.
  • Last but not least, Bluestockings Boutique is a super inclusive online shop, where there’s no such thing as “nude” colored bras because i mean, since when does everyone look like a bandaid? They also have binders and packing briefs as well as femme options. Check ’em out.

For other resources, check out The Lingerie Addict and The Lingerie Lesbian for amazing queer-inclusive body-positive feminist smart discussions of something that traditionally caters to the male gaze and to femme-of center women. It’s pretty awesome.

Also, HerRoom has a (women’s) lingerie guide for men! It looks like it caters more to cross-dressers in their language, but nevertheless it’s very comprehensive for MAAB-bodied people, I think; correct me if I’m wrong. And they have reviews by male customers.

What are your opinions on underthings?

Thoughts on “Stone Butch Blues”

Alright so I read Stone Butch Blues. 5/5 stars. Two and two-thirds thumbs up. 1 out of 1 queer nerds interviewed have described this book as “uber duber compelling”.

True to its title, it’s about a stone butch. True to its title, it’s chockfull of the blues.

The book does an amazing job showing the rise of the lesbian subculture, the evolution of feminism, and the isolation of growing up different. If you’re at all gender-nonconforming, if you embody female masculinity or masculine femininity or transmasculinity or transfemininity or any of those permutations, you have to read it. Scratch that; if you’re a person, you should read it.

Things are tough for Jess, who grows up in Buffalo, NY in the 50s/60s, in a working-class Jewish family. Violence, police brutality and corruption, and economic constraints on non-conforming people abound. Butches of all kinds are represented: straight butches, gay butches, transmasculine butches, butch-loving butches; but most of all, femme-loving butches. Femmes are well-represented, butches of color, transwomen, gay men, drag queens, etc. Police brutality and corruption is called out bigtime. At the intersection of labor rights and gay rights and radical feminism, the main character, Jess, comes into their own. Jess discovers and works to overcome their own conservatism as well: double standards concerning gender roles, gender identity, gender expression. Having found a home and a family amidst the hardcore exclusive butch/femme culture, they struggle to transcend the idea that it is the only way to be lesbian.

I don’t identify as butch, so the book spoke to me differently than it would to butch-identified people, but it’s powerful and awesome no matter how you identify. It finds a place for everyone, no matter how they identify, and how diversity strengthened the gay rights movement. And they bring up the difficulties of being butch-loving butches, or straight butches, or butches who wish they could be with men but struggle to find acceptance anywhere they can, and so they try to blend into the lesbian community. Everyone struggles to fit in somehow and to find a label that will provide them with comfort. As Jess confronts this, and struggles with their own rejection after spending years passing as male, their world opens up.

A whole lot of stuff is brought up in the book. If you get the opportunity, pick up a copy. The landscape of LGBTQ life is so different today, Stone Butch Blues is an important reminder of how the world we live in today came to be. 

Man, I’d probably be the bane of the butch/femme lifestyle’s existence, because I’m neither/nor for so many things. How on earth would I have been pinned down?! And back then, not being able to be pinned down was a dangerous thing, because you’d lose your community and your safety blanket. But nowadays, us non-binary, non gay/straight folks are lucky that not only is there space in the queer community, but also in the world at large (for the most part). Separatism is far from over, but it’s fading, and I like it. Because there’s nobody exactly like me. There’s probably nobody exactly like you, either. And to not be tossed out because of it… that’s a beautiful thing.

All about binders: a first-hand review of binders for larger-chested people

I’m a 32DD, so I have some serious chest to contend with on such a tiny frame. I can’t always relate to most binder reviews because they’re written by *ugh* lucky people with small chests…

I’ve tried a bunch of different types, which unfortunately can be expensive but then again I’ve spent wayyy more money on bras over the years. So after months of trying different binders, I thought I’d put all the money I’d spent to good use, and write a very comprehensive review of all the ones I’ve worn, specifically for larger-chested folk.

What I’ve found is generally this: if you’re large-chested don’t go for asian companies (Amazon/eBay binders; also T-Kingdom has a reputation for making dangerously non-stretchy binders). I didn’t love the ones I got on Les Loveboat either; they are supposedly good for larger chested people but I personally have had no luck there, and it’s too expensive. GC2B and Underworks are consistently good for bigger-chested people.

In order to get a sense of why I bind, what I look for in a binder, and what I use them for, I’ll give you a brief summary of my gender identity/expression and lifestyle, because not all binders work for all chest-obscuring people:

  • I’m a genderqueer androgynous female who is ambivalent about pronouns and uncomfortable having a visible female chest.
  • I want a binder to be comfortable and low-maintenance so I’m not constantly thinking about it.
  • Some binders (BE CAREFUL WITH THIS ONE) I actually can work out in, as long as they don’t hurt or restrict my breathing. I find they minimize movement well, and when I run in them I feel like a guy cuz my chest isn’t whipping around like a swingset at recess. So if I can find one I can wear for sports, it’s like, the holy grail.
  • Lastly, I don’t typically look for full-length binders because I get hot easily and anyways I don’t think these hips would look much different. I also hear they roll up. And I’d rather it feel like a sports bra than a girdle. Besides, isn’t it hard to eat when your stomach is compressed? I mean where will I fit my pizza?? These are serious concerns.

Here are all the things, ranked in decreasing order of preference. I took photos in a shirt that isn’t best for concealing anything, so you can really see the differences; also to show how high the neck comes up on some of these (hem hem, Les Love Boat velcro binder).

Okay!

  1. The GC2B short binder (Medium): Just got this today. As soon as I put it on I was like, “Ehrmehgehrddd I want to order 5 million more of these!!” I’m currently wearing it and it’s amazing. It was easy to put on so I thought it’d be too loose, but somehow the cut/shape is exactly right. It flattens well, and though some flab sticks out of the armholes (but less than every other fucking binder), I don’t get a uniboob or cleavage out of the top or spillage from the bottom. My chest stays up. Things just look right. And for you larger-chested gents, ladies, gender-anarchists, and otherwise-identified folks, you know how rare that is.What makes the company so special is that they are a spinoff of GC2 Compression, a sportswear company with a genderqueer employee who was using their compression shirts to bind. They put said genderqueer employee in charge of GC2B binders and are now making two really quality (affordable) binder styles specifically for transmasculine folk. Baller.I don’t know if this is intentional, but they only come in white, gray, black, red, and navy, which don’t match anyone’s skin tone any better than any other person’s; so on the one hand, there are no skin toned ones (yet), but on the other hand, nobody gets the privilege of finding a binder to match their skin more than anyone else. Besides, I don’t know about you but the white/gray/black feel less like underwear and more like compressionwear than skin-colored tops, so I find them preferable.

    It’s also worth noting that the material is a synthetic spandex-y material, so shirts don’t stick to it. It’s breathable.

    Another detail of note: it can totally pass for a sports bra without a racer-back, so if discreteness is key (parents and locker rooms and stuff) this looks reasonably sports-undergarment-like. Oh yeah and it doesn’t show at all through t-shirts, the seams lie flat and everything.

    I’m right in between sizes for S and M, so I ordered the medium, but I’d probably go for a small next time. Speaking of sizing, theirs is very inclusive: they have XXS through 5XL.

    • Comfort: 5
    • Fit: 4.5 (just a lil bit not tight enough)
    • Quality: 5
    • Look/flatness: 4-4.5 (sizing down in between sizes might flatten a tad better, but the shape is great)
    • Cost: 4 (for $30 I think this is the best you can do)
    • Fate: Keeping it! Using for daily wear, but also will definitely be using for rock climbing. May not be tight enough for running.gc2b
  2. The Underworks Tri-Top (Medium): The gin martini of binders. The classic. This baby gets the job done. One layer of industrial grade nylon/spandex in the back for stretch; three in the front for flatness. Before this I’d been binding with item 3 on this list, but as soon as I put this one on I was sold.It stretched out with time, and lately I’ve been wearing it climbing and running. I think I could size down, although putting it on used to be a feat of strength and flexibility like no man has ever achieved! It was epic, it was heroic, it was a battle of Homer-ian proporions. Maybe I have weirdly shaped shoulders or something.Things I didn’t like: it gets sweaty when it’s hot out; no absorbant or wicking properties.

    Also unlike the GC2B binder, the front just below the collar tends to fold in and stick out when I move my arms forward; I modified it by cutting the neckline into more of a v-shape in front. Seriously you can cut this bad boy up all you want; it will not fray!

    Another concern: the infamous rolling of the bottom… I fold mine up and it works great, but it can be visible under tighter/lighter/whiter shirts. (the GC2B one doesn’t do this! just sayin!)

    Also depending on what you’re doing, it requires “maintenance”: you may have to rearrange the chesticles every few hours. Again, most binders require some of this.

    Again, I’m in between sizes (I’m between genders, sexualities, AND binder sizes apparently) so maaayyybeee some of these could be solved by going smaller. But this one was hard enough to put on, as it is. Besides, this one gave me very minor back pains for the first few months, so it would be unwise to size down. And it chafes around the arms.

    • Comfort: 3.5-4 (minus points for lack of breathability, chafing, tightness)
    • Fit: 4.5 (minus for rolling and bunching and rearranging every couple hrs)
    • Quality: 4 (I don’t love the material, although it makes modifications easy)
    • Look/flatness: 5
    • Cost: 4 ($30)
    • Fate: Kept this one, with modifications. It’s my go-to.uw_tritop
  3. The Underworks Magicotton Concealer Sports and Binding Bra (Medium): This one has “bra” in the name, so it’s not the most gender-neutral item of clothing; if that bothers you, skip this one. Or you can call it a “brah” and keep reading.This was my first product with “binder” in the name; a stepping stone to full on binding; my training wheels. I got it because I thought it’d be a fun experiment to hide my boobs… and I suddenly felt lighter. I get way flatter in this than my regular bras or even sports bras, but it doesn’t flatten me out completely. The magicotton is nice on the skin and absorbent. It’s good for the summer, decent for sports (and is designed as such), and it fits well and is comfortable. It’s also good for lounging around the house. It does sometimes stick to t-shirts, and it does sometimes cause uniboob and underarm spillage, so don’t size down. Still though, a decently comfortable multipurpose thingie that’s great for sports. And it’s not as low-cut in the front as a typical sports bra.Also a discrete option, like a sports bra without the racer-back.
    • Comfort: 5
    • Fit: 5
    • Quality: 4
    • Look/flatness: 3
    • Cost: 4 ($35)
    • Fate: Keeping it, but when it wears out I might not replace it.uw_sports
  4. Underworks 988: Cotton Concealer Tank (Small): This looks least undergarment-like and has some back support if you need that. It kind of feels like a hug.First off, the full-length cotton-blend outer layer is really soft. Secondly, it’s easier to pull on than the Tri-Top. It doesn’t have the bunching/folding issues of the Tri-top, since it’s a lower cut and has 2 layers front and back. But again, shirts stick/cling to the cotton. The lower cut can be a little… cleavage-y if things shift. I will likely shorten the straps by hand; I have to do this anyways with most of my tank tops. I have weirdly low shoulders I guess? Is that a thing?Anyways it works great and feels great and I could wear it as an undershirt .
    • Comfort: 4.5
    • Fit: 4
    • Quality: 5
    • Look/flatness: 4.5
    • Cost: 4 ($35)
    • Fate: Keeping for now; may donate or modify slightly.uw_full
  5. Les Loveboat Super Strength Short Velcro Binder (Medium): Eh. Yes it works, it gets pretty flat. But the neck comes up too high and is visible under crew neck shirts. The velcro makes a crinkly noise and can itch. It’s hard to reach in to adjust. However it comes up high enough under the arms to prevent spillage. It looks decent under clothing. But I wind up looking like I’m wearing a sports bra no matter what I do; something with the shape of it, I think the velcro makes it too “freeform” if that makes sense. Plus this was too expensive and not quite stretchy enough. And the crinkly noise bugs me.That being said, some people get great results with it. It costs more for a reason. The materials are nice and breathable and wicking and absorbant, the construction is good, and there’s plenty of velcro real-estate so no matter how much you wanna tighten it always can go tighter (for better or for worse). I think I’m doing something wrong, because my shape is a little too round, even after rearranging; but it’s a flat round, so under some shirts it looks great.
    • Comfort: 4
    • Fit: 4
    • Quality: 5
    • Look/flatness: 3.5
    • Cost: 1 ($57)
    • Fate: Donating. I’ve tried it a few times, and every time I wind up swapping it out for the tri-top. I’ve only worn it out a handful of times. The picture doesn’t adequately capture the shape; maybe I’m overly sensitive but it feels really round when I do wear it.llb_velcro
  6. Les Loveboat Sports Pullover Short binder (large) : Thought this would be good for doing the sportstimes! I thought wrong. It extends downwards enough, but weirdly shaped armholes lead to half my chest spilling over to the sides, and if I wear this under a shirt the scooped neckline seam shows, so I might as well be wearing a sports bra or camisole. I guess it flattens and the material is nice, and it doesn’t create a uniboob. Maybe for someone with a smaller chest it’d be nice. But gawd, this was AWFUL. However, if it happens to work for you, it’s the most discrete of all the options listed here.
    • Comfort: 5
    • Fit: 1
    • Quality: 5
    • Look/flatness: 3
    • Cost: 2 ($45)
    • Fate: Gave to a friend who also hated it. Might ask him for it back to put in my pile of donations. Unfortunately I don’t have a picture of this hot mess.
  7. WHATWEARS Les GL Lesbian Chest Binder Flat Long Vest (XLarge): Bottom of the barrel. First off, too many words in the product title! (Big pet peeve… also what does GL stand for? Giant Lesbian? ‘Gina Lovers? ALSO why only lesbians; what about transmasculine folk?) Secondly, the straps were too narrow for it to look like a men’s tank top; it just looked like an ill-fitting women’s tank. Thirdly, OFF LIMITS for big chests! If you’re a C cup maybe it’d work, but these poor babies were spilling over up and out, down and out, up and in, all around. Required way too much fiddling… and even then I wasn’t flat. I sized up 2 sizes like they said, but I was on the smallest set of hooks; not great IMO. But had I gotten a smaller size though, there’d be even more spillage than Deep Water Horizon. (too soon?)That being said, I didn’t hate everything. It got me flat. It was cheap. The construction is a loose outer tank top with an inner stretchy band with hook-and-loop clasps (same things that hold together a bra, only like 10 of em in a row). Hook and loop is way better than velcro. The loose outer tank top is made out of a comfortable synthetic material. Definitely, definitely not the worst binder you could get off Amazon; unless you downsize too much it won’t restrict breathing. And if you prefer a quadriboob to a uniboob, you’re in good hands here.
    • Comfort: 4
    • Fit: 3
    • Quality: 3.5
    • Look/flatness: 2
    • Cost: 5 ($15)
    • Fate: Donating this ‘un. I’m getting all sorts of lumps and it requires all sorts of readjustments. You can even see the lumpiness at the top of my chest in the photo below.amazon

Update 10/20/15: I always go back to the GC2B and the Underworks Magicotton. #3 might have replaced #2; tri top is still good for special events, but the Magicotton is so much better for, like, taking deep breaths. I’ve gotten rid of all the rest of the binders.

Gender roundup of awesome TED talks

Recently I’ve watched some really inspiring and thoughtful TED talks about gender, because I like thinking about it and hearing narratives from people all over the gender spectrum. These TED speakers run the gamut. I especially love that cispeople question this stuff also in connection to their (or their children’s) gender variance.

“Why am I so gay?” by Thomas Lloyd. Discusses how we lose a significant part of ourselves by suppressing our self-expression, and why it’s important to him to be visible. Suppressing his “gay” mannerisms takes too much “creative energy”, which probably most people reading this blog can relate to (if not “gay” mannerisms, then whatever gender-variance you may exhibit).

“Hey Doc, some boys are born girls.” by Decker Moss. Touches upon mourning a lost boyhood by being coerced into girlhood, as well as losing a part of his identity as a fraternal twin. Also about internalizing his feelings and hiding them from the world, when his twin could pick up on it. His connection to his sister is incredibly sweet.

“Gender Fluidity” by Gabrielle Burton. A straight cisgendered mother describes coming into awareness that she herself sometimes enforces gender norms on her children, and goes on to open her mind and heart in the sweetest way. PARENTS TAKE NOTE THIS LADY IS SUPER.

“Beyond the Gender Binary” by Yee Won Chong. All the practical reasons that trans* individuals face: voter ID laws, navigating restrooms, social justice in the eyes of a non-white trans* individual. Also seeking political asylum for LGBTQ protection, and their relationship with their mother.

“Understanding the complexities of gender” by Sam Killermann. Cis-male white upper-middle class straight people are at the top of the totem pole, right? Even this comedian/spoken-word artist, who falls under those categories (more-or-less), speaks out against how restrictive society is in policing gender. He’s funny and well-spoken and really smart.

“How You Know You’re in Love: Epigenetics, Stress & Gender Identity” by Karissa Sanbonmatsu. She is a scientist slash transwoman who knows her genetics. She does a really good job explaining epigenetics to non-scientists, so don’t be intimidated. It doesn’t matter if you don’t remember your basic biology, it’ll be interesting and entertaining trust me. At one point she speaks Klingon.