This story is part of the Elbows on the Table Essay Series. Illustration by David Ziegler-voll.
I live on the East Coast where seven months out of the year I deliberately choose to endure terrible, terrible weather. (Eight months if you include some of those icky humid days.) But the arrival of June induces a sort of spritely amnesia and suddenly my Zillow searches for homes in warmer climates fade into my browser history.
June, also known as Gemini season, signals ambitions of gardens lush with tomato plants, trips to the farmers market for all kinds of weird mushrooms, and, of course, pride month.
As someone who identifies on the LGBTQ+ spectrum, I love pride. It announces the springy chartreuse awakening of renewed hope, coupled with a celebration of all the colors of the rainbow painted inside and outside the lines.
For me, my queerness feels a bit messy. There really isn’t a letter that neatly defines who I am, so I guess B and Q tell the story best. (BQ in runners speak also translates to “Boston Qualifier”–which I have done exactly once in my life*.)
I’m thankful to be a Gemini. My raison d’etre didn’t come with a manual so trying to make sense of growing up queer only added to the angst of being a teenager in a very small rural community (“community” is being polite.)
But somehow my astrological birth sign validated my dual-natured soul.
Things were a little different back in the day and the lexicon of queer theory terms was not so much a thing. Non-binary. Femme presenting. Cis-gender. Gender non-conforming. Genderqueer. Being able to attach anything to my identity would have been massively helpful. As a teenager I would ask myself, “Why do I like ‘girl things’ so much? Why am I attracted to her, but also him? Why do I hate boy clothes so, so much?” The problem with these questions is, it doesn’t really matter why and if I could tell my younger self anything it would be, “you are awesome, don’t worry, just be you.” We are who we are and we should all be able to be ourselves, unapologetically unedited.
While our social framework is becoming more comfortable with the idea that clothes have no gender, for many, there is still risk associated with presenting as gender non-conforming. Especially amongst the trans community.**
Despite being cemented and comfortable with who I am, there are still times when I edit.
Professionally, I don’t imagine a world where I’m strolling into work all dolled up in a knock-off Chanel suit rocking a pair of Jackie-O sunglasses. But in a bizarre twist of fate, the remote work-life nature caused by quarantine made one thing possible: I could finally wear a skirt to the office. Every. Day.
I spend a bulk of my days in meetings on Zoom. (God bless the touch up filter.) Not being confined to a pair of khakis may be one of the brighter spots for me over this past year. Even the word khaki makes me cringe. Kahhh keee.
So the top half of me is all business. But the bottom half of me is all cuteness.
My style varies day-to-day but typically there is some sort of combination of various colored/patterned tights, a skirt (or skort), and sometimes even a cute kitten-heel. And then the ensemble is paired with, sigh, a tee shirt. But somehow I make it work and everything is usually well coordinated. I am a creative director after all.
As Covid restrictions begin to lift and my team begins to connect occasionally in person, I wonder what my sartorial editing process will look like. While in my heart I know clothes are clothes, there is still reticence. I know my team and employer couldn’t care less about my presentation– it’s the unknown spaces in between.
But maybe that’s what pride is all about: being your authentic self even in the spaces that feel uncomfortable. Not being afraid to stand up on a Zoom call to show your whole self. Wait, that would be really weird to do on a Zoom, so maybe in this case… metaphorically stand up to metaphorically show your whole self.
- *I BQ’d at the Marine Corps Marathon in 2015 but sadly did not get into the Boston Marathon after they added additional time to the standard–but I am still proud of my 3:14 finish (yes, humble brag).
- **Not only are there currently 127 pieces of anti-trans legislation up for debate across the country, but hate crimes against trans people were also up 100% in the first four months of 2021 compared to 2020.