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.
John BedellJune 8, 2021 at 6:44 am
Beautiful David. A beam of light and inspiration for each to simply be.
Jo Reyes-BoitelJune 9, 2021 at 10:42 pm
I love all of this. Thanks for giving a unique and joyful perspective of your staff!
JustKendiJune 9, 2021 at 11:33 pm
Thanks for for being you! 🤗 I hope you are able to “stand up” without fear or “reticence”. Actually! I hope this for everyone.
BethJune 10, 2021 at 6:08 am
I love Imperfect Foods even more after reading this. You are doing great work. Thank you!
SuzanneJune 10, 2021 at 12:06 pm
In establishing the colonizer patriarchy, rigid images of maleness were just as oppressively enforced as subjugation of women. The root of oppressive conformity, in all things including gender, sexuality, vocationally, etc, is this colonizer patriarchy.
I am so glad you have been escaping, if only from the waist down, this ridiculous reality.
I am retired from everything but my pottery/art/craft work. But I’d go back to office work for a day to enjoy someone dolled up in a knock off Chanel suit and Jackie O sunglasses.
jimJune 10, 2021 at 2:47 pm
this is beautiful!
DenaJune 10, 2021 at 5:54 pm
Me, too, David. Thank you for saying the things in my head (except the part about khakis … ).
madisunJune 11, 2021 at 12:08 am
Thank you imperfect foods for publishing this very important story. Even as a cis female I experience various degrees of bullying for my love of fancy dresses and sparkles, especially when I am doing an outside activity or at work. I was bullied in grade school for wearing dresses and leggings everyday, but now that look is trendy so I can get away with it easier. If woman can’t even dress outside of “norm” in this society without commentary, then no one can expect to do so safely. I guess some people just carry deep resentment for those that dress to the beat of their own drummer and that needs to stop.
Dave McJuly 21, 2021 at 8:56 pm
JustKendi, you and David said a lot of cool stuff, which apply as much to me as ‘Crazy’, him as as ‘Gay’.