T-shirt weather

Hello,

‘T-shirt weather’ is a common phrase, used by people from all walks of life: people who like t-shirts, people who (wrongly) think they’re not formal attire, and even some who may not even be wearing t-shirts when they use it, displaying a baffling inability to wrap their head around the true meaning of ‘t-shirt weather’. But I have a more specialised use for this phrase, one that I use with validity as, even when wearing skirts and boots, I wear a nerdy t-shirt on top.

I approach clothing in a layered manner. The lowest layer is the t-shirt itself, a humble, thin garment used to show random people on the street just how bloody obscure and dumb my interests are. The next layer is a hoodie – not a jumper, a hoodie – that is the most flexible of layers, as sleeves can be rolled up or down, zips fastened or ignored, and is the first layer to bring proper warmth to the outfit. The final layer is my jacket – and yes, one specific North Face waterproof I took on DofE and has never let me down – and this is used to keep off wind and rain; its hood, however, is so pathetic that the hood of the hoodie is used for head coverage, explaining the necessity of wearing a hoodie over a jumper.

These three layers allow me to be at near-perfect temperatures year-round, as all of them can be pulled on or peeled off, stuffed into a rucksack on hot days, or dragged out of a bag in winter with no wrinkles or creases. They’re all thin, dark-coloured and lovely. So, when I say ‘it’s t-shirt weather’, I literally mean that a single t-shirt is the amount of clothing I require on my upper body to feel comfortable.

This has led to me coining ‘hoodie weather’ and ‘jacket weather’ as phrases that have confused and annoyed friends and family in the past, as they’ll ask me what they weather’s looking like outside and I’ll respond with my bizarrely individualised system that leaves them none the wiser as to the meteorological features of the outside world.

But this system has broken down recently, because of feminine clothing. Obviously, the t-shirt, hoodie, jacket combo is one worn by many women, but as I’ve spent nineteen years being decidedly not feminine, I feel like I have to make more of an effort on femme days; for me, femininity isn’t a women’s-cut shirt and jeans, but requires heels and a full face of makeup. This may pass in time, but at the moment it’s important to me.

As a result, I can’t apply the same totem pole of clothes for when I’m going out. Sure, I wear t-shirts with skirts, but hoodies with skirts look awful on me and I refuse to wear them; as a result, my feminine coat (the one piece of outerwear I own beyond my masculine jacket) is my thickest and warmest piece of clothing, as it must fill two of the three roles in the torso-warming operation. This also means it is very large and heavy, and so cannot be peeled off and carried over an arm with much ease, and it actually looks very cute, so I’m less comfortable cramming it into a bag like I do with my North Face coat, which is basically the waterproof equivalent of Shepard’s brutalised face at the end of Mass Effect 3 by this point.

I’m sure there are solutions to these issues that keep the tripartite structure to my wardrobe. Maybe cardigans would work, or I could invest in skirts that don’t aim to narrow the waist as much, as a narrow-waisted skirt tends to require a tucked-in jumper, which is far harder to remove than an unzippable hoodie.

But I won’t abandon those three layers of warmth; they’ve kept me safe and sane for about five years at this point, and I’m not giving them up.

The Nisa Supermodel

I’ve seen her,

It was a Tuesday night, the cold air drawing itself into puffed columns around my lips and nostrils as I walked into that chilly Nisa, the oh-too-convenient convenience store where I buy bread at a two-minute walk from my house instead of proper ingredients. My purple dodgeball hoodie was pulled over my head like a fabulous, yet serious and athletic cowl, clashing with my dark grey waterproof in what could be a bold fashion statement, or a hangover from my old ambivalence towards clothes that has left me with one too few coats, and one too many garishly-coloured hoodies.

Then she was there, strutting her proverbial, and indeed literal, stuff around the sleepy shelves of that local purveyor of pasta. Dressed in a colourful, panelled onesie, or a jumpsuit, or a body glove, whatever the term is for such a garment of artistry, she was confident, yet carried a skulky, shuffly air about her. Her hood was pulled over her head, her feet wrapped up in white Vans.

Back at it again?

Almost certainly. With her was a pair of onlookers, plainly-dressed, slightly-built men with large spectacles and an expensive camera; they pointed it at her as she crept around the store, a tall woman dwarfing yet not overwhelming the aisles of Super Noodles and OK! Magazines.

They took a photo. She stopped. They looked at each other. She walked back to the entrance to the aisle she had just walked out of, and the scene replayed again, her accomplices bending immediately back into their hunched, camera-toting attentiveness. This repeated another two times.

Then I stumbled into the scene, almost walking in front of the camera as this hoodied celebrity graced the Nisa floors with her presence. Yet the camera’s wielders were unfazed by my aspect, and continued to gaze upon their model, not allowing themselves to be distracted from such an artistic individual by one so base and fraught with wardrobe malfunctions as I.

They took another photo.

As the scene reset itself for a seventh or eighth time, I took my chance. I scarpered across the polished floor, struggling to hold in my arms my precious cargo: two Ribenas, a four-pack of vegan chocolate yoghurts, and a pack of those chocolate-filled Oreos that look like they should be sold only in the event of a national holiday, yet are strangely more plentiful, and far more satisfying, than their white-creamed companions.

I reached the counter, loot in tow, and quickly bought it, and the quiet, stoic man behind the Nisa counter narrowed his eyes and handed my a carrier bag. He was aware of the scene unfolding around us – he possessed greater mental wherewithal than the two camera-cronies – yet was unable to stop it, or breach the barricade of his counter and escape from a backdrop of concealed tobacco and those signs that are all passive-aggressive when they say ‘Don’t be offended if we ask for your ID’; I’ll choose when I’ll be offended, while this poor clerk cannot even choose where he stands.

I, however, had such freedom, and scampered out of the Nisa and back into the cold March night. I shot a glance over my shoulder, and saw the supermodel begin yet another stride down her catwalk, the two photographers stare at her with a strictly professional admiration, and the clerk roll his eyes, evidently weighing up the social benefits of letting a bunch of student photographers shoot in his store, versus the economic drawbacks of forever being known as the owner of ‘that place where the girl in the onesie posed for photos’.

In many ways, such a dilemma is beyond the cognitive mastery of one such as myself.

In many other ways, I kinda don’t give a shit.

Casey

My Gender

Hi again,

If you’re checking back to this blog for a second consecutive day thank you! Two days in and we’ve already doubled the amount of content on the site.

For those of you who followed my old blog, this kind of post won’t be a surprise; a few months ago I wrote about my sexuality and, and this is exactly the same thing, only with gender. I’ve told some of you in real life already, so for you guys think of this as more of an explanation, rather than news; for everyone else, this is, indeed, news.

I’m genderfluid. There are a million interpretations of what this actually means, but to me it’s a conceptualisation of gender identity as a spectrum, and my own place on that spectrum varying from day to day, or even hour to hour. On one extreme there is total masculinity – short hair, trousers, beards and scowls – and on the other is total femininity – makeup, dresses, sitting down to pee and actually being affectionate towards one’s friends. This scale may be problematic for some, as it operates largely off stereotypes, so I’ve refined it to involve three levels (because, as Julian of Norwich will tell you, complexity must be described in threes).

The first, most fundamental level, is biological sex. This tends to be binary, although not always, and I would describe this level with ‘male’ and ‘female’. Personally, I am biologically male – I have a penis and testes and chest hair and terrible body odour – and am not trying to change this.

The second level up is what I’d call gender identity, and can be described with ‘man’ and ‘woman’. Again, there are many other ways of looking at this – I’m neither a man nor a woman, after all – and it is a far more complex set of characteristics than biological sex. Instead of this being a set of physical features that defines the term used to refer them, this is more of a subjective, personal judgement call. So, I could identify as a woman, and I would be a woman because it’s my body and my gender is what I choose it to be. Similarly, I could call myself a man, and no-one would have the right to question it.

The final level is the most intricate, and is what I call ‘gendered characteristics’. These are individual features of behaviour or appearance that are themselves indicative of a gendered identity: having long hair, for instance, is a gendered characteristic that is indicative of femininity; meanwhile tattoos are a more masculine characteristic. You’ll notice, however, that many men and male people have long hair, and many women and female people have tattoos; this highest level is the most fluid and malleable of the three levels of gender, as people of various gender identities draw from traits all along this spectrum. For instance, a biologically male person, who identifies as a man, could have many feminine features to their behaviour; these could be as small-scale as wearing earrings, or as grand as publicly cross-dressing.

So, for the sake of clarity, here’s how I fit into these levels:
– Biological sex: male
– Gender identity: genderfluid
– Gendered characteristics: usually masculine, occasionally feminine

When these three things are considered together, suddenly the term ‘genderfluid’ makes more sense. My feminine gendered characteristics are quite dramatic – I don’t just want to wear nail paint, I want to wear a dress and heels to the Sports Ball in a few weeks – and so from that I have constructed a broader gender identity that reflects those characteristics. Sometimes I want to wear a skirt and makeup, but more often I like hoodies and NOFX shirts; my gendered characteristics vary quite wildly between very masculine and very feminine, so ‘genderfluid’ is an effective term to encapsulate them.

But at the end of the day, this is all a bit lofty. We can sit here and talk about the line between stereotyped traits and personal identity, or the hazy middle ground between being unique and just appropriating wholesale the well-established features of a different gender, and it makes no real difference. I didn’t realise those three levels of gender all at once, they’re the product of wanting to wear dresses but also trainers, and the resulting few months of rationalising and researching and thinking. I call myself genderfluid because of what I wear and who I am, not the other way around.

That’s why this has all been much harder than coming as as pan-demi; there’s a certain arbitrary, almost smug artistry to thinking about gender in this way, as if its some academic subject to be studied and probed and chatted about over cigars and coffee. Yet it’s a very real, tangible feeling, that I want to wear eyeliner but feel like I can’t because people will misinterpret my intentions, and judge me negatively.

Honestly, I’m still not totally sure what my gender is or where it goes from here. I don’t know how I’ll apply for jobs that ask for candidates to submit their applications alongside a binary gender box, and I have no idea how I would date anyone if my gender flips so often. But I’m working it out.

All that I ask is that you refer to my as ‘Casey’, and by the pronouns ‘they’, ‘them’ and ‘their’ instead of ‘he’ or ‘she’. Language both shapes and is shaped by our thoughts, so thinking about and referring to me in these terms would be a big help. Beyond that, I guess be prepared in case I wear an atrocious dress to a social event sometime? I’m still not very good at picking feminine clothes.

So if you have any advice, I’d be all ears – I like full skirts, skater skirts and heavy eye makeup, for the sake of style – and if not, thank you for listening. It’s good to talk about this stuff.

Speak again soon,
Casey